Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Tag: Mig-21


I was doing my best last week to get my Swift radio installation progress a little farther along on the project timeline but every time I turned around there was another interruption.Hangar construction at Reno, Stead Airport My first challenge was this building that popped up on a direct line between my hangar and the bathroom.  I swear, you go out of town for a few weeks and all sorts of things change.  It looks like a really nice-sized hangar. It appears that it will even be outfitted with its own bathroom facilities. I would hope that the owner is going to put in a shower or something. If not,  I would have to think twice about the added expense when the building is only about 10 yards from the airport’s facilities. What they heck, it’s only money.

I worked in my hangar for most of the morning without too much to distract me. I stuck my head out a couple of times to watch a Skycrane helicopter transit the area. A while later a Chinook helicopter went by in a different direction.  Neither type is a stranger around the airport, but they’re still fun to watch.

On my way off the airport property to find lunch I noticed that a couple of planes had been pulled out of one of the larger hangars. They were painting the exterior of the building, so I though that might be the reason.Mig-21 on the ramp at Reno, Stead Airport. We have seen the Mig-21 in this column before, but not this close.

After lunch I returned to my project in the hangar.  Not too long after I got started I received a call from my wife about an errand to run on my way home that night, not unusual, but right in the middle of the conversation the noise of a jet taking off made it impossible to talk on the phone even though my hangar is quite a distance from the runway and the hangar doors were closed. The Mig was going flying. Mig-21 touch and go at Reno, Stead Airport.We finished our conversation after the sound died away and I went back to working. About 45 minutes later the din returned, this time in the form of a low pass down the runway. No way was I fast enough to catch that on film, but I did manage to make it to the ramp for the subsequent touch-and-go and landing. It’s pretty neat to have that sort of thing going on at your airport. I’m sure that are a lot of neat aircraft at many of our airports, but you don’t often get the chance to see them our flying or to catch them on film (ok, SD card).

Soon the show was over and I was back to work. About an hour later I heard a round engine and it wasn’t a small one. Hmmm. Could it be one of the Unlimited Racers out testing a new engine. A Lancair Legacy racer had been out breaking in a new engine that morning, so it was possible. It sounded like the plane had landed so I once again grabbed my camera and walked out to the end of the hangar row. Nope that wasn’t a racer. Taxiing by at the edge of the ramp, headed for the fuel pit was a Fairchild C-123.

I had no choice but to go get into my truck and head down to the other end of the airport.Fairchild C-123K on the ramp at Reno, Stead Airport. You see, I flew the C-123 for about a year in Southeast Asia. That was my first operational assignment in the USAF. I had graduated from pilot training in Texas and was then sent to what at that time was called Lockbourne AFB in Columbus, OH. The base was later renamed Rickenbacker AFB, then was subsequently closed and is now known as Rickenbacker International Airport (KLCK). At Lockbourne/Rickenbacker I was assigned to a retraining unit (RTU) and ‘upgraded’ to the right seat of the C-123.  I went from a supersonic trainer (T-38) to the 120-knot C-123K and traded in flying high-altitude TACAN penetrations to trying to figure out how to fly a fixed-card ADF approach. Yeah, culture shock. Ironically, those pods just outboard of the radial engines house G.E.  J-85 jet engines, the same engines installed in the T-38 (minus afterburner, of course). You can also see mounting points outboard of the jet pods that are used to attach fuel drop tanks.  The crew on this plane said that they had removed the drop tanks and shipped them to Alaska separately. They hadn’t made them operational and didn’t want the extra weight and drag associated with leaving them on the wing mounting points or carrying them in the cargo compartment. The jets located in those underwing pods make this a ‘K’ model C-123. Without the jets, it would be a ‘B’ model and if the jets were attached to the wingtips it would be a ‘J’ model. C-123K cargo compartment, on the ramp at Reno, Stead Airport.The only  C-123J I have seen was parked on the ramp in Anchorage. It was  in really bad condition and was eventually purchased by a cargo outfit in southern Alaska, probably to be used as spare parts. The same company had also purchased another C-123 that used to be based at Stead. That particular aircraft had been used in the movie Con Air. It is now in Alaska, I believe being used to haul drilling equipment.

This aircraft had been picked up in Titusville, FL and was also enroute to Alaska. The crew of three had worked on the plane in Florida until it was safe to fly, then set out on their cross-country. The view view from the cargo loading ramp is looking forward toward the cockpit. The were carrying their airport transportation (golf cart) and had built a work bench in the cargo compartment while they were getting the plane ready for the trip.C-123K cockpit instrument panel, on the ramp at Reno, Stead Airport. I took a nostalgic trip down memory lane and climbed up to the cockpit and sat in the left seat for a while. I remembered a little of what I saw, but not all of it. For one, I don’t remember there being a Garmin 496 on the overhead panel. How could  I have missed that? This aircraft didn’t have the armor plating around the cockpit seats, either. Nice to have then, probably a little too heavy to be carrying around now. The VHF radio was there, but the HF and FM radios were gone. I guess they won’t be needing to contact any artillery sites on their route to Alaska to see if they are firing in their direction.

If you look closely in the large version of the cockpit photo, at the bottom center you can see a couple of trim wheels, one right in the center of the console. Just above that trim wheel you can see two silver toggle switches, looking at the top ends of the switches. Farichild C-123K rudder pedal, on the ramp at Reno, Stead Airport.The toggle switches are spring-loaded to the center position and have a lever-action up or down. Those are the throttles for the jet engines. For landing we ran the jets at idle, just in case we might need them for a go-around. For takeoff, once lined up on the runway, we ran them up to full power by holding the toggle in the up position for about 6 seconds. With a fairly light load and with the jets at full power you could climb out at 2500 fpm. Pretty impressive for something that started out as a glider (XCG-20).

