A Military Wedding…A Stranger’s Surprise

A military wedding…and an act of kindness by a stranger to thank them for their service.

Katy_JoshDancing

Bride and groom (in a mess dress party shirt) dancing.

Twin Cove

One of the sidewalks leading to the marina.

Our niece is an United States Air Force pilot and her new husband flies for the National Guard. They had an evening wedding reception at Twin Cove Resort in Tennessee over the weekend. To get to the reception held at the marina, which actually floats on the lake, we followed a steep, winding sidewalk down to a ramp. Our group included a person on crutches, one with a cane, numerous young children, grandparents, and great aunts and uncles.

Few if any lights edged the sidewalk, but on the way there, the sun was just setting and no one really noticed. However, late in the evening as I left with my military son and his fiancee, we discovered the sidewalks in all directions back to the lodges were lit with wonderful luminaries. We even checked them out to see how they were made, and gave kudos to the groom’s family for creating the lovely spectacle.

Luminary 1

Shine on. An act of kindness…a light of support.

 The next morning, however, we heard that the groom’s family was just as pleasantly surprised as we were. Evidently a woman who lived in one of the units nearby had heard a military couple was getting married and she wanted to express her support.

This act of kindness from a stranger touched us all, considering the number of military, both active duty and retired, who are in both the bride and groom’s families. My other son, unable to be in attendance because of a deployment, even Skyped that afternoon to catch the gathered family. The attached photo is not one of her luminaries because I sadly didn’t take a photo, and the one bag I’ve recreated cannot account for the fifty (or more) sand-filled and votive lit luminaries escorting us safely to our rooms or vehicles. Kudos and thanks to the mystery person who did this act of kindness and support. What a nice way to say you appreciate what the bride and groom do to ensure our freedom. Thanks from the bottom of all our hearts. Happy Veterans Day to the men and women of the armed forces.

ARIA: The Unusual Aircraft Spawned by the Apollo Mission

In the 1960s, the US launched (pun intended) into a new frontier…space and the race for the moon. The US discovered that in order to achieve this lofty goal, it required a premier agency to oversee the program, thus the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created. NASA quickly noticed a need to acquire launch tracking and telemetry data in hard to reach locations around the world. Thus a military program/aircraft was built called the ARIA.

Apollo/Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft The nose held a small, steerable satellite dish.

Apollo/Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft
The nose held a small, steerable satellite dish. This plane is pictured at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

The ARIA (Apollo/Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft) mission collected telemetry data during launches in locations where signals would be lost by lack of ground stations (particularly over the oceans). Why does that matter? Believe it or not, space, even around measly little old Earth, is a big place. When NASA launches into space, it does so along a particular trajectory. If the craft deviates for any reason, then it will enter space on a slightly different path and could easily become “lost in space” (ie. the telemetry tells NASA what orbit the vehicle is in).

Mission requirements caused the deployment of personnel around the world. Sometimes this took the plane to a small island in the middle of an ocean with a less than nominal (read dangerous/difficult/no alternate landing site) runway. Other times, the planes landed in paradise. Below are listed a few of the sites and what led to the design of a fun logo “ARIA World Tours” seen in the photo below.

ARIA program stickers

ARIA program stickers

Deployments (a few from a long list):

  • Easter Island
  • Thule, Greenland
  • Guam
  • Tahiti
  • Recife, Brazil
  • Saipan
  • Sidney, Australia
  • Singapore
  • Capetown, South Africa
  • Cold Lake, Canada
  • Dakar, Senegal
  • Ascension Island

Also lost over time is the meaning behind “AGAR,” the call sign used for the aircraft. If anyone knows when or how the name AGAR came about (it was used first at Patrick AFB and carried forth), please let me know so I can pass it along.

At a recent union for those involved in the ARIA mission, my husband and I toured the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. In a corner behind a huge rocket engine nozzle, we found this note about the mission: “A system of 14 ground stations, 5 instrumented ships, and 8 aircraft made up the Manned Spaceflight Network in 1969. The network provided data for tracking and communicating with Apollo 11. Look closely for the plane’s large round nose, which housed tracking instruments.”

Blurb about the ARIA mission at Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, DC.

Blurb about the ARIA mission at Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, DC.

The original ARIA aircraft were built on the Boeing C-135A frame and designated EC-135As. Later they were augmented by used Boeing 707 aircraft and were called EC-18s. They flew missions from 1968-2001 from the following locations.

