Category Archives: Features


Thrustmaster – 25 Years at Full Throttle

In this special PC Pilot report, Richard Benedikz travelled to the Big Apple to attend Thrustmaster’s 25th anniversary celebration event.

Thrustmaster marked its 25th anniversary milestone in New York with an event on board the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, by unveiling its new HOTAS product range: the TFRP T.Flight Rudder Pedals, TWCS Throttle and the updated T.16000M FCS joystick.

Thrustmaster marked its 25th anniversary on board the USS Intrepid Air and Space Museum. (Photo credit: Intrepid Museum)
Thrustmaster marked its 25th anniversary on board the USS Intrepid Air and Space Museum. (Photo credit: Intrepid Museum)

The company has a rich history having developed joysticks, controllers and steering wheels for PCs since 1991 and has won licensing agreements with major brands including Ferrari, Top Gun, Beretta, Splinter Cell and even the US Air Force. This has enabled Thrustmaster to design and build high-quality HOTAS systems for flight simulation based on the controls of real aircraft, including the General Dynamics F-16 with the HOTAS Cougar and the Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II with the HOTAS Warthog.

The event was attended by both industry experts and enthusiasts
The event was attended by both industry experts and enthusiasts

Demonstration stands gave guests the opportunity to try out the new controllers. VR (Virtual Reality) featured high on the list with the Elite Dangerous space simulator running on Oculus Rift. It also demonstrated DCS from Eagle Dynamics with its popular HOTAS Warthog, released in 2010.

Another stand showcased the T.Flight HOTAS 4, released in February this year, which was run with War Thunder from Gaijin Entertainment. The controller was produced under official licence for the PlayStation 4 (although it is also PC-compatible). It consists of a wide hand rest and adjustable stick resistance, along with a detachable throttle and a yaw function, which can be controlled using twist on the joystick handle or a tilting lever on the throttle. It also includes a variety of action buttons, a rapid-fire trigger and a HAT switch. In a glass cabinet, Thrustmaster had a line-up of products from the past on display, including the HOTAS Cougar, Millennium 3D, X Fighter, Top Gun Platinum and F22 Pro.

A selection of industry experts and enthusiasts were invited to the event to try out the new and existing products.  The show began with talks from the President and CEO of Guillemot (which owns the Thrustmaster brand), Claude Guillemot and Development Director, Gilles Raulet. They outlined the company’s 25-year history including the products it had developed such as its first all-metal controller, the HOTAS Cougar. Guillemot said it was an important milestone for the company and had laid the foundation for its successor, the HOTAS Warthog. The merger of Guillemot and Thrustmaster in 1999 was also an important step as both companies had a ‘passion for flight simulation’.

Claude Guillemot, seen in this picture, is a qualified pilot and operates a Cessna 412B. He stands in front of a display board charting the history of the Thrustmaster brand
Claude Guillemot, seen in this picture, is a qualified pilot and operates a Cessna 412B. He stands in front of a display board charting the history of the Thrustmaster brand

They were joined by Frontier Developments’ Chief Operating Officer David Walsh and Clayton Remy from Gaijin Entertainment. Both companies have adopted Thrustmaster controllers as they were ‘ideally suited’ for their respective products. Matthias Techmanski from Eagle Dynamics, the company played an important role in the development of Thrustmaster’s HOTAS Warthog, was also present.

Thrustmaster celebrated its 25th anniversary on board the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, which holds several iconic aircraft including this Grumman TBM Avenger
Thrustmaster celebrated its 25th anniversary on board the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, which holds several iconic aircraft including this Grumman TBM Avenger

TFRP T. Flight Rudder Pedals
The highlight of the event was the unveiling of Thrustmaster’s TFRP Rudder Pedals, which are aimed at the beginner/intermediary end of the market, although they have advanced functions, which will appeal to the more experienced flight simmer. Thrustmaster has developed a new technology dubbed SMART (Sliding Motion Advanced Rail Track), which features four rails made from industrial-grade anodized aluminium. The company says the sliding action of the rails, combined with the long range of travel on the rudder axis, provides precise and smooth control.
The TFRP comes with large 10in (25cm) self-centring pedals with differential braking and a removable heel-rest, which enables the feet to be placed in two positions: with the ball of the foot and the heel on the floor and then with the heel-rest in place, the entire foot can be placed on the pedal. The unit features a large base with an inclined design, designed to provide ‘greater comfort and stability’.

