This was my first visit to the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show. I was completely happy with the entire experience. Due to their excellent presence online, it was very easy for me to plan from my home in northern Virginia. They have a web page, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. What really impressed me was how interactive they were, especially on Facebook where they would respond to most questions or comments the same day. As a result, there were no surprises for me during the two events that I chose to attend during the four day long festival.
I dragged the family out Saturday night to see the twilight air show. I'd been to one of these before and it was so awesome I couldn't wait to go to another one. Unfortunately, twilight shows are pretty rare, so I jumped on this opportunity. The evening was going to start with a balloon launch, but it was too windy to safely launch the balloons. A number of people left after it was announced that the balloons would not fly, which really surprised me. They missed a heck of a show as the sun went down. Several aircraft took to the air to do aerobatic routines against the setting sun. The picture above is the Red Eagle Airsports team.
Well they didn't launch the balloons, but they did do the Balloon Illume. If you've never seen one of these, put this show on your calendar for next year. If it doesn't impress you, it will impress the kids as each balloon has a flamethrower that they use to heat the air that keeps the balloon upright. When you get a large number of balloons and light them all up at once, it makes a great racket and the sight is one you won't soon forget. Once they have lit them all up at once, they like to do this thing they call "Sparkle." This is where the balloon pilots all light their flames up for short bursts at separate times.
Another great feature of the Battle Creek Field of Flight show is their midway. Not just food, like you find at most air shows, but lots of cool things to do. The tower that they drop you from isn't exactly my thing, I might be more into the Ferris Wheel as they didn't have any roller-coasters. Lots of rides and the USTA even brought their "Smash Zone" to show kids how to play tennis for free! And just in case you were worried about what to do on hot days, there was the Water Wars Challenge where it was very easy to cool off. Back to the show!
Did I mention the jet powered school bus? Paul Stender drives a rather fast bus. But at night he likes to create clouds of smoke with that jet engine. Once he makes a nice large cloud, he fires up the afterburner. The afterburner itself is fairly impressive all by itself, but when he fires it off inside the cloud he created, the results are, well... night and day! If you look closely at the left side of the picture you can just make out the nose of the bus, which should give you some idea of how big that cloud really is.
I dragged the family back on Sunday. It wasn't too difficult after the impressive twilight show, they were ready for more. One of the first acts was the Hoppers, a civilian jet team that flies the L-39 Albatross. The four aircraft put on a fantastic formation flight demonstration with numerous passes, making it a great for us photo geeks.
The Horsemen, seen above, are another great act and one that is difficult for air shows to get, only the best end up with these guys. Another formation flight team, these guys fly one of the most recognizable aircraft from WWII, the P-51 Mustang. As if the sound of their engines weren't enough, these guys have their own score that enhances their performance.
Elgin Wells custom built his own plane to fly at air shows. He's impressive during the day, but at night his aircraft does a little dance on the ramp to its own soundtrack, courtesy of Elgin Wells himself. It also has thousands of lights all over the aircraft to light it up at night. He was another one of the performers during the twilight show.
Rob Holland is a blur as he passes behind Jack Knutson during their Firebirds X-Treme performance. These two performers were part of a total of four who flew a number of preformances during the air show.
Speaking of the entire group, here are the Firebirds in their 4 ship formation performance diving into their act: Matt Chapman leads in the yellow Embry-Riddle 231EX, Jack Knutson is in the red Extra 300 with "Firebirds" on the side, Rob Holland in the black and blue MXS and Bill Stein in the multi-colored Edge 540.
I am a huge fan of the older aircraft. The current high performance aircraft are impressive, but watching the older birds strut their stuff is super impressive. This was the first time I had seen a North American F-86 Sabre in flight. Paul Wood of the Warbird Heritage Foundation did an amazing job showing off this bird to the crowd, including this perfect picture pass.
Continuing with my obsession for older aircraft I was impressed with the performance of John Mohr, which ended with this waving pass barely 10 feet off the runway. The really impressive part was that he held this height off the ground for the better part of the length of the runway in front of the crowd. Definitely appeared to be a crowd favorite.
Overall, I had a great time at this show and I am looking forward to returning in 2013. It's a great excuse to get the family together in Michigan. Next year I'm not missing the fireworks though. Hope to see you there!
This year was a great time for me at the Joint Base Andrews Air Show. My good friend and fellow photographer Mark was able to get us in on Friday, which is really the preview day. Friday's are for DoD and their guests as well as a number of other special groups. Generally this leads to a smaller crowd. We also had great weather this year. One other bonus was that while the near runway was still closed, the performers would be able to fly over it this year, allowing them to be much closer to the crowd than last year.
Speaking of closer, when Mark and I got to the show line, we were able to walk right up and place our chairs on the fence, right in front of the Blue Angels aircraft. I have never been that close to the headliner at any air show before and it lent itself to some wonderful pictures. The picture above shows Blue Angel #3 sitting on the ramp directly in front of where we placed our chairs. My 24-70mm lens almost wasn't wide enough for being this close!
After placing our chairs as placeholders on the fence line, both Mark and I proceeded to wander around the static display aircraft. One of the highlights for me was getting an up close and personal look at one of the NASA Super Guppy aircraft. This is a huge turbo-prop aircraft that is just amazing to see in person.
Something I've been trying to do more of recently is getting pictures of the crews with their aircraft. Some seem surprised that I want them in the picture and others are more than happy to pose for me. I have a great deal of respect for these men and women who volunteer to protect our country as members of the Armed Forces. This is one way I'm trying to remind others that there are real heroes out there who look out for us every day.
You really get a feel for how low these performers are getting when you see them pass behind and below the aircraft sitting right in front of you. You get some idea of that watching Sean D. Tucker as he slides his Oracle Challenger bi-plane behind and between Blue Angels #1 and #2. Mr. Tucker puts on one heck of a show every time I see him.
A first for me was the actual flight demo by the MV-22 Osprey at this year's show. I've seen plenty of them on static display at numerous air shows, but I have never seen the demo. Watching this aircraft transition from helicopter to airplane was definitely worth showing up for this year. The crew put on a fantastic demo for us. The only unfortunate thing for me was that our great seats were too good at this moment. The Blue Angels crew came out to run the engines during the Osprey demo and as a result none of my head on pictures turned out real well due to excessive heat haze from the running engines on the F/A-18s. I still managed to get a few decent shots.
The Red Bull crew was there this year as well. This included a helicopter that did loops and rolls. No, really. The highlight for me was this shot where Kirby Chambliss is racing the Red Bull skydivers in his Edge 540 aircraft. The sky divers nailed every landing, just off to our right on the flight line. Kirby brought his Edge 540 down to ground level, sliding it down the runway and waving to the crowd.
So back to the front row seats. This was the best access I've ever had, thanks to Mark! I was right there for the afternoon engine run and to watch the crews polish the aircraft. Then, for the first time, I was able to watch the launch pomp and circumstance from the preflight check seen above to the taxi out. Seeing the precision with which these fine military men and women do their jobs always leaves me impressed.
Of course that means the Blues get up and do their thing. And they do it well. I caught #6 coming from behind the crowd and decided to follow him overhead the entire time. I was very happy with how this shot turned out. The entire show was really fantastic. Lots of cool static displays for you to wander through, maybe not as much as at past shows, but with the budget cutbacks, it's hard for me to complain about the number of static aircraft at a FREE air show. Lots of great airborne stuff as well, including the F-22 demo, a Harrier demo, a T-6B demo, the GEICO skytypers, the US ARMY Golden Knights parachute team, the Wounded Warrior flight team and several other acts. Check out all the rest of my pictures from Andrews here.