Hurricane Michael Notes and Observations (Updated 14 October 2018)

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)

GULFTEST 10 (G500, N500GA, Gulfstream Aerospace)
GULFTEST 20 (G500, N509GD, Gulfstream Aerospace)
GULFTEST 29 (G550, N584GA, Gulfstream Aerospace)
GULFTEST 33 (G650, N282GA, Gulfstream Aerospace)
GULFTEST 51 (G600, N601GA, Gulfstream Aerospace)
GULFTEST 62 (B-LWX, G-450, TAG Aviation Asia)
GULFTEST 62 (G450, N401SR, Gulfstream Leasing)
GULFTEST 64 (G650, N655GD, Gulfstream Aerospace)
GULFTEST 66 (B-8127, G-450, Private)
GULFTEST 83 (Gulfstream Hurrevac Flight)
GULFTEST 90 (G550, N582GA, Gulfstream Aerospace)
GULFTEST 97 (Gulfstream Hurrevac Flight)

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.

DAWG 06 (C-130H3, 94-6706, 165th AW)
DAWG 08 (C-130H3, 94-6708, 165th AW)
DAWG 61 (C-130H3, 93-1561, 165th AW)
DAWG 63 (C-130H3, 95-1563, 165th AW)

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.

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.

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.

Hurricane Florence Related USCG and Military Aviation Activity; 14 September 2018

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.

C2005
ADS-B track of COAST GUARD 2005 (HC-130J, 2005, CGAS Elizabeth City) on 14 September 2018 from the ADS-B Exchange tracker. Note the wide track around coastal North Carolina and South Carolina to avoid Hurricane Florence.

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.

 

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.

Hurricane Maria Relief Flights Continue from the Savannah Air Dominance Center

Savannah – The Georgia Air Nationa Guard Air Dominance Center at Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, which normally supports training for 4th and 5th generation fighters, continues to operate as a hub for transporting Hurricane Maria relief supplies to Puerto Rico and other US Caribbean territories. The operation at the Air Dominance Center continues to be mostly C-130Hs and C-130Js both bringing supplies into Savannah and transporting them out to Puerto Rico and other territories with flights arriving and departing 24/7. On their return trips from the Caribbean, they can often be heard bringing passengers back. Air National Guard personnel and aircraft from thirteen states have been taking part in the operation; so far I’ve heard aircraft from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and West Virginia.  I’m sure there have been other states participating as well, but I haven’t had many chances to listen to the ops; these are only what I’ve heard coming in and out of the ADC over the last couple of weeks:

  • CASTLE – C-130H, 166th AW, Delaware ANG
  • DAWG – C-130H, 165th AW, Georgia ANG
  • DECOY – C-17A, 167th AW, West Virginia ANG
  • DERBY – C-130H, 123rd AW, Kentucky ANG
  • EPIC – C-130H, 145th AW, North Carolina ANG
  • JESSE – C-130H, 139th AW, Missouri ANG
  • MALIBU – C-130J, 146th AW, California ANG
  • RHODY – C-130J, 147th AW, Rhode Island ANG
  • ROPER – C-130H, 136th AW, Texas ANG
  • SKIER – C-130H, 109th AW, New York ANG
  • SKULL – C-130H, 179thth AW, Ohio ANG
  • TORCH – C-130H, 182nd AW, Illinois ANG
  • YANKEE – C-130H, 103rd AW, Connecticut ANG

Savannah and coastal Georgia area air traffic control frequencies along with normal Savannah Air Dominance Center frequencies continue to be the best places to catch the aircraft flying Hurricane Maria relief missions out of Savannah. The last frequency below is a P25 repeater used by the 165th AW, but it has been being used by MARIA Ops out of the ADC to coordinate logistics and maintenance for the aircraft flying out of the ADC. The VHF/UHF aviation frequencies are AM and can be heard using any radio that can pick up VHF or UHF airband in the AM mode.

  • 124.675 – Jacksonville Center Jekyll Low
  • 132.925 – Jacksonville Center Allendale/Savannah Low
  • 119.100 – Savannah-Hilton Head IAP Tower
  • 120.400 – Savannah Approach/Departure
  • 125.300 – Savannah Approach/Departure
  • 225.750 – 165th Airlift Wing Ops
  • 237.000 – Air Dominance Center Ops; “MARIA Ops” and “TEAL Ops”
  • 173.5625 – 165th Airlift Wing (NAC 302)

Based on what I’ve seen in the news, it looks like the Hurricane Maria relief ops will continue out of the Savannah Air Dominance Center through this month. I’m proud that my adopted hometown and state are providing such a service to Puerto Rico and the other Caribbean territories during their time of need.

165th AW and Savannah Air Dominance Center Support Hurricane Maria Relief

Savannah – The 165th Airlift Wing and the Air Dominance Center at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport are supporting Hurricane Maria relief through a hub and spoke operation. Aircraft are both bringing in supplies to Savannah and transporting them out to Puerto Rico and other locations in the Caribbean. Air National Guard aircraft and personnel from multiple states including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, and West Virginia. Most of the aircraft operating out of Savannah are C-130s (both H and J models), but one C-17 came in today as well.

