You wouldn’t think of Montana has having a lot of aircraft activity but the state has always had a healthy history of privately owned aircraft going back to before WWII. Once part of the old US Mail route, Montana has seen its fair share of progress over the years. Still, to this day there is a healthy number of antique aircraft flying around to keep the legacies of the past alive.
This Stinson 10A is a great example of just that legacy. Built as a light utility aircraft by the Stinson Aircraft Company, the 10A was a later variant of the 10, which was a modified 105. The 10A sported a roomier cabin and a Franklin 4AC-199 engine. This particular aircraft is one of 7 flying examples of the 10A in the world and it was part of a 10-year restoration right here in Bozeman. It was pretty cool to see it once again fly over the hillsides.
Image Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Today marks the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. One of the biggest allied operations or WWII which lead to the downfall of Germany’s Occupation of Europe. Thousands of men, aircraft, machines, supplies, and more went into making the operation a success. Today you can watch as a special memorial is taking place over the skies of France as over a dozen C-47’s are taking part in a flight over Normandy.
I’m very pleased to be able to share this finally. Last August I had the privilege of meeting Jim Booth and his wonderful family. Over the next several months we did a series of photo shoots, including my first Montana air to air shoot with his PA-12 Faust last October. The story just came out in EAA Sport Aviation. If you’re already a member be on the lookout for it. If you’re not, well you might wanna consider it. EAA has three great publications for you photographers and aviation buffs.
I don’t know how many years I have been writing a blog post for this day, which probably means I’ve written it a few times. I know that each year it gets harder to write about the same anniversary because the facts haven’t changed. The same events have occurred, the same people made those events occur and for me personally is the obligation to tell that story. The real difference each year is the number of people who were there to tell us what happened gets fewer and fewer. That is the natural way of life and it is why we honor days like today. Today is May 8th and is the 74th anniversary of VE Day, Victory Europe. This is the day when Germany surrendered during WWII. Some people may not know this and that’s why I write this post.
I also write this post for these guys. These vets who were there to do those things that need remembering and who every year disappear on us. Veterans like Jerry Yellin, Edward Saylor, Dick Cole, and David Thatcher. I know I’m forgetting others but I said these names because I’ve been able to meet these folks and hear their stories. It’s sad to think that they’re all gone.
As a photographer, our job is always to document the world around us. We all see things in a different light but no matter how we look at things, we are all still recording a chunk of time. That’s how we pass on our stories and memories to others by sharing those photos. Today we are able to honor these fine folks and say thanks for what they did in part because their world was documented at the time. Stop today and say thanks, life would be very different without people like this and without the service they provided all those years ago.
I wasn’t kidding when I said the P-47’s were coming in a later post. It’s such an amazing fighter plane but sadly there aren’t enough out there anymore. I was very fortunate a few years back to see five of them at the Planes of Fame Airshow. I didn’t think they could do one better than the year with six P-38 Lightnings. Well, the Jug was a hit that weekend and the photos are still ones that I cherish. But not to keep you in suspense I’ll tell you how I got them.
There are two key spots at PoF that are great for flight shots. In the morning, the far west end of the runway has good light and background for the “going away shots,” where you see the tail of the aircraft. In the afternoon it’s best to be on the northeast corner by the static ramp fence where the planes come in from the north and do a banana pass by the crowd. Now if you have photo credentials then there is a pit for you but if you don’t just get to the fence early and you should be fine. It’s a cool place, a great show and I can honestly say I wish I was going this year.
Images captured with Nikon D5, 200-400 VR on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
This coming weekend is the Planes of Fame Airshow in Chino, CA. I have gone to this two-day event for many years and since I started going it was always the highlight of that year. They cram a lot of planes and a lot of flying into those two days. Each year has a different theme which generally entails different aircraft showing up. Two of my most favorite years was in honor of the P-38 and P-47 Thunderbolt. You’ll see more of the Thunderbolt in another post.
