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.

 

 

CAP Assists at TICO Warbird Airshow March 22-24

CAPtail

Tail CAP plane

Civil Air Patrol members from the Florida wing converged at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida to assist with the TICO Warbird 2013 Airshow. The three day airshow was dedicated to all veterans of the military services with a special recognition of the 70th anniversary of the Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress “Memphis Belle.”

Valiant Air Command, a non-profit organization dedicated to research and warbird restoration, sponsored the show to share the story of these aircraft and their crews who gave their lives to protect this country. To serve that purpose year round, they have a museum opened seven days a week which has been recently certified by the USAF National Museum. The Command’s signature aircraft is the Tico Belle (seen below), a workhorse in several wars starting with World War II. The aircraft is fully restored and available for rides.

Valiant Air Command's C-47 "Tico Belle."

Valiant Air Command’s C-47 “Tico Belle.”

Civil Air Patrol members came from Orlando, TICO, Seminole, UCF FL-242, Central Florida, Patrick, Osceola, and Palm Bay Squadrons, and Deland and Merritt Island Flights. They directed traffic, helped with parking, manned cordoned areas for safety and security, assisted with helicopter rides, worked the main gates, sold tickets, and manned a CAP booth and aircraft display.

CAP assisting the "Sky Soldiers, Army Aviation Heritage Foundation as they gave rides on the UH-1H Iroquiois "Huey", an Army aviation troop transport.

CAP assisting the “Sky Soldiers” Army Aviation Heritage Foundation as they gave rides on the UH-1H Iroquois “Huey”, an Army aviation troop transport.

The photos on this blog were taken by Sandy Parks of the Friday crew. Some of those photographed were busy executing their jobs and unavailable to give out their names. If you recognize anyone not identified, please leave a comment and the information will be updated. Not pictured, but much appreciated is CAP organizer Capt. Sue Martin.

Cadet Feliciano UCF FL-242 and Cadet Martin selling tickets at Gate 2.

Cadet Feliciano, UCF FL-242 Squadron, and Cadet Martin selling tickets at Gate 2.

Hannah Clarke, Merritt Island Flight, directing traffic to parking area.

Alex Cabera UCF FL 242 Squadron directed traffic in Gate 2.

Alex Cabera, UCF FL-242 Squadron, directed traffic into Gate 2.

Clarkeface
Hannah Clarke, Merritt Island Flight.

Two CAP members selling tickets at Gate 2.

Two CAP members selling tickets at Gate 2.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress at TICO Warbird 2013 Airshow.

Boeing B-17G “Chuckie” Flying Fortress at TICO Warbird 2013 Airshow. Aircraft is from Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

John McMillen, TICO squadron, on traffic duty.

John McMillen, TICO Squadron, on traffic duty.

Chris Bernhardt, Seminole Squadron, parking vehicles.

Chris Bernhardt, Seminole Squadron, parking vehicles.

Chris Bernhardt, Seminole squadron, learning the art of tight parking.

Chris Bernhardt, Seminole Squadron, learning the art of tight parking.

Kenny Palacio, UCF FL-242, directing traffic.

Kenny Palacio, UCF FL-242, directing traffic.

North American B-25 "Mitchell" bomber. A medium bomber named in honor of Genral Billy Mitchell and used in the 1942 Doolittle Raid.
North American B-25 “Mitchell” bomber. A medium bomber named in honor of General Billy Mitchell and used in the 1942 Doolittle Raid.
Joshua Martin, Deland flight, securing pilot's gate.

Joshua Martin, Deland Flight, securing pilot’s gate near pilot tent.

Fransbergen

Luvke Fransbergen, Seminole Squadron, working the parking area.

Cole Frank, Orlando Squadron, working the VIP parking area.

Cole Frank, Orlando Squadron, working the VIP parking area near private aircraft parking.

Silvio Bohuszewicz, TICO squadron, securing the VIP and flight line area.

Silvio Bohuszewicz, TICO squadron, securing the VIP and flight line area.

CAP plane parked at information tent

CAP plane parked at information tent

Thomas Wolf, TICO Squadron, showing the cockpit to an airshow visitor.

Manning the CAP information tent Lt. Theresa Stalnaker, Seminole Squadron and Maj Tony Wood, Patrick AFB Squadron.

Manning the CAP information tent Lt. Theresa Stalnaker, Seminole Squadron and Maj Tony Wood, Patrick Squadron.

Ian Spirduso, Central Florida Squadron, and Andrew Briggs, Palm Bay squadron, worked at Gate 1.

Ian Spirduso, Central Florida Squadron, and Andrew Briggs, Palm Bay squadron, worked at Gate 1.

Nicholas Bersoux, Palm Bay squadron, worked Gate 1.

Nicholas Bersoux, Palm Bay squadron, worked Gate 1.

USAF Thunderbirds F-16s performed after duties were complete for most CAP.

USAF Thunderbirds F-16s performed after duties were complete for most CAP.

Joshua Martin and Capt. Tac Kong of Deland Flight.

Joshua Martin and Capt. Tac Kong of Deland Flight.

With duty done, time to watch the Thunderbirds perform.

With duty done, time to watch the Thunderbirds perform.

Lt. Col. Richardson
Lt. Col. Richardson

Maj M.M. Wieser manned the CAP information tent.

Maj M.M. Wieser, Osceola Squadron, manned the CAP information tent.

HueyPose

CAP assisting the Huey crew. If spaces were available the CAP workers caught a ride. Briggs, Capt Scott Brown TICO Squadron, Stalnaker, Bohuszewicz.

Christian Jones, TICO Squadron, preparing to head to his post.

Christian Jones, TICO Squadron, preparing to head to his post.

End of day wrap-up of work day.

End of day wrap-up.

Civil Air Patrol worked together with the Valiant Air Command to help make the Airshow days run smoothly. The Tico Belle tail seen through the CAP aircraft strut.

Civil Air Patrol worked together with the Valiant Air Command to help make the Airshow days run smoothly. The VAC “Tico Belle” tail seen through the CAP aircraft strut.