Awesome Wing-Walkers Perform Brave Stunts During Airshow

5 years ago

Oh, those daring young men—and women, and their flying machines. Let’s take synchronized swimming to the next level! These daredevils’ technology of choice is the Boeing Stearman Model 75, a military trainer manufactured in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s, making it one of the last of the biplanes. Even at “only” 150 miles per hour, the aerobats require struts just to stand up straight against the 4G (gravities) force pushing them backward.

You would have to be very bold, very trusting in the aircraft, and very well trained to perform such maneuvers. The payoff would be being the star attraction to an audience of thousands, with the best view in the house. Before we dive further into the poetry of the spectacle, a little context may be in order.

The event is the Blackpool Air Show, located at Blackpool, a coast seaside resort in the county of Lancashire, North West England. Throngs of spectators on the promenade press close to the water and spill over onto the pier. Behind them and out of view in this video is Blackpool Tower, an Eiffel Tower inspired structure that was conceived in 1890 and opened to the public in 1894. The Air Show itself features a number of highly caffeinated events, including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, a recreation drama made up of World War II vintage aircraft; and the Royal Air Force (RAF) Red Arrows, which are nine Hawk jet planes painted bright red. The Red Arrows were the finale of the 2018 show, marking 100 years of RAF.

We can see how such shows earned the appellation “flying circus”. We have trapeze artists performing the outrageous circus showmanship to which we are accustomed, but having substituted airplanes for the trapeze. There is a lot of coordination of moving parts going on here. The wing walkers synchronize their routine with each other, while the pilots are also doing their own routine. Look at how tight their formation, even wingtip to wingtip. Sometimes it even looks like what we’re seeing is two mirror images of the same plane. Such scenes are a photographer’s dream, and you can put together some really impressive albums on Facebook and Instagram for the friends and family back home.

I have actually attended many air shows such as this, and I live on the street where a yearly airshow takes place. In my experience, having taken thousands of air show photos, it takes a steady hand and a bit of practice to capture moving targets like airplanes. The kind of camera you use will make a big difference between mediocre and Wow! Not all of your shots will be as impressive as what we see in this video. Practice ahead of time, and try to get the planes into frame as they approach from a distance, using up and down and side-to-side approximation. Once the planes are in frame, move steadily with them at their rate. The amateur using a handheld as opposed to a tripod should tuck your elbows tightly against your ribs, rotating your torso as if you are the tripod, while keeping the target at the center of your viewfinder.

Automatic settings are OK, but if you do use a manual setting, adjust your F-stop, aperture, and ISO settings before the show starts to compensate for sunny or cloudy conditions. Nothing is more disappointing than a memory chip full of photos of solid white nothing. If you are taking photos as opposed to movies, set your camera up to get the highest shutter speed or you risk blur, especially during jet aircraft flybys.

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