VISUAL APPROACH IMAGES

Aviation Photography

Kalamata 2019

In April 2019 Visual Approach Images was a guest of the Hellenic Air Force 120 Training Wing (120 TW) at Kalamata Air Base in south western Greece.  A specific request had been made through official channels to be permitted to photograph the North American T-2 Buckeye jet trainer airplanes. The Hellenic Air Force is the worlds last remaining operator of these veteran machines, and which will eventually be replaced by more contemporary equipment as the task of keeping the 1950s designed jets serviceable becomes increasingly difficult.

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The 120 TW comprises 4 squadrons - 361 and 364 squadron which operate the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II advanced turbo-prop trainer, and 362 and 363 squadrons which operate the T-2 jet trainer.

All Hellenic Air Force student pilots are initially assessed through basic flight training on the Cessna T-41 (a version of the Cessna 150 light aircraft) at Dekelia AB near Athens. After successfully passing assessment and selection for further training, the 4 squadrons at Kalamata provide the majority of pilot training for the Hellenic Air Force. All students pass through the 120 TW for initial and basic training on the two turbine-powered types before being streamed through continual assessment into helicopters, transport airplanes or fast jets.

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The T-2 Buckeye was originally designed and built for the United States Navy as a basic pilot trainer with carrier operations capability. Powered by a single Westinghouse J34 engine, the airplane first flew in 1958 as the YT2J-1 (later re-designated the T-2A). The single engine was quickly replaced by two Pratt and Whitney J60 engines, and this version was delivered to the US Navy in 1965 as the T-2B, followed by the General Electric J-85 engined T-2C model in 1968 .

Two export customers received T-2D models (Venezuelan Air Force) and T-2E models (Greece - Hellenic Air Force) respectively. The last T-2E for the Hellenic Air Force was the last of 529 airplanes built when production ended in 1976.

40 T-2E model airplanes were delivered to the Hellenic Air Force between 1974 and 1976. 4 More ex NS Navy T-2C models were acquired from AMARC in the mid 1990s and it was these airplanes that were photographed on active training missions during the visit to Kalamata.

361 and 364 squadrons began operating the T-6 Texan in 1998. An initial 25 were delivered and a further 20 NTA versions followed. The NTA airframe allows munitions to be mounted on wing hard points for weapons and systems training.

The T-6 is also the airplane used by the Daedalus aerobatic demonstration team which flies the flag for the Hellenic Air Force at various airshows around the world.

To view the gallery from Kalamata click on the image below

Iniochos 2019

In April 2019 Visual Approach Images attended the Iniochos 2019 multi-national air combat exercise hosted by the Hellenic Air Force Aerial Tactics Centre (ATC) at Andravida Air Base in south west Greece.

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The 12 day exercise involved all the armed forces from Greece (air force, army and navy), along with several air forces with whom the parent nations have entered tactical agreements with the Greek military. This years participants represented air forces from Italy, the UAE, Israel and the United States of America.

The intense programme operates on similar principles to the Red Flag exercises held in the USA, but is adapted to suit the differing potential threat scenarios within the region. These scenarios are updated annually to reflect any change in political and geographic circumstances to further enhance the realism of the training environment.

With the red forces (bad guys) and blue forces (good guys) playing out various tactical and political confrontations, the exercise evolves on a daily basis to challenge the planners and their flight crews and provides a high pressure learning environment. Decision making is one of the key elements and crews abilities and their capacities are tested to the limit.

The airspace is predominantly over the western Pelopennese peninsula and the sea to the west of it. Other assets involved include army ground forces, helicopters and navy ships, and there is tactical use of weapons ranges and other low level tasks to supplement the air threat.

Aerial re-fuelling and electronics warfare airplanes also take part, although these usually operate from their parent bases and are not deployed to Andravida.

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Andravida is home to the last Hellenic Air Force F-4E Phantom squadron. The F-4E fleet is being gradually wound down, and the RF-4 reconnaissance version was withdrawn in 2018. 339 Squadron now operate all the remaining Phantoms.

