Author Archives: Tom Demerly

Are We Safer Now? U.S. Homeland Security 17 Years After the 9/11 Terror Attacks.

The Air Policing Mission and Homeland Security Since 9/11 Face Adaptive Threat.

“Kill one, terrorize a thousand.” Sun Tzu’s quote from “The Art of War” defines the basis for asymmetrical warfare, a conflict where one side uses traditional military doctrine while the other side exploits the vulnerabilities of its adversary in any way available, including attacks on civilians. In asymmetrical warfare, the rules are, there are no rules.

The 9/11 terror attacks on the United States typify asymmetrical warfare. In contrast to the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, where a large, organized military force launched a seaborne air strike on a U.S. military target taking approximately 2,600 American lives, the 9/11 terror attacks were executed by a small, subversive group of non-uniformed insurgents who leveraged U.S. airline infrastructure against the country with horrific effectiveness to exact a death toll even greater than Pearl Harbor in 1941.

While the U.S. spent billions on stealth bombers the terrorists bought box cutters.

In the seventeen years since the 9/11 terror attacks the U.S. has been highly effective in preventing another aerial terror attack on its homeland using increased security measures at airports and inside aircraft and a greatly enhanced air policing capability.

Vulnerabilities to aircraft terrorism do remain as showcased by the August 11, 2018 theft of an Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8 twin-engine turboprop commuter airliner by an airline employee who was able to subvert some passenger level security to gain access to an aircraft. That same incident demonstrated the improvements in U.S. homeland security response when a pair of F-15C Eagles from the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard responded quickly.

In addition to the fast response times and improved protocols for launching armed aircraft to intercept an unresponsive or non-compliant aircraft, the key infrastructure and procedures for communication between airline pilots, air traffic controllers and the Homeland Security response has been streamlined and practiced so that it is procedural and expedient now.

On 9/11/2001, while there were security protocols in place for response to a hijacking the 9/11 Commission Report found that the FAA did not adequately follow them in alerting the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). The delay in alerting NORAD to the hijacking threat, and gaining a clear understanding of the multiple threats, cost valuable response time that could have altered the outcome of the attacks.

Flight paths of the hijacked aircraft (Wikipedia).

Once military aircraft did respond, they may have exerted an effect on the attack in Washington D.C. where information suggests the hijackers’ original target was the U.S. capital building or the White House.

Most remarkably, the response of U.S. civilians on board United Airlines flight 93 from Newark International Airport to San Francisco prevented the aircraft from reaching its target at the cost of all lives on board. This response would galvanize the nation in defiance of the terrorist threat, establish the passengers as heroes and calibrate the tenor of the entire U.S. response to the attacks.

A fire truck destroyed during the 9/11 terror attack on exhibit in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

While the U.S. has been effective in adapting to the airline terrorist threat and interdicted several attempted terrorist attacks on airliners since 9/11 including the “underwear bomber” and the “shoe bomber” the threat remains. And the threat is adaptive. Vehicle borne attacks have become common in Europe and splinter groups inspired by insurgencies related to Al Qaeda and ISIS have used vehicles as weapons in the U.S. Another emerging terrorist threat in the U.S. is mass shootings, a threat that has ignited divisive response in U.S. culture.

The primary passive security asset to the United States has always been its geographical distance from threat nations. The U.S. shares borders with Canada, a strong ally, and with Mexico, where immigration policies and narco-terrorism threats have significantly degraded the relationship between the two countries. But vast oceans insulate the U.S. border with threat nations in Asia and the Middle East, making access to the country more difficult than in Mediterranean, Asian, African and European nations. As the U.S. learned the hard way seventeen years ago today on 9/11/2001, it is never safe to assume that geographical insulation from terrorist motives is enough to keep its population safe. As a result, the homeland security mission is ongoing.

Top image: an airliner hits the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terror attack. (Photo: via AP/US News and World Report)

Meet the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s First Female F-35A Lightning II Pilot

USAF Reserve Col. Regina Sabric Is Also Commander of 419th Fighter Wing.

Colonel Regina Sabric, callsign “Torch”, of Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania has become the first female Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Col. Sabric is also commander of the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB in Utah, a unit she assumed command of in April of 2018.

