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Flight excursion to Malause’s phare aéronautique

Last Sunday, yet again, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes to make another family flight excursion.

On the occasion of the previous excursion, last week, I introduced the phares aéronautiques, i.e., aeronautic lighthouses that were set up in 1920s to allow night flight navigation for l’Aéropostale courriers. Last week we spotted a couple of them to the South East of Toulouse. This time, we wanted to spot a couple of them to the North West of Toulouse, on the way to Bordeaux, in the villages of Canals and Malause.

Last week, we prepared quite well the spotting, checking in Google maps different views of what we would try to see from the airplane so that we could easily recognise them. This time, we prepared less, just marking a cross in the map with the approximate location of the phares and hoping that we would identify the lighthouses on the ground.

Well, the task proved as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. We missed the phare of Canals in the first leg. We then continued over flying the Canal Lateral up to the water slop of Montech (1).

montech_1

The navigation of this flight was rather simple, as once over the Canal Lateral we kept flying over it northward up to the Pont-Canal to the East of Moissac (2).

Moissac

We then flew along the river Tarn until it flows into the Garonne and then the Garonne until Malause. We then knew that the phare would be to the North of the river, the canal, the railway and a secondary road. See it below.

Malause_1

If you haven’t been able to spot it, it’s OK. You’re not the only one. We didn’t spot it at first sight. We flew in circle to have a second chance. I reduced the speed from 190 km/h to 150 km/h, to see if at a slower speed we would see it better.

Malause_2

Saw it already? Not yet? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. But you see, I was at the controls, at the left side of the cockpit. But you… you have here a frozen picture, you’ve got no excuse not to see it. In fact, you’ve got the picture because Luca is starting to be a hell of a spotter.

Malause_3

Once at home, I researched a little bit and found this local website about the phare (in French), with a couple of pictures, some data, history of these phares and a nice chart from 1932. It explains that the lighthouses started to be built in 1923 and that by 1932 there were 140 of them across France. This one at Malause was operated by the family Jolly until 1948/1949.

2012_12_30_Cartographie_Phare_St_Exupery_01

On the way back to the aerodrome of Toulouse-Lasbordes we passed by Moissac and Montech again and failed to spot the lighthouse of Canals again. Next time.

Montech_2

Finally, see below the navigation chart with the route followed marked on it. The total engine running time of the excursion: 1h15′.

Mapa

(1) See here a post in which I described the concept of the water slope and a post about another flight excursion in which we took some more pictures of it.

(2) See a post about another flight excursion in which we took some more pictures of it.

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Flight excursion to Montferrand’s phare aeronautique and the Pyrenees

Last Sunday, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes to make another family flight excursion.

This time the purpose of the flight was twofold: (1) we wanted to spot a couple of phares aéronautiques, i.e., aeronautic lighthouses that were set up in 1920s to allow night flight navigation for l’Aéropostale courriers, close to Toulouse, and (2) we wanted to take benefit from a sunny day around Occitanie to make a tour around the snow-covered Pyrenees, something we already did about a year ago when we completed the route of the Cathar castles (see here a post about it).

See below the quick reference paper navigation log prepared for the flight.

Nav_log_new

A few months ago, a friend of Luca, Tijmen, tipped us on the existence of these aeronautic lighthouses. See in this website a map with the precise location all of them had, including those still standing.

Map_phares

We succesfully spotted the 2 phares closest to the East of Toulouse-Lasbordes aerodrome, located in Montferrand (just to the East of the wind turbines by the A61) and Bazièges (just to the North of the silos marking the waypoint SB). See a picture of the first one below (2 houses to the left of the wing blue tip).

Wind turbines

IMG_20170319_112316917

Once we had spotted the phare in Montferrand, we took to the South to start the climb to above 10,000 ft in order to fly over the Pyrenees.

Pyrenees_afar_1Pyrenees_afar_2

Approaching the Pyrenees, we flew over the old castle of Montsegur, which we had already seen before when we flew over the Cathar castles. See below a couple of pictures, in context and in detail.

