Doolittle Reunion 2010 (check out the Arrival Plan for the B-25's at KDWF)
This is a 'Doofer Book' entry for the A2A missions flown for this trip. USAF tradition is that a log of sorts is kept of all squadron activity... good, bad, funny.... whatever. The above shots are a compliation of the particular mission... and in no way reflect the EFM or any serious stuff.The notes and pictures were taken from the Mustang Air2Air Fourm on Fred Miranda.... most of our photogs are on this forum: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/600984 This is fun.... you should try it sometime!
Good Morning My Friends, Wow, wow, where do I begin? There were so many "moments" in the last five days that I couldn't begin to recant them all at this sitting. In retrospect, there were moments/experiences that I expected/anticipated and then there were a hundred that I never could have. I guess I'll begin with the ones most significant to me personally. You all know from our discussions over the life of our thread that air to air missions are constantly in flux. There are so many moving parts that it is literally a juggling act and the on off switch gets flipped more times than you can imagine. We planned, coordinated, confirmed and reconfirmed every element of our air to air seminar at Doolittle. I went over every detail of the plan a hundred times. Unfortunately it is the nature of this beast that you can't be sure it's all going to happen until you have your subject in your sights. This, our inaugural seminar, was no exception. All the planning, hand wringing, and lost sleep seemed like wasted effort as Thursday unfolded and it became increasingly obvious that weather/mechanical issues were going to prevent the timely arrival of our subject aircraft. About two hours before our scheduled "wheels up" time I went into Defcon 5 mode, it just was not an acceptable option that our inaugural shoot, or any other one would be scrubbed for lack of a subject. Some pleading and a large quantity of 100LL later, we we're set. The crew of "Yankee Warrior" from the Yankee Air Museum graciously rose to the occasion. Incidentally, their 25 is one of the most beautiful examples flying, so it worked out wonderfully. So, there you have the behind the scenes skinny on what's involved in these effort, on to the good stuff. The Guys who know me personally will attest to the fact that I become very quiet and focused as any assignment approaches, but much more so with an air to air. Jon, Rich, Gerard and Rodolfo got an in depth, hands on run through in our 25 before launch. We discussed safety, shooting procedures, and addressed any and all questions related to our impending flight. We boarded The Prowler at our scheduled time and got our team buckled up and ready for our adventure. When those big radials fire up, the power, sounds, smells are just difficult to describe. I looked around the fuselage at the faces of my friends and saw in each of them the absolute awe that I feel so deeply each time I have the privilege of being on The Prowler. It was precisely at that moment I began to enjoy what we were about to do. Seeing the quiet grins on the faces of these men made the all the effort worthwhile. This will have to be a two part tale Guys, we're letting down for DFW, be back soon with, as Paul Harvey would say...."The rest of the story......"
They get better... I know the guys have some more images to post, and even on people's LCD screens I saw some stuff that was awesome. I'll try to contribute as well, I know I saw a couple of good ones on the preview and I'll be looking for them. But forgive me if I keep repeating... the shots are nuthin'. Really. I'm going to have at least two or three large prints from this shoot on my wall... but the images are simply not the point. The experience, the actual event, the ritual if you will... is something I'll remember for the rest of my life. I even chucked off my ear protection in flight so I could fully wrap myself in the rumble, rattle, and thrum of the big radials. (Always wear ear protection, I say... and use that careful attitude for your entire life so you can have good hearing -- or any hearing -- when you get old. And so you can make an exception and fly a B-25 with your ears as wide-open as your eyes.) We were all utterly focused, and we'd shoot over, under, and around each other so everyone could get the best results possible. At one point or another, every single one of us worried about "hogging" a prime shooting spot and blocking another shooter. We played as a team, even though we'd never talked about it in any more depth than "everybody will rotate around at some point so we all get time at each station." And I firmly believe that those times are when the true character of a group shines through, OK? Everyone was gunning for their shots, but everyone placed the group's well-being above selfish aims. And I know that we all thought at some point: "This is how it sounded, how it felt, to go off to war in a B-25. To kill or be killed, not yet knowing which, scared witless but going anyway, for a bunch of kids half our age." It's hard to describe, but take my word for it: it's not something one easily forgets in years hence. To all of that, it is critical to add two more factors: the B-25 crew, and Jim. As our hosts and our guides, they taught us and took care of us in every way. We had five shooters... and one Shooter. And there is a difference between the two! I'm keenly aware of the inherent risk in air-to-air shooting, and also of the precision required to perform it safely. But however much I value my skin, with Gunny flying (an F-15 instructor instructor, for Pete's sake), and with Jim shooting and teaching and mentoring, I had zero doubts and misgivings. Jim kept saying that you don't get comfortable with the tail-gunner position for a while, but I felt so safe in their environment that I never had even one moment of uncomfortable thought or "what if" thinking. Those who know me, know how much I value having control over my life and how focused I am on risk management, so you will understand just how big a statement it is to say "I felt totally safe, never worried about a single thing, and crawled right to the back of the tail where Jim was without a care in the world." That kind of comfort level doesn't come around every year. Someday, we need to do a three-ship flight so we can get in-flight shots of Jim "at the office." Now that's an air-to-air I'd really like to do, and an opportunity I'd fight to get!
