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Pitts Special Photographing Biplanes seems to becoming a habit lately. Last year saw us head up towards the Elan Valley, in Mid Wales to shoot a Christen Eagle, this year we were at the same location but photographing a Pitts Special, flown by display pilot, Lauren Richardson. On February 17th we headed over to Craig Goch reservoir, a fantastic location looking over one of the four Dams that are situated in the Elan Valley. It was another early start, a heavy frost the night before meant that the day started extremely cold, but with blue skies and unlimited visibility, it was perfect for photography. Lauren turned up at just gone 10am, the superb whine from the engine echoed through the valley, she put her aircraft through its paces, and due to our high position on the hillside, lots of shots with a full water backdrop could be captured.
AgustaWestland AH-64 Apache January 22nd and this time it was a trip up to North Wales to photograph Army Air Corps, AH-64 Apache Helicopters. We'd originally planned to do the shoot, which would also include AAC Lynx Helicopters, up at Ffynnon Llugwy, a small lake situated in the Snowdonia mountain range. Unfortunately low cloud first thing in the morning never looked as though it would lift so we decided to head down to a location just above Llun Ogwen, which runs along the A5 road (also referred to as the A5 Pass). By the time we arrived there were a pair of Apaches working the area. They based themselves at RAF Valley for a week and luckily used the A5 Pass on most days. We had two pairs do a couple of sorties during the day, which meant we had plenty of time to swap over to the opposite side of the valley so that the sun would be behind us in the afternoon. The Lynx, which were based at Caernarfon airfield, also made an appearance, so it was a Helo filled day with not a single jet in sight. Photos will be added to the Low Level section very soon.
Red Arrows - Low Level May 12th, 2014 was spent up on the Bwlch in the Mach Loop. The Red Arrows were flying in to RAF Valley as the crews needed to perform simulator training. 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Red Arrows, and to mark the occasion they sported a superb specially painted tail. We didn't know for sure whether they would fly low level, but we did know that the Reds do like to have their photos taken ;). It wasn't too long before we caught sight of a Red Hawk enter Cad from Barmouth. We hoped it would show up a few minutes later but it seemed they headed further south. Not long after another Red Hawk was seen, this time we were lucky and they came around past the Bwlch. For the next couple of hours we had a few passes from different Reds, all supporting that fantastic new tail design. Unfortunately they only kept the tail design for the 2014 season, I would of loved it for them to have kept it for longer, if not for good.
B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber On June 8th 2014 two B-2 Stealth Bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing arrived at RAF Fairford for a two week deployment. Little is knows as to what the deployment entailed, but one thing was for sure, I was going to make the most of it. An early Sunday morning phone call stating that both aircraft were due into Fairford at around 2pm meant I had little time to prepare. It was a mad dash to get camera batteries charged and memory cards sorted before the 180 mile drive, all to be done in under 4 hours. I got there just in time to catch both B-2's land and taxi in. Result!.

Latest News - Finnish Hawk Mk51's On the 2nd of September, six Finnish Air Force Hawk Mk51's from Kauhava Airbase, in southern Ostrobothnia arrived at RAF Valley. We managed to photograph them low level around the Mach Loop on a few occasions. Although we're used to photographing Hawk aircraft, it was something different photographing a grey Hawk, which also had external fuel tanks attached. They spent a week at RAF Valley before returning to Finland on the 9th.
As well as the Hawks we also had some Tornado GR4's, from RAF Marham and some Typhoons from RAF Coningsby. It was also nice to see some F15E Strike Eagles low level too. These have been pretty rare for the last few months. Pics to folllw.

Latest News - Christen Eagle II The early bird catches the worm, or in this case a Christen Eagle II over the reservoir in the Elan Valley. Summer months aren't the best for aviation photography IMO. The sun is high in the sky which can result in harsh shadows as low level aircraft bank over. This means the only time the light can be any good is either first thing in the morning or late afternoon. On the 4th of June we headed to the Elan Valley, which is situated in Mid Wales. Its a stunning location for helicopters and smaller aircraft but gets very little fast jet action as the turns are a little too tight and the valleys narrow. Everything was planned for an early shoot, 07:15am to be precise. The early morning sun worked well, lighting up the aircraft beautifully as she flew around us. We were all done by 08:30, so it was time for some breakfast before heading back to the Mach Loop. We had a photo shoot planned with a 9 squadron Tornado GR4 later in the afternoon, luckily this would take place at around 17:00, which meant the light would be spot on at Cad West. The Tornado turned up at 17:15, coming straight in from Bala with its wings fully swept. A fantastic sight and in stunning light. All in all a great days shooting.
BBMF Lancaster at Derwent & Civvies at Manchester On May 16th I spent the morning at Derwent Reservoir to photograph a flypast of the BBMF Lancaster bomber. It was the 70th anniversary of the famous Dambuster raids of WW11. The Lancaster was joined by a BBMF Spitfire and two Tornado GR4's from 617 squadron. Derwent reservoir was one of the practice sites used before the top secret mission back in 1943. After the flypast at Derwent I headed back to Manchester airport. It was gone 4pm so traffic was back using runway 23L, making it good for photo opportunities. We stayed until 7pm before packing up and heading home.
Saudi Air Force - Mach Loop On April 19th we had another chance to photograph the Saudi Air Force Tornado IDS, which is based at Warton. This would be its last test flight in the UK before heading back to Saudi. I've shot this aircraft a few times over the last couple of years, but you can never get tired of seeing a camo Tornado flying low level. We also had a Saudi Eurofighter Typhoon pay us a visit. This was a twin stick version (two seater). The weather was hit and miss. It was great for the Tornado, they came through just as the sun popped out from behind a cloud but we weren't so lucky with the Typhoon.