  • Patrick Air Force Base, Florida             1968-1975
  • Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio 1975-1994
  • Edwards Air Force Base, California       1994-2001

People who lived in Melbourne, Florida or Dayton, Ohio or Lancaster, California might remember seeing these odd aircraft.

ARIA Wright-Patterson Squadron located at Dayton, Ohio

ARIA Wright-Patterson Squadron located at Dayton, Ohio 1980s

So why did their mission end after 2001? ARIA’s replacement, a new satellite named TDRS (pronounced TeeDRiS), arrived in space. The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, was built by TRW corporation and is now in its fourth generation. A first generation satellite example hangs in the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. I snapped the photo below there last month. It makes me wonder if ARIA covered the launch of its replacement.

TDRS - First generation satellite in Smithsonian Steven R. Udvar-Hazy Center, Virginia. Photo by Parks

For more information about the ARIA, check out the following: ARIA video and website. Please be sure to leave comments or share a story or provide further information about the ARIA. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Meet the Military – Women in Aviation International Conference 2014

Women and men crowded into the 2014 Women in Aviation International 25th Conference. This international event gives pilots and aviation specialists the opportunity to interface with industry and meet those with similar careers and interests. Daughters of members also had their own day to visit and be introduced to the aviation field. Did you know only 6% of the pilots flying for airlines are women? Why? That’s a good question and one seriously being considered on many levels, but I can happily answer it is not for lack of talented, adventurous, intelligent women who want to fly, and the men I encountered at the convention were more than encouraging.  A Washington Times article mentions that the percentage of women flying in the military are 2% Air Force, 1% Marine Corps, 4% Navy, and there are 513 Army female helicopter pilots.

With a camera and limited time to meet, chat, and photograph attendees, I focused on pilots wearing a distinguishable type uniform…a military flight suit. While these Nomex (flame resistant) suits can look the same, they vary by the attached nametags and patches indicating the pilot’s service, command, and squadron.

Barely outside the registration door, I noticed a friendly United States Coast Guard group. They had white nametags with the familiar Coast Guard orange stripe across them. For more information on the aircraft they fly, check out these links about the MH-65 Dolphin Rescue helicopter, the T-6 Texan II, and the USCG C-130 “Hercules”. The Coast Guard pilots below come from Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii; Hitron-Jacksonville, Florida, and NAS Whiting Field Milton, Florida.

Left: LCDR Breanna Knutson USCG, MH-65 Dolphin pilot, LT Becki Fosha USCG, T-6 Instructor pilot, LTJG Staci Kronberg USCG, C-130 pilot, LCDR Ernie Gameng USCG, C-130 pilot & Avionics Upgrade Transition Team

Left: LCDR Breanna Knutson USCG, MH-65 Dolphin pilot;  LTJG Staci Kronberg USCG, C-130 pilot; LT Becki Fosha USCG, T-6 Instructor pilot; LCDR Ernie Gameng USCG, C-130 pilot & Avionics Upgrade Transition Team

The two pilots below were manning the Whirly Girls booth. LT Andrea Giuliano works in the United States Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron TWO FIVE, nick-named the “Island Knights.”  She flies the MH-60s and is transitioning to TH-57 (Bell 206) at the Heltraron Eight Squadron. The LT on the right flew MH-60s at HSC-25 squadron based at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and now flies TH-57 Sea Ranger in the “Eightballers” squadron at NAS Whiting Field, Milton, FL.  LT Giuliano passed along this photo taken in Guam of the MH-60 and fellow females in the squadron.

LCDR Andrea Giuliano and fellow LCDR

LT Andrea Giuliano (left) and fellow LT

Pilots from the Guam Squadron

Pilots from the Guam “Island Knights” Squadron

The Whirly Girls are “a support network for pilots and provide a variety of scholarships to women for helicopter training.” If Sarah and Andrea are an example of the members, then they are a supportive and friendly group. If interested in flying helicopters or making contacts, check the organization out at Whirly Girls.

MAJ Laura Nealon, U2 pilot/ T-38 Evaluator/U2 Instructor and MAJ Sarah Eccles, U2 pilot

MAJ Laura Nealon, U2 pilot/ T-38 Evaluator/U2 Instructor and MAJ Sarah Eccles, U2 pilot

The next stop was by the 99s booth (an organization of women pilots which promotes the advancement of aviation) where I met 99s and Air Force MAJs Sarah Eccles and Laura Nealon (pictured above). They fly the U2 Dragon Lady, a high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. Both said they love their job and the unique aircraft. The U2 is the only current aircraft in the Air Force inventory that requires the wearing of a pressure suit when flying. For pilots who like a challenge, the U2 has “bicycle” gear and a support vehicle to assist in landings. Check out this Photo Gallery that shows many aspects related to flying the U2. Below is a closer look at their unit patch.

