Monday, May 16, 2005

Who's flying over my house?

Living near Mathis field, San Angelo's premier regional hub (he he!), I'm treated with an airshow like no other. Actually, it is like no other because the action is pretty slow. Sometimes my Air Force brethren show up with bells on and shoot approaches on the field with T-41As, T-38s, C-130s, T-37s. Many times the pilots and students actually stop over at Mathis to dine. OK, I'm going to let you in on a secret here. Mathis field has a Chinese restaurant, an eating establishment that has a veritable cult following among the flight-suit clad pilot trainees from Randolph and Laughlin. I'm not kidding.

Still, let me tell you about flight food. If you can find a good place to eat within walking distance of where you park your airplane, that is where you will eat, and you'll probably be less picky then when you have ground transport. Example: at the fueling pits in Florala, Alabama (Sunshine Aero), we'd go in and enjoy hickory-smoked BBQ, hot dogs, freezing cold cokes, popcorn, you name it, all the while our helicopter sat in the hot pit and refueled (the unlucky pilot had to stay in the seat to hold the brake, but we always brought him a couple of hot dogs wrapped in foil). That little investment the proprietor made in food costs netted big profits, when we refueled our MH-53, the top-off would cost between $3-4,000! Of course the BBQ banquet was free, no charge. The smart fuel-baron would try and make you subliminally insert his fuel-stop in your pre-flight plan, and something to gnaw on always helped get your mind right!

OK, so what are these gallant young aviators flying tonight? Look no farther:

T-41A Jayhawk Multi-place Pilot Trainer out of Randolph AFB, TX

The T-41A. This is the bird the pilot trainees take up with when they get done with their T-37 training and are selected to go to heavies, or multi-place/multi-engine aircraft (where the real work gets done). Sure, fighters are sexy, and they are lethal, but who really moves the war-machine? Yup, the heavies. They carry fuel, troops, bombs, ammo, supplies of all types, and if you happen to be lucky enough to be a crew-dog on one, they can carry that rare, large car part you've been searching for and happen to find at your TDY location. Or you can bring back cooking implements, I bought a grill off a vendor on a street in Bogota and we had space to spare on our Hercules to bring it back. Everyone thought I was nuts. They're probably right. So, young multi-place pilot trainees, good luck to you, and S-A-L-U-T-E! Remember to always treat the "sweaties" with love and compassion.

Shipping and Handling

Because our town is a nice town, and a great town, and a town that is keeping its Air Force Base, we need air cargo transport, but it is a smaller town, so we don't get Fed-Ex large jet service. No, we get something quite a bit smaller, but no less reliable. If you take a package to pack-and-ship or one of those places for Fed-Ex, it's leaving on an airplane, but not on the one you'd usually think of for parcel transport. Two flights leave Angelo in the evening, I'm sure they are filled with all those E-bay purchases and other commerce, and they leave in this little bird:

Fed-Ex Cessna 208 Caravan single-engine turboprop. Notice the extended cargo bay beneath the fuselage.

Here's one of another company that flies a Cessna 208 out of Mathis field on a regular basis, perhaps a cargo contractor or someone who flies mail for the post office

Rotor Wash

Occasionally I'll see the Texas National Guard or Reserve guys flying their helicopters near the field, although I usually see UH-60s. Tonight this AH-64 Apache, a sight probably more common around Baghdad, flew towards Mathis on an unkown mission.

AH-64 Apache. A wrecking machine. Don't get on the wrong side of this guy... S-A-L-U-T-E!


Cessna 172

What is interesting about this guy, is that on a whim I typed his tail number (N5757E) into Google and the FAA has an aircraft registration database that tells you what aircraft it is, who owns it, and much other data. A surprising amount of data, actually.

This little plane is a 1978 model Cessna 172, and is owned by an enterprise at Mathis field. I'm pretty sure they rent it out for people to use to take flight lessons. This 27 year-old is looking pretty good!

After seeing the FAA registration data, I looked at some other hits. This Cessna has a history! The aircraft was wrecked in 1980 by a pilot doing a solo cross-country, because of deteriorating visibility, he diverted. Upon his approach he overshot and tangled the airplane up in a fence. Damage: substantial. Still, airplanes cost lots of money, so it went to the repair shop and she's still flying. The guy that wrecked her had 13 hours of time. This happened in the Northeast, in Mifflintown, PA, the original destination was Lock Haven, PA, the flight originated in Manassas, VA.

So, if you get a good look at an aircraft's registration, and it is a US registration (US registration always starts with an "N") jot it down if you're interested, you can look it up on the internet. Pretty cool!


Anonymous MaddogTF121@SpecialForces.US said...

I flew this plane in 1979 from Manassass, VA many times and have a pretty good photo of the cockpit with the registration number clearly visible.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I owned this aircraft back in the 80's, it was a great airplane. Probably put 500 hours on it, even got IFR'd in it, before eventually having to sell in 1998. I am wondering about a few things, like how bad was the damage that occurred with the fence landing? I never had that info available back then, we were told NHD at the time of purchase. Also trying to find email address for current owner Kerry Fender, he is somewhere near Midland TX. Send me a note if you own(ed) in past or know the current owner's contact info. Would love to get some pictures of the plane, past and present, for my memorabilia collection. Thanks, Gary

9:02 PM  

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