09/10/2011 Wings Over Pittsburgh - YSFLIGHT.COM


Annual Wings Over Pittsburgh air show was held on September 10th and 11th at the Pittsburgh International Airport.  The air show was hosted by 911th airlift wing based at the airport.  This air show used to be in June or July, but last year and this year, they chose 9/11 weekend.  It happened to be the 10th anniversary of the terror attack.  Holding an air show on this day sends a clear message to the cowardly terrorists.  No matter how bad purposes terrorists use airplanes for, we never stop flying.  We appreciate aviation rather than be scared of it.  One of the purposes of the terrorists who hijacked the four airliners on September 11th 2001 was to destroy the public confidence in aviation.  By cerebrating aviation on the 10th anniversary of the terror attack, we are defeating one of the goals of the cowardly terrorists.

The weather forecast was very pessimistic for the first day.  It was predicting mostly cloudy to rainy all day.  I thought there would be no photo opportunity, but I went anyway.  It's just 20 minutes drive from home.  But, when I arrived at the air show ramp, it was not totally cloudy.  I saw blue patches here and there.  It was just like the second day of the Cleveland air show.  The below picture is when Sean D. Tucker was flying for the practice session in the morning.  His red airplane, Oracle Challenger, appeared beautifully in front of the blue sky.

Sean D. Tucker flying a practice session.

AH-1 of the Sky Soldiers

No major aerobatic team participated Pittsburgh air show this year.  My main target was British Sea Harrier owned by Nalls Aviation.  This Sea Harrier participated in the last year's Pittsburgh air show, too.  Nalls Aviation boasts that it is only one Harrier (among all Sea Harriers and Marine Corps version Harriers) in the world that is owned by a civilian team.  This time I had camera configuration data from the last year.  I tried to take some better pictures than last year's.  In particular, I tried to take a better shot of the photo pass.  But, for some reason, Mr. Nalls reduced the bank before he showed the back of the airplane to the spectators.  So, my picture became more like a profile view.  It's ok.  I liked the picture anyway.

Sea Harrier taxing for the demonstration.

Photo pass.  I wanted a little more bank.

I think it was while the airplane was decelerating for hovering demo.

B-2 made a surprise fly-by.  (It was surprise because it was not listed in the air show web site.)

Pittsburgh air show is tough for photography because the sun is behind the subject almost all the time.  I can use positive exposure compensation (EF) to counter the brightness of the background.  But, if I want to capture the subject bright enough, the background tends to become plain white.  So, I was not expecting to get a spectacular photo from this air show.  Surprisingly, some shots from the dedication pass of F-16 came out very well.  Since the airplane itself was relatively dark, vapor trail coming from the strake was clearly visible.  In the original-size picture, I can read the registration number written behind the cockpit as 89116.  On the vertical tail wing, it reads HL AF892116.  I don't know the rules of registration number marking and don't know why "2" was missing from the number behind the cockpit.  "HL" means that the airplane was from the Hill AFB.  I have visited an aircraft museum next to the Hill AFB when I visited Salt Lake City for a conference.

I never expected to capture this nice picture in the Pittsburgh air show!

C-17 demonstrating its maneuverability.

Red Bull Air Force's aerobatic helicopter.  The same one that did aerobatics in the Dayton air show this year.

Sea Harrier flew a competition with a Jet Car.

The last performer was Heavy Metal Jet Team.  They are based at Lancaster, PA (KLNS).  Lancaster airport is memorable to me because I shot an IFR approach (VOR-8) to Lancaster in an actual instrument meteorological condition without an instructor for the first time.  That time Harrisburg approach didn't hand me off to the tower even after I broke out of the cloud and was 3 miles to the runway.  I had to make decision on go missed approach or contact tower by myself, and chose to contact tower rather than flying back to clouds.  I was not supposed to switch frequency until advised, but I still think that was a right decision.  This Heavy Metal Jet team has four L-39 Albatros and a T-33 according to the official web site.  But, obviously, they now have Mig-15 (Is it Mig-17?  I am not very good at identifying Mig-15 and Mig-17).  The winter camouflage paint scheme also looked nice.

Mig-15 (Mig-17?) of Heavy Metal Jet Team.

Four L-39 Albatros formation, and big corkscrew maneuver of Mig-15 behind the formation.

Last fly-by of Mig-15 and the L-39 formation.

Unfortunately the cloud was low when they flew.  They flew a low show, not a full show.  And, I thought they could make better timing of formation and solo maneuvers.  If they time solo airplane fill the gap between formation maneuvers, at least an airplane is almost always in front of the spectators, but sometimes I noticed solo Mig-15 flew-in almost at the same time as the L-39 formation and did separate maneuvers from the formation.  Of course it doesn't apply if the solo is flying a coordinated maneuver with the formation though.  Overall, their skill level was high.  Their full show must be spectacular.  I'm wondering if they fly on-the-field practice over Lancaster occasionally.  If they do, I might want to fly there to see their practice.

I gave up the second day.  The forecast did look even worse than the first day.  It was miraculous that it didn't rain on the first day until all the performances are over.  But, I thought it wouldn't be as lucky as the first day.  The aviation weather (called Terminal Aerodrome Forecast) was predicting overcast cloud at 5000ft.  It was rather broken to scattered on the first day.  So, I guessed the condition wouldn't be as good as the first day, and didn't go.  But, at 10am, I looked out of my apartment window and the sky was more like scattered to broken cloud (better than overcast).  I regretted a little for not going there.  But, later in the day the sky got cloudier.  I didn't know exactly how good or bad the condition was compared to the first day.

This was my last air show of 2011.  I could go to only four air shows this year, Dayton, Latrobe, Cleveland, and this Pittsburgh air show.  I visited some airports and air bases in Japan in January.  If I count that, I had six trips.  I was lucky to visit Matsushima air base before the base was devastated by the Tsunami in March.  Luckily, Japanese Air Self Defense Force's aerobatic team, Blue Impulse lost only two airplanes, and six airplanes were saved because they were on a tour.  But, I guess the photo spots may be pretty much destroyed by the disaster.  One day I want to go there and watch airplanes all day with my local friends there.  I wish the day will come.

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