After a relatively short two-year build time, my friend Doug had recently finished construction of his Van's RV-7. After getting a beautiful paint job to match his yellow Corvette, Doug flew his RV-7 to Oshkosh 2017. Upon returning, I was able to fly in his beautiful RV-7 to provide Doug some initial G-awareness and aerobatic training. After our first flight, Doug mentioned that he only had ground photos, and was hoping to get some good air-to-air photos whenever we could arrange it.
The following week, my friend Justin was planning to be in town to exercise his Nanchang CJ-6, which I had been flying to 'keep her warm' whenever I could. Although the Nanchang had appeared in a number of recent formation photo shoots, I had always been the one flying, and Justin needed some owner recognition in his own warbird! The timing looked good for a formation photo shoot, if I could find an available photographer. Luckily, John, who has been a prominent photographer in our Cascade Warbirds group, was available on Friday afternoon, so all parties were ready to try for some great air-to-air shots.
Doug and I jumped in his recently polished RV-7, and flew a short hop from Auburn, through Renton's airspace to Paine Field, meeting Justin and the Nanchang at his East hangars location. It was a gorgeous summer afternoon, and we briefed the formation and photo plan as soon as John arrived, and launched in trail from Paine's runway 34R.
Since Justin didn't have a lot of formation practice under his belt, I just directed his turns as lead to position us for the best mutual photos, and flew fingertip and route formation as required to get in the optimum position. I gave Doug my Canon to act as photographer from the RV-7, while John took photos from the 'Chang. The sky was a gorgeous blue, with a few cumulus clouds to provide contrast, and we were all glad the smoke from recent Canadian and Cascade fires had left the area. We first flew along the Cascades, getting some photos by the Three Fingers area. After a couple of passes and great mountain backgrounds around Three Fingers, we headed north towards Mt. Baker.
All the RV-series airplanes are great formation platforms, and Doug's RV-7 was no exception, with wonderfully light stick forces and excellent power from his Titan XIO-340 engine. I had no problem matching Justin's maneuvers or his climb toward Mt. Baker’s 10,781-foot summit. Even though it was late summer, Mt. Baker always has a good snowpack and glaciers to display. In 1999, the Mount Baker Ski Area set the world record for snowfall in a single season, with 95 feet (1,140 inches) of snow recorded!
I flew a few formation crossunders for mutual photo opportunities, and Doug got some great images of the Nanchang during the approach to the mountain, and then we all had a blast cruising around the Mt Baker area, with an added bonus of a few clouds ringing the mountain to add character to the photos. We all were impressed with the rugged peaks of the Twin Sisters Mountain, just to the southwest of Mt Baker, which provided some of the most impressive backgrounds of the entire flight. After loading up John's and my camera with images, I peeled off in the RV-7 and headed back to Auburn, while Justin and John returned to Paine Field.
As the linked photos show - the weather, the scenery and both airplanes combined for an amazing formation photo shoot! Thanks to Justin and Doug for providing your fine aerial photo platforms, and John and Doug for the great photography work!
Doug sent his favorite air-to-air RV-7 photo to Van's Aircraft, which was selected as the November shot for the 2018 Van's Aircraft Calendar. Way to go, Doug and John!