Loops and Barrel Rolls! Flying with Aeroshell Aerobatics Team!!

It happened! I’m still grinning from having the opportunity of a lifetime…at least to me! I was able to catch a back seat ride in a T-6 Texan of the Aeroshell Aerobatics Team last week, doing stunts such as precision formation flying, loops and barrel rolls. The time of my life! All the while, shooting photos of the event for Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum who hired the team to entertain the crowd for the Barber Vintage Festival. I really don’t know how to describe the flight! I flew with pilot Mark Henley. He helped me get situated in the plane, harnessed up and with a headset to hear most of the communication going on. We took off in pairs, two planes at a time, four total flying in formation from the Bessemer Airport. I had some time to get my camera settings set using my ultra wide angle lens as we flew along level until all four planes were in tight formation.

Mark made sure we were headed in the right direction for best photos on the nice sunny day. Then he asked if I was ready for the first loop. I said let’s do it! I hadn’t really thought about the stunts much. I was just happy to be flying with them. In the cramped space of the cockpit and being harnessed tightly in my seat, it was hard to get my camera up to my eye to see through the viewfinder looking straight out to my left side. And when I felt the plane take a mild dive to begin the loop by gaining airspeed my heart began to race. Just as quickly, the plane’s nose turned upward and the force started pressing me ever tighter into my seat and my camera with my arms holding it up just dropped down to my lap. I needed to be shooting quickly so I strained against the downward force to get my arms and camera back up and could not get it up to my eye at all. I just aimed my 11-16mm lens outward, pressed the autofocus and started shooting. I’d check my images now and then to see how the composition looked and adjust my aim. But, I was able to see the nearest planes off our wing just a few feet away as they buffeted lightly up and down, never getting too close to our wingtip but staying right on course. The ground turned upside down and the deep blue sky was below for a few moments. White smoke was trailing from the sides of the planes like fluffy ribbons. The planes engines were surprisingly loud, but I just love the sound of the power they have. And just as quickly we were leveling out again. It was like a roller coaster, but extremely high! I felt great! Mark asked if I was okay and I said let’s do it again! So we did. This time it was a large barrel roll of all four planes in formation. Again, the same feeling of pressure and spinning sky, and straining to keep my arms holding the camera up. After leveling off for a moment, we were at it again…a loop and then another barrel roll. It’s amazing how well these guys fly together! The other pilots are Bryan Regan, Steve Gustafson and Gene McNeely.

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~ by jeffreyrease on October 14, 2010.

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