Opa-locka Airport Visit – July 4, 2022
I visited Opa-locka Airport on Monday June 27, 2022 and photographed the few remaining Propliners that call the airport home. Florida Air Cargo operates DC-3s N15MA, N138FS "Snoopy" and N271SE with Conquest Air Cargo operating CV340/C-131s N342GS "Trumman", N343GS "Uriel" and N345GS "Alice". Conquest also wet leases a single CV580 from IFL Group. The day of my visit, CV580 N171FL departed with a load of cargo to Nassau as did CV340/C-131 N145GS. Florida Air Cargo typically flies to Nassau Tuesday thru Friday so there were no DC-3 flights the day of my visit. In addition Atlantic Air Cargo operates a single DC-3 N705GB. These aircraft are primarily used on the Opa-locka to Nassau run hauling general cargo but also fly occasionally to destinations throughout the Caribbean. Business is very good which keeps the airplanes busy. There are no more stored or derelict Propliners on the field, which has been taken over by corporate jets...they are everywhere!
S-2A Languishes at Florida Airfield – May 2, 2022
Hart Fessenden recently photographed this sad looking Grumman Tracker at Tri-County Airport in Bonifay, Florida. A bit of digging through internet sites revealed that the aircraft is former U.S. Navy S-3A (S2F-1) BuNo 147552 with a civilian registration N8225E. It was flown to Tri-County Airport in 2005 and FAA records show the aircraft currently registered to Andersen Engineering Design of Patuxent River, Maryland. While it appears to be in relatively good condition, a missing engine and mold growing on the upper fuselage is not a good sign. Hopefully something good will become of this aircraft and it will not continue to slowly rot in place.
DC-4 Departs Florida for Utah Museum – May 1, 2022
Buffalo Airways DC-4 N55CW departed Keystone Heights Airport in Florida on April 27, 2022 for the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum in St. George, Utah, where it will go on static display. Departing shortly after 12:00 noon, the aircraft arrived five hours later in Fredericksburg, Texas for an overnight stop. In what will probably be the aircraft’s final flight, it departed Fredericksburg late the next afternoon and arrived at St. George Regional Airport four hours later. The veteran flight crew consisted of pilot Bob Steenbock, co-pilot Mike Stallman and flight mechanic Frank Moss. A great choice of crew in that their combined Propliner experience probably exceeds 100 years!
The DC-4 had been parked at Keystone Heights Airport since late 2013/early 2014, when it arrived from Buffalo’s maintenance base in Red Deer, Alberta. Buffalo Airways, MHD-Rockland and Lockheed Electra specialist Mercair had entered into a joint venture to restore four former Zantop Electras and planned on the using the DC-4 for their Part 137 certification program. The aircraft had a sprayer system installed in 1981 by Conifair Aviation and would be perfect for the certification program. The joint venture came apart and the Electras, which had all been restored and flown to Keystone Heights from Ypsilanti, Michigan, were parked along with the DC-4.
The aircraft's departure had been delayed for more than two years by the COVID pandemic. Ronnie McBryan arrived in Keystone Heights in January 2020 and expected to have the aircraft airworthy by mid-March. He returned to Canada in late February 2020 with plans to complete the restoration but this never happened due to the border between Canada and the U.S. being closed due to the pandemic. After a two year absence, Ronnie returned in mid-February 2022 and had the airplane airworthy by early April when he had to return to Red Deer to get two CL-215’s ready for a fire fighting contract in Quebec this summer.
Getting Bob, Mike and Frank’s schedule to mesh and the weather to cooperate for the two day flight held things up a bit more but by late April all three crewmembers were available and, with a favorable weather forecast in hand, an April 27th departure was planned. The crew spent the 26th checking out the airplane and, with the aircraft looking to be in good condition, the flight was on for the next day. The crew arrived early the next morning and, after taking on 1680 gallons of 100LL avgas, the DC-4 taxied to the end of Keystone Heights’ 5,046 foot runway 23 and departed at 12:15pm. A small crowd of well-wishers had gathered for the occasion and were delighted to see the old girl take to the air.
It’s a bit sad that the aircraft has probably flown its final flight but it narrowly escaped scrapping at Keystone Heights. The fact that it was saved is a testament to Joe McBryan’s love of these old aircraft. The prudent business decision probably would have been to scrap the aircraft and sell the engines and other valuable spare parts but Joe decided to save the aircraft and spend the money to make it airworthy for it's final flight, hire three pilots to make the flight and spend a small fortune in avgas. My hat’s off to you Mr. McBryan!
A bit of history on the airplane…It was delivered to the U.S. Navy in April 1945 as BuNo 56506 and had a 35-year military career before being retired to Davis Monthan AFB in November 1970. It's interesting to note that, after all these years, the remnants of the marking "506" is still visible on the left front nose of the aircraft. It was sold to Conifair Aviation as C-GBPA in April 1981 and converted to a bud worm sprayer. Withdrawn from use by Conifair in 1996, it was sold to Buffalo Airways in May 2002. I saw it stored at Yellowknife, NWT in September 2005 with a number of engines and/or props missing. Resurrected in late 2010, it was re-registered N55CW and arrived in Punta Gorda, Florida in June 2011 for a standby oil dispersant contract. With the contract completed, it was flown back to Red Deer in April 2013 before flying back to Keystone Heights less than a year later in late 2013/early 2014.
While all of us would have preferred to see the aircraft continue to fly, having it saved and put on display in a museum is not a bad ending to this story.
BAHF Deland Candy Drop Event – May 1, 2022
It’s not often these days that one can witness two DC-4/C-54’s in flight during a one week period. I had recently that pleasure when I attended a candy drop event featuring Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation’s C-54D N500EJ at Deland Municipal Airport, Florida on Saturday April 23rd followed by the departure of Buffalo Airways DC-4 N55CW on April 27th from Keystone Heights Airport, Florida. The candy drop event was sponsored by the Deland chapter of the Commemorative Air Force and about 75 kids attended the event.
N500EJ was flown from its current home base in Walterboro, South Carolina to nearby New Smyrna Beach Airport on Thursday afternoon. Tim Chopp and his crew had a busy Friday prepping the airplane for Saturday’s event and also hosting a group of aviation minded ladies from nearby Spruce Creek Fly-in Airpark. About 50 ladies toured the airplane on Friday afternoon. The next morning at 8:30am the aircraft departed New Smyrna Beach for a short ten minute flight to Deland Municipal Airport. It was a gorgeous morning and the aircraft looked stunning in her new paint as she taxied to the ramp adjacent to the CAF hangar.
The event began in the hangar at 10:00am with an overview of the Berlin Airlift followed by short presentations from Tim and each of the four crewmembers. A surprise visitor was a woman who had grown up in Berlin during the 1960’s/1970’s when it was divided along with her mother, who was a child during the Berlin Airlift. They each talked briefly about their experience living in Berlin during this period and the hardships they encountered during everyday life. By 10:30am it was time for the candy drop, which was followed by tours of the airplane for the kids and their parents. I also toured the aircraft and was amazed how much work had been performed on the aircraft’s interior since my October 2021 flight with display cases being installed and murals painted on the ceiling and bulkheads.
After the last visitor was gone, the aircraft was fueled for its flight back to Walterboro and it departed at 4:30pm for the two hour flight north. While the aircraft hadn’t flown during the candy drop, the event was appreciated by all participants.
Not Many Propliners Attend SUN ‘n FUN – April 12, 2022
For whatever reason, friends that attended SUN ‘n FUN this year reported that there were very few Propliners in attendance. While their numbers have have steadily decreased over the years, there were still quite a few Propliners attending the event prior to COVID, including a handful of DC-3’s and C-47’s. Hopefully more will return in 2023....these two beauties were photographed by Graham Robson on April 9th. N222FT is currently based at nearby Leeward Air Ranch and I’m hoping to make a trip there in the near future to photograph her.
CV240 Remains Extant at South Florida Airport – April 11, 2022
As reported by Andrew Rowbotham on September 12, 2020, former Miami Air Lease CV240/T-29B N150PA was being stored in what appeared to be near-airworthy condition at Miami-Homestead GA Airport. Graham Robson visited the airport on April 3, 2022 and I’m happy to pass on his report that the aircraft is still parked there and appears to be well taken care of. "Convair T-29B N150PA at Homestead General this afternoon. Wearing small 'Operated by Charterlines' titles on the forward fuselage, it hasn't flown in a few years but, reportedly, had carried out occasional engine runs in the past 12 months.".
