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The last time I saw the Thunderbirds at Hill Air Force Base I was using a Canon Powershot A710 point and shoot camera.  I was super excited to finally have a “real” camera to shoot them this time around.

I’ll spare you all the gritty details of waking up early, traffic, parking, waiting in line to tour planes, big umbrellas in your sight line, sunburns and oh wait well…there you go.

It would be an understatement to say that I took a lot of shots, thank goodness for 32GB cards, but what I wouldn’t have given for a D4s and its huge buffer and frame rate. My poor D7000 even in bright sunlight had a tough time keeping focus at times and I missed plenty of shots waiting for that stupid buffer to clear

Also a quick disclaimer on the names of the performers and their aircraft, I’m going off of the online schedule, but I think a few were changed around so please forgive me if there are any errors, if you know what should be corrected please let me know and I’ll fix it.

On with the pictures in chronological order (ish)


Thunderbird parked and waiting.

We arrived plenty early to walk through a few planes before any of the flight demos began.

B1-Cockpit-InteriorLooking to the Cockpit of a B-1b Bomber from the hatch behind the front landing gear.(it’s as far as they let us go)

B-1b_front side Fisheye B1b_C5_KC-10 pano B-1B, KC-10 Extender and C-5A Galaxy.C5-interior tail to noseInside the C-5A GalaxyC-130 front view_bare-fisheye

A “Naked” Herc
C-130 porthole view1Loved this view from one of its porthole windows.Kyle_Kyra_C130-cockpit-fisheye1

My kids in the cockpit of a C-130 Hercules.

A-10 Cockpit-vert A-10 Warthog CockpitA-10 Gun closeup

The business end of the A-10 Warthog the mighty GAU-8 “Avenger” 30mm Gatling Cannon.

Kyra_F-16 Pilot-cockpit My daughter was able to talk with a Red Flag Aggressor pilot. Seeing that F-16 cockpt really shows off just how old and tiny those planes really are.

F-16 Agressor patch

F-16-Agressor cannon closeupThe slightly less mighty, but still lethal M61-A1 Vulcan 20mm Gatling Cannon on the F-16.

Thunderbirds_tarmac lineup pano

Thunderbirds lined up and waiting their turn.

The flight demonstrations began with the US Army’s “Golden Knights” Parachute team

Golden Knight_out of the Sun-closeup Golden Knight_out of the Sun Golden Knight_Flag arrival2 Golden Knight_Flag arrival

The first flight demo was a threesome flying an MX and Edge 540‘s Pilots listed were Holland, Stein and Chapman.

Holland-Stein-Chapman-loop closeup Holland-Stein-Chapman-hammerheads-vert Holland-Stein-Chapman-demo1 Holland-Stein-Chapman-crossoverNext was Mark Peterson in his gorgeous P-51 Mustang (The sexiest looking and sounding plane ever made!) This was the first time I tried to shoot a prop driven plane at a slower shutter speed to get prop blur, so they didn’t come out as sharp as I would have liked as I don’t shoot pan shots often. I definitely need more practice, but I like the blurred propellers more than the frozen ones so I’ll take what I can get.

Mark Peterson-P-51_Heritage Flight Takeoff1Mark Peterson-P-51_slow roll1 Mark Peterson-P-51_inverted1 Mark Peterson-P-51_high speed pass1 Mark Peterson-P-51_Heritage Flight finale solo flyby2-inverted Mark Peterson-P-51_Heritage Flight finale solo flyby1 Mark Peterson-P-51_Heritage Flight solo flyby1

We’ll see more of the P-51 in the Heritage Flight later.

An airman enjoys the best seat in the house on top of a C-17 Globemaster.

Best Seat_C-17 spectatorNext up flying was the spritely Pitts of Buck Roetman  with lots of flips rolls and stalls and smoke!

Buck Roetman-Pitts-crawling climb2 Buck Roetman-Pitts-stall and smoke2 Buck Roetman-Pitts-stall and smoke1-BW

Add in a powered Hang Glider piloted by Dan Buchanan and you get a weird aerial ballet

Buck Roetman-Pitts-Dan Buchanan-hangglider fly by2 Buck Roetman-Pitts-Dan Buchanan-hangglider fly by1Buck Roetman-wavingWith a blast from the past Ace Maker flew his T-33

T-33 Low level pass1 T-33 bank pass3 T-33 bank pass2 T-33 bank pass1 T-33 Low level pass2Anyone that’s been to an airshow or lives near a municipal airfield has probably heard the unique sound of a Stearman, they’re noisy and slow, but rock steady planes that were used to train thousands of pilots in the 1930’s and 40’s.

This is Gary Rower and his PT-17 

Gary Rower_PT17-photo pass and handwave2 Gary Rower_PT17-photo pass and handwave Gary Rower_PT17-2nd flight-inverted headon Gary Rower_PT17-smokey pass-Mtn backgroundStay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of the airshow, I’ll show some more civilian aerobatics and lots of military ones!

Happy Shooting!