Identified: "Mystery Plane" Circling Over Denver, IRON99 [E-6B Mercury TACAMO]

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Mystery Plane Over Denver Metabunk.jpg

Update: The "mysterious" plane over Denver was indeed an E-6B Mercury, TACAMO - a mobile command platform used by the US Navy - the extra bumps are for communication equipment. While it's unknown exactly what it was doing, it's not at all mysterious. They fly practice and testing missions all the time. The only reason people noticed this one was that it left a nice contrail that showed the curved path it was taking.

Original Story.
http://www.thedenverchannel.com/new...ircles-over-denver-officials-have-few-answers

DENVER -- Thousands saw a plane circling the Denver metro area late Wednesday morning, questioning where it may have come from and what it may be doing. Officials at a host of federal organizations had few answers.

Denver7 began tracking a flight named IRON99 as it traversed from California over the pacific. It traveled over the Rocky Mountains and eventually over the Denver metro area.
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Public Information Officers at several Air Force Bases were able to confirm that such a flight maneuver suggests the plane is indeed a military plane, and may have refueled while in the air over Denver.

Officials at Buckley Air Force Base say it never checked in with towers on the base, and did not land at the base, despite flying over the base's airspace.

Denver International Airport officials also confirmed no such plane landed at the airport, and their towers wouldn't have come into contact with a plane uninterested in landing at the airport.

Further research into the plane's title of IRON99 turned up bases in the northeastern part of the nation that frequently give out the title of IRON to their military flights, however the title is usually reserved for T-38 aircraft, which are distinctly black.

When looking into IRON99, it appeared the flight had only communicated with the U.S. Army, and had no public communications available, as many commercial flights often do.
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Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
The Aviationist has covered it:

https://theaviationist.com/?p=40479



Photos and video of a “mysterious” plane circling over Denver are making the rounds. But the aircraft was “just” a U.S. Navy Doomsday plane.

Even though some media outlets published some funny articles with headlines referring to a “mystery flight” or a “mysterious plane” there is really little mystery around that aircraft: it was an E-6B Mercury.

The use of “Iron 99” is also pretty standard: Iron is one of the radio callsigns of the VQ-3 “Ironmen”, a naval aviation squadron of the United States Navy based at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma (incidentally, where the aircraft headed after orbiting over Denver….)

Built on the Boeing 707 airframe and using a B737 cockpit, the E-6B aircraft has a range of 5,500 miles, and accommodates 23 crew members.



The U.S. Navy has a total fleet of sixteen E-6B Mercury (TACAMO – “TAke Charge And Move Out”) that play an extremely important role for U.S. National Security: they are used to relay instructions to the fleet ballistic missile submarines in case of nuclear war but also act as back ups of the four E-4Bs NAOC (National Alternate Operations Center), working as ABNCP (Airborne Command Post) platforms (hence “Doomsday Plane“).
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SR1419

Senior Member.
Looks like it, from the video:

Indeed - but it doesnt show it long enough to tell if was really persistent- such that if it was doing laps and laying a big, persistent cloud (some) people would really be freaking out.
 
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M Bornong

Senior Member.

moosebear

New Member
Was the contrail persistent?
I saw it. And during a turn over the mountains the contrail disappeared while it was heading north and then reappeared once it was heading east. I wondered if it had changed altitude. Also very curious why it would matter?
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I saw it. And during a turn over the mountains the contrail disappeared while it was heading north and then reappeared once it was heading east. I wondered if it had changed altitude. Also very curious why it would matter?

If it persisted you'd get a really cool looking layered pattern when it was flying in the "racetrack" circuit. There's a bunch of contrail nerds here who like that kind of thing. :)
 

M Bornong

Senior Member.

Lt. Leslie Hubbell, who is the assistant public affairs officer for Commander Naval Air Forces, confirmed IRON99's identity is a Navy E-6B Mercury, created by Boeing at a cost of $141.7 million per unit.

The unit's overall mission is classified, Hubbell said, but did confirm the mission of the plane's class.

As to what the incredible weapon was doing above the Denver skyline -- Hubbell said it was halted by the FAA when traveling from its forwarding base in California back to Tinker Air Force Base, where the planes are serviced and housed.
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http://www.thedenverchannel.com/new...-plane-over-denver-its-mission-still-a-secret
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member

Lt. Leslie Hubbell, who is the assistant public affairs officer for Commander Naval Air Forces, confirmed IRON99's identity is a Navy E-6B Mercury, created by Boeing at a cost of $141.7 million per unit.

The unit's overall mission is classified, Hubbell said, but did confirm the mission of the plane's class.

As to what the incredible weapon was doing above the Denver skyline -- Hubbell said it was halted by the FAA when traveling from its forwarding base in California back to Tinker Air Force Base, where the planes are serviced and housed.
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http://www.thedenverchannel.com/new...-plane-over-denver-its-mission-still-a-secret

So basically it was going in for a service, but got stuck in traffic.
 

Keith Beachy

Senior Member
If they asked for a new/different/changed flight plan, then they would have to hold till the request was put through flight-service. And when in the system, ATC will clear them to go. Something as a military pilot I had to do when "command post" said new plan... and then we are put in holding by ATC until we call flight-service, put our new clearance on request, and then wait till ATC gets it and has time to give us our new clearance and let us go. (I learned my lesson, next time I was going to my first delay point in the sticks (AR track), then put in the change where we have to orbit anyway, and terminal traffic is not a problem.)
They could be training and asked to hold inbound to the Buckley VORTAC with specific legs, it may of been on their flight plan.
Traffic could be a problem, but usually nearer the terminal area, near OKC. Could be training, or a mission requirement (comm relay or whatever they do... ), or a clearance/flight plan problem.
They were high so they would not be talking to the local towers or be a problem for the Denver airport. Iron would be under Dever Center control.

https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/digital_products/ifr/#highAlt
All the charts are online now.
TACAMO planes are stationed Tinker, OKC, their home.
 
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