Before the F-16s became the drone target conversion of choice for the USAF, the F-4 was the jet. The contract for conversion was run by Tracor which ultimately ended up being part of BAE Systems at the time I saw these jets. They did the conversion program at Mojave Airport in California. We were a bit of a distance from the ramp where they were parked but it was early in the day and the heat haze was not yet a problem so a long shot was feasible. Looking at these, I think they were both RF-4C jets that had either been converted or were about to be.
Another day, another retro post. I am pleasantly surprised by what I find as I go through old shots since I am not able to get any new shots while we are all self-isolating. In this case it was a visit to Edwards AFB that was a pre-symposium trip ahead of an ISAP meeting. I think Richard was the one that organized it all. Anyway, the Edwards test fleet includes a bunch of F-16s. Some are from the test pilot school and some are test program assets or chase planes. There was also a Danish jet that was supporting the F-35 program.
We got to hang out on the ramp as see the jets under the shelters as well as get up close and personal as they were heading out for a mission and recovering. We later went out to shoot near the runway which was fun but not ideal from a shooting perspective because of heat haze. Who would have thought the Mojave Desert would have heat haze! Still better than a day at work of course.
Here are a bunch of shots from that day. I haven’t been through most of these for ages so it is interesting to see what upgrading them to the latest editing algorithms of Lightroom can do for the processing results. I have yet to find one that doesn’t look better with the new processes applied.
This is part one of a two-parter. I was at Boeing Field sitting taking calls and doing emails and keeping an eye out for anything interesting. That included the Boeing chase T-38s but they are going to have their own post. They weren’t the only T-38s though. Three jets from Beale AFB also showed up. I missed the first and got the second as it landed. The third followed a while later. Strangely for Boeing Field (which sits under the SeaTac approach path) it did an overhead join and then broke into the pattern before landing.
The three jets were on the ground for a while and didn’t leave to late in the day. I heard them call up that they were taxiing and decided to try and get down to the other end of the field for the departure. As I drove down, I could hear them on the radio getting ready to go. I knew it was going to be close but sadly, it wasn’t close enough. As I pulled in to the parking area, they took off in formation. They kept it low and the light was gorgeous. It looked great but no photos to prove it. The third jet had taxied out but must have had an issue because it returned to the ramp. Oh well…
I was sitting at Boeing Field awaiting the return of a couple of jets. Apps like FlightRadar24 allow you to keep an eye on where things are and when they are due in. What they don’t usually cover is military flights. Fortunately, I had the radio scanner sitting on the dash so, while I was busy doing something else while waiting, the sound of someone calling up on approach caught me by surprise. I finished what I was doing and then got the camera just as a KC-135 hove in to view. What a nice surprise.
A while later, something similar happened. Another plane called up with what sounded like a Navy callsign. This time I had a bit more time to get out and look up the approach to see what it might be. A P-8 was coming in. They got bounced around on short final by the gusty conditions which were combining with the airport buildings to make things pretty interesting for the crew. I had an easier time taking the pictures I think.
I have seen plenty of MV-22B Ospreys in service with the Marine Corps but I haven’t see too many CV-22s with the Air Force. One of the early ones was at Hurlburt Field when I visited years ago but we weren’t allowed to photograph it. RIAT provided my first opportunity to shoot one in action. I got some shots of it on arrival day but I was not pleased with the results for a lot of them. I don’t know whether the focus was off or it was my struggles with the low shutter speed but I didn’t do too well.
They did display during the flying program, though, so I had a lot more chances to get some shots. The extra lumps and bumps make this distinctive from the USMC version but it is still a hard thing to photograph if you want to get significant blur on those giant, slow turning props. The different shade of gray they go with seems slightly more interesting than the Marine’s scheme too.
I headed to Alliance during my time in the Dallas area. There was a C-17 parked on the ramp a bit away from where I was. However, it was in nice light at the beginning of the day. Things improved a lot when I saw the beacons come on followed by the sound of engines cranking. It wasn’t too long before the jet taxied for departure. The Wright Patterson markings on the fin meant it was easy to see that this jet was from Dayton. I don’t know if that was where it was headed or whether it had stopped at Alliance en route to somewhere else.
Boeing Field gets the occasional military visitors and you never know what might show up. I glanced up and saw a pair of T-38s downwind for arrival. They came in with about a minute of spacing between them. The tail codes showed them to be Beale jets. They headed to the FBO at Modern and were soon being refueled. The canopies stayed up so they may have been heading out again a while later but I had to move on so I didn’t get to see them depart.
A Beale AFB T-38 was parked over at the FBO when I was at Boeing Field. The canopies were up which gave me optimism but you never know whether they are just doing something to the jet or maybe haven’t long arrived. When the crew walked out to the jet, I realized it was good news. They taxied to the other end of the field and I waited. A nice low departure kept them below the skyline of the hill beyond the field and I was happy with a slightly unusual visitor being photographed.
Boeing started delivering KC-46s to the USAF as I covered in this post. However, it didn’t take too long before the Air Force found various items of tooling in the aircraft that shouldn’t have been there and stopped taking delivery. Consequently, rather than delivering the backlog, it has continued to build. Paine Field had well over a dozen aircraft in various locations when we were there including three over by the Heritage Flight Foundation’s hangars. Here three were illuminated nicely by the sun as it rose across the field so a pano seemed in order.
Speedway departures can be a mixed bag at Nellis. Flex departures with a pull over the Speedway are the best but it does depend on how high planes have got. Some climb out quite steeply and are way too high for a good shot by the time that they reach you. On my most recent Nellis trip, though, we were treated to a few departures by the locals that broke the mold. They got airborne and kept it nice and low as they accelerated towards us before breaking in to the flex departure routing.
The evening light combined with the great angles made for some good shots. It didn’t hurt that I had a lower shutter speed than usual so got some nice blur of the mountains behind the planes courtesy of them being nice and low. The Strike Eagles also gave it a go which was nice.