VH-EAA was delivered to
Qantas on the 12th December 1967 as "City of Toowoomba".
In April 1977, the aeroplane was sold to ITEL and leased to Young
Cargo and placed on the Belgian register as OO-YCK.
In September 1979, the aircraft was leased to Air Niugini as P2-ANB.
It served with Air Niugini until April 1985 when it was sold to
TRATCO and placed on the Icelandic register as TF-AEB.
Under this registration, it served several airlines including
ZAS of Egypt and Air Arctic of Iceland. In April 1986 the aircraft
was re-registered 5Y-AXA to African Express Airlines
By this time, one might have thought that the aeroplane had reached
the twilight of its career as an aerial tramp steamer, just one
step away from the boneyard. Not so! The former VH-EAA
headed back to the country of its birth where it was re-registered
N733Q and later N526SJ. Although the aircraft served with CF Air
Freight, the registration N526SJ implies a connection with Miami
based Southern Air Transport, who are better known as the modern
day equivalent of Air America i.e. a CIA operation!
ENTER JOINT STARS
(Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System)
In May 1984, the United States Air Force and Army decided to mount
their new Joint STARS radar system on a Boeing 707 platform. Although
it might be expected that such new and expensive technology would
warrant new-build airframes, budgetary restrictions dictated that
the program would be based on used 707s! Denied new 707s, the
U.S. military clearly would not accept anything but the best,
used 707s, so they scoured the world for the best available. It
is perhaps not so surprising that of the aircraft chosen, no fewer
than seven were former Qantas aircraft. Included amongst them
was the former VH-EAA which assumed "stars and
bars" and the military serial number 90-0175.
Redesignated an E-8, the aircraft was fitted with state of the
art radar systems for long range air-to-ground surveillance of
ground targets in all weather conditions. The concept was successfully
tested live when two E-8s deployed to the Middle East for Operation
Desert Storm in 1991.
former VH-EAA in wolf's clothing as a Joint STARS E-8C
Photo courtesy of Michael Schmidt.
[click for a larger image]
Having acquired a taste for the "clandestine" back in
1975, our old friend EAA may have gone on to dabble on the fringes
of CIA activity in the eighties, and now in the next century,
this 36 year-old veteran is probably about to go to war.
An ancient aeroplane loaded with state of the art equipment worth
many times the value of the airframe. Sound familiar?
That is what happened to the Adastra 707. This
is what might have happened.