MHD-Rockland Services P-3 Update – March 22, 2022
MHD-Rockland Services acquired five former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C aircraft in late 2018 and has based them at Keystone Airpark in Keystone Heights, Florida to provide flight training of foreign military pilots. As reported on December 25, 2020, ESG Aerosystems was awarded a $64.5 million U.S. Navy contract for the training of these pilots in December 2020,with MHD-Rockland Services subcontracted to provide aircraft and aircrew.
The folks at MHD-Rockland Services are very “visitor friendly” and I had the opportunity to visit the company's Keystone Airpark facility on March 17, 2022. I had last visited in October 2020 and a number of changes have occurred since then. The staff had grown to ten employees, including four full time pilots; a portable hangar extension had been installed allowing the P-3's to be fully sheltered during maintenance; two of the five aircraft had been painted in MHD-Rockland Services colors; and the flight training of German pilots had begun. A training flight had been scheduled for 10:00am and I arrived at 9:00am to make sure that I wouldn't miss the event. Mark Sulfridge, who is the P-3 Maintenance Manager, met me and escorted me around the ramp and hangar areas where I photographed the five aircraft. Shortly before 9:45am the P-3s engines were started and it departed 10:00am, as scheduled, for a five hour recurrent training mission.
Mark explained that MHD-Rockland Services is currently providing recurrent and upgrade training for German pilots. Recurrent training involves two five hour missions with two German pilots, each getting ten hours in the aircraft and five hours each at the controls. The training involves air work and landings/takeoffs at nearby airports. Upgrade training involves the training and certification of new pilots in the P-3 and usually involves about 100 hours of flight time. While not in place yet, a P-3 simulator is in the plans as is a new hangar facility that will be leased from the airport. At this time, only German pilots are being trained but Mark said that other countries have expressed an interest in the program.
Since my last visit, N662JD and N665BD have been painted in very attractive MHD-Rockland Services colors. N664SD was flying the day of my visit and, along with N661MK and N664SD will be used for pilot training. N665BD has an upgraded non-standard cockpit and will not be used for training, nor will N656T. Mark provided the current status of each aircraft.
N664SD - Painted in partial MHD-Rockland Services colors and currently used for the training flights. Will be the next aircraft going to Crider Aircraft Painting in Mena, Arkansas to be painted.
N661MK - Painted in basic RAAF colors. Major inspection almost complete and will be going to Crider for painting after N664SD is complete.
N662JD - Painted in full MHD-Rockland Services colors and in the hangar undergoing an annual inspection.
N665BD - Painted in full MHD-Rockland Services colors.
N656T - Painted in basic RAAF colors and missing at least two props and one engine. Mark said that props and engines are currently out for overhaul. This aircraft will be last to be repainted.
The weather was great for photography but “Murphy” reared his ugly head. My D300S camera with a telephoto lens went "tango-uniform" resulting in the takeoff photos being taken using a 17-35 lens on my D700 full-frame camera. Works great for ramp shots but not so great for the takeoff.
I’d like to thank Mark and everyone at MHD-Rockland Services for their hospitality and hopefully I can return soon with a new camera to capture that takeoff shot!
Keystone DC-4 Flight Prep Nearing Completion – March 19, 2022
As reported on March 2, 2022, Buffalo Airways DC-4 N55CW is being made ready for its first flight in quite a number of years at Keystone Airpark in Florida. In the March 2nd report, I assumed that it would be flown back to Canada but it turns out that it is being flown to St. George, Utah, where it will go on static display in a museum. While I haven’t confirmed it, I’m assuming that museum is the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, which is located at the St. George Regional Airport.
I visited Keystone Airpark on March 17th and spoke to Ronnie McBryan, who was working on the aircraft. Well known for his long road trips, Ronnie departed Red Deer, Alberta on February 14th in his pickup truck and camper for the 5-day/2,700 mile journey to Keystone Heights, Florida. By driving his truck, Ronnie was able to bring along an APU, special equipment and tools that have proved very useful in waking up the veteran Douglas airplane. Keystone Airpark is home to MHD-Rockland Services’ five P-3C aircraft and the DC-4 was sharing ramp space with the P-3's. With four former Zantop Electras also stored at the airport, it is definitely a target rich environment for Propliner enthusiasts! An added bonus, was that MHD-Rockland was conducting flight ops and I was able to witness the takeoff of one of their P-3C’s…not every day that one gets to see that!
Ronnie told me that most of the major items have been completed, including test runs on all four engines. He is now working on a multitude of time consuming minor items that need to be addressed prior to the flight. While working alone most of the day, he gets help from fellow Canadian Trent Foster after he finishes his shift at nearby MHD-Rockland. Trent worked 20+ years at Air Spray in Red Deer and thus has extensive experience working on both piston and turboprop aircraft and thus has been a great help. Ronnie planned to install the engine cowlings the day of my visit and hoped to have the airplane ready for its flight to Utah in a week to ten days. The DC-4 will be flown to St. George by a three-man crew with the flight taking a day if all goes well. Sadly, it could very well be the aircraft’s last flight as it will go on static display at the museum and not kept airworthy. Not a great ending but a lot better than being stripped of her engines and other useful parts and scrapped . Ronnie told me that Buffalo will be basing two of their CL-215 water scoopers in Quebec this summer and that he will spend the summer there supporting the aircraft.
Keystone Airpark DC-4 & Electra Update – March 2, 2022
Ronnie McBryan is back in Florida working on getting DC-4 N55CW ready for a flight presumably back to Canada. As of yesterday, it was reported that three of the four engines are running so the flight can’t be too far off in the future. The aircraft was just about ready to depart for Canada back in February 2020 when Ronnie had a medical emergency and had to return to Canada. The COVID pandemic descended on the world shortly thereafter resulting in the two year delay. Now that the US-Canada border is finally back open, Ronnie was able to return to Florida to finish the job he started two years ago.
Not such good news regarding the four former Zantop Electras (N282F, N286F, N340HA and N346HA) that were flown to Keystone Airpark from Willow Run Airport by MHD-Rockland a few years ago with the plan to convert them to air tankers. The plan was abandoned and they have been stored at various locations around the field since then. They’re parked in a field surrounded by trees and haven’t been moved since my October 2020 visit. On a positive note, it appears that they’ve been cleaned up with the black mold removed from the fuselages.
For additional information about these aircraft, check out the October 18, 2020 report on this website. Many thanks to Tony Dann for allowing the use of his recent photos.
Opa-locka Airport Visit – February 23, 2021
I visited Conquest Air Cargo at Opa-locka Airport (OPF) on February 18, 2021 and I'm happy to report that the company appears to be prospering in these uncertain times. It had been two years since I last visited with Tony Merton Jones in January 2019 and during this time the airport has undergone an amazing transformation. The Miami Air Lease hangar has been torn down; the Concours Club two mile racetrack has been completed and is surrounded by a tall wall; Bombardier is building a 300,000 square foot service center at the east end of the airport; and sleek executive jets have replaced the once plentiful Propliners that once called OPF home. Business appears to be very good at the field’s two FBOs; Signature Flight Support and Atlantic Aviation.
Conquest moved from the southeast corner of the airport to a ramp adjacent to the tower and the Coast Guard hangar about a year ago. While the airline business as a whole has been crushed by the pandemic, this has not been the case for freight carriers flying cargo from Miami to the Bahamas. Carlos Gomez told me that the company normally schedules four daily roundtrip flights a day between OPF and Nassau using a wet leased IFL Group CV580 and one of their CV340s. Amazon Prime packages make up a large percentage of the loads with six to eight flights a day being flown during the very busy 2020 Christmas holiday season. The IFL CV580 is operated under Part 121 and can carry twice the weight carried by Conquest's CV340's, which are operated under Part 135 and limited to 7,500 lbs.
