Sonoma Valley airport (Schellville) is surrounded by fields and there is wildlife in those fields. I saw a coyote come wandering out of the field and head for the runway. An aircraft had just landed and was taxiing in at the same time. The two of them met on the runway although with more separation than the photograph suggests. I was particularly impressed by the way the coyote seemed totally unfazed by the whole thing. It stared at the plane for a while and showed no interest in getting out of the way. However, it obviously had other things it wanted to do and eventually turned and trotted off. I’ve no idea what the occupants of the plane made of the whole thing!
My buddy Paul was in town and we had a day of shooting and exploring planned. However, we wanted to have a go at star trails in the evening as well. Consequently, we set up at Schellville as the sun went down to shoot the trails around the Douglas DST parked on the field. I set up two cameras at different angles and with different lenses to try and maximize what I got. The sun was still going down when I started so the exposure was varying a bit more than I was prepared for but a little tweaking in post got things back together. We also did some light painting on the airframe in a couple of frames to make the scene pop a bit more.
The biggest thing I learned during this was to start when it is darker and to take mosquito protection. I got badly bitten during the early part of the shoot and the bites reacted quite severely! Also, doing this in the winter so you don’t have to wait so late for it to get dark might also be a good plan. However, it went reasonably well and I have a few things I will know to do differently next time. I might also try a trail on one camera and a time lapse on the other.
There are many vintage aircraft that I have had the chance to photograph over the years. However, I have not had many opportunities to photograph a genuine First World War era aircraft. That was something that I was recently able to address. Sonoma Valley in Schellville has a variety of interesting aircraft as I have mentioned in the past. One of these is Frank’s beautiful Jenny. It is in pristine condition. I had previously been around when it was due to fly but a fuel leak in a line had curtailed activities that day.
This time the plan was to fly a couple of people in the aircraft. Eric Presten was the pilot for these flights and he needed to run a quick air test before taking anyone up so three flights appeared to be on the cards. I arrived at Schellville in the morning to be ready. Unfortunately, the weather was not looking too cooperative. There was a little mist and the cloud base was pretty low with the surrounding hills having their tops obscured. We got the aircraft ready as we waited for the cloud to lift which it progressively did.
Eric was soon able to get up for the air test. While the conditions were better for flying, they still weren’t great for photography. However, while he was up, the cloud was burning off more and more. The result was, by the time the two flights for the guest took place, conditions were ideal. For the second ride, Eric put in an overflight of the field allowing me to get something other than ground running shots, tail end departures or head on landings. The latter two were subject to a lot of heat haze so it was great to get something a little closer in.
She truly is a lovely looking aircraft and an example of something very rare to see. I will enjoy seeing her flying again. What will be even better is getting a chance to shoot her air to air. If the opportunity for that should come up, I will be a very happy boy. In the mean time, I am very grateful to Frank and Eric for including me in this. Great guys and a great plane!
I had not been up to Sonoma Skypark for quite a while. Lots of things had been going on that had either kept me at home or taken me further afield but, with a nice Saturday forecast, I figured it was time to get back up there and say hello to some folks. The weather held to the forecast and it was a great day to be up there. During my first visit to Schellville, I had met Dave Masters and photographed his ST-A. Dave also pays a visit to Skypark each week. I had seen him there before but had not shot him from the good light side of the field.
This time I was determined to do so. When he appeared downwind, I scampered across the field to get into position. I was just in time as he came down the approach and I grabbed a sequence of shots. Here they are.
When talking about vintage aircraft, I am frequently discussing aircraft that are from the Second World War era or later. However, one of the residents of Schellville is a Curtiss Jenny. This is a First World War aircraft and the example here is an original. It doesn’t get to fly very often but I was lucky to be there on a day when it was planned to take it up for a couple of sorties. We moved it out to fuel up and then took it onto the field to launch. (It should be noted that pushing an aircraft around the field quickly makes you appreciate where the gradients are. What looks like nothing when you are walking suddenly becomes conspicuous when pushing an aircraft – even a relatively light older one!)
We crewed up the Jenny and got her ready for start. Unfortunately, fortune was not on our side. She fired up willingly enough but a quick check of the engine compartment after start revealed a fuel leak and we shut her down. A trip back to the hangar to troubleshoot meant that there would be no flying that day. Once back inside, a hose was found to be split and this was the source of the fuel. Not the sort of thing you want to find out about while flying so the sound approach of everyone was justified. Fixing the hose was easy so, hopefully the Jenny will be flying again soon. Now to get some good weather and availability for everyone concerned!
While Schellville has a great collection of vintage aircraft in operation, it also has a couple of large airframes that do not look like they are going anywhere in a hurry. Parked near the runway are a DC-3 and the PV-2 Harpoon. The DC-3 is a rare sub-type….
The PV-2 has apparently spent some time as a spraying aircraft and it has some Arizona logos on it from a previous existence. It doesn’t have any doors on the bomb bay so I am assuming that these were removed as part of whatever conversion was done for the spraying role although that is just a guess. Both of them are sitting out on the earth and, with the low sun angles you get at this time of year, they look particularly interesting.
Our Schellville expedition brought me into contact with a type I have never seen before. The Ryan ST-A is not a plane I was familiar with and, when one taxied out for departure, I was quite curious as to what it was. A quick departure was followed by some passes over the field before the pilot headed off to the local area where we could see him carrying out some aeros in the distance.
A while later, while we were sitting eating some food, a guy came across with his lunch and joined us. His name was Dave Masters and it had been him flying the Ryan earlier on. We had a great chat about the history of the aircraft and how he had come to own it. He also told us about a similar aircraft in one of the hangars which we made time to see in due course.
Arriving in a new part of the world means a lot of new aeronautical experiences are waiting to be had. Those who have lived here a while know where the good things are to be seen but I don’t. Therefore, it is best to take advantage of the knowledge that is already there. Fortunately, I already know a few people out this way but also, courtesy of friends back in the Midwest, I have been introduced to some new people who are very familiar with the local aviation scene.
My friend Paul was in the area for work and we wanted to take a trip out. I dropped a line to Roger, one person that I had been put in contact with, to see what he could suggest. He said Sonoma would be the place to go. There are two airfields very close to each other and we shall hear more of one of them another day. On this day, we spent our time at Sonoma Valley or, as it seems to be more familiarly known, Schellville. They hold an open day once a month and this was one of those days.
We arrived and things looked pretty quiet but it was early in the day. We weren’t sure whether we had come to the right spot at first so made a quick recce down the street. Finding nothing (at least nothing that made us feel like we were in the right place!), we came back to where we had started and there on the ramp where, only a few minutes previously, nothing had been now sat a P-40 Tomahawk. This came as quite a surprise.
As we were looking over the fence at it, out comes a P-51 Mustang and parks next to it. Towing them around was a guy called Chris who willingly told us about the day, what he was planning to fly and a good spot for us to go and put our stuff which would provide a good view of proceedings and some shade and seating! Result. We had a wander around before getting ourselves in position for the planned flight of the P-40.
A guy from Silicon Valley was having the flight as a birthday treat. We watched them taxi out and depart before running in across the field. Then they headed off to fly around the local area. Not a bad start to the day!