Before the F-16s became the drone target conversion of choice for the USAF, the F-4 was the jet. The contract for conversion was run by Tracor which ultimately ended up being part of BAE Systems at the time I saw these jets. They did the conversion program at Mojave Airport in California. We were a bit of a distance from the ramp where they were parked but it was early in the day and the heat haze was not yet a problem so a long shot was feasible. Looking at these, I think they were both RF-4C jets that had either been converted or were about to be.
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.
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.
The Red Arrows have conducted a North American tour this year. It commenced just after RIAT so, while I saw them there, I hoped to catch them at some point during the tour. Their closest displays were in Oregon and Vancouver and I wasn’t able to go to either sadly. They did stage through Seattle, though, so I figured I would go and see them arrive. The twelve jets showed up on a heavily overcast day. They did some flybys over the city and then a run in across Boeing Field. A pair of jets landed directly while the remaining ten flew around a little more – nine ships in formation and one getting some photos. Then it was run and and break to landing before taxiing off to parking.
RIAT is known for special formations and British Airways has been part of them in the past. Concorde with the Red Arrows and an A380 with the Red Arrows spring to mind. For 2019 and BA’s 100th anniversary, they wanted to do something special. The focal point was to be the BOAC liveried 747-400. I shot this jet at SeaTac and covered it in this post. To see it in formation with the Red Arrows sounded pretty good. They put together two passes.
The first was from the right and involved a gentle turn in the direction of the crowd to give a slightly topside view of things. This was nice but the distance involved did mean there was a bit of heat haze to combat. The second pass in the other direction was a more straight pass along the display axis. The sun was popping in and out during this time so the colors popped sometimes and not others. It made for some tricky shooting but it still looked pretty good and it was nice to just watch when not shooting.
RIAT is known for putting together formations of different types to celebrate certain events. The fiftieth anniversary of the first flight of Concorde resulted in two display teams getting together. Concorde was an Anglo-French collaboration and so was the celebration in this case. The Red Arrows and the Patrouille de France both fly formations to represent Concorde so, for this joint effort, both teams got airborne and flew their two Concorde formations in line astern. They made passes in each direction with the national anthems of each country playing – one on the first pass and the other on the second. It was a simple demonstration but an impressive one all the same.
With a title like that, who could resist reading this one! The T-45 is a plane I have a close affinity with. It was my involvement with the project that first brought me to work in the US and it is responsible for me meeting Nancy. Aside from that, I got quite involved in many aspects of the plane’s design so feel like I know it quite well. It did not have a smooth entry to service and went through a multitude of upgrades prior to being accepted in to service. One of the lesser known items was the nose gear doors.
These were lumped in to a bunch of issues relating to directional stability. The front fuselage of the T-45 is considerably deeper than the original Hawk but the design originally had the same fin and actually lost the ventral fins that were either side of the airbrake on the original. Directional control was enhanced by adding a fin cap, modifying the rudder design and adding a new ventral fin on the arrestor hook fairing. One other change was made too.
The carrier launch requirements meant the simple nose gear was replaced with a far chunkier assembly with dual wheels and the catapult launch bar, all of which was beefier enough to take the catapult launch loads. Covering this all up were big nose gear doors. These were originally either open or closed. If you look at the doors, you can see they are like adding large fins to the front fuselage. This is very destabilizing. The rear doors must stay open when the gear is down but the front doors were rescheduled to close again once the gear was down, making a substantial difference in directional stability. They have to open while the gear is transitioning and stability is reduced during this phase but it doesn’t last long. However, if you watch the retraction and extension sequence, you get a brief glimpse at how big these doors really are. From what I understand, a similar issue affected the F-35 and only the first airframe, AA-1, had the old single huge gear door.