Spitfires on Malta

The Spitfire has a long history throughout WWII as it was used on so many fronts. Since the first time it flew in 1936 to its introduction into service in 1938, the Spitfire went through many changes and variants as its capabilities and potential were continually pushed until production stopped in 1948. To many the Spitfire is the epitome of aviation spirit due to its design and its legacy. For those that flew the plane, they loved it because it got them home safe.

One of the fronts where the Spitfires was used and isn’t talked about as much was in the Mediterranean at a place called Malta. Malta was a 97 sq mi island which operated as a forward base between Gibraltar and Alexandria. Besides being a British Colony it had a surprisingly large population of natives with a combined total population of 250K as recorded by a census in 1937. The strategic importance of the island was great as allied planes and naval vessels could attack vital supply lines of the Axis powers going into Egypt. Rommel desperately needed the supplies to keep up his desert offensive. Thus a tremendous amount of ships, aircraft and personnel were diverted from other fronts between 1940 and 1942 to fight the defenders of the island. Despite victory almost in hand, the fortress was never captured but the losses that Germany took were significant.

On March 7th 1942 the Supermarine Spitfire Mk V made its debut on the island with 16 aircraft being flown off of the carrier HMS Eagle. Throughout 1942 more and more aircraft were flown into Malta by HMS Eagle and USS Wasp. The island had a unique compliment of Swordfish Biplanes, Bristol Blenheims, Bristol Beaufighters, Hawker Hurricanes and Spitfires. No one aircraft can be contributed with the defense of the island but like all battles it was the combined effort of all that made it possible.

The above image was taken a couple years back at Planes of Fame Airshow of Robert Defords home built Spitfire Mk V.

Image Captured with Nikon D4s, 200-400 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

A Hurricane with the Hurricane

It was never as fast as the Spitfire, not quite as slick looking nor did it acquire the provenance like the Spitfire but the Hurricane was the RAF’s first single seat monoplane fighter. It gained fame during the Battle of Britain when it was responsible for 60% of the aircraft shot down. The Hurricane was exported to countries around the world for use by the allies. It was tough, rugged and reliable which made pilots fall in love with it.

In todays world, without the environment in which made this plane famous, how do you show the world in which it flew in? In this case it was a little bit of luck. While in Britain I learned that most people love having clear sky days but that’s never what we want as a photographer. On the last evening with the Hurricane the wind blew in one heck of a storm cloud and the light that caught it was amazing. It’s oh so rare to get the exact weather that captures the essence of the plane itself.

What’s Next With Your Photography?!

This is an important question that we must be constantly asking ourselves in order to grow. Now is a great time if you haven’t already since it’s a new year. If you don’t know yet what the next step is, then that’s okay. You’re not alone. Every photographer goes through it. But the challenge is how do you get past it?

The first step is to take stalk of what you have already done and accomplished. Look back at 2017, really study the successes and the failures, especially the FAILURES! No one likes to admit those failures but we have to. That’s how you grow. It sounds like child like logic but it’s true. If you want to figure out what’s next with your photography then start by turning your failures into successes and then applying those lessons to your next project. By doing so new avenues and new projects are bound to come up because now you are looking for those avenues that have yielded a success. The sky can be the limit if you just take the first step.

First Combat in a Long Legacy

The American Volunteer Group is one of the most studied and talked about combatants from WWII. Their legacy is a mix of lore and legends most of which are still debated. The veterans that are part of the group have slowly faded away to the point where only a handful remain. The one point that has never been argued and never will be is how much they contributed to the defense of China during the early parts of the war.

Seventy Six years ago was the first combat mission that the volunteers faced over China. Flying from their base at Toungoo, the First and Second Squadrons flew to Kunming on the 18th to fight over the Yunnan Province. The pilots at the helm of the P-40’s shot down nine of ten Japanese bombers with a loss of one fighter. Three days later the Third Squadron along with RAF Fighters shot down six bombers and four fighters. The RAF lost five aircraft and the AVG lost four. For the units first week in action it was a busy one and it would lead to a series of other engagements leading to an impressive record, one that is well remembered to this day.

Last year at Peachtree Airport in Atlanta at the 75th anniversary of the AVG, five P-40 Warhawks and two AVG veterans showed up to honor the other members both living and deceased. Their contribution to protecting our freedom will never be forgotten.

Images Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Planes in Snow

Snow is finally coming down in Bozeman which is great since it’s been such a warm and wet Fall. Every year it seems different and I still say Bozeman is the one place where it can be raining, snowing, and sunny at the same time in the same place. Often that means it can be rather depressing with grey skies and similar photo subjects all the time so finding that little bit of pop can be really rewarding.

Now most people wouldn’t think about planes in snow because most plane owners don’t like bringing out their planes in snow but the photographs that can be made are often worth it. It all comes down to how you approach the mission. Snow is water and water and planes don’t mix. So if you are planning an outdoor shoot go for a day that’s going to be clear and if not stick around after and help wipe down the aircraft. Next keep it short. It’s cold and wet and while we have to stick it out to get the shots we need everyone else is usually there out of the generosity of there hearts. These shoots can and do happen up here in the mountains you just have to be respectful.

The Kingcobra

I wanted to post this yesterday but since yesterday was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor it seemed only fitting to push this back a day. The P-63 Kingcobra was somewhat of an unsung hero of WWII with most of the planes being sent to Russia under the Lend Lease Act. But with over 3,300 built they certainly saw their share of combat. December 7th was actually the 75th anniversary of the aircrafts first flight.

