Monday, April 16, 2012

Bluebonnet Airsho

The Bluebonnet Airsho is held in Burnet, TX each year by the Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force. It is always a splendid show, one of the smaller, local, shows but always manages to attract some interesting performers, including (this time) a Mi-24 Hind and a race between a Stearman and a Hot Rod - look for pictures soon.

This year, I was in for a special treat - Air Boss Vernon Rooze approached me on the morning of the show, and asked if I would mind flying in this L-17 Navion DURING the show, to take pictures of the crowd.

Ryan/North American L-17 Navion with Col Randy Wilson at the helm

Is the Pope Catholic?!! This is seriously cool; something I never thought I would get to do. Only essential crew are allowed to fly during air shows - this basically means pilots and nobody else, unless they're needed for some specific purpose. So with the FAA guy watching from the ground, this was a fabulous opportunity, and one I certainly appreciate.

Oh yes; and there's the small point that I get to fly in this really shiny Navion, a type I'd always fancied a ride in. I can report that it is very comfortable, it has a wide cockpit and good seats. I was kind of surprised to see yokes in front, but this was designed as a civilian plane before the military decided to use it as a trainer. This particular one belongs to the CAF and is based at Midland, TX.

So for ten minutes, I got to see what it's like to be an airshow performer! We taxied out in a lull during the show, sneaking out in front of the eight-ship Falcon Flight team. We took off (into the extra-bumpy strong winds of the day) and made two tight circuits of the show field, doing some lovely steep photo passes. As far as the crowd were concerned, here was a shiny L-17 to enjoy. And I discovered that photo passes are pretty good for getting pictures of the ground, whereas I'd normally be on the ground getting a nice picture of the plane... It was fun to be able to interact with the crowd as we taxied around after landing; I don't know if the announcer had told them it was a photo flight but both us and they were vigorous with the waving :-)


Wider shot of the whole show field

I also managed to get a cool shot of the Falcon Flight team lining up for their takeoff, underneath us. You can also see the lead pair in the image above.

Falcon Flight

Here's one more shot of the L-17 departing later on, for good measure!

L-17 on takeoff

Many thanks to Vernon Rooze for this opportunity; it was a blast!

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