Nancy and I took a trip to Arizona and Utah many years ago. It proved to be a really excellent trip and we saw some amazing locations. The first stop on the trip was the Grand Canyon. While the majority of visitors go to the South Rim of the canyon, this trip took us to the North Rim. The two locations are not far apart but to get from one to the other involves hours of driving. Apparently, there is some canyon in the way!
The North Rim is accessible for a smaller part of the year because it gets snowed in and doesn’t clear out until late in spring. The views are supposed to be similar on either side but the lack of people at the North Rim makes it a more peaceful place to visit apparently (I haven’t been to the South Rim so can’t speak with authority). The scenery was definitely beautiful. We had some cloudy times and some very clear weather. At night you could look at an amazing night sky.
The problem with the Grand Canyon is that there is little you can do to convey the scale. Images are really not able to provide an understanding of just how vast the place is. You can see it is pretty, but the experience is not reproduced. To be honest, even when I was there, I found it hard to appreciate the scale. With so little to reference, you struggle to realize what is close and what is far away. Occasionally, if you see a boat on the Colorado River, you realize just how immense it all is. Awesome is a word that should be used when describing the Grand Canyon!
I haven’t looked at these pictures for years. I realize that I took some of them as examples at the time and then focused on those. I haven’t been through some of the others. With newer processing techniques, there is plenty to be done with some of the shots I have overlooked. I shall be playing with this for quite a while I think.
Cessna Citations are not the most exciting business jets. The original versions are particularly uninspiring with their simple design and unswept wing. Normally I might not even bother if I came across one. This example showed up at Davis Monthan while we were on the ramp and it obviously wasn’t a standard version. It belongs to the Customs people. I imagine it spends a lot of time looking at what is going on along the border. Flying out of Tucson would support that idea. I imagine the sensors on board are a lot more interesting than the plane itself.
Pinal Air Park is located northwest of Tucson. A number of business operate there. It used to be a location for Evergreen International. They carried out a number of programs of a spooky nature which meant there was strict security controlling access to the area. Evergreen have gone bust so now the airport is a lot less restricted. The hangars and ramp areas are still controlled but the roads around the field are now freely accessible.
The airport is used for active operators but also for storage of airframes. Some of these are planes that are clearly not going to be making it back into the air again. They are either old enough to not be in demand or of a type that has more value in the spare parts they contain than as a complete airframe. That isn’t the case for all of them though. Many of them are stored awaiting another operator finding a use for them. Consequently, you see a variety of aircraft from old TWA 747s to unmarked A330s.
While I was there, a Pratt and Whitney 747SP engine testbed was visible on one ramp while the Global Supertanker 747-400 was not far away. There were also some stored Grumman Goose aircraft (should that be Geese?) that looked like they weren’t moving for a while. A turbine Caribou was on the ramp obscured by a CASA 212. Plenty of variety. This would certainly be a fun place to tour with someone that has good access.
I was skimming through some shots from Tucson to thin out the shots that I got from that day. I looked at one of the shots because I thought that there was something wrong with the shot. When I checked a few of the surrounding shots, I realized that there was nothing wrong. The shot was real. The F-16 had a tire that was looking very sad. I know that budgets are tight but I think they need to change the tires on this jet.
Have you ever been excited to have a lucky break and then felt disappointed by the same thing afterwards? If so, you are like me and you really need help. I was up at Pinal Air Park in the evening after our time on the range at Hawgsmoke. An Apache helicopter was flying around the pattern. I was impressed that it was flying while I was there and grabbed some shots. The Singaporean forces have some Apaches there that they train on. When I looked at the shots, I was hoping that was what I had got. Sadly, it was just a normal US Apache. Why was I so disappointed? No good reason. It was still cool to see one in the nice evening light but you often focus on what might have been. Not healthy!
Since changing camera bodies to something that is full frame, one of the things I have been pondering is what I will notice about the reduced reach that I will get with my current lenses. Obviously there will be a change. So far it has only really resulted in me changing when I press the shutter since I still work based on what I see through the viewfinder. While we were out on the range at Hawgsmoke, the jets would carry out a strafing run and then pull towards the range tower where we were located. Sometimes they would be really close.
I had decided to try putting a 1.4x tele convertor on the 500mm to compensate for the larger sensor size. This worked well for a number of the shots but, when the jets pulled overhead, it was a touch too much! These shots are not cropped. They are really that close and you can see exactly what is in the cockpit.
If I hadn’t been with Joe who is a bit more familiar with the regular movements at Tucson International, I would not have been too interested in this aircraft. It looked like a pretty standard C-26 to me. However, Joe was quick to see it and told me it is one that he had not seen move (I can’t recall whether this was ever or just for a long time). Apparently, the turret under the fuselage is for surveillance activities of a spooky nature. Why it was moving on this day (was it watching me?) I have no idea. I was just glad that, rather than dismissing it as I might have done, I found out it was a little different.
I have not seen Mako F-16s very often. Seeing one taking off from Tucson was quite a surprise and definitely a good one. It was accompanied by a jet in Texas Reserve markings to so maybe there has been a swap of some jets.
Just a quick picture today. This Strikemaster is operated by Blue Air and was parked on the ramp at Davis Monthan when we were watching the arrival of the visiting jets. It looked to be in great condition. Shame it didn’t fly but it was a nice surprise.
The home team at Tucson International are the Arizona ANG F-16s. The Iraqi and Dutch jets may be of interest but the local jets are still worthy of attention. I didn’t get as much time to shoot them as I would have liked but there were still a few chances to catch some of them departing and recovering so here are a few from those times.