Behind The Scenes Of An Air-2-Air Photo Shoot

Posted by Gienne Van Engelen | 3/28/18 9:41 AM

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This was something I’ve always wanted to be a part of; an air-2-air photoshoot. From great films like Dunkirk where they film dogfighting spitfires, or awesome popcorn movies like Top Gun and, well, just aerial photography in general. I always wondered how those photographers coordinated everything and brought it to film. Now I know and I’m here to share this #aviationadventure with you. Don’t get me wrong, first and foremost I’m here to become an airline pilot. However, it was refreshing to do this type of flying. We got some awesome shots, even though we had to turn back shortly after taking off because my door wasn’t locked properly. Oops.

We were scheduled to take-off at 0630 AM to have a few flights along the Miami coast during sunrise. And yes, it’s early but I actually prefer waking up early to fly. The weather looked great too. Also, we were going to fly over the water, and if you go early in the morning there is not a lot of thermal activity due to the sun slowly rising, which generally makes for smooth flying. Which is great for taking air-2-air pictures.

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We had 2 planes; Our Cessna 172 with tail number N905WA which just got a new livery! And one of our seneca’s. The day before our mechanics take out the door of our Seneca, so our photographer George had the space to take some shots.

“The tower controller must have been thinking “What the heck is wrong with these guys

After a short briefing with Alfredo, Sheik, George, Ard and me it was time to go fly. George strapped in, Captain Alfredo started the 2 engines taxied to the runway where we got a very surprised tower controller on the coms; “Uh, excuse me do you guys know that your backdoor is open?” Alfredo replied with “Affirmative”, started the take-off roll and I, the co-pilot, noticed my door wasn’t locked properly after we took off. So we stayed in the pattern and landed again. The tower controller must have been thinking “What the heck is wrong with these guys”. Awesome beginning of an expensive air-2-air shoot where it’s a race against time to get the right natural lighting! In this case; sunrise. The door got locked properly, double checked again and we took off. On our way to the Miami coastline with the sun slowly rising in front of us, and camera’s ready.

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Along the coast we caught up with the cessna flown by one of our instructors Sheik and a retired United captain, Ard. Alfredo started coordinating the flight, he already has a lot of experience with this type of formation flying. He has been on the cover of Flying Magazine 4 times, usually with Daher Socata TBMs. He has flown the photo platform several times as well. We flew from south-to-north, north-to-south along the coast and did a lot of orbits, which is just flying next to each other while making a circle. All of this being coordinated between the photographer and the two planes. After getting about 1,000 shots it was time to head back to North Perry.

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All in all it was a great experience, I almost forgot how beautiful it is to fly during sunrise. And to my surprise; air-2-air photography is really hard to coordinate. You have to know what type of shot you want to get before you get up there. I can't wait to do this again, and who knows; maybe I’ll do more of this type of flying. Keep an eye out on our channels for all the pictures!

Let me know if you have any more questions or comments! I would love to hear from you!

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