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.
If you ask Nancy about a name that I think has good comic potential, it is Dave. It is not that the name Dave is strange in any way but, if you asked me to name something, my first choice would be Dave. It has something that just works for being offbeat. Apparently, I am not alone in this (which will come as a great disappointment to Nancy who will now know I am not alone and will never stop). The online forum for aerospace, PPRUNE, has apparently decided to call the F-35 Lightning II the Dave. Tornados are Tonkas, F-16s are Vipers and now F-35s are Daves. I love it!
Red Flag 17-1 was the first of the Red Flag exercises to which the USAF brought the F-35A. The Marine Corps had brought the F-35B previously but they tended to go out in pairs. This time the Air Force took the jets out in significant numbers. Consequently, I was able to get lots of shots of the jets. Whether it was groups returning as four ships, individual jets departing or odd Daves in formation with other jets, there were plenty of options. They also turned in really nicely on approach for the spot I had chosen so some nice close top sides were also possible.
I won’t yet say that I have grown to like the look of the jet but I am certainly starting to thaw. Since they are all new and spotlessly clean, the colors (is that right given how variations of gray are what we are talking about) really come out nicely in the low light. There are some nice lines to the jet. It may be a bit chunky but it doesn’t have the same problems as the F-22 with angles at which it looks positively uncomfortable. Hopefully, the time will come when the operators are able to move away from the purely gray and adopt some nice colors on the jets. We shall see.
The Dutch F-16 training unit has been at Tucson for a while now. It moved from Springfield IL to join the Arizona ANG unit at the International Airport. I have seen their jets before but it was nice to see them again. The Dutch F-16s have been through an extensive upgrade program but the airframes are knocking on a bit. Built by Fokker as F-16A/Bs in the early days of the program, they have soldiered on while the USAF retired their F-16As a long time ago. I didn’t get a lot of chance to shoot the Dutch jets but managed to catch a few during my time there.
My first trip to Edwards AFB was in 1990 as I wrote about in this blog post. My next trip was quite a bit later. This was a visit arranged by my friend Richard ahead of an ISAP symposium. It also allowed a lot more opportunity to see the aircraft. The visit was broken in to two main elements. The first was a walk along the flightline and the second was heading to the other side of the runway to shoot arrivals and departures.
The diversity of types on the flightline has dwindled since 1990. Now there are an awful lot of F-16s and not so many other types. However, test jets look cool in their non-operational colors. Shooting under the sun shades is good for protection from the elements but it does make for some wide ranges of lighting conditions and some odd color casts.
Once on the other side of the runway, we had some great options for shooting the jets in action. Heat haze is always a problem, particularly somewhere as warm as Edwards can be, but you can still get some interesting aircraft. We were hoping to see some F-35s but were disappointed this time. However, we did get one of the F-35 test support F-16s from Denmark which was nice to see. We also had aircraft from the Test Pilot School out doing their thing.
A couple of more unusual aircraft showed up while we were there. One off the NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft was on a training sortie. With the program now curtailed, this was the last chance I had to see one of these 747s in the air although not with a shuttle mounted on it! NASA was also using one of their Global Hawks UAVs and it landed while we were there. An old Gulfstream also landed. It had unusual markings to simulate a missile for tracking systems. This used to be undertaken by a C-135 aircraft but it has been retired and replaced by the Gulfstream which, while not a new jet, is still probably a lot cheaper to operate.
We also got to see some of the museum aircraft including the twin seat A-10 I had shot in 1990! The trip was over far too soon but we had a great time and saw some cool stuff. Thanks to Richard for organizing. Now I need to get myself back there to see what the latest fleet is up to.
My first visit to the United States was in 1990. I had just graduated from university and was joining my Dad on a trip he was making at the time. I was to meet up with him in Los Angeles and travel around California before ending up in San Francisco for a week. Since I had a date to meet him but no previous constraints, I made the flight out a couple of days early so I could go and explore. Where did I want to go? How could I not come this far and not visit Edwards AFB.
A famous flight test center, seen of many records, home of some unusual aircraft, Edwards was a place I really wanted to see. In those days, there were two tours available. The Air Force had a tour in the morning and NASA had a tour in the afternoon. Make an early start and you could cover both with ease.
The Air Force tour included a bus ride along the side of the flightline. You didn’t get to step outside near the active jets but they did take us out onto the lakebed and to see a few of the stored aircraft that would be part of the museum in years to come. The flightline was full of F-16s and F-4s with F-111s and other jets scattered amongst them. So much that is now gone was on show. This was also just after the YF-23 had been rolled out. We were told we couldn’t take any pictures of it if we happened to see it but sadly it was tucked away while we were there. It would be a long time before I finally saw one for real.
