All posts by AIRheads/EH

Bad for the bone

A B-1B from Ellsworth Air Force Base, similar to the one that crashed on monday. This picture was shot in uly 1997 at Fairford airbase, UK. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A B-1B from Ellsworth Air Force Base, similar to the one that crashed on monday. This picture was shot in July 1997 at Fairford airbase, UK. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

This monday was bad to the Bone, as a USAF B-1B bomber crashed in Montana after its four crewmembers ejected to safety. The Bone came down in an uninhabited area near Broadus and was totally destroyed. The aricraft belonged to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth AFB.

The two pilots and two weapon system officers were taken to hospitals but none of them were seriously injured. The cause of the crash has not been reported. Ellsworth airbase has temporarily shut down flights until maintenance and operations group commanders ensure that they can safely resume.

The cost of a B-1B bomber is $283 million. The aircraft that crashed was built in 1985. The last time a B-1B was destroyed in a crash was on 12 December 12. All crew survived that crash as well.

Source: USAF

Valence Vacation

With a shot like this one, who needs another shot? (Image © Dennis Spronk)
With a shot like this one, who needs another shot? (Image © Dennis Spronk)

So you’ve seen the Armée de Terre helos at the Le Luc airshow and you think “I would like some more of those”. Valence airbase near Lyon gave AIRheads↑FLY exactly that; more French helos waiting to be photographed and digitally transferred to your computerscreen. Great colours on these French choppers. What a way to spend a vacation.

No vacation for the pilots of this Aérospatiale Gazelle. It is seen here hovering about. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
No vacation for the pilots of this Aérospatiale Gazelle. They are seen here hovering about. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Yet more hovering for this Gazelle. The very first Gazelle probably did the same before its very first flight on 7 April 1967. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Yet more hovering for this Gazelle. The very first Gazelle probably did the same before its very first flight on 7 April 1967. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Pictured just before transition from hovering to regular flight; an AS532 Cougar. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Pictured just before transition from hovering to regular flight; an AS532 Cougar. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
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Not all Gazelles seen were moving under their own power. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Look at Le Luc

A Tiger of a different kind. The ecole de l'aviation légère de l'armée de terre is where future pilots learn to fly the EC665 Tigre attack helicopter, among others. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A Tiger of a different kind. The Ecole de l’Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre is where pilots learn to fly the EC665 Tigre attack helicopter, among other helos. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

So, what to do on a hot summer day in France? It didn’t take AIRheads↑FLY a very long time to come up with an answer to that one, actually. So we packed our baguettes, some fine wine and a bottle of sunscreen and we headed along l’autoroute to the EALAT Airshow at Le Luc airbase. EALAT stands for Ecole de l’Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre, just so you know. And by the way, we also brought along a camera.

Slighty less hi-tech are the SA341/SA342 Gazelles. Probably a better idea to start the learning proces on those, then. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Slighty less hi-tech are the SA341/SA342 Gazelles. Probably a better idea to start the learning process on those, then. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Otherwise this AS555 Fennec will make a nice learning experience. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Otherwise this AS555 Fennec will make a nice learning experience. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The SA330 Puma is still doing its thing in a lot of armed forces. Bit of an unsung hero if you ask us - please do. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The SA330 Puma is still doing its thing in a lot of armed forces. Bit of an unsung hero if you ask us – please do. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The Pumas will eventually make way for the NH90, one of which is seen here. The camouflage makes up for, well... a lot of things. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The Pumas will eventually make way for the NH90, one of which is seen here. The camouflage makes up for, well … a lot of things. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The Socata TBM 700 never was a big seller. The French however operate quite a lot of the single engined turboprops. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The Socata TBM 700 never was a big seller. The French however operate quite a lot of the single engined turboprops. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

And now make some noise! It weren’t only helos or props at Le Luc, there were fighters as well, courtesy of the Armée de l’Air and the French Marine.

It's hard not to miss Ramex Delta, a display team operating two Mirage2000N from Luxieul airbase. They are frequent and much welcomed visitors to European airshows these days. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
It’s hard not to miss Ramex Delta, a display team operating two Mirage2000N from Istres-Le Tubé airbase. They are frequent and much welcomed visitors to European airshows these days. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Fly Navy! Perhaps todays favourite performer, although it was accompanied by a second Rafale M. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Fly Navy! Perhaps today’s favourite performer, although it was accompanied by a second Rafale M. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

We close of in style however, with a fine study of the rotary future for some time to come: the EC665 Tigre.

We close of in style however, with a fine study of the rotary future for some time to come; the EC665 Tigre. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This Tigre flew several times at Le Luc, along with a German example. The German forces also have their training at Le Luc. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

The hours

An US Air Force F-16D seen at Luke Air Force Base in October 2000. This is a similar aircraft to the US F-16 that hit 7,238 flying hours, many more then any Dutch F-16 has ever clocked. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
An US Air Force F-16D seen at Luke Air Force Base in October 2000. This is a similar aircraft to the US F-16 that hit 7,238 flying hours, many more than any Dutch F-16 has ever clocked. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

There is an ongoing shady discussion in the Netherlands about a speedy replacement of the current F-16s with spankin’ new F-35A Lightnings. Shady, because it partly revolves around the number of flying hours the F-16s clocked up so far. We crunch some numbers and find out some numbers are far more impressive than others.

