The first two flight test 777X airframes have been on the flight line. However, something different was sitting outside the production hangars at Everett. It was a 777X but it was missing a few more cosmetic parts. This was the fatigue test aircraft. It was being readied for movement around to the area of the plant where they undertake the fatigue testing. This will probably be the last time you get to see it like this. Once testing is done, I suspect it will rapidly end up in pieces for further analysis.
While it isn’t actually an airshow, Dream Machines at Half Moon Bay was my first aircraft event of the year. Hayman and I headed over there to see what would show up. I was also planning on writing it up for GAR again this year. That piece has now gone live at http://www.globalaviationresource.com/v2/2014/05/05/aviation-event-review-dream-machines-half-moon-bay/ so you can head over the GAR to see the finished version.
The piece focuses more on the aviation side of things than the cars since it is an aviation site. However, the cars were really cool. Here are a couple of cars along with a plane to give you a hint. I might add some more at a later stage!
One great advantage of social media is that you find out about something before it happens rather than after – well, at least some of the time. I saw a Facebook post about a talk being given by Brian Shul at the Hiller Aviation Museum. Brian is a retired Air Force pilot who flew a variety of aircraft types culminating in the SR-71 Blackbird. He has published a number of books and talks to various groups about aspects of his life and career.
After Brian had finished his talk, I managed to grab some time with him to conduct an interview. The piece that resulted is now live on the Global Aviation Resource website at the following link. http://www.globalaviationresource.com/v2/2015/01/23/aviation-profile-brian-shul-sr-71-blackbird-pilot/
Brian’s life has had many interesting turns. I will leave the story to the feature and you can always buy his books if you have saved some pennies. I do want to point out that Brian is a very engaging person. I sat with him for a long time while he dealt with so many people that wanted to talk to him that day and he never once shied away from taking as much time as any of them wanted, young or old. He was even given directions to visitors looking for the museum’s restrooms without batting an eye. When we managed to get some time to talk, he freely and frankly talked about anything I asked and provided plenty of material for the article. Meeting interesting people is a great part of writing for GAR.
Every other year, the A-10 community in the US Air Force holds a competition called Hawgsmoke. This year it was being held in Arizona. The aircraft were based at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson and the Goldwater range complex was where most of the exercise was taking place. With the possibility that the A-10 might be taken out of service hanging over things, I was keen to get down there in case this was the last time the event would take place.
I covered the event for Global Aviation Resource so you can see the article I produced here. Rather than repeat that, I shall provide a little of the back-story. Arizona in July is not the coolest place in the world. Head out into the desert and it is even warmer. Get taken there in an Air Force bus which has air conditioning that doesn’t work properly and you will be pretty toasty. If the young guy driving the bus appears to be falling asleep all of the time, you are feeling a bit more alert than might otherwise be the case in that heat.
Our time on the range was a bit short. One of the TV crews from a local station obviously decided he had seen enough and told the organizers that he would miss his deadline if we didn’t leave. He had been given the same schedule as the rest of us so I suspect he was talking crap. However, while we were on the range for less time than expected, we still got a great experience of the A-10s running in to shoot the targets. The close proximity as they fired was something else as was their break over the top of us after each pass.
It was a good bunch of guys on the trip and we all headed out to shoot around Davis Monthan when we got back. This gave me a chance to get some more shots of the A-10s that would fill out the article a little. By the end of the day, I was shattered. I had been drinking liquid all day but I think I was just keeping out of trouble rather than being properly hydrated. Still, it was really worth it. A little longer and the benefit of the sun coming around would have been nice but it was still cool (but hot!). Below is some video that I shot for GAR while I was there too.
When things go according to plan, the USAF holds their Red Flag exercise three times a year at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas NV. Global Aviation Resource like to provide some coverage so, with the second event of the 2014 program taking place in march, I headed down to cover the event. I spent a couple of days down there. One day was on base as guests of the public affairs people at Nellis. They started out the day with an interview panel with a number of officers from different units and air forces. They were a good bunch and willing to answer our questions – well, most of them since they wisely avoided answering some questions that should never have been asked of them.
With the interviews over, we headed out to the runways. There are two runways at Nellis that are used together. We were able to stand between them and given relatively free range as to how far up and down we wanted to go. There are clear preferences as to which runway you want them to use based on the light. The launch took place around the middle of the day and they launched off to the northeast. In this case he light was best on the aircraft on the left runway. However, you have to do what you can for those on the right as well – often the aircraft you want to focus on. (There is a bunch of aircraft that you are told not to photograph. Often it takes a while to realize that what is coming is something you can’t shoot but most people seemed to play by the rules.)
When the recovery starts, they tend to use the opposite runways. By now the light has come around so you really want them to come in on the left. Sadly, a lot of traffic went to the right. If you had been outside, you would have got a good amount of traffic to shoot. When recoveries had wrapped up, we all got back on the buses and headed out. The second day I spent outside the base. This provides an opportunity to get a different selection of shots for the article. It also is unrestricted in what you can shoot so some of the stuff that was restricted while on base can now be shot for the coverage. Sadly, various things resulted in a lot of the recovering traffic going to the left. This would have been great if I was on base but sadly it meant a lot of interesting stuff was a long way off. Still, plenty of stuff came our way. With the Speedway building up to a NASCAR racing weekend, the crews had been told to keep it tight. Some certainly did that and came a lot closer to us than expected or even turned within us. It made for some interesting angles to shoot.
