Tag Archives: aviation photography

A Different Perspective: Twilight Airshows

The early evening sky can offer some of the most vibrant and beautiful views of the entire day. Thousands of people flock outdoors to glimpse Mother Nature’s beauty daily to watch the evening sunset. For aviation lovers, a twilight airshow combines the beauty of the sunset with the beauty of the flying machine.

“Twilight shows” are popularly hosted on the eve of the formal airshow, on Friday for example. It allows the casual fan to come onto the show grounds and get a teaser of the formal show, usually at a lower gate price. For others like me, the evening show provides an extra day of the weekend “holiday”. These evening shows are usually a blend of aerial talent, food/beverage and live talent. In other words, it is a Friday night airport party! The overall atmosphere is usually a little more relaxed and the crowds a bit easier to tolerate. The sometimes oppressive summer heat is reduced making the early evening much easier to tolerate.

My exposure to twilight shows began in the late 1990s at Michigan’s popular Muskegon Air Fair. The Friday evening show started as a casual way to party before the show and eventually morphed into a widely successful event in and of itself – the “Friday Night Runway Bash”.

F-14 Tomcat Demo Team performing pre-flight checks during the Friday evening 2004 Muskegon Air Fair

Ever since those early Runway Bashes, I was hooked on the evening shows. I always try to attend them when the timing works out with the travel schedule. I like the different views and early sneak peak into the weekend show. I have even met some of the performers casually walking around the grounds.

The Early Evening…

Early evening is when the magic sky transformation begins. The sky begins to grow darker as the sun lowers on the horizon. The yellow tones begin to show on the polished finishes and gloss coatings of the aircraft paint.

The Mid-Evening…Golden Hour!

This is likely my favorite time of the day and is no exception during evening airshows. The aircraft begin to darken and they sky begins to pop with the vibrant evening sunset colors of various reds and oranges. Exhaust flames and afterburners begin to become evident.

The setting sun casts a golden hue on the F-22 Raptor Demo Team taken during the 2015 Planes of Fame evening show.

The Late Evening…

As the day turns into evening, the last bits of color erupt over the horizon, casting the final hues of red and orange for the day. With the loss of visual cues, the skill set of the pilots increase.

Many performers have developed a specific routine for evening shows to showcase the elegance of flight in the late evening sky. Some have even catered to this type of performance by adding special lights to the aircraft to make them easier to track in the darkening skies. The hours and hours of practice are evident as the routine unfolds as flawlessly as a daytime performance.

Has the sun set on evening shows?

No! But ultimately, an airshow is a business. Like all businesses, decisions are made based on the economics of the times. People outside the industry do not understand that an airshow is not put together just a few weeks prior to the scheduled date. Instead they are planned a year, sometimes longer, in advance. Budgets are set and performers are signed based on those budget figures. A brief look into your own checkbook will likely reveal the costs of daily life are rising. Aviation is the ultimate motor sport and like all motor sports is a wallet draining hobby without a sponsorship to offset costs. Vintage piston and jet warbirds are costly to own, maintain and fly and therefore charge an appearance fee. Civilian acrobatic performers use equally expensive aircraft that can handle heavy g-forces.

An evening show simply adds to the overall costs. Performers get paid more, additional volunteers are needed and municipalities require payment for the additional police and traffic control. If it rains, those costs are likely not recovered. With today’s economics, an extra day is usually just too costly and risky to plan. However, there are planners and performers that enjoy the evening shows and take a chance. Some shows are even beginning to plan the airshow later in the day to take advantage of the timing to incorporate the airshow, ground entertainment, concerts and a fireworks display.

If you are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to attend a twilight airshow, take advantage. Vendors get a bit of extra business, the airshow’s profits increase and the performers get to show off their talents. A lot of time and effort went into the planning for the evening. Enjoy the casual atmosphere, visual beauty and the people that come with you to share in the evening fun!

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome – WWI Air Show 2019

In the small town of Red Hook, New York lies one of America’s true aviation treasures, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Founded by Cole Palen in 1958, the museum sought to preserve the flying history of the Pioneer (1900 -1913), WWI (1914 – 1918) and the Golden Age of Aviation (1919 – 1940). Mr. Palen ended up creating the first museum of flying antique aircraft in the United States.

What started out as six WWI aircraft has turned into a collection of over 60 aircraft, some originals and some replicas, spanning the years from 1900-1940. In addition to their collection of flying aircraft, the museum has a number of artifacts, static display aircraft, antique automobiles and motorcycles. They are even restoring a WWI era tank.

Each weekend from mid-June through October the Aerodrome comes alive with two distinct airshows. Saturday shows focus on the “History of Flight” while the Sunday shows focus on the WWI era aircraft.

I attended the WWI show on September 15, 2019.

Stepping back in time…

Once you park and cross the street, you enter into the Aerodrome area. You pay for your admission and the fun begins. The Aerodrome is set up like a small airfield in the early days of flight. Hangars of various size are placed around the field. These hangars house the museum’s flying aircraft. Usually the vacant hangars have their aircraft on the field for the day’s flight. The hangars with aircraft inside are usually from the opposite day’s show, but are open for your visual inspection. The restoration area is a fun place to go to have a look. The hanagars also have a theme to them, the early era flight companies like Curtiss, Fokker and Ryan Flying Company for example.

The flying aircraft are usually towed out first and placed on the flight line. After those machines are out, the vintage automobiles and motorcycles are brought out for a little ride around the field. After you get through looking into the hangars, the announcement is made that the show is about to start.

The Show Opens…

The Air Show begins in traditional barnstorming fashion…some fancy stick work resulting in some razzle and dazzle of the aircraft. This time was the De Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth, an original aircraft and built in 1934.

The aircraft takes off and climbs up a few hundred feet. Then at show center, a roll of toilet paper is thrown overboard. The goal is for the aircraft to cut the paper ribbon numerous times before getting too low to the ground to be safe. This shows just how nimble the aircraft is and the skill set of the pilot.

After the Tiger Moth came down, a second aircraft went up to beat the previous pilot’s TP Banner score. This show, the second aircraft was the 1942 Fleet Finch 16-B, another of the museum’s aircraft that is an original version. Sadly, I did not make note of which aircraft was more successful.

A Brief Glimpse into Aircraft Development: 1910 Hanriot

Although the theme of the Sunday show is WWI, the museum brings out their 1910 Hanriot (a reproduction) to show just how fast the airplane developed in the short span of time.

The aircraft looks fragile and dangerous, and it turns out to be true. Take a close look and you see the infancy of aircraft design and the lack of pilot safety features. The plane taxied by for a close look, then lined up for take off. The plane did indeed get airborne, but only to an altitude of about 10-15 feet. Although capable of higher flight, safety is paramount and simply to show it is indeed capable of flying.

The Fokkers: D.VII and D.VIII

The collection of WWI aircraft come out shortly after the aerobatics. This visit brought out the Fokker D.VII biplane and the improved D.VIII monoplane. Both aircraft came into service with the German Air Force in 1918.

The D.VII came into service in April, 1918 and was vastly underestimated as an adversary due to the square look and thick wings. The aircraft quickly became respected and earned the reputation as a serious fighter aircraft. It turned out to be fast and highly maneuverable, both important attributes in a fighter aircraft. Herman Goring, the head of the German Luftwaffe in WWII, flew the type and claimed many of his victories in the D.7. The aircraft was so respected at the end of WW I that the Armistice Treaty included a provision that all of the remaining D.VII airframes be turned over to the Allies.

The D.VIII monoplane came into service in July, 1918. It was nicknamed the “Flying Razor” by allied pilots. The aircraft had a number of issues early on in development, but eventually became known as an agile aircraft and easy to handle. The type has the place in history as the last type to score an aerial victory in WWI. The D.8 has a truly unique sound due to the rotary engine powering it.

The Sopwith Scout

I was pleasantly surprised to see this aircraft on the flight line when I arrived. The aircraft was still being restored during my previous visits. The official name of the aircraft is listed above, but it is more commonly known as the “Pup”. The type entered service in 1916 and was considered a good airplane to fly, but not an exceptional fighter design. It was outclassed by the larger and more powerful German aircraft.

The SPAD VII

The SPAD VII came into service in late 1916 and early 1917. It was hoped to be the aircraft to end the dominance of the German Albatross over the skies of the battlefront. The type was replacing the nimble and popular Nieuport 11 and Nieuport 16 designs. However, German designs were also rapidly improving. The Spad 7 held the aerial lines and gave the pilots time to develop new tactics with the heavier and more structurally sound airframe. The type was later replaced by the Spad 8 on the front lines. However, the type was well respected and used as a trainer by various countries for many years after the war.

The Fokker Dr.1 and the Black Baron

Likely the most recognized aircraft of WWI is the Fokker Dr. 1 triplane and is synonymous with the German Ace, Manfred Von Richthofen. The type entered service in 1917 and was considerably more maneuverable than existing German designs at the time and was well armed.

Playing the part, the Baron of the Aerodrome is the Black Baron.

The Showdown…

The Black Baron challenged Sir Percy to an aerial duel for the right to the hand of the lovely maiden, Trudy Truelove. The Baron chose the Fokker Dr.1 while Sir Percy chose the Sopwith. In the end, Sir Percy prevailed and married his lady.

The Cast

Take a flight!

Not only do you get to see history while at the Aerodrome, you can also experience history first hand. Prior to the formal air show, and for a short time after, you can purchase a flight aboard the Museum’s 1929 New Standard D-25. The aircraft has seating for up to four passengers and the flight lasts for about 15 minutes.

Around the Aerodrome

The field is full of fun things to look at and enjoy. The day passes quickly, too quickly for my tastes. The day is so action packed that all of sudden the sun is getting low and it is time to go.

If you have never had the chance to experience this fantastic place, you should make a point to visit. The atmosphere is fun and inviting with an equally friendly staff. It is an affordable and entertaining family event. Some times the aircraft lineup changes due to maintenance or other reason. You just never know what exactly will be in the air that day. And that is part of the fun.

I only briefly described the air show and the contents. This time I focused on the aircraft primarily. There is so much more for you to see and do. Come out and see it for yourself!

Next time I plan to see the History of Flight show to change things up. I cannot wait till that day! I will probably enjoy it so much that I may just have to go back the next day!

2019 NAS LEMOORE AIRSHOW

NAS Lemoore opened its doors to the public September 21-22, 2019 for their first airshow since 2011. This was my first time out to NAS Lemoore and the base was nothing like I expected – especially for a Navy base. The base is located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, and is a huge complex. The base is so large that it has two separate areas. One is the command portion, and the other is the operations section. Unlike the other military bases I have been to, there is no surrounding city. The base is actually in the middle of farm land, literally in the middle of nowhere. NAS Lemoore and “Nowhere” turned out to be an oasis of excitement and an excellent experience.

The show was headlined by the Navy’s Blue Angels and also included performances by the Patriot Jet Team, demos by the F-15 Eagle and F-35C Lightning II, a tactical demonstration by aircraft of the fleet, civilian warbird performances by Skyhawk 518, Greg Colyer in his T-33 “Ace Maker” and CAF SoCal Wing brought their F6F Hellcat, P-51 Mustang, F8F Bearcat, Zero and PBJ-1J Mitchell. The static display was full of aircraft from the base’s squadrons except VFA-25 and VFA-86, which were deployed. The fleet’s newest aircraft, the F-35C Lightning II, was on display both in the air and on static display with aircraft from VFA-125 and VFA-147.

THE FLEET AIR POWER DEMO

The fleet air power demo included aircraft from VFA-2 Bounty Hunters, VFA-151 Vigilantes, VFA-14 Top Hatters, VFA-125 Rough Raiders (Saturday only) and VFA-147 Argonauts (Sunday only).

F-35C LIGHTNING II DEMO

The Navy surprised the crowd with the first public F-35C Lightning II demo. Although not officially a formal demonstration yet, the routine used is the prototype for the 2020 airshow season which is rumored to be the first official year of the Navy’s F-35C Demo Team. The aircraft is powerful and the display was very aggressive with numerous afterburner passes and high-g turns. The F-35 certainly has to be the loudest jet currently flying. No complaints from me though. I love the sound of Freedom’s Thunder.

COMMEMORATIVE AIR FORCE – SOCAL WING

Commemorative Air Force – SoCal Wing brought several of their warbirds to NAS Lemoore for display and participation in the flying portion of the show. The aircraft included the F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, P-51 Mustang, A6M Zero and PBJ Mitchell. The aircraft flew multiple passes, including solos and several different formations. A top notch collection showcased by pilots that know how to show them off.

US NAVY LEGACY FLIGHT

The Navy’s Legacy Flight was performed by two F/A-18 Super Hornets from VFA-122 Flying Eagles and Rich Sugden flying his FJ-4B Fury. The Fury is the only flying example of the type. The aircraft was damaged after a wheels up landing several weeks later and will require a lengthy repair period.

F-15C EAGLE – CALIFORNIA AIR NATIONAL GUARD

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the F-15 Eagle demo flown on Saturday. California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing presented their specially marked F-15 for the occasion. The paint scheme is a celebration of the unit’s 75th Anniversary. It was AWESOME to see and hear the mighty F-15 again. Once a staple of the US airshow circuit, seeing an F-15 is becoming extremely rare and almost non-existent in the air.

PATRIOT JET TEAM

This was the first time I saw the Patriot Jet Team and was extremely surprised at how much I enjoyed their demo. The team is made up of former USAF Thunderbirds and USN Blue Angels pilots. Accordingly, I expected a show similar to the military teams. However, the show was more like a performance by the European military jet teams and included colored smoke. The flight performances were well executed and had an equally well done narration. I am now a huge fan of the Patriot Jet Team!

US NAVY BLUE ANGELS

What can I write that has not already been said a million times prior about the Blue Angels? Nothing…so check these images out and see a brief glimpse of the talent and skill that make them arguably the most popular military jet team in the world! FLY NAVY!

NAS LEMOORE RESCUE

Besides hosting the Navy’s West Coast fighter jet squadrons, the Navy also has several MH-60 Seahawks based at NAS Lemoore for rescue purposes. These Naval Aviators provide assistance locating and retrieving downed flyers when a tragedy occurs. However, these crews also help the local first responders when necessary. The local area is mountainous and relatively uninhabited. The unit’s skill set is ideal to assist when local resources are limited and time is of the essence.

The NAS Lemoore Seahawk crews provided an example of a search and rescue (SAR) demo, including a narration of why certain techniques are used. Well done Sailors! FLY NAVY!

KENT PIETCH

Kent Pietch is likely my favorite civilian performer on the circuit. Sure, I have seen his act many times, I have photographed for his team, and I have ridden along in the vehicle he lands on when performing the truck top landing. Yet, the talent and execution make this one hell of a performance – every time! Personally, Kent is a class act and after watching what he can do with an aircraft not really designed to be an airshow star, you have no doubt he is a leader in the industry.

CALIFORNIA TAIL

Photos of the F/A-18 tails on hand at the show. Love the CAG Bird colors…hopefully the tradition will continue. If not now, in the near future.

AROUND THE FIELD

2018 Planes of Fame Airshow

The 2018 Planes of Fame Airshow was held May 4 – 6, at the airport in Chino, California. This year’s theme aircraft was P-38 Lightnings and had four flyable examples on hand. Another surprise was Yanks Air Museum pulled out their F-5G Lightning, a photo reconnaissance version of the P-38L, and placed it on static display. Unfortunately, P-38 “Lightning 33” had issues with an alternator and was unable to participate in the flying portion of the show. It was still mighty impressive to see three P-38s in formation at one time! A P-38 also participated in the USAF Heritage Flight.

P-38 LIGHTNINGS

AIR RACING

This years event also included a segment on air racing, which featured passes by highly modified P-51 Mustangs air racers named “Strega” and “Voodoo”. Voodoo currently holds world’s record as the fastest piston powered aircraft at 531.64 mph.

P-47 THUNDERBOLTS

A recently restored P-47D Thunderbolt “Dottie Mae” made her airshow debut at PoF, and she was absolutely beautiful. Dottie Mae is a later model bubble top variant of the Thunderbolt. Originally, the Thunderbolt had a razorback style aft of the cockpit. Planes of Fame’s P-47 is a razorback style and flew in formation with Dottie Mae. The bubble top shows the greatly improved reward vision.

THE PLANES OF FAME COLLECTION

Nearly all of the flyable aircraft in the Planes of Fame inventory participate in the annual airshow. Their collection of aircraft is impressive and contains rare birds like the P-47 razorback variant of the Thunderbolt, P-51A Mustang and the only flying examples of the P-26 Peashooter and N9M Flying Wing. The diverse collection contains US Navy aircraft from WWII such as the SBD Dauntless and TBF Avenger, well as classics such as the P-51 Mustang and P-40. Planes of Fame also has flying examples from the Korean War era such as the Yak-9, F-86 and MiG-15. The collection also includes a Vietnam era A-1 Skyraider.

COLLABORATIONS WITH OTHER MUSEUMS

Another reason why this show is special is that many of the nearby Museums share their aircraft which allows for many other aircraft variants to be viewed. Museums include:

The Lyon Air Museum
CAF – SoCal Wing
Palm Springs Air Museum
Warhawk Air Museum
Lewis Air Legends
GossHawk Unlimted, Inc.
Sanders Family
Yanks Air Museum

These museums bring aircraft like the P-51B Mustang, PBY4 Privateer, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, F7F Tigercat, P-51D Mustangs, Spitfires, P-63 King Cobra, P-40 Warhawks, C-47 Skytains.

Many other individual warbird owners also bring their aircraft, which also adds to the overall aircraft list.

The show also attracts demos from the USAF (this year the A-10 Warthog) and civilians such as Greg Colyer in his T-33 Shooting Star.

The lineup of aircraft below is just one of several, and by this view alone you can tell just how special this show really is. In my opinion, if you are a warbird fanatic like me, this is the ultimate warbird airshow to attend in the United States.