Why is this different and why should I look? Thunderbirds shots are not hard to find online. I have tons of them myself and an appearance by the team at any show is going to result in a ton of shots from the people there. These are shots with a slight difference though. These were taken in Chicago at the Air and Water Show a number of years ago. However, they weren’t taken on the main show days. Instead, they were taken during the Friday practice.
Because it was a practice day, the team carried out their display with a spare aircraft loosely in formation. It was a twin seater so I assume the backseat had a photographer occupying it. (I am not in the least bit jealous of course!) The team flew their normal display routine and the extra jet would position itself around the formation and (hopefully) get some shots of them with some excellent backdrops of the city.
For me, it meant getting pictures of formations that you don’t normally see. I imagine the excess power of the F-16 means there is some scope for the spare jet to position itself well around the formation without running out of energy. It must provide scope to get some cool shots. They had better be cooler than the ones I got that day given the position they had. I am happy with mine all the same.
A discussion on Facebook between a few people I know recently turned to a discussion about the USAF display team, the Thunderbirds. While I can’t now remember how ended up the way they did, at some point, there was discussion about the time the Thunderbirds touched in mid-air with one aircraft losing part of the wing tip missile rail. This occurred at the Chicago Air and Water Show and I was there that day.
At the time, not many people knew anything had happened. Indeed, for a while they flew on before pulling out of the display routine and orbiting overhead and then eventually returning to Gary to land. No-one on the ground had any idea what was going on. I did not capture the contact between the jets. However, when I looked through my shots afterwards, I realized I had a shot of the four ship formation with one aircraft missing the rail and another showing some signs of damage on the tailplane where the rail had impacted. Below is one shot to prove they started out intact!
I have been running through a bunch of older pictures while trying to clear out a bit of space on the hard drives. I came across some shots of the USAF Thunderbirds from a few years ago when they were performing here in Chicago for the Air and Water Show. Friday before the show is a day when they carry out a nearly full practice for the show. This is a day that I am often going to be down there as there are less people and, for some reason, the weather often seems better.
What I had completely forgotten was that, during the Friday practice that year, the Thunderbirds were undertaking some photography work of their own. Aside from the six display aircraft, a seventh F-16 was taking part. it was flying along and around the formations photographing them at various points in the display. I have a bunch of shots of the formations being shadowed by this aircraft.
There is nothing much else to say about this but I found it interesting so thought I would put up a small gallery of some of these formations. Enjoy hopefully…