The Thrill of Aviation Photography [A Photo Journal]

Aviation photography is one of the most challenging genres of photography. But, it can also be the most rewarding and exciting. I consider myself a novice. So, this post doesn’t offer tips or creative techniques for better aviation photography. Instead, it’s a photo journal from some of the Aero India Air Shows I have attended. If you’re keen to see photos from my travel adventures, please take a look at Part 1 and Part 2 to (re)discover the joy of flying.

As a little girl, my house was in the same line as the runway of Bangalore’s HAL airport. So, I grew up to the sound of loud, jet engines land and take off. Additionally, my father always shared great stories of aviation. Needless to say, I fell in love with airplanes.

In this post, I present to you 4 images that took my breath away. I invite you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the visuals (and the stories)!

The Skycats on the Catwalk

The Scandinavian Airshow is a professional, airshow team. Aerobatic flying is one thing. Wing walking takes the thrill to an altogether new level! Even as I captured photo after photo of the dare-devil stunts of these wing walkers, I realized that this was not for the faint hearted. Their grace, agility, and variety of manuevers left me awestruck and with my jaw hanging open.

What on earth (or in flight) is Wing Walking? It is a series of ‘acrobatic stunts performed on the wings of an airborne aircraft as public entertainment.’ Just reading that makes me realize that you have to be a little crazy to do that for a living.

Picture this: The plane is flying at approximately 150 mph (240 km/hour). It is an open cockpit. The pilot flies at an altitude of approximately 1500 feet and sometimes, much lower.  While the plane is still flying, the amazing wing walkers perform a sequence of headstands, loops, rolls, and even the Catwalk. I can’t even imagine the wind pressure they experience, especially during cross winds. Not only do these women execute their moves to perfection, they wave, smile, and blow kisses for the spectators. I have one word to describe their act: wow!

The Yakovlevs Aerobatic Team 

The Yakovlevs Aerobatic Display Team is based in the United Kingdom. “…18 years. 6 aircraft, 2000 hours of display, delighting 2 billion people across 4 continents…” That is monumental, to say the least. The aircraft used by the team includes the Russian-made  Yak-50 and the Yak-52 (trainer).

Be still, my heart, I said to myself while this breathtaking maneuver unfolded in front of me. Like poetry in motion, the pilots effortlessly guided their machines into these remarkable loops. Another reason I love aerobatics flying is the presence of smoke generators on aerobatic planes that leave visible trails and ‘type’ patterns in the sky.

So, what makes aerobatics or formation flying exciting (for spectators) and hazardous (for the crew)? Flying, of any kind, is not risk free. Formation flying adds so much more complexity when compared to a routine flight. You need specialized training, thousands of flying hours, aircraft handling skills, and a good understanding of other pilots, their experience and personality.

Before I move on to the next picture, here’s trivia for you: Did you know that the Yak-50 can actually pull 9G and has a climb rate of 5,000 ft per minute? If that is not staggering, I don’t know what is!

Boeing C-17 Globemaster III 

From ‘baby’ planes like the Yakovlev and the Catwalk, here comes the seriously, big beast: Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. Described as a strategic and tactical airlifter, the C-17 is a large, military, transport aircraft. So, just how big are we talking? Here’s a sample of specs:

It is 174 ft (53 m) long, 55.1 ft (16.8 m) tall, and has a wingspan of 169.8 ft (51.75 m).

It’s one thing for me to share the incredible facts of the aircraft and quite another to see her in action. Every time, the engines roared to life and the plane taxied down the runway, she created absolute hysteria among spectators. The screaming engines are deafening and you almost wonder how, a plane that large can actually lift and take off. Below is probably one of the best videos I have ever seen of this big, beautiful bird, thanks to Javier Rullan Ruano.

The Russian Knights

Of what use is a photo journal on aviation photography if there’s no mention of a fighter jet? So, I now present to you my final image of this post. The Russian Knights fly the Sukhoi Su-27 and now, more recently, the Sukhoi Su-30. This is a twin-engine, supermanueverable, fighter aircraft designed by Sukhoi.

This team (and the Sukhoi aircraft, especially) often generated the most excitement in the Bangalore air show. Like moths to a flame, people would rush in to get a glimpse and take endless photos and videos of this gorgeous plane.

This is from Aero India 2013. I was familiar with their moves and flying formation. But, I didn’t expect them to deploy chaffs and flares! Because I wasn’t anticipating, I was unable to control my camera settings, speed, or exposure. With my heart pounding, I clicked away like a maniac and was lucky to get one, decent shot.

Finally, I coach, consult, facilitate, and blog for a living. But my number one, go-to hobby will forever involve making memories with airplanes!

Anitha Aswath | Coach, Consultant, BloggerAnitha Aswath is a Senior Leadership Coach, Team Consultant, and Global Facilitator. She has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and is trained by The Marcus Buckingham Company in StandOut and Strengths Coaching for Business Leaders. She is currently pursuing Brain-Based Coaching Certification from the NeuroLeadership Institute. An avid photographer, blogger, aviation enthusiast, Anitha is also a student of Indian Classical Music of the Hindustani style.

In an illustrious career spanning 20 years, she has served organizations like General Electric, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Target, and Cisco in regional and global capacities. As a Leadership Coach, she works with clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of leaders and their teams.


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