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    Operation Airdrop Volunteer Pilots and Staff Support Hurricane Victims

    OAD Pilots & volunteers of load relief supplies for Hurricane Harvey victims

    “Ready to go, have cleared my schedule for WED and beyond. Twin Cessna 414. Bringing 300 lbs of diapers with me.” Operation Airdrop Pilot

    Imagine having 4 feet of flood waters receding from your home. Now that the storm is over you have to start assessing the damage and cleaning up, but you can’t go to Target or Wal Mart to get your supplies. They were hit by the floods too, just about every store was. And if you have a baby the Red Cross doesn’t have diapers to give to you. Enter Operation Airdrop Hurricane Harvey!

    Operation Airdrop

    Operation Airdrop (OAD) https://www.operation-airdrop.com started just in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as an effort by two pilots, we’d like to call them fellow Avgeeks, John Clay Wolfe and Doug Jackson. Wolfe is a Dallas metro area iheart radio personality and Jackson are friends who both felt the need to do something to help these people.

    Well, you’re a pilot and I’m a pilot, why don’t we fly some stuff down?’ I’ve got this radio network, we ought to use it for some good. What if we organized a bunch of pilots and mimic that Cajun Navy thing, but do it with airplanes?” Credit: Flying Magazine They promoted their efforts on the radio and facebook to the General Aviation community and the response has been overwhelming.  Fans at the Thunder over Michigan Airshow were asked to help fill two C-47s with over 20,000 pounds of relief supplies.

    Operation Airdrop pilots are bringing new meaning to the phrase “weekend warrior.” OAD pilots have volunteered their time, flying skills and aircraft to generate a massive relief effort. In the tradition of the cajun navy a group of over 200 civilian pilots have joined together forming a massive coordinated relief effort. To date Operation Airdrop has completed over 400 flights, delivering over 250,000 pounds of supplies in difficult to reach areas of hurricane stricken South Texas.

    https://batchgeo.com/map/fd51bdd9e103af3df22cfc0337d19b3b Map by Joe Vaeth

    Operation Airdrop Expanding Reach

    Operation Airdrop started by using aircraft to bring immediate short-term relief to hardest hit areas after Harvey in Texas by targeting isolated areas with small airports along the Texas Gulf Coast. Since that time OAD has expanded its mission to deliver assistance to Florida and Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricanes Irma & Maria.  To accomplish this critical feat OAD is actively developing strategic relationships with the military, government leaders, and other relief organizations such as the Texas Baptist Men, Salvation Army, Texas Navy & Cajun Air Force. The FAA has also been very cooperative in this effort. OAD pilots even have their own sqawk code.

    Operation Airdrop is making a tremendous difference in the lives of families one aircraft load at a time. One of the real strengths of this organization has been the ability to get relief into the hands of people that need it quickly. OAD has established a supply chain and places for donations to dropped, distributed & received. Supplies are reaching folks in need within 30 minutes after landing. Here is a listing some of the items being delivered:
    Diapers
    Baby Formula
    Cleaning Supplies
    N95 dust masks
    Maxi pads
    Frigdes
    Fans
    Bottled Water
    Dog food, Cat Food
    Paper Towels & TP
    Sleeping Bags
    LED Lanterns
    Canned Foods
    Athletic apparel and shirts from the Dallas Cowboys
    Papa Johns Pizza to relief workers and first responders.

    Fleet of aircraft at KCXO

    One account from KCXO, Conroe, TX stated, “ Dozens of pilots landed their planes in the airport and personnel from The Salvation Army helped unload pounds of diapers and baby materials, toiletries and sleeping bags to distribute to storm victims.” OAD also had help from some extra muscle on the ramp at KBMT, Beaumont Municipal Airport from the Army and Air Force troops working there.

    Air Force & Army troops support OAD on the ramp at KBMT

    Pilots Wanted

    This effort is being sustained by volunteer pilots. The organization’s facebook page and website have a link https://www.operation-airdrop.com/pilot-intake for pilots and or aircraft owners to fill out a form and a member of the operations team will make immediate contact. OAD pilots have been flying in supplies from all over the U.S. and Mexico. And they have been flying in a myriad of aircraft including everything from Cessna 152s, Pilatus PC-12’s to Beechjets and the venerable DC-3. The group’s heavy lifter is a WWII era DC-3 cargo aircraft painted with invasion stripes and still serving in a critical role.

