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Flying Vs Photography..... my personal conflict

Rick Madonik

Staff Photographer

According to Capt. Tim "Donor" Woods of the Air Force, I've "missed my calling." These comments came during the annual CNE Airshow preview in which members of the media (and other guests such as The Barenaked Ladies guitarist Ed Robertson - a pilot himself -  flew with the Snowbirds today) get a unique, exhilarating experience of flying in high performance aircraft. In fact, many get the chance to "take the stick" and see if all those home video flight simulators are good for anything. (BTW, they are!)

Photographically, these flights are always a challenge.

Unless you are flying some type of formation with another aircraft, you more or less stuck with a wide angle lens in order to show the aircrafts' interior to give it a reference point. Wide angle, of course, makes everything appear further away, 


Today's flight was a solo venture with one CF18. Normally its a one-seat jet, but there are a few of them around which have a two-seat configuration. Unfortunatley, even with the my rear seat raised as high as possible, it was near impossible to see Donor's helmut because of the sheer size of his ejection seat.

Rm_F1804A One of the real needs when doing this is to have in the frame a recognizable landmark which says Toronto. The CN Tower is the obvious choice. Woods and I had earlier discussed a possible CN Tower pass which give me the required photo op.

Unfortunately, Toronto City Centre Airport (or Island airport as its informally called) can be a busy place, and this evening it was. Airspace had been restricted during points of the day for airshow practice performances, so by time I got airborne, downtown was pretty busy. The sun was low in the west, so pictures on a westbound track were badly backlite. Our altitude was too high, and our orbit around the CN tower was too distant.

We cleared the area, because like all pilots, Woods wanted to show me what his "bird" could do. Or at least, see if I could handle the hardware. The picture wasn't going to get much better, so, out of over the Lake we ventured. At this point, the camera gets stored in a safe place because the last thing anyone wants is it flopping about coming out of a tight turn, or loop.

To be quite honest, now is the fun time. Not everyone appreciates being jammed into a tight G suit, strapped into a rocket powered ejection seat, and then tossed about like dinner salad during a flight. 

But I do. So, I've done a number of these flights and will always jump at the chance to fly.

Rm_rick I should mention I am already a private pilot. I started flying late in my life, getting my licence in 2002. Being in control (and having the confidence) of piloting a single engine, low performance Cessna 172 is one thing. Its a whole different game to feel "afterburners" punch u down a runway and have you airborne in about 10 seconds. Pulling an easy 5.3 gs while carving out a full loop thousands of feet over Lake Ontario, and then sliding out of inverted flight to pick up the horizon, then managing to transition out of the loop into level flight, well, is another thing.

"How you doing back there," asked Woods.

"Great! That was fun," I told him.

"Most people would have gotten sick through that," he commented.

Today's experience, I must admit, was more about the flying then the picture. The experience would have been great had I just sat there and taken it in. But it was made amazing by Capt Woods and his willingness to let me test myself (as a pilot) in ways that rarely get tested.



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