Back when we lived in Chicago, I went to Kenosha to photograph the Grumman Wildcat that had recently been lifted from Lake Michigan. While I was there, I also got to have a look around the hangar which housed the collection of Chuck Greenhill. His airworthy planes were stored in the hangar but it was also busy working on restorations of some Grumman amphibians.
His Duck was in the hangar and it was a great looking example. I was disappointed that I never got to see it fly. It looked immaculate. I understand it has been sold and is now in Texas. There were also two Mustangs parked in there. One of them, Geraldine, they claimed to be the most authentic Mustang example in the world. I don’t know how you would measure such things but they seemed very confident claiming this. It even included a full, working armament so you could head up and shoot someone down if you were so inclined.
The amphibian restorations were very interesting. Bare metal fuselages and the wings off while they were in work. It would have been good to make regular visits to see how things progressed but I was not able to go back again so couldn’t do that. Even so, pretty cool to see the workmanship on these airframes.
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 Sabreliner is a neat little jet under normal circumstances, combining as it does the wing of the Sabre with a fuselage for passengers. This example, that now lives in the Evergreen Aerospace Museum in McMinnville Oregon, is even better because it is a testbed. The nose has a new radome grafted into place to allow the testing of different radar. Meanwhile, pods can be mounted under the wings to test a variety of different sensors and electronics. Some of these different configurations are displayed alongside the airframe. Good to know that after years of specialized service, the aircraft will survive in the indoor comfort of the museum.
Corporate jets show up at SFO on a regular basis. They will be the usual Gulfstreams or Bombardier jets. However, every once in a while something really unusual will show up. I would love to say that it was part of my planning that this worked out but I was very lucky. I saw on Flightaware that something unusual was coming but I didn’t recognize what it was. I am glad I didn’t because the surprise was more fun. A Sabreliner showed up. I didn’t realize anyone was still flying them. Great stuff.
During the evening of the Eagle Field fly-in, there was a dinner held in the hangar. I took the time to wander around outside as it had become a lot quieter and the chances to shoot the aircraft had improved. As the sun went down, things got considerably better and the evening light was lovely. Not all aircraft were well oriented to take advantage of it but there was still plenty of scope.
My trip in the Harpoon was to get to the fly-in at Eagle Field. This is an event that I previously didn’t know anything about so I went with few preconceptions. As it turned out, this year was not the most well attended that they have had. A selection of aircraft showed up for the event but not as many as hoped for. A few T-6s were there along with a C-54, some Navions, an Interstate Kadet and us. Some less exotic types were also there such as Pipers and Cessnas. There was also quite a gathering of military vehicles. These are not something that I know a lot about. During the day some reenactors also carried out some firefight demonstrations.
The following morning, the visitors headed back out. We were one of the last to go so got to watch the other aircraft start up, taxi out and take off. Most put in at least one pass before they headed home.
Many airbases have a selection of historic aircraft on display to show something of what has gone before on the base. Sadly, they are often unavailable to shoot when you visit. Davis Monthan AFB has quite a few different planes on display and, fortunately, the location of the Fallen Hawg ceremony during Hawgsmoke was in front of the display A-10. While everything was being set up, we had some time to kill and I was allowed to wander around the other planes.
The selection included some obvious DM aircraft like the A-10 and A-7 (even if it was actually a Navy A-7E that they had repainted). A U-2 was a slightly more surprising one to see. I’m not sure how that qualifies but I wasn’t complaining. The F-105, F-100 and F-4 all looked good too. Not only was it nice to be able to shoot them but it gave us something to do since we had got in place pretty early!
The Society of Aviation History visit to Airmotive Specialties in Salinas gave us a great opportunity to look around the restoration facility. One of the Mustangs was not being worked on though. It was due to be picked up by its owner that afternoon. As a result, having had a break for lunch, we headed back to the ramp to await the departure.
The aircraft was run up on the ramp outside the hangar and then taxied to the opposite end of the runway for takeoff. We anticipated the takeoff and then a further pass before he left. I figured the first time I might go with a slow shutter speed for fun. The second one I would be a bit more conservative in order to make sure I actually got a sharp shot.
After the two passes the aircraft headed off en route. Getting a bit of airborne Mustang time was a cool addition to a great day.
The Society of Aviation History organized a visit to Salinas to the facility of Airmotive Specialties. Owned and run by Dave Teeters, Aviation Specialties provides a number of services but the thing that brings them most attention is the restoration of warbirds with a strong focus on P-51 Mustangs. During our visit, there were seven Mustangs in the hangar in various states of restoration. There were some other types too as well as some more commonplace types undergoing maintenance.
Dave has spent his life in this business having started working for his Dad before setting up on his own. He supplies parts to his Dad’s business and vice versa as they both operate in the same field. Dave has really committed to the processes and capabilities needed to restore these vintage aircraft. His team is one that he has trained and many of his staff have been with him for years. He has also invested in technology. So many parts for these aircraft are hand crafted but Dave has acquired numerically controlled machines to assist in producing a large number of components. These machines are also capable of digitizing the outline of existing components to allow him to reproduce them as needed.
The investment in these machines is substantial but the pay off comes in how quickly he can produce replacement parts once the process is done. Hand crafting these parts is an intensive business and, when sufficient are needed, the business case is straightforward. Even so, there are still many pieces that require the hand skills that are in short supply and are becoming rarer. Dave maintains capabilities with many old tools and techniques in order to make sure that they can always provide what the customers need.
The hangar was full of interesting projects in various states. Some were disassembled completely with rework on fuselages and wings plus various subassemblies. Others were fully complete and were just in for ongoing maintenance. A great looking Beech 18 was at the front of the hangar along with a P-51 due to be picked up by its owner. A couple of Robinson R44s were also parked in with a JetRanger – one of the R44s flew off later in the day.
Dave provided great access to our visit and was exceedingly generous with his time. He explained exactly how they work and answered any questions the group had for him. The hangar has some nice facilities for customers but, while they were very comfortable, the contents of the working area were of most interest to us and Dave gave us freedom to wander as we wished. It was a great time. Many thanks Dave.
The annual visit of the Collings Foundation to Livermore with their vintage warbirds is a popular event with many people turning out to look at the planes and, in some cases, fly in them. This year I didn’t plan on spending a lot of time there but I did head down for a while to check out how things were progressing. It was a hot day so the heat haze was playing havoc with shots as usual but there was still enough to see.
I had pondered what other spots might be useful for getting a shot or two and tried wandering down the street. However, the area is not pedestrian friendly so that idea didn’t progress too far. I did wrap up the day by driving to the public golf course at the end of the field to see whether I could get a different perspective on the departures. It wasn’t a bad spot but not somewhere I shall try again unless there is a good reason. You get a brief view and have to grab your shots before the planes are behind the trees.
Whatever the limitations, having the P-51, the B-24 and the B-17 on display is always nice and worth taking time out for given that it is so close to home.