Montesegur_1

Montesegur_2

Once up there, we just enjoyed some minutes of flying around, spotting skiing stations, seeing possible routes through the mountains towards Andorra and Spain, enjoying the breathtaking views, taking a few pictures…

Detail_navigation

Over_wing

Over_dashboard

Selfie

Finally, see below the navigation chart with the route followed marked on it and the navigation log as used. The total engine running time of the excursion: 1h28′.

Nav_chart

Navigation_log_used

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Musée Espace Air Passion (Angers)

In the last post I described the Fly Out to Les Châteaux de la Loire that we made the last weekend. In that post I mentioned that we visited the museum Espace Air Passion in Angers airport. This post will be dedicated to that beautiful museum.

This museum is owned and run by an association, the “Groupement pour la Préservation du Patrimoine Aéronautique” (GPPA), created back in 1981 by a group of friends around the project of restoring an old aircraft (a jewel) from René Gasnier, a local pioneer of French aviation who flew in 1908 along 1km in an airplane built by himself. That airplane is the first one you get to see in the museum:

Rene Gasnier III, built in 1908, restored in 1988.

Rene Gasnier III, built in 1908, restored in 1988.

René Gasnier built his first airplanes between 1907 and 1908. This model, the III was built in 1908. As you can see it was made of wood and cloth. It mounted an Antoinette engine with 8 cylinders in V, with a power of 48hp, wingspan of 10m, less than 500kg at take off. It took the enthusiasts of GPPA over 1000 hours to restore it.

This airplane is surely not the only unique piece of the museum. Take a look at the following two airplanes.

The Gérin “Varivol”, built in 1938 (by the Compagnie Française d’Aviation), was based in the concept of using moving wings which extended themselves increasing the wingspan at the time of take-off when more lift was needed and reducing the wingspan to decrease drag at cruise. A prototype was successfully tested in the wind tunnel of Chalais-Meudon in 1946, however the actual airplane seems to never have flown. Had it flown, it was to have a cruise speed of ~455km/h while only 92km/h for landing speed. The wings were to be extended/retracted 2.75m per side out of a total retracted wingspan of 8.10m.

Alerion Riout 102 T.

Alerion Riout 102 T.

Built in 1937 by René Riout (at the workshop of Louis Breguet) with duralium, the 102 T explored the concept of flying by batting its wings (4, two at each side of the fuselage). During its test in 1938 when the pilot increased the engine regime up to around 4500rpm, after a few seconds, the observers saw torsion vibrations in the tip of one the wings before it broke, closely followed by the other 3 wings. It was then dismounted and forgotten till 2005 when the restoration at GPPA started.

This reminded me of a quote attributed to Igor Sikorsky that goes like:

Our engineers have determined that aerodynamically, the hummingbird shouldn’t be able to fly, but the hummingbird doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway.

Another oddity of the museum is one of the only two prototypes (1) ever built of the Moynet Jupiter (designed by André Moynet) which had the rare configuration of two push and pull engines, one in the front and one in the back of the fuselage. It was never sold to any customer, but it flew for the first time on December 17, 1963 (60 years after that glorious day in Kitty Hawk).

Moynet Jupiter.

Moynet Jupiter.

The museum has these other two sailplanes which have been declared patrimoine de l’aviation française due to the records they collected in their high time, the Caudron 800 Épervier and the Avia 40P:

We also enjoyed the visit to the workshops where they restore the fuselages and the wings. Take a look at the pictures and notice the wood and the cloth. Forget about those pictures the next time you get onboard a general aviation airplane.

We were given a guided tour by two members of the association, their explanations, anecdotes, connection with French famous pilots (including former Airbus’ test pilots) were invaluable. On the other hand, the audience couldn’t have been more responsive. Take a look at the pictures above: scores of years of aerospace engineering experience (flight testing, training), thousands of flying hours as pilots, real aviation geeks at its best.

