Airplanes at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, Summer 1999


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Occasionally I visit Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale in the hope of catching some rare bird flying in the pattern.


October 15, 1999

I was notified that the Airbus Guppy would be arriving at Palmdale to deliver a component of the X-33 on the morning of October 15. I arrived a short while after it landed, and it did not take off again that day, but I did get some shots of other airplanes in the pattern.

Lockheed P-3 Orion Lockheed P-3 Orion on approach to Runway 25. Tail code PG identifies this Orion as belonging to VP-65, the Tridents, based at Pt. Mugu NAS.

McDonnell-Douglas TA-4M Skyhawk Argentine Air Force McDonnell-Douglas OA-4AR Skyhawk carries a load of bombs as it departs from Runway 25. The bomb racks were empty when it returned about an hour later.

Lockheed C-130J Hercules Six-bladed propellors distinguish the J-model of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.


August 26, 1999

On August 26, NASA's SR-71 flew a mission to Utah. I drove out to Palmdale on the chance that it might make some passes over the field. I didn't get to see the SR-71, but there was a United Airlines 747 shooting touch and go landings.

Boeing 747-222B Boeing 747-222B N152UA belongs to United Airlines, but has had the airline's name covered over. It was delivered to United in 1987.


September 24, 1999

The Space Shuttle Columbia was expected to arrive at Plant 42 on Friday, September 24. Unfortunately, its arrival was postponed by bad weather in New Mexico. A crowd gathered at Sierra Highway and Avenue N awaiting Coumbia. We were treated to passes by a variety of airplanes.

Lockheed C-130E Hercules Lockheed C-130E Hercules 62-1851 of the California Air National Guard made a number of low altitude departures from Runway 25.

Lockheed C-130E Hercules Lockheed C-130E Hercules 62-1851 is from the 146th Airlift Wing Channel Islands, which is across the runway from Pt. Mugu NAWC.

Northrop B-2A Spirit Northrop B-2A Block 30 Spirit 93-1086 circled around to Runway 7 for the first of its passes. Spirit of Kitty Hawk was originally constructed as a Block 20.

Visit Northrop Grumman's B-2 Spirit page and Boeing's B-2 page

Northrop B-2A Block 30 Spirit Northrop B-2A Block 30 Spirit 93-1086 turns into the right hand pattern for Runway 25. The doors of the two bomb bays can be seen just inboard of the wheel wells.

Boeing EC-135E ARIA Boeing EC-135E 60-0374 Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA) of the 452nd Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base. The number one engine is at idle throttle for engine out practice.

Lockheed C-130H Hercules Navy Lockheed C-130T Hercules 165379 of VR-55 based at Alameda NAS is one of the more recent production examples.

Boeing EC-135E ARIA, 60-0374 Boeing EC-135E 60-0374 was built as a C-135A transport. It was modified in the sixties to become an EC-135N Apollo/Range Instrumentation Aircraft (A/RIA) with the installation of a 7-foot diameter radar dish in a large nose radome.

Boeing EC-135E ARIA Later, the Air Force acquired a number of retired 707 airliners to install their engines and vertical stabilizers on C-135 Stratotankers. With the installation of the more efficient and powerful fanjet engines, the designation of the EC-135N changed to EC-135E.

Boeing 717-200 Prototype Boeing 717-200 Prototype N717XB. The small cone trailing from the tail is a precision air speed instrument. Note the large diameter of the BMW/Rolls-Royce BR715 high-bypass-ratio engines. Visit the Boeing web site for more information about the 717-200.

Lockheed C-130H Hercules Lockheed C-130H Hercules 165379 departs from Runway 25.

Boeing EC-135E ARIA Boeing EC-135E 60-0374. The nose art shows a cartoon EC-135E sheparding an advanced cruise missile. Note that the fuselage has few windows other than the cockpit.

Boeing EC-18B ARIA Boeing EC-18B 81-0892 ARIA of the 452nd Flight Test Squadron. The passenger windows reflect its former career as an American Airlines 707 Astrojet. Back then it was registered N7567A.

Boeing EC-18B ARIA, 81-0892 Boeing EC-18B 81-0892 ARIA. The left wing and inboard faces of the engine nacelles are painted black to reduce reflected glare into the windows.

Visit the Federation of American Scientists web site for more information about the EC-18.

Visit Randy Losey's Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft History and ARIA 328 Memorial Web Site.

Lockheed C-130E Hercules Lockheed C-130E Hercules 62-1851 on approach to Runway 25.


September 25, 1999

Following the arrival of the Columbia on the morning of Saturday, September 25, an F-18D Hornet from Miramar made a series of passes.

McDonnell-Douglas F-18D Night Attack Hornet McDonnell-Douglas F-18D-33-MC Night Attack Hornet 164228. The VK tailcode indicates that it is from VMFA(AW)-121, the Green Knights of Marine Air Group 11 based at Miramar MCAS.


September 27, 1999

I also went to Palmdale on Monday September 27 in another attempt to see the SR-71. I missed it again, but there was an old Douglas Skyhawk in the pattern.

Argentine Air Force McDonnell-Douglas A-4AR Skyhawk Argentine Air Force McDonnell-Douglas A-4AR Skyhawks are being upgraded at Plant 42. Note the fake cockpit canopy painted on the underside of the fuselage. This one is carrying a dozen little practice bombs.


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