Friday, July 22, 2011

Media Day at air show a real experience

It is air show weekend in Dayton. If you don’t believe me, just walk out your front door. It is 90-plus degrees with 90 percent humidity. Yep, it must be air show weekend.

Anyone who knows me, is aware that I am nuts about aviation photography. I have been taking photographs of airplanes and pilots for many years. In doing so, I have been fortunate enough to attend and photograph some of the biggest air show events in all corners of the country. 

A number of these have been for the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Others have been to shoot images for Rolls-Royce and NASA. Heck, I’ve eaten dinner, on several occasions, with the Thunderbirds inside their hanger at Nellis AFB.

I’ve also grown to feel that those who view my images have a certain expectation of quality. It is my job to deliver images of a quality that can appear in any publication, anywhere in the world. It is also my job to deliver images of equal quality to our readers of the Piqua Daily Call.

Almost everywhere I’ve been, photographers and members of the media have been treated like gold. Sure, there are restrictions but most are reasonable and most organizations go out of their way to assist members of the media.

Perhaps that is why I am so puzzled by the treatment given local members of the media at our hometown air show.

All of this came to mind on Friday when, at the Dayton Air Show media day, I experienced the things that just make you wonder how some air shows manage to operate.

First, after being scheduled for a specified time to go on a media photo flight with one of this weekend’s acts, I was bumped from my time slot. A “VIP” from the governor’s office was told she could go. 

Then, (and this is where it gets good,) this particular group of aircraft fired up their engines and …. sat there. After about five minutes, they shut down their engines, one of the guys got into a golf cart and headed off toward the air boss tent. He came back about ten minutes later and instructed his team as to a different radio frequency. Again they waited. Off went the pilot again. He came back and was talking to several other pilots. It seems that, at least, some of the people on the air show side were not even listening to the radio.

Trust me, when you are about to get into an airplane and fly, that kind of behavior from the ground control people at an air show doesn’t exactly give you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Finally, they managed to fire up and take off. They flew in a six-plane formation that would make for some great photos, if I wasn’t on the ground watching a representative from the governor’s office make her impact on the world of aviation.

When they came back, after basically once around the pattern, we finally got to get aboard for our media flight. Instead of six ships, we were a flight of two. Instead of photographing five planes I had a target choice of … one.

We spent as much time taxiing as we did flying but once in the air, it was great to be in the air with a World War II-era aircraft.

Does it sound like I’m complaining? Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by attending the big air shows where people treat you with respect, like out at the Piqua Airport – home of the best flying in Ohio.

I know that many will say, “Well, at least you got to go for a ride.” That is true. A ride in anything that flies is always a treat, and much appreciated. 

I have just grown to expect a “media” ride to be something that air show performers took seriously. It is not “giving a ride,” it is publicity for your group. It is publicity for the air show in which you are flying. 

I’ve flown with class acts like Sean D. Tucker and the Aero Shell Squadron. They fly as sharp and as tight on a media flight as they do during a public performance.

Today reminded me of someone wearing a worn-out t-shirt to portrait day in school. Yeah, they showed up, but mom and dad aren’t going to be happy with the finished product and it ain’t the photographer’s fault!

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