I saw the USAF F-35A demo at SeaFair in 2022 and it was impressive but, unfortunately, a bit distant over the lake. Abbotsford in 2023 was my first chance to see the performance closer in and that combined with the evening show to give good lighting conditions. I was not disappointed. The demo was a great routine, and it really tore up the skies as the pilot wrung the jet out for our entertainment. The honking great engine means it is never quiet and, while it might not be as agile as an F-16, there is plenty of control authority for some rapid changes of direction. The evening light made the airframe look even better. These are some of my favorite shots from the display.
Not a great shot, in this case, but one that means something to me. When I went to the Abbotsford Air Show, there was a Hawk 115 in the static display. It was in an interesting color scheme but the lighting was a bit tough and it was surrounded be people. The reason I liked it was that I was involved in the Hawk 115 program when it was first underway. I left the company before the first jets were completed so I never actually saw one. This might actually have been my first encounter with one. Since they have been in service for nearly 25 years, they are probably nearing the end of their time so I did leave it a little late. It looks in better shape than me!
The air show at Abbotsford has the conspicuous backdrop of Mt Baker. For the evening show, the light was really nice on the mountain and I think I have already posted about that. Some of the display aircraft would make turns in front of the mountain. Most are too small to be obvious in a shot but something the size of a C-17 Globemaster is going to show up. The USAF Moose was one of the display and here it is as it reverses course back towards the airfield.
During the Abbotsford Air Show, we could see a bunch of people out on the airfield. It wasn’t obvious what they were doing but I took some shots with the longest lens I had to see if I might later work out what was going in. My friend Mark thought it might be related to the drone display that was due to take place after dark. I think he might have been right. Looking at the shots, they seem to be waving the drones around above themselves. Maybe this is part of a calibration routine or something to do with activating them and having them communicate. I don’t know. If anyone is familiar with all of this, please do let me know in the comments.
The Royal Canadian Air Force will soon be getting new tanker transport aircraft. They are going to buy some Airbus A330 MRTTs to replace their CC-150 Polaris jets. These are based on the A310 and I have never seen one before. Fortunately, there was one on static display at Abbotsford for the air show. It was in the grey scheme rather than the brightly painted version but that was fine by me. I was just glad to get one before they are replaced. It would be good to see one flying but I suspect the chances of that are diminishing. You never know, though.
The Canadian Forces SkyHawks parachute display team opened the Abbotsford Air Show evening display. One of the jumpers had a line of smoke canisters that hung beneath them as they descended under their canopy. Some tight turns allowed the line to swing out and create some nice smoke trail patterns. Here are some shots of the results.
One of my goals for going to the air show at Abbotsford this year was to see a Cormorant fly. I know this would sound like my normal interest in the bird species but this time it means the AW101 version that is flown for Search and Rescue by Canada. Sure, I have seen plenty of 101s over the years with the British and Italian examples, but I have never seen a Canadian one before. It was due to display during the show. When I got there, I was delighted to see it sitting on the operating ramp.
However, my optimism was unjustified. There was no announcement during the show about what had happened to the SAR demo, but it just didn’t happen. The day shows did get the demo, but the Friday evening show was a no go. It was a fun show, so I wasn’t too disappointed, but it was a little frustrating to still have never seen a Cormorant airborne. One day…
The Canadian Forces parachute display team, The SkyHawks, were performing at the Abbotsford Airshow. With their Canadian flag parachutes, they carried American and Canadian flags for the show opening as well as undertaking a few formation demonstrations. I was working my way through the images from the show and was cropping in on the shots to see which were the sharpest. It gave me a better view of how the team members link together for some of the configurations that they use.
One of the positions involved one guy’s foot being hooked between the legs of his partner. This looked like a pretty tough position to hold. In a three-person formation, the middle individual was holding the other two in place. I imagine that there is a fair bit of strength involved in making this work. These soldiers are undoubtedly tough individuals. I suspect you practice these positions a little further from the ground for the first few times!
The Antelope Valley Airshow at Edwards AFB last year gave access to some very unusual airframes including some unique types. In the 90s, an F-16D airframe was converted into a variable stability testbed. It was used for test pilot training but also became a testbed for other technologies. Known as VISTA, it also tested a thrust vectoring nozzle on the engine as MATV, performing some amazing maneuvers. I know one of the test pilots that flew it including when it misbehaved!
The aircraft continues to be used for new developments and, relatively recently, it was re-designated to be an X-plane. It is now known as the X-62 while continuing to perform some of its original test pilot training roles. It was on display in one of the hangars at Edwards. It was a bit hard to get good shots of it since everything was rather crowded, but I was able to get a few that I was happy with.
I was planning to head up to Skagit for the May Fly Day at the Heritage Flight Museum anyway. As it turned out, I had been talking with Rich at COAP about the trip he was leading and, when he asked if I would like to tag along with their group, I said yes. They had been working with the Museum and arranged some opportunities to shoot from locations that normal ticket access wouldn’t allow.
The team at COAP and the team at the museum were super helpful and friendly. Add to that, the weather was great and the combination of aircraft they were able to put up was excellent so, the day was set to be a bunch of fun. It did not disappoint. I have shot at the museum fly days before but, sometimes, the planes I was after didn’t fly and sometimes the conditions weren’t ideal. On this occasion, everything came together. I did play around with my shots trying to get more dynamic images. The high vantage point we had available helped with that too.
I took a ton of shots and culled them heavily. The result was a few shots I was particularly happy with and it was nice that the museum shared a few of them on their social media platforms too. Seeing the Skyraider fly is always cool but the day was a trainer day and they put up some great trainer formations. The conditions were a little bumpy but they made a good job of it and there were shots to be had. I look forward to the next time I am up there.