The P-63 was the “big brother” if you will of the P-39 Airacobra, both of which were built by Bell Aircraft. The P-63 was based off of the design of the P-39 while at the same time trying to improve on the P-39’s deficiencies. The P-63 was never accepted by the USAAF as a combat plane but did serve in training and target practice services.

While certainly not as glamorized as the Mustang or the Spitfire, the Supercobra and the Airacobra did their duties. Today only a handful are left flying. Thankfully with the help of volunteers and private collectors more and more are being returned to the sky. If ever at an airshow I highly recommend stopping and looking closely at a Cobra because their design is truly unique.

A Day Not to Be Forgotten

Every year I talk about this day because it is one that must be remembered. Seventy Six years ago Pearl Harbor was attacked and in those few hours the fate for many was decided. It set this country on a course that could not be altered and for four years we fought for freedom. Today is a special day to honor and remember what happened on December 7th.

Of all the historic events from WWII this certainly is one that must people recall. The photographs from that day are erie to look at now especially if you’ve ever visited the islands and seen what it’s like today. A few years back I had that opportunity and it felt even erie’r.

The rusted mast of one of the USS Arizona’s stacks is all that can be seen above water. It’s a far cry different then the image seen of the ship taken on that fateful day. Under the water surface still lies the remains of the crew submerged inside the ship, another reminder of what’s not to be forgotten. Hopefully this post isn’t to depressing but it’s important to cherish what we have in this world as it came at a price.

One Bad@#$ Cat

The Grumman F7F Tigercat was one mean plane. It’s fast, it’s strong and looks really awesome! Developed by Grumman during WWII the Tigercat never got to see action during WWII but would go on to see combat during the Korean War as a night fighter and attack fighter for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Only 364 were built and only a handful remain flying today.

Why is thus important? Well if you follow my blog and like bringing up anniversaries and todays is the 74th anniversary of the first flight of the F7F Tigercat. It’s a pretty cool and pretty darn big fighter plane that I’ve been fortunate to get to photograph a few times over the years. If you’re at an airshow I suggest you spend some time with this plane because there really aren’t many flying anymore.

The Tiger Moth

The de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth is one the most recognizable biplanes in the world partly due to almost 9 thousand having been built. It was the primary trainer for all Commonwealth Fighter pilots and all of Britain’s top WWII Ace’s once flew the Tiger Moth. The Tiger Moth was Geoffrey de Havillands answer to his own question, how do I make a better plane? His first two were not up to his own expectations and so work began leading to the Gypsy Moth and the monoplane prototype Tiger Moth in which ideas from both led to the true Tiger Moth we know of today.

Among the many changes was the moving forward of the wings with the wings slanted back and down to maximize lift. The addition of a more powerful engine, folding doors for both pilot seats and many other changes were adapted into the new design. This lead to the DH.82 becoming one of the principal tail dragger trainers of its day. On October 26th 1931 the first Tiger Moth flew its initial flight. In February 1932 it entered service with the RAF Central Flying School. Geoffrey de Havilland wanted to make sure that the plane was good enough not only for the RAF but for civilian markets as well. He succeeded with Tiger Moth’s being flown in countries around the world as a trainer, a show piece, a crowd pleaser and an all around good flight.

While at Duxford this past August working with a Spitfire MkVb and a Hawker Hurricane, we had the luxury of looking across the field at 3 Tiger Moth’s that were busy flying people back and forth across the English countryside. While most of these flights were rides having been sold to further support the museum, one can’t help but wonder how many of those passengers were flying in honor of relatives that might have trained in that same aircraft.

Images Captured with Nikon D5, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Lodestar

The Lodestar was Lockheeds answer for a passenger airliner to compete against Douglas’s DC-3 which was already in widespread use. The Model 14 Super Electra was too expensive to keep up passenger service. The Model 18 Lodestar was based off of the Super Electra design but with an additional 5ft 6in in length which allowed for two extra rows of seats. The prototype with the new design first flew on this day 78 years ago.

Two more prototypes were built the first one flying on February 2nd 1940. The new models received their type certificate on March 30th 1940. The modifications were successful. The added seats made the Lodestar economically on par with the DC-3 while still retaining the flight performances. The Mid-Continent Airlines out of Kansas City, MI, was the first customer of the new aircraft. Eventually 31 would be sold to US airlines with another 29 going to foreign airlines. Despite the improvements, too many airlines were already using the DC-3. Most of the Lodestars built and the majority of the 625 built new from the assembly line were converted to military use as C-56’s, C-60, and R50 depending on which branch had them employed.

CAF Houston’s “Goodtime Gal” is a C-60A built in 1943. It saw service delivering domestic transport in the US and never went overseas. On January 6th 1945 it was sold to Skyways International Trading and Transport where it was used as a cargo plane. It was then sold to Nicaragua where it was used by the national airline Lanica. It returned to the US in the 1950’s where it was converted into an executive sled for corporations like General Dynamics and US Steel. In the 1970’s it was used for atmospheric and weather research. In 1992 it was turned into a parachute plane and flown up to Alaska. In 2002 it was bought by the CAF and was first flown in August 2011. It can be seen nowadays at the CAF Houston Wing.

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