Friday, August 21, 2009

Chong's Law and Hierarchy - Part Deux - Red Flag

Several people have responded to my last post with interesting comments of their own. Indeed, Lin's Corollary is a good example ("the more abstract the image, the less visceral the response but the more cerebral"). I would agree with that.

At the same time, another friend wondered if I should have added a tenth point to the Hierarchy: The feel of the power of an aircraft in flight. I believe the ninth point covers that, as the above example shows.

I have been fortunate enough to stand at the Last Chance / End of Runway (EOR) spot at various airbases and airports many times. By far the most memorable was the International Society of Aviation Photographers (ISAP) convention event at Nellis Air Force Base in 2004. The convention coincided with one of the base's Red Flag exercises. Red Flag, for those who do not know, is a six-week long advanced aerial combat training program that involves many different aircraft from representative squadrons from all branches of the U.S. military and selected foreign allies. Daily exercises involve several dozen aircraft from the "blue" team (good guys) facing off against the "red" team (bad guys) in a variety of tactical scenarios. When a Flag is up, the aircraft launch and recover in a simulated operational wartime tempo. What that means is lots of powerful, noisy military aircraft taking off and landing almost continuously throughout the course of the day. It is an aviation photographer's heaven.

The ultimate expression of the ninth point is an extremely complex and tactile presentation. That comes for the viewer (e.g. photographer) at the EOR. There, most, if not all, of the five senses are forcefully engaged by some of the most complex pieces of machinery ever created. Not only can you see and hear the aircraft (indeed, "mouse ears" hearing protection is a must), but you can feel the whine of their engines in your gut and the blasting heat from the exhaust plume on your skin. The smell of combusting jet fuel is ever-present and, at times, strong enough to taste. When the pilot lights his afterburners for take off, like the British Panavia Tornado above, the concussion waves push you back and the roar vibrates in your chest with pure, unadulterated power. It is simply glorious. The only thing better is to get a ride in a fighter, and that, I am told, is off the chart.

No comments:

Post a Comment