The museum also has playing area for children, a MH-1521 Broussard for children (an adults) to get on and play, and some other beautiful aircraft including a Caudron PC431 Rafale, a Morane Saulnier 505, a Piper L4H Grasshoper, or the car Marcel Leyat Helica… see them below:

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(1) The other prototype is at  the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, at Le Bourget.

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Summary of (my) 2014

Brief recap of my 2014. (1)

In the last year recap I mentioned that in 2014 I wanted to give it a try to the processes’ approach at the time of setting goals. Trying to introduce new habits, settle others, etc. I started very focused: waking up earlier, studying Dutch first thing in the morning, arriving at the office earlier, training at lunch time, getting back home earlier, playing with Andrea, spend some family time, read and study at late evening/night. Some of the habits have stayed, some others not, and I have taken new ones along the year… let’s review the year.

The main events of this year:

  • AndreaFFVFRLuca passed the exams to become a lawyer in France, found a job in a law firm and finally sworn before the court as a lawyer.
  • Andrea… many events in her front. From the first flight with me at the controls in February, to her first steps in the summer, to travelling first time to Africa and America…
  • We moved houses, though still living in Toulouse (from the flat in Saint-Cyprien to a house in Sept Deniers).

Avgeek. The stage we had in Paris for Luca’s exams allowed me to visit the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace (Le Bourget) and to get to know the airfield of Issy-Les-Moulineaux. Our escapades to the Pyrenees made us discover Musée de l’Aéronautique of Luchon. The more recent trip to the USA allowed us to visit the Dayton, where the Wright Brothers originated and the National Museum of the US Air Force, for which I still have to write about, but you can see my brother’s post on the museum. We also had the chance to visit the Francazal air show.

VitrineThe moving to the new house gave me the opportunity to find a well deserved location for the model collection.

Flying. Apart of the mentioned first flight with Andrea on board, in this 2014 I managed to complete some 17 flights totalling almost 15 flight hours, 30 take-offs and landings and including 5 solo flights (one of them a navigation flight).

????????????????????????????????Not only Andrea had her baptism regarding flying with me at the controls in 2014, but Juan, Maicol, my mother, my sister Beatriz and brother Jaime had theirs too! Despite some exercise-related incidents (including a runway excursion, through during a solo flight), I am sure they enjoyed it and the experience made it to their 2014 memories.

Since the progress was good, just before the summer my instructor mentioned the taking of the exam! But first I had to pass the theoretical part, which I had postponed so far. I did a first attempt in November in which I cleared half of it, next attempt in a couple of months. Then, some more flight lessons (not having flown since September), flight hours and start thinking on the practical exam!

FinMarLearning. The balance between family, hobbies and work is always tricky. This year I started strong studying Dutch which I dropped after 3 months, and in the second half of the year I had to put hours to the study of the PPL theoretical part (in French), with partial success.

In between, I completed some other online courses (MOOCs): The Age of Sustainable Development (Columbia), An Introduction to Operations Management (Wharton) and Financial Markets (Yale). In parallel, I completed some other very interesting in-company trainings on Airline Engineering and Maintenance, Management of Conflicts and Time Management.

Reading. This year again I didn’t set any objectives in terms of number of books, but I only prepared a shelf with a selection of about 20 books that I wanted to prioritize. In the end I read the following 10 books (about half of them from the selected shelf):  Hot, Flat, and CrowdedThe Roaring NinetiesEl amor en los tiempos del cóleraThe Early History of the AirplaneSeeking Wisdom: From Darwin to MungerWhat management is, Sycamore Row, The Racketeer, Micro, Crime and Punishment (in Spanish). You can find here a brief review of each of them and references to longer reviews I made about them in the blog.

Family 2.0. Despite of the family life and different changes, I managed to write just a bit over 80 posts. Plus the blog received over 80,000 visits in 2014 (a 60% increase in relation to 2013) and is very close to surpassing the 200,000 since I started it in 2010.

