Tag Archives: USAF

F-16s In Odd Colors

Sentry Eagle 2022 had a couple of F-16s on static display that had been painted up in special color schemes.  They were supposed to be throwback schemes but, according to those I know that know more about these sorts of things, there are some issues with the schemes that they chose.  I have no idea about such things but I have to say, neither scheme seemed to look that great to me.  They felt slightly cartoonish but I can’t come up with a better explanation what it was.

Getting shots of them both was not straightforward.  First, there were a ton of people around as they were central to the static displays for the show.  Also, the sun was very high and bright and they was a lot of contrast to deal with.  One of them was also close to a shadow from a hangar which made for even more contrast issues.  Since we weren’t staying on base for the full show, I only had a narrow window to work with.  It did improve just before we left, thankfully.

Gate Guards At Klamath Falls

The 173FW at Klamath Falls has flown a variety of types over the year.  One of the advantages of the base being open for Sentry Eagle 2022 was the chance to check out the preserved examples that they have.  There is a central avenue on base that is the location of an F-4, an F-15 and an F-16.  They are mounted on poles and in the colors of the unit.  The lighting can be a bit tricky depending on the time of day but there are ways of making the most of what you can get.

Each plane is set up in a dynamic pose as is appropriate for a fighter aircraft.  They are well looked after and there aren’t too many items on them that you would want removed, like spikes to deter birds from landing.  I was surprised how few of the visitors to the event actually came to check them out as they weren’t far from the main route to the ramp but it certainly made it easier trying to get some shots.

C-12 With A Hint of Lumps And Bumps

We had a lot of time to shoot the arriving aircraft at Klamath Falls in the day before the show.  One aircraft that showed up was a C-12.  I don’t recall seeing it when I was in the show so it either went somewhere else on base or it departed again.  However, when I looked at the shots of it, there seem to be a lot of modifications on the airframe that look like there are designed for mounting other items.  The C-12 family has received any number of different modifications over the years and there are tons of different configurations.  Whether this is one that was de-modified for regular transport use or has the ability to be reconfigured as needed, I don’t know.

Eagles Blasting Into The Sky

On the morning after our arrival in Klamath Falls, we headed out to a location that was hopefully good for getting shots of jets departing to the north in the morning.  What we hadn’t counted on was that the based aircraft would be practicing their display for the air show the following day just after we got there.  This was a four ship display that involved some sporty departures and then beating up the airfield from various directions and in various combinations.

They launched four F-15s in stream.  The first jet up was the specially painted aircraft that the unit has had for a while but which I had not seen previously.  It was joined by two more single seaters in unit markings and the last of the four was an F-15D that wasn’t carrying any unit markings.  They would keep it really low after getting airborne and then cross the fence at speed and with burner locked in.

Then they would each pull hard to the vertical and blast upwards.  The first one caught me off guard a bit – not ideal since this was the special paint jet.  It turned out I got some shots of it, even though I found myself, twisting awkwardly to try and keep it in view.  The others I had a slightly better idea about and was ready to track them as they went.

This was just the beginning of our day at Klamath Falls and it was indicative of what was to be a top time.

Portland Eagles

The first stop on our Oregon odyssey was Portland International Airport.  Aside from being a commercial airport, PDX is also home to an Air Force Reserve unit of F-15 Eagles.  I have visited the base before for their open house but I have loved the F-15 from my childhood so I was hoping to see their jets in action again.  They were done for the day when we arrived but the following morning we were optimistic that we would get a launch before we headed off on our further travels.

The aircraft were parked up under the shelters when we arrived but they are quite regular with their launch schedules so we were listening out for the whine of low bypass turbofans kicking in to life.  We were also joined by our friend, Bill, who works locally and is familiar with what to expect.  As we scanned the flight line, we noticed one of the jets had a sharks mouth painted on the front fuselage.

The airliners and freighters were busy with their operations when we finally heard the noise we had been hoping for.  Sure enough, first two jets and then a third taxied out.  Even better news was that one of the jets was the shark mouth jet and another was the one with unit colors painted on it.  They taxied to the last chance, got checked out and then went to the departure hold.

I decided to be safe with the first jet to make sure I got a shot so I kept the shutter speed high.  It was not configured with external tanks so was airborne as it passed us and tucking the gear up as it accelerated.  For the second jet, I dropped the shutter speed a little to try for a more dynamic image with a blurred background.  For the third, I dropped it even further.  I figured it was time to get brave.  High frame rates are your friend in this case and I was happy to get some acceptable shots of all three jets as they departed.  With them on their way, it was time for us to depart too.  Plenty more to do on this trip.

