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N146PC: Lockheed plane now more than a shuttle?

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posted on Jun, 23 2012 @ 05:02 PM
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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 photography.
edit on 23-6-2012 by gariac because: trouble with flikr link
edit on 23-6-2012 by gariac because: (no reason given)




posted on Jun, 23 2012 @ 05:12 PM
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reply to post by gariac
 


I'm actually curious as to the point of this thread



posted on Jun, 23 2012 @ 05:26 PM
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It's an aircraft built in Switzerland. Over 600 are flying. It certainly can be used for surveillance. It is owned by Lockheed Martin and it is listed as experimental. So what do you propose is special here?
edit on 6/23/2012 by schuyler because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 23 2012 @ 09:36 PM
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Maybe they're testing out some new surveillance/collection gear? Just hazarding a guess.

They were used in Iraq and are currently being used in Afghanistan and various points in Africa for surveillance and collection.



posted on Jun, 23 2012 @ 10:22 PM
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reply to post by bg_socalif
 


The military version of the PC-12 is the U-28. There was a recent article in the Washington Post about them being used in Africa.

Regarding my post, I don't think I'm being cryptic. This plane has been a shuttle for as long as I have tracked it. [Now of course I can't see VFR flights via the internet.] But now the plane is flying orbits as if it is doing chase or if it is testing SIGINT/ELINT/PHOTOINT gear. Round robins are a dead giveaway. You certainly aren't performing a shuttle if you take off and land at the same airport.

Incidentally the F22 radar test bed (could have a different function now) was flying in the general area this month, though a bit to the west.
flightaware.com...
Here is the routing:



DR SOGGI V386 PSP TNP BLH R2306 D3+00 TNP SEAVU2


I'd have to look it up on the FAA website to give an accurate translation, but basically the D3+00 signifies the plane will be loitering (orbits), i.e. D means delay. This is common in test flights.



posted on Jun, 24 2012 @ 01:03 PM
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OK. So the bottom line is that this airplane which was formerly used as a shuttle is now probably testing surveillance gear. Is this a conspiracy or otherwise notable in some other respect? Do you track a lot of individual airplanes? In other words, is there a method to your madness? What do you want to accomplish here?



posted on Jun, 24 2012 @ 01:54 PM
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reply to post by gariac
 


Well I, for one, find these aircraft and the speculation as to their mission and equipment quite interesting. Thank you for your putting in the work to track these aircraft down and then sharing the information with those of us who are not as proficient in gathering such data. S & F!
edit on 24-6-2012 by Virgil Cain because: spelling



posted on Jun, 25 2012 @ 12:27 AM
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reply to post by schuyler
 


What would I like to accomplish? Well it would be great if someone took a recent photo of N146PC. Maybe this post will kindle some interest in the fence watchers.

I don't do conspiracy theories. I deal in hard evidence. You get enough evidence, you can sometimes put the story together. This PC-12 does/did do enough shuttle work so that the pilot doesn't need to do round robins to get their hours in. This plane is doing chase or surveillance. Aircraft MX can mean some orbiting, but repairs wouldn't be done at KVBG.

Oh, and I do track aircraft.



posted on Jun, 25 2012 @ 12:50 AM
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I would agree that these flight times show it is not being used as a flight time junket.

Most military that have aircrew wings must get in at least 4 hours of flight time a month to receive flight pay. Pilots and aircrew with desk jobs or other non-aircraft centric duties rely on such flights to qualify and they typically do "touch-and-goes" and short hops to other bases in flights that usually last 4 hours or more.



posted on Jun, 25 2012 @ 02:50 AM
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reply to post by schuyler
 


We do this alot on the Area 51 forum, with gariac tracking planes and such. He comes up with this stuff and we proceed to find out as much information as we can about the aircraft and it's mission. We just did this with the C-32B as well. It's fun stuff and it's interesting to find out the missions (or speculate) about what they are doing. That's all.

And gariac, do you think that the "pod" in that last picture could be just a door opened up for maintenence or actually a pod? I don't know much about these aircraft, so I'm just speculating. Kind of looks like a "panel" opened in a way...



posted on Jun, 25 2012 @ 04:57 PM
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reply to post by boomer135
 


The photo quality isn't the best. Then again, the shooter was literally fence watching. [Hint: if you get close to the fence, shoot wide aperture, then the fence isn't in focus.]

Here is how the cargo belly pod looks on a Cessna Caravan:
www.cessna.com...
www.cessna.com...

I haven't found a photo of a PC-12 with a similar bay. It could be a one-off design. Or it could be just some cargo hauler on the ground as you stated.