On top of that, Luca went forward with her own blog, check it here, Jaime launched his new blog (with especially interesting post on aerospace topics!) and my mother launched a website to promote her therapy business (Terapias ArcoIris). I wonder whether Andrea will start a blog before speaking or writing! (2)

DSC_0161 - CopyTravelling. This year we visited Paris for a week (first time in Versailles and in the château de Chambord for me), made 3 escapades the Pyrenees (with Luca and Andrea alone, with my family and with friends), visited again the United States (NY and some new places for us: Boston, Gettysburg, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia – with over 2,100 miles driven and 8 different hotels in less than 2 weeks!) in a very entertaining trip with lots of learning opportunities and experiences, the Dordogne, spent a half resting half discovery week in Mauritius, flew to the Netherlands (3 times, a week each time), five days in Sicily (Siracusa, Milazzo, Taormina; incredibly beautiful places) and these last days of the year in Madrid.

????????????????????????????????Again, those were the leisure trips; on top of that, the job made me go to Madrid another 20-25 times (?), that made it tiresome and difficult to combine with other things but gave my plenty of opportunities to see my family, friends and to run in the Retiro park…

Sports – Running. This year, due to the young age of Andrea, we did not manage to go skiing. We neither played some golf as we wished we had to, nor gave it a try with soccer. What I did was basically, guess… running.

In 2014 I ran well over 1,900 kilometres, which was a goal I set to myself at half way through the year (when I had completed just over 800). As I wanted to reduce the weekends’ agenda, I competed less and just took part in 9 races (3) (versus 16 in 2013) including: 2 marathons (Rotterdam and New York, both under my previous personal best time!), 2 half marathons (Blagnac and Toulouse, no personal best here though), 3 10k‘s (all of them under 45’, with two consecutive personal bests!) and a couple of trails: Cassoulet and Foies Gras. As you read, in 2014 I achieved personal bests in marathon and 10k thanks to the different training plans I combined (more variety), which was great. I did not so in half marathon, I think in 2015 I’ll try to improve the 3 marks.

IMG_0219Following the sentence “the running shoes, always in the suitcase”, the year 2014 caught me running in: Wijchen (9 times), The Hague, Rijswijk, Sevilla, Rotterdam, Paris (x6), New York (x2), Milazzo (x3), Montauban, Mauritius (x5), Madrid (x16), Dayton, Colomiers, Benasque, Barakaldo, Allentown, Verfeil, Mauvezin… plus the tens of times I trained in Toulouse and Blagnac.

This year, apart from the races, I managed to train plenty of long runs: 11 over 20km, including 6 over 25km and 2 over 30km; and did plenty of series’ sessions (too many to mention). That contributed a lot to the improvement of my times.

Other reasons for joy in 2014 have been:

  • My family: My sister moved to Odense (Denmark) to study a master in International Security & Law  (you can follow her in her blog), and once the classes were completed moved to Vilnius (Lithuania) to make a stage at the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence. We had the pleasure to have my mother over for a month in July-August. We enjoyed 2 weeks of holidays with Jaime in the States, apart enjoying several runs with him. My father is ever more engaged with NGOs teaching classes to disfavoured people in Madrid.
  • Some more friends got married: Alessandro, Erik, Simone.
  • And we welcome some newborns from family and friends: Guillermo, Cas, Nils, Amelie…

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to plan how we want the 2015 to turn out. It will again be a year full of personal and professional changes, with plenty of learning opportunities, kilometres to run, marathons to enjoy, airplanes to fly and flights to catch, museums to see, books to read, trips to make and parties to enjoy.

For now, I will close 2014 celebrating my sister’s birthday, running the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid with several friends and enjoying a last dinner with the family.

I wish you the best for 2015, enjoy it!

(1) You can see my 20102011, 2012 and 2013 recaps.

(2) I have to confess that at some point I considered the idea of opening a blog for her to register each of her flights… I dropped the idea, because I was incapable of registering all the desired data of so many flights! [over 20 flights in 2014 alone for her]

(3) That figure excludes the San Silvestre Vallecana that I will run the afternoon after this post is published.

