While researching some old images of mine from the experimental hangar at the USAF Museum in Dayton OH (the collection of which has since been moved into a new, custom build display hangar which is far more spacious), I saw some shots of something which, to be honest, I had no idea what it was. I took a look at the website of the museum to try and identify the type. It is a Fisher P-75A Eagle.
I did not knew Fisher existed and discovered it was part of General Motors. The configuration of the aircraft is quite unusual. The engine is mounted in the middle of the aircraft driving a contra-rotating propeller. The cockpit is further forward that on other single-engined fighters of the era since there was no space allocated to the engine up front. The underside includes a pair of inlets. The airframe is finished in polished metal rather than paint. Overall, it looks quite impressive. From what I read, another type was not deemed as necessary so development was terminated and they used the airframes for engine development work. Funny how I saw it on the visit and took photos and then promptly forgot about it.
A YouTube video showed up in my feed recently that involved the Northrop YF-23. I have only seen one of the prototypes. The one at Torrance has eluded me so far but I did get to see the one in the Experimental hangar at the Museum of the USAF at Wright Patterson. I think things have been rearranged a lot since I was last there with new hangars having been opened but, when I visited, the hangar was a pretty cramped experience. Getting a good view of the aircraft was tricky. The YF-23 is a fascinating looking airframe with some very unusual shaping so I tried to get shots that emphasized this instead. If I could have another crack at photographing it, that would be great.
One display at Dayton that I liked was the US Army Apache display. I have seen a few displays by Apaches over the years but they are not a regular feature of shows. The Apache is an impressive looking machine and given its nature, it can be kept close in front of the crowd to make a display that never loses your interest. Service pilots don’t tend to put the machine through as aggressive a flight demo as a company pilot might when trying to sell it. However, they do still show it off well.
The subdued finish on the Apache makes for a harder time getting shots on overcast days. However, it does take away the problem of harsh shadows on an already dark airframe. The subtlety of the different greens on the airframe are hard to show in some cases but here they do actually become apparent.
I previously talked about the visit to the Vectren show at Dayton a few years ago. One of the more unusual acts to make it is a team that apparently has a track record of appearing at Dayton and that is the Brazilian team, Esquadrilha da Fumaça or Smoke Squadron. They are equipped with Embraer Tucano turboprop trainers and the performance characteristics of the Tucano make for a tight display in front of the crowd combined with good maneuverability for the formations and the individual aircraft.
The weather was not great with low cloud and flat lighting but the lower speed of the Tucano meant that a good display could be presented, even if vertical maneuvering was restricted. The formations were tight and some good configurations could be set up with the planes maneuvering around each other during passes. I was disappointed to see how few shots I had of some passes. Now I would have a lot more to choose from but I guess I spent less time shooting in those days.
I suspect a lot of people have not seen this team so I am posting a lot of different shots in here. I would certainly like to see them perform again at some point in the future. I shall have to see where they next appear in the US.
All of my interest in Dayton that has shown up in some previous posts was originally driven by a search for some shots I had taken at the National Museum of the USAF at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton OH. I have been to the museum on a couple of occasions. The first time was not a planned visit and I was able to check out a good part of the collection but was too late to make a visit across the field to the hangars that hold the presidential airplane collection and the flight test collection.
Consequently, on my second visit I made the effort to get there early and secure a slot on the shuttle bus across to these hangars. The main collection is very interesting and had changed a bit between my visits but the rarities in the flight test collection were really what had drawn me back. Photographing in the main hangars is a little impeded by the light – or lack thereof. It is very dark and some of the aircraft are similarly dark which results in some very difficult photography conditions.
The majority of the main hangar aircraft are USAF aircraft but you do find some other types in there. There are a variety of MiGs on display as well as an RAF Tornado in Granby colors. The changes in the collection include the presence of a YF-22 demonstrator on my first visit which had been replaced with an F-22 development aircraft on my second. Also, an F-117 had appeared for the second visit which I hadn’t seen on the previous trip. The relevance of unmanned vehicles is reflected in a variety of types showing up as well as some research vehicles.
However, the research hangar was really what I wanted to check out. There are some amazing aircraft on display. I was fascinated to see them all but there were really three that were the focus of a lot of my attention. The B-70, the YF-23 and the X-29. Sadly, the variety of aircraft on display is a problem given the constrained size of the hangar. Everything is piled on top of everything else to make it fit. This makes it necessary to take care as you walk around to ensure that you don’t walk into things. Also, it makes getting photographs a little tricky. Something is always intruding in to your shot. They weren’t rolling stuff outside for me so I had to go with what I could get. Air data booms and propellers do tend to show up in odd places though.
