A Uniquely American Moment: Photographer Captures Air Force One at Daytona 500 In These Stunning Images

The USAF VC-25A of the 89th Airlift Wing, Presidential Airlift Group, carrying the U.S. President, touches down in Daytona Beach.

Master Aviation Photographer Matt Haskell Got Incredible Photos of Air Force One at the Daytona 500 NASCAR Race.

It was a uniquely American moment: the USAF Boeing VC-25A of the 89th Airlift Wing, Presidential Airlift Group (PAG) from Andrews AFB in Maryland with U.S. President Donald Trump on board and flying as “Air Force One”, the callsign when the President is on board the aircraft, performed a flyover (that was filmed from above) and landed at Daytona Beach International Airport next to Daytona International Speedway in Florida, on Feb. 16, 2020.

The flight delivered the U.S. President and the First Lady to the Speedway racetrack so President Trump could preside over the Daytona 500 NASCAR stock car race as the race’s official Grand Marshall and starter.

Aerospace photographer and journalist Mr. Matt Haskell, 26, of Merritt Island, Florida in the U.S. was on hand in Daytona and captured stunning photos of a uniquely American moment in military aviation yesterday at the annual Daytona 500 NASCAR race in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Photographer Matt Haskell used local knowledge and a network of photographers to find the best vantage points for Sunday’s arrival of the USAF VC-25A with the callsign “Air Force One” carrying the U.S. President. (Photo: Matt Haskell/@Mhaskellphoto)

Haskell, who has photographed spacecraft frequently seen launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida and aircraft all over the U.S. (including onboard aircraft carriers at sea), has been shooting photos for nearly 3 years. He credits growing up next to Edwards AFB with some of the many reasons for his interest and inherent talent.

“It wasn’t until I moved to Florida and saw my first launch up close that I decided to pick up a camera and photograph and write about aviation and space flight”, Haskell says. “It’s taken off from there, working in the capacity professionally and doing all sorts of things from flight ops on board U.S. and British aircraft carriers at sea to being up close to the most powerful rocket in use today.”

Haskell planned his Air Force One arrival photo shoot in advance by networking with friends of his who are also aviation photographers in the area. “For this one the difficulty was scouting the location with a heavy law enforcement presence and the airport and surrounding roads on lockdown for the Presidential visit.” Haskell said he used insights on the arrivals of previous Presidents to predict flight paths and approaches for Saturday’s Presidential arrival.

One of the most remarkable photos Haskell shot on Sunday in Daytona was a dramatic scene of President Trump at the top of the stairway to Air Force One as he departed the race after it had been delayed until Monday due to rain.

President Donald Trump leaves Daytona Beach, Florida in his VC-25A after the famous Daytona 500 NASCAR race was postponed until Monday due to rain. (All images: Matt Haskell/@Mhaskellphoto)

“I relocated to a better vantage point for the takeoff on the opposite side of the runway. There wasn’t too much obstruction and once the motorcade arrived back at the jet he (the President) went right up. We were a good distance away but with some cropping in post(processing) it really made the shot happen,” Haskell told TheAviationist.com on Sunday.

Wheels up for the USAF VC-25A as it leaves Florida for Washington D.C.. Photographer Matt Haskell had to quickly switch photography locations to get good angle and lighting for the President’s departure.

Haskell used a Nikon D750 DSLR camera with a Tamron 150-600 G2 lens for his shots on Sunday. “It’s my standard setup for aviation,” he said.

Photographer Matt Haskell, 26, of Merritt Island, Florida has been shooting space and aviation photos for over two years. His work is published in aviation media around the world. Follow him at @Mhaskellphoto.

Interestingly, Haskell’s unique photos actually got the jump on the official White House photos when they used an old photo from 2004 of President George W. Bush leaving Daytona Beach International Airport in the VC-25A in a tweet today. The current President’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted the old photo taken in 2004 by photographer Jonathan Ferrey on February 15, 2004 and attempted to make the photo look like it was shot today. Parscale tweeted the old photo from 2004 with the caption, “@realDonaldTrump won the #Daytona500 before the race even started.” News outlet CNN quickly called the Trump campaign out on the shenanigan. Maybe the White House should hire Matt Haskell next time to shoot some real photos of Air Force One.

Photographer Matt Haskell did better than President Trump’s campaign manager who tried to reuse this old photo of then-President Bush flying out of Daytona Beach back in 2004. (Photo: Original 2004 news photo by Jonathan Ferry/Getty Images via CNN.com)


About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.