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My first landing in Blagnac (LFBO)

I think this post is better understood just by watching the video (find referenced charts below):

Find the Visual Approach Chart of Toulouse Blagnac (LFBO) [PDF, 846KB] from the Service de l’Information Aeronautique (SIA). Main pages to follow the video are shown below:

Visual Approach to Blagnac. Special attention to route followed from Lasbordes, EN - EA - EB.

Visual Approach to Blagnac. Special attention to route followed from Lasbordes, EN – EA – EB.

Visual Landing in Blagnac. Special attention to waypoint EB (water tower) and clockwise aerodrome circuit to land on 32L.

Visual Landing in Blagnac. Special attention to waypoint EB (water tower) and clockwise aerodrome circuit to land on 32L.

Taxiing in Blagnac. Special attention to the crossing of 32R by way of M4 and N4. Note parking Golf. Departure from 32R by way of N1.

Taxiing in Blagnac. Special attention to the crossing of 32R by way of M4 and N4. Note parking Golf. Departure from 32R by way of N1.

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Summary of (my) 2013

Let me share with you a brief recap of my 2013. (1)

I defined my 2011 as a year on the run and my 2012 as a year of change, and yet 2013 brought more running and more change that either 2011 or 2012! To me 2013 will be a family year: as Luca and I got married and we got a baby, Andrea.

At the beginning of 2013 I did not set a list of objectives to be fulfilled along the year as with the wedding preparations and the coming of Andrea I was going to have plenty of occupations. However, that does not mean that it was a quiet 2013.

Getting married.

Getting married.

May 11, 2013. On that day Luca and I celebrated our wedding. That was our highlight of the first half of the year. We celebrated it close to my parents’ place, in the hills close to Madrid, on a great spring evening , surrounded by most of our relatives and friends (many of you, coming not only from all corners in Spain but from Canada, Brazil, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Switzerland…). Apart from being a very emotive day we had lots of fun.

The monday after the wedding we departed for a honeymoon around the US west coast. We took the opportunity to visit the usual suspects of the area (LA, San Francisco, Grand Canyon, Sequoia Park, Yosemite…) and the not so common places: the aircraft cemetery known as The Boneyard and the AF Flight Test Center (this required visiting 2 US Air Force bases: Davids-Monthan and Edwards), the aviation museums of Pima and Seattle, the Lowell observatory, the Boeing 787 / 777 /747 Final Assembly Lines…

Family Irastorza Van Veen.

In February we announced here that we were expecting a baby. On August 11th, Andrea was born in Toulouse (2).

She weighed 3,610 grams at birth and measured 50cm tall. Now, 4 and half months later she is over 7kg and over 63cm. She has been the highlight of the second half of the year.

Family 2.0. All these events made me slow down the blog posts production rate at some times during the year, though not for the lack of ideas or contents! Nevertheless, I managed to write about 90 posts! Plus the blog received over 50,000 visits in 2013 and surpassed the 100,000 since I started it in 2010.

On top of that, we saw how Luca went forward with her own blog, check it here.

Learning. What did I learn this year? The main job here has been to internalize on time the turn to becoming a father. Once that was assumed, I would say that, with the good health Andrea has had so far, it has been rather easy, albeit energy and time-consuming.

I would say that trickiest that I am finding is the balancing of time between family, hobbies and work. And it has been at the other side of the work-life balance, at the work, where another leap forward was required: in terms of new concepts, new position within the team and several challenges encountered. Though, with the great courage and support from Ruth and Loreto, the year has passed way smoother than one could have suspected.

Other than that, this year I did not manage to formally study neither French (booh! to myself) or Dutch (another big booh! to myself), and this is something that I will have to make up for in 2014 (otherwise I risk to be left out in conversations between wife and daughter!).

