This post is a little bit of an odd one compared to the usual reports of things I have been out and about shooting. I was recently putting together an article for a magazine on the 20th anniversary of the first flight of an airliner. (A quick Google search might tell you which one but if you are interested in the article, click here to see the full digital magazine.)
I knew I had some images of the prototype aircraft when it first flew at Farnborough in 1992. This is pre-digital days of course so it was time to head to my binders of negatives. I will save the discussion of how shooting in the digital era differs from shooting with film for another post. I will also keep my head down for those of you who will wonder why I wasn’t shooting transparencies. We learn as we get older I guess.
What did catch my eye as I foudn the appropriate shots was that I had seen a bunch of different aircraft at that event and I should really get them scanned. It was while I was going through this process (that took far longer than it really should have courtesy of a film scanner that, I suspect, is getting towards the end of its useful life) that I noticed something about the way I look at new aircraft.
I think there is a bit of always wanting something that is different to what you have. When an aircraft first flies, it is obviously the prototype (or prototypes) that fly first. These appear in lots of press release images and they will be the first ones to show up at trade shows. Given the length of development programs, you can get a bit bored with seeing the same aircraft all the time. You long for more of them to be built so you can see the finished product. You also want to know what they will look like in service since prototypes rarely are finished the way the majority of the aircraft will be.
Eventually production gets underway and you see the real deal. This is briefly exciting. New color schemes and users appear and there is something different to learn about. Over time, many more are produced and then they become a bit boring. At this point, the idea of seeing a development aircraft – possibly incorporating modifications for some test program – is incredibly interesting and a nice change from the many “normal airframes around.
Are these the same airframes you originally were bored with? Yep! Am I being contrary? Yep! Such is the way it goes. I will probably find that someone who is near to the airfield where testing is undertaken probably is bored of the same development airframes and longs for some variety. I guess we can’t ever be happy!