    The team Operation Airdrop assembled has put a lot of work into building a seamless operation. Pilots fly into coordinated donation centers/depots to load up. There they get a weather briefing and coordinated instructions for flying into the Houston TFR. The aircraft are fueled and sent on their way. Upon landing at the relief field the aircraft is downloaded by the waiting volunteers. Supplies are distributed. Then the aircraft is re-fueled for its next run.

    Relief Airfields served by OAD:
    KCXO – Conroe, TX – Lone Star Executive
    KPKV – Port Lavaca, TX – Calhoun Air Center
    KIWS – Houston, TX – West Houston Airport
    KI95 – Kenton, TX – Hardin County Airport/Hawthorne Field
    KBMT – Beaumont, TX – Beaumont Municipal Airport
    KILE – Houston, TX – Ellington Airport
    KBYY – Bay City, TX – Bay City Regional Airport
    KRKP – Rockport, TX – Aransas County Airport
    KCRP – Corpus Christi, TX – Corpus Christi International Airport
    KRAS – Port Aransas, TX – Mustang Beach
    KILE – Kileen, TX – Skylark Field – Supply Depot
    KDTO – Denton, TX – Operations Center

    Operations Center

    Conducting a relief operation to austere airfields in a storm devastated environment is a complex problem. Supplies need to be coordinated, pilots need to be taksed and briefed and most importantly the aerial armada needs fuel to conduct its runs. The OAD operations center has conducted over 400 flights now. Wolfe describes it as follows:

    “OAD has a war-room style operations center located in KDTO (Denton, TX) manned by a software pro, full time controller, airline logistics expert and other pilots as mission control. These vols are scheduling freight, assessing needs, updating FAA clearance codes, managing aircraft weight loading specs, fuel burn, fuel replenishment locations and of course constant weather updates to our air-force of volunteers. An enormous part of the OAD’s sudden success is the streamline logistics, and feedback to our pilots in real time. When pilots land they know where to drop, where to fuel, and no one goes home until every flight is accounted for safe and sound, tracking each plan online much like government controlled operations.”

    Impact Beyond Texas

    The impact Operation Airdrop has been able to deliver has already been recognized at the highest levels of government as an, “untapped strategic national resource.” It’s hard to believe what this group of volunteer aviators and support personnel have accomplished in a matter of days.

    Operation Airdrop has now turned its resources toward Florida and Puerto Rico and is coordinating a continuing volunteer pilot relief effort.  Radio host John Clay & founder of Operation Airdrop shared that Saturday morning OAD hosted an on air relief pitch with Pudge Rodriguez.  Pudge is Puerto Rican and a retired major league baseball catcher who played for the Texas Rangers and the Florida Marlins winning the World Series in 2003.  Clay said, “We had Pudge on the show,” asking for donations, “and man they came in!”  The donated supplies included 16, 600kW generators for Puerto Rico.

    You can follow & offer your support to Operation Airdrop on facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/operationairdrop

    or at their website https://www.operation-airdrop.com.

    Additional Sources:

    Flying Magazine
    http://www.flyingmag.com/harveys-devastation-inspires-pilots-to-create-operation-airdrop#page-2

    PR Newswire
    http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/operation-airdrop-continues-to-deliver-relief-supplies-to-texas-coast-as-irma-threatens-florida-300514342.html

    Conroe – Community Impact Page
    https://communityimpact.com/houston/conroe-montgomery/city-county/2017/09/01/photo-gallery-pilots-deliver-baby-formula-diapers-operation-airdrop-hurricane-harvey-recovery-efforts/

    Click on Detroit
    https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/plane-to-deliver-donations-from-thunder-over-michigan-airshow-to-hurricane-harvey-victims

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    A-10 Returning to Full Flight Demos at 14 Air Shows in 2018

    The U.S. Air Force A-10 demonstration team finally returned to the air show scene this year, following a 5 year long inactivation period.

    They scheduled 10 appearances around the country, but currently can only participate with a static display aircraft, or fly exclusively with the Air Force Heritage Flight program, which brings the past and present of USAF aviation together in symbolic formation.

    The A-10 Heritage Demo in action with the F-16 Viper Demo and two P-51 Mustangs, Sun N’ Fun 2017 (Florida). Photo Credit: Mike Killian

    And while that is quite popular to many, there will be a long-awaited added change coming next year, as the USAF and International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) has confirmed the A-10 will return to full flight demos in 2018.

    “It’s great to have the A-10 back on the air show circuit as a part of the Heritage Flight,” said Maj. Daniel Levy, 357th Fighter Squadron and A-10 demo pilot. “The Warthog has flown close air support for American and allied forces almost every day for the past 15 years. It’s the perfect mix of old and new.”

