Thursday, May 27, 2010

Classic ST-A

As I mentioned in the last post, the PT-22 was derived from the Ryan ST-3KR, which itself was a derivative of the classic ST/ST-A. Designed by T. Claude Ryan in 1934, the ST (Sport Trainer) was a sleek, stylish airplane with an in-line, air-cooled engine. Five were built with the Menasco B-4 95 h.p. engine before it was uprated to a 125 h.p. C-4 in-line engine, also by Menasco. This version was called the ST-A (Sport Trainer - Aerobatic).

This particular subject was shot at the Sonoma Valley Airport, (also called "Schnellville) in 2000 while we were on a Northern California vacation with the kids around the time of their 1-year wedding anniversary. We were passing by and I saw a derelict Lockheed Harpoon in the field, so I had to stop. This was a time when you could actually go prowling around airports with a camera without people getting hysterical.

In any event, I happened across this gorgeous ST-A being repaired in a hangar. Apparently the owner of the Ryan was flying at an vintage aircraft fly-in and a piece of something broke off in the cockpit and got sucked out into the slipstream, where upon it punched a hole in the fabric-covered port horizontal elevator. It was in the process of being repaired when I found it.

The fellow working on the Ryan graciously allowed me inside the hangar to shoot the aircraft, which I did. As I've mentioned before, I love the look of polished natural metal. The above shot captures the quality of that look rather well.

The bottom photo also makes for a striking image with the sun highlighting the front of the aircraft, showing off the spats on the wheels and the elliptical nose cowling over the Menasco engine. For some reason this shot of the Ryan always strikes me as looking like an alien grasshopper emerging from the shadows. The bizarre creatures from that rather campy science-fiction movie "5 Millions Years to Earth," also known as "Quatermass and the Pit," always come to mind whenever I see this. Really, they do. I have no idea why.

It kind of makes you wonder how I would do on a Rorschach Test, doesn't it?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Classic PT

Derived from the Ryan ST-3KR, the PT-22 was a classic pre-World War II primary trainer design. While not as sleek looking as the original Ryan ST and ST-A, those with their in-line Menasco engines and streamline pants and spats on the landing gear and wheels, the PT-22 still made for a very pretty image.

That was also a very colorful era for U.S. military aircraft, as this example shows. Some schemes in that time frame included a bright blue fuselage to go with the chrome yellow wings, or a deep Army green fuselage.

I happen to like polished metal as it provides ample opportunity for artsy reflections and close-ups, as seen below. Reflections are fun to shoot and the resulting abstractions make for some cool images, especially when attached to attractive 1930s "streamline moderne" designs. There is something about the sensuous curves and lines of the planes, trains and cars of the era that really appeals to me.

More on that later.

This PT-22 was shot at the 2010 March ARB open house.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Snow-Capped Talon

I mentioned in my last post how clear the air was that Saturday during the March ARB open house. This shot of a Whiteman AFB T-38A Talon proves it. The beautiful snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains loom in the distance behind Northrop's classically sleek and glossy-gray trainer.

Usually the smog from Los Angeles chokes the Inland Empire where March ARB sits and you can't see diddly but brown haze. But not that day. The angle is to the Northeast from the ramp at March, in Riverside, looking towards Big Bear and Mt. San Gorgonio.

I had a couple of adventures as a boy scout trying to climb San Gorgonio, which at 11,499 feet, is pretty tall if you're coming from near sea level in Redondo Beach, where I was living at the time. Unfortunately, both of them involved cramps and nausea, so I never actually made it to the top. The guys that did said it was pretty rugged. I'm just as glad I stopped at Dollar Lake.

That's one of the things I love about Southern California, though: you can surf in the ocean in the morning and two or three hours later ski at 8,000 feet or climb to 11,000 feet or more. Not that I ever surfed or skied, but you could if you wanted to. Regardless, that's a dramatic elevation change, equal to or greater than the one from Colorado Springs to the top of Pike's Peak. Of course, you're starting at about 6,500 feet at Colorado Springs, so that would make breathing at the top of Pike's Peak - at 14,115 feet - a bit interesting for us sea-level dwellers. Still, the elevation differential is greater here than in Colorado.

One of these days we'll have to go up to the top of Pike's Peak on the cog rail from Manitou Springs. It looks like fun.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

DC-10 Fire-Bomber - The Big Stick

Wild fires are a fact of life in Southern California. With the expansion of homes and housing tracts into the hills and mountain areas around Los Angeles the threat to life and property is a seasonal worry.

One of the tools in the firefighter's arsenal is the aerial water tanker. For many years they were surplus World War II aircraft. Then it was 1950s and 1960s aircraft. Lately it has included specially built aircraft supplemented by modified helicopters.

The most intriguing recent development was the conversion of commercial jumbo jets to the fire fighting role. This is one of them, the Douglas DC-10 tri-jet. It is big, it is impressive and it can carry a heck of a lot of water. Plus it can make multiple drops in one mission before landing to refill its tanks.

The DC-10 made an appearance at this year's March ARB open house on May 1. The day was spectacularly clear and the sun angle was gorgeous. Watching a DC-10 that low and dropping that much water was simply awesome.