Tag Archives: RCAF

My Quest for the Cormorants is Finally Successful

The AW101 is a helicopter I really like.  I saw the early development airframes when I was young and have photographed Merlins of the Royal Navy and the RAF as well as an Italian example.  Living in the Pacific Northwest, I have really wanted to photograph the Canadian CH-149 Cormorants.  I have a desk model of one that I bought in California and figured I would have seen one fly by now, but I have had rotten luck.  The Abbotsford show last year was another time when I didn’t see one fly despite it having been a principal reason for me going.

CFB Comox is a base for the Cormorant and their show this year, while interesting overall, really had me figuring they were bound to fly there.  If they had a serviceability issue, there would be a spare airframe.  If someone got called out, there would still be another airframe available.  Surely it had to work out.  Fortunately, yes, it did.

Early in the show, a Cormorant was launched and flew patterns around the airfield, initially quite high up.  I grabbed the long lens to get shots of it.  Gradually it got lower, and the shots got better.  If everything else went wrong, at least I now had a shot or two of one flying.  The show opened with a Cormorant flying in with the Canadian flag suspended beneath it (with a crew member hanging on the flag too).  Then there was a SAR demo which it was a major part of.

I shot so many images of this helicopter.  I really went overboard.  I did play around with slower shutter speeds since I was able to get lots of shots.  I tried getting down to 1/40th of a second shutter speeds and have discovered that the rotor speed of the 101 is really low.  Even at that shutter speed, the blades are pretty distinct.  Something I noticed as I was taking these shots was just how stable the Cormorant is in the hover.  I have seen plenty of rotorcraft operations and hover stability is usually pretty good for larger helicopters but the 101 really did seem to come to a halt and then sit immobile.  Very impressive.

So glad to finally have time to photograph this lovely looking airframe.  I even got the best of the sun from the day, so the yellow paint was popping.  A trip to Comox was well worthwhile.

RCAF Hornet Tests High ISO Performance

The later stages of the Abbotsford Air Show included a performance by the RCAF CF-188A Hornet.  By the time it was performing, the light was pretty much gone.  The late performance has some benefits in that the burners are more striking against a darker sky, but the RCAF display often ends with a landing with the hook lowered.  I had seen this before at Chino and the same problem as happened there occurred here.  The touchdown point was a long way away from the spectator line, so it was too far away to get a decent shot.

However, there was the rest of the display to go for.  My current cameras seem very able to handle low light conditions.  The focus might be a touch slower or less accurate as the light diminishes but I wasn’t noticing a significant problem.  Also, the high ISO capabilities of current generation cameras are really impressive so shooting in such conditions is not necessarily a problem.  The camera will be able to perform although that won’t compensate for a jet just not looking that good with so little light.  You still have to pick your shots.

The Hornet is a good display jet with the ability to point the nose in different directions rapidly and to pull a decent amount of vapor from the air.  It can turn and it can blast through, so it makes for a good show.  Original generation Hornets are starting to become a rarity.  It won’t be long before the Canadian jets have been replaced by F-35s.  Other operators have already transitioned and more will follow.  Catch the legacy Hornets while you can and, preferably, in interesting lighting conditions.

The Hawk 115 and I Are Aging Together

Not a great shot, in this case, but one that means something to me.  When I went to the Abbotsford Air Show, there was a Hawk 115 in the static display.  It was in an interesting color scheme but the lighting was a bit tough and it was surrounded be people.  The reason I liked it was that I was involved in the Hawk 115 program when it was first underway.  I left the company before the first jets were completed so I never actually saw one.  This might actually have been my first encounter with one.  Since they have been in service for nearly 25 years, they are probably nearing the end of their time so I did leave it a little late.  It looks in better shape than me!

My First Polaris – Just In Time

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.

Canadian Hornets at Janesville

There was an airshow in the Midwest that everyone used to say was a great event.  It was held at Janesville and I finally got around to going to it shortly before it ceased to be.  I promise it wasn’t my fault that it ended.  I was there for the arrivals as well as the show and a pair of Hornets came in from Canada.  The nice thing about this arrival was that they seemed to have a little extra fuel.  Consequently, there was time for a few approaches and overshoots.

The light was a bit subdued that evening but it still had a slightly warm feel to it.  Besides, pick your white balance and you can adjust just how warm things actually looked!  I was shooting with the long lens from my location when they arrived so everything was taken at 500mm.  Sometimes that was way too much lens for the distance between us but it was just an opportunity for a tight crop – let’s say that was an artistic decision!

The Hornet gear tucks up in a complex way and I got a few shots of them cleaning up as they powered away in to the pattern.  A few times they pulled downwind pretty quickly and it felt like you were looking over their shoulder into the cockpit.  I can even crop in and see the displays on the panel (later in the day means the ambient light isn’t too much making the cockpit a deep shadow.  This was one of the high points of the evening.  Shame I never got to see other shows at this venue.

Canadian Battle of Britain Hornet

AU0E3110.jpg1940 was a tumultuous year in the UK. While the war had started in 1939, 1940 was the year in which it came home to the British. The German air campaign was supposed to be softening up the defenses ahead of an invasion. Things turned out differently as a consequence of some valiant defense, some great pilots and aircraft and some strategic blunders by the Germans. As a result, Operation Sealion was cancelled and the UK remained out of German control although still subject to constant bombardment.

C59F1716.jpgSeventy five years later, there are many celebrations planned to commemorate the Battle of Britain. Many air forces participated as part of the Royal Air Force with squadrons being operated by crews from individual countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia and Canada. Canada is marking the anniversary in many ways but one is decorating a CF-188 Hornet in a special scheme.

C59F1730.jpgThe paint finish is replicating a Hawker Hurricane from 1940. The colors are reproduced and there are even red marking on the wing leading edge to represent the locations of the gun ports on the Hurricane. It also carried commemorative markings to recognize those that took part in the battle. I was lucky to see the jet at Chino. It flew after sunset on the Friday and then as part of the main display on the Saturday. The sunset show concluded with it dragging the hook along the runway in a shower of sparks!

AU0E3097.jpgThis jet will appear at a number of venues throughout the year. If you can see it, do try and make the effort. The RAF has a Typhoon marked up similarly and I am sad that I won’t see that. This is a great alternative for me.

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