This post has been rattling around in the draft portion of this blog, but I managed to get it together while waiting for the Raiders-Seahawks preseason game to start.
PD photographers, with tremendous planning from photog Jeff Kan Lee and Director of Photography Chad Surmick, cover the air show…from the air on media day. The first ride of the day was on the C-17 Globemaster III. It’s always a very smooth flight, but this year I was able, with the help of the Pacific Coast Air museum folks, to ride in the cockpit of the very big but coordinated beast as it landed after a round trip of the SF Bay Area and Sonoma County. It was like landing on a mattress. No problem there.
The second flight of the day was an air to air photo of two Pitt Specials, aerobatic planes that were to perform in the air show during the weekend. The plane that I was to shoot from was a T-33, built sometime in the 50’s. It’s always neat to fly in these warbird planes.
May radial engines live forever, amen.
To get the shot, you are strapped in from waist to shoulders-so you don’t fall out- photographers shoot with the cowling opened up. You have a headset linked with a hotmike to the pilot and your are cruising probably 110kts or so. Getting the picture was pretty easy, I just coordinated with Larry Carrillo, the air show photog-who was in another plane- so we could basically get the pictures we needed.
I was totally unprepared for what happened next. I was thinking, while looking at the left wing and the Sonoma County tundra below, what a cool job I have. Suddenly and with no pilot warning, he did a wing over. Now remember, I still have the canopy open, holding two cameras. As he rolled the plane, my stomach lurched and my headphones were catapulted from my noggin. With eyes squeezed tight, there was a feeling of vertigo as the plane accelerated. In 20 seconds the turn was over and the T-33 leveled off. As if in a comedy, the headset was still attached to the microphone jacks, flailing wildly behind.
The funniest part of the whole thing was the mental image of myself pulling the headphones back in to the cockpit, like pulling up rope from a cliff. Finally having reeled in the head piece, I was able to recollect myself. After that it was smooth…sailing to the airport.
I closed the cowling on the way back.
The next flight went smoother, again aboard a T-33 but a different plane and pilot. The shot below is what ended up in the newspaper.