Friday, January 25, 2013

The Trojan Phlyers at Bluebonnet Airshow

Last Spring, I had the chance to fly with the Trojan Phlyers in their T-28 aircraft. You can read about that here (scroll down a bit). They liked the video I made, and asked if I could make another one, of them performing an airshow routine. They wanted to use it as a promo for the team. Of course I could!

They invited me up to their Spring T-28 workshop held at their home base of Midway airport at Midlothian, just southeast of Dallas. The intention was to have a whole bunch of T-28s practising formation flying, and lots of filming of this. Unfortunately the weather put paid to much flying, but they did give me one hell of a cool aerobatic ride before it all clagged in. More about that later.

This led us on to the next opportunity which was the Bluebonnet Airshow at Burnet, TX, in April 2012. I spent the Friday before the show crawling over the planes trying to rig cameras. This is actually quite tricky in a T-28; there are not many hard surfaces to grab onto with a camera mount. Most objects move, or are used to fly the plane, or they don't have a good view out of the plane. Suction cup mounts were undesirable, since I would not be in the aircraft to catch them if they came unstuck.

We ended up with one camera clamped onto the edge of the panel glareshield, over the rubber strip, in the lead plane. The other one in the wingman's plane was clamped to the box behind the rear seat; there's a hole in the side which you can just get a mount onto. Copious amounts of gaffer tape held them on, and the audio recorder was plugged into the back seat headset and contained in the lockbox to the right of the seat.

I wanted to mount a third rear-facing camera in the lead ship, but there was no way to get the camera mounted and have the canopy closed; it was too tall. So we abandoned that idea. I think if I had the larger tube mount, I could perhaps have got it around another part of the box structure, if memory serves. Another time. We also did not get to test any of this before the show; practise was running late so they did not fly on Friday as they'd intended.

On show day - Saturday - I loitered around near the T-28s until half an hour before they were due to perform. I started all the cameras and audio recorder, then left them to it. I was going to grab some ground-to-air footage while they flew their show, which I did with my Canon 7D and the 400mm lens. This mostly worked, but a few shots were too shaky for my liking, which is why I asked Jeff Lee of LiveAirshowTV if I could purloin some of his footage for the final video. I think two or three of the passes are his. I'm writing this now in January 2013 after editing the video in April 2012, so forgive me if the details are a little fuzzy.

Why such a long delay? Mainly because the Trojan Phlyers were uncertain what to do with the film... while they liked the flying sequences, it was not wholly what they were looking for. I was unable to attend any other shows at which they were flying, so things went dormant until they decided what to do, eventually turning it over to a film company, who came up with this which was shown at ICAS (The International Council of Airshows conference in December). It uses several segments of my footage, so I am glad to have been able to contribute something.

And after all that, I can now show you this, the airshow routine from Burnet:

Many thanks to the Trojan Phlyers for the opportunity to work and fly with them - they're great guys!