During the Iniochos exercise, the base will host up to 70 or so additional airplanes and around 600 extra personnel from the various participating units. Typically crews will fly at least 2 sorties per day during the exercise Monday through Friday, including night operations 2 days per week. Sunday is also set aside for a planning day for the following days operations so the pace for these crews is pretty intense, with only Saturday providing any real respite from the hectic schedule. All operations are thoroughly briefed and then de-briefed, and both good and bad feedback is absorbed into refining these aspects of the exercise further if possible.

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2019 saw the debut of the 5th generation combat airplanes. Six  F-35As from 32 Stormo/13 squadron of the Italian Air Force provided an element of the very latest airframe technology, and offered the opportunity for learning and assessment of how this latest hardware would intergrate with generation 3 and 4 airplanes and systems such as the F-4, Tornado and F-16.

A gallery of the participating airplanes during operations on April 3rd can been viewed by clicking on the image below.

Andravida AFB Greece - INIOCHOS 2018

Visual Approach Images attended the media day for exercise IHIOCHOS 2018 at Andravida air base in Greece. The 2 week multi-nation exercise involved airborne elements from Greece, the United Kingdom, the USA, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Italy. View the gallery from Andravida by clicking on the images below.

The Hellenic Air Force are amongst the last few remaining operators of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom, and 338 Squadrons F-4Es were amongst the Greek participants for the exercise which also included Hellenic Air Force Dassault Mirage M2000s and GD F-16 C and D models. Other nations involved were represented by the Royal Air Force with 3 Squadron BAe Typhoons from RAF Conningisby, the USAF with 492 Fighter Squadron MDC F-15 Eagles based at RAF Lakenheath, the Aeronautica Militare with BAe Tornados from 6 Stormo at Ghedi AB, the UAE Air Force with Dassault Mirage M2000s based at Al Dhafra AB, and the Israeli Air Force with GD F-16Cs from 117 Squadron based at Ramat David AB .

Archives - Kai Tak 1997

New Gallery added

Kai Tak 1997

An archive from the Visual Approach Images slide collection digitally scanned and optimised for presentation on-line. Originally shot on Fuji Sensia slide film 20 years ago.

Read the full article by clicking the image below

 

USA Road Trip - October 2017

Visual Approach Images was on the road in the USA during October 2017. The NBAA convention in Las Vegas was central to the itinerary which also included stops in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tuscon, Yuma and the Jedi Transition low flying area in central California.

Images from this trip will appear on the website shortly

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Visual Approach Images has added the Jedi Transition October 2017 gallery

click the image below to view the gallery

Howard 500 N500LN

During the NBAA convention in October 2017, Visual Approach Images was invited to fly aboard one of only two remaining airworthy Howard 500 airplanes, both owned and operated by TP Aero of Minnesota. This 1950s design has an very interesting history, and is proudly kept airborne by a dedicated team of professional enthusiasts and pilots determined to make certain this beautiful and charismatic airplane is gracing the skies long into the future.

Click the image below to read the story about this remarkable airplane.

Locations - Corfu Kerkyra LGKR

Visual Approach Images has published the first of a planned "Locations" series which aims to showcase some favourite places for aviation photography. This first post features the Ionian island of Corfu and takes an in-depth look at the locations and opportunities available for photographers around the airport, as well as suggestions regarding accommodation and dining.

Click the image below to read more about airplane photography in Corfu

Burkina Faso Government Boeing 727 arrives at Lasham

Sadly the classic Boeing 727 is an all too rare sight in the skies these days. So Visual Approach Images was at Lasham to see the 727 operated by the Government of Burkina Faso arrive after a five and a half hour flight from the Burkina capital Ouagadougou for maintenance with 727 specialist 2Excel Aviation. XT-BFA was built in 1981 towards the end of the 727 production run of 1832 airframes. This airplane was unit number 1715 and was delivered new to the Portuguese flag carrier TAP - Air Portugal in 1981. In 1998 it was sold on as an executive airplane and following a conversion to 727 RE standard was delivered to Burkina Faso in 2005.

The Valsan 727 RE program involved replacing the original Pratt and Whitney JT8D outer engines on the 727 with the newer -217 model from the Douglas MD-80 and the remaining centre engine is fitted with an internal mixer to reduce the airplanes noise footprint. These modifications made the 727 stage 3 noise compliant. This airplane is also fitted with the Valsan winglet conversion which is claimed to reduce fuel burn by 5%.

