In 2012, A Grumman Wildcat was raised from the bottom of Lake Michigan. The lake has numerous wrecks scattered across it as a result of the training that was undertaken during the Second World War with students ditching their aircraft. Many have been raised over the years with some being restored to flight and others ending up in museums. The one that was raised in 2012 was the subject of a piece I put together for Global Aviation Magazine.
The airframe was moved to a hangar under the control of Chuck Greenhill (who had financed the recovery) at Kenosha Airport after it was raised from the water and this was where I got to see it. Opening the hangar door was quite a shock because the smell was pretty overpowering. The airframe was covered in various creatures that had attached themselves over the years and they were not doing well in the air of the hangar. It was a tough smell initially. You got used to it a bit and having the hangar door open helped to get some fresh air in there.
The airframe was in several parts. The wings were laid out in place and the tail section, which had separated at some point during the accident, was laid out behind it all. Obviously, there was lots of damage to the aircraft given that it originally had crashed and then spent decades underwater. The recovery process was delicate to avoid inflicting any further damage.
The airframe remains the property of the US Navy. It was originally going to go to Pensacola for restoration but ended up going to the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo MI in the end. It is currently undergoing restoration there.
I put together a selection of shots from the RIAT show of 2006 in this post. It was another four years before I was back for my next visit. This time I made a visit to the Park and View East rather than the west. This was the end at which everything was landing, and it also provided a good view of some of the arrivals as they taxied to the ramp.
The weather started out okay, but it got steadily worse resulting ion a torrential downpour. Some movements were in such low light that it was almost like shooting at night. The stormy weather passed and then the flying could resume. Given the variety of things that were showing up, I will focus this post on the arrival traffic, and we can add some of the displays in a different post.
Plenty of helicopters as well as the fast jets. I had not shot at this location before and I was not prepared for how crowded it could be and the way you needed to be at the front. That limited some of my shots unfortunately. Also, there was a lot of heat haze in the air so some of the nicer angles on the approach produced shots that are not sharp enough. Still, a fun day out. Drying out took a while that night though!
When I first started going to air shows, the Phantom was everywhere. The USAF was already well into the process of removing them from front line work and introducing the F-16s instead but there were still some in service. Other air forces still had them in some numbers. For this post I figured I would dig through whatever shots I could find of them to share. Some are more recent including some from the USAF target program and others are a little older. Enjoy.
Ahead of an ISAP symposium many years ago, my friend Richard had arranged a visit to JRB Carswell at Fort Worth. As well as being the home of the Lockheed Martin assembly plant, it also hosts the 301st FW of the USAF Reserve with their F-16s. They were great hosts and we got to spend a bunch of time around the base. On their ramp space, we had a lot of freedom to shoot them prepping for missions and heading out.
We also got to go to the EOR and see them come in after their missions and have the jets safed prior to taxiing back to the ramp. Being close to the jets while they are doing real work is such a different experience to seeing them at an air show when things are all a bit more contrived. This was a new experience for me at the time and so I was following the example of a few of the other guys when looking to see what sort of things to get shots of. It was a great learning experience and a bunch of fun too!
Edwards AFB has been the home to an amazing range of interesting aircraft types. Many of them have found their way to prominent museums around the country given the significance of what they achieved. Others never found interest and got disposed of. Some never lasted long enough to be preserved given the hazardous nature of what they did. However, there was a storage program for the rest and Edwards has a museum of some of these preserved airframes.
I haven’t been to Edwards for a long time so I don’t know what the current situation is with the collection but I did get to check it out on a previous visit. The collection was mainly front line types that had been used for testing purposes. (This is the USAF side of things rather than the NASA collection.) There are some types there that I didn’t see which I would like to have done like the YA-7F. However, there was a test A-7D with an air data boom. Here are some of the shots I got that day. I also shot a couple of other jets that were away from the rest but these were only with my phone and phone quality in those days was not what it is now.
When I lived in the UK, a trip to RIAT was a regular thing for me. After I started shooting digital, I was living in the US so RIAT was more than just a day trip. My first visit with the digital camera was in 2006. I had to be in the UK for work so I timed it to coincide with RIAT because, you know, it would have been rude not to. With RIAT canceled this year due to the ongoing virus issues, I figured I would jump back to this show to provide some highlights.
