Savannah – Yesterday, a Royal Danish Air Force C-130J conducted parachute drops in the area of Tybee Island near Savannah, GA. It appears it was part of Exercise Emerald Warrior 2019, a US Special Operations Command exercise that combines Special Operations and Conventional forces to prepare for operations “in a complex and uncertain Irregular Warfare security environment.” While doing some web research on why a Danish C-130 might have been in Savannah, I came upon a gallery of DVIDS images that included the aircraft working with units at Hurlburt Field.
Given that it was a federal holiday, I wasn’t expecting to hear much on the radios while I was in Savannah for a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t, but at least Danish C-130J conducting parachute drops made part of what I did hear very interesting. CRUSHER 31 (C-130J, B-536, Esk 721 Royal Danish AF) departed Savannah-Hilton Head Airport yesterday and headed out toward Tybee Island, telling Savannah Approach Control on 120.400 that they would be conducting parachute drops in the Savannah Beach area. Throughout the operation, they made “Jumpers in the Air” with Approach Control as well. I quickly put one of my radios in search mode and found them on 245.750 working DZ to coordinate the drops. After the drops were complete, CRUSHER 31 departed the area cleared to Hurlburt Field, which meshes with the information I came across in my web search.
Note: Post Updated with some observations from Saturday, 13 October 2018
Savannah – Unfortunately the southeast has seen its second catastrophic hurricane this season. Just a month after Hurricane Florence devastated the Carolinas, Hurricane Michael brought destruction upon the Florida panhandle and southwest Georgia. Earlier this week, Hurricane Michael came ashore at Mexico Beach as a Category 4 (almost Category 5) storm, destroying the town and surrounding areas then tore into southwest Georgia while still a Category 3 storm. Due to the track of the storm across Georgia, the 165th AW C-130s and some of Gulfstream’s aircraft at Savannah evacuated the area, returning yesterday. The devastation wrought by Michael necessitated federal and military response similar to that of Hurricane Florence last month.
Gulfstream Savannah’s aircraft appeared to evacuate to Huntsville, AL just as they did during Florence. On Wednesday, 10 October while I was in Brunswick, I caught some of the Gulfstreams leaving Savannah: GULFTEST 11 (G500, N500GA, Gulfstream Aerospace), GULFTEST 90 (G650, N656GA, Gulfstream Aerospace), and GULFTEST 51 (G600, N601GA, Gulfstream Aerospace). Yesterday, after I got back to Savannah from Brunswick, I heard 12 Gulfstream and Gulfstream customer aircraft return from Huntsville. No doubt due to problems caused by Michael, these aircraft came back to Savannah from the northwest instead of the southwest like they did after Florence; I caught them on 132.925 with Jacksonville Center to 125.300 with Savannah Approach/Departure, then to Savannah Tower on 119.100. One of them also checked in with the Gulfstream Service Center on 128.925 prior to its arrival. (I didn’t catch two of the aircraft on Mode-S so I’m not sure what their registrations were)
I’m not sure where the 165th AW’s C-130s evacuated to, but yesterday, I heard four of their aircraft arriving back in Savannah in from the north following the same sequence of frequencies that the Gulfstreams did. Additionally, they checked in on 225.750 with squadron operations and were using 225.050 for air-to-air traffic.
The Federal and Military response to Hurricane Michael has so far been very similar to that from Hurricane Florence. I’m too far away from southwest Georgia and the Florida panhandle to hear any of it, but I did catch one military aircraft going to the area from Savannah and saw some aviation assets working in the area on ADS-B Exchange. Just as during Florence, those aviation assets were C3I and ISR aircraft. Yesterday morning, SHADY 11 (MC-12S-2, 09-00642, 224th MI Bn) departed Hunter AAF to the southwest and later in the morning I saw it on ADS-B exchange doing orbits in the area of Panama City and Apalachicola, FL. In addition to the MC-12S-2, I also noted two US Customs and Border Patrol P-3 AEWC aircraft (N142CS and N146CS) working in the area and a USAF E-3 AWACS.
