Saturday, July 5, 2008

50s Flashback

This past Thursday was an otherwise quiet day at Mojave, save for two relics from the1950s which graced the pattern. TBM's C-130A N466TM, a retired air tanker is currently being leased to Mojave's ASB Avionics for use as an avionics systems testbed aircraft. A 1957 model (serial 57-466), it has a rather colorful history and was a part of the procurement scandal that hit the Forest Service in the early 1990s (link is to an article on the program that I wrote for Wikipedia). During its tanker career, it was known as "Tanker 64", and only just recently has the large "64" been removed from the tail. As a result of three air tanker C-130A crashes, the Forest Service banned all vintage C-130s from active duty. ASB Avionics specializes in, among other things, developing and installing glass cockpits in civilian C-130s.

Adding to the Thursday '50s nostalgia was the National Test Pilot School's Sikorsky S-55B, which is rarely seen in the air. This old gal, a 1956 model, still has her original radial engine, unlike many S-55s/H-19s which have been converted to turboshaft engines. The sound of the radial spitting and sputtering as the main rotor comes up to speed is one that is just not heard much any more.

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