The retirement of some types from service gets a lot of attention from people. The last Phantoms leaving US service were well covered. The upcoming end of KC-10 operations is already getting discussed. However, the removal of the E-8 JSTARS seemed to just happen without much discussion. I have to admit it caught me off guard. I didn’t know that they were going away let alone that it had already happened.
With this milestone having slipped past me, I figured I should go back through the catalog and see what times I have shot E-8s. Not a lot of encounters with Red Flag having been my most productive venues. They were old jets when they became E-8s and I heard from a friend that one of them had gone through some interesting other configurations before making its way in to the E-8 fleet. They are consequently old enough to deserve retirement. It will be a shame not to see them around anymore.
It is a feature of getting old that so many things that seem recent really aren’t. The introduction of the C-130J to service took place in the late 1990s. One of the earliest operators was the Royal Air Force. That means that their aircraft are coming up on 25 years old. That is not that old for a Hercules but they have been used pretty intensively. Combine that with the cost of supporting multiple transport fleets and it might not be so surprising that they are now being retired.
I figured I would roll through my collection of shots to see how often I had photographed the RAF J models. The answer is not that often. The fact that I left the UK not long after they came in to service is part of the reason. I have seen them at various locations though so I am not without shots. It is funny to hear the stories now about whether the A400M is ready to take on the role and whether the Hercs should be retained.
When the Js came along, there were loads of stories of how they couldn’t do the things that the old K models could. Of course, they gradually ironed out the bugs and became a solid workhorse. The same will probably happen for the A400M and in a couple of decades, someone will be complaining that whatever replaces them is unsuited to the task and that they should be retained. Such is life…
The Alaska Airlines fleet is undergoing a transformation. Part of that was the removal of the Q400 from Horizon’s fleet with the Embraers becoming their only platform. Suddenly getting shots of the aircraft seemed a lot more interesting. I did manage to get the retro livery special one more time as it took off one evening. As it headed into the sunset, it seemed far too on the nose for their retirement. A few weeks later, they were gone.
October brings the end of MD-11 operations for Lufthansa. When the MD-11 rapidly fell out of favor with the passenger operations, it became a bit of a favorite for freight operations. New build MD-11Fs were joined by conversions of displaced passenger jets. Lufthansa had bought some new jets and added more to their fleet. In recent years, the introduction of Boeing 777Fs had gradually displaced the MD-11s from operations. Now the last one is being retired. FedEx is still using a ton of them so no likelihood of the type going away soon. I only saw them a few times in Lufthansa colors and won’t any more!
On two previous occasions, the RAF’s Sentinel fleet has made an appearance on this blog. The most recent was for a damp example at RIAT that was in this post. The Sentinel fleet has spent a number of years under threat of retirement. It is a small fleet and it is custom made so it will have very high sustainment costs. Also, it provides a role principally in support of the Army so I imagine it isn’t the highest priority for some of the RAF upper echelons.
Previous reports of its retirement have been followed up with a reprieve. However, the MOD in the UK has just issued a request for proposals (RFP) for companies to come and dismantle the aircraft (along with a pair of E-3D Sentrys). This looks like it is really going to happen. The RFP states that the aircraft are not for reuse and that the selected contractor will disassemble them on site at RAF Waddington. Not only is the RAF not going to use them but they are making sure no one else does.
Various bits of information have flowed around about them. There is a suggestion that obsolescence issues mean a lot of equipment needs to be replaced. Since that will be a custom process, it will be an expensive thing to do and, with the axe having been hanging over them for a number of years, spending a lot of money on them if they might not be around for much longer just doesn’t seem likely. Maybe there are other issues too.
I’ve had a soft spot for V Sqn from the Lightning and Tornado F3 days. Seeing it move from a fast jet to a bizjet derivative was a bit odd but at least it survived while so many other squadrons disappeared. I wonder whether it will surface again. Maybe an F-35B unit at some point? We shall see. My best interaction with the Sentinels was on a Red Flag when I got to shoot them in some great light. Farewell you oddball.
Prior to the 1960s, the Isle of Wight had an extensive rail network. The Beeching cuts reduced it to one line, from Ryde to Shanklin. It was electrified and the rolling stock was initially old London Underground stock from the 1920s. This was in use when I was a youngster but it got replaced in the late 80s by the new(er) Class 483s. These were also London Underground castoffs – this time from the 1938 stock. They had gone through a modernization program to be used but they were hardly new.
Their time has finally come. Replacement is underway with “new” stock based on retired District Line trains from London. See a pattern developing here. The system is shut down for a while for some significant track upgrades which will allow for a more frequent service. The track desperately needed work and the old trains were falling apart so, hopefully, this will provide a big improvement.
When I lived on the Island, I didn’t think much about the stuff that was there. All of these pictures I have taken when visiting more recently. This is all I have to record the new extinct Island Line stock. Two examples will be preserved if you want to go and see them!
I understand that the Spanish Air Force is retiring (or has retired) their C-130 fleet. I guess with the A400Ms coming into service, the Hercs were done. I have not had much interaction with Spanish C-130s but here are a couple of shots to mark their end of service.
A Spanish Air Force KC-130 Hercules launches out of Nellis AFB to provide refueling support to a Red Flag mission.
Recently, the Blue Angels made their last formation flight with the F/A-18 Hornet. The team is transitioning to the Super Hornet ahead of 2021 and they have started working up with the new jets. It has been a while since I last saw the Blue Angels demonstration so I thought a few shots with their aging legacy Hornets was in order. They always got the oldest jets in the fleet so I hope they are happy to have some slightly newer airframes to work with.
The Air France A380s have gone away. Their retirement had already been identified prior to the COVID-19 outbreak but it accelerated their departure. I had shot them on a few occasions with SFO and LAX being regular destinations. Since I won’t be seeing them again, here is a farewell tribute to the Air France A380. Hope one or two of the airframes find a second life.
These shots aren’t particularly nice but, at the time I took them, I didn’t realize that they would be a bit more significant for a friend of mine. He was a skipper for Virgin Atlantic and making his first run to Seattle. I went out to get his arrival despite it being a bit gloomy. We met up afterwards for a beer and some food. He flew back the following day.
Since that time, the airline business (along with many businesses) has taken a bad turn and Virgin Atlantic has been getting rid of staff. My friend was eligible for retirement and decided to take it. Consequently, this flight turned out to be the last landing he made in his commercial flying career. The return leg landing was made by another member of his crew. It would have been nice if the conditions were better but I am glad I was there to see it. Happy retirement Chris and see you soon I hope!