tom cardin wrote: Rodolfo--your discription is exacty what I would imagine. What want to know, is how can you see with all those tears? I never said I could see... I just said that a big ol' gyro held my camera steady enough for some images to be recognizable when pointed in the general direction that everyone else was aiming at (off the side) or over Jim's shoulder (in the tail). But I wasn't crying in this case, and I didn't see anyone else doing so. You cry when you're watching, thinking, and remembering: and you cry, because you can. But when you're doing, the very same feelings will make you quiet down, think hard, and shoot straight: and you don't cry, because you cannot. You cry before sometimes, and after most times. But not during. The first coughs of the big radials waking up get your full attention, and then the uneven rumble as they catch, catch again, and finally light up shakes the green-painted metal fuselage like the thin upper branches of a winter tree. Their loping idle during taxi reminds you that these are machines built by men, not by other machines, and that they have a soul too, an imperfect spirit that will tear itself apart to save you, but knows it may not. And when the throttles shove forward and the beat of those radial drums pounds a red war cry onto your skin, into your chest, and clear through your soul, then you wipe your eyes and you go to work. The darkest thoughts come first. How many men died on this airplane, or in other airplanes like this one? How many died on the ground on those days when the airplanes did not come to shower hellfire on their enemies? Just how terrified were the boys-slammed-instantly-into-manhood who sat in this seat, shoulder-to-shoulder with their mates yet still utterly alone? And what does it take to sob in despair, never knowing whether the metal, guns, and men around you would, at the end of the day, be your cocoon or your casket... yet still face the fight and vow to take a bunch of them with you if you had to go? We are only holding cameras, of course, not .50-caliber machine guns. But you forget that... you forget, because there are other things, more important things, which you cannot forget. So you listen to the hollow-quiet voices of the wind inside you, whispering of untold grief and death, and you feel the Light grow stronger in your heart, bringing warmth and fire and strength to your inner voice as you sing taps into the sunset. First gently, hauntingly, softly, then with ever-greater command and power you personally salute those warriors and heroes who took this seat before you; and you raise your eyes to demand that the angels sing with you, for those to whom you sing deserve a chorus from every voice and instrument in Creation. The light turns slowly golden. The skies become bright and the clouds filled with sunset colors, and suddenly a bright gleam of polished metal hits you: Yankee Warrior has formed up on the right side, and our own little war of bits and sights has begun. Joy is coming, and so is disappointment at missed shots and opportunities. But no one will die today. No families will be devastated, no children left fatherless. And we are grateful. And we laugh, and you can almost hear the rapid-fire shutters rippling through images and captures. And you forget even your teammates, and you shoot, and revel in the moment, and laugh out loud and thank your God that you were granted leave to live this day and then tell about it. And the dark thoughts are gone. The joy remains. The pride and satisfaction of having attacked your own little job as professionally as you could, to honor your cause and the men who took your seat before you...those remain. The camaraderie and the shared experience of what you did this day remains. And the gratitude, the respect, the love for all those who have -- in one way or another, in war or in peace -- made it possible for us to live these lives today... those remain too. Only the dark thoughts and hollow voices are banished this day. But we will remember. We will not forget.
We went round and round on the subject of "Pro" shooters last week. You all know that I think the great majority of you here are exceptional photographers and the folks that aren't at that level yet are moving in that direction at a good clip. One of the things that impressed me over the last week was the professionalism of the men who joined me for the mission. They didn't just come to bang out some air to air images and have bragging rights. They came with discipline and focus, they came prepared, (more so than I did on occasion) and they stuck with it for the entire event. We were up at 4 in the morning and the days ended long after dark. There was sunshine, there were cloudbursts, there were warm days and there were days colder that a well diggers........well you know. There were warm gentle breezes and there were biting 35 knot winds. Through all of this the MA2A team didn't flinch. These Guys stayed on point and did what they do so well without blinking an eye. Everyone took the last stage out headed back to shelter on Friday as the thunderstorms started popping up on western horizon, not the MA2A team. I quickly mused that the gray/blue wisps dropping out of building CU might possibly go around us or dissipate before they got to us. There were B-25's and Mustangs all around us in the air, it was no time to show weakness, and we didn't. I was wrong on that "miss us/dissipate" thing by the way, and I think there are are few images of the experience that followed. My point is, our MA2A Guys did us and themselves proud. They shot till it hurt and long after and they brought home the imagery. The formation flight out of and over Wright-Patt and 35,000 people at the Doolittle Memorial on Sunday was one of the roughest, most challenging flights I have experienced, in fact it was a beating, but Jon and Rich kept on shooting and stayed on point. They may have been silently regretting the double Diablo omelette's they had for breakfast, but it didn't slow them down any. These Guys, in my book, are Pro's with a capital "P".
JWilsonphoto wrote: I realize that these aren't inexpensive ventures and I take the responsibilities, both personal and financial, very seriously. Those are some of the reasons I put so much effort into the planning and execution of the events. As you might imagine, the operation of these birds, not to mention keeping them in top condition at the ripe old age of 65, is substantial. Actually, when you put a pencil to it, we cover operational costs, my costs and the crew is doing what they do for zip, just to keep the aircraft flying. There will come a time when this kind of experience won't be available for any price, but we're doing all we can to postpone that time for as long as possible. Jim, Your words reminded that when those WWII aircraft where built long term serviceability was not a consideration - none where expected to last more than about 12 months or so. What a sobering thought that is regarding the bravery and sacrifice of the folks who flew them. What a testament to the skill and dedication of the likes of the PP crew who 65 years later, keep those same aircraft in full flying order.
Jim - I was wheels up about 0940 today. The Prowler crew was wheels up about 0915 as I was preflighting the mighty C172. They took off to the north and did a low flyby in a semi-circle to the south over the ramp for the rest of the folks still there. I grabbed the camera to see what I could get but it was mostly belly side to me because where I was tied down. I tried to call them while they were taxiing out to thank them for a wonderful weekend and to have a safe trip home but they never answered me; not sure if they heard me or not. Words can't describe the emotions we experienced this weekend but please do what you can to warmest regards and thank yous to the Prowler crew. And, of course, to you as well.
I want to express my appreciation to Rich and Jon, and in advance to Rodolfo because we haven't had time to talk yet, for their thoughtful evaluation of our air to air shoot. As I've mentioned many times, these events are very fluid and nothing is set in stone so you have to be a little flexible and understand all participants are pedaling as fast as they can to make it a success. Our inaugural shoot was no exception to this rule as you read in the subsequent accounts. As with anything you try to put together, the first few aren't going to be perfect. We learned a lot on this one for sure. The fact that two photographers canceled was actually a blessing in disguise, four is a magic number, so that's the number we will have from here on out. Because our multiple subject aircraft didn't make it into Urbana in time for our shoot, we went with an excellent aircraft and crew flying The Yankee Warrior. We had not flown formation with Bill and his crew so we started off cautiously as you would expect and then got comfortable. Having only one aircraft obviously means that the subject can't be in two places at one time, so we started him off in formation on the right side of the aircraft. Everyone seemed to get some good shots from that vantage point, although he could have flown out and a little lower so we could get some different perspectives. That will be remedied by having a seasoned photographer/B-25 shooter in the main fuselage to relay to our flight deck any minor changes in subject position that might help our photographers get better images. The decision has been made, for reasons of liability and comfort level, that I will always be in the tail as our photographers rotate through. As you can see from the perspectives that Jon, Rich and Rodolfo captured, there's plenty of room to shoot around me. I'm in radio contact with my crew and the crew of our subject aircraft so I can tweak positioning, aircraft lighting, etc. from there, and be in contact with the go to Guy in the main fuselage. We are going to extend the length of the flight slightly so everyone has approximately 10 minutes in the tail gunner position with our subject aircraft and we'll monitor that time closely. When we are fortunate enough to have more than one subject aircraft, we can fly one off the right side and the other off the tail so everyone can be shooting something during the flight. When we do these missions at events like OSH and Alliance, it's likely we will have multiple subjects, some in formations, some will just rotate in and out so you have a variety of aircraft on each flight. Once again, there's no way to perfectly predict who will be our subjects and how many of them there will be until we're all firing up for our mission, that's just the way these things work. I can tell you at 9 in the morning who I think will be flying on us, but that can change three times by the golden hour. Speaking of that, all.......ALL our missions will be flown at dawn and dusk. Doolittle was a special case and the Guys performed like troopers, but I'll not ever put you through a flight in air like that. If you enjoy that sort of stuff, go into Milwaukee or somewhere and pay a gang member $1,500 to beat the living tar out of you, you'll enjoy it more. Other than situations like Doolittle there is just no reason not to fly in beautiful smooth air with perfect light, and we won't do it. Reservations. We need to know you what mission you want to reserve a place on, especially now that we're reducing the number on board to four. We will have a fair cancellation/refund policy, but if someone cancels or doesn't show in the week leading up to their specific mission, unless we are able to fill their seat, there