Just take a quick look at this stuff, the answer of the Dutch Ministry of Defence on questions from Dutch parliament about the number of flying hours per Dutch F-16. It shows that the aircraft with registration J-637 is the champion of all, having flown 4,893 flying hours already by December 2011. That’s a lot … Until we read this, about an USAF F-16 that happily flew 7,238 hours. This is stuff we love!

Yearly, each Dutch F-16 spends 180 hours in the air – give or take a few hours – so our hero J-637 now probably has over 5,000 flying hours. The Dutch MoD claims that its Fighting Falcons are getting old and require more and more maintenance.

Sounds logical. But why then is an American F-16 of similar age – the US high-flyer was delivered in 1984, while J-637 was delivered the year before – capable of spending 7,238 hours in the air while the Dutch fighters apparently start falling apart after 4,500 hours or so. Upgrades such as Pacer SLIP and Falcon Up should have prolonged service life beyond 6,000 flying hours, and have been costing the Dutch taxpayers millions and millions of euros. A service life of 8,000 hours was even mentioned back then. Recent updates to newer US aircraft even go as far as to give 10,000 hours of life for each airframe.

The usual argument is that Dutch F-16s were used more extensively then originally planned, for example during operations over Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. That’s probably true, although a lot of flying time is actually spent high up in the air, waiting for the close-air-support call or just looking for a tanker. Not exactly the most stressfull situation for any airframe. And still: the US high-flyer spent most of its years in the hands of inexperienced trainee pilots at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. That’s a lot of hard landings, bumpy rides and mishandling. And besides that, a day at the fence of Luke shows based F-16s flying around with the same heavy weaponry that supposedly stressed out the Dutch Vipers all these years. For the record, Dutch F-16 J-015 – the current demo aircraft – only has 3,500 hours or so at this moment.

The Norwegians and the Danish – not to mention the Israelis (how about their flying hours?) – are still happily flying their oldest vintage 1978 F-16s, while the Dutch put those aside more than a decade ago, stripping them for parts and throwing the remains in the bin.

Dutch F-16AM J-254 was taken out of service years ago and clocked up a number flying hours that almost certain wasn' t anywhere close to 7,238 hours. The aircraft's tail number is not mentioned in the Dutch MoD documents, because it is not operational anymore.  (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Dutch F-16AM J-254 was taken out of service years ago and clocked up a number flying hours that almost certain wasn’t anywhere close to 7,238 hours. The aircraft’s tail number is not mentioned in the Dutch MoD documents, because this aircraft is not operational anymore. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The Americans know how to treat an aircraft that fulfilled its task. Their high-flyers are resting in the Arizona desert, having done their job. We will not mention that even those aircraft will return to the sky as QF-16s, clocking up even more hours, only to be finally shot to pieces as live targets. How’s that for scrapping?

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

Check out the Royal Netherlands Air Force Orbat at Scramble.nl

Oh my! An airplane landed safely!

Coverage on the website of Dutch national public broadcast company NOS.
Coverage on the website of Dutch national public broadcast company NOS.

Breaking news today: a Delta Airlines Flight from Paris to Detroit diverted to Amsterdam Schiphol and landed without a problem. Amazing stuff, according to just about all Dutch media, who are in fact clueless about aviation but all the more guided by money and even more stupidly, each other.

In a attempt to not miss out on a ‘dramatic developing story’ of an ‘impending horrifying crash’ involving ‘296 terrified and innocent’ passengers, all major Dutch media were quick to publish about flight DAL99, a Delta Airlines A330 on its way from Paris to Detroit. After take-off it experienced technical problems and the crew decided to divert to Amsterdam. This – and especially the fuel burning orbits circuit over the UK – was noticed by some tweeps on Flightradar24, was put on Twitter – and yep, a small media storm was born.

It resulted in cameras filming an uneventful, uninspiring landing. They could have known, because an aircraft experiencing flap problems – as was the story – is not a very big thing. It’s nothing at all, actually. And it wasn’t, really. Approach speed as seen on Flightradar24 was 141 knots. That’s excellent, right on the mark, probably not even a flap problem at all.

Dutch media seemed to have written this plane off already before it landed and the passengers’ only moan was being in Amsterdam and not in Detroit. Discussion about the ‘mysterious’ orbits over the UK, an escort from the French Air Force and even by a helicopter (yes!), possible hijack… yeah, we saw it all today, and Flightradar24 saw a great number of hits. Good on them.

Media want their journalists to be generalists these days, and the ridiculous stuff they put down the throats of their audience is the result of that. Specialists in editorial teams would prevent this ‘breaking news’ from hitting the screens. But no news equals no commercial value, which is why there is no room for specialists.

The media should be breaking bad habits, and not bring news that never was news in the first place.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest