During the Abbotsford Air Show, we could see a bunch of people out on the airfield. It wasn’t obvious what they were doing but I took some shots with the longest lens I had to see if I might later work out what was going in. My friend Mark thought it might be related to the drone display that was due to take place after dark. I think he might have been right. Looking at the shots, they seem to be waving the drones around above themselves. Maybe this is part of a calibration routine or something to do with activating them and having them communicate. I don’t know. If anyone is familiar with all of this, please do let me know in the comments.
The Royal Canadian Air Force will soon be getting new tanker transport aircraft. They are going to buy some Airbus A330 MRTTs to replace their CC-150 Polaris jets. These are based on the A310 and I have never seen one before. Fortunately, there was one on static display at Abbotsford for the air show. It was in the grey scheme rather than the brightly painted version but that was fine by me. I was just glad to get one before they are replaced. It would be good to see one flying but I suspect the chances of that are diminishing. You never know, though.
The Canadian Forces SkyHawks parachute display team opened the Abbotsford Air Show evening display. One of the jumpers had a line of smoke canisters that hung beneath them as they descended under their canopy. Some tight turns allowed the line to swing out and create some nice smoke trail patterns. Here are some shots of the results.
One of my goals for going to the air show at Abbotsford this year was to see a Cormorant fly. I know this would sound like my normal interest in the bird species but this time it means the AW101 version that is flown for Search and Rescue by Canada. Sure, I have seen plenty of 101s over the years with the British and Italian examples, but I have never seen a Canadian one before. It was due to display during the show. When I got there, I was delighted to see it sitting on the operating ramp.
However, my optimism was unjustified. There was no announcement during the show about what had happened to the SAR demo, but it just didn’t happen. The day shows did get the demo, but the Friday evening show was a no go. It was a fun show, so I wasn’t too disappointed, but it was a little frustrating to still have never seen a Cormorant airborne. One day…
The Canadian Forces parachute display team, The SkyHawks, were performing at the Abbotsford Airshow. With their Canadian flag parachutes, they carried American and Canadian flags for the show opening as well as undertaking a few formation demonstrations. I was working my way through the images from the show and was cropping in on the shots to see which were the sharpest. It gave me a better view of how the team members link together for some of the configurations that they use.
One of the positions involved one guy’s foot being hooked between the legs of his partner. This looked like a pretty tough position to hold. In a three-person formation, the middle individual was holding the other two in place. I imagine that there is a fair bit of strength involved in making this work. These soldiers are undoubtedly tough individuals. I suspect you practice these positions a little further from the ground for the first few times!
The Antelope Valley Airshow at Edwards AFB last year gave access to some very unusual airframes including some unique types. In the 90s, an F-16D airframe was converted into a variable stability testbed. It was used for test pilot training but also became a testbed for other technologies. Known as VISTA, it also tested a thrust vectoring nozzle on the engine as MATV, performing some amazing maneuvers. I know one of the test pilots that flew it including when it misbehaved!
The aircraft continues to be used for new developments and, relatively recently, it was re-designated to be an X-plane. It is now known as the X-62 while continuing to perform some of its original test pilot training roles. It was on display in one of the hangars at Edwards. It was a bit hard to get good shots of it since everything was rather crowded, but I was able to get a few that I was happy with.
I was planning to head up to Skagit for the May Fly Day at the Heritage Flight Museum anyway. As it turned out, I had been talking with Rich at COAP about the trip he was leading and, when he asked if I would like to tag along with their group, I said yes. They had been working with the Museum and arranged some opportunities to shoot from locations that normal ticket access wouldn’t allow.
The team at COAP and the team at the museum were super helpful and friendly. Add to that, the weather was great and the combination of aircraft they were able to put up was excellent so, the day was set to be a bunch of fun. It did not disappoint. I have shot at the museum fly days before but, sometimes, the planes I was after didn’t fly and sometimes the conditions weren’t ideal. On this occasion, everything came together. I did play around with my shots trying to get more dynamic images. The high vantage point we had available helped with that too.
I took a ton of shots and culled them heavily. The result was a few shots I was particularly happy with and it was nice that the museum shared a few of them on their social media platforms too. Seeing the Skyraider fly is always cool but the day was a trainer day and they put up some great trainer formations. The conditions were a little bumpy but they made a good job of it and there were shots to be had. I look forward to the next time I am up there.
One of the bigger attractions at the Antelope Valley Air Show, held at Edwards AFB, was the appearance of the Darkstar plane from Top Gun Maverick. Obviously not a real plane (and not even the real Darkstar which was a reconnaissance UAV that never progressed beyond testing), it was part of a hugely popular movie so garnered a ton of attention. It was parked in the static display alongside a very real SR-71 Blackbird. This was something I found far more interesting having seen them fly for real in my younger days. The Darkstar was still fun to see. I am not that churlish.
The aerial display by the SOFIA was a high point of the Antelope Valley Air Show 2022 at Edwards AFB. When it finished, it landed and taxied in to it parking location. I was at that end of the ramp so was able to watch it come in and position prior to being maneuvered into its final position. Being that close to a 747 is always pretty impressive since even the SPs are large jets. Everyone was crowding to see it come in and it was drawing attention away from some of the flying display!
The KC-46 will end up being a big selling tanker because the USAF will buy loads and a few export customers will follow suit. However, where open competitions have been held, the Airbus A330 MRTT has been most successful. It is developing a wide customer base and one of those customer is the Royal Australian Air Force. They have brought their tankers, known as KC30, to the US on exercises but I had not seen one in person until I got to the Antelope Valley Air Show at Edwards AFB. The tanker was sitting on the ramp in the static area. It was looking particularly clean for a military jet and was configured with both the boom and the underwing pods for probe and rogue refueling. Fitting in a big jet in a busy ramp is tricky so a pano can help out making a shot possible. Now I just need to see one actually airborne!