Browsing Tag: Military

Sally B towed to stand (c) Lidia Long

Sally B towed to stand – Photo: Lidia Long

“Up and at ‘em, scramble!”: Duxford’s Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary Tribute

“Would you like to come to Duxford Air Museum with me?” is the question that the hapless airline pilot, Captain Martin Crieff, asks two women in BBC Radio 4’s brilliant aviation comedy Cabin Pressure. Whilst it’s perhaps not the most conventional place for a date, I applaud the fictional AvGeek for his splendid choice.

The crowds gather in anticipation (c) Lidia Long

The crowds gather in anticipation – Photo: Lidia Long

Originally home to the RAF’s famous No. 12 Group “Big Wing” and Squadron Leader Douglas Bader, Duxford Aerodrome, in Cambridgeshire (UK), is currently a live airfield (IATA code: QFO), a branch of the Imperial War Museum (IWM), and home to a number of modern and classic military and civilian aircraft.

The Snowball Express folks lined up on the tarmac - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The Snowball Express folks lined up on the tarmac in Atlanta with some familiar faces – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The sun had yet to rise over the control tower at New York’s JFK Airport on the cold December morning, but the party at Terminal 8 was already well underway. This was no ordinary day at JFK. For the ninth consecutive year, American Airlines was beginning a long day of charter flights, celebration, and remembrance with the Snowball Express program.

Since 2006, Snowball Express has partnered with American Airlines to provide a weekend of fun for families that have lost a family member in active military duty since September 11, 2001. American Airlines provides the flights from around the country free of charge for all families, and the scope of the operation is absolutely massive.

The New York passengers of Snowball Express pre-flight at the Christmas tree in American's terminal - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The New York passengers of Snowball Express pre-flight at the Christmas tree in American’s terminal – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Throughout the day, flights operate from their origins and converge on Dallas while picking up additional passengers at 62 cities. This year, American utilized ten aircraft to support Snowball Express flights, ranging from regional jets to Boeing 757s and Airbus A321s. In total, over 150 American Airlines pilots and flight attendants donated their time to the charter flights. The Snowball Express operation is larger than that of some entire airlines.


The Snowball flight out of New York, operated by a Boeing 737-800, made two stops along the way to Dallas – Norfolk, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia. Before departing JFK, the day kicked off with an upbeat party adjacent to the Admirals Club, complete with DJ, photo booth, and emotional support dogs dressed up like Santa. Before long, it was time to depart for Norfolk, but not before a touching send off from the NYPD, FDNY, Port Authority Police Department, TSA, and JFK employees. Once on board, however, the real fun began.

Row after row of KC-135s at AMARG

In my previous piece we talked about how great the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson was, and how much of an AvGeek dream it is to walk around.  However Pima isn’t the only reason AvGeek’s want to come to Tucson; they also come for the Boneyard.

The Boneyard, or the 309th Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Group (AMARG) as it is officially known, belongs to the United States Air Force and is part of Davis Monthan Air Force Base (although technically next door).  Most of the aircraft at AMARG have come from the armed forces of the United States.  The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard all send their equipment here once it has reached the end of its service life.  Some countries, such as Norway, send their military aircraft to AMARG for what this facility does best – storing military aircraft.  Before we talk about how you can visit AMARG, we need to talk first about what they do.

The Honor Flight Veterans all gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial - Photo: Mal Muir |

The Honor Flight Veterans gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial – Photo: Mal Muir |

Early in the morning, men were arriving at Wisconsin’s Oshkosh Wittman Regional Airport. They all had one thing in common; they were heading to Washington D.C. on a very special charter flight.

Each one had been selected by the Northeast Wisconsin Old Glory Honor Flight & Experimental Aviation Association due to their service during the Vietnam War.  The four main armed services (Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines) were represented by the 110 veterans taking the flight.

I was invited to accompany them in order to experience the Honor Flight and to tell their story.