I spent two days there. I made my first arrivals day visit and spent the day at the west end which was really nice. Planes were arriving from that direction anyway so it worked out well. The conditions were really nice on both days too so it was a fun and successful shoot. Mikoyan-Gurevich brought there MiG-29OVT demonstrator with thrust vectoring and it flipped its way around the sky with abandon. There was the usual selection of types from around the world which makes RIAT so fun. There were also some older UK types making an appearance like the Canberra demonstration – the last RAF Canberra flights I saw – and the old Twin Pioneer.
A Czech Mil-24 Hind helicopter gunship in special tiger dquadron markings overflies RAF Fairford, UK.
Hopefully there is something in this selection that will be of interest from a great show. There have been more RIAT visits since so maybe I shall dig out some stuff from those years if I continue to struggle for material for future posts!
A Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon pulls hard during a display at RAF Fairford in the UK.
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.
Another day, another retro post. I am pleasantly surprised by what I find as I go through old shots since I am not able to get any new shots while we are all self-isolating. In this case it was a visit to Edwards AFB that was a pre-symposium trip ahead of an ISAP meeting. I think Richard was the one that organized it all. Anyway, the Edwards test fleet includes a bunch of F-16s. Some are from the test pilot school and some are test program assets or chase planes. There was also a Danish jet that was supporting the F-35 program.
We got to hang out on the ramp as see the jets under the shelters as well as get up close and personal as they were heading out for a mission and recovering. We later went out to shoot near the runway which was fun but not ideal from a shooting perspective because of heat haze. Who would have thought the Mojave Desert would have heat haze! Still better than a day at work of course.
Here are a bunch of shots from that day. I haven’t been through most of these for ages so it is interesting to see what upgrading them to the latest editing algorithms of Lightroom can do for the processing results. I have yet to find one that doesn’t look better with the new processes applied.
A Boeing F-15SA development airframe has been in the PNW. The F-15SA is a development of the Strike Eagle family specifically for the Royal Saudi Air Force. They are buying new jets as well as updating the F-15S jets they bought years ago. Production jets have been delivered for a while now but testing activities continue. I had heard that a jet was at Boeing Field for a while and had even seen the tails parked on the ramp as I drove by but I hadn’t seen it moving.
Military jets don’t usually show up on the mainstream flight tracking apps (but this one had when it traveled cross country) so I didn’t know it was airborne. However, I heard it call up on approach so stopped what I was doing and grabbed the camera. Sure enough, it came zipping down the approach. A few quick shots and then it was down. Apparently I was rather lucky. A couple of days later it headed back across country.
The sun was forecast, I had some time to spare and there was even suggestion of southerly winds so I took a day off and headed to Whidbey Island. Coupeville was planned for some FCLP training for the Growlers from Ault Field so I went up to see what I could see. With winter light, the sun is way to the south. It cross the centerline of the runway by late morning and, unfortunately, the first flight to arrive came after this time. They only had one meatball on the field and it was set up at the south end. The wind was southerly but not strong so they clearly decided a small tailwind was easier than dragging the lights to the other end and aligning them. Crap!
I spent some time on the sunny side which is far from the touchdown zone. I shot some stills and some video. The jets only get close when they are well airborne but it was possible to get a few shots that were okay. When they had finished the practice you knew it was the case because the jets cleaned up and powered away. I headed down to the water to have some lunch.
It wasn’t long before I heard the sound of jets again. I saw a couple of them turning over the bay and descending to the field so headed back up. While the light was on the wrong side, I figured I would just try something new since the alternative was just more of what I already had shot. It even was the same jets as the earlier session. I shot some backlit landings near the touchdown zone (and I was not alone – plenty of people stopped their cars to watch). With a bunch of shots and video done, I figured it was time to head home.
A US Navy Boeing EA-18G Growler departs NOLF Coupeville on Whidbey Island WA.
A US Navy Boeing EA-18G Growler departs NOLF Coupeville on Whidbey Island WA.