Online education: after getting started in 2012 with online courses, in 2013 I completed in Coursera platform the following 4 courses: “Energy 101” (Georgia Tech), “Model Thinking” (Uni. of Michigan), “Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health” (Uni. of Pittsburgh) and “Exercise Physiology: Understanding the Athlete Within” (Uni. of Melbourne). On the down side, I did not fully complete other 3 online courses for which I obtained only about 60% of the credits, even though I enjoyed them even more than the previous ones: “Game Theory” (Stanford), “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior” (Duke) and “Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity” (Stanford), in all three cases I missed some deadlines due to being travelling without time and proper connections to complete assignments.

Reading. This year I didn’t set any objectives in terms of books due to the reasons mentioned above. Add to that that my eReader broke at the beginning of the year and I only replaced it in June and only started to use the new eReader in December (!). I have only read 7 books in 2013 (“Thinking Fast and Slow”, “Calico Joe”, “Born to Run”, “Les Cow-boys d’Airbus”, “Personal Memoirs of US Grant”, “Moneyball” and “The Art of War” for a second time). I think I will soon write a post about them.

Sports. After about 16 years, I got to practice again skiing (!), which used to be one of my favourite sports. We went with colleagues to Val Louron, Saint-Lary and Baqueira. I also got to play soccer again after about 3 years without playing… with the misfortune of getting injured (left leg adductor) just weeks prior to a marathon.

Skiing in Val Louron (France).

Running the San Diego marathon.

As you can imagine if you are a frequent reader of the blog, what I practiced often was running. In 2013 I managed to run over 2,000 kilometres, I took part in 16 races including: 3 marathons (Rome, San Diego – while on honeymoon!- and Athens), 2 half marathons (La Latina – Madrid – and Toulouse) and 4 trails of around 20km each. For the last marathon I manage to complete a training plan to the end which made me very proud and helped to beat my 10k and half personal records.

I don’t remember from whom I picked the sentence “the running shoes, always in the suitcase”, but I follow it to the point: The year 2012 caught me running in Toulouse (all kind of corners in the French south west region), Gruissan, Madrid (the day I got married included), Torrelodones, Rome, Santander, Murcia, Santa Monica, San Diego, San Francisco (Bay to Breakers race included, and along the Golden Gate bridge), Sequoia National Park, Mojave desert, Tucson, San Diego, Everett, Oakland, San Lorenzo de la Parrilla (Cuenca), Comillas (Cantabria), Athens, Wijchen… so in a way it was also a year on the run. Many of these times I have been running with friends (Jaime, Serna, Manuel, Juan, Kike, Jon, Nacho, Gon, Juan, Nervi, Pablete…), which made it even better.

Investing & helping others: with the organization of the wedding in sight, I had a cash preference for the use of savings. With the wedding gone, I will re-start looking for investment opportunities in 2014 (hopefully the stock market isn’t so hot then).  In a few weeks I will publish how our investments (made in previous years) have fared in 2013, but they have gone well (as most of the stock markets). On the charities side: this year I directed 1.1% of my net income to different NGOs and non-profits (soon I’ll make a similar contribution, check out which ones will I support this time).

Travelling. This year either with Luca, with friends or alone, I visited Santander, Murcia, United States (LA, SF, Seattle, Mojave, Flagstaff, Tucson, San Diego…), Comillas, Greece (Athens, Delphi, Meteora, Marathon), The Netherlands (Wijchen, Den Bosch)… take the case of Andrea, who with just 4 months has been 3 times in Spain, 3 times in The Netherlands and Greece (having flown 11 times already)… those were the leisure trips; the job made me go to Madrid another 20-25 times (?), that made it tiresome and difficult to combine with other things.

My first flight on-board the A400M.

My first flight on-board the A400M.

Flying: again, 2013 has been a difficult year to find slots to fly with the instructor. Due to weather conditions, work, etc., we had to cancelled several sessions. In the end I could only fly over 13 hours. However, on August, 30, I did my first solo flight!. That was another highlight of the year. During the summer time, while my parents and in-laws were visiting to see our newborn, I could take onboard my mother and father-in-law. 