SHADY 11 (MC-12S-2, 09-00642, 224th MI Bn) from Hunter AAF in Savannah working over the Florida Panhandle on 12 October 2018, likely assisting in assessing damage from Hurricane Michael
US CBP P-3 AEWC N146CS working off of the Florida Panhandle on 12 October 2018 to assist in controlling assets responding to the area for Hurricane Michael
On Saturday, while taking a look at the Florida panhandle and southwest on Georgia on ADS-B Exchange, I noticed something interesting around Albany and Tifton, GA. N19HX, a Helicopter Express Bell 206L-3 helicopter, had come from around Tifton (probably out of the airport in Tifton) and begun working just south of Albany. N41HX, a Helicopter Express Bell 407 helicopter was working south of Tifton, roughly around I-75. Based out of Atlanta, Helicopter Express is a contractor that provides helicopter services for a variety of purposes, disaster relief being one of them. Given where they were working, I’d have to guess that they were part of the Hurricane Michael response. With the flight paths that were plotted on ADS-B Exchange, I’d guess that both aircraft are working out of Henry Tift Myers Airport in Tifton.
N19HX, a Helicopter Express Bell 206L-3 helicopter working in the area of Albany, GA on 13 October 2018, possibly as part of the Hurricane Michael response effort
N41HX, a Helicopter Express Bell 407 helicopter working in the area of Albany, GA on 13 October 2018, possibly as part of the Hurricane Michael response effort
Thankfully, those of us in southeast Georgia came through Michael with few problems, as the storm moved through the state a bit more to the northwest of us than it could have. The people in the Florida panhandle and southwest Georgia, however, are suffering. Don’t forget that people in those areas are some of those that helped us after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma; it’s our turn to help them.
Please keep the people of the Florida panhandle and southwest Georgia in your prayers and help with donations or contributions as you can. Many will remain out of their homes for quite a while and have lost most if not all of what they had.
Savannah – Yesterday, things seemed to get somewhat back to normal for air traffic. The air traffic along the coast was heavier than it was the last few days and although some aircraft were taking alternate routes, they didn’t seem to be as wide as they had been. Military and Federal support for Hurricane Florence operations seemed to increase as well, with C-17s, C-130s of various types, E-3s, E-8s, HC-144s, MC-12s, MH-60s, MH-65s, and CBP P-8s participating. CBP P-8 AEWs were over the area for most of the day, E-8 JSTARS were over the area for most of the day, and an AWACS was over the area for part of the day. KC-135s also flew tanker support for the E-8s. ISR and C3I resources such as the E-3s, E-8s, and P-3 AEWs were in heavy use; a CBP P-3 “Slick” flew a mission over the area and an MC-12S out of Hunter AAF also flew two missions over the area. Those resources are important warfighting resources, but they’re also proving to be our tax dollars at work providing an important service for communities under hardship from disaster. (Once again, most of the tracking images below are from the ADS-B Exchange tracker because the majority of the activity is outside of the range of my receiver.)
There were two USCG flights that got promoted via social media and/or DVIDS yesterday that I was able to hear parts of and follow part of via Mode-S/ADS-B tracking. COAST GUARD 1503 (HC-130H, 1503, CGAS Clearwater) was providing logistical support to Coast Guard helicopter operations, including a stop at Air Station Savannah, which is located at Hunter AAF. COAST GUARD 2311 (HC-144A, 2311, CGAS Miami) came up from Air Station Miami and flew a Hurricane Florence damage assessment mission. (Photos below are from the DVIDS website)
For the most part, I’ve only been able to monitor assets going to and from the area affected by Hurricane Florence due to my distance away from them, but I have been keeping a list of frequencies and callsigns that may be useful. The list below includes what I was able to monitor on 14-16 September from the Savannah area, so it’s nothing close to being comprehensive (but it should be a good place to start). Note the use of VTAC-11, one of the nationwide interoperability frequencies; its use is one of the reasons it’s always a good idea to keep them in your radio, you never know when they may be called into use.
