the needle in the haystack

POV-planeEvery magazine has its hiccups. This issue, one of my biggest challenges was securing an opening image to go with Capt. Cliff Taylor’s portrait. Much as he would’ve loved to, photographer Jeff Watts couldn’t snap an aerial image from the backseat of Cliff’s F-16 and because of security concerns, we couldn’t shoot the cockpit with all its cool instruments. And we weren’t satisfied with using a photo of plane on the ground—where’s the fun in that? That meant we need to buy a photograph.

FB_fighterpilotI scoured the internet for F-16 images. I had gone through more than a thousand photos when I happened upon this  image by Florida photographer and airplane enthusiast Suresh Atapattu. When I sent it to Cliff to ask his thoughts, he replied:

This is perhaps the most awesome F16 pic I’ve ever seen! It shows a highly offensive F16 carving around a corner to take a gun-shot! This jet is pulling 9Gs—no question. It’s really hard to get this shot because the setup has to be perfect and it’s incredibly difficult for the photographer. (He’s pulling at least 8Gs to allow a 9G jet behind him for <1 second.) You can tell it’s in full afterburner from the heat trail behind him and it’s a max performance turn with the leading edge and trailing edge flaps auto-digging-in. The plumes off the wing roots display the airplane’s real performance at high G maneuvering. All very interesting to plane geeks but ultimately it’s just a spectacular shot!

I had found my needle in the haystack.