Col. Sabric brings extensive tactical, combat and even special operations aviation experience to the F-35A and the 419th Wing having well over 2,500 hours flying experience across 10 different aircraft in 22 years. Sabric has flown the T-34, T-39, T-1 and T-37 trainers. She also flew the T-38 Talon in an aggressor simulation role and the AT-38. She has experience in the F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft, including as an instructor in the F-16. Her perspective as a tactical combat pilot in the evolving aerial battlefield includes time flying the MQ-9 Predator remotely piloted aircraft and the secretive C-146 special operations transport when she served as commander of the 919th Special Operations Group. Sabric also served as Chief, Combat Air Forces Requirements for the Air Force Reserve at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

Her operational experience includes Operations Allied Force and Enduring Freedom, and several deployments for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle, the combined U.S. and Canadian homeland security mission flown over the continental U.S. to provide security against terrorist threats to key infrastructure targets.

Sabric is a 1995 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. She also earned a Master’s Degree in National Security Studies from American Military University.

tps://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/First_Female_Reserve_F35_10.jpg”> Col. Regina Sabric with an F-35A Lighting II of the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah. (Photo: USAF Photo by Todd Cromar.)

[/caption]In her role as commander of the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB she is in command of 1,200 Reserve Citizen Airmen who train in F-35A Joint Strike Fighter operations, maintenance and mission support in addition to a medical squadron that supports the unit. The 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB is the only U.S. Air Force Reserve F-35A unit.

“My family can tell you I wanted to be a fighter pilot forever. I’ve always been fascinated by air and space.” Sabric told the Air Force Reserve Command media. “My dad was a private pilot, so he took me to an airshow when I was a little girl, and I remember looking up at those planes and being amazed. Ever since then I knew I was going to be a pilot.”

As a teenager, Regina Sabric went to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, an immersive educational experience for aspiring young women and men. She went on to earn a private pilot’s license during college.

Sabric regards her extensive education, career and experience in aviation as an advantage, “I don’t have a typical flying career. I’ve had the opportunity to bounce around with different aircraft and mission sets. I think it’s made me a better pilot because I’ve had the opportunity to experience so much outside the fighter world.”

Given Col. Sabric’s eclectic background in aviation and her command of the 419th Wing along with her qualification in the F-35A, she joins the most elite level of combat pilots in the world. There are only three women flying the F-35A Lightning II in the active duty Air Force. Col. Sabric is the first and only woman currently in the Air Force Reserve flying the F-35A. She is reserved about her experience though, especially in the F-35A.

“I’m still new in the airplane. Every sortie you learn something new, so as I continue to fly I’ll continue to learn. What the F-35A brings to the fight now, it’s lightyears beyond fourth-generation aircraft.”

42 Years Ago Today: The Daring Defection of The Secret Soviet Super Fighter

The West Thought the MiG-25 Was a Deadly, Agile Superfighter. What They Learned Was Surprising.

1430 Hrs. Local, September 6, 1976. Sea of Japan near Hakodate Airport, Hokkaido Prefecture.

Jet fuel burned faster than he calculated as he pressed lower under the overcast, down to the gray black waves only 150-feet above the Sea of Japan. He hauled the heavy control stick left, then corrected back right in a skidding bank around a fishing vessel that came out of the misty nowhere in the low afternoon cloud cover. White vapor spiraled long “S”s from his angular wingtips in the violent turn nearly touching the wave tops.

That was the second fishing boat he had to bank hard to miss at nearly wave-top level. Rain squalls started. The huge Tumansky R-15 jet engines gulped more gas by the minute. This plane was not made to fly low and subsonic. It was built to fly supersonic in the high altitude hunt for the now-extinct American B-70 Mach 3 super-bomber that was never put into service.

He had to find the Japanese Self-Defense Force F-4 Phantoms that were no doubt in the air to intercept him. If they didn’t shoot him down first, they would lead him to Chitose Air Base where he may be able to land safely. If his fuel held out. But the Japanese Phantoms were nowhere to be found.

