Northern Florida Propliner Tour – February 18, 2020
Our first stop was Reynolds Airpark in Green Cove Springs, where a former U.S. Naval Research Lab NP-3C is stored less engines and other components. The aircraft was slated to go to the 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 Ronny 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 Ronny wouldn’t be taking the day off. Sometimes you get lucky and we spent about an hour talking to Ronny 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. Ronny 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.
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.
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.
----Created 10 February 2019------Updated 18 February 2019----