Now many of you might be wondering how to make the most of those two days and get the best shots that you can. Well for starters get the sunrise photo pass. Some of the best warbird statics that I’ve gotten have been from that early day pass. I know it’s another cost to justify but it is worth it! At PoF they have two static ramps that you can get some amazing down the line shots that you just can’t get at other places. You can get detail shots, plane portraits, group shots, you name it. As you can see there is a yellow rope that prevents you from walking around the plane but honestly, I’ve never found that to be a problem in the past. The Northeast static ramp is open early and throughout part of the day. It’s a great place to walk around and work with different planes. My preferred setup is the D5 with the 24-70 or 70-200 but that hasn’t stopped me in the past from using the 200-400 either.
Seven years ago I had the privilege of meeting the last four remaining Doolittle Raiders and the aircraft that they flew on their dangerous mission over Japan on April 18th, 1942. Last week the last remaining Doolittle Raider, Lt. Colonel Dick Cole, passed away at 103 years in age. After many years, all the raiders are together again.
Today marks the 77th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid in which 16 planes took off from the carrier USS Hornet and bombed Japan. While it was not a mission out of revenge, it was designed to send a message that Japan was not untouchable. The planes would fly on to various countries in Asia where all but one crashed. The men had to find their own way home. While the history of the mission is important, it is the bravery, ingenuity, and determination of all involved that really matters.
Spitfires were used all over the world throughout WWII making it one of the most versatile aircraft used during the war. Among the battlefronts it served with, was on the small island of Malta. Civilization on Malta has been around for centuries and every since it began there has been constant fighting over the island due to its strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea. Control over northern Africa has always been fought for and during WWII it was paramount for the Axis powers. Well, the battle for Malta lasted for two years and with the help of Spitfires, the Allies were able to maintain control of the island.
On March 7th, 1942, 16 Supermarine Spitfires MkV’s were delivered via USS Eagle to the island, along with nine more from USS Eagle. 47 more were delivered on April 13th, 1942. All of this was part of Operation Spotter which gave priority to reinforcing the island in order to help hold Africa. Unfortunately, the majority of those aircraft were destroyed on the ground throughout March and April. Despite the loses, the island held and the Axis powers paid dearly in men and machines trying to take the island. Many of those reserves were needed in the Africa campaign but would never get there.
This particular Spitfire is part of the Historic Aircraft Collection, in Duxford, England. It happens to be an MkVb painted in honor of the RAF Polish 315 and 317 squadrons.
Images captured with Nikon D5, 70-300 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
The B-26 was known as many names but was best known as the widowmaker due to so many accidents in the early models during takeoffs and landings. This medium bomber was used in the Pacific and the European theatres throughout WWII with devastating effect. While originally the plane was not popular the Martin company bomber proved vital in its roles in New Guinea and then in Europe leading up to and following the D-Day invasion.
While the B-26 served throughout many theatres it certainly had an important and less well-known role during the fight against Germany. The planes were used with the 8th Air Force and later the 9th Air Force starting in early 1943. Just like the B-25, the B-26 was used as an attack bomber against small targets like bridges, rail yards, and even submarine pens. They performed these operations so well that by the end of the war in 1945, the 9th Air Force gave the B-26 the highest rating for accuracy at medium altitude. Even after D-Day the men on the ground would call in for tactical support and B-26’s would be one of the planes used to support the troops. It was fast, rugged and the men depended on it.
This might not be the most cheery of Valentine Day posts but frankly I couldn’t find a photograph of something that was really cheery and this day does mark an important day in aviation history. The F4U Corsair was one of the fiercest Allied aircraft during WWII but it didn’t have an auspicious start. If you’re into aviation or a bit of a history buff then you’ve probably have heard of all the trouble that Vought had getting this plane from the blueprints to Carrier decks. But once it was there, pilots swore by it.
Today marks the first combat action of the F4U, from Marine units based on Guadalcanal in 1943. On a mission to Kahili Field in Southern Bougainville, fifty alerted Zero’s were ready for the American bombers and their escort of fighters. Two P-40’s, two PB4Y’s, four P-38’s and two Corsairs were shot down during the raid. Only three Zero’s were shot down during the attack. It was a devastating blow to the men stationed at Guadalcanal and was hence dubbed the St. Valentines Day Massacre.