The B-1B Lancer (or Bone to almost everyone who cares) is an impressive piece of hardware. It might have some performance limitations resulting from the redesign it underwent from the original canceled B-1A to the B-1B – changes that might not look that obvious but run quite deep – but it is still a very capable jet. The blended airframe shaping really appeals to an aero guy like me while the swing wing is now a concept that is disappearing as other types retire so it is becoming the last of the line. Add to that four afterburning engines and you get something that makes an impression.
It used to be a regular performer at air shows but these days you don’t see them as much. However, it can still turn heads when it makes fast passes and plugs in the burners. A bit of vapor can also be pulled as they get the speed and load on. Seeing them launch from close to the runway is always worthwhile. They are such an imposing jet. Sadly, their limitations and the cost of supporting them will probably mean they get retired long before the B-52s that they were once considered to replace. Here are some shots of my Bone encounters.
I was thinking back to previous RIAT shows when I was putting together the 2006 post here. RIAT was my first encounter with the B-2. I recall it showing up to a show one year for a flyby without landing. It flew through accompanied by a pair of F-15Cs, one on each wing. Then, another year – maybe the next but I don’t recall for sure – one was actually deployed to the show. It was parked up so close to everyone on the flight line. I took quite a few pictures of it because it was so new and interesting. (A few pictures in the film days was a let less than it became in the digital days!) Even now, I think a show would consider it quite a coup to have a B-2 on the ground.
A text message from a relative let me know that the Collings Foundation’s B-17 had crashed in Connecticut. Such a terrible shame for those who died or were injured and those associated with them. The loss of an historic airframe is also very sad. I have seen the Collings Foundation tour on a number of occasions are different locations including earlier this year. I hope they will continue with the other aircraft because it brings so much joy to so many. Here is a selection of my shots of Nine-O-Nine.
The Collings Foundation made its annual visit to the Seattle area recently including flights from Boeing Field. The weather had been rather uninspiring but I figured I would head along and hope for some gaps in the clouds. The Mustang and the P-40 didn’t fly while I was there. The B-24 and the B-17 did though. Sadly, the B-24 only flew once. The discussion was whether Seattle being a Boeing town meant that everyone wanted to fly on the B-17, despite the rarity of the B-24. The clouds had a habit of parting at just the wrong time and place with good light up the approach and down the runway but not where I wanted it to be. Even so, it was still nice to see these vintage planes again.
The two B-25s that live on Paine Field are regular performers. When they both went up at Skyfair, I have to admit that I was not so excited. However, I was not anticipating a series of flypasts that were significantly better than I had seen from them before. They brought them in with a tight formation and some angles that allowed some great topside shots as they curved around on to the runway alignment.
Watching them line up, you could see that they weren’t going to come so close and ruin the photo opportunities. Instead, we got lots of banking and pulling with far better shots than I had achieved previously. I was not alone in appreciating the effort. Everyone around me was most impressed by the performance.
The Lyon Air Museum has a B-17 as part of its collection. Named Fuddy Duddy, I was told by a docent that it is airworthy. I don’t know whether that means it is still flown or not and a quick search has not brought up any recent photos of it but maybe it is out and about at times. I walked around it in the hangar and got a few shots of it in amongst the rest of the museum collection. It looked to be in great condition but I have no idea what is beneath the skin.
The A-26 is a plane that had a longer life in service than many of its stablemates. It found use as a ground attack aircraft in Vietnam despite having its origins in WWII. It cropped up along the way between these extremes. Some of them found use as corporate transports too including the one I saw at Lyon Air Museum. It had been used by Howard Hughes at some point. Now it is restored to something closer to its operational configuration.
It was tight in amongst the other exhibits which made getting good shots tricky. It is also finished in black which can make the photography a touch more challenging. However, having not shot a lot of them, I was keen to make the best of it. These shots are a summary of what I got as I checked out this speedy beast. How I would like to get some airborne shots of one. I believe one lives close to me but I have yet to see it out in the wild.
I last saw a Mosquito in flight in the early 1990s when the BAe operated example was on the air show circuit prior to its loss at Barton. I had assumed at that time that I was unlikely to see another one fly. I never saw Kermit Weeks’ example fly and it has been on the ground for a long time. I hadn’t counted on the recent interest from collectors in getting rare aircraft rebuilt. The Mosquito has been a popular project and there are a couple now flying in the US and, I think, another one in Canada. It is great to see people with the available funds getting these aircraft back in the skies (even if these are pretty close to totally new builds).
One of the Mossies is part of Paul Allen’s collection and the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum (FHCAM). It had flown a few times since we moved to the area but I had not seen it fly until they held their European Theater Day. I was determined to see it this time. I had forgotten just how large an aircraft the Mossie is. It flew with a bunch of other fighters and included a number of passes with a 109. The Mossie is huge when next to the 109 and it really has presence. It is a bit of a pain to photograph because the color scheme has camouflage upper surfaces and black undersides. With the sun high in the sky, this makes for a very contrasty subject.
I probably got a little overenthusiastic photographing the plane. It was parked on the ramp before and after the flypasts although not well positioned for the light in either case. That didn’t stop me though. When it was flying it got my maximum attention – a little bit of a compromise since the 109 it was partnered with was also something worthy of some shots. I did get a few of them and they will be in an upcoming post. It is nice to have finally shot a Mossie though after all of this time. I look forward to seeing it again, particularly on its own and in more of a display format.
I’ve already shown the B-1s at Red Flag some love but here is a bit more about them because, well, why not? The four afterburning engines produce a lot of noise, light and, I guess, thrust. For a few of the departures, I focused the camera on the back end to try and show that energetic output. Daylight is not the best time to show up the afterburner plume – night works well for that as does being more directly behind the jet – but it still is possible to see the jet against the dark airframe. This is just something so impressive to see.
Grumpy got airborne using the Doolittle technique I posted about here. During the takeoff, there were some puffs of smoke from one of the engines. Initially I thought this might just be some oil blowing through but, as they climbed out, the output from the engine was clearly not as it should be and the one engine was clearly not healthy. They cut short the flight (although not as short as it could have been) and brought the plane back down. I saw Grumpy fly a few weeks later so I guess they dealt with whatever the issue was.