The Rudder Pedals can be paired with the HOTAS Warthog to make them appear as one USB device
The Rudder Pedals can be paired with the HOTAS Warthog
to make them appear as one USB device

It comes with dual connectors, a USB interface, which makes it compatible with PCs and joysticks currently on the market. Alternatively, it can be plugged into the T.Flight HOTAS 4 using a proprietary RJ12 interface. The controller has proved to be popular with War Thunder from Gaijin Entertainment.

The unit can also be connected to the HOTAS Warthog, T.16000M as well as the MFD Cougar Pack, so that they are recognised as a single USB device. The TFRP Rudder Pedals come with a calibration tool to adjust parameters such as the central dead zone on the yaw axis and the two differential brake axes. These settings are then saved directly to the internal memory of the adapter. The unit is also compatible with Thrustmaster’s proprietary TARGET (Thrustmaster Advanced pRogramming Graphical EdiTor) software suite, enabling users to create and load custom profiles for different simulators. Profiles created by other users can also be downloaded from Thrustmaster’s website. The rudder pedals were launched in May and are now available at a recommended retail price of €99.99 (£79.99 approx).

TWCS Throttle
A prototype TWCS Throttle was also showcased at the event. The HOTAS-type throttle quadrant will feature four axes, including a single throttle with adjustable friction, a variety of push buttons, HAT switches, rotary toggles, two-way toggles and a mini stick. It also comes with hand-operated analogue paddles, which can be used for operating the rudder and M6 bolts for fixing the unit in cockpits or flight seats. The TWCS is due to be released in September this year, although no information on price has yet been provided.

The TWCS Throttle will incorporate a single thrust lever with adjustable friction and analogue paddles
The TWCS Throttle will incorporate a single thrust lever with adjustable friction and analogue paddles

T.160000 FCS
The final product to be unveiled was the T.160000 FCS, an updated version of Thrustmaster’s original T.160000 joystick. Like its predecessor it comes with HEART (Hall Effect Accurate Technology), which is a magnetic sensor that provides precision levels 256 times greater than most conventional joysticks. Rather than using conventional variable resistors for motion sensing, these magnetic sensors don’t make any physical contact and as a result the movement of the joystick is completely friction-free with spring tension to provide feedback for the flight controls. It features new tactile buttons to provide more defined clicks, an improved and smoother throttle slider and a more ‘ergonomic’ trigger. Like the TWCS Throttle, it also includes M6 bolts for attaching the unit to cockpits or desktops and will be released in September.

Thrustmaster celebrated its 25th anniversary on board the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, which holds several iconic aircraft including this Grumman TBM Avenger
Thrustmaster celebrated its 25th anniversary on board the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, which holds several iconic aircraft including this Grumman TBM Avenger

The future
Thrustmaster hinted that it was planning to release two new products in the future. Although the company didn’t provide specific details, according to the roadmap there are two empty slots on the timeline next to the rudder pedals and the Warthog. Speculation on what they are planning has been rife, with rumours indicating the first could be a more advanced set of rudder pedals and the second a new HOTAS joystick, possibly in the same category as the Warthog.

Prepar3D was used to demonstrate the operation of the new controllers in civilian flight simulation
Prepar3D was used to demonstrate the operation of the new controllers in civilian flight simulation

Although Thrustmaster has been actively developing products for racing simulators for the past few years, it has been fairly quiet on the flight sim front since the release of the HOTAS Warthog in 2010. However, the company has re-emerged in force with its new product range. The TFRP T. Flight Rudder Pedals certainly deserve consideration if you are looking for an affordable set of rudder pedals being competitively priced at less than €100 (£79.99 approx). We also have the new HOTAS controllers to look forward to when they are released in September and with ambitious plans for the future it looks like Thrustmaster will be rejuvenating its presence in the flight sim market.

By Richard Benedikz

Vamos Volotea!

VOLOTEA HAS taken the first step in its fleet renewal programme after introducing its maiden Airbus A319 into service.  The arrival of the former Air Malta example, EI-FMT (c/n 2113) Han Volo, marks a major change for the Barcelona-based low-cost carrier (LCC), which had built its fleet around the Boeing 717.

