Latrobe Air Show is back! The show was scheduled but
cancelled last year due to military budget cut that subsequently
cancelled all Blue Angels and Thunderbirds demonstrations. Latrobe
Air Show just gave up because it didn't project sufficient number of
spectators without military participation. They concluded that it
wouldn't be worth for the cost for organizing an air show .
year, the show has returned. And, when I was watching 11 o'clock
news on Tuesday,
"The Blue Angels will fly over the downtown Pittsburgh for
photo shoot between 2:45 and 3:15. The formation will fly west
side of the downtown."
Really!? Isn't it a rare
chance of taking six F-18 in a formation plus photo plane in front of the
downtown? I go! I definitely go!
problem was I didn't know exactly the planned flight path of the
formation. The best possible picture can be seven F-18s flying in
front of (or just above) the skyscrapers of Pittsburgh downtown.
But, is it possible?
It would be almost 3pm. The sun was going
to be already low to the west. To keep the sun behind myself, I needed to
stay west of the downtown. But, the formation was going to fly
west side of downtown. Then, the formation might end up flying
directly above me. Then, there's no chance of capturing it with
How about staying east of the downtown? I would
have a better chance of getting the skyscrapers and the seven F-18s in a
single picture. However, I would be very far away from the
airplanes, and the airplanes would be too small just like dots. To
be able to recognize them as seven F-18s, I should be west side of the
There is a small hill called Mt. Washington south of
Pittsburgh downtown. On the west side of the mountain is a pricy
restaurant called Monterey Bay. There is a small open space in
front of the restaurant where you can see a great view of the downtown
from the west. It could be too close to the downtown and the
formation may end up flying directly overhead. However, there's no
better place to see the downtown from the west. If the formation
flies straight from south to north, then it might fly overhead.
But, if the formation flies from the north east to south west, there is
a chance that I can take Pittsburgh downtown and incoming seven F-18s.
The flight path was not open. It was a gamble anyway.
Downtown Pittsburgh from Mt.
I left CMU around 2pm,
drove straight to a parking lot nearby Monterey Bay. I parked my
car at 2:28pm. It took five minutes or so to get to the vantage
point. So many people! Many people apparently were thinking
the same thing. But, only handful of them were equipped with a
serious camera. Many of them were there for just watching or
trying to capture them with a phone camera, which would no match for
fast-flying jet fighters.
2:42pm, 3 minutes earlier than scheduled,
seven F-18s flew in from the south. Unfortunately, directly
overhead from where I was.
The formation flew past the west side of the
downtown, then made a right turn. I prayed for the north east to
south west path this time. But, the formation kept turning,
aligned the same north to south path, and flew directly overhead reverse
direction from the initial entry.
I couldn't see how the formation
turned again. The formation entered from the south, exactly the
same path as the first time. The formation made a right turn, and
this time, it flew closer to the downtown on return. I was
somewhat able to capture all seven airplanes plus downtown buildings.
But, this was the best I could.
This was the best I could.
The formation re-entered from the south, and then went around the
downtown, and returned to Latrobe.
I was not able to take a picture
as I wished, but it was a good start. A good start of the air-show
season for me!
Thursday. Temporary Flight
Restriction over Latrobe airport was in effect from noon to 5pm.
That's a published information. You can go to a web site
skyvector.com and find the
air-show airport. It will tell you when TFR is in effect, and most
likely air-show practice will be during that time period.
was that Blue Angels will practice like 3pm like the last time. I
left home around 11:30am and headed to Latrobe. Around 12:15, when
I was 15 minutes away from the airport, I spotted a silhouette of an
airplane, which looked like a F-18. Blue Angels was only one jet
team that was going to fly in this year's Latrobe air show. I was
certain it was a Blue Angels' airplane.
Did they start the practice at noon?
However, it didn't appear
to be performing aerobatics. It was flying around the airport.
It should be a press flight carrying a TV reporter or a local VIP.
Then I saw two more F-18s taking off. But, nothing similar to the
solo take off, no roll-on-take-off, nor high-rate climb. Press
flight in three airplanes? What are they doing? Did they
have three two-seater F-18s? The two airplanes were flying around
the airport without performing aerobatic maneuvers.