Latest News - Dambusters in the Loop Low level activity has reduced dramatically over the past 6 months due to one thing or another. F15's are extremely rare, there's a few Tornado squadrons that are away, and Hawks from RAF Valley don't seem to be flying the Loop as much as they used too. This has meant my loop visits have taken a back seat with only two trips in the last few months. However, on the 28th of February I decided to have a day out and headed up towards the Snakepit which is located just below Cad East. It was a beautiful sunny day but still pretty cold and a little breezy. Our first visitor was a Tornado GR4 from 617 squadron. It had come down from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and did two circuits of the loop. 617 Squadron are celebrating their 70th anniversary this year. In May 1943 the specially formed 617 Squadron executed arguably the most daring and innovative precision air raid in World War Two by attacking three defended dams in Nazi Germany. We don't get many 617 squadron jets through the loop, so this was a welcomed visitor and a stroke of luck to photograph her in superb light. Not long after we had a pair of 41 squadron Tornado GR4's from RAF Coningsby, one being the Olympic special tail. It was my first time photographing the special, I always seemed to miss it in the past. Two Hercules C-130's and a single Tornado GR4 late in the afternoon rounded up our day. Photos are now online and can be found here.

Army Air Corps - Westland Lynx A couple of days were spent up in Snowdonia to photograph AAC Westland Lynx Helicopters perform mountain training on the 23rd and 24th of January. They were meant to have been based at RAF Valley for a week but the recent bad weather meant their trip was cut short. The only location we could manage to get to was at Fynnon Llugwy which is a reservoir near the Ogwen Valley. Our first day was very challenging with low cloud and heavy snow showers. We had almost 2 miles to walk to get to the main location and the snow was over 2 feet deep in places. The first wave arrived at 11am, one Lynx came in and circled us a couple of times before hovering just feet away. Another wave arrived in the afternoon but the weather closed in and we had to leave the mountain and head back down. The next day (24th) was much better with wall to wall sunshine. The lake and snow covered hills looked stunning, what a difference from the day before. We caught sight of a Lynx heading out of the Llanberis pass around 10am and it wasn't long before they headed for our location. The crew did a fantastic job in positioning their Lynx feet above the water whilst we got some shots. A couple of circuits later and they headed off back to RAF Valley. Unfortunately they decided to head back home due to more bad weather being forecast so we never got to see them again. We did however get a lovely pass by a 'Defence Helicopter Flying School' Squirrel later on in the afternoon. High Definition video and photographs can be found here.
Civvies at Manchester - December 2012 After recently purchasing the new Nikon D800E dSLR, it was time to put it to work. On the 12th of December 2012 I headed up to Manchester airport to shoot some Airliners. It was a beautiful day but very cold. The runway had frozen suddenly and everything came to a standstill for half an hour whilst the de-icers went to work. Once everything was up and running it was time to find out how the new camera would perform. The D800E is very similar to my D3 so most settings were set exactly the same. The cameras performance was excellent and the new AF system is just amazing. Its a huge leap going from 12MP to 36MP and the file sizes are huge compared to my D3, but the image quality is simply fantastic. Photos can be found here.

Jaguars at RAF Cosford July 31st was spent at RAF Cosford, the home of the Sepecat Jaguars. These Jags no longer fly as they were retired from service back in 2007. They are now used as training aircraft for engineers. Most of the airframes are still in full working order and would probably still be able to fly but unfortunately their flying days are well and truly over. Thanks to Flt Lt Andy Donovan we had the opportunity to spend the day on the base to photograph a pair of Jags (one being the spotty GR3A XX119) perform test taxi runs. It was a fantastic sight and sound and as I never got the opportunity to photograph them low level it was my first chance to get some photos of these aircraft. We were shown around the hangers in which we got the chance to sit inside some of the cockpits, push a few buttons, flick the odd switch and get a sense on what the pilots felt when being strapped into the cramped space. A big thanks to all the crew and staff that went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Photos from the day can now be found here.

