All Aviation FlightLine OnLine -Home-

All Aviation FlightLine OnLine -Home-

 
 
PRESENTED BY
World of Wings The Very Best in Aviation

By: Randall Haskin USAF
 
Aviation Legend "Gabby" Gabreski Honored
click to enlarge Page -One click to enlarge
click here to enlarge image
On 31 January, we lost one of "the greats" in fighter aviation – Col Francis "Gabby" Gabreski, American ace of the air wars in both WW2 and Korea. Nothing I can write here will properly give this hero the credit he’s due, so I’ll let you read up on him yourself if you don’t know who he is. Col Gabreski also shares a position in the heritage of the Fighter Wing that I’m currently serving in, the 4th Fighter Wing (then named the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing), where he served as Wing Vice Commander during Korea. Coincidentally, the squadron he flew with was the same as mine, too – the 336th Fighter Squadron "Rocketeers."

The Rockets were thus the lucky unit selected to perform the missing man formation flyby for his funeral at Calverton National Cemetery, located on Long Island, on Wednesday, 6 February 2002.

As luck would have it, I walked into my Squadron Monday morning to see my name on the schedule for the flyby as #2 of a 6-ship formation. The missing man formation itself would only consist of the first four airplanes with the last two tagging along as "air spares" in case something happened to one of the primary jets.

In a fighter squadron, getting "good deals" is often a case of being in the right place at the right time – I was deeply honored that I was in the right place at the right time to get a chance to show my respects to Gabby at his burial, or above it at least.

click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image

click here to enlarge image
Tuesday, the 12 of us (a 6-ship of F-15Es is a whole room full of people!) gathered to plan out the mission. Flying by a cemetery in fingertip formation at a precise time really isn’t that demanding of a mission, and we don’t ever waste precious (and expensive!) flight time, so we were going to cram as much training as we possibly could into the flights.

Our plan was to take off from Seymour Johnson AFB, located in eastern North Carolina, perform the flyby at Calverton, Long Island, then land at Andrews AFB, Maryland for fuel. After the gas-and-go stop, we’d depart to the west and fly the low-level military training route VR-1758 through the mountains of West Virginia, then return to Seymour Johnson. My job was to plan up a mock GBU-24 low-level-laser-guided bomb attack that we’d execute on the low level.

When I arrived at the squadron Wednesday morning, I found out that for some reason the formation had been re-arranged. Instead of being "Caesar 12", I was now going to be "Caesar 16", one of the spare airplanes who would also be tasked with taking photos of the event. I was a little upset that I wouldn't get to be one of the four who actually flew across the memorial in the formation, but at least I was still going to be participating in the event.

On the good side, being in one of the camera airplanes was going to mean that I’d get to test out my recently purchased digital camera.

I used be an avid aviation photographer, but since I started flying for the Air Force, that hobby has sort of dropped by the wayside. Many of the things we do in fighter aviation would make stunning photos and I’ve always wanted to be able to take photos of the jets I fly. It’s USAF policy, however, to not allow fighter aircrew to take cameras into the cockpit because of the risk of having an accident. Too many folks in the past have succumbed to the attraction of creating a "watch this" type of moment for cameras to capture, and airplanes and lives have been lost in the process. Because of this I rarely get to hone my air-to-air photography skills. In fact, this flight would be the first time I would actually get to take pictures while airborne in the Strike Eagle, and I was certain this formation flight would provide many great photo opportunities.

click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image
     
     
click here to enlarge image
During our preflight briefing, we talked in detail about the formations we’d fly on the way up and what our plan was for looking good during the flyby of the funeral. We also pointed out several points enroute that would afford good opportunities for photography of the 4-ship formation.

After the briefing, my WSO "Gator" and I talked about how to use my camera and what kinds of shots I wanted him to take. I was going to take as many photos as possible, but for some of the flight I’d be busy flying formation, and thus unable to take pictures, too. Fortunately "Gator" is a highly experienced veteran with hundreds hours in the back of F-4s and is also a FAA commercial multiengine pilot. I trusted him to fly during the portions of the flight while I was going to be taking photos.

After dressing in our flight gear, we walked out to our jets, quickly preflighted them in the light rain that was falling, and stowed all our equipment in the cockpits. At the appointed time, we simultaneously fired up our engines and performed our preflight checks. Some 20 minutes later, the six F-15Es taxied out under a gray Carolina sky. The weather forecast for the day showed clear skies over New York, but that was several hundred miles away, so we’d have to deal with a light drizzle here at the home station.

We took off to the west, and turned northeast headed for Long Island. Once airborne, the plan was to join up the formation so we could get some photos of the 4-ship prior to the flyby.  Unfortunately, there was a pretty solid deck starting around 18,000 and going all the way up to the mid 30s.  For fuel reasons, we needed to fly at FL290, so we climbed into the weather in formation hoping to break out as soon as we could.  

Spread out like ducks in a row, the 6-ship was split into three 2-ship formations flying in 2 mile trail of each other.  Even though we were in the clouds, from the back of the "train" we could just make out the dull gray specks of the 4 jets flying in front of us. What really made them stand out, though, was that they were all trailing thick white contrails, looking every bit like the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels.  It would have made a fantastic photo had it been a blue sky, but the white cons were tough to see against the clouds!    continue >

click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image click here to enlarge image
click here to enlarge image
 

-page 1-

 
  Click Here For Desktop Wallpaper Size Images  

Note: These pages use Java Script to open enlarged images.
If you have Java disabled you will not be able to use this feature.

copyright 1997-2002 Airport Fence Productions, Inc.
All Aviation FlightLine OnLine

this website optimized for 800x600 and 1024x768
to fully appreciate the photography contained herein
please set your system video properties to true color - 32 bit