I was waiting on one of the boardwalks at Juanita Bay when an eagle caught something and took it to eat on the post out in the water. After it finished its food, it headed to one of the logs in the water to clean itself up in the lake water. Having watched this routine a number of times, I figured that it would finish cleaning and then fly towards the trees near where I was standing. I figured that, rather than try to get closer, I should wait where I was and have the eagle come to me.
Sure enough, the behavior was as predicted. The eagle went to log and spent a bit of time cleaning itself up after devouring the catch. The only tricky thing with this position was that there is a very cluttered background. If I was shooting with my older DSLR, I would have been using a single autofocus point which would be very effective as long as I kept it on the subject. The mirrorless cameras are much cleverer but also like to look for subjects and, if something is against a busy background, the camera might not recognize the target. This had been an issue in a similar situation before.
This time, the contrast was sufficient to allow me to track the eagle effectively. It came straight towards me as it headed to the trees to relax and digest its dinner. I managed to get a few good shots of it as it got airborne and came my way. Sadly, the conditions were rather dull and, while I got some shots, they weren’t quite as dramatic as I would have liked. Still, head on with an eagle is always good.
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.
The 173FW at Klamath Falls has flown a variety of types over the year. One of the advantages of the base being open for Sentry Eagle 2022 was the chance to check out the preserved examples that they have. There is a central avenue on base that is the location of an F-4, an F-15 and an F-16. They are mounted on poles and in the colors of the unit. The lighting can be a bit tricky depending on the time of day but there are ways of making the most of what you can get.
Each plane is set up in a dynamic pose as is appropriate for a fighter aircraft. They are well looked after and there aren’t too many items on them that you would want removed, like spikes to deter birds from landing. I was surprised how few of the visitors to the event actually came to check them out as they weren’t far from the main route to the ramp but it certainly made it easier trying to get some shots.
The F-15 Eagle recently had the fiftieth anniversary of its first flight. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that a jet that I still think as high up the pecking order is really over fifty years old. Of course, the jets in service now are not the originals but the F-15Cs started production in fiscal year 78 which meant they were delivered from around 1980 onwards. Therefore, they are over 40 years old which is quite something for a jet getting such heavy use today.
The 173FW put a four ship of F-15C/Ds up for the Sentry Eagle 2022 air show. They tore up the field in an impressive way for the practice days and the main show itself. Having been a fan of the F-15 since my youth, this was a lot of fun to watch. I got a series of shots of one of the jets as it pulled hard to the vertical in full burner and then turned towards the crowd direction. Looking at the surface of the rear wing, there is definitely some deformation of the skins as the structure is loaded up. This is not a problem. It is quite common to get aircraft skin to ripple under varying load conditions but it is usually something that is more common on aging airframes.
On the morning after our arrival in Klamath Falls, we headed out to a location that was hopefully good for getting shots of jets departing to the north in the morning. What we hadn’t counted on was that the based aircraft would be practicing their display for the air show the following day just after we got there. This was a four ship display that involved some sporty departures and then beating up the airfield from various directions and in various combinations.
They launched four F-15s in stream. The first jet up was the specially painted aircraft that the unit has had for a while but which I had not seen previously. It was joined by two more single seaters in unit markings and the last of the four was an F-15D that wasn’t carrying any unit markings. They would keep it really low after getting airborne and then cross the fence at speed and with burner locked in.
Then they would each pull hard to the vertical and blast upwards. The first one caught me off guard a bit – not ideal since this was the special paint jet. It turned out I got some shots of it, even though I found myself, twisting awkwardly to try and keep it in view. The others I had a slightly better idea about and was ready to track them as they went.
This was just the beginning of our day at Klamath Falls and it was indicative of what was to be a top time.
The first stop on our Oregon odyssey was Portland International Airport. Aside from being a commercial airport, PDX is also home to an Air Force Reserve unit of F-15 Eagles. I have visited the base before for their open house but I have loved the F-15 from my childhood so I was hoping to see their jets in action again. They were done for the day when we arrived but the following morning we were optimistic that we would get a launch before we headed off on our further travels.
The aircraft were parked up under the shelters when we arrived but they are quite regular with their launch schedules so we were listening out for the whine of low bypass turbofans kicking in to life. We were also joined by our friend, Bill, who works locally and is familiar with what to expect. As we scanned the flight line, we noticed one of the jets had a sharks mouth painted on the front fuselage.
The airliners and freighters were busy with their operations when we finally heard the noise we had been hoping for. Sure enough, first two jets and then a third taxied out. Even better news was that one of the jets was the shark mouth jet and another was the one with unit colors painted on it. They taxied to the last chance, got checked out and then went to the departure hold.
I decided to be safe with the first jet to make sure I got a shot so I kept the shutter speed high. It was not configured with external tanks so was airborne as it passed us and tucking the gear up as it accelerated. For the second jet, I dropped the shutter speed a little to try for a more dynamic image with a blurred background. For the third, I dropped it even further. I figured it was time to get brave. High frame rates are your friend in this case and I was happy to get some acceptable shots of all three jets as they departed. With them on their way, it was time for us to depart too. Plenty more to do on this trip.
It was recently announced that Nellis AFB has ended operations of the F-15C/D Eagles. The Eagles have been at Nellis since the 1970s so this ends a long association. The Strike Eagles are still based there and there will, no doubt, be F-15EX jets based there in the not too distant future but this was still noteworthy within the aviation community. I have shot a bunch of based Eagles over the years including the aggressor jets. They went a while back so I won’t include them here but here are a few of the Nellis jets over the years.
While researching some old images of mine from the experimental hangar at the USAF Museum in Dayton OH (the collection of which has since been moved into a new, custom build display hangar which is far more spacious), I saw some shots of something which, to be honest, I had no idea what it was. I took a look at the website of the museum to try and identify the type. It is a Fisher P-75A Eagle.
I did not knew Fisher existed and discovered it was part of General Motors. The configuration of the aircraft is quite unusual. The engine is mounted in the middle of the aircraft driving a contra-rotating propeller. The cockpit is further forward that on other single-engined fighters of the era since there was no space allocated to the engine up front. The underside includes a pair of inlets. The airframe is finished in polished metal rather than paint. Overall, it looks quite impressive. From what I read, another type was not deemed as necessary so development was terminated and they used the airframes for engine development work. Funny how I saw it on the visit and took photos and then promptly forgot about it.
The Growlers weren’t the only things flying at Coupeville while I was there. A bunch of bald eagles were also flying in the vicinity. They were crossing the approach path for the FCLP training which had me a little concerned. I thought they would get lost when the jets showed up but they clearly weren’t very concerned and were used the the jets. They might have got close but they seemed to stay just far enough away to avoid any conflict. A bird strike with a bald eagle would probably be messy for all concerned.
A Boeing F-15SA development airframe has been in the PNW. The F-15SA is a development of the Strike Eagle family specifically for the Royal Saudi Air Force. They are buying new jets as well as updating the F-15S jets they bought years ago. Production jets have been delivered for a while now but testing activities continue. I had heard that a jet was at Boeing Field for a while and had even seen the tails parked on the ramp as I drove by but I hadn’t seen it moving.
Military jets don’t usually show up on the mainstream flight tracking apps (but this one had when it traveled cross country) so I didn’t know it was airborne. However, I heard it call up on approach so stopped what I was doing and grabbed the camera. Sure enough, it came zipping down the approach. A few quick shots and then it was down. Apparently I was rather lucky. A couple of days later it headed back across country.