    The team is currently scheduling appearances at 14 shows to display the capabilities of the Warthog Thunderbolt II next year, but the plans are still in works, so no specific shows are known just yet.

    U.S. Air Force Maj. Daniel Levy, A-10 West Heritage Flight Team and 357th Fighter Squadron pilot, ready to fly a Heritage demo. Photo: USAF

    Based out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., the A-10 West Heritage Flight Team, assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron, is currently made up of two A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, three pilots, two crew chiefs, an avionics technician, engines technician, and an aircraft electrical and environmental specialist.

    Captain Cody Wilton will fly the team’s 2018 demos, according to USAF Air Combat Command (ACC).

    The current remaining 2017 A-10 Heritage schedule:

    29 Sept-1 OctSalinas, California
    7-8 OctSan Francisco, California
    14-15 OctBoise, Idaho
    21-22 Oct Houston, Texas
    11-12 NovNellis AFB, Nevada

    “The A-10 belongs right there with the war birds, as it is legendary itself,” said Master Sgt. Mark Aube, A-10 demo team maintenance superintendent. “While talking with the air show guests, I found that everyone was eager to see the tank buster in action.”

    The A-10 is quite popular with many people, for good reason. The whole aircraft is actually built around the 30mm Gatling-type cannon, which is capable of firing 70 rounds of a lightweight aluminum body projectile per second, cast around a smaller caliber depleted uranium penetrating core, making it absolutely lethal against tanks and all other armored vehicles.

    Two A-10Cs assigned to the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, crashed recently on a training mission over the NTTR on Sep 6. Both pilots ejected safely.

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    Follow Mike Killian on Instagram and Facebook, @MikeKillianPhotography 

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    Photo Essay: SO Many Amazing Special F-16 Paint Schemes

    We’re focusing on United States Air Force (USAF), Air Force Reserve (AFRES or AFRC) and Air National Guard (ANG)-owned F-16 Vipers wearing schemes that encompass most or all of their surface area in this piece. Another piece coming soon will feature distinctive tail feathers.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    93rd Fighter Squadron (FS) Makos 482nd Fighter Wing (FW) Air Force Reserve Command (AFRES or AFRC) F-16C Block 30 Viper 87-0247 painted in a commemorative scheme for the 25th anniversary of the Wing in 2014. This Viper had previously flown with squadrons based at Torrejon in Spain, Ramstein in Germany, and Hill AFB in Utah before serving with the Makos.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    302nd FS Sun Devils 477th FW AFRES F-16C Block 32D Viper 86-0291 shown painted during 1997 in a special scheme commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Tuskeegee Airmen. The 302nd was an original Tuskeegee Airmen unit. Named By ReQuest, this jet served with the 64th Aggressor Squadron after 2006.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    111th FS Ace In The Hole 147th FW Texas Air National Guard (ANG) F-16C Block 25F Viper 84-0393 wore this memorable paint scheme during 2007 for the 90th anniversary of the 111th FS. Elements from every aircraft flown by the 111th were incorporated into the scheme. They fly drones now. 84-0393 had previously served at Haan Air Base in Germany and with the 113th FS Racers 181st FW Indiana ANG. The jet is now preserved at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas wearing (unfortunately) its original 111th FS air defense gray scheme.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    120th FS Mile High Militia 140th FW Colorado ANG F-16C Block 30E Viper 86-0368 depicted during 2006 wearing a paint scheme commemorating the 50th anniversary of the only ANG flight demonstration team- The North American F-86 Sabre-flying Minutemen of the Colorado ANG.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    162nd FS Sabers 178th FW Ohio ANG F-16C Block 30 Viper 86-0364 was painted in a special scheme incorporating elements from Old Crow, the famous North American P-51D Mustang from World War II to commemorate the 162nd FS prior to their shift to drone operations in 2010. This jet was subsequently flown by the 120th FS Mile High Militia 140th FW Colorado ANG.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    163rd FS Blacksnakes 122nd FW Indiana ANG F-16C Block 25 Viper 84-1264 painted in a striking scheme during 2008 to commemorate the 358th FG Orangetails and their service flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts during World War II. This aircraft is now owned by the National Museum of the USAF and is on loan preserved at the Air National Guard Base (ANGB) at Fort Wayne in Indiana.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    182nd FS Lone Star Gunfighters 149th FW Texas ANG F-16C Block 30 Viper 87-0255 depicted during taxying at Kelly Field Annex in Texas during 2011 wearing special Texas State flag colors for their 65th anniversary scheme.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    182nd FS Lone Star Gunfighters 149th FW Texas ANG F-16C Block 30E Viper 86-0321 photographed in 2017 wearing a beautiful 70th anniversary commemorative scheme honoring the 396th FS Thunder Bums Republic P-47D Thunderbolt paint scheme from 1944.This jet had previously flown with the 186th FS Vigilantes 120th FW Montana ANG and the 134th FS Green Mountain Boys 158th FW Vermont ANG.

