Periodically, when I am looking through my image catalog for a specific subject for one project or another, I come across some images from a while back that look okay but might benefit from some of the more recent approaches to processing that I have adopted. This doesn’t always help but it can be fun to start from scratch on a raw file and then see whether the final version is any better than the previous attempt. I created a new virtual copy in Lightroom and zero out all of the sliders, upgrade to the latest processing version and give it a go.
I did this a little while ago on a shot of a Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. I shot this jet at Palmdale many years ago on a visit with my friend, Paul. The shots were okay, and I was happy with them at the time. Here I shall show you the current version first and then the next one down is the previous result of my processing from when it was shot. Do you think it is a significant change?
There are many aircraft that the British aircraft industry produced in the middle to late 20th century that did not end up being terribly successful. There was the occasional commercial product in there but a lot that did not have large production numbers, even by the standards of the day. It was not unusual for the Royal Air Force to end up operating a few of these as the government of the day found a way to prop up an ailing manufacturer. One type like this was the Bristol Britannia.
A turboprop airliner, it was too large given that jets had taken over the market by the time it was coming into service. The Royal Air Force was the “willing” recipient of some of these airframes and, for transporting troops that didn’t have a choice in the matter, they were probably just fine. One of these airframes, Regulus, is not preserved at Cotswold Airport at Kemble in Gloucestershire. I didn’t know it was there until I was driving around the airport killing some time. It looks to be in great condition. I don’t know how well it is handling the corrosion risk that damp UK airfields offer but I hope it lasts a long time. There are a few of these around but not many.
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.
It’s been a while since I posted some images of Marine Corps Hornets having issues starting up to depart from Boeing Field after a weekend visiting for training. I didn’t include any images in there of them actually taking off. I got a reasonable spot to try and see them take offs even though the weather was not really great. I was surprised at just how quickly the jets got airborne. They were already quite high by the time that they came by me. I was still able to get some reasonable shots of them. Fast jets are always a nice change to the usual Boeing Field traffic.
I was down at Fort Casey on Whidbey Island one sunny afternoon. I had been to Ault Field first thing in the morning and some of the shots from then will make it on here at some point. I was down near Coupeville awaiting some FCLP training but, since I had time on my hands, I was wandering down near the shore. The wind must have changed because some planes from Ault Field were coming down our way as part of their patterns. One was a P-8 – the latest that the Navy has for maritime patrol – while the other was a P-3 – the type that the P-8 has almost completely replaced in service. It seemed quite appropriate to have both of them working overhead at the same time.
When I was first into aviation, the Phantom was everywhere. It was operated by numerous air forces and the RAF had tons of them (including some that had cascaded from the Royal Navy). At all of my early air shows, there would be Phantoms on static and part of the flying display. While they had started their RAF career in the strike and ground attack role, by this time they were purely used for air defense.
With the end of the Cold War, the RAF reduced in size and the Phantoms were withdrawn from service far faster than had originally been anticipated. It wasn’t long before they were all gone. A bunch ended up in museums and the rest were cut up. As I was exploring Kemble’s airfield – Cotswold Airport to give it its proper name – I was surprised to come across a bunch of bits of Phantoms alongside the road. A pair of fuselages including one of a Boscombe test jet that I had a kit of as a kid, some wings, fins and tail planes. It was all just sitting there so I grabbed a few shots. I have heard since that the airport was pressuring the owners to cover it all properly and I think it all went under cover shortly after I was there. A lucky break for me, I guess.
The number of times I have just missed something or didn’t even know it was close by I cannot count. However, sometimes I can get lucky, and I had one day when things just clicked. The result will be several posts. I was at Boeing Field to catch a test jet from Gulfstream (which I did and will appear here soon). I was waiting for it to show up on approach and was scanning FlightRadar24 when I saw an odd registration appear turning in to the approach. I tapped on it, and it showed as a Hawker Hunter.
Needless to say, this was quite a surprise. Then, another one appeared. The two came down the approach in trail. I got shots of both of them being a little brave/reckless with my shutter speed. Even as this was happening, a third and a fourth popped on screen and it was not long before the second pair had made it into my viewfinder.
They taxied to the ramp at Modern and shut down. Sadly, I wasn’t able to be there when they made the next leg of their trip to Alaska. One was delayed by engine issues and my friend was able to get some shots of it testing. I was hoping to catch them during their return but that took place while I was up in the Islands. However, I had got them once and that was a lucky break I am grateful for.
When the Singaporean Air Force wanted to add tanker capabilities a few years ago, they bought some surplus KC-135Rs from the US to operate. More recently, they acquired some A330 tankers from Airbus and the KC-135s were, again, surplus. This time they were picked up by a company called Meta Aerospace that bid on refueling work for the US Navy. I think Meta has changed its name to Metrea – presumably to avoid being confused with the Facebook parent.
Whatever the name, they brought one of the aircraft to Seattle for a little over a week for work that was being undertaken over the Pacific off the coast of Washington. They have their tankers painted in a rather nice livery with the company logos and I was hoping to catch one. As it happened, one was up one afternoon and there was a chance of getting there after work to get it. I headed down thinking I had some time in hand. I was wrong. They came back a little earlier than expected, the airport changed runways which meant I had to go further and traffic on that extra section was backed up. I got to the fence just as it was coming over the threshold and I managed a few weak shots with sections of barbed wire cutting through the airframe in most.
I wondered whether I had missed my only good opportunity but, thankfully, they were around for longer than expected and one of the flights again gave me a chance to get there after work. This time I was there with a bit more time in hand and was able to get some shots without the added benefit of wire foregrounds! The plane was on the ground at other times but, at this time of year, the heat haze at Boeing Field is pretty bad. Only on a crummy Saturday when my friend Chris was in town, was it possible to get a reasonably clear shot of it parked up. I wonder if we will see it back here at some point in the future.
It has been a long time since I last saw one of the Boeing T-38 chase jets. I don’t know whether they hadn’t flown for a long time or whether it is just I didn’t know anything about it. However, one of them started showing up a while back making a series of flights. The question was whether I would be able to be around on one of those occasions? Fortunately, the answer proved to be yes. I have not always been lucky with the light on the T-38s but, on this occasion, things were pretty good. When will I catch one or other of them next?
The Memorial Day weekend included the visit to Boeing Field of four F/A-18 Hornets from the US Marine Corps. I had heard that they were in the area but wasn’t able to get out to see them until the Monday of the holiday weekend when they were due to head home. Weather was a bit overcast so not great for shooting a grey jet! Still, I wasn’t going to ignore them. When I got there, the crews were just beginning to look like they would be ready to go.
However, things were not going to be smooth. One of the jets was the color jet and I had heard that it had been leaking fuel during the stay. Sure enough, when they fueled it up for departure, it must have leaked again because a bunch of ground crew – presumably from the FBO – were suddenly out with absorbent pads and brooms to clean up whatever had spilled. This took quite a while to get done so the four pilots were hanging around the jets waiting to be clear to go.
Finally, everything was tidied up and they crewed in for departure. The sound of engines starting was a positive one but, as one jet fired up one of the engines, it definitely didn’t sound like it was spooling up at the same rate as the others. Sure enough, one jet shut down and the pilot hopped out of the cockpit, walked back down the fuselage and slid to the ground. I’m not sure what he did to the jet but he then retraced his steps, back up on the jet and strapped back in. This time, the start sequence went okay and they were all ready to taxi.