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Thu Nov 20, 2014, 03:19 AM

Strange Aircraft Activity Observed In Southern Utah

I live in the small Southwest Utah City of St. George. While out for my daily afternoon walk today I observed a low flying aircraft flying in a clockwise rotation that took about five minutes to complete one revolution. This activity was first observed about one hour before dark and continued until dark when the aircraft flew off and disappeared. The only airport around here is a small facility with a half dozen daily commercial flights to and from Salt Lake City, so this activity was non-typical for this area. When I arrived home after my thirty minute walk, I observed the aircraft through my binoculars and determined that it was a Lockheed C-130 and probably an AC-130 Gunship.

It felt kind of weird for me to observe what was going on. I am a Vietnam Era Veteran and my neighbor is a Marine who was a door gunner on Huey's in Vietnam. He saw the plane also but didn't really know what it was doing at the time. Everyone else seemed to be oblivious to the activity.

Does anyone here on DU have any direct knowledge or experience with how these crews train and calibrate their equipment? Is this normal military activity or is there something else going on?

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Arrow 5 replies Author Time Post
Reply Strange Aircraft Activity Observed In Southern Utah (Original post)
Stainless Nov 2014 OP
A HERETIC I AM Nov 2014 #1
MADem Nov 2014 #2
A HERETIC I AM Nov 2014 #3
Stainless Nov 2014 #4
A HERETIC I AM Nov 2014 #5

Response to Stainless (Original post)

Thu Nov 20, 2014, 01:37 PM

1. Based on where you are, my first thought was the "Red Flag" exercise at Nellis....

but a quick search showed the last one was in July.

They might have been calibrating sights/targeting equipment/ Perhaps there is a target in the desert out there you aren't aware of. I could be a simple cross laying flat on the ground and the pilot would fly in such a way as to keep one wing pointed directly at it as he circles.

Just a thought. Not a pilot, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last week!

Edit to add that Nellis is probably less than 30 minutes away for that aircraft.

One more edit to say, I lived in Palmdale, CA from late'01 through '04 and passed by "The Skunkworks" regularly. They must have had one or another contract on those AC130's because I saw them there quite regularly. There would often be 4 or 5 on the ramp near their huge hangar, the big gun protruding from the side clearly visible, even from a half mile away on the street;

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 20, 2014, 01:44 PM

2. Maybe they were just blowing out the cobwebs/kicking the tires after an intermediate maintenance

evolution...?

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Response to MADem (Reply #2)

Thu Nov 20, 2014, 01:49 PM

3. Yup...as I said in my edit, Nellis is right down the street, so to speak.

Not to mention, the OP lives in a particularly spectacular part of the country. Glen Canyon and Lake Powell are only a few minutes away in a Herky Bird!

Sightseeing, blowing the carbon out, doing a bit of calibration....


All in a days work!

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 20, 2014, 02:46 PM

4. Now that you mention target aquisition

From where I was observing the aircraft, the Mormon Temple in the city center could have easily been at the center of rotation. I called the local CBS affiliate in Salt Lake City to see if they could look in to the event. Nothing so far. BTW, thanks for the info and the photo.

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Response to Stainless (Reply #4)

Thu Nov 20, 2014, 04:17 PM

5. No worries.

As much as I hate the amount of money we throw at "defense spending", I am and always have been fascinated by the machinery of the military.

Pilots are cool people and the folks that make their job possible, from the grunt doing the fueling to the guy turning wrenches deserve if nothing else, our appreciation.

FWIW, the Mormon Temples I have seen in Utah are certainly ornate enough as to make good "targets"!

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