Conquest currently operates three CV340s and a wet leased IFL CV580 including CV340's N342GS "Truman"; N343GS "Uriel"; N345GS "Alice"; and IFL CV580 N141FL. The CV340’s are assigned flights on a rotating basis with all being flown regularly. All appeared to be in excellent condition. N343GS was scheduled to fly and a crew was finishing up loading the aircraft when I arrived at 7:00am. Engine start happened at 7:50am with the aircraft taking off on runway 9L for Nassau under the command of Captain Eddie Blanco twenty minutes later at 8:10am. The IFL co-pilot was busy doing his preflight inspection on the CV580 and, shortly after the departure of N343GS, loading of the CV580 began. With the aircraft fully loaded with about 14,000 lbs of cargo, it departed at 9:20am on the first of two roundtrips to Nassau. Carlos expects continued growth in the Bahamas market, which could result in the addition of a second IFL CV580, or possibly a CV5800, later this year. He says that there are currently no plans to retire the CV340s, which will be used for contract work and as backup aircraft. In addition, all three can be quickly converted to sprayers for oil dispersant work.
New and stricter federal regulations are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2021, which would mandate explosive safety inspections of all cargo being loaded onto aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds. This would be very expensive to implement and will involve either hiring “sniffer” dogs from a third party contractor or purchasing expensive “sniffer” equipment. As so frequently happens, the rule wasn't well thought out and doesn't include the multitude of Part 135 carriers flying smaller aircraft that operate from remote locations feeding large carriers such as Fed Ex and UPS.
Martin Aguero, who has worked with Carlos for 30+ years gave me a quick windshield tour of the airport. I was amazed to see all the bizjets and also somewhat surprised to see all of the parked airliners. I asked Martin if they were being scrapped and he said that they are being stored. Longtime B707 N88ZL had finally been scrapped and I believe that most, if not all, of the Antonov’s that had been part of the airport scenery for so many years had also met a similar fate. Miami Air Lease is no longer in business and CV440 N41527 had been scrapped with CV240 N150PA currently parked at Homestead General Aviation Airport. TMF also ceased operations a few years ago and Super DC-3 N587MB was flown to LaBelle, Florida and parked. On a brighter note, Atlantic Air Cargo's DC-3 N705GB is still parked near the Signature hangar and occasionally flies. Florida Air Cargo's three DC-3s N15MA, N271SE and N138FS were all parked on the company's ramp and I believe they are all operational. During my short visit I witnessed the two Convairs taking off for the Bahamas but no DC-3 activity.
I’d like to thank Carlos, Martin and all the folks I met during my visit for their hospitality. It was a nice visit and hopefully it won’t be two years before I visit again.
New Smyrna Beach Airport Update – February 4, 2021 - Updated February 6, 2021
I’ve recently made a number of trips to New Smyrna Beach Airport to report on the restoration of C-54D/DC-4 N9015Q by the Berlin Airlift Historical Society (BAHF). A number of things have changed at American Aero Services and the airport but much remains the same since my September 25, 2020 report.
DC-7BF N381AA, which was parked in a mid-field parking area has returned to the east side of the field and is parked once again on the Epic Flight Academy ramp. It still retains all it vital parts and appears about the same as when I last photographed it. The move was featured in the TV reality show Shipping Wars and provides some interesting insight on the aircraft’s 200 mile move from Opa-locka Airport to New Smyrna Beach. Warning, be prepared for reality show stupidity and silliness. PBY-5A N423RS/JV928 remains stored in a storage yard across the street from American Aero Services and is reported to be for sale.
The fuselage of Canso A N983CF remains stored outside on the American Aero ramp while the former Dutch PBY-5A N459CF has been moved to a storage hangar where it's keeping company with P-51 'Toulouse Nuts' and two TP-40Ns. B-17G N207EV remains in the work hangar along with B-25N N347GG 'Tondeleyo' and Grumman Goose N985R.
C-54 Successfully Completes High-Speed Taxi Tests – February 3, 2021
Tim Chopp and a small team of very dedicated volunteers from the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation (BAHF) have revived DC-4/C-54D N9015Q and, on Sunday January 31, 2021, they successfully completed taxi testing of the aircraft which included four high speed runs on the airport’s 5,000 foot runway 25. The testing attracted a crowd of onlookers at the fence lines at both ends of the runway. Although most of them probably had no idea about the aircraft, it appeared they thoroughly enjoyed the show! Since acquiring the aircraft in April 2020, the team has made numerous work trips to New Smyrna Beach and they departed for home on Monday after securing the aircraft. The plan is to return the third week of February and complete the remaining items required to get the airplane ready for a flight to Walterboro, South Carolina, where the interior from C-54E N500EJ will be installed. Once that is done, the airplane will be sent to a paint shop for painting in the same colors as N500EJ. I’ve included a number of photos and some videos from Sunday. For more information about the project, check out previous news reports on this website, starting with the January 25, 2021 report.
Video #1 - #3 and #4 engines running
Video #2 - aircraft taxing (inside aircraft)
Video #3 - aircraft taxing
C-54 One Step Closer to First Flight – January 25, 2021
I visited Tim Chopp and a small group of Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation volunteers at New Smyrna Beach Airport on January 24, 2021. The weather was not the best and, in spite of intermittent showers, the group successfully performed the final gear swing on C-54D N9015Q prior to its upcoming post restoration flight, which Tim estimates to be about a month away. This is the team’s fourth trip to New Smyrna Beach to work on the airplane and much progress has been made since the aircraft was acquired in August 2020. For more information about BAHFs efforts, check out the December 21, 2020 report on this website. I recorded the landing gear retraction and extension tests on video and posted them on YouTube.
P-3 Flight Training Contract Awarded – December 25, 2020
MHD-Rockland announced in a December 1, 2020 press release that ESG Aerosystems had been awarded a $64.5 million flight training contract by the U.S. Navy. MHD-Rocklnd will act as the sole-source aircraft subcontractor. The scope of the contract involves development of a training curriculum and flight training of air commanders, co-pilots, instructor pilots, flight engineers, instructor flight engineers. Training began in December at MHD-Rockland facilities at Keystone Airpark in Keystone Heights, Florida. The contract was funded by the Federal Republic of Germany under the Foreign Military Sales Program to secure the training of German aircrew. For more information, check out the press release along with October 20, 2020 and February 10, 2019 reports on this website.
BAHF Achieves Major Milestone – December 21, 2020
As reported on October 12, 2020, Tim Chopp and a small group of Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation (BAHF) volunteers have been busy at New Smyrna Beach Airport getting C-54D/DC-4 N9015Q ready for its first flight since August 20, 2014 when it suffered a nose gear collapse while landing at the airport. A major milestone was achieved on Saturday December 19th when a successful gear retraction test was completed followed by a taxi test. All went well and Tim hopes to depart New Smyrna Beach for Walterboro, South Carolina in January. N9015Q will be parked adjacent to N500EJ to facilitate the transfer of the interior, installation of the ADS-B transponder and completion of other necessary work prior to it going to the paint shop. The aircraft will be painted in the same colors as N500EJ, retain the name 'Spirit of Freedom' and be re-registered N500EJ. The group’s mission will remain the same and Tim hopes to debut the airplane at the 2021 Sun ‘n Fun airshow. For more information about the project and how you can make a contribution, check out the groups December Newsletter. Many thanks to Shae Leighland-Pence for the photos of the recent gear swing.
FCA Airparts Salvage Yard – October 21, 2020
When CV240 N1022C was scrapped at Apopka, Florida in July 2020, its major components scattered to various destinations. The R2800 engines went to an engine rebuilder in California; interior components to Scroggins Aviation Mockup & Effects in California; the fuselage to a nearby scrapyard in Apopka; and the nose section to the FCA Airparts salvage yard in Leesburg, Florida. Leesburg is no more than a 20 minute drive from my home and after calling ahead to get an OK for the visit, I headed to Leesburg to have a look around the yard. I’ve passed by the yard many times but, since it contained mostly small general aviation aircraft and bizjets, it didn’t pique my interest until the CV240 nose section took up residence. I’ve owned and flown a number of GA aircraft and, other than being surprised by the number of aircraft carcasses inside the yard, I was a bit saddened by the sight. Each one of these aircraft had been someone’s pride and joy at one time and was now just so much discarded scrap metal. The Convair nose section stood out and I quickly photographed it before moving onto to take a slow walk around the yard.
Another interesting resident of the yard was GAF Nomad N22B N422NE, which was on floats. The aircraft was painted yellow and it took a bit of detective work afterwards to confirm its identity. While Nomads are a rare in this part of the world, a Nomad on floats was a truly interesting find. It had been based at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport for a number of years before finally making its way to the Leesburg salvage yard.
I'm not a helicopter guy but it was hard to ignore two Aerospatiale SA330J Puma helicopters parked towards the rear of the yard. While they’re not Propliners, I’ve included some photos of the helicopters and various aircraft I saw at this very interesting aviation graveyard.