will not be a refund. Reservations can be made anytime, but need to be paid for 30 days in advance of the mission. Events like OSH and Alliance will always have last minute sign ups and we will make allowances for that type of short notice as possible. Our folks with paid reservations will always be given priority, and MA2A family especially. There will be "pop-up" events like the B-24 /C-47 mission that was supposed to happen today. I'll keep everyone updated as those materialize and give you the specifics at the time. Glenn Watson and several other shooters were primed and ready to accompany me on today's flight to Barksdale, but it just wasn't meant to be. We'll have another one fellas and it will be just as fun as today's would have been, thank you for signing up. Many of my assignments don't offer an opportunity for bringing an additional photographer along due to logistics, intensity. I anticipate that there will be assignments that I can bring select people along for the experience, and I'll let you know about those as well. Jon, Rodolfo and Rich are on the short list for those experiences because of their patience, kindness and insight in helping me get this venture rolling and helping me to make it the best experience possible. AirVenture is shaping up very nicely. We'll fly every dawn and every dusk until we've taken everyone who wants to participate. Alliance is full for 5 missions at this point, but it's a long way off so feel free to put your name on a wait list. Tuscaloosa looks like a fun show and with so many of you hoping to attend, I think I'm just going to come in with The Prowler and enjoy the show. Between this operation and keeping my 300 national and international clients smiling, I need to take a breather every once in a while! That's it in a nutshell for now. I'll keep everyone up to date as we progress.
The Doolittle Raiders tour... I've heard that shooting the Oakland Raiders back in the day could get you killed - no one on the Falcons sidelines ever wanted to go back there. Photographers just have to learn to role with the punches. At least this one does. That is how I approach nearly everything - i don't get bent out of shape over anything till someone starts throwing punches - then look out. So in light of Jim's very thoughtful update on the new shooting platform arrangements - may I share a few thoughts? Rodolfo was so very eloquent in describing what it was like - the history and the full circle I think all of us experienced. For me it was fulfilling a journey that started when I was in 4th grade as I read every page of "30 Seconds Over Tokyo". Rich and I shared that same full circle as having both read it when we were young, imagined it in full detail and then experienced it while we were both still young enough to appreciate the historical nature of it. Were there problems on the first mission? Yes! Were they all "fixed"? - not exactly. Am I satisfied and happy with the results - a resounding YES! I'm sorry that not all of us on the flight are as ecstatic - but I guess being around for a while now - i knew going in that anything can happen, that safety, weather, mechanicals and a host of other factors have to align so something like this happens. I also take full responsibility for my own action in voting to go with only one subject plane. Jim stuck his neck out and put his money where his mouth was when he decided to buy the fuel for the subject plane just so we would have a target. That went way beyond the call of duty in my book. Was it less than I thought it was going to be when I got on the Airtran bus on Thursday morning? Yep - but i voted to go on - as did everyone else. In that regard the responsibility immediately becomes ours for the decisions we all made. Maybe Rodolfo and I have a little more perspective on these missions. Maybe I'm talking out of school. But here goes. We had a very wet paint opportunity a couple years ago to do an air to air shoot with Jim with a couple of very rare P-38s and the new Lightning F-35. We were all salivating over the once in a lifetime opportunity. There wasn't a chance of any alternative subjects and we put all our hopes on getting these shots. One P-38 had hydraulic problems another had a small radiator problem and some guy stirred up a political mess at the sponsoring aircraft company because he wasn't invited to the shoot. Rodolfo and I were very disappointed - as you can imagine... we were there with equipment in our hands - and no amount of crying. begging or bullying was gonna change the realities on the ground. Jim told us it was wet paint from the git go. 65 year old airplanes and experiment warbirds that no one has - make for improbability to begin with. If we didn't allow that portion of reality into our thinking - we would be in pretty sad shape. Its tough - but its the real world - on the ground - reality and nature of these kinds of flights. Anything can happen... and nothing can happen - and that is just the unmitigated reality of it all. Should this discourage anyone from not coming to Osh or Alliance or anywhere else? No I don't think so. There are plenty of other things to do, see and shoot at all of those places. The opportunity to go Air 2 Air though - is the icing on the cake. Make your plans for a nice meal... but save your fork - the good stuff just might happen and you won't regret being served a real treat... as long as you understand your budget was set for an airshow with the possibility of an amazing experience. That's my story... and I'm sticking to it!