My One Chance With The Bones

Red Flag 22-2 included a detachment of B-1B Lancers.  The Bone is a cracking jet as it combines the size of a bomber with the shaping and engines of a fighter.  It is an elegant shape whether the wings are fully swept or not.  I have shot them at Nellis a few times over the years but I was still keen to get some shots of them on this trip.  Unfortunately, things did not quite go to plan.

They didn’t fly on the day that I arrived.  I had gone out in the evening for the night launch but they were not part of it.  The following morning, they launched a lot earlier than I expected so I was still at Cheyenne when they went.  My last day, they again didn’t launch.  That meant the recoveries from the early launch were my only chance.

Weather was not helping too much.  This was not just for the Bones.  It was pretty overcast for a good chunk of the afternoon.  The two jets came back in formation and broke into the pattern.  Thankfully, the arrivals were using the 21s and they were allocated to the right runway.  A pretty sporty pattern for a big jet combined with me having chosen a good spot by the Speedway meant that they were almost filling the frame as they turned on to final.  Some nicer light would have been great but, since this was all I was getting in daylight, it would have to do.

C-17 Patterns At Boeing Field

Boeing Field has a lot of civilian traffic, but it is also a popular stop off point for military traffic.  What I hadn’t anticipated was a McChord C-17 wanting to use it for some pattern work.  I was sitting in the car working on a spreadsheet updating my forecasts for a project that we are working on.  I guess I had heard something call up but was busy with the work and had not realized what was coming.  However, the rumbling of four engines got quite loud and I looked up to see the C-17 on short final.

I did grab a couple of quick shots, but luck was on my side.  They wanted to fly a few patterns so I was going to get another go at it.  The left-hand patterns meant you could see them heading downwind and turning back on to final.  I could get on with my spreadsheet and be ready when they came back again.  The light was really nice and they seemed to fly a little higher on the approach than is normal so getting shots was not tricky.

At one point, while flying downwind, I could see another C-17 flying directly across the field.  They were actually setting up for an approach to McChord and were not going to come our way but it was cool to see both in shot at once.  After they completed their pattern work, they headed back north again so I am not sure what their next plans was but I was pleased to have seen them and had the chance to try and few different shots.

Shooting Under The Arrivals

When the arrivals at Nellis on on the 03 runways, it means a trip to Cheyenne.  This is not the greatest part of the world to visit but it is a feature of a Nellis trip.  The sun angles were still quite low while I was there so I decided to try shooting from further around the road than I have done previously.  For the planes coming in on the left runway, I had a reasonable sun angle on them.  For planes on the right, they were coming right over my head.

I quite liked shooting like this.  The planes have a surprising amount of variety in their line up angles when this far from the threshold so, while they are all coming close to you, it is not a repeat of the same shot every time.  Each pilot takes a slightly different line and some variation in elevation too.  You get something akin to head on shots and then it is a case of rapidly swiveling around to get a shot from behind.

There is a lot of fencing and trees along that part of the road so getting a clean shot of everything is hard to achieve.  However, it is still possible to get something a little different.  With the light angles being less than ideal, rather than worry about shots that aren’t going to be very usable due to either glare or shadow, why not get something a little different.  It does require some quick adjustments and it can get a touch noisy but it is still fun to try something a little different.

The Light Comes Back At The End Of The Day

The weather at Nellis was definitely not playing ball for the majority of my time at Red Flag 22-2.  However, as the recoveries from the afternoon exercise were completing, some of the regular base traffic was getting ready to launch.  Nellis is a bit like Seattle (hear me out) in that, even when the weather is a bit crappy in the afternoon, there is a good chance the light improves later on.  This proved to be the case on my first full day there.

As the later jets were launching, the clouds had cleared up a bit and there was some nice low angle sun to be had on the aircraft as they headed out.  I had gone up past Gate 6 at the Speedway to be in place for any Flex departures and this proved to be a good spot.  Some of the jets turned a little beyond me but gave a better top side view while other turned a bit earlier and were almost heading overhead where I was.  The light was better than anything I had got earlier in the day so it worked for me.

Two T-38s In Close Succession

I stopped at Boeing Field to make a couple of calls and I was pleasantly surprised to see that a Boeing T-38 chase jet was not far out.  I was able to get the camera out in good time for it to arrive and, even better, while there was plenty of cloud around, the sun popped out to allow me to get a reasonable shot.  I then went back to dealing with my calls.  I had noticed a USAF T-38 further east in the state but had assumed it was not coming my way.  However, I was wrong.  A short while later, it called up on approach.  The sun was less cooperative which was a shame for a gloom black painted jet but it was still good to shoot.  From expecting nothing to getting two T-38s in short order was a nice surprise.