MHD-Rockland P-3C Training Center Update – October 20, 2020
I originally reported on MHD-Rockland’s planned P-3C flight training center in a February 10, 2019 post and recently made a return visit to the company’s Keystone Airpark facility. With the U.S. Navy’s retirement of the P-3C, VP-30 at NAS Jacksonville no longer provides P-3C aircrew training and MHD-Rockland has set up a facility to train military pilots from those countries still operating the P-3C. Much progress has been made during the past 18 months, with pilots from the German navy scheduled to arrive in early November to give their stamp of approval on the company’s P-3C aircraft.
Three of the five former Australian navy P-3Cs have been painted in MHD-Rockland colors with N662JD N665BD and N664SD parked adjacent to the company’s hangar. N662JD has been flown periodically since arriving from Australia while N664SD was recently flown and will likely be the first aircraft to go into service as a flight trainer. N665BD has undergone a major flight instrument upgrade with the installation of a state-of-the art glass cockpit and will most likely not be used for flight training due to its non-standard configuration. In addition, work stations have been removed from N665BD and antennas along the bottom fuselage have been removed from all three aircraft.
N656T and N661MK were parked a short distance from the hangar facility. The current plan is for these aircraft to be used for flight training but retain their antennas and equipment for the possibility of test and evaluation if the opportunity arises. For the time being they will not be painted in MHD colors and both appeared to be in good condition. As reported in February 2019, MHD still has plans to build a new hangar and install a flight simulator.
MHD-Rockland acquired the hulk of former NOAA P-3C N44RF in February 2017 when that agency retired the aircraft and stripped it of engines and many other components. The nose section and wings are currently stored in one of the company’s storage yards at Keystone. The aircraft was former US Navy BuNo 161330 and was one of three P-3Cs operated by NOAA. N42RF and N43RF remain in service and are based at Lakeland Linder International Airport in central Florida. I’d like to thank Mark Sulfridge for taking the time to show me around the facility and answering my many questions.
End of the Line for Former NRL NP-3C – October 19, 2020
As reported on February 18, 2020 former Naval Research Lab NP-3C BuNo 153442 has been stored at Reynolds Airpark in Green Cove Springs, Florida for a number of years. The aircraft was originally slated to go to a now-defunct museum at Keystone Airpark and its landing gear assemblies were recently removed in preparation for scrapping.
Keystone Airpark Electras & DC-4 – October 18, 2020
I visited Keystone Airpark on October 16, 2020 and, in addition to visiting MHD-Rockland, I had the opportunity to photograph the four former Zantop Electras (N282F, N286F, N340HA and N346HA) and Buffalo Airways DC-4 N55CW that have been parked at the airport for a number of years. After Zantop ceased operations in 2001, the four Electras were stored in Ypsilanti, Michigan for quite a few years before being acquired by MHD-Rockland. One by one they were made airworthy and flown to Keystone Heights in late 2014/early 2015 using one set of engines provided by Buffalo Airways. MHD-Rockland teamed with Electra expert Don Deyo of Mercair and Buffalo Airways with the goal of restoring the aircraft as freighters and/or firebombers. For whatever reason, the venture never gelled and the Electras were parked at the southwest end of the airport near the approach end of runway 5. They have since been moved to a grassy area near t-hangars at the northeast corner of the airport. I witnessed the arrival of two of the Electras and it’s sad to see how quickly they have deteriorated. All four aircraft are covered with dark mold and, as reported on September 1, 2020 unless a last minute buyer appears, the aircraft will most likely be scrapped.
DC-4 N55CW was parked at the approach end of runway 5 and, as reported on March 15, 2020, was being prepared for a ferry flight to Buffalo’s maintenance base in Red Deer, Alberta by Ronnie McBryan in February 2020 when he fell ill and had to return to Canada. The aircraft was just about ready to make the flight but then COVID-19 happened, the U.S.-Canadian border was closed and the airplane has remained parked at the airport ever since. Like the rest of the Buffalo DC-4 fleet, the aircraft is for sale and, with the demise of Alaska Air Fuel’s DC-4 N96358 a few weeks ago, Joe McBryan may have a buyer for the aircraft. There are very few airworthy and near-airworthy DC-4s and N55CW would make an ideal fuel hauler since it was last used as an oil dispersant sprayer and it comes complete with tanks.
Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation C-54 Update – October 12, 2020
As reported on August 26, 2020, the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation (BAHF) recently acquired C-54D/DC-4 N9015Q to replace C-54E/DC-4 N500EJ ‘Spirit of Freedom’ which was severely damaged by a tornado in Walterboro, S.C. during the early morning hours of April 13, 2020. A small group of volunteers, led by BAHF President Tim Chopp, traveled to New Smyrna Beach, Florida in early October with the mission of preparing N9015Q for its first flight in 5+ years. Working on the American Aero Services ramp at the airport, the volunteers have made much progress in reawakening the vintage aircraft. I live a few hours from New Smyrna Beach and drove to the airport on Friday morning October 9th where Tim Chopp, Jase & Shae Pence and Jim Reuger were busy at work on the C-54.
Since the aircraft hasn’t flown for a number of years, it needs to be inspected and serviced in accordance with the group’s FAA approved Continuous Airworthiness Inspection Program prior to flight. First on the group’s 'To-Do' list was replacement of the four time-expired props with four compliant props pulled from N500EJ. Before arriving in Florida, the group stopped at Waterboro and removed the four props for shipment to New Smyrna Beach along with other necessary tools and components.
The control cables have to be inspected and Jase had squeezed himself into the bowels of the fuselage to inspect and lubricate the cables, fittings and bell crank that operate the control surfaces. Not much room to get into this space but Jase managed to squeeze in and determined that all was well. With this done, the team turned its attention to the #2 and #3 engines, which were pre-oiled and had their sparkplugs serviced prior to an anticipated engine run on Saturday.
I returned Saturday afternoon to witness testing of the #2 and #3 engines. Dave Cobaugh had joined the crew, which was busy installing and torqueing spark plugs on the engines. Intermittent rain showers had slowed the group's progress but at 6pm Tim gave the 'thumbs up' to begin testing. As so often happens, the #3 engine had other ideas and, despite all of the crew’s efforts, refused to start. The consensus of opinion was that a faulty induction vibrator was causing the problem and attention moved to the #2 engine, which started without difficulty and ran for about 10 minutes. By this time it was getting dark and Tim decided to pre-oil the #1 engine to have it ready for testing on Sunday along with the balky #3 engine. While I wasn’t able to return on Sunday, Jase reported that the #1, #2 and #3 engines all ran well and will only require a bit of fine tuning before being deemed flightworthy.
The group broke camp on Monday and efforts will resume in late October, with Tim hoping to fly the airplane to Walterboro in November. It will be parked adjacent to N500EJ to facilitate the transfer of the interior, installation of the ADS-B transponder and completion of other necessary work prior to it going to the paint shop. N9015Q will be painted in the same colors as N500EJ, retain the name 'Spirit of Freedom' and be re-registered N500EJ. The group’s mission will remain the same and Tim hopes to debut the airplane at the 2021 Sun ‘n Fun airshow.
The loss of N500EJ combined with the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the organization hard financially. BAHF earns a significant portion of its annual revenue from attending airshows and no events means no revenue. With many folks out of work, there was also less donations coming in. The pandemic has made it difficult for volunteers to travel and support the work that needs to be accomplished to complete the airplane swap. Tim did note that there was a silver lining to the current situation…the organization plans on using everything they’ve learned during the past 26 years and applying it to making the new 'Spirit of Freedom' an even better flying exhibit. BAHF needs your help in raising the $125,000 required to get the aircraft ready for the 2021 airshow season and has initiated a GoFundMe fundraiser. The maintenance and operation of these old Propliners is very expensive so please consider donating to this very worthy cause!
New Smyrna Beach Airport Visit – September 25, 2020
My wife and I visited New Smyrna Beach last week for her belated birthday celebration. While she was off getting a massage and some beauty treatments at a local spa, I had a few hours to visit New Smyrna Beach Airport. The airport is home to American Aero Services but I also wanted to photograph former Florida Air Transport DC-7BF N381AA. Danny Perna and his brother Chip acquired the aircraft from Florida Air Transport in 2012 and had it disassembled and moved from Opa-locka Airport to NSB Airport where it was reassembled for a planned airport restaurant. Things didn’t go to plan with the local authorities and the project was scrapped with the aircraft being parked in front of Danny’s Epic Aviation Flight School at the airport. The DC-7 was recently moved onto the airport proper and parked on a remote ramp behind police headquarters. This can’t be a good sign and the future of this aircraft is definitely not looking too good.