An Interesting Day at the Airport

It was one of those really nice Fall days in Reno, partly cloudy skies, light winds and temperatures in the low 70s (F).  One of those days when you just have to go out to the airport and go flying. So, I drove out to Stead (4SD), ran through a preflight inspection, pulled the Swift out of the hangar and fired it up. I hadn’t had much to eat before I drove out to the airport, so I decided to fly over to Quincy, CA (2O1) for breakfast. It’s a nice leisurely half-hour flight to the west of Stead, down a wooded valley. The runway (06-24) is pretty much a one-way runway, though it’s not designated as such. Unless the winds are strong from the east everyone lands on 24 and takes off on 06. There are hills or mountains on both sides of the airport’s valley and there is another solitary hill just off the east end of the runway a bit south of the centerline. There was only one other airplane in the area, a training flight from the Quincy flight school, When I made my radio call entering the airport area they responded with their position and said they would remain clear of the area until I had landed. (I didn’t think my flying reputation had made it that far!) I could see them circling to the NW of the airport.  I made a reasonable landing, found a parking spot, chocked and closed up the plane and headed for town. It’s a nice 10-minute walk to the Morning Thunder Cafe in town where they have an outstanding selection of breakfast options. I highly recommend the experience.

The flight back to Stead was smooth and uneventful, continuing my impression of the day. I entered the pattern at Stead, landed on runway 26 and turned off at the mid-field exit, aiming at the center of the Air Race’s set of permanent grandstands. And there half way between my taxiway and the grandstands sat a V-22 Osprey. I had never seen one in person, so when I had safely put the Swift back in my hangar, I grabbed my camera and headed out to the ramp. By that time I could hear the Osprey starting up. V-22 Osprey about to taxi at Reno Stead.There was a crew member on a headset with a long cord standing outside the plane, probably responding to checks being done by the flight crew as part of the predeparture process. Eventually the crew member got on board and pulled up the stairs. Then the power came up a little and the engines tilted a bit forward and the Osprey made it’s way to the runway. No, they didn’t bother to go to the far end. They used a taxiway about 1500′ before the end and were airborne way before midfield. I guess that’s the whole point, huh? For a while we lost sight of the Osprey in the cloud of dust they were raising on the taxiway perpendicular to the runway. The wing span plus prop diameter was easily wider than the width of the taxiway. I was really surprised at just how large a plane it is. I guess the videos I had seen of the Osprey didn’t really do it justice.

Apparently they had stopped at Stead because of some minor maintenance problem and were able to fix it themselves. V-22 Osprey on takeoff at Reno-Stead.V-22 Osprey in taxi mode at Reno-Stead.They flew straight out from runway 26 and by about 3 miles from the runway were in full “airplane mode.”  The flew around the area for a while, then made a low and slow pass down the runway with the gear down and the engines tilted up followed by another departure. They were gone long enough for me to get back to my hangar, then I heard them approaching the airport again. I got outside with enough time to see them make a pass down the runway west-to-east in airplane mode.  Impressive.

That excitement over, I went back into my hangar and started in on a little preventative maintenance on the Swift. I was making a little progress on my to-do list when I heard a loud jet roar outside. OK, now what? I grabbed my camera and headed for the ramp area near my hangar row. Turns out all the noise was being generated by our resident Mig-21 in the pattern for a little practice. Just what you want to hear entering on a 45 to downwind behind you, huh? I watched for a while and then tried a photo as it made it’s full stop landing and popped the drag chute. Unfortunately I was on the opposite side of the airport and a 10X zoom didn’t really meet the challenge. A little while later I got in my truck and drove down to the other end of the ramp and got a photo of the flight/maintenance crew around the plane.Mig-21 post flight at Reno-Stead. Mig-21 on landing roll at Reno-Stead. I watched them out practicing one day earlier in the year when they must have made 4 flights, spending almost the entire time in the pattern. Probably an individual getting his competency letter for the plane, though I’m not sure how many of them are flying around the U.S. I do know that there’s no way I would have wanted to pay for the gas for that day. And that was before the big price spike!

With the show over, I headed back to work in the hangar. But that didn’t last long, as another distinctive sound pulled me to the ramp once again. I live in the southern part of Reno, west of the departure path for the commercial airport, but close enough to hear and watch the planes as they climb out toward their destinations. There is a company in town, IGT (International Game Technology), that runs a corporate shuttle between Reno and Las Vegas. They have two Piaggio Avanti aircraft that make the run fairly frequently. The Avanti is a twin pusher turboprop with a canard configuration. It has a very distinctive whine to it when you hear it fly. That was the whine that I heard from my hangar. Since I had never seen one of the IGT planes at Stead, I was curious to see what brought them over from the commercial airport. That’s why I got into my truck and drove to the other end of the ramp. The Avanti had landed and disappeared from view somewhere near the fuel island. Piaggio Avanti on the ramp at Reno-Stead. It turns out that it wasn’t an IGT plane after all. The FAA records show that it’s registered to Rainbow Sandals Retail in Las Vegas. I caught this picture of the pilot filling out paperwork while he sat on the airstair. Obviously fun times. The Avanti remained overnight and left at about noon the next day for parts unknown.


So that was my interesting day at the airport. Beautiful weather, a nice flight to a great breakfast, a little work in the hangar and a view of a wide range of unusual airplanes. Could an aviation nut ask for more?

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