There were two tankers I was hoping to shoot at Red Flag. One was the Colombian 767. It didn’t fly on the first day but on the second it started to taxi before returning to the ramp and shutting down. Never mind. The other was the Dutch KDC-10. I hadn’t shot one before and they are not likely to be in service for too much longer so this might have been my last chance. Therefore, I hoped it would fly and it didn’t let me down.
The winds were strong on the first day and it departed towards us off 21L. As soon as it was airborne, the nose cocked into the strong crosswind and it turned towards us. A right turn overhead and it was on its way to the ranges. When it returned, they went for a very impressive curving approach. It looked great. However, it wasn’t great from a flying perspective and a go around followed. The second approach was more conventional and more successful.
On the second day they flew again. This time the arrivals were from over the Speedway so a more traditional view of them coming in. I was hoping for a go around and a tight circuit to land but that was a tad optimistic. Maybe after the previous day they were more content to get the beast back on the ground.
The Dutch F-16 training unit has been at Tucson for a while now. It moved from Springfield IL to join the Arizona ANG unit at the International Airport. I have seen their jets before but it was nice to see them again. The Dutch F-16s have been through an extensive upgrade program but the airframes are knocking on a bit. Built by Fokker as F-16A/Bs in the early days of the program, they have soldiered on while the USAF retired their F-16As a long time ago. I didn’t get a lot of chance to shoot the Dutch jets but managed to catch a few during my time there.
A trip to Tucson means a chance to shoot the F-16s that operate from the international airport there. This is an Air National Guard unit and it also includes the training unit for the Netherlands Air Force. I have shot there before and posted about it in this post. It is a place for morning shooting. The light is right at that time and the heat has not got too bad. Near the end of the runway is the favored spot and you can get the aircraft just after they lift off as they head straight out. The morning launch is often quite busy so you can get a steady stream of aircraft.
What goes out is usually coming back and the recoveries mean time to move. This time they actually caught us out a bit since some of the early launches came back in less than an hour so were recovering before the others had launched. This actually provided a chance to catch them as they turned off after landing so some ground shots were available although the heat haze was starting to be a problem. I then headed to the other favored spot that puts you inside the final turn. Depending on how tightly they fly the turn, you can either see them a reasonable distance away or they can feel like hey are right on top of you.