Category Archives: Air Shows

F-35A Departure And Arrival

Over the course of the Seafair weekend, I got to see the demo F-35A arrive and depart a few times.  The demo pilot would get airborne and keep the jet on the deck in full burner building up a decent amount of speed.  Then, she would pull to a steep climb just as she got to the perimeter of the field.  This looked pretty impressive from the side but it was even more impressive from head on.

The return to land after the display was a lot more sedate.  It was a pretty standard pattern and approach but there were plenty of people at the south end to enjoy the last moments of the flight.  I headed down there a couple of times.  You could easily do both departure and approach since you had the whole time that the display was underway to re-position.  I did all go to Ruby Chow Park from one departure and shot video rather than stills.  Seeing the F-35 come right at us and then pull hard was impressive.  The noise was intense and the wake threw dust and debris into the air around us.  It made an impression!

Airlift Northwest In Olympia

Airlift Northwest is a regular feature in the Seattle area providing aeromedical services across the region.  I have seen their helicopters at both Arlington and Boeing Field numerous times.  During the Olympic Air Show at Olympia, I was wandering up towards the hangar where the Huskie was stored when one of the Airlift Northwest EC-135s made its approach.  I couldn’t have been better positioned for it so got a bunch of shots as it came in and landed.  The UW colors look good on these helicopters.

My First Super Hornet Blues Display

Seafair provided me with my first opportunity to shoot the Blue Angels during a display since they transitioned to the Super Hornet.  I was interested to see whether the display seemed any different with the new jets.  Seafair is a nice location over Lake Washington but the alignment of the display box relative to the shore of the lake is not ideal and this does result in the planes being further away than for most venues.  The increased size of the Super Hornet is probably a benefit in this situation.

I was interested whether the larger jets would make things seem a bit slower somehow but I didn’t notice anything in practice to support that idea.  The normal tight flying that the Blues are famous for was there and, if anything, the bigger jets look closer as a result of the changed perspective.  It is not that big a deal, though, so I suspect some of this was in my imagination.  I would like to see them at a different location where the display axis is closer in order to get another view of the display, though.

Aside from watching the display at Lake Washington, I did also Watch them depart and return from Boeing Field.  They always departed to the north and returned from the north even if everything else had been landing from the south.  I spent one arrival down at the south end and watched then run the length of the runway and break for landing.  It was a good spot to watch this from.  Overall, I was happy with the new look for the team.  I hope the jets hold up well.  The Blues have a reputation of having to live with some of the oldest jets in the fleet and reliability will be something to watch.

MH-65E Hanging Out By The Lake

I went to see Seafair itself for the first time this year.  I had been to Boeing Field to watch launches and recoveries before but this was my first time down by Lake Washington for the show.  I was down close to Seward Park and, on one of the small bits of land jutting out in to the water was the location that the Coast Guard had parked their MH-65E Dolphin.  It was part of the display but I suspect it was also on duty if there were any issues during the show.

I was looking forward to getting shots of it moving but, as a result of a re-planning of a presentation to a client which had been originally scheduled for the day before, I needed to take this call on my day off at the show.  The call coincided with the Coast Guard demo.  I was sitting on a Teams call on my phone as the Dolphin lifted off right next to me and did a dynamic low transition.  Oh to have been able to photograph that!

I did get shots of it on the (sloping) ground and, at the end of the show, they took off to head back to wherever they were overnighting.  At least this time, I was able to get shots of them starting up and taking off.  Sadly, the departure was far less dynamic than the one for the show.  However, there was nothing I could do about that.  It was still cool to watch them from relatively close quarters.

SOFIA Makes An Entrance

One of the highlights of the show at Edwards Air Force Base was the appearance of NASA and DLR’s SOFIA airframe.  A Boeing 747SP that has been converted for infra-red astronomy, this was my first time seeing SOFIA.  It has a large telescope mounted in the rear fuselage with a huge rotating door that opens up when at cruising altitude – above the majority of the atmospheric blockage to IR – to allow the telescope to make observations.

SOFIA is being retired.  There is a debate about whether this is purely budget related or whether the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (which also observes in the infra red spectrum), means that it is no longer needed.  Whatever the reasons, it is being retired and this show was a bit of a swan song.  As part of this, they actually opened up the door for the telescope which, apparently, is a first since it was first commissioned other than while it was observing.

The plane made a run in from show left making a cool pass but this was the side without the telescope visible.  They then turned around and made a banked pass along the crowd line with the telescope visible.  At first I thought that they had blown it because they had a nice bank angle on but were lining up too soon.  However, they straightened up for a while before bringing the bank back on and giving the crowd a good view.

