Nellis AFB Air Show

Aviation Nation 2010

Well, "Nellie 2010" finally happened and it was a blast. This was my fifth Nellis air show and I must say that this show is by far the best military air show on the west coast..or, since it's in Nevada, in the entire western U.S. I used to say that about the Edwards air show, but since Eddie rarely has air shows any more (an issue I and my tax dollars plan to take up with my congressperson and senator), my emphasis has shifted to Nellis. And what a show it is! How can this not be an event? You get two days at the air show, and two (or more) nights in Vegas, baby!

I decided to get serious about photography this time. I devoted myself to more creativity than that found in the standard three-quarter-view-of-jet-against-blue-sky photograph. Unfortunately, for the most part, all I had available to photograph both days were three quarter views of jets against blue sky. I had no media pass, so I couldn't hang around before or after the show for the more unique lighting and photo angles. Okay, maybe next year. I did try the following photographic experiments, however. Given our all-jet air force, there were a lot of propeller-driven aircraft flying at this show. Props are fine, but in order to photograph them effectively, you need to shoot at a shutter speed slow enough that allows thwe props to blur enough to show rotation. Otherwise you wind up with a photo of a propeller-driven airplane hovering in mid air with props that appear to be stopped cold. With that slow shutter speed you certainly get the blurred props, but unfortunately, with a 300mm telephoto lens you get a lot of lens shake, so you wind up with a blurred aircraft as well as a blurred prop (or blurred rotor for helicopters). I have presented these photos of props that are the best compromise between blurred props and blurred airfames that I could achieve. I apologize if they are aesthetically unpleasant.

To prove how stupid I am, I decided a year ago that I would devote one day of this show to shooting high-def video. Not that shooting video is stupid, far from it, but my attempt illustrated my stupidity as far as accomplishing simple tasks goes. This was a Saturday-Sunday show, November 13 -14, 2010. I planned to shoot stills on Saturday, and video on Sunday. Saturday went well, as you shall see. Sunday morning before leaving the hotel, I grabbed my camcorder and one still camera with a short lens, stopped in the hotel room to make a few final adjustments to things, then grabbed my stuff and headed out the door. Upon arrival at Nellie around 0900 I was delighted to find myself at the head of the line with a minimal wait for boarding the bus for the ride to the base. As I gathered my stuff for the trot to the bus, I made a disheartening discovery: for some stupid, stupid, stupid reason, I had forgotten that stupid camcorder on my bed back at the hotel! I was faced with either an hour run back to the hotel and return to Nellis to fetch the camcorder and another hour's wait in the line for the bus, or saying "To heck with video, just get on the bus while you can, moron!" No dummy, I chose the latter. The result was that I spent Sunday at the show with only one still camera with a short lens. Therefore, the Thunderbird shots I took on Sunday are tiny, low, def, and just plain far away. I apologize, and I hope you enjoy them anyway. Man, that chaps my hide! An entire year after buying a $500+ camcorder and practicing with it, only to leave it in the hotel! Well, one of the privledges of being a U.S. citizen is having the right to make an ass of yourself.

The pictures are presented in the chronological order in which I took them. I provide minimal captioning because you aircraft buffs that are visiting this site already know what you are looking at. I hope you enjoy them.

This Nellis Air Show 2010 journal is dedicated to my good friends Mad Dog and Stitch. The Rhino pics are for you guys.

Here we go...


(Above) T-34 flyby. I love these things.


(Above) PT-22 flyby.


(Above) Just isn't an air show without a lot of smoke.


(Above) And of course a splendid flyby by some B-25s. See what I mean about photographing props?


(Above) And these days it certainly doesn't seem to be an air show without lots of explosions!


(Above) In between flybys, watching the Thunderbirds prep for their show.


(Above) When you just have to get the shot, no matter what. I understand. Been there.


(Above) An A-1 Skyraider with airliner contrail in the distance. The A-1s, O-2, F-4, and Huey put on a fantastic recreation of a Vietnam-era downed pilot rescue. Not only was the flying and choreography excellent, the soundtrack was superb! While all this action was going on we were treated to the sounds of "White Rabbit," "Paint it Black," "Psychotic Reaction," and other great sixties tunes that were no doubt being played on AFR and radios in the U.S. when the real rescues of this type were going on. Sounds that took me back to grade school years. Very good show, you guys!


(Above) This flight of A-1s was playing the role of "Sandy," i.e. the traditional call sign of the aircraft that provide the close air support that forces the bad guys to keep their heads down during the rescue. The call sign "Sandy" is still in use today. If you'd like to know just how hairy it was to be a Sandy, read My Secret War by Richard S. Drury. I can say that back at age 22 I had the priviledge of flying in Drury's back seat.


(Above) This was the F-4 that played the role of the jet providing heavy ordnance and 20mm cannon fire to further supress any action by the bad guys. This is one of the few F-4s that remain on active duty with the U.S. Air Force, and is based at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.


(Above) The Huey (call sign "Dustoff," another tradition) that flew in to make the actual pickup of the downed pilot. Even though it says "Navy" on the tail, most Dustoffs were Army.