09/03/2011 Cleveland Air Show


I went to annual Cleveland Air Show during the labor day weekend.  Cleveland Burke Lakefront airport is within 2.5 hours by car from Pittsburgh.  It is easy to make it a one-day trip.  What was special this year was F-4 Phantom II flight demonstration.  F-4 Phantom II had already retired from the front line of the U.S. Air Force and is becoming rare to see it flying.  I saw F-4 Phantom II flying for the last time in 2007 Dayton Air ShowThat airplane was owned by the Collings foundation.  I was using Pentax *ist DS2, which was a 6 mega pixel camera.  Now I am using Olympus E-30.  It has 12 mega pixel sensor, and the performance of the camera is magnitude better than *ist DS2.  I couldn't miss this opportunity.  My primary goal in this air show was to take a definitive shot of F-4 Phantom II.

The first day.  I left Pittsburgh around 7am and arrived Cleveland Burke Lakefront airport at around 9:30am as planned.  When I entered the ramp area, I was shocked.  I didn't see a F-4 in the flight line.  Was it cancelled?  I didn't see Thunderbirds either.  In some Cleveland Air Show they fly a remote show from Cleveland Hopkins International airport.  If they fly a remote show, pilots don't come to the show center for autograph.  Therefore I had no way of getting autographs from Thunderbird #8 and #10.  I was somewhat disappointed, but anyway I walked up to my vantage point.

I was able to find air boss and discrete frequencies quickly.  But, the radio was not so busy in the morning while radio controlled airplanes were populating the air and some jets took off carrying a medical-emergency patient.  The main part of the show started in the afternoon.  F-18 flew first thing in the afternoon.  From the experience of the last year, I should have used the focal length of 400mm film-camera equivalent, but I felt the airplane was too far and extended a little bit.  It turned out too long.  After that I was sticking with my memo.

Then, a team with J-1 Cub showed a truck landing.  This team was a different one from the one I saw in Latrobe.  The air show announcement said there are only two teams that does this demonstration in the world.  I was lucky enough to see both two teams in a short time.  This team showed a different demonstration in which they deliberately dropped one of the ailerons in flight.  I totally thought that was an accident, but this airplane apparently is capable of flying with only one aileron.

J-1 Cub landing on a truck.

Around 2pm, I heard call sign "Phantom" on the radio.  In an air show, those performing aircrafts use a call sign that is easy to identify what the airplane is.  They use "Rhino" or "Phantom" or like that.  Remote airplane sometimes use an official call sign, but this phantom was using "Phantom" as a call sign.  It must have used a different call sign when it departed Hopkins.

I remembered that a Phantom made a photo pass immediately after it took off in Dayton.  I was expecting it to do the same.  And, I was right.  I didn't have previous data to set up my camera, but I made a guess and aimed with 100mm (400mm of film-equivalent) but it turned out too short.  I extended to the full length, and it was just right.  I had a very satisfactory shot.

Back of F-4 Phantom II.  I came to the show for this picture.

Other fly-bies.

The surface of this Phantom didn't look waxed well.  Also, the wing tip didn't seem to be finished right.  I saw a picture of a F-4 Phantom II that flew in this year's Langley air show on a magazine, but it was nicely waxed and shiny.  The aircraft's serial number was different from the one on the magazine.  I wondered if Collings foundation had more than one Phantoms.  Or was another group maintaining a Phantom?  Actually, this Phantom could be QF-4, which is owned and maintained by the air force for target drone.  It could be the case because I didn't see a tail number that is required for all civilian-owned airplanes.

A-10 aerobatics followed F-4 Phantom.  My memo indicated I should use the focal length of 400mm film-equivalent.  That was right, and I was able to capture its dedication pass ok.

Dedication pass of A-10

P-51, F-4, and A-10 lined up for the heritage flight.

I have no idea how many P-51s are flyable now.  There are so many.

CP-140 Aurora from Canadian Air Force

Another rare participation was CP-140 Aurora from Canadian air force.  Obviously it looks same as P-3C Orion.  But, it has different electronic surveillance equipments.

Then Thunderbirds flew a remote show from Cleveland Hopkins International.  I chose correct focal length for the surprise pass, but I couldn't keep up and missed it.  But, I finally captured four airplanes crossing with minimum separation with different headings after Bomb Burst Upward in one picture!  Every time, Thunderbirds' one-point cross comes with almost perfect timing.  So, I was always trying to capture four airplane in one picture, and finally I made it.  In fact what's impressive is after crossing with minimum separation, they join up and form a diamond formation without leaving the visible distance from the show center.  They do it in F-16, not in a propeller aerobatic airplane.

This time I used 240mm film equivalent.  Next time I'll try 280mm to capture all four airplanes crossing with minimum separation.

Delta formation with the U.S. national flag.

Four airplanes cross with minimum separation!

And then come back in a diamond formation without going out of sight of the spectators.

The second day.  The forecast didn't look promising, was rather depressing.  Nonetheless, the aviation weather forecast (Terminal Aerodrome Forecast) of Cleveland Hopkins International was predicting one passing thunderstorm, but other than that the cloud was supposed to be high enough for most of the show.  In such a condition, F-18 often show the vapor along the shock cone, which is spectacular.  I went there hoping that the clouds were going to stay high as the TAF predicted.  In fact, when we arrived, the weather was not bad at all.

Pitts S-1C of Viper Airshows

J-1 Cub.  Flying without one aileron.

F-18 took off in the afternoon.  It didn't make a too impressive shock cone on the first high-speed pass.  Maybe the pilot was not satisfied either.  He tried again.  He flew from the left, and broke left when it reaches the show center, when the airplane was enclosed by the vapor.

Second High-Speed pass of F-18.

Super Chipmunk aerobatics

When F-4 Phantom came for a photo pass, I used the same focal length as the first day, but it was way too long.  I shortened the focal length and took some shots, but it was too dark anyway.

F-4 Phantom accelerating after dirty-configuration pass.

Due to low cloud coverage, Thunderbirds flew a low show.  In the low show, a solo airplane shows surprise pass twice.  I didn't miss this time.  But, due to the weather, it didn't come out as an impressive shot.  These are ok shots, but not too impressive.

Photos from the two surprise passes.  I wanted blue sky as background.

After the maneuver called level opener, four airplanes converged to one point with minimum separation.  I tried to capture all four airplanes with 280mm film-equivalent focal length, but I only captured three airplanes.

The third day.  The forecast looked even worse.  Terminal Aerodrome Forecast of Hopkins International was predicting overcast cloud at 1500ft.  A small airplane can marginally do touch & goes.  I gave up going there for the third day in a row.

I enjoyed the two days of the show.  I captured a very nice picture of F-4 Phantom II.  I was able to capture all four Thunderbirds F-16s with different headings with minimum separation in one picture with reasonably long focal length.  I had F-18 nicely enclosed by vapor along the shock cone.  It was a nice air show.

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