After lunch it was over to the NASA part of the base. This was paradise for someone like me. So many test aircraft either in maintenance or storage. There was an SR-71 in one hangar, plenty of F/A-18 Hornets (including the HARV demonstrator and another airframe that appeared to have been used for mocking up the engine paddles), F-104s, an F-15, the HiMAT and, out in the storage lot, the supercritical F-8 and the Sikorsky RSRA all stuck in a fenced off area. I missed some other things I would liked to have seen including the X-29, X-31 and the STOL/MTD F-15 but it was still an impressive lineup.
The end of the 80s was a great time with so many programs funded. It might not have been as diverse as the 50s and 60s but it was still great to go there when so much was to be seen. These days, visits require a lot more planning and the number of types in use has dwindled. However, it is still worth a trip and another post shall cover that.
Just a quick one here. I was departing Oklahoma City for home and, as we taxied out to the departure runway, we passed the Arinc facility on the side of the field. They had a selection of KC-10s and KC-135s on their ramp for work and a KC-10 was actually taxiing in after landing as we lined up. I grabbed a couple of shots of the ramp before we turned around for departure.
All of my interest in Dayton that has shown up in some previous posts was originally driven by a search for some shots I had taken at the National Museum of the USAF at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton OH. I have been to the museum on a couple of occasions. The first time was not a planned visit and I was able to check out a good part of the collection but was too late to make a visit across the field to the hangars that hold the presidential airplane collection and the flight test collection.
Consequently, on my second visit I made the effort to get there early and secure a slot on the shuttle bus across to these hangars. The main collection is very interesting and had changed a bit between my visits but the rarities in the flight test collection were really what had drawn me back. Photographing in the main hangars is a little impeded by the light – or lack thereof. It is very dark and some of the aircraft are similarly dark which results in some very difficult photography conditions.
The majority of the main hangar aircraft are USAF aircraft but you do find some other types in there. There are a variety of MiGs on display as well as an RAF Tornado in Granby colors. The changes in the collection include the presence of a YF-22 demonstrator on my first visit which had been replaced with an F-22 development aircraft on my second. Also, an F-117 had appeared for the second visit which I hadn’t seen on the previous trip. The relevance of unmanned vehicles is reflected in a variety of types showing up as well as some research vehicles.
However, the research hangar was really what I wanted to check out. There are some amazing aircraft on display. I was fascinated to see them all but there were really three that were the focus of a lot of my attention. The B-70, the YF-23 and the X-29. Sadly, the variety of aircraft on display is a problem given the constrained size of the hangar. Everything is piled on top of everything else to make it fit. This makes it necessary to take care as you walk around to ensure that you don’t walk into things. Also, it makes getting photographs a little tricky. Something is always intruding in to your shot. They weren’t rolling stuff outside for me so I had to go with what I could get. Air data booms and propellers do tend to show up in odd places though.
Other aircraft of note include the AFTI F-16. Sadly, this aircraft went through many iterations during its life and the one in which it was when retired is not as interesting as when it was set up for control configured vehicle research. That was a plane I loved when I was young. It is funny that this hangar also includes a YF-12, the YF-107 and an X-15 and these only warrant mention this late in the piece. However, there are other equally unusual types there which don’t even get a mention although they will show up in the pictures. That is how cool this hangar is. For an aero engineer like me, these research types are really great – particularly when you have only read about them for many years. This place is great. What a shame you are limited in how much time you can spend there before they bus you back to the main museum campus.
A trip to Tucson means a chance to shoot the F-16s that operate from the international airport there. This is an Air National Guard unit and it also includes the training unit for the Netherlands Air Force. I have shot there before and posted about it in this post. It is a place for morning shooting. The light is right at that time and the heat has not got too bad. Near the end of the runway is the favored spot and you can get the aircraft just after they lift off as they head straight out. The morning launch is often quite busy so you can get a steady stream of aircraft.
What goes out is usually coming back and the recoveries mean time to move. This time they actually caught us out a bit since some of the early launches came back in less than an hour so were recovering before the others had launched. This actually provided a chance to catch them as they turned off after landing so some ground shots were available although the heat haze was starting to be a problem. I then headed to the other favored spot that puts you inside the final turn. Depending on how tightly they fly the turn, you can either see them a reasonable distance away or they can feel like hey are right on top of you.