    Official US Air Force Photograph

    There are several more F-16s that have been painted in special schemes but there are no available high-quality public domain photographs of them. Even when properly attributed we know how touchy photographers can be about their property so we’re not going to post any privately owned pics of these jets on our site…but you can certainly enjoy the links to several more colorful commemorative F-16s below.

    93rd FS Makos 482nd FW AFRES F-16C Block 30K Viper 88-0404 painted as a striking full color mako shark in 2016. Jet previously served with the famous 35th FS Pantons of the 8th FW Wolf Packhttp://sandrermakoff.livejournal.com/1053650.html

    174th FS Bats 185th FW Iowa ANG F-16C Block 30B Viper 85-1565 Painted in all gold as the Pride of Siouxland for the 50th anniversary of the Iowa ANG in 1996. This jet subsequently served with the 138th FS Cobras 174th FW New York ANG before going into storage at AMARG in 2010. http://www.f-16.net/g3/f-16-photos/album38/album68/85-1565

    149th FS Eagles 192nd FW Virginia ANG F-16C Block 30 Viper 86-0244 painted in special markings for summer 2000 as North American P-51D Mustang 44-14906, Major George Preddy’s famous Cripes A Mighty. This aircraft subsequently flew with 457th FS Spads 301st Operations Group (OG) AFRES in Texas. The 149th FS now flies the Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor. http://www.f-16.net/g3/f-16-photos/album38/album68/axm

    16th Weapons Squadron Tomahawks / Fighter Weapons School (FWS) F-16C Block 52 Viper 91-0362 wears the yellow and black checked “taxi cab” paint scheme to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the USAF Fighter Weapons School in 1993. The jet remained in service with the FWS but lost the colorful scheme. http://www.f-16.net/g3/f-16-photos/album38/album64/91-0362_003

    134th FS Green Mountain Boys 158th FW Vermont ANG F-16A Block 10 Viper 79-0357 wearing a highly patriotic scheme composed of computer-designed stickers while used by the 158th Wing for traveling display purposes during 2000. The jet previously served with the 148th FS Kicking Ass 162nd FW Arizona ANG. Jet is now preserved at Camp Johnson State Guard Base in Vermont wearing an air defense grey scheme.  http://www.f-16.net/g3/f-16-photos/album38/album68/aca

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    Destination COS: The Resurgence of a Regional Airport

    Colorado Springs Airport has a long and colorful history. Originally opened in 1927 with only two gravel runways, the first scheduled airline flight went from El Paso through Pueblo to Denver, and back. COS has been through trials and tribulations throughout the years with bankrupt airlines and countless broken promises. But to the delight of Colorado Springs and the surrounding communities, the regional airport has begun a remarkable recovery.

    Remember the Simpsons Jet? The Glory Days of Western Pacific Airlines and COS

    FOX paid Western Pacific $1M a year to display this special themed jet. Photo by AeroIcarus (CC 2.0).

    Western Pacific Airlines started operations at COS in the spring of 1995 with eight 737-300s providing service to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Oklahoma City. The airline is infamous for its LogoJet program, which made the exterior of the airliner a flying billboard.

    Of particular note, FOX Television paid WesPac $1 million a year for a LogoJet featuring the Simpsons animated series during ratings sweeps. The Simpsons jet, as it was called, was a bit of a phenomenon. Encouraged by early success, WesPac expanded its fleet and had eighteen 737-300s in operation with advertisers expanding to resorts, casinos and even the City of Colorado Springs. An updated terminal facility was built in 1994 because of the marked increase in passenger numbers.

    In 1996, however, impatient investors hungry for profit got rid of the WesPac management team, including the original founder Ed Beauvais who was replaced by Robert Peiser. Peiser served as Chief Financial Officer of Trans World Airlines from 1994 to 1996, following TWA’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This fact foreshadows what was forthcoming for WesPac and COS, as Peiser moved toward reorganization.