U2 Dragon Lady Patch

U2 Dragon Lady Patch

Also at the 99s booth, I met the current president Martha Phillips from the Ventura County chapter. She convinced me to join the 99s at last years convention by promising me members could use the 99s hut at the Sun-N-Fun fly-in to cool off and use the restroom. Needless to say, it was an easy sell. For more information on the Ninety-Nines formed back in 1929, check out their website.

MarthaSandyWAI2014-2

Sandy Parks, Spaceport 99s and President Martha Phillips, Ventura County 99s

Nagin Cox, an engineer at NASA JPL Propulsion Lab, gave several presentations at WAI. This one called “Hitting the Road on Mars” talked about the Curiosity rover. The vehicle, about the size of a Mini-Cooper, is two times larger than Mars rovers Opportunity or Spirit. A few interesting things from her talk were; she has her watch set to Mars time, we go to Mars every 26 months (closest window), and the biggest challenge we’ve had with Mars is how to look for life? The search helped to create the new field of Astrobiology.

Curiosity1

Nagin Cox – Presentation “Hitting the Road on Mars”

Dr. Kate Landdeck, a historian who has researched women pilots in the military, gave a presentation about the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). These women took over ferrying aircraft during World War II, when there was a shortage of male pilots in the US. Many believed women weren’t up to the task, but their numbers that made it through pilot training were equivalent to those of the males, and their accomplishments confirmed their success. After the war, the government played down their involvement (pretended they had never existed). Finally in the 1970s, they began to get attention and in 2010 they received Congressional Gold Medals. They had a float dedicated to them in the 2014 Rose Bowl Parade.

WASP signing books and booklets about their history.

WASP Bee, Millie, and Dawn signing books and booklets about their history for a younger generation of pilots.

WASP signing after history presentation.

WASP signing after history presentation with four of the attending WASP.

The old guard with the new.

The old guard with the new. Maj Ruth Meloeny, USAF Reserves C-17 Airdrop Instructor Pilot with WASP Dawn.

WASP Florence

WASP Florence

Hat with pins from WASP events.

Hat with pins from WASP events.

If you’re interested in learning a little more about the 99s, WAI, WASP, or flying opportunities for women in the military, make sure to click some of the links in this blog.

Blue skies,

Sandy

2014 Wings of Blue Parachute Team Promo Video

Fresh off the presses for 2014 is the latest promo video of the Wings of Blue. They are United States Air Force Academy cadets and staff from the 98th FTS. Drop in on a USAFA football game or one of the many venues they perform at throughout the year. Are they talented and do they share their knowledge and experience? You bet. Wings of Blue conducts around nineteen thousand jumps per year. For more info check out the Wings of Blue website.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4C1byZVupZc

USAFA Wings of Blue

USAFA Wings of Blue

 

 

Girls Fly Too- Graduation from Air Force Pilot Training

Today’s blog honors two occasions…my niece’s graduation from pilot training and Women in Aviation week. If you’ve spent any time on my website or reading through earlier blogs, you already know that aviation is a household word and a lifestyle in my family. Thus when someone gets a pilot’s license of any kind, it’s a big deal.

New Wings on the name tag

New Wings on the name tag

So in January, the family headed down to the rousing town of Del Rio, Texas. Once we left San Antonio, half of our cell phones went on hiatus in the great expanses of Texas lacking in cell towers (or really much populace at all save for perhaps a few prairie dogs). The perfect place to put a base with pilots learning to fly. Onward we pressed in the face of adversity, forewarned by my brother to be wary of speed traps. Imagine our surprise later when we passed the car with his family temporarily parked aside the road and my brother speaking to the nice gentleman whose car flashed colored lights. My brother must have smiled nice, because the man in blue gave him a warning and sent him on his way.

We had no doubts when we closed upon our destination as a buzz of aircraft swarmed the airfield. Opposite patterns ran to parallel runways, one which catered to T-38 jets and the other to T-6 turboprops. The entrance to the base took us past a line of aircraft on static display. We later discovered my father had flown a good number of them. Thus, as we traditionally do, we gathered all the military folks, put them in flight suits (some suits had shrunk since retirement) and did a photo shoot in front of the T(trainer)-28, a plane my dad had flown in his pilot training days.