On top of that, on August 29, I got to fly onboard the aircraft I work on at Airbus Military, the A400M! (yet another highlight).

Other reasons for joy in 2013 have been:

  • Family: My brother switched jobs within the same company and will soon depart again for Germany. My sister, after completing her degree in Political Sciences, pursuing a course on Energy Security in Madrid and getting yet another certificate in English, moved to Odense (Denmark) to study a Master in Energy Security (you can follow her in her blog). My mother keeps working on her massage business, and my father is now engaged with 2 or 3 NGOs spending part of is time as a pensioner teaching maths, physics, etc., to disfavoured people in Madrid.
  • Some more friends and relatives got married: Marlies, Pablo, Jose, Unai, Marlies.
  • And apart from Andrea, these newborns will share her promotion: Julia, Aaron, Mencía, Diego, Julia, Maeva

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to plan how we want the 2014 to turn out. I believe the next year I’m going to give it a try to the processes’ approach at the time of setting goals. I have been repeating to myself for years that each year that passes is getting better than the previous one. If I see at the account above, improving 2013 seems difficult, but who am I to question that 2014 will be, again, the best year of my life!?

I wish you the same: the best for 2014, enjoy it!

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

(1) This post is becoming a classic of the blog (like those talking about aircraft discounts, best and worst posts, charities I support, etc). You can see my 20102011 and 2012 recaps.

(2) For the avoidance of doubt: despite of being born in France and due to her parents being Dutch and Spanish, Andrea is of Spanish and Dutch nationality, not French. Quoting a work colleague: “here [on the possibility of getting French nationality at birth or not], French law protects our children…” 🙂

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The Boneyard

The US Air Force’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), known as “The Boneyard”, is one of the places that I had wanted to visit since many years ago. Luca and I visited it a couple of weeks ago.

The Boneyard is an aircraft and equipment storage facility located at Davis-Monthan AF Base near Tucson (Arizona). The are over 4,000 military aircraft stored at the place. Most of them come from the USA (not only from the air force, but from other services as well) but there are some aircraft from foreign countries. The aircraft are stored for several reasons and in different conditions.

  • Some of them are maintained waiting for a possible future use of them (be it with US armed forces or through some foreign military sale, that is the case of several old versions of C-130, F-16).
  • Other aircraft are kept so their parts can be used as spare parts for other active flying aircraft (e.g. C-130, KC-135).
  • Finally, there are aircraft which are stored waiting to be scrapped so the metal can be reused somewhere else.
KC-135 partly scrapped.

KC-135 partly scrapped.

Hundreds of C-130.

Hundreds of C-130.

There are whole fleets of retired aircraft: C-141 Starlifter (retired once the C-17 took over their role), half of the C-5 Galaxy fleet (the A versions, due to budget constrains and fleet strategic decisions), the Vietnam-era helicopters Hueys and Cobras

The Boneyard can be visited with a guided tour organised by the Pima Air and Space Museum (I will write about this museum in another post).  The tour is made with a bus which goes through the Boneyard very slowly and making several stops (though guests cannot exit the bus). The guides are veterans from the US armed forces, who have flown or maintained some of those models that you get to see. The wealth of knowledge that they have about them, the anecdotes and stories that they tell during the tour are worth much more than the 7$ that the tour costs.

The place is impressive, overwhelming. Not only there are thousands of aircraft but the seeing of them fully aligned, whole fleets of different models helps you put things into perspective:

  • World commercial airliner fleet (over 100 pax) has about 16,000 aircraft vs. the 4,000 at The Boneyard.
  • The largest airline fleets have about 1,200 aircraft.
  • Spanish AF has 14 C-130 Hercules vs. the hundreds of them you see at The Boneyard.
  • The dozens of retired Lockheed C-5A Galaxy that you can see there have a combined payload capacity of over 5,000 tonnes… which is more than the complete payload capability of any other air force in the world except the US one…

You may want to take a look at satellite images from the Boneyard here:

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