So, he hauled the stick back into his lap and the big, boxy Foxbat clawed through the clouds in its last, angry climb before succumbing to a fuel-starved death.

Eventually, he found an airport. Hokodate Airport. A 6,000 foot runway. Not long enough for his MiG-25 though. He’d make it work. On final approach to Hokodate he nearly collided head-on with a 727 airliner. It was better than ditching where he’d lose his biggest bargaining chip. His top secret airplane. He managed a rough landing, running off the end of the runway, climbing out of jet, and firing his pistol in the air when curious Japanese began snapping photos of the incident from a roadway.

It was, as I recall, the biggest thing that had ever happened in my life. I was 15 years old then.

We raced to the hobby shop on our bicycles to consult with the older men who owned the store. What would this mean? Was it real? Would there be a model of the MiG-25 released soon? We poured over the grainy newspaper photos, the best we had ever seen, again and again. We could not believe it, but it was real. The most exotic, highest flying, fastest, most secretive fighter plane on earth had just fallen into American hands. We got our first look at the mysterious MiG-25 Foxbat.

Flight Lieutenant Viktor Ivanovich Belenko, an elite MiG-25P pilot of the Soviet Air Defense Forces, had defected with the most secret operational combat aircraft of the era.

U.S. analysts initially the believed the MiG-25 was a highly maneuverable air superiority fighter with sophisticated lightweight jet engines. The reality was the MiG-25 had massive, heavy engines and was made of mostly simple materials using vacuum tube technology (Photo: The Koku Fan)

What happened in the aftermath of his defection 42 years ago influenced aircraft design, dispelled myths about the Soviet Union, angered one nation and offered relief to another while leaving a third in an awkward diplomatic bind. It was one more minor tear in the tapestry of the Iron Curtain as it slowly unraveled around the edges, like a loose thread that continues to pull out longer and longer.

“What did they think and [what do we] think now? Traitor! Military pilots consider it a huge disgrace for the Air Force of the USSR and Russia.” That is what the administrator of the most active social media fan page for the Russian Aerospace Forces told TheAviationist.com when we asked them what Russians think of Viktor Belenko today. While the Iron Curtain has come down, the hardened attitudes about Belenko betraying the state remain. The Russians still hate Viktor Belenko for stealing their most prized combat aircraft at the time.

In the U.S., “secret” units have been operating Russian MiGs and Sukhois quietly over the American west for years. But Belenko’s defection in 1976 with a Foxbat, the NATO codename for the MiG-25 (the Russians don’t call it that), was an intelligence coup that not only provided technical data and benchmark insights for decades to come, it also provided a core-sample of Communist life in the Soviet Union.

According to Belenko, things were bad in the Soviet Union. In the 1980 chronicle of Belenko’s defection, “MiG Pilot: The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko”, author John Baron wrote of rampant alcoholism within the ranks of the Soviet air force. Living facilities at bases in the eastern Soviet Union were poor since some of the bases the MiG-25 operated from had not yet been upgraded to accommodate the larger ground crews needed to maintain the aircraft. Food quality for enlisted maintenance crews was so bad the men refused to eat. While food for officer/pilots like Belenko was much better, when Belenko reached the United States after his defection he mistakenly ate a can of cat food and later remarked that, “It was delicious. Better than canned food in the Soviet Union today!”

But Belenko entered a netherworld when he defected from Russia. While U.S. President Gerald Ford granted Belenko asylum in the U.S. and the Central Intelligence Agency gave him a stipend and built a life for him as a pilot and consultant in the U.S., neither side could fully trust the turncoat. When Belenko arrived in Japan he was given the book by Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch”. Despite his oath of military service to the Soviet Union, Belenko feared and was repulsed by the deep social injustice of Communist Soviet Russia. He had seen people inside the Soviet Union suffering like Denisovitch from poverty, hunger and oppression. Belenko wanted out. And so, he stole his Foxbat, flew it to Japan and never looked back.