Speaking 03_A319_012in Toulouse at the new jet’s inauguration on March 9, Volotea’s founder and CEO, Carlos Muñoz, said: “We’re very happy to receive our first Airbus.  The A319 is a great aircraft with excellent performance and economics, and there’s a large fleet available which will ensure our long-term growth based on this aircraft model.”

He added: “This plane will help us transport our passengers to new and more distant destinations with the comfort and smoothness which our passengers expect.”

The A319 is fitted with 150 slimline Acro seats finished in stylish grey leather and set at a 30in (76cm) pitch.  It is the first of four expected to join the carrier by May, though Muñoz told Airliner World  Volotea foresees a long-term need for up to 30 or 40 jets.  “We describe ourselves as a low-cost airline, and therefore simplicity and commonality in our fleet is a big thing.  We will definitely migrate entirely out of the 717 and completely into the A319 in the next two or three years.”

The CEO confirmed the first four Airbuses will operate from Volotea’s hub at Nantes where they will add much needed capacity over the outgoing 125-seat 717s.  They will eventually operate all 25 of the airline’s routes from the French city, including Malaga, Ajaccio, Bastia, Montpellier, Palma de Majorca and Venice.

Volotea has not announced firm plans for the A319 rollout beyond the initial examples, though Muñoz revealed the fleet transition will be undertaken on a base by base arrangement for “operational simplicity”.  He added the airline had little desire to maintain a dual fleet and said one of the main drivers behind the decision to switch from Boeing to Airbus was the lack of second-hand 717s on the market.  “It’s a great aircraft but when an airline as big as Delta is operating the type [the US carrier currently flies more than 90], it becomes very difficult for anyone else to acquire airframes.”

The airline has already outlined plans to transfer its outgoing Boeing aircraft to existing operators of the type including Delta and Hawaiian Airlines, a move that will see it move away from its long-term relationships with lessors Falko Regional Aircraft and Boeing Capital.

For its incoming Airbuses, the carrier has opted against purchasing brand new aircraft – the A319s will be typically second-cycle, mid-age examples, generally between 10 and 12 years old, and sourced from established lessors such as GECAS and AerCap.  However, Muñoz said Volotea does not harbour any ambition to pursue any of the larger members of the A320 Family: “The A319 is a great size for us.  We’re still seeing a lot of demand in the sub-150 seat sector so there’s no need to change our strategy.”

Off the Radar
Much of Volotea’s success can be attributed to its region-specific operations.  It employs a largely 05_A319_014conventional low-cost model but links mostly secondary destinations around the Mediterranean, and thus away from its European rivals such as easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air.  Significantly, Muñoz noted more than 70% of its available seat kilometres (ASK) are flown without any direct competition.  The carrier specialises in connecting previously unserved markets, meaning much of its traffic is self-generated.  The CEO cited Volotea’s link between Venice and the Greek island of Mykonos as an example.  “We analysed traffic figures and found that, in the year before we launched the service, fewer than 400 people had made such a trip.

“We’re a lot wiser now but our approach was very experimental.  The service was a gamble and represented a big investment, but we’ve seen a lot of growth – last year, we carried 16,000 passengers on the route.”

Volotea is reaping the rewards of its unusual approach – last year, it transported 2.5 million passengers, recorded an average load factor of 76% and has increased its regional bases from two in 2012 – Venice and Nantes – to seven; its eighth, Toulouse, is expected to open imminently.  This year, it is expecting to offer more than 38,000 flights across 196 routes between 72 cities in 13 countries.

One downside to the Spanish carrier’s network is that it links mostly leisure destinations, meaning seasonality is a significant issue.  “We suffer from this more than most [LCCs] so we have had to adopt a cost structure that suits.  This is all part of the learning process,” Muñoz explained.  The CEO revealed he drew inspiration from US ultra-low-cost operator Allegiant, whom he dubbed “the master of the high-low traffic model”.  There are obvious comparisons between the two airlines – both fly older aircraft on mostly uncontested routes, from smaller airports to sunshine destinations at low frequency and only when demand exists.

