This serenity would suddenly be broken by a sinister sight in the sky, as the Spitfire’s arch nemesis (or rather a distant relative of that nemesis) as not one but five Hispano Aviacion HA-1112 Buchons lifted off in quick succession, disappearing to form up as the Spitfire formation broke formation and proceeded a well choreographed tail chase in front of the crowd. They would then begin landing one after another, taxying slowly back to their original positions before shutting down.
The years go by and the endless road of good intentions never took me west of the Mississippi. During that time, I became a follower and admirer of Craig’s photography and his two favorite subjects, the Northrop N9MB Flying Wing and that pilot… David Vopat. This year, I finally had enough of my promises and good intentions… I accepted Craig’s invitation and I was heading for Chino.
Each year, I have found myself in a ‘real’ moment, where everything synchronized and all of my life’s concerns disappeared. This year, that day was Saturday, the best single day of shooting aircraft I have had since I started in 2008. The Saturday twilight USAF F-22 Raptor Demo against an absolutely epic sky, with massive storm clouds in the distance bathed in an unbelievable orange sunset light that will be talked about for years.
By the time we had our lighting rigs in place for the shoot and the sun started her slide behind the trees, our list of aircraft had grown from one...to six. SIX. Due to the way things had to be organized with the tug and parking spaces, we worked out the order, set up our cameras and waited, enjoying the peace of an airfield sunset with our first photo subject: an authentic Mitsubishi A6M Zero.
What truly brings people out to this fly-in year after year however, is the atmosphere. This was only my second time attending and I can attest that the sensation of a close knit community of friends and family all sharing a passion for flight was apparent upon arrival. Think Oshkosh but on a much smaller scale and central to the aforementioned aircraft types. As the afternoon moved on and the sun lowered, the grounds truly take on a magical appearance.
The Royal Navy has always been a major part of British identity since the defeat of the Spanish Armada, before aviation was even a blip on the horizon. It was only natural that aviation would have an impact on Naval tactics, and eventually become an extended arm of the Royal Navy.
...Before rolling into the restoration shop at Duxford. During the complete restoration, they stripped her of her paint and guns, with the goal of highlighting the beauty in the design. The elliptical wing, the thin fuselage, the gorgeous curves...and removing the lethal element further pushes the timeless aura about this aircraft.
Before we knew it, it was time to take a breath, sit back and appreciate what had just happened; the first simultaneous night engine run-up with the only Mustang-Corsair formation flying team. Cooling off, the engines were ticking quietly after the roar of internal combustion fell silent, and I'm sure a few of our camera shutters were smoldering too.
It’s stories like these and those of the remaining veterans of WWII that are important to capture and remember and ensure the younger generations are told. The remainder of those veterans won’t be around for much longer and so to see them with their families and the children of today at Daks Over Duxford was very special. There were school trips in attendance which was great to see and children there in school time but with their parents. What better way to take a day off school!
It really depends on how much I’ve been able to fly and how proficient I’m feeling on that particular run. If it’s been a while I’ll usually take it easy until I get back into the groove. Also have to take into consideration what’s on the jet. If there’s an ARS pod it’s easy to exceed the speed limits, and if the jet is slick it’s easy to break the number lighting the burners.
Yeah. It's really good. And you know, I've only been in the program for short time...about three years, which is really nothing compared to some of the leadership back on base who have been in it for eight or ten years... and I think even for them, they're taking a lot of [joy from the feedback] but the pride factor of the airplane lies generally in the non-airshow stuff...what we show at airshows is super cool and impressive, but it's the tip of the iceberg of what makes the plane cool.
As I stood there, I remembered my brother wanting to fly helicopters for the Army and in front of me were a collection of past Army helicopter pilots and some Army helicopters. I always have a set of my brothers dog tags with me and today was no different. I had thought for a while now that it might be cool to get the tags flown in a old warbird, like a Mustang or something. But this was better, this was perfect.
Even more rare is hanging out on an airfield through sunset and blue hour. The night before the 2019 Leaseweb Manassas Airshow, James and I got to do just that on the Manassas Regional Airport ramp, with our friends RJ Gritter and Chef Pitts. RJ Gritter flies a red, white and blue Bellanca Decathlon, and Chef (Clemens Kuhlig) flies a Pitts S1S in an iconic red and black scheme.
The real clincher for me in the revival of aviation in South Wales, was an aviation museum celebrating not just the UK’s aviation heritage, but that of South Wales itself. It was the one thing that I always felt was missing when I was growing up aviation wise, with the nearest aviation related museum being in Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, over two and a half hours drive away. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned on a local facebook group that there was to be an aviation museum opening at RAF St Athan.
…..it's the crew, it's the pilots, it's the maintainers, it's being around the quality of the individuals that are part of this program, and I'm talking about the active duty and the civilian Heritage Flight pilots themselves, as people, they're just lights out. I work in a very different environment, and for 72 hours, when I get to wear a patch and be a part of this program...being around the people is awesome. It means a lot.
Having been fortunate enough to fulfill a lifelong ambition of traveling over to the Southwest of the USA for some of the best spots on Earth for aviation photography; this trip certainly didn’t disappoint. Over two weeks, a small group of fellow aviation photographers and I traveled more than 3,500 miles covering California, Nevada and Arizona, traveling through huge cities as well as some of the smallest and most isolated villages.