Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Is my pilot safe? - Part 2

My previous post passed along a way to evaluate your prospective air to air pilot via their brief.  For all of my 20+ years in aviation, the flight brief has been my most critical point of evaluation, and often a last point before engine start where everyone concerned could say "I don't think we're ready for this flight, today."

a cold day photographing the Movie Memphis Belle air-to-air
But aviation photography is different than regular formation flying, and as a result the airborne team has an additional member - YOU, the photographer!

The second way that I recommend you evaluate your prospective air-to-air pilot is based upon how they listen to your brief.  They didn’t give you a chance to brief as a photographer, you say?  This should be of great concern to you on the day of your flight!

Briefing the photoship pilot prior to the flight
If your photo pilot is not attentive to your goals as a photographer, you might not capture the image you wanted (or needed), and worst case, you might be put at risk with an impromptu, unbriefed maneuver –
“Because I thought it would make a great photo”

(Which is not something you EVER want to hear and sadly, I have...)

Now, don't get intimidated, these briefs don't have to be formal affairs!  But it is YOUR opportunity to give the pilots in your flight a quick overview of the photo setups that you want along with your understanding of their aircraft's performance and limitations.  I cannot overstate the latter, as I have watched photographers lose the respect of pilots quickly when they ask for difficult (or even risky) maneuvers on their first photo flight with a pilot.

"Hey, can I get a shot of you inverted over the top of your wingman?"

This brief is your chance to convince the pilots that you know what you are doing, and that you are not going to put their aircraft and lives at risk in an effort to just get that one photo you have been hounding them for.  I recommend providing the pilots with cards showing the formations that you want them to position into for the camera, and those can even be simple hand-drawn affairs.  Discuss who is positioning aircraft and who is on the radio talking to the formation.  Always discuss how and when you will "Knock It Off" if the flight becomes unmanageable or worse yet, unsafe.  Get the point across quickly, build confidence, and be the professional that they hope you are.  There are a lot of different things to cover in a photo mission brief, but that will have to be the subject of a future post!

Unfortunately, as a relatively inexperienced air-to-air shooter, you may not catch an issue with your pilot via either of these two methods, but the next one I give you is a dead giveaway to a pilot you should be cautious of flying with (again).

Part 3 is now online, HERE
Did you miss Part 1?  You can access it - HERE

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