Muñoz was coy about Volotea’s financial position, but did confirm the airline was now profitable: “We launched in 2012 and concentrated initially on growing our fleet and network.  In 2014, we were cash flow positive and last year we posted a profit.”  He added that plans to float the airline on the stock market will remain on hold for the foreseeable future.  Volotea had outlined its intended initial public offering (IPO), which is expected to raise around €65 million, in January but delayed its plans, citing market volatility.

“We’re now at the typical size and scale for an IPO but we’re under no pressure [to go ahead],” Muñoz told Airliner World.  The founder and former CEO of fellow Spanish LCC Vueling was insistent he was not aiming to divest his interest in Volotea: “I don’t create airlines to sell them, I create them to be successful.”


Looking Ahead

Richard Benedikz visited the ‘frozen north’ to find out how Oslo/Gardermoen Airport in Norway has integrated biofuel into its fuel delivery infrastructure.

Norway has often led the way with initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. Its latest incentive – to make jet biofuel more freely available at Oslo/Gardermoen Airport – is an important step towards creating a sustainable future for aviation.

The airport became the first in the world to offer airlines the option to refuel their jets with biofuel through its existing fuel farm storage facilities and hydrant mechanism, avoiding the high logistics costs and long delays of a dedicated refuelling system. Previously, biofuel had to be delivered by a fuel truck.

Lufthansa was the first airline to commit to using biofuel at Oslo. Photo Avinor
Lufthansa was the first airline to commit to using biofuel at Oslo. Photo Avinor

Ketil Solvik-Olsen, Norway’s Minister of Transport and Communications, explained: “January 22 is a red letter day for international aviation. Oslo Airport is now the world’s first major international airport with regular deliveries of jet biofuel.”

The project was launched by Air BP in co-operation with Norwegian airport operator Avinor and biofuel supplier SkyNRG, which has agreed to provide a minimum of 274,962 imp gal (1.25 million lit) of jet biofuel; its long-term strategy is to increase the volume over the next several years.

Air BP CEO, David Gilmour explained: “This is the first time aviation biofuel is being delivered through the normal supply mechanism, thus reducing logistics costs significantly.  We want to demonstrate that airports can readily access biofuel with relative ease, utilising existing infrastructure. We anticipate this will increase interest and demand as well as contributing to a sustainable future for the aviation sector.”

Air BP has committed to deliver a minimum of 1.25 million lit of jet biofuel to Oslo Airport.
Air BP has committed to deliver a minimum of 1.25 million lit of jet biofuel to Oslo Airport.

Germany-based Lufthansa Group was the first customer to confirm it will purchase biofuel at Gardermoen and the first to use the new service when it refuelled an Airbus A320 there on January 22. SAS Scandinavian Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines have also committed to take up biofuel at the airport.

The biofuel is produced from Camelina oilseed in Spain and supplied by Camelina Company España (CCE). The plant is native to Northern Europe and Central Asia and can be grown in semi-arid regions as a rotational crop with traditional cereal, or where other oilseed crops are not viable and do not compete with food crops. The feedstock is transported to biofuel specialist Neste for conversion into biofuel at its oil refinery in Porvoo in Finland. It’s then blended with conventional Jet A-1 fuel in Sweden – with a ratio of 48% biofuel to 52% Jet A-1 fossil fuel, which meets ASTM D1655/DEFSTAN 91-91 specifications for aviation turbine fuel – before being transported by road to Oslo Airport. The first batch was delivered on December 30.

The new fuel is produced under the Initiative Towards sustAinable Kerosene for Aviation (ITAKA) framework – a collaborative project for the development and use of sustainable biofuel in Europe funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme, a research and development initiative.

Future Roadmap
Several projects have been launched to extract biofuel from sources such as algae, Camelina or waste oils to produce jet biofuel. But with recent oil prices at a record low, the product is currently four times more expensive than conventional Jet A-1, and the project is part of a longer-term strategy – with Air BP anticipating increased demand from other airlines.

The initiative is in line with industry targets set by the International Air Transport Association to achieve carbon-neutral growth by 2020 and a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, the EU has set a goal for 3.5% of total fuel consumption in aviation to consist of jet biofuel by 2020.

The new delivery system was activated on January 22, making Oslo/Gardermoen the world's first international airport to have regular deliveries of jet biofuel.
The new delivery system was activated on January 22, making Oslo/Gardermoen the world’s first international airport to have regular deliveries of jet biofuel.