I arrived around
12:30. I parked at a shopping plaza parking near the approach end
of runway 23. There were many people who were thinking the same
thing. They were also watching Blue Angels F-18s flying around the
airport and were waiting for the aerobatic practice to begin.
out my camera, crossed the road, and move to the grass area on the
airport perimeter fence. A photographer from a local TV station
was also shooting from there. So, it seemed that they were flying
around to get used to the terrain around the airport. Then one
more airplane joined, and four-airplane formation started the show
maneuvers. Since they fly a flight path that is best viewed from
the show center, I didn't have much opportunity from the approach end of
But, that was fine. My first target was landing.
When I am watching from inside the air-show spectator area, I cannot
take landing pictures. This time I cannot be inside the spectator
area anyway. I thought it was a good chance to take landings of
the Blue Angels' F-18s.
Then, two solo airplanes took off, and the
four airplanes of the formation finished the practice and coming back to
land on runway 23. Since there was no previous data, I didn't know
what focal length to use. All I could do was to make a guess.
Landings of Blue Angels airplanes.
I cannot take this kind of shots from inside the spectator area.
I think it came out well. What I like about the landing picture is
I can see the pilot in the cockpit.
Then the solo airplanes started
practice. They first practiced opposing maneuvers many times.
I knew what focal length to use from the first pass, I could pre-set the
focal length for the rest of the passes. In fact, my position was
much closer to the flight path than from the show center. I was
able to capture a very good shot.
Well, you may say I should have set positive exposure compensation so
that the airplane becomes brighter, but too much exposure compensation
will make the sky just plain white. I like blue sky, too.
were also practicing Tuck Over Break many times.
airplanes landed, I drove around the airport to see if there is a good
place where I can see the air-show practice better. But, there
didn't seem to be any better place. I came back to the terminal
parking and had sandwiches, and was thinking if I should stay longer or
Not before long, Blue Angels crews and pilots came back
to the aircraft. I first thought they were back for a photo and
interview session with the local VIPs, but the crews pulled out the
ladder to climb up the airplane, and removed the air-intake cover.
Obviously they were preparing for the flight.
Are they going to fly
I rushed back to the shopping plaza. They indeed
took off again, and this time in the full air-show sequence. By
this time, the scattered clouds were increasing, and they flew a low
show. And, I didn't have a good photo opportunity because the sun
was hidden by the clouds. Nonetheless, I enjoyed. What a
luxury to see Blue Angels' flight twice in one day!
I was hoping Blue Angels to fly twice like Thursday. I left home a
bit earlier and headed to Latrobe.
I arrived a little before noon.
But, nothing was flying. I drove up to the terminal and
understood. Other air-show performers had arrived. On
Thursday, Blue Angels could use entire five hours of temporary flight
restrictions. But, this time, all other performers needed to
practice, and Blue Angels didn't have time to fly twice.
staying at the shopping-plaza parking lot on this day, too. The
sky was clear. Not too hot. The perfect condition for an air
show. U.S. Army Golden Knights, GEICO Skytypers, and other teams
took to the sky one after another.
GEICO Skytypers typing 'LATROBE' in
Skytypers coming back for landing.
And, the Blue Angels started around 3pm. Only one minor thing was
the sun was already behind the airplanes by the time the Blue Angels
took to the sky. Latrobe main runway is 5-23, which is used for
the air show. The sun stays behind the spectators almost all day,
but it will go to the other side late afternoon. But, there didn't
seem to be a place where I could park and see the airplanes while
keeping the sun behind myself.
Spiraling smoke after Tuck Over Roll
Six airplanes converging after Bomb
The best picture from this air show
Delta formation from the side
Just a delta formation? Not really. If you have taken
pictures of Blue Angels, look for a close-up picture of a delta
formation from the side with blue sky as background. This picture
is nearly impossible if you are taking a picture from the air-show
spectator area. Whenever they fly a delta formation in front of
the show center, they perform Delta Loop, Delta Roll, Delta Break Up,
Pitch Up Break, etc. The formation is either far away from the
show center or the airplanes break away from the formation by the time
they come close. Only chance you can see a delta formation close
enough from the show center is Delta Flat Pass. However, this
maneuver is only included in the flat show, which is for low-cloud
condition. Therefore, the background will be most likely cloudy,
and the picture won't be too nice.