Grandfather (KC-135), Dad (FB-111), Graduate, Uncle (Test Pilot)

Grandfather (KC-135), Dad (FB-111), Graduate, Uncle (Test Pilot)

To give you an idea of how proud my brother is of his daughter, just take a look at this close-up of the two. Kinda says it all.

Father and Daughter

Father and Daughter

Later, after formal ceremonies inside where awards were presented, all the students went out to the flight line, where their chosen “rated” Air Force officer officially pinned on their wings. My niece chose her dad and they pinned them on in front of the T-1, a trainer for those pilots going on to fly heavy aircraft. She is thrilled to be going to C(cargo)-17s.

Father pinning official flight wings on his daughter in front of her aircraft

Father pinning official flight wings on his daughter in front of her aircraft

The first plane my niece flew in training was the T-6 Texan II turbo-prop built by Raytheon Aircraft as a military trainer. The second half of Undergraduate Pilot Training brought a switch to the T-1, built by Raytheon and Hawker Beechcraft, with handling characteristics mimicking heavier aircraft.

T-6 Texan II

T-6 Texan II

T-1

T-1

A photo of the women in the family was taken in front of the T-6 and included Grandma, Aunt (that’s me), and my niece’s mom. We may not have been the military pilots in the family, but we all gave her encouragement through the years that she could achieve the dream of being a pilot.

Aunt, Graduate, Grandmother, Mom

Aunt, Graduate, Grandmother, Mom

The next photo is of my niece in front of the T-6 with her shiny new wings visible above the chest pocket of her uniform jacket. After all the stress and effort to get to this point, I can guarantee she has a lot of pride in those wings.

2Lt. Moffett in front of the T-6 Texan II

2Lt. Moffett in front of the T-6 Texan II

Of course, I had to have my special moment for a photo. I couldn’t be prouder and am glad my niece had an opportunity to fly for the Air Force that when I was her age wasn’t open to me. Thankfully times have changed.

Aunt and Niece

Aunt and Niece

Any time family gets together to celebrate there are always presents or food. Since we were on the road for this celebration, we ate out and brought gifts. Tradition has it that pilots build a “me” collection of plaques, patches, photos, and models as they go through their careers. This T-1 model of her first aircraft is a great way to start.

Niece with T-1 Model

Niece with T-1 Model

After all the ceremonies and photos, it’s dinnertime. For the military, it means official mess dress (cummerbund and all). But once they hit the bar, dinner changes to party time and the jackets come off. Just to show you formality doesn’t come without some sense of humor, I took a shot of the  pilots’ party shirts not visible when their  jackets are on. My niece altered these shirts for herself and a few friends (her mom helped to get them done in time). Those are shoes on her shirt. Every girl needs a pair or two to party, and these are a lot hotter than suede flight boots.

Congrats new Air Force pilot 2Lt. Moffett.

Party (Mess Dress) Shirts

Party (Mess Dress) Shirts

Past Tale of Pilot Training Graduation

The members of our clan are doomed (to fly that is). Aviation runs through their blood and is a topic of discussion at most family gatherings. Excitement builds once again as we prepare for another “flying” graduation…this one for my niece from Air Force pilot training (UPT). To prepare, I went back through photos of my oldest son’s graduation. I’d hoped to get a step-by-step log of what goes on at pilot training, but ultimately students are too overwhelmed, short on sleep, and under a ton of stress to worry about anything but learning to fly. Thus my parent’s wrap-up will have to suffice and hopefully not embarrass the current fighter pilot.

A few years ago and far away….

Like any graduation, all the relatives that could make it converged, in the case of my son’s graduation, on Sheppard AFB, Texas. Curious as to the living quarters, we crowded into our son’s dorm-like room and proceeded to quiz him about all the flying paraphernalia lying about. Grandpa and Dad (both military pilots) perused patches and coins, and chatted in the typical military “speak.” My son’s grandfather flew actively for over 50 years and is a Wright Brother’s Award recipient.

…And there I was with someone on my six…

…And there I was with someone on my six…

Grandma checks out a flight sectional while Grandpa and Dad continue talking about military flying in the background. Did I mention we live and breathe aviation at my house? My dad flew actively for over 50 years and is a Wright Brother’s Award recipient.