The Norwegian Government has launched tax incentives to encourage airlines to take up biofuel, offering lower CO2 taxes on domestic flights – and its budget for 2016 proposes that flights using 25% of jet biofuel should receive a 25% reduction in airport landing fees. Biofuel is also exempt from the EU quota system, which specifies the number of tonnes of greenhouse gas companies emit.

Avinor CEO Dag Falk-Peterson explained: “With the recent Paris agreement [on climate change] signed and the airline industry’s ongoing commitment to protecting the environment, we’re delighted to be the first airport in the world to [enable carriers to refuel with biofuel] from our existing fuel farm and hydrant dispenser system.

“As first movers we hope to inspire other airports and airlines to follow suit so we can all work towards the desired low-carbon future.”

Fuel from Forests
Avinor’s long-term goal is to set up a supply chain using by-products from the Norwegian forest industry to establish large-scale production of aviation biofuels. It has allocated up to NOK 100m (€10m) over a ten-year period up to 2022 to fund initiatives and projects for the country’s biofuel production and hopes to begin production between 2020 and 2025.

Avionor CEO, Dag Falk-Petersen (right) is presented with a branch from a Norway pine.
Avionor CEO, Dag Falk-Petersen (right) is presented with a branch from a Norway pine.

First Turkish C-130 with Upgraded Avionics Delivered

The first Turk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK – Turkish Air Force) Hercules to be modernised with new avionics under the Erciyes programme, C-130E 13188, seen during its hand-over ceremony at TAI’s facilities in Ankara on August 8.

TURKISH AEROSPACE Industries (TAI) has delivered the first Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK – Turkish Air Force) C-130 Hercules to be modernised under the Erciyes programme. The aircraft, C-130E 13188, was officially handed over to the THK during a ceremony at TAI’s facilities in Ankara on August 8.

The modernisation programme covers all 19 Hercules in the Turkish fleet, comprising six C-130Bs and 13 C-130Es. A contract for the upgrade was originally signed between Turkey’s Savunma Sanayii Müsteşarlığı (SSM – Undersecretariat for Defence Industries) and TAI in December 2006. This only covered the six C-130Bs and seven C-130Es that were in service at the time, but following the acquisition of a further six C-130Es from the Royal Saudi Air Force in 2010, these were also added to the modernisation programme.

The work primarily involves an avionics upgrade in order to comply with GATM, RVSM and CAT-II ILS requirements. The new avionic display and lighting system is also fully night-vision compatible. It includes a glass cockpit with four multi-function displays, two control display units and two multi-mission computers.

Within the scope of the Erciyes avionics modernisation programme, TAI has been responsible for design, integration test and check-out of the system on two prototypes and will deliver kits for the remaining 17 aircraft. Installation on the latter will be undertaken by the THK’s 2nd Air Supply and Maintenance Centre Command at Kayseri. TAI will also be responsible for post-delivery support of the whole system. AFD-Dave Allport

Saving Lives and Seizing Drugs

The Coast Guard Air Station in Los Angeles covers a wide and very busy area in Southern California. Alan Kenny found out more.

Southern California is well known for its beaches, ocean and sailing. It is also known for sharks, rugged coastlines and drug smuggling. All of this equals a busy time for the Coast Guard in the Los Angeles area. The Air Station operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and covers almost 300 miles of coastline. The operating area runs from Morro Bay, 200 miles north west of Los Angeles to Dana Point, 60 miles south east. It also covers the eight Channel Islands of San Clemente, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Barbara, San Nicholas and Santa Catalina, which lie off the coast of Southern California.

The Air Station is located at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), to the west of the main passenger terminals. The Air Station in Los Angeles was established in August 1962 by a combined effort from Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Senator Thomas H. Kutchel, and U.S. Representative James Roosevelt to instate it. It started off as an air detachment from San Diego and consisted of a sole Sikorsky HO4S. The Air Station was officially commissioned on November 15, 1962 with two HO4S. The HO4S were retired the following May when three Sikorsky HH-62A ‘Sea Guard’ helicopters entered service. The Sea Guard fleet was temporarily increased for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games in July of that year. The HH-62A fleet was finally retired in November 1987 after 24 years in service. The Coast Guard is currently equipped with four Eurocopter MH-65C Dolphins, which they have operated since their introduction into service in November 1987. The Air Station started off with nine officers and 20 enlisted personnel and currently has 15 officers and 45 enlisted personnel.