Next stop was the American Aero hangar with its interesting collection of warbirds. Parked outside on the grass was DC-4/C-54 N9015Q. As reported on August 26, 2020, the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation (BAHF) recently signed a purchase agreement to replace C-54E N500EJ that was severely damaged by a tornado in April of this year. The aircraft appears to be in good condition and the first order of business will be to replace the time-expired propellers with ones salvaged from N500EJ. Also parked outside was the fuselage of an unmarked bare metal PBY that, with the help of Nigel Hitchman, I was able to identify as Canso A N983CF. The Collings Foundation planned on restoring the aircraft but it was later set aside when the foundation acquired PBY-5A PH-PBY 'Karel Doorman' from the Dutch organization 'Stichting Exploitatie Catalina PBY.' This aircraft had been based in The Netherlands for 25+ years and was ferried to the U.S. in May 2019. For more information about this PBY, check out Ruud Leeuw’s excellent website. The hangars housed a number of interesting aircraft undergoing maintenance, most of which were owned by the Collings Foundation.
PBY-5A N459CF – former PH-PBY 'Karel Doorman'
B-24J N224J 'Witchcraft'
B-25N 44-28932/N3476G 'Tondelayo'
G-21A Goose N985R
If you ever find yourself in New Smyrna Beach, a visit to American Aero Services is highly recommended. Owner Gary Norville welcomes visitors and hosts at least one open house a year where the public is invited to tour the hangar and ramps.
More Bad News re Keystone Electras – September 1, 2020
As reported on May 5, 2020, the four former Zantop Electras stored at Keystone Airpark are in very real danger of being scrapped. Connor Zantop relayed a disturbing message yesterday on the Zantop Facebook page that he received from Paul Linder. "OK folks, I just heard back from my contact. I fear our endeavor has run its course. He told me they are not interested in donating an airframe. They will not lower the price. They have a company that wants to buy structural components such as cargo doors, etc., and that a couple of them will be cut up for that customer. At this time, they will entertain written offers for them, but as I said, at least two are slated for the chop saw... sorry to be the bearer of bad news at 7am." Paul goes on to say that the owners want "half-a-million each, as-is, where-is, no props, no engines, otherwise complete, log books and records on-hand." It's a sad ending to what looked like a promising future for the four aircraft when they arrived at Keystone Heights in late 2014/early 2015.
BAHF Replaces Tornado Damaged C-54 – August 26, 2020 - UPDATED August 30, 2020
The Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation announced today that it has signed a purchase agreement with Island Air Transport/Loren (Lynn) Florey for the acquisition of DC-4/C-54D N9015Q, which has been based at New Smyrna Beach Airport, Florida for a number of years. N9015Q will replace C-54E N500EJ, which was severely damaged by a tornado on April 13, 2020 in Walterboro, South Carolina. While the group would have preferred to repair N500EJ, it wasn’t economically feasible and the decision was made to acquire a replacement aircraft with proceeds from the insurance settlement. As part of the settlement, BAHF will be allowed to strip N500EJ of her engines, props and other useful spare parts, which should go a long way to keep the new airplane airworthy for many years. It’s interesting to note that Lynn’s father flew missions during the Berlin Airlift as a USAF pilot. For more information about the tornado, check out the April 13, 2020 and April 16, 2020 posts on this website.
For more information about the group’s plans, check out the latest newsletter. BAHF needs your help in raising the $125,000 required to get the aircraft ready for the 2021 airshow season and has initiated a GoFundMe page. The maintenance and operation of these old Propliners is very expensive so please consider donating to this very worthy cause!
OLD NEWS – Miami Air Lease Ceases Operations – July 31, 2020 - UPDATED September 12, 2020
I haven’t been to Opa-locka Airport (OPF) for quite a while so I totally missed the news that Miami Air Lease had ceased operations over a year ago. I knew that CV440 N41527 had been grounded for a number of years due to a failed engine but had seen CV240 N150PA in action as late as June 2017 making flights to the Bahamas. I reported on March 6, 2020 that the CV440 had been scrapped. What I totally missed was that Miami Air Lease had ceased flying altogether and that N150PA had been flown to Miami Homestead General Aviation Airport on November 12, 2019 and parked.
With the demise of Miami Air Lease, there are only three Propliner operators remaining at OPF. Florida Air Cargo currently operates three DC-3s; Atlantic Air Cargo a single DC-3; and Conquest Air Cargo three CV340s and a CV580 leased from IFL.
UPDATE – Andrew Rowbotham photographed N150PA at Miami-Homestead GA Airport in February 2020 where the airplane looked complete and in good condition. If you have an updated status and/or photo of the aircraft, please email it to me and I will post it.
Apopka CV240 Scrapped – July 28, 2020
While it came as no big surprise, it's sad to note that CV240 N1022C was cut up this past weekend at Orlando-Apopka Airport in Florida. Doug Scroggins acquired the airplane in 2017 from the Museum of Commercial Aviation and had been unsuccessful in his quest to find a new home for it. Even though it had an original Mohawk Airlines passenger interior, none of the museums Doug contacted were interested in the aircraft.
The Convair was delivered to American Airlines as N94270 in February 1949 and flew for the airline for 10+ years before being sold to Mohawk Airlines in November 1959. Mohawk traded it to Fairchild in January 1967 as partial payment on the new FH227’s that the airline was buying from Fairchild. For the next 14 years it was owned/operated by a number of leasing companies and small airlines before Trans Florida Airlines acquired it in 1981. TFA operated it around Florida until the mid-1990s when it was parked at Daytona Beach International Airport with a number of the airline’s other Convairs.
Propliners of America acquired it in 2006 and retired National Airlines/Pan American captain Leroy Brown acquired it in August 2009. Leroy spent $60,000 to have it disassembled and moved to Orlando-Apopka Airport, where it was reassembled in October 2009. Leroy was president of the U.S. Airline Industry Museum Foundation (USAIMF) and the aircraft was the museum’s centerpiece.
USAIMF shut its doors in early 2014 and ownership of the aircraft was transferred to the National Museum of Commercial Aviation, which was based in Atlanta, Georgia. Other than a coat of paint and the Pan Am meatballs that Leroy applied to the tail, the aircraft had seen little attention at the airport and it continued to deteriorate under its new ownership. While the museum had plans to move the aircraft to Atlanta, this never happened and it closed in 2017 (or possibly 2016). Doug Scroggins acquired the airplane in 2017 and, as previously noted, attempted to find a new home for this iconic airliner. The folks at Orlando-Apopka Airport wanted it gone and, with zero prospects of a new owner, it was only a matter of time before it would be cut up. The process of scrapping the airplane began on Friday July 24th and by Monday the 27th the airplane had been chopped.
There is a bit of good news…the forward fuselage will be made into to a flight simulator; the engines are going to a rebuilder in California; the seats, hat racks and other interior components along with the rear exit door are going to Scroggins Aviation & Mockup & Effects for use as motion picture props; and the props are probably going to wind up as oversized wall ornaments in someone’s house, business or hangar. The remainder of the aircraft will be reduced to scrap metal.
I found a detailed history of the Convair that I believe was originally compiled by Bill Bradshaw and I updated it. Here’s a link to a PDF of the list.
Conquest Air Cargo Update – June 28, 2020
Conquest Air Cargo has supplemented its fleet of three CV340/C-131F aircraft with a CV580 leased from IFL Group. The lease includes flightcrew and Carlos Gomez confirmed that operations began about two months ago. While the CV340s operate under Conquest’s Part 135 certificate limiting their load to 7,500 pounds, the CV580 is operated under IFL’s Part 121 certificate with no such limit. As a result, the CV580 can carry roughly double the load of Conquest aircraft at comparable operating costs.
On a sad note, Carlos told me that YS-11A XA-UFJ/N775GS was recently scrapped at Opa-locka. The aircraft was acquired in 2018 and ferried from Hondo, Texas to Opa-locka Airport on December 29, 2018. The plan was to build a small fleet of YS-11 freighters with the addition of two or three near-airworthy aircraft parked in Satilla, Mexico. But, acquiring a clear title and ferrying them to the United States proved to be a near impossible task, even for Carlos. That, along with difficulties in overhauling RR Dart engines and the availability of a leased IFL CV580 made the venture impractical and it was decided to scrap the aircraft.
