N146PC is the Lockheed shuttle plane. Think of it as the equivalent of the Beechcraft Janet that Groom Lake uses. N146PC has landed at Groom at least
once (based on my monitoring) and is suspected to be one of the planes photographed near the AOF (Aerial Operation Facility) at Yucca Dry Lake at the
Nevada Test Site (now N2S2).
Now what is interesting is it has been flying "round robins" at Vandenberg AFB (KVBG). A round robin is when you take off and land at the same
airport. There are plenty of reasons to do such flights. Training (getting in hours), shaking out a repaired aircraft, etc. But more interesting uses
for a round robin is to perform chase, or to stuff the plane with instrumentation and snoop.
Here is the recent flight data for N146PC:
Of course the flight to KDPG (Dugway Proving Ground's Michael AFB) is in itself interesting,. They do UAV training and testing there. But the list
also includes the round robins.
Here is the round robin flight trail on 5/24/2012:
OK, maybe just a tour of the area. How about the flight trail on 5/22/2012:
Now this is a flight with some serious orbiting. Now for 5/21/2012:
More orbits. Chase, surveillance, you really can't tell. Some of the orbits had altitudes around 27kft, near the plane's ceiling of 30kft.
Most of the photos of N146PC show a stock PC-12. Note the PC-12 has weather radar, so even the stock plane has a "pod." But here is one photo where it
appears that there is a cargo container mounted on the belly of the plane:
These cargo containers can be fiberglass (not sure about the PC-12) so they can hold radio type instrumentation, or they just cut holes in them for
edit on 23-6-2012 by gariac because: trouble with flikr link
edit on 23-6-2012 by gariac because: (no reason given)