Other aircraft of note include the AFTI F-16. Sadly, this aircraft went through many iterations during its life and the one in which it was when retired is not as interesting as when it was set up for control configured vehicle research. That was a plane I loved when I was young. It is funny that this hangar also includes a YF-12, the YF-107 and an X-15 and these only warrant mention this late in the piece. However, there are other equally unusual types there which don’t even get a mention although they will show up in the pictures. That is how cool this hangar is. For an aero engineer like me, these research types are really great – particularly when you have only read about them for many years. This place is great. What a shame you are limited in how much time you can spend there before they bus you back to the main museum campus.
I was looking at some museum images for a piece and realized that one of my visits to the National Museum of the USAF was tied to a visit to the Vectren Airshow at Dayton. I had forgotten about this show a few years ago. It had not had the best of weather but it did include an interesting mix of participants with strong military participation.
I decided to go back through the shots and take a look at what was there. I also could run through the shots to see whether updating the raw conversion and taking a crack at my latest approach to processing would make something more interesting of some of them. Neither of the bodies I was shooting with that day are currently part of what I use so I didn’t know whether the same processing techniques would work for them. There were some differences in their response characteristics but they seemed to work reasonably well.
The different types on show included a B-2, a B-52 and a C-5 in the flying display. These are not regulars at most shows so provide a nice change. Sadly, a cloudy sky is not ideal for aircraft that are the color that those are. However, you go with what you have. Some of the more regular performers were also there and the Thunderbirds were the show finale. One overseas display team was there but they are worthy of a post of their own so keep an eye out for that.
I have previously mentioned that I am more interested in getting to events that are slightly more individual than the bigger airshows these days. That also includes when I am trying to get material for the magazine together. One such event was the WACO Reunion in Mount Vernon OH. This was being covered for a piece that I was writing for Global Aviation Resource and will appear in an upcoming edition of the magazine. Consequently, I am not going to preempt the magazine piece here.
Instead, this is more about the time I had while I was there rather than a description of the event and the organization. I had been in contact with Andy Heins, president of the national WACO Club earlier in the year to make sure I could cover the event. Andy told me what I needed to do to be there and then made himself available to tell me all about what was going on. The event is a gathering of club members and their aircraft and is a very social event. There is no flying display. However, the members like to fly their aircraft and that is what they do. The middle of the day is quite quiet but early in the morning and later in the day when the weather is a lot more calm is the time when people get in their planes and fly.
Fortunately, that also included me getting to fly too. My first trip of the day was in a Citabria with Tim Ponds. This was to get some aerial shots of the aircraft parked to illustrate the article. Time was very accommodating and we got some video footage as well as stills of the site. While we were up, Steve Thomas was flying his WACO and we arranged an impromptu shoot. Normally I am not inclined to shoot air to air without a prior brief. However, we kept it simple and straight and level and I was able to grab some good shots. We also flew past the airfield and got a couple of shots with the aircraft parked in the background.
Then I got my first flight in a WACO when Susan Theodorelos took me up in her beautiful model RNF. This is an open cockpit model with the pilot in the rear seat and a two seat space up front for the passengers. I was on my own in this case so had some space to move. A couple of other aircraft joined up for some formations and I was able to grab some shots of them at the same time. Vibration was not too bad but keeping myself isolated from the airframe was tricky so getting good shots was a bit tricky. However, I got some I was pleased with.
One technique thing I learned from these flights was focus activation. I normally focus with the rear button on the camera rather than the shutter button. This is fine in almost all circumstances. However, when you are trying to shoot backwards at an odd angle, this is a lot harder to do and the shutter button becomes the best solution. Swapping the configuration in flight (I hadn’t expected to shoot another aircraft when we first took off) wasn’t practical so some odd contortions were necessary. Now I have added this config setting to my quick menu so I can make the change quickly if the situation should arise again.
Everyone at the flyin was very friendly. Aviation never fails to amaze me with the way in which you can show up somewhere for the first time with nothing but a shared interest and be welcomed so quickly by people you have never met before. The WACO people were a perfect example of this and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. I hope to be back again for future reunions. In the mean time, here is a little video that I got while there. Enjoy and don’t forget to buy the magazine when it comes out at www.globalaviationresource.com!