Another possibility is to shoot
the delta formation incoming at the beginning of a remote show.
They typically fly in from the behind. You should identify the
show center and should stay at a reasonable distance from the show
center. But, if you do, you have a chance of capturing a delta
formation from the side with a blue sky background. Nonetheless,
the entry altitude may be high. Typically there is nothing on the
extension of the runway centerline, but otherwise residential area or
building complex around the airport may prohibit the formation to come
down low. And, remote show is not so common. If you go to
Fleet Week, it will always be a remote show. But, they fly far
from the shore line. Probably you won't be able to take a close-up
picture of the formation. (In return, you can take a formation
flying in front of the Golden-Gate bridge though). So, it is very
difficult to take a close up look of the side of the delta formation
with blue sky as background.
But, this time I was outside the
airport. Blue Angels keeps a delta formation before Pitch Up
Break. If I had been inside the airport, #1 airplane would be gone
when the formation were in front of the show center. But, because
I was outside the airport, I knew I had a chance to see the delta
formation just before Pitch Up Break. I was waiting for this exact
The sun was already behind the
airplane at 3pm.
It was a nice air show. I
hope they are going to do it again next year.
.... No, not
done yet! It was just practice sessions.
I usually wake up very early in the morning when I go to an air show.
But, not this time. I have enjoyed a lot watching the practice
sessions. It's ok to miss first a few performances. I got up
late, and left home at around 9:30.
I drove on I-376 to I-76 then
into PA30. I knew I was going to make a right turn. I
shifted to the right lane 5 miles before the airport. The right
lane traffic completely stopped 2 miles to the airport. This last
2 miles took 2.5 hours to move.
I personally was thinking, one lane
should be kept open for local and through traffic. So, air-show
traffic must stay on the right lane at least a few miles before the
airport. But nobody was controlling traffic or no sign for guiding
the traffic. As a result, many cars stayed on the left all the way
to the airport and cut into the right lane. As a result, right
lane traffic was moving more than twice slower than the left lane.
Sorry, I won't be nice next year. I will drive all the way on the
left lane unless someone controls the traffic. Latrobe Air Show
organizer should do something.
I almost was preparing to see Blue
Angels from my car. But, I managed to get in a little bit past
1pm. There was a looooooong line behind my car. Maybe some
people could not get to the airport before everything was over.
Actually Latrobe air show organizer could do things a lot better.
They should double the number of bathrooms. The worst thing they
came up with was a large food court inside the spectator area. All
food was sold there. Everyone converges to the food court around
noon time, and the small area around the food court becomes extremely
crowded. They should simply set up food stand in different
Well, maybe they had more people in this time than the
past air shows. Almost all air shows around Pittsburgh were
cancelled last year, and maybe many people including me was experiencing
withdrawal symptom, that only cure was more air shows. Probably
all of them stampeded to the Latrobe air show. Also the weather
forecast for Sunday was horrible. Maybe most people chose to come
on Saturday instead of Sunday, which turned out a right choice.
sky was clear, and the wind was really calm. How calm? Smoke
from Blue Angels airplane stayed long time in the same place until
becoming diffuse. So, it became somewhat hazy from the smoke, and
I couldn't take as nice pictures as on Friday.
I was able to capture sneak pass this time. I should have chosen
longer focal length and positive exposure compensation. I expected
my camera to increase the exposure automatically since it was low.
But, my camera didn't make it as bright as I expected. I'll try
again in Dayton and Cleveland.
I was able to keep up with the Sneak
Pass, but the photo became dark.
The show was on Sat
and Sun. But, I didn't go on Sunday. The forecast was
predicting late-afternoon shower. What if the shower arrived
earlier? That's what I thought, and that was a good guess. A
line of heavy rain passed over Pittsburgh around 1pm. And, Latrobe
airport was in a thunderstorm exactly when Blue Angels was supposed to
It was a very nice air show, although I believe the air-show
organizer could have done much better. In fact the weather before
Thursday and after Sunday was very poor. It was a very lucky
choice of air-show date.
I am hoping they are going to invite
Thunderbirds next year.