I have posted a few times about the Red Arrows at RIAT covering their prep for display and post display. I haven’t actually shared any good shots from the display itself. Here are a few that I got over the course of the show. Some were taken close to show center and others were taken from the end of the display line to give a different perspective on the same maneuvers. They put on a great show and it is funny that, when you see them regularly, you get blasé but, when you haven’t seen them for a while, you come to appreciate the display a lot more.
I was working through some RIAT photos of the Patrouille de France display. I had some tight shots of the first four jets as they took off and, as I looked closer at them, I was confused as to why two of the jets had a more nose high attitude than the other two. Since they are taking off on formation, I figured that they should look the same.
A closer look at the images and it seems that the flap settings of the jets vary. The nose high aircraft seem to have less flap – hence their need for a higher angle of attack – than the other two jets. I have been trying the think why they would adopt this approach. With all jets accelerating together and climbing together, I had imagined that they would all be in the same configuration. I wonder whether there is something to do with the outwash from the nearby jets that requires a different configuration but I haven’t come up with anything conclusive. I throw it out to the aero engineers that read this to propose your ideas as to why. If any of you know anyone in the PdF, feel free to ask them instead!
RIAT is known for putting together formations of different types to celebrate certain events. The fiftieth anniversary of the first flight of Concorde resulted in two display teams getting together. Concorde was an Anglo-French collaboration and so was the celebration in this case. The Red Arrows and the Patrouille de France both fly formations to represent Concorde so, for this joint effort, both teams got airborne and flew their two Concorde formations in line astern. They made passes in each direction with the national anthems of each country playing – one on the first pass and the other on the second. It was a simple demonstration but an impressive one all the same.
We relocated to the other end of Boeing Field for the return of the Blue Angels. They ran in across the field trailing white smoke. Unfortunately, with little wind, this meant a pall of smoke was now hanging over the airport. As they broke into the downwind and then turned onto final, it was sometimes hard to see them at all. A healthy boosting of the contrast makes some of the shots a bit more visible but, in truth, the viz was really awful. I only hope they had a slightly better view of the ground than we had of them since their being able to see was slightly more important.
I am catching up on some things that happened quite a while ago. The visit of the Patrouille de France to Mather for a display as part of their US Tour was a combination of fun and frustration. I was covering the visit for GAR and had arranged to be there for the arrival, the practice and the show itself. They were supposed to show up relatively early but they had some serviceability issues and, when they finally showed up, the sun was setting.
There was still some light when the first jets flew into the pattern. As they taxied in, the light on them was rather nice. By the time the last jets (of the day) showed up, it was dark. The crews were very cheerful despite their difficult day and they spent a lot of time with some local kids for a French school. They didn’t all make it though. Two jets had diverted with problems and they would show up until late the following day. The A400M didn’t arrive until after I had left and it headed straight out the following morning to go and fix the two stragglers. The second day practice and flyby over the Golden Gate were scrubbed as a result with the flyby being achieved after the display rather than before.
There are a number of jet display teams that are operated by militaries around the world. Private jet demo teams also exist although there are a lot less of them. The Aero Vodochody L39 Albatros is an airframe that has proved popular with private teams. In the Midwest, the Hoppers used to display with four jets while out west the Patriots team are a regular fixture. In Europe, the Breitling team has been around for a long time. I saw them when we still lived in the U.K. at a couple of shows but they decided to bring the team to the US for a couple of seasons.
My first chance to see them was at San Francisco Fleet Week. I didn’t have any expectations about how the show would be and I wasn’t super excited about seeing the team. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the show that they put on. The display was well planned and kept something going on in front of the crowd. The Albatros is not a powerful jet so they need to manage the energy well to keep the display going and they did this effectively. The backdrop of the bay was obviously a good addition to the display. They did combine the individual jets with the formation jets well. They also made good use of flares at one point during the vertical maneuvers. That is something you don’t see enough these days. Sadly, it doesn’t always translate as well on photos as it appeared when you are seeing the display.
I don’t know what the plan is for the team this year but I imagine they will need to go back to Europe at some point. Two years away must have been an expensive proposition and means they will not have made any appearances over there. Maybe they will be here again but I can’t count on it. I think they are done. Good job though.
The Fleet Week air show in San Francisco is wrapped up by the Blue Angels. The sneak passes made by the pair are an opportunity to try and get something interesting. Since they display over the bay and the city is known for having high relative humidity, I am always hoping to get some good vapor shots. This time out, that wasn’t to be. The air seemed to be pretty dry and there was not a lot of vapor on show. However, the fast pass from left to right takes the jet in front of the hills and Alcatraz which provides some detail to show up the distortion caused by the shock-waves. The large number of boats and associated masts meant a clean shot was tricky but I got a couple I was pleased with.
I have seen a large number of displays by the Blue Angels over the years. Their display is a good one generally (although the ground portion is a little time consuming in my opinion). The sequence does not vary much from year to year but it works well enough so that is probably no big surprise. One of the fun parts is the sneak passes. The four ship head off in one direction to distract you and a solo jet streaks in from the left at low level and high speed. This catches a lot of people by surprise.
Just as everyone is getting over this, the other solo jet does something similar from crowd rear to make you all jump again. The displays that are held over water provide an added option for the first sneak pass. With no obstacles, the aircraft can end up very close to the water. This makes things look even more impressive. Also, the high speeds can result in some impressive vapor formations in the shock waves.
The Fleet Week display on the Friday had great weather conditions but, surprisingly for the Bay Area, the humidity levels were not terribly high. Consequently, while the sneak pass had its usual surprise impact, it did not result in any vapor on the jet. The upside of this was that the optical distortion caused by the shock waves was visible in some shots when a reasonable amount of background was included. Not what I was aiming for but not a bad alternative.
Why is this different and why should I look? Thunderbirds shots are not hard to find online. I have tons of them myself and an appearance by the team at any show is going to result in a ton of shots from the people there. These are shots with a slight difference though. These were taken in Chicago at the Air and Water Show a number of years ago. However, they weren’t taken on the main show days. Instead, they were taken during the Friday practice.
Because it was a practice day, the team carried out their display with a spare aircraft loosely in formation. It was a twin seater so I assume the backseat had a photographer occupying it. (I am not in the least bit jealous of course!) The team flew their normal display routine and the extra jet would position itself around the formation and (hopefully) get some shots of them with some excellent backdrops of the city.
For me, it meant getting pictures of formations that you don’t normally see. I imagine the excess power of the F-16 means there is some scope for the spare jet to position itself well around the formation without running out of energy. It must provide scope to get some cool shots. They had better be cooler than the ones I got that day given the position they had. I am happy with mine all the same.