A friend and I bought photo passes to the Wings Over Houston Air Show last weekend. The folks in Houston really do it right too. The photo pit was right on the flight line, roomy, and had a great riser platform to get well above the fence. They provided coffee in the morning, soft drinks and lunch — even sunscreen. Well done.
It’s easy to go crazy at an air show and fill up a half-dozen memory cards. From the sounds of the shutters around us I think some guys did that in fact. Eight to ten frames per second, firing away every time a plane was in sight. My friend and I were much more conservative in our shots. I came home with barely more than a card full of shots. It’s nice to not have so many photos to go through when I got home.
The shot above is Major Henry “Schadow” Schantz, pilot for the F-22 Demonstration and Heritage Flight team (more on the Heritage Flight some other time). It was pretty cool being right next to the plane as it went by and getting a nod (and a finger-point) from the pilot.
I had never seen an F-22 Raptor perform live until I attended AirFest in San Antonio a few weeks ago. While I’ve always been impressed by other fighter jets that I’ve watched, and despite the fact that a high-speed pass is still my favorite thing to watch, the F-22 adds a new dimension to the performance of a fighter jet. I was completely amazed by the maneuverability of the Raptor at slow speeds. At some points it almost appeared to have the same capabilities as a Harrier. I know basically nothing regarding the technical side of aircraft maneuverability and stability, I was nonetheless left wondering how the control surfaces of the Raptor could possibly maneuver the jet while it was hardly moving. Even the slow-speed pass was rather impressive — nose was pointed way up and the ground speed was very slow. I couldn’t figure out how it was getting enough lift to stay aloft. I suppose that it’s a combination of lift from the wing (probably minimal at that angle of attack) and the sheer thrust of the engines.
The photo at the top of the page shows the F-22 as the pilot exposes the open bomb bay for the crowd. I panned this shot using aperture-priority mode and auto focus. It’s reasonable given the speed of the jet and the zoom I was using. I’d probably go into full manual mode, set the focus ahead of time, then turn auto focus off if I were setting up for this shot again.
The shot below is quite blurry but illustrates an interesting phenomena call “shock diamonds” or “mach disks”. The standing wave in the exhaust of a jet engine comes from the difference in pressures of the engine exhaust and the atmosphere. For you techies there’s a pretty good explanation here: http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/propulsion/q0224.shtml and also some information on wikipedia.
Finally, a very simple shot which IMO shows how sleek the F-22 looks while it flies. The rounded belly and cockpit make the “old” F-18s look clunky.