Savannah – By yesterday, the WC-130J flights to Hurricane/Tropical Storm Florence (now Tropical Depression Florence) had ended and rescue/communications/coordination flights to the South Carolina/North Carolina area were underway. A US Air Force E-8 JSTARS and E-3 AWACS supported rescue/response efforts yesterday along with a US Customs and Border Patrol P-3 AEW. US Air Force HC-130s seemed to be playing a role as well, and a Joint Base Charleston-based C-17 was going back and forth between Moody AFB and Charleston. Over the next couple of days, I’ll be trying to keep an ear on what I can and hopefully post a few more reports; what follows is yesterday’s activity.
Yesterday morning, I caught an E-8 JSTARS, KOMODO 04 (E-8C, 96-0043, 116th/461st ACW), en route to the area. While most of its operations were out of my listening range, I did catch its backend STRIKESTSAR making calls for radio checks on 345.000, a USCG frequency, and 166.4625 ($001), DHS Common, while on its way to the area. Just after lunch, it aerial refueled with NATION 01 (KC-10A, 86-0035, 305th AMW). The two aircraft made initial contact on a NORAD frequency, 260.900, then moved to an aerial refueling frequency, 238.900, for refueling operations.
An AWACS also operated in the area yesterday. Using ADS-B Exchange‘s tracker, I saw SENTRY 25 (E-3G, 79-0001, 552nd ACW) orbiting in the Greenville, NC area throughout much of the afternoon. It was always too far to the north to be within my listening range, so I didn’t catch any communications from it.
One of Customs and Border Patrol’s P-3 Airborne Early Warning aircraft also worked in the area affected by Hurricane Florence yesterday. OMAHA 42 (P-3 AEW, N142CS, CBP) headed to the area in the afternoon and remained in the area until around sunset. They told Jacksonville Center that they would be orbiting in the area to provide communications relay services. Once again, I caught them en route to the area, but they were operating too far away for me to any operational traffic from them.
Joint Base Charleston seemed to be back in operation by yesterday afternoon, if not for regular operations then definitely for Hurricane Florence related operations. A C-17 and two HC-130s flew in and out of JB Charleston on what seemed to be Florence related flights: REACH 1099 (C-17A, 02-1099, 437th/315th AW), KING 15 (HC-130J, 09-5708, 79th RQS), and KING 03 (HC-130N, 90-2103, 211th RQS?). I was able to hear all three checking in with PALMETTO Ops on 349.400. It seemed that KING 15 may have gone to Charleston from Moody AFB. REACH 1099 seemed to have made two trips from Moody AFB to Charleston and back. KING 03 seemed to go to Charleston from Patrick AFB and then flew from Charleston to Moody AFB. Both REACH 1099 and KING 03 were heard with Moody AFB’s ANGEL Ops on 228.225.
For part of the day yesterday, I was in Brooklet, GA, but I was able to use the mobile station, including the recording capabilities of its Home Patrol 2 and TRX-2 to record activity so I could log it later. While on the road between Savannah and Brooklet, I noticed a Motorola team from Savannah Communications seemed to be en route for Florence support and there were a lot of electrical line trucks and tree crew trucks headed that way as well.
Please keep those in the areas affected by Hurricane Florence in your prayers. The storm has dumped a lot of water and still has a lot more left. The storm is moving very slowly, exacerbating the flooding. The Carolinas, especially North Carolina, are going to need a lot of help. For all of us along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, remember – but for the grace of God, it could easily have been us. Try to find a way to donate or help out in some way.