In a footnote to Belenko’s defection with the MiG-25P Foxbat, I did get my scale model airplane kit shortly thereafter. The Japanese hobby brand Hasegawa had sent photographers to Hokodate Airport to photograph the MiG-25 before it was concealed, examined by the U.S. and Japan, and shipped back to the Soviet Union in pieces. Within months of the MiG-25 landing in Japan, Hasegawa released a 1/72nd scale plastic model kit of the MiG-25 complete with decals for Viktor Belenko’s aircraft. It sold for $10 U.S.

Japanese hobby brand Hasegawa obtained photos of the MiG-25 at Hokodate Airport before it was covered and quickly produced an accurate 1/72nd scale plastic of the aircraft. (Photo: The Squadron Shop)

Viktor Belenko continues to live in the United States according to most sources. He was photographed in a bar in 2000 where he was recognized, photographed and spoke openly to people about his experience defecting from the former Soviet Union. In 1995, he had returned to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and safely returned to the U.S. afterward. Belenko told an interviewer he had enjoyed going on fishing trips in the U.S. with test pilot and fighter ace General Chuck Yeager.

Viktor Belenko adapted well to life in the U.S., flying for the U.S. military and enjoying U.S. culture. He even got married in the United States. (Photo: SeanMunger.com)

There have been other famous defections by military pilots, including some fictional ones such as the failed defection with a Soviet Tu-95 “Bear” heavy bomber. Author Tom Clancy rose to prominence on his breakout fictional novel “The Hunt for Red October” about a Russian captain defecting with a Soviet nuclear powered missile submarine. One of his fictional characters in the book even refers to the Belenko defection saying, “This isn’t some pilot defecting with a MiG!”. But fictional accounts aside, now that the Iron Curtain has long since come down it is unlikely we will ever see a defection from any country like Viktor Belenko’s.

Top image: Photos of the then-secret MiG-25 Foxbat were taken from a nearby road before it could be covered. (Photo: Reuters/Wikipedia)

U.S. Navy Reports F-35C Lightning II and F/A-18F Damaged During Inflight Refueling Accident

Both Aircraft Landed Safely, but “Class A” Damage Sustained by F-35C in Accident.

A U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II was damaged during a midair refueling exercise with an F/A-18F Super Hornet over the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday according to a statement released by the Naval Air Forces Atlantic spokesman Commander Dave Hecht to United States Naval Institute News (USNI).

The F-35C, the naval variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, was flying from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). The F-35C involved in the accident returned to the aircraft carrier and landed safely aboard ship following the accident. The F/A-18F Super Hornet landed at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia following the accident.

The report in USNI indicated the F-35C Lightning II was from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125, the “Rough Raiders” on board the USS Lincoln. The F/A-18F Super Hornet involved in the accident was from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, the “Jolly Rogers”.

The F-35C sustained engine damage during the accident when debris from the aerial refueling drogue being trailed by the F/A-18F Super Hornet serving as the tanker aircraft became ingested into the F-35C’s engine. There were no injuries and an official investigation is pending according to U.S. Navy sources.

The damage to the F-35C was categorized as a “Class A Mishap”, the most extensive level of damage for a military aircraft. Class A mishaps occur when an aircraft is completely destroyed, involves a serious injury or fatality or the aircraft itself sustains more than $2 million in damage. If the F-35C’s engine, a Pratt & Whitney F135 jet engine, the most powerful and advanced in its class, were destroyed in the accident it could cost as much as $14 million to replace it not including any additional damage to the aircraft’s airframe or avionics.

Damage to the F/A-18F Super Hornet was reported to be less severe and categorized as a “Class C” mishap with no injuries and damage reported to be between $50,000 and $500,000 USD according to Commander Dave Hecht.

The two aircraft involved in the accident were operating over the Atlantic and from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as part of an integrated air wing test. The series of tests at sea are a realistic simulation, test and training exercise of how the new Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter naval variant will interface with other combat and support aircraft from the USS Abraham Lincoln.

U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Dale Horan told reporters on board the USS Abraham Lincoln last week that the operations underway were validating how the F-35C, “Integrates with the ship, how it interoperates with communications, data links, other aircraft, and then how we conduct the mission and tie into the other aircraft that are conducting that mission and how effective they are when they do it.” Rear Admiral Horan is the director of Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Integration for the Navy.

