At the main entrance to the airport at Mojave is an area with some preserved aircraft from test programs. While Mojave is not particularly welcoming to visiting photographers on most of their land, this location seems to be just fine. The dominant aircraft is an ex-NASA Convair CV990. It was used for Space Shuttle landing gear trials amongst many other things. It is joined by an ex-USAF F-4 Phantom and a SAAB 35 Draken that had a second life at Mojave after retirement from the Royal Danish Air Force.
Category Archives: military
Edwards Plane On A Pole
Heading into the show at Edwards took you past a lot of planes that had been preserved outside the base buildings. The parking areas around these buildings had been coned off given that there were thousands of vehicles making their way along the roads so stopping to grab shots looked like it might be frowned upon. However, we weren’t always moving so it was possible to grab shots out of the window. I would like to have got more and have seen the shots of others that I missed but I did get a P-59 Airacomet on one of the poles which is a relatively rare beast.
One Of The Oldest Tornados
The Tornado was entering service in big numbers with the RAF at the same time that I was getting seriously into aviation. I always felt it was the plane I knew the best. When I ended up working on them, it felt like a continuation of my youthful enthusiasm. The Tornado GR1 was my jet. After I moved on to other projects, MLU came along and that became the GR4. Somehow, the GR4 never felt like it was mine. I was a GR1 kid.
When I went to the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection at Old Sarum, there was a Tornado at one end of the hangar. It was a GR1 that had never been updated. Better than that, is was one of the earliest production jets that the RAF received. Some of the test jets at Warton were from this batch so this one really felt like one of the originals for me. The Tornado is long gone from RAF service but, for me, to see one of these earlier jets was really a treat. Camo with black radomes is how the Tornado should look!
Edwards AFB might be the home of the USAF flight test center but it is also home for NASA’s Armstrong test center. Consequently, NASA was included in the flying display. They put up a three ship formation that mad a series of passes. The formation was led by a Gulfstream with an F-15 and an F/A-18 on the wing tips. The Eagle is one that has been with NASA for years and is painted in a white scheme. The Hornet was still in Strike Test colors from Pax River but I have no idea how long it has been with NASA.
The two jets also did some demonstrations of sonic booms as they maneuvered high above the crowd with the booms reaching the ground at different times depending on how high they had been created. The sound was also modified by the maneuvering of the jet. Formations like this don’t appear regularly at air shows so this was a welcome addition to the flying program.
Joe Davis Airpark
I have been through Palmdale a few times but none of those previous trips coincided with a time when the Joe Davis Airpark was open. I got to look through the fence at the aircraft on display but couldn’t go in. This time, I was better prepared and was able to check the place out at my leisure (if you ignore having to do a Teams call halfway through while trying to find some shade and avoid noisy kids). As it happened, they were planning on closing earlier than scheduled that day so I could have had another miss if I had waited until later in the day!
The park has a wide variety of aircraft types scattered around. Photography is okay as things are not right on top of each other but the desert sun is still pretty harsh and so doesn’t make for the best results. Still, I’m not going to stop shooting images just for that reason. There are a couple of more unusual types on display and at least one of those is going to get its own post. There are plenty of fighters and trainers. An F-14 is always a welcome jet on display but an A-7 is also going to go down well with me as will an F-101. The C-140 was a nice surprise as I do like a JetStar.
The larger aircraft start with a C-46 which was a bit close to the fence so made for a more busy background. It is a small exhibit compared to the two largest items on display. B-52s are well represented in museums around the US. They were certainly built in large quantities. This one has a Hound Dog missile alongside. Next to it, though, is the most special asset. A 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Retired by NASA at the end of the Shuttle program, it now resides in the sun a short distance from its old home at Edwards.
Sunset Overflight Contrails
I was out and about one evening when I saw an airliner flying high overhead pulling contrails behind it. The sun was getting low in the sky with the result that the light on the plane and its residual moisture was illuminated with some really nice warm color. It is definitely true that light is everything I photography. This would have been nothing without this light.
Updated AAC Apaches
The British Army bought a bunch of Apaches which were locally assembled by Westland and were fitted with Rolls Royce Turbomeca engines to bolster the local content. Since that acquisition, the Apache has gone through a bunch of upgrades and the current AH-64E Apache Guardian is the latest and greatest. The British Army decided to acquire these and, this time, there is none of the local content to worry about. Their airframes have been rotated back to Boeing and AH-64E airframes get delivered. Some might have originally been British but others are not.
Middle Wallop is not the busy airfield it once was but there is still some Army flying underway and that includes operation of these new Apaches. While I was visiting, there were some airframes flying around the local countryside and also doing some pattern work. They pattern is a bit distant from the museum area but I was still able to catch some shots of them. Hopefully I will see them in more detail at some point but this was my first encounter with the updated fleet.
F-35A Demo At Seafair
The F-35’s appearance at Seafair has resulted in a few posts of departures and arrivals at Boeing Field on this blog. However, I don’t think I have actually shared any shots of the display itself. I quite enjoyed the demo routine that the USAF had last year. Unfortunately, the display axis for Seafair is a long way from the shore so the shots were a bit distant. I also didn’t know the routine and was caught out when flares were dispensed and so didn’t get shots of those that I am happy with. However, there were a few times when the jet came in close to the shore and I got some closer views. I do want to see the display at a more conventional location at some point.
Wake Patterns in Clouds Over Edwards
During the air show at Edwards AFB, there was a lot of maneuvering of aircraft high above the crowds. There was a little cloud at higher levels – not enough to stop it being almost uncomfortably hot, but enough to be visible – and the planes that flew through this level left their wakes through the cloud layers breaking them up and forming patterns where they had been. I thought this looked really cool and, because the show was backlit, the sun was coming through these patterns and the shadows made them appear more conspicuous. A C-17 flew across at one point which gives you some idea of the scale of these interesting patterns in the sky.
Shocks On The Sneak Pass
One of the highlights of the Blue Angels’ display is the sneak passes. The display is good but the sneak pass gets the jets as fast as you are going to get in their routine and there is a chance of vapor cones forming around the shocks and expansion fans. A display over water enhances the chance of the vapor. The distance of the display line on Lake Washington was a little disappointing as the jets were quite far away but the advantage of this location was that Mercer Island provided a backdrop.
The benefit of this backdrop was that, the rapid changes in density of the air in the shocks and expansions makes the refractive index change and this will distort the view of the background. With a clear sky, this is usually not visible but, with a background, you can see the shocks around the airframe. This is a rare opportunity. Fortunately, while there was little vapor, there were plenty of shocks. I was quite happy when I got home and studied the shots of the display to find I had some good results. It would have been great to have been on the media boat but let’s not complain.