Grandma checks out a flight sectional while Grandpa and Dad continue talking about military flying in the background.

Things got started with a visit to the classroom environment (where we also had a quick lunch). The instructors and students demonstrated a stand-up where the students are questioned on BOLDFACE (the life-extending stuff on the plane checklist) and other safety and emergency procedures. Then it was on to the equipment room (life support) to show us his flying gear.

Dad checking out helmet in Life Support.

Dad checking out helmet in Life Support. The requisite parent with flight helmet photo. Note the lockers behind them where they store equipment.

Mom1

I didn’t show the photo with the helmet on my head. No surprise his head was a lot bigger than mine. You know about pilots and their big egos, right?

Next we were whisked off for our turn to go out to the runway and see another class of student practicing their pattern work and landings. They let us off by the students’ tower where classmates checked landing planes as they came in to make sure their gear was down.

Student Tower

Student Tower

I grabbed the visit as an opportunity to practice using a long lens to capture photos of fast-moving aircraft. Let’s simply say it was a learning experiment.

First I cut off the tail.

First I cut off the tail.

Then missed the nose.

Then missed the nose.

Picked up the superheated air from the jet nozzles.

Picked up the superheated air from the jet nozzles.

And even caught a "smokin" landing.
And even caught a “smokin” landing.
Then moved in for a few close-ups. The student sits up front.

Then moved in for a few close-ups. The student sits up front.

After watching the flying for a while, we headed back for a tour of the parked planes. One of the young family members dressed up to show her support for the class.

A future pilot maybe?

A future pilot maybe?

The “static” display of planes was set up for each family to have a chance to look into the cockpit. In the case of the T-38, the glass canopy is raised and stairs put up.

Son posing by plane

Son posing by plane. Notice the typical ladders pilots use to get into the plane.

In the photo below, my brother (a nav on FB-111s) stuck his head in the cockpit while my father looked over his shoulder.

Relatives checking out cockpit

Relatives checking out cockpit.

T-38. The reds tags hanging on the plane say “Remove before flight” and are pulled as part of the preflight walk around.

T-38. The reds tags hanging on the plane say “Remove before flight” and are pulled as part of the preflight walk around.

I particularly like the line-up of the planes as they sit on the tarmac. Cool.

I particularly like the line-up of the planes as they sit on the tarmac. Cool.

Next was off to the simulators where they gave a few flying minutes to family members (most crash in a minute or two). Our son leaned over his grandmother’s shoulder and helped her to do a decent job of staying aloft.

SimGMa

Flying grandma. She actually did the best of our lot even if her feet barely touched the pedals.

As though we hadn’t already taken a gazillion photos, we then had to do the “generations” thing. So off to the static displays of retired aircraft and a change into flight suits for everyone.

Grandpa, son, dad, uncle. Some of the old flight suits fit snug, but hey, who needs to breathe? This one in front of a T-37 flown in the first half of flight training.

Some of the old flight suits fit snug, but hey, who needs to breathe? This one in front of a T-37 flown in the first half of flight training. (Note: The T-6 has now replaced the T-37s)

Second photo in front of a T-38 flown in the second half of training (this varies depending on whether the student will be going into fighters or "heavy" aircraft).

Grandpa, son, dad, uncle. Second photo in front of a T-38 flown in the second half of training (this varies depending on whether the student will be going into fighters or “heavy” aircraft).

As I mentioned earlier, a few of the uniforms had to come out of mothballs. I guess my brother’s shoes did, too…only they didn’t survive. His heels disintegrated on the sidewalk out front of the Officer’s Quarters and the soles left little black footprints everywhere he walked. Here’s hoping he purchased new shoes for his daughter’s UPT graduation.

What's left of my brother's old military shoes.

What’s left of my brother’s old military shoes.

At the end of the day, everyone dressed up in formal wear and headed for the graduation ceremony. There, the students received their official “wings.” Usually two weeks before graduation, they have learned what plane the Air Force would assign them to and where they would be based. The ceremony meant more photos, but this time we didn’t have to say smile. The relief on their faces made them naturally appear.

Grandpa presenting wings.

Grandpa presenting wings.

GradDad1

Like father, like son

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Sandy is starting in January 2013 a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and  hope to hear from you.

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Cadets soar to 8th straight national championship

My son participated on the cross-country soaring team at the Air Force Academy (and now flies F-16s). It’s great to see the soaring program is still going strong.

Cadets soar to 8th straight national championship.

Gliding over Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado