I was thinking back to previous RIAT shows when I was putting together the 2006 post here. RIAT was my first encounter with the B-2. I recall it showing up to a show one year for a flyby without landing. It flew through accompanied by a pair of F-15Cs, one on each wing. Then, another year – maybe the next but I don’t recall for sure – one was actually deployed to the show. It was parked up so close to everyone on the flight line. I took quite a few pictures of it because it was so new and interesting. (A few pictures in the film days was a let less than it became in the digital days!) Even now, I think a show would consider it quite a coup to have a B-2 on the ground.
When I lived in the UK, a trip to RIAT was a regular thing for me. After I started shooting digital, I was living in the US so RIAT was more than just a day trip. My first visit with the digital camera was in 2006. I had to be in the UK for work so I timed it to coincide with RIAT because, you know, it would have been rude not to. With RIAT canceled this year due to the ongoing virus issues, I figured I would jump back to this show to provide some highlights.
I spent two days there. I made my first arrivals day visit and spent the day at the west end which was really nice. Planes were arriving from that direction anyway so it worked out well. The conditions were really nice on both days too so it was a fun and successful shoot. Mikoyan-Gurevich brought there MiG-29OVT demonstrator with thrust vectoring and it flipped its way around the sky with abandon. There was the usual selection of types from around the world which makes RIAT so fun. There were also some older UK types making an appearance like the Canberra demonstration – the last RAF Canberra flights I saw – and the old Twin Pioneer.
Hopefully there is something in this selection that will be of interest from a great show. There have been more RIAT visits since so maybe I shall dig out some stuff from those years if I continue to struggle for material for future posts!
Sad news in the air show scene for the US is the announcement that Art Nalls has put his Harriers up for sale. Art did an amazing thing by buying a retired Royal Navy Sea Harrier and getting it airworthy and then displayed on the air show circuit for a number of years. He also bought a two seater which is apparently close to being flight ready. I was lucky to spend a lot of time with Art and the team both at shows and also visiting them in Maryland.
His hangar there also includes an ex-RAF Harrier GR3 which has a lot of common parts with the SHAR so could be used for bits he needed from time to time. The support team had a bunch of Harrier experience from the Marine Corps and various ex-RN individuals also got involved over time – not harmed by many people deployed to Pax River on the F-35B program coming from a SHAR background. Maybe someone will pick the jets up and take them forward but Art has other things to work on now and they are not part of the future for him. Here is a selection of shots I have got over the years of the team at work and the jet displaying.
As I was skipping through some images, I saw a few extra shots of the A400M at RIAT. I figured that I hadn’t seen many examples of the transport in service – just the test aircraft performing in displays. However, I have seen both Luftwaffe and Armee de l’Air planes at times so thought I would share a few shots of them plus some test planes for good measure.
I have seen plenty of MV-22B Ospreys in service with the Marine Corps but I haven’t see too many CV-22s with the Air Force. One of the early ones was at Hurlburt Field when I visited years ago but we weren’t allowed to photograph it. RIAT provided my first opportunity to shoot one in action. I got some shots of it on arrival day but I was not pleased with the results for a lot of them. I don’t know whether the focus was off or it was my struggles with the low shutter speed but I didn’t do too well.
They did display during the flying program, though, so I had a lot more chances to get some shots. The extra lumps and bumps make this distinctive from the USMC version but it is still a hard thing to photograph if you want to get significant blur on those giant, slow turning props. The different shade of gray they go with seems slightly more interesting than the Marine’s scheme too.
I have posted a few times about the Red Arrows at RIAT covering their prep for display and post display. I haven’t actually shared any good shots from the display itself. Here are a few that I got over the course of the show. Some were taken close to show center and others were taken from the end of the display line to give a different perspective on the same maneuvers. They put on a great show and it is funny that, when you see them regularly, you get blasé but, when you haven’t seen them for a while, you come to appreciate the display a lot more.
I have been to a bunch of shows at RIAT and have done arrivals day a few times too. One thing I had not managed to do before was be there for departure day. I wasn’t going to be able to do the full day because I needed to head off on the next leg of our vacation but I got a good chunk of the time. Of course, the weather continued its theme of overcast conditions. There were certain things I really wanted to see which didn’t always work out whether it was Tornados going when I wasn’t there or things that departed up field and didn’t come near us.
Even so, there was a great selection of interesting bits and pieces to see heading out. Some of them just took off and climbed away normally. Others seemed to be trying to get as high as possible quickly which wasn’t much fun for the gathered photographers. A few put on a decent wag of the wings to please us. The rotation point for most aircraft was quite a way from where we were which was a bit of a shame as rotation can make for an interesting shot. A bit of heavy cropping and you can get the idea. At least the lack of sun reduced the amount of heat haze. Here is a gallery of a bunch of shots from the time I had.
The Lynx was a favorite helicopter of mine in my teens. It was in service with both the Royal Navy and the British Army in substantial numbers. We used to see them a lot as they often flew past our home on the seafront in Cowes moving between the Navy bases at Portland and Portsmouth. The Lynx has gone from UK service, replaced by the Wildcat. I hadn’t seen any Wildcats before RIAT so was glad to see them from both the Army and the Navy (not that they look that different unliked their predecessors). Old style Lynxes were still represented though. The German Navy had an example visiting. They are not going to be around for much longer, though. They will be replaced early in the 2020s.
Damp days can make for great prop vortices on takeoff. However, I have been feeling less than satisfied with my results recently. As I was going through some shots, I made a discovery that should probably have been something I worked out before. I like to have a good amount of prop blur so drop the shutter speed down when I can. I go with a high frame rate with the aim of getting a good sharp shot amongst the more blurry examples.
As I go through the shots, the sharp ones have okay prop vortices but not great. Then I will come across some really nice vortices but the shot is otherwise not sharp. It seems that, in panning with the plane to get a sharp shot, the trailing vortex gets blurred out. If I am not panning well, the vortex can be the thing I have tracked better and it shows up well. I have seen shots from others with the props almost frozen with a high shutter speed and the vortices easily seen.
Consequently, I am going to have to make a decision in future. How much prop blur do I want versus the ability to see the vortices well. A little trial and error will be involved. At least it is fall/winter so the Pacific Northwest will probably provide me plenty of damp days on which to experiment!
Northrop Grumman brought the Firebird to Fairford for RIAT. RIAT is a big public show but it has developed a significant trade element to it and Firebird was clearly aimed at that audience. It is a Scaled Composites design (with Northrop Grumman having bought Scaled a while back) and, while it has a cockpit, apparently it has the option to be flown unmanned. I don’t know whether this is well tested or not. Nor do I know the state of production examples. I believe the one at RIAT was the prototype.
It was parked in the static park for a portion of the time I was there. I did see it getting towed across to the north side at one point, presumably so it could be parked in a hangar rather than left out. Supposedly, there is a US Government order for some of these and I imagine they will be fitted with some interesting systems. Whether I shall ever see one is a different story.