Royal International Air Tattoo 2012 Another year has flown by and it was back to Fairford for the 2012 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT). This would be my third year and I wanted something different to my previous trips. I decided to concentrate on the arriving and departing aircraft so spent a couple of days (Wednesday & Thursday) at the East Park & View for the arrivals and again on the Monday for the departures. The main attractions for me this year were the USAF B-2 bomber, German Air Force F4 Phantom and the Republic of Korea Black Eagle Display Team. To get a good spot at the fence line meant an early start. We started to queue at 5am and sat there for two and a half hours until the gates opened at 07.30. The weather was far from great, a few showers plus low cloud made the conditions a little difficult but we did get a little sunshine at times.
I missed the B2 and F4 Phantom arrive on the Friday as the weather was extremely wet, but I did manage to get them on their departure on the Monday. There was a superb selection of aircraft at this years show but the stand-out for me were the Republic of Korea Black Eagles. Their display was fantastic and the T50 aircraft they fly looks superb in its black and yellow paint scheme. I managed to shoot a load of stills from my few days but also managed to shoot some video too. The video is now online and can be downloaded here (270Mb). There's also a Youtube version on our new Youtube channel. Photos will be added to the Gallery section soon.
Lightning QRA day - Bruntingthorpe On the 15th of July I attended Bruntingthorpe in Leicester to witness the first QRA Scramble of the English Electric Lightning since 1988. There are two Lightnings based at Bruntingthorpe but only the one performed the QRA and the high speed taxi runs. Both of these aircraft are in fantastic condition but unfortunately are not allowed to fly. They do however perform taxi runs on a regular basis along side other aircraft which are also based there including Hunters and Buccaneers to name just a few. Photos coming soon.
USAF HH-60 Pave Hawks In May this year three USAF Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk Helicopters from RAF Lakenheath based themselves at RAF Valley for a week to perform insertion and recovery training in the Snowdonia mountain range. On the 24th of May we decided to make the long walk and climb up towards the Ogwen valley to photograph them before catching them again on their way home on the 25th in LFA7. The Sikorsky MH-60G/HH-60G Pave Hawk is a twin turboshaft engine helicopter in service with the United States Air Force. It is a derivative of the UH-60 Black Hawk and incorporates the US Air Force PAVE electronic systems program. The HH-60/MH-60 is a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family.
Photographs can be found in the Low Level Gallery and a HD video can be downloaded here (150Mb).
Cad East - 16th April 2012 Another trip to the loop saw me head to Cad East for a change. I'm not a huge fan of the East side as aircraft usually bank away from you and you can be left with a bland underside but the 16th of April was a little different. The weather was superb with hardly a cloud in the sky but the afternoon was due to cloud over. Just after 10am a pair of USAF F15-E Strike Eagles made an appearance. They took a strange line by banking left towards us very late after exiting the Bwlch. This meant they'd have to do a few twists and turns before heading through the narrow gap between Cad West and Cad East. Both aircraft looked fantastic as they banked from left to right leaving behind ribbons of vapour. After they flew past us they headed down towards Tal-Y-Llun before taking the sweeping left hand turn at Corris Corner. Three minutes later and they appeared again, you really can't beat the sight and sound of F15's when they're low level. All together we had three passes from each aircraft before they RTB'd back to RAF Lakenheath. An hour or so had gone by when a twin stick Eurofighter Typhoon came through, my first twin stick for many months. Things went a little quiet for a while and the forecast had been spot on as the clouds started to roll in resulting in a pretty dull afternoon. Just after 4pm two 31 Sqn Tornado GR4's popped out from the Bwlch Exit and headed straight in for Cad. Both aircraft were nice and low but the wingman was swept in the 67 degrees position.
Mach Loop 27/28/29th March 2012 A few days spent around various locations at the Mach Loop. We didn't get a great deal of RAF frontline aircraft but what did get certainly made up for it. The 27th of March was spent up on Bluebell where we had two BAE Eurofighter Typhoons on a test flight from Warton, one being still in its primer paint scheme. The 28th and 29th was spent at Cad West and again at Bluebell. USAF F15E Strike Eagles made their presence felt when they could be heard on the scanner asking for low fly in LFA7, 500ft at 500 knots. It wasn't long before a 4-ship came hurtling round the corner making 2 passes before heading north.
More Civvies from Manchester March 10th and I was back at Manchester Airport. I've recently purchased a new Panasonic HD Camcorder so wanted to see how well it performed at filming aviation. The day started out very dull with low cloud and mist covering everything until around 9am but fortunately this soon cleared. I managed to shoot some video as well as stills and was very pleased with the footage from the new HD TM900. I needed to alter quite a few settings and work in Manual mode to get the best out of it but the video quality is very impressive from such a small camera especially when compared to the Canon XHA1. As this video camera shoots in 1080/50p I've had to use different software to render the video. This latest video is saved in the Mpeg4 file format unlike my other videos which are saved at WMV. The video is 95Mb in size and is saved at 50fps. Click here to download.
6 Squadron Typhoon - Low Level At Last My first low level trip of 2012 and I was fortunate to catch a rare visitor to LFA7. On the 8th of February I made my way up to the Bwlch Exit. It was probably one of the coldest days I've spent up the hills, a 20mph wind in -10 degrees isn't fun. The day started off with a couple of Hawks and a high F15E, but just before midday we heard the distinct sound of a frontliner heading towards us from Dinas. It wasn't long before it popped out from behind the Bwlch and we realised it was a Typhoon. Once I caught glimpse of the distinctive 6 squadron markings I knew we'd struck gold.

