Photographer Chris McGreevy Captures Gold in Photos at Mojave Air & Space Port.
Aviation spotter and photographer Christopher McGreevy has been shooting photos of unique and interesting aircraft, “Since I was a kiddo” he told TheAviationist.com last week in an exclusive interview over Facebook messenger.
But what he captured on Friday, August 10, 2018 outside the Mojave Air & Space Port is truly remarkable.
Shooting with his Canon EOS 7D Mark II and a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens from outside the fence at the Mojave Air & Space Port (also known as the Civilian Aerospace Test Center) located in Mojave, California, McGreevy shot these photos around 2:00 PM local time on Friday.
McGreevy’s photos show the enormous Stratolaunch aircraft built by Stratolaunch Systems of Seattle, Washington. The Stratolaunch, when it flies some time later this year or in early 2019, will become the largest aircraft to ever fly as measured by wingspan. Its wings measure a titanic 385 feet (117 meters). The gigantic aircraft weighs a staggering 1,200,000 pounds at take-off with its payload. That is a total of 600 tons. The Stratolaunch is built to air launch spaceplanes like Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL, the Dream Chaser and Black Ice experimental spacecraft prior to their orbital flights.
These shots are incredibly unique since Chris McGreevy told TheAviationist.com that there was, “Not a soul out there.” He was the only photographer in the area when the aircraft was outside on this day. The gigantic aircraft is most frequently housed in a massive hangar at the Mojave Air & Space Port.
McGreevy is a frequent visitor to the facility. “Mojave is usually my own little playground unless a known Spaceship 2 launch is happening. Nobody really shoots out there because it’s a pretty slow airport. I go pretty often to see the Orbital L-1011 and 747 retirement flights to the boneyard.”
“I have a few spots there that I like to shoot from,” McGreevy told TheAviationist.com in a late-night interview on Friday. “I use my 4X4 truck to drive around the filed I the dirt, [it] offers some different views of the field.”
The McGreevy photos from Friday offer a unique perspective on the massive size and unique design of this flying leviathan. Because they were shot from a distance but with good composition and cropping, these photos offer an accurate sense of the enormous size of the Stratolaunch aircraft. McGreevy shows fascinating details such as close-ups of the aircraft’s six engines and the round crew entry hatch. A large towing tug and maintenance scaffolding under the aircraft also lend an accurate sense of scale and size to the photos. There also seems to be some engine mount maintenance going on since one of the photos shows some aircraft surface missing from the upper portion of the engine mounts at the wing.
One particularly interesting shot from the McGreevy collection is the photo of the L-39 Albatross single engine trainer jet with civilian registration N139WS taxiing in front of the Stratolaunch. This L-39 is registered to Ozark Management Inc, of Jefferson City, Missouri, a privately held aviation firm with only about 5-6 employees according to open source information and is operated by the National Test Pilot School L-39C. It’s not clear if the aircrew of the L-39 is related to the Stratolaunch company or not. The aircraft adds a great sense of scale to the backdrop of the Stratolaunch, since the photo shows just 1/4 of the monster plane.
Following the high-speed taxi tests of the Stratolaunch earlier this year in late February things have seemingly been quiet about the Stratolaunch but it is likely these sensational photos from Christopher McGreevy may reignite the excitement and conversation about this truly historic and remarkable aviation project.
Thanks for Photographer and Aviation Enthusiast Christopher McGreevy for his generous use of his excellent photos for TheAviationist.com and to the Facebook group “Palmdale AF Plant 42 (PMD) and BJ’s Corner”.