I was at the Museum of Flight for the IPMS exhibit but, while I was visiting, I figured it would be churlish not to take a picture of the M-21 that dominates the main hall. It is actually a bit difficult to photograph and there is a lot of contrast with the background and it is always busy so a bit cluttered. I knew it wasn’t going to be a great shot but decided to crop tighter on the airframe and shoot bracketed exposures and maybe go with an HDR process. It isn’t great but it came out better than I had expected.
The BAe125 (and all of the successor names) was a dominant biz jet for many years. It also found a few roles in military operations from transport, through trainer, to flight calibration and reconnaissance. The JASDF was one such operator with the aircraft designated U-125 in Japanese service. Hyakuri is home to a detachment and one of the jets flew during my visit. It taxied out and headed off on its mission.
Returning later on it was stopped in time to make the taxiway not far passed my location. The aircraft has a fairing underneath the fuselage for the search radar. The operator sits in the fuselage just above this location. They are also provided with a huge observation window for observing what is going on outside. Must be a good spot for taking pictures! I’m not jealous…
I was on the wrong tower at Hyakuri when the crews came out on the recce ramp to crew up. Rather than get down and move around and potentially miss it, I accepted that shooting through the trees would have to do. The ground crew did their work efficiently and the flightcrew walked around the jet before jumping in. Soon they were powered up and coming towards us. This was early in the day and the beginning of a fun day out!
Japanese jets have a reputation for interesting colors and, while the fighter units were pretty dull gray, the recce jets were far more interesting. Most of the flying jets I saw were in the blue camo scheme and they look very nice. One the first wave I saw, there was also a jet in green and brown camo. Sadly it only flew once and I messed up a bunch of my shots. The other scheme on the ramp was a green and grey scheme that looked a lot like the old German colors. Sadly, it stayed on the ramp the entire time I was there.
The SR-71 Blackbird provided a reconnaissance platform that was unmatched. It would have been pretty high in the sensitivity list when it came to its sensors and capabilities. Now the jets are all retired. The example that is in the Evergreen Aerospace Museum has one of the sensors extracted from the sensor bay and mounted on a stand in front of the aircraft. I imagine there was a time when this was something that would not be available for me to look at but now, I guess, this is just another obsolete piece of tech.
While I was wandering around by the SR-71 at Evergreen and taking some pictures, one of the museum docents approached me and asked if I wanted to go upstairs. I had seen the stairs and a gallery but the signage showed it as closed off. If I had an invitation, I wasn’t going to say no, though! The location put you above the Blackbird giving a great perspective that you don’t normally get. However, I was pretty close in so the lens I had was still not wide enough. Time for a pano instead. I took a sequence of shots to try and cover the whole thing as best I could. Then it was up to the software to do the stitching. The above shot was the result.
The SR-71 that is located in the Evergreen Aerospace Museum is configured to give some interesting views of the aircraft. One side of the aircraft is opened up to show the engine. The whole of the outer portion of the wing folds up to give access to the engine. I had no idea that was the way it operated until I saw this plane. It does show the engine configuration nicely. At the high supersonic speeds, there is a bypass process whereby a lot of the flow is taken around the core. The pipes for this can be clearly seen along the side of the engine.
A few years ago, I was in the LA area with my mate Paul. We decided to try our luck with a visit to Palmdale. Home of Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale has a history of interesting aircraft. The Blackbirds were assembled here as were the Space Shuttles. The B-2 bombers were also assembled on site. It is home to some NASA aircraft and continues to support a variety of types. Consequently, you can see some really interesting stuff. Alternatively, you can have a day with nothing going on. It is the luck of the draw.
We decided to try it out anyway and see what we could get. One of the NASA ER-2s had been active so there was hope that it might be up and about. One thing we hadn’t anticipated was that the weather was not going to be great. We had figured it was likely to be clear but actually there was a fair amount of cloud cover all day. Not ideal but it did keep the temperature down.
We did have success with the ER-2. Unfortunately, we did not choose well for our locations. It took off and landed on the runway that we were not close too. Consequently, we got some shots but they were a bit distant. We discussed a rapid change of location but, fearing we would get nothing by being in the car at the wrong time, stuck with it.
Our location was not a total bust though. We did get a sister ship. A USAF U-2S came in and we got some shots of that. It was not alone. A B-2 also made some approaches. We figured it was coming from Edwards and heading back there again. Sadly, shooting black aircraft against a cloudy sky is a bit tricky. Still, we might have done worse. After a while, the local movements of Northrop Grumman shuttles had been enough so we decided to get on the road back to LA.
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!
If you ever want to find a way to lose a lot of time (this assumes you are an aviation guy), spend time on the Lockheed Martin in-house magazine’s website, Code One. Edited by Eric Hehs (with contributions including some by Jeff Rhodes), the magazine is full of great stories about Lockheed Martin products past and present. I should say I have met Eric and Jeff through ISAP and both are great guys so I am biased. When I am supposed to be doing something, Code One is the worst thing for me to look at since I can get lost in story after story. Recently they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the SR-71 and ran a piece about preserved Blackbirds. This got me wondering how many of them I have seen and photographed.
I will start by pointing out I saw them in service as well as preserved. Mildenhall was home of Detachment 4 of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing for many years. Blackbirds made an appearance at the Air Fetes that were held at Mildenhall in those days. I also saw a couple from outside the fence during normal operations.
It turns out that, while there are a lot of them around, I have seen quite a few. Some I have seen but not photographed which is a little frustrating. However, most of the ones I have seen have made it in to the collection. Here are a selection of shots. (These also include A12 and YF-12 airframes so not all SR-71s but I doubt you care about that.)