They landed after this and taxied in to where I was waiting but that will be a separate post.

You Fly The Huey And I’ll Check My Texts

After talking to someone that flew for the operator, I found myself checking through some older shots of the Olympic Air Show with the Hueys doing flight demonstrations.  As I scrolled through the shots, I saw that, of the two crew, one was busy flying the helicopter and the other was playing with their phone.  I imagine that they were filming the display but I preferred the idea that the whole thing was too boring and they were just checking out messages instead.

The F-16XL That Most People Ignored

There was a grey camo F-16 on the ramp at the air show at Edwards this year.  When I saw it I was really excited but I think I was in the minority.  I mentioned to a photographer next to me how cool it was and he commented on the air data boom.  I told him it was an F-16XL and he had no idea what that was.  The XL was the long range strike version of the F-16 that went up against and lost to the F-15E Strike Eagle.  Two jets were built and they ended up having some test duties including so work for NASA.  The single seater was the jet on the ramp for the show.

It has a large cranked delta wing but, from a normal viewpoint, that can be seen but isn’t obvious.  A look at the shadows, though, and you know what you are dealing with.  The airframe is an early fiscal number – the next jet became the AFTI aircraft – and the rear fuselage has the mounting points for an anti-spin chute rig.  This jet has done a lot in its flying days but it is now a museum piece.

Department Of Natural Resources Demo

Let’s head back to the summer and the Olympic Air Show in Olympia.  This is a show that often has a helicopter theme but this year it had an extra rotary element that was cool to watch.  Earlier in the day, I had been looking across the field to where a selection of Hueys were parked up.  These belong to the Department of Natural Resources for the State of Washington.  What I hadn’t realized was that they were going to be part of the flying display.

Two of the Hueys took part.  They undertook a demonstration of aerial firefighting techniques.  While both helicopters were fitted with the underfuselage tank, one was configured to use the tank while the other was set up with a Bambi bucket.  A large water container – looked like a giant paddling pool to me – had been set up at the far end of the field.  Why they chose to put it so far away from the public I don’t know.

The helicopters took it in turns to fill up with water, either with a snorkel or by dunking the bucket.  They then went to the opposite end of the field and demonstrated different techniques for dropping water on the fire.  These would include a direct run overhead, a vertical drop, a toss maneuver and so on.  Each Huey would use the technique with the only variation for each cycle being the difference between the integral tank and the bucket.

Everything was a bit distant from the crowd so it was stretching the capabilities of the lenses (and the dope holding them) but it was one of the times that you were grateful for it not being too sunny since the heat haze was barely an issue.  It would have been fun to have it all a bit closer to the crowd but it was still a good demonstration of the capabilities the Department has for dealing with wildfires, something that was, no doubt, put to good use later in the year.

My First Time At The Edwards AFB Show

I have been to Edwards AFB before on a couple of occasions.  However, I had never been to an airshow there before.  I have thought about it a few times in the past and ended up regretting not going as the shows stopped for a long time.  It had been thirteen years since the last show so I was determined to go.  There were a few unusual types that I was hoping to see either on static or flying.

It might have been mid October but it was still warm in the desert.  The air temperature might only have been in the 80s but the sun was very strong and a concrete ramp reflects that up at you as well so it was a bit of a hard day out.  By the end, I was pretty spent.  However, there were plenty of good things to see even if a few that I was hoping for didn’t show.  I shall have some specific topics for posts of their own but I shall include some general shots here.  The show is the only one I know of in the US which includes supersonic flight.  We actually had a few sonic booms during the show and they opened with one on the day after the 75th anniversary of the breaking of the sound barrier.

There were a few interesting visitors on the static display and some hangar exhibits of interest too.  Foreign aircraft were limited to an Australian KC-30 and a British F-35B (which was part of a display of the A, B and C models of the jet).  Since NASA has its Armstrong facility on base, they had a particularly strong showing too.  Some civilian law enforcement helicopters were also on the ramp.  The flying display is always going to be backlit but it was still possible to get some shots.  The B-1B also did a roll off its high speed pass but it was well away by the time it did this so I watched it rather than took photos.

It was a different show and one I am glad I went to.  I got there very early which helped getting on base smoothly but did mean an early start.  Getting off the base was probably the easiest I have ever experienced.  Will I go again?  Maybe but I am not sure.  We shall see what might be promised for future years.

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.