Monday, April 28, 2008

Firebird II Flies

The BAE/US Navy DC-9-31 known as Firebird II has finally taken to the skies again after a couple of years of storage on the Mojave ramp.
N932ML flew originally for Ansett, then for Spirit and Midway Airlines before being acquired by the Navy in 1998 and modified by Raytheon with an oversized radome and enough antennae to do a decent porcupine imitation. As can be expected, BAE's press relations office is mum on the bird ("What plane?" was the actual response), which is quite odd given the civilian registration, the rather glitzy paint and logo, and the parking spot right next to the Voyager Restaurant's picture windows. No one will talk about its mission, although the antennas are similar in type and layout to the Army's Airborne Reconnassaince Low aircraft.
Firebird II has flown several sorties in the past few weeks, including this apparent training flight on Friday, April 18.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Welcome to Mojave Skies! I'm intending this to be sort of a successor to my earlier blog, "Alan's Mojave Weblog", which enjoyed more readership that I ever expected it would, but became simply untenable for a number of reasons.

For all those who miss having access to the old Mojave Weblog, for history and archive sake, fear of it were archived at's Wayback machine, and if you click this link: you should get to it.

The next couple of years promise to be exciting at Mojave, with the expected first flight of Burt Rutan's White Knight Two, now named Eve, as well as the continued flight testing of Proteus and it's Northrop-Grumman Global Hawk MP-RTIP radar system, the somewhat mysterious rebirth of ARES and the XCor Rocket Racer. The third-oldest hangar at Mojave, Hgr 161, right, which houses Flight Research Inc., (and which appears at the end of the Jodie Foster flick Flightplan) is due to be torn down soon to make way for bigger digs.

A note to those whom I've offended in the past: being someone who's rather OCD about recording what tomorrow will view as history, I shoot a lot of photos, and since some of those history-making programs I've shot involve the curious attempt to operate a "secret" flight test program in broad daylight at a public airport, well, a few folks who'd rather have their secrets kept have gotten rather irritated at me. You may not believe me, but I really try to be a good neighbor, and there really is a lot that my lens captures that doesn't get shared with the world. (All you have to do is look through my 30,000+ image library to quickly realize this.) It is sufficient to me that the next generation won't have this special moments forgotten. If I post something that you'd rather I didn't, don't get pissed off, just come talk to me, explain the situation, and you'll find that I'm really quite understanding. But I will also expect you to understand that this is still the good ol' US of A, and freedom of the press is still one of the cherished rights. Since some of the flight test programs going on have military overtones, I would expect you to be doubly understanding: those programs exist to defend our rights as Americans, and it's rather ludicrous to try to defend such rights by denying such rights.

Blue skies!