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Odd Sightings

Apr 07 2023

Our SGF airport is out of sight and out of mind. Sitting in the NW corner of the metro area, most people give it little, if any thought, unless they’re flying, or have other business out here. It’s sort of like having Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility!

Pinkly sports his invisibility cloak

But then there are those occasions when, crack, boom!! Like a bolt of lightning folks look up in the sky and see an object they didn’t expect to see; they want to know why it’s there and where’s its going. That’s when our phones start ringing …

What people see is usually a military aircraft and they’re nearly always surprised to learn that the military is here. Well, it is — here’s a military overview of what goes on our airport on a regular basis.

There’s one particular Air Force plane that generates lots of curiosity — it’s a C-40 Clipper from Scott Air Force Base; call sign “Avalon.” Whenever it’s here we get several phone calls and e-mails wanting to know “what’s going on?”

C-40 Clipper at SGF. Call sign: Avalon

When you see the paint job on Avalon, you’ll understand why people are curious. It looks like the plane the President uses, Air Force One. The color scheme is similar, but the type of airplane is different. The President generally uses a Boeing 747. The C-40 Clipper is a 737-700. The 747 is much bigger. The Air Force uses that blue and white paint job on many of the planes it uses to transport passengers — not just Air Force One.

Avalon comes here so its pilots can practice touch-and-goes. That's aviation jargon for practice landings and take-offs. Here’s how it works: the pilot brings the plane in for a landing. Almost as soon as the landing gear hits the pavement the pilot gives it the gas, accelerates down the runway, and takes off. They might do this two or three times, or a dozen — practice makes perfect.

Practice landings is just one of the reasons military aircraft are in Springfield. Other reasons include fueling, maintenance, training, and transport.

The maintenance involves the Missouri Army National Guard and its aviation repair depot at the airport, run by the 1107th Theater Aviation Support Group. What it does in a nutshell: repair and rebuild military helicopters.

A Chinook helicopter at the aviation repair depot

Fueling is pretty much what it sounds like. Our airport’s central location makes it a common pit stop for military aircraft.

F5 training aircraft drop by SGF for fuel

Training exercises are less frequent and they tend to involve lots of aircraft. Several years ago, state and federal agencies turned the airport into a staging center for an “earthquake drill.” The scenario assumed that a major earthquake had taken in place in SE Missouri along the New Madrid fault line. Such an event would damage airports throughout the region, but it’s assumed that Springfield’s airport would remain intact. During the drill a bunch of C-130 cargo planes showed up, along with an E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post, which is a modified Boeing 747.

E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post at SGF

Military transport activity is the last thing on the list. It usually involves taking reservist and all their equipment to overseas locations.

We see other aircraft too ...

A-10 Warthogs at SGF

Marine Corp Ospry drop by SGF for fuel

Air Force One at SGF during a presidential visit

C-130 Hercules doing touch-and-goes at SGF

Navy Hawkeye at SGF

T38 trainer at SGF for fuel

A C5 Galaxy cargo plane dwarfs a regional jet

The Air Force Thunderbirds at SGF. Aircraft are F16 Fighting Falcons


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