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The Eurocopter MH-65C Dolphin has been at the Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles for nearly 30 years. They have a crew of two pilots, a flight mechanic and a rescue swimmer. The HH-65 was the entry into service model and featured a much less capable radar and avionics suite than the upgraded MH-65C. One of the reasons the Coast Guard selected the Dolphin was for the computerisex flight management system, including autopilot capabilities. It is able to complete an unaided approach to sea level and bring the helicopter to a stable 50ft (15m) hover, whilst also automatically flying search patterns. Both of these benefits free the workload of the pilots to concentrate on other tasks. The helicopter is a light-weight design, under 10,000lbs and 75% of the aircraft – fuselage, rotor head and blades – are made from a corrosion-resistant composite which is ideal for salt water operations.

[img src=8005 align=left]The rescue swimmers job is very physical and demanding. They often have to swim in inclement weather and rough seas. The Coast Guard at Los Angeles use two sizes of rescue cage to hoist people in distress up into the helicopter. The smaller one has also been used to rescue animals. One such incident involved a dog on a yacht which capsized off the coast of Los Angeles.

Besides Search and Rescue (SAR), homeland security and environmental protection, the CG also deal with drug smuggling and trafficking. Back in August 2013, the Coast Guard seized 52 bales of marijuana near Zuma Beach, Malibu, just off the Los Angeles Coast. The Los Angeles County Lifeguards stationed at the beach noticed the boat circling beyond the waves which was communicating with a vehicle and trailer in the parking lot. This prompted them to alert the Coast Guard. The CG sent two boats and one of their MH-65Cs to arrest the criminals. Fog prevented an immediate capture as the boat was using it for cover. However, 30 minutes later and seven miles to the west, they were finally apprehended and arrested.

The Coast Guard Air Station is just over 20 miles away from the studios of Hollywood. So over the years the Coast Guard and their MH-65C Dolphins have starred in many Los Angeles based television shows, most notably Baywatch. The Dolphins are shown in at three scenes in the opening credits. The appearances are great exposure for the Coast Guard and the activities they carry out as well as being a great recruiting tool.

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Hosting the Testers

Naval Base Ventura County has the sound of afterburners again while they play host to two squadrons from NAWS China Lake. All images copyright of the author.

NAS Point Mugu used to be home to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Four (VX-4) and VX-5 until the Tomcat was retired in 1994. Since then, the only fighter jets have been visitors passing through. But for the past few weeks, and up until the third week of February, the base is housing VX-9 ‘Vampires’ and VX-31 ‘Dust Devils’ while their home base of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake has the runway resurfaced.

The base is home to a number of squadrons and has a wide mix of aircraft. Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Thirty (VX-30) has a diverse fleet consisting of a variety of differently configured P-3 Orions, three S-3 Vikings and KC-130 and C-130 Hercules. All of the aircraft are used by the squadron on the Sea Test Range off the coast of California.

Also on the base are four Carrier Airborne Early Warning squadrons, which all operate the E-2C Hawkeye. The squadrons are: Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 112 (VAW-112), VAW-113, VAW-116 & VAW-117.

The Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) provides the US Navy and US Marine Corps with dissimilar air combat training or red air. They use enemy tactics to train pilots for combat. They use the F-21 Kfir, Hawker Hunter and L-139.

Co-located within the base is the Channel Islands Air National Guard Base, where the 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard are housed with their C-130J Super Hercules.

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Military Master!

AFM’s Alan Kenny had the opportunity to briefly chat with the BBC’s history expert, Dan Snow, about aviation

AFM: You have an impressive knowledge of military history. What era would you like to visit and why?

Dan: My first love is the 18th century, a period in which the foundations of our modern world were laid. The industrial revolution was changing our relationship with objects and nature, the first cross-channel hot air balloon flight took place and ideas about democracy and economics were developed which underpin our modern way of life. Europeans were exploring and mapping the world as never before. It was an exciting time to be alive.

Last May you flew with the Dambusters for the 70th Anniversary of 617 Squadron.

