012 – Sun ‘n Fun – 12 April Air-to-Air

Sometimes, things just don’t work out as you plan…and for that, you are grateful. Such was the case on Thursday of SnF week. Tuesday was a total washout with heavy rain on and off all day. On Wednesday, I was busy with official SnF photography most of the day, interrupted by a wild goose chase for a potential air-to-air photo shoot that, alas, did not come to pass. However, I did have a talk with Larry Lee, owner of the well-known “Triple Seven” L-39, who invited me up on Dawn Patrol flight on Thursday morning. Things were looking up.

Thursday morning dawned crystal clear and we met in the Warbirds briefing room at 0800 for our preflight briefing. This briefing is a mandatory part of every formation flight in accordance with FAST standards. I will cover briefing and debriefing items in a future blog entry. Suffice it to say that briefings can run as short as 10-15 minutes, or as long as…well, as long as ours did on Thursday. Flight Lead Tom Proctor was thorough and meticulous as he led us through all of the briefing elements and by the time we headed out to our planes, it was going on 0900. We were parked on Runway 5-23, which was closed for the duration of Sun ‘n Fun and was being used as a parking area for many of the warbirds. Then there was a towing delay and before we knew it, it was 0930 and at that point, the pilots started to focus on another briefing at 1100, mandatory for all air show performers. THEN, a Beech 18 and a pair of C-47s taxied up Runway 23 and were parked directly in front of us! So much for launching prior to the 1100 briefing.

The Warbird briefing lasted about 40 minutes and afterward, there was some discussion about trying to squeeze this flight in before the airport was closed for the air show at 1300, but the pilots quickly scratched that idea. Frankly, I was fine with that, since the high noontime sun typically does not make for good photos. I was happy to hear that they had decided to reschedule the flight to immediately following the air show, sometime in the 1700-1800 time frame.

I spent the air show doing the volunteer photographer thing from a photo tower inside the Homebuilt area. As soon as the show was over, around 1700, I hauled butt over to Triple Seven and arrived there at the same time as the pilots. Tom Proctor flew lead in a grayish L-39 in Navy markings.

Larry Labriola, the subject of my photos from Swamp Thunder, flew #2.

The real target of my camera was, for obvious reasons, Scott Farnsworth’s Dash.org L-39, in the #3 position.

And I would be riding with Larry Lee in Triple Seven

At last, we were ready to rock ‘n roll.

We probably taxied off the block at around 1745ish, behind a conga line of other airplanes of all shapes and sizes. We finally took the runway at around 1825, and we were off. We did an element takeoff, so my shutter was snapping on #3 almost from the time our wheels were in the wells. Since we were formed up on Farnsworth’s plane from the moment our brakes were released, it stood to reason that I would have the best photo opportunities with him. Here’s where the beauty of an early evening departure really showed itself. We were into the “Golden Hour of photography, where the sun is at its best angle, and we had such a beautiful evening for it.

I have to say that “Dash” looked every bit as stunning in the early evening sunlight as I’d hoped it would be. And even though I got a LOT of great photos of Larry Labriola’s L-39 at Waycross in February, I could not resist taking just a few more here.

Since we were #4 and Tom Proctor was in the lead, I never did have a clear shot of his bird, but one very nice aspect of riding with Larry Lee is that he knows what a photographer is looking for. When we formed up in an echelon, Larry was able to creep a bit higher or lower in order to give me a better view of the rest of the formation. And what a colorful formation it was!


and in my opinion, here’s the best shot of the day.

Good things are worth waiting for.

One thought on “012 – Sun ‘n Fun – 12 April Air-to-Air

  1. Charles Bartlett

    It’s good of you to give some insight into taking formation photography so everyone knows that it’s not just lucky shots


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