First trip of 2012 - Civies at Manchester To broaden my collection of aviation images I've decided to shoot more civilian aircraft this year. On January 14th & 28th I headed to Manchester Airport. It was my first time there so it was hit and miss with regard to photography locations. It was a beautiful day, crystal clear with hardly a cloud in the sky. Being a Saturday it meant the Airport wasn't as busy as it is during the week but there was still plenty to photograph. Manchester is a fantastic Airport to shoot from as there are many locations that get you very close to the action without having too many obstacles in your way. I used both my 300mm and 600mm lenses but you can get some superb shots with a 70-200mm. I'll be heading back to Manchester again soon in 2012 so I'll hopefully have a few more shots to post up. I now have a civilian aircraft section in the photo gallery which will be updated on a regular basis.

October 28th 2011 - Eagle Day Nearly a year ago to the day I was up on the Bwlch Exit photographing USAF Strike Eagles in stunning sunshine. Well a year later and I was back up on the Exit, the weather was fantastic once again with clear blue skies and superb visibility. We heard that a pair of Eagles from the 494th Fighter Squadron "Panthers" at RAF Lakenheath were due around lunchtime but what we didn't know was that they weren't going to be alone. All in all we had 6 F15E's head in for LFA7. A friend of mine called saying he'd had a pair of low level F15's fly over him in Gloucester heading in our direction. It wasn't long before we caught glimpse of the lead aircraft as it hurtled around the corner at Dinas followed shortly by his wingman. Both aircraft came past nice and low as they turned left and headed in for the lads at Cad East/West and Corris Corner. Three minutes later and they appeared once more, a superb sight watching the lead aircraft drop in before the Bwlch leaving behind streams of vapour.
We only had to wait around 10 minutes before the second pair arrived. They kept it low through the Bwlch and Exit, a pure adrenalin rush as they flew past us towards Cad. This pair were having fun, they came in from all angles dropping in from some serious height before they levelled off. For the next 20 minutes or so we had more passes from another pair of Eagles, altogether we had 18 passes, the most I've ever had in one day. Once the Eagles left we only saw a couple of Hawks from RAF Valley, nothing else showed up for the rest of the day but we could hardly complain.

All good things come to those who wait It was back in 2007 that A10 Thunderbolts were last seen low level in Wales. I missed them by only a couple of days and since then I've prayed they would soon return. Well four years later and my wish finally came true when ten A10C's came over from Spangdahlem in Germany and based themselves at RAF Lakenheath for three weeks. They were working on the ranges on the East side of the country for most of their time but were booked into Aberporth for a few days on their final week. On Monday the 15th of August we set up camp on Corris after being told that two A10's would fly through after their morning slot at the range. We had them on the scanner at 11am, they usually spend around 20 minutes on the range but technical issues meant they were there for much longer. Unfortunately this used too much fuel so they had to RTB back to Lakenheath, so close and yet so far.

Two more A10's were due at Aberporth in the afternoon. I decided to change location and headed over to Cad West as the light is a little better there in the afternoons. Both aircraft were picked up on our scanners at around 4.30pm, they had finished at the range and were hoping to get some low flying in before they returned to LN. At 4.45pm I caught sight of an A10 as it came in from Barmouth with another not far behind. Both aircraft made a bee line for Cad and were nice and low, what a great sight and sound. They came around for another two passes, the light was just about right which really was the icing on the cake. There was a chance they would come through again the next day but the weather closed in and spoilt any chance of that.
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email: markjayne@mjaviation.co.uk
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