What was the experience like?

It was the most amazing experience. What made it special was the response of people on the ground. Everyone went wild, kids poured out of classrooms, cars stopped in the roads. The Lancaster means something to people.

Did you prefer the Lancaster or Tornado?

It’s like choosing between two different types of delicious fruit! They were utterly different but both wonderful.

Do you have an interest in military aviation or just the military?

I am fascinated by the role that war has played in our past and technology is an important part of that story. The history of war in the 20th Century is hard to understand without realising the importance of military aviation, how it evolved and where it is going.

I noticed the Spitfire appears on your Facebook page a few times. Have you been for a flight in one?

I’ve never been in the two-seater Spitfire. I would love to though! It is a dream.

What plans have you got in the pipeline?

Coming up I’m rafting down the Grand Canyon for BBC2 in January, charting the history of the Winter Olympics in February and then looking at the history of the British in India later in the year. Then comes the First World War anniversary!

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48th Fighter Wing in action

USAFE aircraft based at RAF Lakenheath train all year round in all weathers. Alan Kenny was there on December 3rd.

RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk is a busy base. It is home to the 48th Fighter Wing which consists of four flying squadrons. They are the 56th Rescue Squadron (56 RQS) operating the HH-60G PAVE Hawk Combat Search and Rescue helicopter, the 492nd Fighter Squadron (492 FS) with the F-15E Strike Eagle, 493rd Fighter Squadron (493 FS) with the F-15C/D Eagle and 494th Fighter Squadron (494 FS) with the F-15E Strike Eagle. It is quite rare to get a completely quiet day at the base as there is usually aircraft up, even if only a couple.

Some aircraft from the 492th FS are currently out in Israel for exercise Blue Flag, so the base squadron wasn’t at its full complement of Strike Eagles. However, it was still busy with multiple launches of F-15s from the remaining 492nd FS, along with 494nd FS and 493rd FS. A HH-60G PAVE Hawk from 56 RQS was busy performing approaches and hovers.

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Shayne Meder has been painting military aircraft for 14 years. Alan Kenny travelled to March Air Reserve Base in Southern California to see her latest work

Flygirlpainter/Shayne Meder has been painting art on to active duty aircraft for 14 years. Her first job as Flygirlpainter was painting an MH-60S Sea Hawk in 1999. Alan Kenny met Shayne at March Air Reserve Base in Southern California.

Shayne was a Master Sergeant who served with the US Air Force at Castle Air Force Base until 1994, when she retired. She began painted nose art onto active duty aircraft while in the air force, but her first job painting aircraft for a living was at the Castle Aviation Museum where she worked after retiring. In 1997 she was approached by March Field Air Museum to be in charge of restorations and she worked there for eight years before moving to the Wings and Rotors Air Museum at French Valley Airport in Murrieta.

Today, the Flygirlpainter team comprises Shayne, her husband Scott Donnell and Roxane Bond, who all met at March Field. Scott helps on the majority of jobs, doing much of the cleaning and letter stencilling and Roxane assists with aircraft that require a lot of painting.

Seven of 14 March-based KC-135s from the 452nd Air Mobility Wing/912nd Air Refueling Squadron have nose art painted under the commander’s window and many Sea Hawks from different squadrons have been adorned with Shayne’s art.

[img src=8347 align=left]AirForces Monthly: Can you describe the process for painting the nose art and tail/boom? Do they differ for aircraft type?

Shayne: The nose art is easier, smaller, needs less preparation and can be done in two to three days. The process requires scuffing and priming the area, then painting the art and following up with a good coat of clear. The Sea Hawks take a lot more preparing as the tail section is covered with exhaust stains and oil. We also clean the under the removable panels to keep oils from seeping out onto the new paint. The surface has to be very clean for the paint to stick.

AFM: Nose art dates back to the Second World War. The art seems to be different and more toned down from those days. Are there restrictions on what you can paint?

Shayne: Times have definitely changed. The traditional pin-up girl of the old days has gone. We aren’t permitted to paint women anymore. Unfortunately some people look at it as degrading. However, it is really meant to be a compliment and tastefully done. The aircraft is very close to the crew who fly it – sometimes life and death is determined by the actions of both working together. When crew named their aircraft in WWII, it was usually a girlfriend, a mom, sister, wife’s name or maybe a dream girl painted on. It was a piece of home that lifted their morale and added to the attachment they had with their machine. Or they wanted to scare the enemy. The P-40’s shark teeth were originally done to scare the enemy. Teeth have appeared on many aircraft since then.

