by: Jason Rabinowitz, co-editor NYCAviation.com and Airchive.com contributor
In the span of a little more than a year playing the role of aviation journalist, I have done and seen some amazing (and scary) things. Here are my top 5 favorite moments:
1. Space Shuttle Enterprise Comes to New York
The most amazing event I have witnessed so far was one of the most exciting, but also deeply saddening. On April 27th, 2012, Space Shuttle Enterprise took to the air one final time on top of the space shuttle carrier, en route to its final home at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in Manhattan.
After multiple weather delays, NASA finally settled on a bitter cold, grey, and windy day. The plan for the day wasn’t exactly certain, but using the best information we had available, we set out early to catch the shuttle carrier fly over JFK and come back around to land.
We had no idea what time the shuttle was due in, but once we heard the NASA T-38 chase plane blast off JFKs runway 31L, we need the time was close. Sure enough, the shuttle carrier soon appeared over nearby buildings, gear up for a low speed fly by. Stunning. We then quickly ran to another spot for a different angle for the landing, only then realizing there were hundreds of people there with us.
Sadly, we all knew this was the last time Space Shuttle Enterprise would every fly, and was the very end of the space shuttle program for NASA. Bittersweet, to say the least.
Check out my full photo set here
2. Ramp tour of Miami
For an aviation geek, Miami is heaven. Once you look past the domination of American Airlines, there are some amazing things at this South Florida airport. In the summer of 2012, and again in April 2013, I was lucky enough to participate in ramp tours of MIA. So, what can you expect to see at MIA that you might not find elsewhere?
For starters, a practically resident Dreamlifter, John Travolta’s Qantas branded 707, a huge assortment of South American cargo carriers using oddball aircraft types such as the 777F and A330F, and so much more. The variety at MIA is truly stunning, even compared to other major international airports such as New York JFK. Where else are you going to get an A380 landing following a 727 and 707?
3. Boeing Factory Tours
In the last few months, I have been lucky enough to take two tours of Boeing’s Renton and Everett factories. The Everett factory is open for public tours, but only from a high up viewing platform, while the Renton factory is usually totally closed to the public.
The first time I toured these factories, as part of AirlineReporter.com’s Aviation Geek Fest, it was amazing. The Everett factory produces the 747, 767, 777, and 787, and is said to be the worlds largest free-standing building by volume. Yea, its big, but so are the things they make inside.
The second time around, we were actually able to go inside the aircraft on the production line. There really isn’t anything quite like standing inside a 777-300ER that is still under construction. Wires hanging down, overhead bins missing, plastic wrapping still on the tires. These machines are incredibly complex, and seeing them in their unfinished state is awe inspiring.
4. Jet Blasted By A 747
Ok, this one was a bit of an accident, but makes for a great story. In February 2013, I visited St. Maarten for the first time. Yes, I spent every possible second on Maho Beach, plane spotting from the crystal clear waters of the ocean while working on our bucket of beer. That’s another story for another day.
When a KLM 747 was taxiing out to the runway to depart, I quickly grabbed by DSLR and went to the perimeter fence to take a video of the takeoff. While outside of the official jet blast “danger” zone, I miscalculated the blast zone of a 747 just a bit. See, I was still inside the right wingtip of this heavy jet, and you can probably figure out what happened next.
The engines spooled up, the pilots held the brakes for a few moments, and a wall of hot air, sand, and debris hit us head on. Realizing that the lens of my DSLR was about to get sand blasted, I quickly covered it with my hand, only catching glimpses of the crowd around me. Won’t be making that awesome mistake ever again.
My full photo set from SXM
5. California Coast In A Grumman HU-16 Albatross
The in-flight satellite connectivity company Row 44 has a bit of an unorthodox test vehicle. Row44 uses a Grumman HU-16 Albatross built in 1950 as their test vehicle, and in September 2012 I got on board for a flight out of Long Beach Harbor during APEX Expo 2012. The Albatross has some true history, as it was once used by NASA as part of the training program for space shuttle astronauts.
As we boarded (via a boat!) an LBPD helicopter covered overhead, checked out the Albatross. We taxied (sailed?) past The Queen Mary as the engines roared and took to the skies. Our flight zipped up the California coastline, providing breath taking views, all with the top half of the rear door open. This was one of the most amazing things I had ever done. I was so amazed by the ride that I nearly forgot to do by job and try out the satellite wifi! Oh, and I was in the nose bubble for the landing.