Welcome to Moab Airlines

Posted on December 8th, 2010 by Jim McGillis

Communications tower near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Canyonlands Field - Moab, Utah

"UPS Air, Moab Style"

 
On my way from Green River to Moab, Utah, I turned at Crescent Junction and then drove south on U.S. Hwy. 191. For the first ten miles, there was little to see except open sky and sparse desert vegetation. Four miles short of Canyonlands Field, better known as the Moab Airport, I spotted a landmark tower about one quarter mile from the highway.
 

View U.S. Hwy. 191, Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah in a larger map
 
As steel towers go, this one is not unique, but it does have character. The only similar towers I have seen were near Oildale, California in the 1950s. With latticework construction reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower, the Moab Tower is tall and sturdy. Between its struts and a catwalk near the top, it almost screams, “I am an old oil derrick”.
Pilot Cris Bracken prepares for his UPS Air flight - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
Although the attached antennas and parabolic dishes bespeak of wireless communications, the tower’s oil patch looks left me wondering who specified such a robust structure and when. Internet searches yield nothing to indicate who owns the tower or its specific use. Since terrain in that area is relatively flat, it appears to be a transfer point for communications between Moab and Crescent Junction to the north.
 
After pondering the tower for a few moments, I travelled on to Canyonlands Field. There, I met with Mr. Chris Bracken a pilot and mechanic at Redtail Aviation. Chris’s easygoing nature belies the fact that he is adept at both flying and repairing complex aircraft. The day I was there, Chris was working on a tail-replacement for an old Cessna aircraft. With his thoroughness, Chris had noticed that a factory replacement part sent from Cessna, did not match the bent one he was replacing. His call to Cessna in Kansas got them scrambling on a potential recall of other similar faulty parts.
Gulfstream jet at Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
As Chris and I discussed the installation of a new webcam for Redtail Aviation, he was keeping a sharp eye out for the expected arrival of a United Parcel Service (UPS) truck. As soon as the brown van arrived, Chris swung into action. Although we did install a new webcam at Redtail Aviation a few days later, Chris’s duties as the Redtail Aviation designated “UPS Air” pilot took precedence.
 
On that October day, the package count was small, fitting easily in the Cessna 182 that Chris then flew to Carbon County Regional Airport, in Price, Utah. If the package count had been higher, a larger Cessna was available to UPS Truck and Cessna cargo aircraft - webcam image - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)make the daily flight. That day, Chris signed for the packages, jumped into his waiting Cessna and took off for Redtail Aviation’s headquarters in Price. There, in the late afternoon, Redtail flights converge. As soon as crews can transfer incoming packages to a larger plane, it departs for Salt Lake City. From there, a UPS cargo jet takes packages from all over Utah to the UPS hub in Louisville, Kentucky. After sorting and reloading, packages make their way to destination airports all over the country. As early as one business day after departing Moab, Utah, a UPS Air package might arrive for delivery in New York City.
 
 
 
 
 
In honor of Redtail Aviation and their role in facilitating commerce throughout Utah, I created the video that accompanies this article. In the video, I took liberty with Chris’s role. Rather than flying away in a Cessna 182, my video has Chris departing with his packages in a Grumman Gulfstream jet. We call that, “UPS Air, Moab style”.
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