Two U.S. Navy units are operating the new F-35C Lightning II from the USS Abraham Lincoln during the exercise, VFA-125, the “Rough Raiders” from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California and VFA-147, the “Argonauts” also from NSA Lemoore.

Prior to today’s accident the U.S. Navy forecasted that the F-35C would achieve initial operational capability (IOC) sometime in February of 2019. In order to achieve that level of operational readiness the Navy will have to demonstrate the ability to successfully operate ten F-35Cs at sea, including all support and logistical operations to maintain F-35C operations.

Of the three U.S. forces operating the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; the USAF with the F-35A, the U.S. Marines with the F-35B STOVL variant and the U.S. Navy with the wider-wingspan F-35C model, the U.S. Navy has been the last to enter the IOC phase of operations. Some analysts suggest this is partially because of the demands placed on the Navy’s F-35C by catapult launches and arrested landings on Navy aircraft carriers.

Top Image: The accident was the first Class A mishap for a U.S. Navy F-35C Lighting II. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Exclusive Interview with the Photographer Who Shot The Massive 21-Plane Formation of Every American Military Jet Demo Team

Unique One-Time Mass Formation Over Lake Erie Captured by Photographer Glenn Watson.

In what is certainly one of the most spectacular aerial photo shoots in aviation history, photographer and pilot Glenn Watson captured amazing photos of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds jet demonstration teams flying together in one massive formation last Thursday, August 30, 2018 over the Midwestern United States.

It is likely the first and probably the last time this unique formation of 21 aircraft (23 total aircraft including support planes) could ever be photographed flying together in formation. Watson told us in an exclusive interview the incredible photo shoot was planned in advance nearly a year ago.

“’Feed’ (Call sign for Blue Angel #5) and ‘Naughty’ (Call sign for Snowbird #10) hatched the idea last year at ICAS [The International Council of Air Shows- Ed.]. Then, one step at a time, the mission was planned and with excruciating detail sent up for approval. I’m normally involved in the logistical planning of local flights, but with the complexity and widely spread out nature of this one almost all of this particular mission planning took place inside the military between the three teams. Lots of moving parts with 23 jets, 3 teams launching from 3 different places,” photographer Glenn Watson told TheAviationist.com.

Aerial photography specialist Glenn Watson is from Mach Point One Aviation Photography based in central Texas. To get these unique photos he joined the teams, flying in the back seat of a two-seat Boeing F/A-18D Hornet belonging to the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team as Blue Angel #8. The aircraft was flown by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Andre Webb of Lawton, Oklahoma. Lt. Webb is actually Blue Angel #7 himself, and has over 2,100 flight hours and 200 arrested carrier landings.

The team of photographer Glenn Watson and Lt. Andre Webb flew off the right wing of the converging group of aircraft as they rendezvoused over Lake Erie near the Canadian/U.S. border.

Photographer and pilot Glenn Watson shot these remarkable photos of the Snowbirds, Thunderbirds and Blue Angels in one massive formation last week. (Photo: Glenn Watson/MachPointOneAviation)

“It was all planned with primary focus on flight safety – precise altitude deconfliction and route planning so the elements flew in their own “lanes” and never passed behind one another and encountered wake turbulence or jet wash,” Watson told TheAviationist.com.

The 21 aircraft formed up in their precisely arranged “stair step” formation initially with smoke on so the aircraft could visually acquire each other for the link-up. The Canadian Forces Snowbirds, the 431st Air Demonstration Squadron, took the top position in their CT-114 Jet Tudors with nine aircraft, the largest number of team aircraft in the photo formation. Stacked below the Snowbirds was the U.S. Navy flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels, in six Boeing F/A-18C Hornets. Flying trail in the formation at the low edge of the stair-step formation were six single seat General Dynamics F-16Cs from the USAF Thunderbirds.

Watson himself is uniquely qualified for such an extraordinary photo shoot since he is, in addition to being a professional photographer, a pilot himself who is certified in formation flying. This technical insight by Watson enables him to work safely and effectively with other aircraft in formation flight and to communicate efficiently with his photo platform pilot, Lt. Andre Webb.