The finished article is available through the magazine we publish. You can find it here. Please go and download a copy if you haven’t already seen it. Aside from my work, there is a bunch of great stuff to take a look at.
The Wings Over Waukesha air show was recently held in – you guessed it – Waukesha. I covered it for Global Aviation Resource and, rather than duplicate everything here, why not head over to their website to see the original piece. Here is the link.
A little bit of sad news recently came through to me from the West Coast. Airship Ventures have ceased operations. They are a company that bought a new generation Zeppelin airship from the manufacturers in Germany and based it in the Bay Area around San Francisco. They provided tours around the Bay as well as operating further afield in the state. I got to catch up with them when they undertook a national tour that included a stop not far from Chicago.
I was writing an article for the website at Global Aviation Resource which you can see here. I also blogged about it here. There is an effort underway to rescue the business. We shall see whether they are successful or whether someone buys the assets at a discount and sets up something new. I hope it works out and wish them well.
This is a plug for the magazine. For those averse to gratuitous advertising, look away now. Global Aviation Resource’s digital magazine was running a feature on the Air Force Reserve. Paul Dunn was leading the article but wanted some help on the piece so I joined him at Travis AFB located between the Bay Area and Sacramento in California. This is an area I am spending a lot of time in at the moment but it was fun to do something a little different!
Since the magazine will be the outlet for a lot of the work from the day, I can’t put too much in here at the moment. The Reserve article is live in the current issue but there will be some follow up material in later issues. However, here are a couple of shots from the day. The team at Travis were as helpful as you could possibly want and many thanks to everyone there for taking such good care of us. My only complaint is that Paul broke the sim but that is another story…
The development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been a protracted story filled with technical and programmatic challenges which have led to financial challenges as well. However, while the program is not yet out of the woods, production aircraft are now making their way to service with customers and Boeing is undertaking a promotional tour for those who have been involved in the program or are potential customer.
One of those events was at Rockford, not far from me. I covered the event for Global Aviation Resource and you can see the full piece at this link.
When you are first putting together a piece for a magazine, you don’t know exactly what sort of response you are going to get from the subject. I am presently working on a piece about a manufacturer of business jets. The magazine is getting well established so it should be a good amount of exposure for the company but you never know whether that is something they want or not.
When I contacted this company, I got a speedy response from their PR team which was great. They provided responses to a series of questions I emailed to them but that is really only half of a story. When writing questions, you think you have covered the main bases. Then you get the responses and they trigger further questions. In a face to face interview, this process also takes place but you get to deal with the back and forth immediately and the result should be a lot better as a result.
Consequently, with a little prodding, I managed to secure an interview with one of the board members of the company. He arranged to meet me at one of their facilities that was conveniently located for me to get to. When I got there, he immediately had to apologize that an aircraft closing was happening that morning and he couldn’t immediately be available. This was really no big deal for me since I had made plenty of time available in case anything should mess up the schedule. Selling aircraft is the business they are in so it isn’t hard to see that it should take preference over an interview.
In the mean time, one of the team was available to show me around the hangars. I needed to get images of the aircraft in work to illustrate the piece and he was great at helping me get what I needed. There were only two restrictions applied. Registration numbers had to be obscured since customers owned the aircraft and some of the internal looms could not be shown. This was fine by me and wasn’t going to limit the piece at all.
Aside from those rules, everything was made available. Aircraft were powered up if I needed them. Anything in the way or obscuring the shot was removed. Gallery access was fine to get an overview of the hangars. When I asked if anything was out on the ramp, I was told it wasn’t but if I wanted something, it would be put out there. Fantastic cooperation and all provided with the friendliest attitudes. Everyone I met in the hangar was very friendly. They treated me the way they apparently treat visiting customers – shame I don’t have the cash to be a customer!
With the important things taken care of, it was possible to conduct the interview. The person I was interviewing was very helpful and willing to discuss most things that I brought up. One aspect of it was quite interesting from my point of view. My idea of who I am is not necessarily the same as that of the interviewee. I shall explain. I am interested in the topic that I am writing about and I have a fair bit of experience in the subject so like to delve a little deeper into the subject. I am interested in understanding but I am not trying to embarrass the company. They will get a chance to review what we write to make sure we do not say anything untrue.
As far as they are concerned, I am a journalist who wants a story. Will I try and make them look bad? They don’t know. The answers are all in line with the general message the company wants to portray. This is perfectly reasonable. However, it can mean that they are not going to give me the most frank answers to the questions or may avoid answering them altogether. As we were talking, I found this a little odd. It was only when I thought about it further afterwards that it made more sense. They don’t know me, what my motives might be and they have a business to protect and promote. I guess this is an example of my own inexperience in some aspects of this.
None of this should in anyway suggest that I wasn’t provided with the utmost cooperation. The team were great and I hope they find the article both fair and interesting. I wish them the best with their efforts and hope that we might get to work again some time. Now to just get some images of the aircraft flying!