Tag Archives: Mojave


There are many ways in which the largest aircraft in the world might be defined.  It cam be dimensional and it can be by weight.  Depending on which you choose to use, the Stratolaunch aircraft can probably qualify for one of them.  A project that was started under the oversight of Paul Allen and, for which the future suddenly looked bleak when he died.  However, it has continued and now seems to have a possible future.

I was hoping that it might make a flight for the Edwards show.  On the Friday, the jet was out taxiing at Mojave.  I missed it being out on the runway but I could see it moving as I drove north.  Consequently, I made a quick detour to see what I could see.  It was being brought back to their ramp when I got there.  The airport security were kind but firm about not hanging around so when they arrived shortly after I did, I left as requested.  Fortunately, I had already had a brief opportunity to take some photos of it.  I understand it flew a few days later carrying the launch vehicle (probably a mass and aero simulator) on a test flight.  We shall see if it progresses to launches before too long.

Scaled Composites 401

The day after I went to the Edwards show, I was hanging around the area and headed up to Mojave to see whether Stratolaunch was going to move.  It didn’t, which was disappointing but the time up there was not wasted.  I got to shoot some stuff around the airport that I hadn’t previously and I went to the north end to look down the runway in case anything was moving.  I saw that a Western Global 747 was coming in and decided to head to the south end to get it arriving.  As I left, an L39 took off to the north.  I should have paid more attention to it.

I short while later – once I was well away, it was followed by a more interesting plane that it was acting as chase for.  A Scaled Composite 401 known by a variety of names including Son of Ares.  To miss that climbing out past me was bad.  It got worse when I realized the 747 had approached from the north so I missed it anyway.  I wasn’t going to make the same mistake when the 401 returned.

I did have to wait for quite a while.  They were undertaking flights at altitude and running racetrack patterns.  I could get the occasional distant shot as they went overhead.  Eventually the L39 returned and I figured it wound’s be too long before the 401 was back.  I had picked a spot on Google Maps that looked promising for the approach.  As I waited, I realized some other photographers were on the other side of the road and closer to the centerline.  I wondered about moving but also didn’t want to miss it while I did so.  I stayed where I was.  A bit distant but still worth it for an unusual type.  It has been seen at Boeing Field but not by me!

Drone F-4s at Mojave

Before the F-16s became the drone target conversion of choice for the USAF, the F-4 was the jet. The contract for conversion was run by Tracor which ultimately ended up being part of BAE Systems at the time I saw these jets.  They did the conversion program at Mojave Airport in California.  We were a bit of a distance from the ramp where they were parked but it was early in the day and the heat haze was not yet a problem so a long shot was feasible.  Looking at these, I think they were both RF-4C jets that had either been converted or were about to be.

Orbital TriStar

QB5Y0265.jpgAnother opportunity that Richard organized for us while at Mojave was the chance to shoot Orbital Science’s Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. This is an airframe that was modified to provide the launch platform for their Pegasus orbital launch vehicle. The underside of the fuselage is modified to mount the Pegasus which is then taken to altitude and dropped before the booster ignites. The TriStar is a type that disappeared from service far faster than its rival, the DC-10, so seeing one in great condition was pretty cool.

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DH Dove

IMG_0614.jpgA few years ago, my friend, Richard, had arranged a visit for a number of us to Mojave Airport. This airport does not have a reputation for being photographer friendly but Richard had made the necessary contacts to get us some time out on the field near the taxiways and runways. One of the operators at Mojave is the National Test Pilot School. NTPS operate a wide variety of types on various flight test training activities and some of them were up and about early on this particular morning.

IMG_0642.jpgOne type that really caught our eye was the deHavilland Dove. An old piston small transport type, the Dove is not something you see around very often these days. This one is kept in excellent condition and appears to have some modifications for flight test purposes and to assist the training of test pilots and flight test engineers. It took off on a runway that brought it towards us nicely. When it returned, it used another runway so we got to see it from several angles.

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