Photographer Glenn Watson with Blue Angel #7, U.S. Navy Lt. Andre Webb. (Photo: U.S. Navy/via Glenn Watson)

“Once we all joined, the photo ship, Blue Angel #7 with me [photographer Glenn Watson] in the back, would maneuver around the elements to get the various angles. The plan was the three full team elements making left turns, 30-mile legs lined up in order of most available power on the outside of the turn. No formation changes or position changes were planned besides slight adjustments to spacing between elements for symmetry,” said Glenn Watson.

The three jet teams begin a wide left turn over the open lake during the photo mission. (Photo: Glenn Watson/MachPointOneAviation)

Lt. Andre Webb and Glenn Watson continued to fly to the right of the converging formation throughout the shoot and varied altitude relative to the huge 21-plane group to get the unique photos.

Watson used his trusty Nikon D810 DSLR camera body with a 24-70mm/f2.8G zoom lens for these shots. “That combo is my go-to still image kit for 80% of my work, with a D810 and 70-200mm/f2.8 VR covering the rest.”

While every aviation photographer in the world would no doubt jump at the chance to photograph such a formation, only a uniquely qualified pilot and photographer like Glenn Watson has the combination of technical skills and creative insight to optimize such a unique and dynamic opportunity.

Watson told us after the photo shoot, “I think being a pilot helps for all my work because you have a better idea of what is possible to do with an airplane, and what is required to put the airplanes in the various attitudes for the shots. Some spots may be blind, or have no “out” and it helps to fully understand that and therefore not ask pilots to move into those spots for photos.”

The risks involved in mass photo shoots of dissimilar aircraft are very real, as tragically demonstrated in the June 8, 1966 midair collision of a NASA F-104N Starfighter and a USAF XB-70 Valkyrie heavy bomber during a publicity photo shoot for jet engine manufacturer General Electric over Barstow, California. The tragic accident during the formation photo shoot left two experienced test pilots dead and two advanced aircraft burning in the desert near Edwards AFB.

“It’s definitely hard to comprehend everything that is going on during a shoot like this, and when you’re in charge of directing it there is no time to think up there. If you think, you’re dead. (‘TOP GUN’ Quote of course). Basic operation of your gear and exposing the photos properly has to be second nature. Positioning the aircraft in the right place for the sun angle, keeping equipment contained inside the jet and not interfering with controls, moving the formations around to line them up in real-time, and anticipating what the aircraft may be doing next, all while pulling G’s and yanking and banking in the back of a fighter jet takes all your concentration. Most of these jet photo shoots’ time together is very limited and once they’re “in” you start firing away and execute the shot list as fast as possible. It’s pretty scary to think about, but on many flights when it’s ‘photo X’ complete and the subjects detach (and I start breathing again) I realize I never looked at the back of my camera a single time- I just get in the zone and you can feel when it’s working,” Glenn Watson said.

After Watson’s incredible images began to go viral across social media only hours after the shoot was over the significance of what he achieved in the context of aviation history became apparent. It was also apparent that very few other aviation photographers could have captured the incredible images the way Glenn Watson did.

Watson had time for a quick selfie in the back of the Blue Angel #8 Boeing F/A-18D Hornet. (Photo: Glenn Watson/MachPointOneAviation)

“Formation flying is all about trust – I have been working tirelessly the last 4 years building a relationship with the Blues and proving to them that me and my team are also top professionals and can be trusted to get the shots and return to base safely. The Blue Angels have always been heroes of mine, and being asked by them to capture these historic photos was the highest honor. I have been a Blue Angel guy since I was a kid and for me sitting in their briefing room, being included in the preflight briefing, the walk down to the jets, and then shaking hands with each pilot in line after the flight was a highlight of my life.”

In seeing the final product of Glenn Watson’s photography and the impressive planning and precision flying of the Snowbirds, Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds it’s reasonable to suggest that Watson’s photos may be the highlight of not only the 2018 air show season, but of many seasons to come.

Thanks to aviation photographer and pilot Glenn Watson for his interview. Watson’s website for viewing and booking his aerial photography and all contacts is: www.machpointoneaviation.com