Keystone Electras in Danger of Being Scrapped – May 5, 2020
When Zantop International Airlines ceased operations in 2005, 13 Electras were left parked at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Some were purchased and some were scrapped with N290F, N343HA and N344HA going to Canadian operator Air Spray in 2011. Two of the three were restored and converted to firebombers with both currently airworthy and fighting fires in Canada. By 2014 there were four Electras remaining in Ypsilanti when MHD-Rockland, Mercair and Buffalo Airways formed a partnership to restore the aircraft and ferry them to Mercair headquarters at Keystone Airpark in northern Florida. With one set of engines, the aircraft were made airworthy and ferried to Keystone in September and November 2014 and January and April 2015. The plan was to convert them to firebombers and/or freighters but the partnership broke up and the aircraft have been parked at Keystone ever since.
Fast forward to 2020 and the four Electras are in real danger of being scrapped. MHD-Rockland is building a P-3 training base at the airport and the aircraft are taking up space needed for the new facility. Conner Zantop, Duane Zantop’s grandson, is spearheading an effort to save one of the aircraft and return it to Ypsilanti. He recently posted the following message on the Zantop International Airlines Facebook Group page. "There are four former Zantop L-188 Electra’s owned by MHD Rockland at Keystone Airpark or also known as Keystone Heights Airport. MHD Rockland has put a price of $500,000 each and all four planes are missing their props and engines. The planes only have until September when they will be scrapped because of an airport expansion project. Right now I working with Paul Linder and Marilynn Lard to save at least one of these planes but I need more help. If you would like to help me please private message me in Facebook Messenger."
Paul Linder replied to Conner's post. "We have until late September-early November to put a deposit down. That would be 10% of the agreed price. I feel the price is set way too high, and will be working to possibly get it lowered. My contact stated that they are worth more as scrap and spare parts then whole airplanes. The airport will be starting an expansion project in Q1-21, and apparently the Electras are in the way. Big hurdles…Price; Props; Engines; Inspections; Ferry permit; Crew. I am told that other than the missing props and engines, they are complete. Not one single screw has been turned in the cockpit. It would really be a shame to let these girls go to scrap. I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone may have. Feel free to message me as well."
After all the expense and effort involved in moving these aircraft from Michigan to Florida, it would be a real shame if they were scrapped. While they appear to be in good condition, $500K per aircraft seems a little steep, especially when the price doesn’t include props and engines. I wish Conner and Paul good luck and hopefully these aircraft can be saved!
Former Miami Air Lease CV440 Scrapped at Opa-locka Airport - March 6, 2020
As reported on September 16, 2019, Conquest Air Cargo acquired former Miami Air Lease CV440 N41527 for spare parts. Conquest wasted little time in harvesting the Convair's valuable parts as evidenced by Ricardo Jimenez's recent photo. Up until just a few years ago, N41527 was active with Miami Air Lease flying cargo out of Opa-locka. While I'm sorry to see another Propliner scrapped, its parts will help ensure that Conquest's three Convairs continue flying.
Northern Florida Propliner Tour – February 18, 2020
I hooked up with Irish enthusiasts Michael Kelly and Paul Birney on Febrary 17, 2019 for a quickie northern Florida Propliner tour. I think they must have brought some of their Irish weather with them because it was cloudy and foggy during the better part of the day. The sun didn’t come out until later that afternoon as I was driving home on I75 South.
Our first stop was Reynolds Airpark in Green Cove Springs, where a former U.S. Naval Research Lab NP-3C BuNo 153442 is stored less engines and other components. The aircraft was slated to go to a now-defunct museum at Keystone Airpark and has been stored at Reynolds for a number of years. Although we gave it a good try, we were not granted permission to get up close to the aircraft so we had to settle for some long lens photos. The airpark is a former U.S. Navy airfield and is adjacent to the St. Johns River near Jacksonville. The U.S. Navy built a large number of 1,500 foot piers into the river and tied up surplus ships there after WWII. A very large Space Shuttle fuel tank that was slated for the same museum was stored on its side in the waterfront area.
We had originally planned to visit MHD-Rockland at Keystone Airpark but they were closed because of the Presidents Day federal holiday. I knew that Ronnie McBryan was working on getting DC-4 N55CW ready for a flight back to Red Deer, Alberta so we decided to press on figuring that Ronnie wouldn’t be taking the day off. Sometimes you get lucky and we spent about an hour talking to Ronnie and photographing the DC-4 and five MHD-Rockland P-3Cs. These are former Australian aircraft that MHD acquired for the P-3 pilot training facility they are setting up at Keystone Airpark. For more information about this interesting project, check out my February 10, 2019 post on this website. Ronnie said that he arrived on January 7, 2020 and, while there's still lots to complete, he hoped to have the aircraft ready for the flight in a week or two.
Camp Blanding was the third stop on our agenda. Michael and Paul had heard that there was a DC-3 and some other aircraft there and, since it was only a short distance away, we decided to give it a try. Turns out that Camp Blanding Joint Training Center is an active military training base but luckily the aircraft were part of a museum located just outside the security gate. The DC-3 was actually C-47A BuNo 12436 and was in need of some TLC. It was marked as 100597 with both main tires flat and in need of a paint job. In addition to the C-47A, A-6E BuNo 155661 and A-7E BuNo 157503 were on display with a few helicopters and quite a bit of ground equipment. Both the A-6E and A-7E were also in need of some TLC.
New Smyrna Beach Airport PBY Report - January 8, 2020
While in the strict sense of the word, the PBY Catalina is not a "Propliner" but I'll make an exception in this case. Nigel Hitchman visited New Smyrna Beach Airport, Florida on December 30, 2019 and noted three PBY Catalina’s at American Aero Services and one stored in a yard across the street from their hangar. He posted the following report and photos on Facebook.
N459CF PBY-5A--Former PH-PBY, being returned to authentic US Navy configuration for the Collings Foundation.
N983CF Canso A--Former C-FPQK/RCAF was bought by the Collings Foundation for restoration, but now stored after their purchase of PH-PBY. Rumored to possibly be wanted by the Dutch?
N4582U PBY-5A--Confirmed from an identification plate I found which gives serial as Bu46457 and FAB6510 (Brazilian AF) this was displayed at Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, NM then sold. Now owned by a Russian and being restored to static condition for a museum in Russia.
N423RS/JV928 PBY-5A--In open storage at an industrial yard at the airport. It was apparently moved here some months ago from Ft Pierce, Florida.
I visited American Aero back in November 2017 and noted the stored fuselage, wings and engines from Super Catalina N287. This aircraft was a resident at Tamiami Airport for many years before being disassembled and trucked to New Smyrna Beach a few years back. Nigel reports…"The fuselage has gone to the Cavanaugh Flight Museum, who owns the aircraft. It’s not on display and I have read that it’s stored somewhere else, not at Addison. The wing is still at New Smyrna Beach where it’s in the hangar in front of the other wing that’s been in a jig for years. It’s the basic box section between the front and rear spars with the leading edges, flaps and tips removed and the black paint removed. So it’s a bit difficult to recognize it as from N287. It’s been dismantled for inspection, but so far they don’t know what the next step will be, whether Cavanaugh restore it to fly, or just put it back together and paint it for static display."
Many thanks to Nigel for his report. As an airline pilot, Nigele travels the world and his frequent aircraft reports are both interesting and an invaluable source of information for the enthusiast community.
NTSB Issues "Aviation Accident Factual Report" on Conquest Air Cargo C-131B Crash – December 23, 2019
The NTSB recently issued an Aviation Accident Factual Report about the February 8, 2019 crash of C-131B N145GT.
On February 8, 2019, at 1216 eastern standard time, a General Dynamics Convair 340 (C-131B), N145GT, was destroyed during a ditching in the Atlantic Ocean about 32 miles east of Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport (OPF), Miami, Florida. The captain was fatally injured, and the first officer was seriously injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Conquest Air, Inc., as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 cargo flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The flight departed Lynden Pindling International Airport (MYNN), Nassau, Bahamas, at 1113.
