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Predator Landing


Predator Take off


Predator Taxi


April 14, 2014 – Tombstone

I enjoyed Tombstone very much. We got to see a reenactment of the shootout at the O.K. Corral.  The old buildings and saloons were very interesting.  We got to see a historical showabout Tombstone which was also fun.

I learned a lot about Tombstone and the people who lived there.  The best part of Tomstone was the gun fight.  We ate in a saloon and the food was delicious.  I felt like I was in the year 1900.  I really look forward to going back again some day.

Charlie age 15

April 13, 2014 – Prospecting

About gold mining: like we had to dig a hole or use a hole that is already dug and have dirt in a bucket to sift the big stuff like big rocks.  Then we went to the guys house to clean out the dirt to get the gold pieces.  Then we had to clean out the dirt with water to get the gold.

When my group was out there we had to dig out dirt and crack rocks with the pick axe.  We had to switch out to other people because it was hot and humid out and we also got tired as well.  When we got it to the guy’s house we cleaned out the dirt wth a tube of water flowing into a trapto have gold fall into it.  It took quite a while for it to be done. Lastly we cleaned out the trap and start ed to clean out the dirt to find gold.

Nathan, age 12 

April 15, 2014 – Unmanned Aircraft System Flight Center Tour

Today we toured the Border patrol  Predator Drone flight center.  They have 3 predator drones that they use primarily to look for illegal alien activity in the southwest.  The tour was fantastic.  Our tour guide was Steve, a retired Air Force fighter pilot, who works as a contractor managing operations of the center.  He brought both passion and knowledge, and spoke very well.  He really made our tour a hit. 

The flight center is not huge.  A couple of hangers, and a collection of trailers.  Everything appeard to be very mobile, although they’ve not moved anything since they started operations about 10 years ago.  They used to have 4 Predators, but they lost one in a crash due to pilot error, and it hasn’t been replaced.

The Predators are the Predator B model.  The tail fins slope upwards.  The other model is the Predator A, which is smaller and the tail fins slope down.  They fly the same planes as the Army does, only without armaments.  They actually put lead weights in the front of the plane so that the center of gravity is the same as the planes designed to carry weapons systems.

The planes are expensive, but the sensor pod on the front belly of the plane is just as expensive.  It has visual, infrared, and radar sensors.  It also has a laser to light up targets so other resources can engage them.  Steve likened their view from the sky to looking down through a soda straw.  They rely on ground sensors and tips to direct their searches.  They fly high to avoid detection, and look out rather than down to further avoid detection.

They showed us some videos of convoys of drug mules carrying backpacks full of marijuana.  They were shot at 5 and 7 miles away and you could easily make out the people’s heads, the packs, and their legs from their heat signature.  The predator doesn’t do anything to detain, or direct the illegals, they just provide the information for helicopters and ground personnel to do that.

The FCS is the “cockpit” for the predator.  It takes to guys to fly the plane.  One to be pilot, and one to control the sensor pod.  They rotate, so any pilot can do either job.  Flights can be up to 30 hours, so they cycle through pilots.  They fly by satellite, so they even fly drones from North Dakota and Corpus Chisti where the other border patrol flight centers are. (and vice versa). 

The planes are carbon fiber, with a 66 ft wingspan.  They can’t fly in adverse conditions.   They can’t land in a cross wind greater than 13 miles an hour, can’t fly in the rain, and can’t handle ice at all.  They are a fair weather plane.

An interesting note is that they were flying drones to help direct activities to fight the fire that is raging in the Huachuca Mountains (and drove us out of our campsite)

After we got our introduction presentation and saw the movies they had for us, we headed out to the flight deck, and almost on queue a Predator started up an began to taxi to the runway.   We got to watch it take off and do several touch and go’s.

I am sure that many of the boys will say that this is their favorite part of the trip.

Tim Brounscheidel




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