I found myself looking through some old photos (as I have done a lot in the last ten months) and came to the Clear Lake Splash In that takes place in California. I only made one trip up to this event and, while I was told that it was a quieter year than previous events, it was still a pretty cool thing to experience. Three Grumman Widgeons showed up at the event. The classic Grumman amphibian look was cool to see in action.
They landed on the lake and then dropped the undercarriage to allow them to power up the steel plate ramp that had been laid to provide access to the parking field. The three of them were parked together over near the trees. One went out to do some flying during the course of the day and then they all headed home when things wrapped up.
Watching something of this size transition from the water to the land was most impressive. Similarly, the trip back down the ramp and in to the water was cool to witness. The Widgeon sits pretty low in the water when it is not at speed but, once it is up on the step, it is a very different beast. Since they were operating parallel to the shore, it was possible for them to be quite close while they were at speed which was great.
Recently, the Blue Angels made their last formation flight with the F/A-18 Hornet. The team is transitioning to the Super Hornet ahead of 2021 and they have started working up with the new jets. It has been a while since I last saw the Blue Angels demonstration so I thought a few shots with their aging legacy Hornets was in order. They always got the oldest jets in the fleet so I hope they are happy to have some slightly newer airframes to work with.
I put together a selection of shots from the RIAT show of 2006 in this post. It was another four years before I was back for my next visit. This time I made a visit to the Park and View East rather than the west. This was the end at which everything was landing, and it also provided a good view of some of the arrivals as they taxied to the ramp.
The weather started out okay, but it got steadily worse resulting ion a torrential downpour. Some movements were in such low light that it was almost like shooting at night. The stormy weather passed and then the flying could resume. Given the variety of things that were showing up, I will focus this post on the arrival traffic, and we can add some of the displays in a different post.
Plenty of helicopters as well as the fast jets. I had not shot at this location before and I was not prepared for how crowded it could be and the way you needed to be at the front. That limited some of my shots unfortunately. Also, there was a lot of heat haze in the air so some of the nicer angles on the approach produced shots that are not sharp enough. Still, a fun day out. Drying out took a while that night though!
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.
A Czech Mil-24 Hind helicopter gunship in special tiger dquadron markings overflies RAF Fairford, UK.
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!
A Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon pulls hard during a display at RAF Fairford in the UK.
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.
A Luftwaffe Airbus A400M Atlas climbs out of RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
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.
A Royal Air Force Textron T-6 Texan takes off from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
A Royal Air Force BAE Systems Hawk T2 takes off from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
A Danish Lockheed Martin F-16A Fighting Falcon takes off from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
Two Swedish Air Force SAAB JAS39 Gripens take off from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
A Luftwaffe Eurofighter EF2000 takes off from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
An Italian Air Force Eurofighter F-2000A takes off from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
A Hawker Hunter takes off from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.