AirVenture 2018 – Day 3

Wednesday, July 25, 2018, was Day 3 of AirVenture, and one of the more exciting days of the week. A week prior to AirVenture, I had attended the Great Lakes/Howell Formation clinic which was held at the hangar of Ron “Pucker” Staley. Pucker owns a beautiful L-39 and while I was at Howell, he and I talked about photographing his bird at Oshkosh. This finally happened on Day 3 of AirVenture.

The briefing is a mandatory preface to a formation flight. It is the responsibility of the Lead to conduct these briefings, using the input of the other participants. Briefings go over many important aspects of the flight, including mission objectives, radio frequencies, emergency procedures, and a whole list of other information critical to the flight. All flights have stated objectives, usually involving several established formations. This formation included



Tom “Mongo” Proctor,


Michael McCauley,


and Scott Farnsworth.

Mike “Spanky” Terfehr flew the L-39 photo ship that I was shooting from.

After a thorough briefing that included photography, we took off from Runway 27 at Oshkosh. In order to speed up the departure, the first three jets took off in a three-ship vic, followed by Farnsworth in his colorful “Dash” L-39, and our plane. This made for some nice shots of Farnsworth lifting off over the crowd of aircraft on the ground. We were off to a great start.

One of my favorite views is a nice takeoff shot in formation

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d lucked out by flying with Spanky. It was soon obvious that he knew what a photographer is looking for. He understood lighting, sun angle, formation angle, etc etc etc. Additionally, as briefed, Spanky was able to maneuver pretty much at will in order to get me in the best positions for photos. Spanky and Pucker often fly together, so that fosters a level of trust that gave us a great deal of flexibility in our maneuvering. The result was some very rewarding photography.

Here is a shot of a perfect fingertip formation

These guys fly a pretty tight echelon

The clouds made for an interesting background. It was a good day, especially since the weather turned to crap later in the day.