It wasn’t long ago that I made a trip out to get some shots of the VH-3D helicopters that operate as presidential transports and are known as Marine One when the President is aboard. You can read about that here.
It turns out I was going to get a second chance. As I drove back up to DuPage airport after shooting Fifi on the approach, I noticed a selection of nice looking helicopters parked up between the hangars. A presidential movement was planned and the aircraft were operating from DuPage. With the TFR being published, we knew they would be heading out early in the afternoon.
Sure enough, in due course the helicopters came into view. There were the two VH-3Ds along with three CH-46s in support – two of which were in the glossy green finish and one in standard gray. They taxied out in line and lined up on the taxiway. Then they lifted in unison and departed towards the city. It was very cool to watch.
A while later I was off the field again shooting Fifi taking off when a couple of the CH-46s came back. I was pretty disappointed to miss their arrival but I got the shot I was there for. When I got back to the field, I was walking across the apron when I met one of the HMX-1 crew-members. I told him how disappointed I was to have missed their return. Not to worry. He told me two more would be back in about ten minutes. Sure enough, in they came. What a great break to get them when I had no idea that they would be there.
With the President being a Chicago resident, it is not uncommon for him to be in the city from time to time and a presidential movement means some unusual aircraft. Given all of this, it might be surprising that I have not got any pictures of Air Force One or Marine One since he has been president. Usually I am not aware of his movements until after the event and I can’t always drop everything to go out even if I did know.
Recently, he came home for the weekend. A few friends had mentioned the arrival and departure schedule for Air Force One so I did consider whether to head out. The arrival wasn’t practical but the departure was on a Sunday evening which I could manage. As it happened, I had been out earlier in the day and coming back into the city I saw how bad the traffic was heading out of town and decided that going to O’Hare was going to be no fun at all. Besides, you are always wondering what runway will be sued and might find yourself totally out of position anyway.
Instead, I decided to try and get some pictures of Marine One. It picks him up on the lake-shore south of the city to transfer to O’Hare so might provide an alternative opportunity. I headed down to a location I thought might be good. As I drove Through Grant Park, the two CH-46E Sea Knights that accompany him flew over shortly followed by the VH-3D. I was a bit miffed that I wasn’t a few minutes earlier so I could have got them arriving but never mind.
I found a parking place – no mean feat on a sunny Sunday by the lake – and wandered to the water to find a spot to wait. Then I waited – quite a long time. A temporary flight restriction (TFR) is issued when the President moves. I knew the times it was active but he can go any time in that range. This time it was later in the range. I watched the boats on the lake, the police helicopter checking us all out and the police boats stopping people getting where they weren’t supposed to be.
Finally, I saw the first of the two VH-3Ds take off. Followed by the second and then the Sea Knights, they took off to the south, away from me! This wasn’t promising. At least they might turn left and come back up the lake. No, they turned right and went inland. I was feeling a touch annoyed by this development. Then things got better. They continued their turn and headed right for me. They passed over the lake giving me a great view with the sun behind me. They are a bit shiny which is tricky with the sun but in the end I got the shot. It was worth the wait.