These images will form part of the newly added "Classic" gallery. More classic jets will be appearing in this gallery shortly.

Click on the image below to go to the "Classic" gallery

Belarus - May 2015

Visual Approach Images in Minsk, Belarus - May 28th -31st 2015

Visual Approach Images visited Minsk in Belarus to photograph and fly on some of the last remaining classic Russian airplanes that remain in service in the former Soviet states.

click on the image below to see the full gallery from Belarus

Stories - Corvette to Toulouse June 2009

Visual Approach Images has added a new story to the "Jumpseat" collection

In June 2009 I went to visit Airbus Industrie in Toulouse and to get there I was lucky enough to be invited to fly on one of the Airbus fleet of Aerospatiale Corvettes.

Click on the image below to read the story in full

Larissa AFB Greece - Hellenic AF RF-4E Phantom retirement

Visual Approach Images attended the media and photography day for the Hellenic AF retirement of the McDonnell Douglas RF-4E Phantom at Larissa AFB in Greece on May 4th 2017. The event was named "The End of the Film", and was hosted by the 348 TRS (Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron) at Larissa. The last 3 examples of the RF-4E that remain airworthy were flown twice during the event and provided an impressive salute to the types withdrawal from service after 63 years, and a final chance to take some images of this iconic airplane.

Click below to see the images from Larissa

Andravida AFB Greece - INIOCHOS 2017

Visual Approach Images attended the Media Day at Andravida AFB in Greece on March 29th 2017. The airbase was hosting participating units for the International military exercise INIOCHOS 2017 including local squardons from the Hellenic AF and units from the UAE, Israel, Italy and the USA.

Click below to see the images from Andravida

USA Road Trip - February 2017

February 2017 saw Visual Approach Images take to the road on a 2 week trip across the beautiful and dramatic mountain and desert landscapes of California and Nevada.

Several aviation related visits were arranged for photography purposes as part of the trip, as well as some more opportunistic shooting as weather and time allowed. This provided plenty of varied photographic material, and a first opportunity to test new Canon equipment in the field.

Click below to see the full story

N55RG - The final flight

Last flight of Gulfstream 2 serial No 1

Almost 46 years after it first took to the air on October 2nd 1966, Grumman Gulfstream II serial no 1 N55RG made its last flight on September 9th 2012, from Chicago-Palwaukee IL to Charlotte NC.

Serial number one was both the Gulfstream II prototype, and the first production airplane. Built at Grummans Bethpage NY facility, it was used as part of the test and certification programme for the GII. Following the completion of the certification process and service as a sales demonstration airplane, it was re-furbished and sold in July 1970 to industrialist Mr William Robert "Bob" Galvin, who was to own and operate the airplane for the next 42 years.

Bob Galvins father Paul had founded the Motorola Corporation with his brother Joseph in 1928, and Robert Galvin eventually served Motorola as both President and CEO from 1956 to 1986. During Bob Galvins ownership of the airplane it was based at Chicago Palwaukee, alongside the rest of the Motorola fleet of Falcons, Citations and Gulfstreams. The airplane remained as Mr Galvins personal transport when he left the position of CEO in 1986 and was operated for the Galvin family until its retirement in 2012.

I was fortunate enough to be invited on the airplanes last flight by my good friend Captain Joe Miller. A long time corporate pilot, Joe had previously flown for the Motorola Corporations flight department, but having flown Mr Galvin on numerous occasions and become good friends with him and his wife Mary, Joe became the Galvins personal pilot and airplane manager for the last few years of the airplanes service life.

Following Mr Galvins passing in 2011, it was his wish that the airplane be preserved, and his widow Mary B Galvin asked Joe to find the airplane a suitable home when it was retired from service in 2012. The airplane was donated to the Carolinas Air Museum in September 2012

The flight to Charlotte was also Joes last trip - he retired that day, and headed to the golf course to work on his handicap.

Joe and his co-pilot that day Joey Patarela remain good friends of mine. Joey went on to fly a Falcon 900 for a private owner in Chicago.

I am grateful to them both for the opportunity to join them on that historic trip, and more images of events on the day can be seen in the ''N55RG'' gallery - please click on the link below.