Meanwhile, back at Quonset Point, I had my own little photo mystery to solve...
I've been taking my lunch down by the airport, and doing a little plane spotting while there. Usually, the planes in question are general aviation types, Cessnas and Beechcraft and the like, mostly locally owned according to the FAA Registry. There are also a smattering of corporate jets, usually registered to some leasing company, an occasional RIANG C-130, and the odd helicopter.
Then there was this aircraft, which I saw parked amidst the corporate jets last Friday. I finally got around to checking it out today. The tail number (3A-MGA) clearly indicated that it weren't from around these parts. US tail numbers all start with "N," like the plane on the right in the photo. I tried googling the number directly, but got nothing but non-aviation hits, at least among the first couple of pages.
Tail numbers consist of two parts, a country code followed by the actual registration number, and they are usually separated by a dash (which the US doesn't use). So what country is 3A? Search through Wikipedia... Monaco? Some jetsetter come over to do a bit of yachting? Some tycoon taking advantage of advantageous tax laws?
Type "3A-MGA Monaco" into Google, and the first hit is from airliners.net. Yup, that's it. Turns out it's not just any plane, it's Prince Albert's personal jet, i.e., Monaco One. (Further searching around airliners.net revealed that it used to have the registration 3A-MGR when Rainier was Prince.) How neat is that?
So, what in heck is Monaco One doing parked at Quonset Point, RI, of all places? A little more googling reveals that the Prince was in Newport for the fiftieth anniversary of the release of High Society, which was filmed at Marble House, and starred his mother. He also hit the Newport Jazz Festival while he was here, and did some stumping for environmental causes. Huh.
Meanwhile, there is another mystery in that photo. I looked up the registration of the jet next to the Prince's plane (N1801), and it comes up as a Williams Eaglet, a one of a kind, single-engine, propeller-driven experimental plane built in 1969. I guess the FAA just haven't updated the website database yet...
Anyway, that was the weekend's unusual sighting. Then when I drove down for lunch on Monday, there was an honest-to-god B-17 sitting on the tarmac. Now that was unexpected. It turns out this one tours the country, and you can go for rides in the thing. Unfortunately, $400 is a tad too steep for for me. Plus, I once had the opportunity to tour the inside of the slightly bigger B-24, and I turn out to be a bit too, er, stocky to fit comfortably through some of the passageways. (I do need to check the schedule occasionally to see if a trip might be worth buying for my dad, though.)
It's still there today. I was hoping it might take off on a flight while I was noshing on my yogurt, but no such luck. Now I need to go sort through my photos from my last trip to Florida to see if this is the same B-17 I saw at Kissimmee Airport.
One last photo to demonstrate the evil that is autofocus, a wonderfully distinct shot of a rusty fence with a stylishly out of focus B-17 in the distance. Sigh. I wound up sticking the camera lens through the fence to take the others shots.