The accident occurred during a return trip to OPF. The first officer stated that, for the first flight of the day (from OPF to MYNN), the preflight inspection, engine start, taxi, and engine run-up were normal and that about 900 gallons of fuel was on board. The flight to MYNN was normal until the first officer, who was the pilot monitoring, attempted to adjust the left engine propeller control for the speed for cruise flight, yet there was no movement on the gauge, and the power was stuck at 2,400 rpm. The first officer tried to reset the propeller control circuit breaker but was unable to do so. The captain stabilized power on both engines, and the remainder of the flight to MYNN was uneventful. After the airplane landed, the captain asked the first officer to send a text message to maintenance control, but the message did not transmit. The captain told the first officer not to worry and indicated that, if they were unable to reset the propeller control on the ground during the engine run-up, then they would shut down the airplane and call maintenance.
The first officer stated that, before the accident flight began, the engines started normally, and both propellers were cycled. The captain and the first officer were able to reset the left propeller control, so the airplane departed for OPF. The first officer was the pilot flying, and he stated that the airplane was operating normally during the takeoff and initial climb; however, as the airplane climbed through 4,000 ft, the left engine propeller control stopped working, and the power was again stuck at 2,400 rpm. The captain tried to adjust the propeller control and inadvertently increased power to 2,700 rpm. The captain then took control of the airplane and stabilized the power on both engines. He leveled the airplane at 4,500 ft, canceled the IFR flight plan, and flew via visual flight rules direct to OPF. The first officer suggested that they return to MYNN, but the captain wanted to continue to OPF (OPF was located about 160 nautical miles west-northwest of MYNN). The first officer indicated that he did not want to disagree with the captain's decision given the captain's "extensive" experience.
The flight proceeded normally until the beginning of the descent (the first officer did not remember the altitude) to 1,500 ft, when the right engine began to surge and lose power. The first officer stated that the captain turned on both boost pumps and tried to stabilize the right engine with the mixture and throttle but that the engine began to backfire and shake "violently" with variations in the brake mean effective pressure (BMEP), fuel pressure, fuel flow indications, rpm, and manifold pressure. At that point, the flight crew performed the engine failure emergency checklist. As part of the checklist, the right engine was feathered, and the mixture was brought to the cutoff position. The first officer reported that, shortly afterward, the left engine also began to surge and shake "violently" with the same variations experienced after the right engine began to surge. At that point, the captain tried to control the left engine, and the first officer declared an emergency.
The first officer stated that, as the captain maneuvered the airplane to ditch, the airplane impacted the water "violently." During the impact, the first officer struck his head hard on the instrument panel. The first officer unbuckled his harness and saw the captain slumped over in his seat and unresponsive. He tried to lift the captain from his seat but was not able to do so. The first officer realized that he needed to get out of the airplane when the water inside the cockpit was chest high. The first officer stated that he kicked open the cockpit door and saw that the tail had separated from the empennage. He grabbed the life raft and exited from the tail of the airplane. He was rescued by a US Coast Guard helicopter.
The first officer stated that he did not know what caused the engines to lose power. According to the operator, "at the first sign of a mechanical malfunction the crew should have landed as soon as practicable."
The captain held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single- and multiengine land and instrument airplane. He held type ratings for the Boeing 727 and 737; the Convair 240, 340, and 440; and LR-JET. The operator reported that the captain had 23,000 hours total flight experience, of which 725 hours were in the accident airplane make and model. The captain also held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first-class medical certificate dated January 22, 2019.
The first officer held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single- and multiengine land and instrument airplane. He held type ratings in the Convair 240, 340, and 440 (second-in-command privileges only). The operator reported that the first officer had 650 hours total flight experience, of which 305 hours were in the accident airplane. The first officer also held an FAA first-class medical dated August 25, 2018.
The airplane was equipped with two Pratt & Whitney R-2800CB3 radial engines and two Hamilton Sunstrand 43E60-377 propellers that were being maintained under an approved aircraft inspection program. The airplane's last inspection was on the day before the accident. At that time, the left engine had accrued 1,943 hours, the right engine had accrued about 417 hours, and the airframe had accrued about 12,701 hours.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The left wing washed ashore. The rest of the airplane was not recovered from the ocean. Thus, the engines could not be examined and tested to determine the cause of the failures.
DC-3s For Sale in Russia - October 27, 2019
Frank Moss and DC-3 N12BA were frequent visitors to Florida airports before the aircraft was sold to new Russian owners in 2015. Frank had used to the DC-3 to both haul cargo and to provide flight training. In July/August 2015 DC-3 N4550J joined N12BA, with both being flown from the Florida to Moscow along the WWII era Alaska-Siberia (ALSIB) Lend-Lease route. The ALSIB route began in Great Falls, Montana and traversed NW Canada to Fairbanks, Alaska and then across Siberia to Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Many thousands of American-made military aircraft were delivered to Russia during the war using this route.
After arriving in Moscow, the two aircraft attended the 2015 MAKS airshow. In addition to being on display, both aircraft participated in the daily airshows. At the time, the plan was to put them on display at Russian museums. After a brief period of activity, both were parked at Oreshkovo Airfield and by August 2019 were looking a bit tatty. While both were scheduled to participate in the Daks Over Normandy event in June 2019, neither aircraft attended. The event’s website shows N12BA re-registered RA-05738 and N4550J RA-2944G. In August 2019 the British organization Lytham St. Annes Spitfire Ground Display Team was unsuccessful in its attempt to raise funds to purchase N12BA. While I haven't confirmed it, apparently N4550J is also for sale.
Atlantic Air Cargo DC-3 Ditches into Atlantic Ocean - October 26, 2019
Atlantic Air Cargo DC-3 N437GB ditched into the Atlantic Ocean at 4:45pm on October 18, 2019 while attempting to land at Nassau's Linden Pindling International Airport after the left engine failed. The pilot, Julio Castrillo and another crew member were not injured and were rescued by the Royal Bahamian Defence Force. The DC-3, along with Atlantic’s second DC-3 N705GB have operated for many years out of Opa-locka Executive Airport flying cargo to the Bahamas and other destinations around the Caribbean. The aircraft sank and in all likelihood won't be recovered due to the high salvage cost. For a summary of the accident, check out the Aviation Safety Network website.
Conquest Air Cargo Acquires CV440 – September 16, 2019
Conquest Air Cargo acquired former Miami Air Lease CV440 N41527 in August 2019. The aircraft experienced an engine failure a few years ago and hasn’t flown since. I spoke to Conquest Air Cargo co-owner Carlos Gomez who told me that he plans on using the Convair as a spares airplane.
January 2019 Visit to Shell Creek Airport – March 7, 2019
Tony Merton Jones and I visited Shell Creek Airport on January 25, 2019. The airport is five miles east of Punta Gorda Airport and is home to Propliner icon Frank Moss and his family. The airport has a 2,600 x 110 foot turf runway and is also home to an aerial application operation and a very active skydiving club. Frank has a hangar at the north end of the field and another hangar, home to a spraying operation is at the south end. Until recently former Monroe County Mosquito Control District DC-3s N213GB and N220GB were parked at the south end of the field. N213GB departed for a museum in Holland in the fall of 2018 and N220GB moved north and is currently parked adjacent to Frank’s hangar. Frank and family live on the airport in a house at the south end and are currently building a modern hangar nearby to support their various aviation endeavors. In addition DST N133D, DC-3 N130D and the disassembled remains of DST XA-RPD and DC-3 N7500A are parked in and around the Moss hangar. N7500A was once owned by John Travolta and was damaged by a hurricane at Opa-locka Airport a number of years ago. During its days with Academy Airlines, N130D was painted with an animal mural and was nicknamed ‘Animal Crackers’. If you look hard enough, you can still see the remnants of the mural. In addition to the aircraft at Shell Creek, Frank and his son Glen rescued DC-3 N408D 'Lady Luck' from a small airport in Illinois and ferried it to Punta Gorda Airport, where they are currently restoring it. The aircraft was used for skydiving for many years before being retired and put out to pasture.
If you’re in the area and like DC-3’s, stop by the airport…there are no fences and plenty of interesting aircraft to explore and photograph. If you’re lucky, Frank or son’s Glen or Charlie might even be around. They're a very friendly bunch and always welcome enthusiasts.