Would someone hanging out at Dugway get us a better photo? ;-)



posted on Jun, 25 2012 @ 06:04 PM
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N146PC must have flown VFR from Dugway to Boise. It filed to go to SMX (Santa Maria) today (6/25/2012). Perhaps off to visit Oprah. According to the flight plan, it should already be at SMX. However, no arrival was shown. Santa Maria, Oxnard, Vandenberg are all in the same general area.

Sometimes the pilots file IFR, then cancel the IFR and fly VFR.



posted on Jun, 27 2012 @ 01:24 PM
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It's a PC-12 Eagle/Spectre (note the pod on the belly in the first photo.) Then note the tail number of the second... N146PC
www.spyflight.co.uk...

The air to air of 146PC came up in another site about the PC-12 Eagle/Spectre birds. Site is in Italian, but the link should be the Google Translate version of the page.
translate.google.com...

Maybe Lockheed has this bird as a testbed for surveillance technologies (maybe working with Pilatus), or uses it for its own aerial tracking and test flights
edit on 6/27/2012 by DesertWatchdog because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 27 2012 @ 07:30 PM
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reply to post by DesertWatchdog
 


Good information. But this means we need a belly shot of N146PC to see if the retractable sensor port is there. [That is, maybe Pilatus converted back to a standard PC-12.) Your average fence watcher doesn't do belly shots, but we can always hope.

As far as I know, it is still at Michael AFB.



posted on Jun, 27 2012 @ 09:53 PM
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Not the first time 146PC has been noticed doing test flights I guess. It got picked up over the radio doing one; I guess around Patrick AFB.
www.qth.net...
edit on 6/27/2012 by DesertWatchdog because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 27 2012 @ 10:03 PM
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Also ran across this, not much to look at, but 146PC was listed to be blocked under the
National Business Aircraft Association Block Aircraft Registry Request program back in 2009 I guess.
www.governmentattic.org...



posted on Jun, 27 2012 @ 10:10 PM
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www.spyflight.co.uk...

Seems the whole purpose of the plane is spying. what would be any different about this one?



posted on Jun, 27 2012 @ 10:53 PM
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reply to post by JBA2848
 


Lockheed has two of these PC-12s. Up until this plane started to do orbits, they never appeared to be anything but a commuter planes. Northrop has similar shuttle aircraft, though they use Beechcraft.

Here is the registration data for N146PC:
registry.faa.gov...

Note it was built in 1996. The Spectre was introduced in 2003:



PC-12 Spectre. In 2003, Pilatus introduced the PC-12 Spectre, a special mission version of the PC-12. First flight of the Spectre occurred in July 2003. Initial delivery, to the U.S. Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement, took place in October 2003. Pilatus currently markets a Spectre variant of the PC-12 NG. The PC-12 NG Spectre has a retractable sensor platform. The aircraft also has multiple expansion bays providing space to incorporate radios and datalinks should customer requirements dictate. An operator station is located in the aircraft's pressurized cabin.


Thus I am not convinced N146PC as owned by LMCO is a PC-12 Spectre. Remember, you can change tail numbers quite easily. So there may have been a PC-12 with tail number N146PC that was a Spectre. It is the build number that matters. Even if the same build number, it could have been converted back to a standard PC-12/45. Currently Pilatus builds the Spectre on the PC-12 NG airframe, so I could see if N146PC was a Spectre owned by Pilatus, they might have converted it back to a stock PC-12/45.

Remember, reading stuff on the internet is one thing, Having the official documents in your hand or a detailed photograph is another.



posted on Jun, 27 2012 @ 10:59 PM
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I see General Atomics has been out to Dugway (Michael AFB) lately.
flightaware.com...

Of course there is UAV training at DPG, so this flight could be routine.



posted on Jun, 28 2012 @ 01:28 AM
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Any information as to when LM actually bought the aircraft or made the first registration? The Eagle started in 1995. Spectre started in 2001/02.They completed the FAA CFT in 2003.

As far as I have read so far, the only type of fuselage mounted pods available for PC-12s are with the Eagle/Spectre for equipment, which are merely modified /45 models. I have not run across any info for cargo pods. That along with the same paint-job and reg is what really hit me. But I completely agree, its really impossible to tell without inspecting the bird personally or finding the documentation.

Could be that LM decided to use it for testing like you said and had it configured for use with the pod for their needs. Almost any config is possible if you have the right amount of money I'm sure.

Like I said, mainly the photo, paintjob, and use of the pod are what lead me to calling it out as a Spectre.

Gawd, who wouldn't love a FOIA for corporations.





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