Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tuesday morning’s weather review showed a front heading our way, actually the one that came through Pensacola on Sunday-Monday. So we opted to remain in the marina instead of joining our friends at the Dry Tortugas. With this change of plan we joined 30 dock mates for a special tour of high tech TCTS (Tactical Combat Training System) Center on base. This command oversees the aerial combat training between visiting regular and reserve Navy, Air Force and Marine fighter squadrons from all over the U.S. The “visitors” fly F-16s, F-18s and Harriers against the “aggressor” squadron attached to TCTS. The “aggressors” are Navy “Top Gun” trained pilots flying 30 year old F-5s. Dog Fights are monitored and recorded electronically from “pods” attached to the planes to confirm “kills”, usually by the F-5s and given real time permanent recording for the later critique on the ground. We toured the F-5 hangar and observed several planes under going routine maintenance. Some of these planes were sold to Switzerland and some were built by the Swiss and purchased back from them several years ago. They look like they were only flown on Sundays. Yesterday we finally made a long planned visit to the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. It is a small arboretum filled with flowering plants and shrubs that attract dozens of native and tropical butterflies, or “flutter-bies” as someone suggested they should be named. (See pictures in the margins). The garden was also home to different kinds of brightly colored finches (Asian) and a Chinese Button Quail, the size of a baseball with their newly hatched chicks barely the size of ping pong balls.

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