Conquest Air Cargo Acquires a Turboprop YS-11 – February 10, 2019 (March 5, 2019 Update)
Former Aero JBR YS-11 XA-UFJ was recently acquired by Conquest Air Cargo and arrived at Opa-locka Airport on December 29, 2018. The airplane had been stored in Hondo, Texas and was advertised for sale with "lots of spares" for $175K in the August 21, 2018 issue of Trade-A- Plane. While the Convairs have served Conquest well, management decided it was time to upgrade to turboprop equipment and the YS-11 was chosen due to its low acquisition cost and availability.
A second YS-11 is expected to arrive at Opa-locka in early 2019 with two additional aircraft later in 2019. The YS-11’s will be operated on Conquest’s Part 135 certificate with flights to the Bahamas and other destinations in the Caribbean and continental United States. Fields Airmotive in South Africa is currently overhauling RR Dart engines and has made assurances that they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. While the aircraft was registered N775GS in January, maintenance and operation manuals have to be written and approved by the FAA so the aircraft will probably not enter service for six to nine months. While this is an exciting development, the sad truth is that it probably spells the end of Conquest’s Convair operations. (March 5, 2019 Update: Johan Starrenburg forwarded a March 3, 2019 photo of the YS-11 with N775GS markings.)
TMF Super DC-3 Departs Opa-locka Airport – March 3, 2019
TMF Aircraft surrendered its Part 135 certificate in early 2017 and ceased operations. The company’s two polished Super DC-3s had operated out of Opa-locka Airport for many years flying freight to the Bahamas and other Caribbean destinations. The company hadn't been active for at least a year prior to the shutdown with N587MB parked at Opa-locka and N32TN parked engineless at LaBelle, Florida. Sadly, N32TN was destroyed by Hurricane Irma when it struck LaBelle on September 11, 2017. Sometime in 2018, N587MB was flown from Opa-locka to LaBelle, where Michael Kelly photographed her on February 21, 2019. Let’s hope she fares better at LaBelle than her sister!
Conquest Air Cargo Convair Ditches in Atlantic - February 10, 2019
Conquest Air Cargo C-131B (CV340) N145GT ditched in the Atlantic Ocean at 12:15pm on February 8, 2019 about 19 miles east of its destination Opa-locka Airport (OPF). The aircraft had completed a routine cargo flight to the Bahamas and was returning to OPF when the pilots declared an emergency. As luck would have it, a US Coast Guard helicopter was in the vicinity and the co-pilot, Rolland Silva, was quickly located in a small inflatable life raft and rescued. Additional rescue boats arrived shortly and the search continued for 21 hours for the missing pilot but no signs of Captain Robert Hopkins were found and the search was called off. The aircraft apparently broke up while attempting the water landing as the left wing was found floating in the ocean. The Convair was delivered to the USAF in 1955 and had been operated by Conquest since 2013.
Missionary Flights International Restoration Project – February 10, 2019
Work is progressing well on the restoration of DC-3C-65TP N300MF at Missionary Flights International (MFI) headquarters in Fort Pierce, Florida. Prior to being acquired by MFI, the aircraft had been stored for a number of years partially disassembled in Lanseria, South Africa. After being reassembled and made airworthy, an MFI flightcrew ferried the aircraft 9,800 miles back to MFI headquarters, where it arrived on May 16, 2017.
The aircraft is undergoing a complete restoration by MFI mechanics and volunteers at Fort Pierce prior to entering service alongside the organizations other DC-3C-65TP aircraft, N200MF and N500MF. Ian Hengst is MFI’s Director of Operations and is the project lead on the restoration. He estimates that it will take about two years to complete the project, which will bring the aircraft to the same configuration as N200MF and N500MF. While most of the DC-3C-65TP turboprop conversions were performed in South Africa for that country’s air force, N300MF was the first of its type and was converted by Fort Worth, Texas based AMI in 1986. Preferred Turbine 3 of Kidron, Ohio currently holds the certificate for the conversion and is providing technical support.
Initially efforts focused on inspecting the aircraft’s structure and performing sheet metal repairs. Inspection has shown the aircraft to be in good condition with minimal corrosion. Once the sheet metal work is complete, techs will move on to the wiring, plumbing, cabin insulation, landing gear, engines, radios/avionics and instruments. In addition, a mod kit will be installed increasing the aircraft’s gross weight to 29,000 pounds. This involves reinforcing the wings and the wing attachment points and will allow the aircraft to carry an 8,500 pound and five hours of fuel. This modification will allow non-stop flights to Haiti with a full load and has already been incorporated on N200MF.
Skilled techs are always in demand and MFI is currently looking for volunteers to work on their aircraft. Housing is available to volunteers on an as-available basis. If you’ve got the skills and would like to work on some iconic aircraft, give the folks at MFI a call on 772-462-2395. For additional information about MFI, check out their website at http://www.missionaryflights.org.
Fourth Convair Joins the Conquest Air Cargo Fleet – February 10, 2019
In August 2016 Carlos Gomez and a small crew of mechanics rescued two C-131F aircraft from a Tucson boneyard, where they had been stored since the mid-1980s. In less than three weeks, both aircraft were airworthy and the FAA had issued ferry permits authorizing flights to Conquest Air Cargo headquarters at Opa-locka Airport in Miami. N343GS/BuNo 141022 was restored first and entered service with Conquest on February 24, 2017 when it joined C-131’s N145GT and N345GS on regular cargo flights out of Opa-locka to the Bahamas and other Caribbean destinations.
The second aircraft, N342GS/BuNo 141016, was a bit special in that it flew former U.S. president Harry S. Truman on a roundtrip flight from Kansas City to Las Vegas in 1961 for a speaking engagement. When it arrived at Opa-locka Airport on August 26, 2016 the Convair still retained its original U.S. Navy VIP interior with a small executive seating area in the front of the cabin and regular 4-across seating in the rear. It was a time capsule but none of it could be saved when the aircraft was converted to a freighter. By August 2017 the restoration of the airframe was nearing completion but Hurricane Irma delayed this with her September 11, 2017 visit to Miami. Conquest’s other three Convairs were evacuated but N342GS wasn’t airworthy and, although chained down, the hurricane winds tossed the airplane on its tail causing damage to the rear fuselage. Luckily, Conquest had two more C-131F’s stored at the Tucson scrapyard and the damaged section was replaced. With the replacement of 1950’s era avionics with modern equipment, the restoration was complete. Appropriately named “Truman,” the aircraft made its first test flight on April 4, 2018 joined Conquest’s Convair’s fleet when it made its first revenue flight on April 23rd.
In an effort to increase the versatility of the Convair fleet, a number of the aircraft, including “Truman,” have been fitted with a quick change spray dispersant systems allowing them to rapidly respond to ocean oil spills. (See far right photo above) Hopefully this will allow at least some of the Convairs to be retained once the YS-11s have entered service.
Former Australian AP-3’s Arrive in Florida – February 10, 2019
Exciting things are happening at a sleepy general aviation airport in Keystone Heights, Florida. MHD-Rockland is building a P-3C aircrew training center at Keystone Airpark and recently acquired five former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3Cs. The first was registered N656T (RAAF A9-656) on October 5, 2018 and departed Avalon Airport for the U.S. on October 23rd. The second was registered N664SD (RAAF A9-664) on November 14, 2018 and departed Avalon the next day. The remaining aircraft departed RAAF Base Edinburgh, with N665BD (RAAF A9-665) departing on December 12th and both N661MK (RAAF A9-661) and N662JD (RAAF A9-662) on the 14th. The three aircraft joined up at Pago Pago and made the flight to Keystone Airpark together with stops in Hawaii and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
With the U.S. Navy’s retirement of the P-3C, VP-30 at NAS Jacksonville no longer provides P-3C aircrew training. A number of foreign countries continue to operate P-3 type aircraft and their aircrews in the past had trained with VP-30. This created a business opportunity for MHD-Rockland and they seized upon the opportunity. The company moved into hangar/office space at the airport and has a two year plan for building an additional large hangar, warehouse, classrooms and a P-3C flight simulator facility. With sensitive equipment having been removed before delivery to MHD-Rockland, the interior configuration of the aircraft will be maintained with none of the work stations removed or significantly modified. The aircraft will be painted in red/white with MHD-Rockland titles.
As you may recall, a few years ago MHD-Rockland was involved in a joint venture with Electra specialist Mercair and Buffalo Airways that restored and ferried four former Zantop Airlines Electras from Willow Run Airport to Keystone Heights Airport. The plan was to return them to service as firebombers or freighters but the aircraft remain parked at the airport.
----Created 10 February 2019------Updated 4 July 2022----