AFM: Due to the vast distances the March aircraft fly, and the deployment of the Sea Hawks, your art has been seen all over the world. Have any other units asked for your services?

Shayne: I finally got to the East coast with HSL-60 and HSM-72, so maybe more will follow. I have a request for HSL-37 in Hawaii, however we will paint that one in San Diego before it is shipped overseas.

[img src=8352 align=right]AFM: What is/are your favorite Sea Hawk(s) and KC-135(s) that you have painted?

Shayne That’s a hard one-everyone always asks me that,,when they ask me what me favorite Seahawk is I always say the last one I just painted….however,,the Medal of Honor bird we did for Century Of Naval Aviation was very detailed with custom metallic paint. My helper Roxane Bond and I hand painted the medals on the sides of the aircraft. I came up with the design after the master Chief told me he wanted to do something that honored the first Naval Aviator to rec the Medal Of Honor. So it was done with much care and emotion. The Battlecat is a favorite as far as real looking and bright colors-its a favorite of everyone, and HSC-4 Black Knights rules for that warrior/gladiator feel. The HSC-6 Indians of course is an emotional paint job as that tail design is a flying memorial to a crew they lost in 09,,unfortunately I may have to add 2 more feathers to that one..

AFM: Out of the whole United States military aircraft inventory, which aircraft would you most like to paint and which would be the most difficult?

Shayne: Well, I’d like to paint a V-22 although it would probably be quite difficult as it is so large. I’d love to do art on a B-52 again. I first cut my teeth on a B-52 Stratofortress back in 1987, with the last one completed in 1990.

[img src=8357 align=left]AFM: Who comes up with the ideas for the art, is it yourself, the crew chiefs or someone else?

Shayne Sometimes a unit will send me a detailed computerised graphic that I just have to apply to the aircraft. Sometimes it’s a scribble on a napkin. Other times they have no idea. So for many of the tails, I design most or all of it.

AFM: Do you get paid for your work? If not, how do you cover costs and expenses?

Shayne All of the painting and art I do for the military is voluntary. I cover all the expenses for the tankers as the art is smaller, but for the helicopters, since they are much bigger and require expensive paint, the Navy will pay for that and plus supplies, tape, masking items, etc. I only ask they cover my room cost on base and transportation if out of California. My day job does not provide sick time or vacation, so I basically take unpaid leave to do the helicopters.

AFM: What has been the most challenging aircraft to paint?

Shayne: That would have to be the EA-6B prowler for VAQ-131 – that plane is huge! It is much bigger than I expected. The HSM-78 and HSC-21 schemes were the most difficult to paint. Both had several colours which required masking. That takes a long time as each colour has to dry 12-15 hours before you can add tape to them, and then with several colours you have to cover each one before starting another.

Below is the list of squadrons and aircraft the Flygirlpainter team has painted to date.

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HSC-3 Merlins

HS-4 Black Knights

HSC-4 Black Knights

HS-6 Screamin Indians

HSC-6 Screamin Indians

HS-10 Warhawks-2

HSC-12 Golden Falcons

HSC-15 Red Lions

HSC-21 Black Jacks

HSC-25 Island Knights

HSL-43 Battle Cats

HSM-73 Battle Cats

HSM-41 Seahawks-3

HSL-45 Wolf Pack-5

HSL-47 Saber Hawks-2

HSL-49 Scorpions-3

HSL-51 Warlords

HSM-71 Raptors-2

HSM-75 Wolf Pack

HSM-77 Saberhawks-2

HSM-78 Blue Hawks

VAQ-131 Lancers

HMLA-369 Gunfighters-Cobra

HMMT-164 Knightriders-CH-46

HMM-364 Purple Foxes-CH-46

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57-1459 ‘California All Star’,

55-1482 ‘American Flyer’,

58-0085 ‘Heritage Flight’,

64-14835 ‘Silver Surfer’,

57-1438 ‘Good Times’,

61-0280 ‘Wild Thang’

62-3533 ‘Animal Style’.

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