    It became clear that WesPac was operating in the red. Peiser attempted to attract more business travelers to augment revenue and scrapped the LogoJet program. He also moved the airline to Denver International, supposedly to attract more passengers even though some would later say the move was to secure more attractive financing terms for the pending bankruptcy. After a proposed merger with Frontier Airlines was tabled, WesPac was liquidated and ceased operations in February 1998, a milestone date in demise of COS.

    Airline Consolidation Cripples Non-Hubs Like Colorado Springs Airport, While Denver International Flourishes

    After WesPac was dissolved, a wave of consolidation hit the airlines. As of 2015, the nine major U.S. airlines were reduced to only four: American, United, Delta and Southwest. The largest airports, including Denver International, were effectively controlled by one or two airlines creating what some refer to as airline monopolies. Changing industry conditions severely affected non-hub airports like COS. The result of carriers’ consolidation left it a mere shadow of what it once was, while Denver International continued to grow.

    The airlines had to reevaluate routes in order to maximize profits and eliminate what was called unprofitable flying. This led to increased passenger load per flight. Load factors now averaged 80% for some of the majors flying out of Denver.

    Fuel costs, when calculated on a per-passenger basis, also led to a decline in profitability. There was increased emphasis on fuel-efficient aircraft as airlines changed their fleet mix, decreasing the use of smaller, regional jets in favor of large new aircraft. The cost squeezing and consolidation had detrimental effects on the smaller facility in Colorado Springs, shifting an even larger percentage of traffic to Denver International.

    Fast forward to 2012, when Frontier Airlines added nonstop service at COS to several destinations, in addition to the already existing daily flights to their hub in Denver. Service to Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle-Tacoma, Portland, OR, Phoenix-Sky Harbor and Orlando was discontinued, however, in 2013, after Frontier announced the new service routes were not meeting financial expectations. After the back and forth with Frontier, at this point the future of COS looked bleak. But nobody foresaw what the future held for the beleaguered airport.

    COS Begins to Rally Once Again

    A Frontier A321. Frontier began receiving the larger jets in 2014. Photo by: By Griz13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikipedia Commons.
    After more than a decade of negative projections, Colorado Springs Airport has begun a positive trajectory and is capping off a year of positive growth. The off-again, on-again Frontier Airlines has played a major role in fueling the COS recovery.

    Beginning in 2016, the airport began to rally once again as Frontier reinstated nonstop service to Las Vegas, Orlando and Phoenix-Sky Harbor. Then, starting in March 2017, Frontier added seven new cities with seasonal service from COS including major hubs such as Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington bringing the total number of cities with nonstop service to 17. Frontier’s continued expansion includes some current additions, including service to Ft. Myers Florida beginning October 5 and service to Tampa slated to start October 6. Rounding out the airlines operating out of the recovering regional airport are American, Delta, Allegiant, and United.

    COS airport non-stop options are expanding. Source: VisitCOS.com

    The news is not all rosy, however, as Horizon, the regional carrier for Alaska Airlines, is being forced to discontinue service to Colorado Springs effective November 4 due to a pilot shortage. Horizon is also pulling out of other airports because of the aviator shortfall. In spite of this recently announced setback, the overall growth of the Colorado Springs market as a whole is buoying COS growth.

    A 2017 forecast from the University of Colorado Springs Economic Forum predicts the strong economic indicators of the past two years will continue well into next year, fueled by the robust job market. Consumers are expected to continue making major purchases on things like furniture and appliances, and the travel and airline industry are also benefactors in the economic boon, with both leisure and business travel showing an upsurge.

    This is great news for a beloved regional airport that has seen its ups and downs over the years. From its fledgling start early in the century as a local airport with two gravel runways, to the roaring ’90s heyday featuring the WesPac FOX TV Simpsons jet, to the present-day recovery based on a strong local economy, COS is poised to rise into the next decade as a major player in the airline industry.

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    Pikes Peak Regional Airshow to host USAF Thunderbirds This Weekend

    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The tight precision flying of the Air Force Thunderbirds and the aerobatics of the Trojan Phlyers will highlight the Pikes Peak Regional Airshow this weekend in Colorado Springs.

    This “Thunderbirds and Warbirds” airshow will mark the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force with popular aircraft demonstrations, great food, and an aviation themed kids zone on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets remain available online, and proceeds from the airshow will go directly to the neighboring air museums, including the Peterson Air and Space Museum.