  • DAWG 87 (C-130H, 165th AW)
  • DAWG 88 (C-130H3, 94-6705, 165th AW)
  • CASTLE 33 (C-130H, 90-1057, 166th AW)
  • CASTLE 77 (C-130H, 84-0206, 166th AW)
  • DERBY 61 (C-130H, 91-1233, 123rd AW)
  • JESSE 94 (C-130H, 90-1794, 139th AW)
  • JESSE 95 (C-130H, 90-1795, 139th AW)
  • MALIBU 17 (C-130J, 05-1466, 146th AW)
  • MALIBU 19 (C-130J, 07-1468, 146th AW)
  • RHODY 32 (C-130J, 99-1432, 143rd AW)
  • SKIER 02 (C-130H, 83-0487, 109th AW)
  • YANKEE 02 (C-130H, 74-2069, 103rd AW)
  • DECOY 29 (C-17A, 94-0070, 167th AW)

The relief flights are easily monitored on VHF and UHF in the Savannah area. You can catch the flights coming and going on local air traffic control frequencies as well as the 165th AW and Air Dominance Center operations frequencies. Most of the aircraft have been reporting to MARIA Ops on the Air Dominance Center ops frequency 237.000, but a few have reported on 225.750, which is the 165th AW Ops frequency.

  • 124.675 – Jacksonville Center Jekyll Low
  • 132.925 – Jacksonville Center Allendale/Savannah Low
  • 119.100 – Savannah-Hilton Head IAP Tower
  • 120.400 – Savannah Approach/Departure
  • 125.300 – Savannah Approach/Departure
  • 225.750 – 165th Airlift Wing Ops
  • 237.000 – Air Dominance Center Ops; “MARIA Ops” and “TEAL Ops”
  • 173.5625 – 165th Airlift Wing

In addition to the C-130s doing relief operations, WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron are working out of Savannah-Hilton Head IAP for flights into Hurricane Maria as passes off of the east coast. At least four of the WC-130Js are or have been at Savannah: 97-5305, 97-5307, 97-5308, and 97-5309, flying as TEAL 7# and 8#. They can be caught on the same frequencies as the relief aircraft but will call TEAL Ops instead of MARIA Ops. Today’s Hurricane Hunter flights have been:

  • TEAL 71 (WC-130J, 99-5309, 53rd WRS)
  • TEAL 73 (WC-130J, 99-5309, 53rd WRS)
  • TEAL 74 (WC-130J, 97-5305, 53rd WRS)
  • TEAL 81 (WC-130J, 98-5308, 53rd WRS)

An Army communications unit, the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, has also deployed equipment and personnel to Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria so devastated the communications infrastructure in Puerto Rico that it is almost impossible to communicate not only outside of the islands but within as well. Units such as the 63rd ESB and amateur radio operators that are being asked to volunteer in Puerto Rico will be able to establish and provide communications that are needed to facilitate relief operations. REACH 0532 (C-17A, 90-0532, 62nd AW) arrived at Hunter AAF in the early hours of this morning and departed again shortly thereafter, I believe it was part of the 63rd ESB’s deployment.

The aircraft and flights I listed above are just today’s activity. Based on the needs in Puerto Rico and other US territories in the Caribbean, we can expect the hub and spoke operation in Savannah to be in operation for the foreseeable future. The need in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean is great and as a Georgian and Savannahian, I’m proud that our Guardsmen and Savannah are playing such a key role in bringing aid to those in need.

Post Hurricane Irma Update

Yesterday was my first day off since last Friday and most of those were 12-hour shifts, as a result I wasn’t able to turn on any amateur radio gear or scanners so I have no idea what went on as far as amateur radio response to Hurricane Irma or government/military response communications go. All I can reliably report is that I heard helicopters from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade at Hunter AAF going to Lawson AAF in flights of three to four on the Thursday before the storm; undoubtedly they moved somewhere else when the storm’s track moved to the west but I don’t know know were they went from there. As far as I know, the SEGARRN system and other public safety radio systems in the coastal Georgia area stayed up and working throughout the hurricane, I haven’t heard of any system failures.

The coastal Georgia area has taken a hit from storm surge. A 12.4 foot tide was recorded at Fort Pulaski; they say the water wasn’t as high as it was during Matthew but they still had flooding and apparently some roofing on the fort was taken off by wind. The Savannah NWR has a lot of water damage including areas of roadway and dikes that were washed away. There was a lot of storm surge flooding along coastal and riverside areas. A lot of docks were damaged and boats displaced (two of them turned up on top of US 80 between Wilmington Island and Tybee Island). All in all, it seems that there were not as many downed trees to deal with after Irma because Matthew seemed to cull the weaker growth last year. There were still, however, a lot of power outages but most power has been restored.

I’m thankful that it wasn’t worse than what it was for coastal Georgia, when I left home on the Thursday before the storm, the forecast had the hurricane aimed right at Savannah. I didn’t expect to come home to much. The storm moved to west after causing widespread destruction in the Caribbean, sparing the Georgia coast the worst of the damage. My prayers go out to those in the Caribbean and Florida who took the full brunt of one of the worst storms in my memory.

Please keep an eye on Tropical Storm Maria, as it is forecast to become another major Hurricane and could be threatening us next week.