Savannah – Throughout the week, as Hurricane Florence made her way toward the US east coast, I tried to keep an ear and eye on the skies for related US Coast Guard and military aviation activity. It seemed that some of the HC-130Js at CGAS Elizabeth City moved south to CGAS Clearwater and some helicopter assets staged at CGAS Savannah. USAF Reserve WC-130J “Hurricane Hunters” flew missions to Florence out of the Air Dominance Center at Savannah-Hilton Head IAP. I didn’t hear much before Friday due to my work schedule, but yesterday I was able to hear more yesterday after I got back to Savannah. I’ll be trying to devote some time to monitoring through the weekend to see what else happens.
Earlier in the week, while in Brunswick, I noted COAST GUARD 2002 (HC-130J, 2002, CGAS Elizabeth City) and COAST GUARD 2005 (HC-130J, 2005, CGAS Elizabeth City) heading southbound from CGAS Elizabeth City, NC to CGAS Clearwater, FL to stage until Hurricane Florence passed enough for them to return to Elizabeth City. Yesterday, 2005 seemed to be going back and forth between what looks like perhaps the Norfolk area and Clearwater.
As you can see in the COAST GUARD 2005’s track above, a lot of aircraft are avoiding coastal routes and moving around Florence inland. Good Jacksonville center frequencies for catching aircraft moving around the storm on the inland side are:
363.200/132.925 – Jacksonville Center Allendale/Savannah Low
269.025/127.575 – Jacksonville Center Waycross Low
323.300/133.700 – Jacksonville Center Baxley Low
282.300/135.975 – Jacksonville Center Alma High
346.300/133.300 – JacksonvilleCenter Moultrie Ultra High
Three WC-130Js (96-5302, 97-5306, and 98-5308) from the 53rd WRS flew Hurricane Florence “Hurricane Hunter” missions out of the Georgia Air National Guard Savannah Air Dominance Center throughout the week as Hurricane Florence made her way toward the east coast. A 403rd AW C-130J (05-8157) was also there for support. The WC-130Js used TEAL 7# and 8# callsigns and used 237.000, the Savannah ADC Ops frequency. The C-130J used the callsign HOBBY 11 and was noted on 225.750 with 165th AW Ops. All appeared to return to Keesler AFB yesterday afternoon.
Yesterday afternoon, it seemed that Coast Guard helicopter assets began heading to the area, with two MH-65s and an MH-60T departing CGAS Savannah to the north. COAST GUARD 6030 (MH-60T, 6030, CGAS Clearwater) and COAST GUARD 6544 (MH-65D, 6544, CGAS Savannah) left first, followed later by COAST GUARD 6567 (MH-65D, 6567, CGAS Savannah). All three returned to CGAS Savannah later in the evening. They were using 345.000 as air-to-air and with CGAS Savannah and CG 410 (413.000) encrypted and CG 127 (171.2375) encrypted/unencrypted with Sector Charleston.
An interesting development yesterday afternoon was an E-3B AWACS moving to the North Carolina area. At one point during the day, SENTRY 50 (E-3B, 75-0559, 552nd ACW) was orbiting in the Pensacola area, probably working with fighters from Eglin AFB or Tyndall AFB. Later, it left the Pensacola area and went up to orbit in the Charlotte, NC area. That’s well outside of my listening range, but my guess is that they were being used to control and/or coordinate air rescue activity related to Hurricane Florence. It will be interesting to see if other E-3s, Navy E-2Cs, or perhaps CBP P-3 AEWs show up over the next few days.
ADS-B track of SENTRY 50 (E-3B, 75-0559, 552nd ACW) from the ADS-B Exchange tracker as it moved from the Pensacola area to the Charlotte area
ADS-B track of ADS-B track of SENTRY 50 (E-3B, 75-0559, 552nd ACW) as it orbited in the Charlotte area
There will certainly be a lot more USCG and military aircraft heading to the North Carolina/South Carolina area as Hurricane Florence weakens and eventually moves out of the area. I can only imagine that there will be a lot of helicopter rescues due to the flooding being caused by Florence’s extended rains and very slow movement. I’ll be listening out for more activity headed that way from the south.