    The Thunderbirds six F-16C jets will perform their 40-minute display each afternoon demonstrating the actual maneuvers used in training or actual combat.

    During the airshow as the Diamond Team of four jets soar overhead at nearly 400 m.p.h., each flying three feet apart, behind the crowd, the two solos are lining up for a high speed maneuver in which they make a close pass by one another from either side of the airfield.

    “As the jets take to the skies and fly only a few feet from wing tip to wing tip, the crowd gets a glimpse of the awesome skills and capabilities that all fighter pilots must possess,” Thunderbird spokesperson Captain Sara Harper said. “The solo pilots integrate their own loud and proud routine exhibiting some of the maximum capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.”

    The Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron is lead by LT. Col. Jason Heard aboard the Thunderbird 1 jet. The six demonstration pilots also include left wing pilot Major Ryan Bodenheimer aboard Thunderbird 2, Thunderbird 3 right wing Major Nate Hoffman, slot pilot Major Nick Krajicek in jet 4, and Major Alex Turner and Major Whit Collins performing as lead and opposing solos in jets 5 and 6.

    Also scheduled to perform are the Wings of Blue parachute team, who will freefall from a vintage World War II B-17 plane and land at the center of the airfield. Later, two T-28B Trojan aircraft will perform both solo and formation aerobatics as the Trojan Phlyers take to the skies each day.

    “The Pikes Peak Regional Air Show Heritage Flight for 2017 features two remarkable aircraft, the P-38 Lightning and the A-10 Thunderbolt II, honoring one man whose dedication to his pilots and the nation serves as inspiration for all, Col. Francis “Frank” Royal,” Airshow officials announced on Wednesday.

    Static displays from the 21st Space Wing and Air Force Space Command will be on display on the tarmac so guests can receive an upclose look.

    The two-day airshow will cater to children with the popular KidZone and Kids Fun Area — both designed to educate, inspire, and have fun as the aircraft soar above.

    “A Kid Zone learning area will offer activities for kids of all ages,” said MSgt. Nathan Langford, airfield manager at nearby Peterson AFB. “They can get in a 1930s-era N3N biplane and get a simulated flying lesson, build their own paper airplanes and fly them, or draw and color airplanes. There will also be educational exhibits for the older kids.”

    Colorado Springs Airport gates will open at 8:00 a.m. and the opening ceremony will begin at 11:50 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Airshow officials urge the public to arrive early, and to follow the airshow Facebook page for updated traffic and parking lot conditions.

    (Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)

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    Launch of Classified Satellite to Light Up California Coast Tonight

    UPDATE 9/21/2017 5:26PM PT: A statement from ULA, “The ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-42 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office has been delayed. The delay allows the team time to replace a faulty battery on the Atlas V booster. The vehicle and spacecraft remain stable. Launch of the NROL-42 mission is scheduled for no earlier than Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017.”

    United Launch Alliance (ULA) is all systems GO for a launch attempt tonight from Vandenberg AFB, CA with a classified surveillance satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), after a launch readiness review conducted yesterday cleared the mission to proceed.


    Liftoff is scheduled for 10:38 p.m. PDT atop an Atlas-V ‘541’ rocket from Space Launch Complex-3, and should put on quite a show for spectators up and down the California coast since the rocket will employ four solid rocket boosters; in addition to the workhorse Atlas V’s powerful and proven reliable Russian RD-180 liquid engine.

    “This launch is the culmination of many months of work byULA, the NRO and the 30th Space Wing,” said Col. Gregory Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander, who will be the launch decision authority. “All of Team Vandenberg is dedicated to mission success and proud to play a part in delivering these capabilities to our nation.”

    Weather forecasts from USAF meteorologists are 60% favorable for a liftoff tonight, with the main concerns being launch visibility and ground winds.

    Tune in to the live broadcast starting at 10:18 p.m. PDT

    File photo of a ULA Atlas-V launching from Florida in its “541” configuration, which flew for the first time in 2011 with NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover. Photo Credit: Mike Killian

    “This launch is a prime example of teamwork by multiple organizations that have worked around the clock to assure mission safety and security,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Decker, 4th Space Launch Squadron commander. “Given the dedication of the men and women have worked to ensure readiness of the launch vehicle and payload, we’re on track for a successful launch.”

    The launch will mark ULA’s sixth of 2017 and 121st overall, and the 25th mission ULA will have flown for the NRO.
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    Follow Mike Killian on Instagram and Facebook, @MikeKillianPhotography
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