I found myself looking through some old photos (as I have done a lot in the last ten months) and came to the Clear Lake Splash In that takes place in California. I only made one trip up to this event and, while I was told that it was a quieter year than previous events, it was still a pretty cool thing to experience. Three Grumman Widgeons showed up at the event. The classic Grumman amphibian look was cool to see in action.
They landed on the lake and then dropped the undercarriage to allow them to power up the steel plate ramp that had been laid to provide access to the parking field. The three of them were parked together over near the trees. One went out to do some flying during the course of the day and then they all headed home when things wrapped up.
Watching something of this size transition from the water to the land was most impressive. Similarly, the trip back down the ramp and in to the water was cool to witness. The Widgeon sits pretty low in the water when it is not at speed but, once it is up on the step, it is a very different beast. Since they were operating parallel to the shore, it was possible for them to be quite close while they were at speed which was great.
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 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.
While on the terrace at Future of Flight, I saw a Goose parked up over near the FBO. I had mixed feelings since it was interesting that it was there but I was disappointed I didn’t know it had come in and had missed the arrival. You can imagine how happy I was to see it taxi out a short while later. It made a mid flight departure so was still reasonably low as it came past. The dark paint might have Ben a problem on a cloudy northwest day but we had sun so it showed up nicely. Only as I looked at the shots afterwards did I realize that it was a turboprop conversion rather than a piston-engined plane. Oh to see it on the water!
I should probably have planned this post better and timed it to coincide with the actual event but that didn’t happen. The Marine Corps recently retired their last EA-6B Prowlers and the web was full of shots of Prowlers to celebrate the event. I like the Prowler a lot so I thought I would get in on the act. I have shot Prowlers a bunch of times over the years whether it was on flight lines, on exercise, during training or at an air show. Here is a selection of some of my favorite Prowler shots.
I had gone to Paine Field for an Antonov arrival that has its own post here. We got a nice bonus while there. A Hellcat was up for a Check flight of some sort which I didn’t even know about until it flew a pattern overhead. I had figured it was just another light aircraft making a midfield departure. The overhead was nice to see but a bit distant.
However, whatever the check flight was for was obviously done quite quickly as they called for an approach. As they came down final, another light aircraft was ahead of them and was not going to vacate in time so they were told to go around. Two approaches! Thank you. The first had been straight in but the second was a nice curving approach with a good top side view. That will do nicely.
Pinal Air Park is located northwest of Tucson. A number of business operate there. It used to be a location for Evergreen International. They carried out a number of programs of a spooky nature which meant there was strict security controlling access to the area. Evergreen have gone bust so now the airport is a lot less restricted. The hangars and ramp areas are still controlled but the roads around the field are now freely accessible.
The airport is used for active operators but also for storage of airframes. Some of these are planes that are clearly not going to be making it back into the air again. They are either old enough to not be in demand or of a type that has more value in the spare parts they contain than as a complete airframe. That isn’t the case for all of them though. Many of them are stored awaiting another operator finding a use for them. Consequently, you see a variety of aircraft from old TWA 747s to unmarked A330s.
While I was there, a Pratt and Whitney 747SP engine testbed was visible on one ramp while the Global Supertanker 747-400 was not far away. There were also some stored Grumman Goose aircraft (should that be Geese?) that looked like they weren’t moving for a while. A turbine Caribou was on the ramp obscured by a CASA 212. Plenty of variety. This would certainly be a fun place to tour with someone that has good access.
It’s always a nice combination when you can get some light on the foreground subject of the photo and have a really dark and menacing cloud structure in the background. The brightness of the foreground exposure is much higher than the background so it makes the clouds look even more dramatic when exposing for the subject. Having a play with post processing will also help to make things look more dramatic. This Wildcat was parked on the flightline at Chino for Planes of Fame just as the lighting worked to my advantage. I may not have been happy about the weather conditions but this was one of the upsides to a cloudy sky.
I took a trip to the Hiller Aviation Museum recently. The trip was to see a speaker who was appearing there and that will be part of another post. However, I did have a good look around the museum while I was there. Located on San Carlos Airport, I have been to the museum a few times in the past when I was visiting the area for work but I hadn’t been since we moved west. My buddy, Hayman, is a volunteer there so I have no excuse for not having been recently!
A few things have changed since I was last there. The SST mockup has now gone freeing up some space for other exhibits. This post isn’t a comprehensive review of all that is there. It is more a focus on some of the things that caught my eye while I was walking around. One item I have to mention is the Boeing Condor unmanned vehicle. It is a cool thing to see but, since it is so large, it is squashed in amongst all of the other exhibits. I decided that I should try and get something to show it in all its glory. There was a balcony which would have had a better angle but that was restricted to some simulation experience. Instead, I decided to try a pano approach instead. It came outs reasonably well although taking out some of the distortion in post processing was necessary.
I had another go at a pano with the interior of the Albatross. It is a lovely looking aircraft with a great interior which is visible through the side door so getting too much of a shot of the inside was hard to do. A pano gives a bit more of a feel for the layout in there. It looks like a nice plane to take around the world!
The museum is great and the gift shop is pretty cool too. I have to admit a model helicopter left with me and now sits on my desk. It is an AW101 in Canadian rescue colors and looks pretty sharp!
In a previous post, I mentioned that I was heading to NAF El Centro in California for a photo shoot. The main part of the shoot was going to be on the base. It was due to commence at noon. That left a free morning. El Centro has a couple of good locations off base where you can photograph the aircraft and one is better suited to morning shooting since the light is good for departing aircraft and those breaking into the pattern.
I was ready for an early start and got out as the early departures were underway. Not only was this a good spot to shoot from, it was also a good gathering spot for some of us going on base later so it served multiple purposes.
There was a fair amount of morning activity. The majority of traffic was from T-45 Goshawk from NAS Meridian who were deployed to El Centro for training. The local ranges provide opportunities for basic weapons training but other missions as also flown including some field carrier landing practice (FCLP).
Hornets and Super Hornets from the west coast training squadron were also operating and provided a regular stream of departing and arriving traffic. The Canadian forces were also operating Hornets from the base. They tend to depart reasonably straight out and break into the pattern a little early but sometimes come into a good location for shooting. When they are weapons training, though, they always come to the end of the runway to make all weapons safe so we get a good view. They had also brought a C-130 tanker with them which was a nice addition.
A couple of C-2 Greyhounds were practicing their pattern work to mix it up. Helicopter traffic included some AH-1 Cobras from the Marines transiting and a British Army Apache although they stayed well to the south so were not something I could get any shots of.
All of this gave us an idea of what was on base and provided some good shooting opportunities from a different position to that we would get later in the day.