Sunday, April 24, 2005

Water Sports and the Fly-by of the Chariot of Glory

It all started at around 0900 (that's nine in the morning for you civilian types) when I finally mustered the requisite gumption to go out and start wrenching on the Yamaha 90 on my boat. The outboard has been in need of serious attention for some time now. I've known for months that the impeller in the outboard's water pump had long since departed for greener pastures, it had, in fact, imploded upon itself, as I would discover during the tear-down.

A problem with the "foot"? Yes, indeed...

No worries, the podiatrist is in. The arrow points to the pump housing which contains the failed impeller.

Still, as I have had my mind on repairing this problem for some months now, my lovely bride has fancied the idea of trying out a kayak, yes, a kayak I say! Deb has been shopping in kayak-land for some time, and had commiserated with a kayak seller and had set up a veritable kayak rendezvous. The lady in our town who sells the smallish boats had received her Old Town Loon 111 from another customer, and it was available for Deb to try, the gig was on!

Here's a shot of my truck with, gulp, kayaks in the bed. I'll be the first to tell you, the green one, an Old Town Loon, is far and away a better boat then the red one, a Dimension Spirit.

Because the weather in the morning was a little skosh (raining), and Emily's cheerleading event was cut short by the rain, I was thinking a kayak trial wasn't in the cards, but I was wrong. The weather cleared and Deb wanted to go give it a whirl. I dropped my wrenches and we went and retrieved the kayaks to put them through their paces.

While paddling along the South Concho river, I saw lots of turtles, and then I saw a C-130 lining up on Mathis Field, the civilian airport in San Angelo that occasionally hosts military aircraft. I mentioned something to Deb about the speck in the sky looking like a 130, and she agreed. We finished our paddling and loaded up the kayaks so Deb could take the loaners back to the kayak lady.

When we got to our house (200 yards from the river, he he) I asked Deb if she would mind taking the boats back herself, I strapped them down and made sure everything was good, I needed to finish the work on my boat!. She agreed, and took off.

So I'm in the garage, when I hear the unmistakeable sound of a 130 flying over my house. The same crew that had flown over the river were obviously doing some training on approaches, etc. I had my Nikon digital out, and I tried to get a good photo, but that camera takes a few seconds to boot up, so I miss my chance. I stop, and go in and get my big gun, my Canon EOS 300D digital SLR. It is soooo much faster. If I see a unique or unusual aircraft, I'll take a picture of it. So I took a few shots.

Chariot of Glory

I first thought this crew was from nearby Dyess AFB, in Abilene, which hosts an airlift wing of C-130s. I was wrong. I didn't know until after I scrutinized the photos that the aircraft was not from Dyess, and was not even from the Air Force! This C-130 belongs to our brothers and sisters in the Corps.

I immediately noticed that their fin-flashes and paint scheme was not Air Force. At first I thought it might have been reserves or guard, but we haven't used this paint scheme in many years, most of them had since upgraded. I also noticed the numbering and the tail ID just didn't seem Air Force, and I was right.

This aircraft, with a tail ID of GR (it was tough to see, and the low-res pics I'm posting don't show it) is from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. They hail from VMGRT-253, a schoolhouse squadron for aircrews for the Marine Corps. The aircraft is either a KC-130T or KC-130F/R.

So, the marines came a long, long way to do some touch-and-goes at Mathis field. Of course, I was proud to see them!

If I had a nickel for every hour I've spent on a 130, I'd have a couple of hundred bucks!


I've worked the image a little more to show what I think is proof positive that this aircraft is not USAF:

If you squint real hard, you'll see the GR on the vertical stabilizer, and look at those rondelles, although it is faint, you'll see a giant US rondelle on the airplane. We (USAF), haven't used rondelle's like that since Viet-Nam. Another note of interest, the AF has very few C-130s that do air-to-air refueling. This one certainly does, but all USAF 130s that do are special ops. The kind of refueling C-130s do is chute and drogue, not hard-boom like a KC-135 or KC-10. Most C-130s refuel rotary winged aircraft. Still, there is a strange cross-over point, where some Navy fixed-wing aircraft could refuel from a C-130. Crazy, I tell ya!


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