November 27, 2014

Elyria
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Vintage aircraft on a mapping mission had people in Lorain looking up

Aerial mapping was the mission of a low-flying, World War II-era plane whose back-and-forth flight led curious onlookers to call police Monday.

A police dispatcher in Lorain, who said he didn’t know the plane’s mission, said he and fellow dispatchers had received calls about the plane.

The DC-3 is owned by Airborne Imaging Inc., which does aerial data collection, according to Dave Wheeler, who is a pilot for the Texas-based company. Wheeler said Airborne was mapping coastal areas for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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The mapping, done every five years, helps determine the environmental condition of waterways by documenting changes such as erosion and the effect of silt on harbor channels.

“It gives you a five-year snapshot,” Wheeler said. “This is a census of the health of the coast.”

The company has been working in Great Lakes states since June, and the plane is flying out of Port Clinton.

Wheeler said the plane, built for the U.S. Navy in 1942, was the first to use global positioning, which was developed by the Department of Defense and Texas Instruments in the 1950s.

“When that airplane flew with its receiver, there was one satellite and one receiver, which was mounted on that airplane,” he said. “That airplane proved that, in fact, an airplane in flight could communicate with an orbiting satellite.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.