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John A. Weeks III
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Aviation History And Aircraft Photography

Ground Zero

Airplane Photo

  • Type:   Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
  • Venue:   Goldwater Range
  • Location:   Gila Bend, Arizona
  • Date:  
  • Camera:   Minolta 7000i w/150-300mm Zoom
  • Film:   Fuji ASA 100 Color Print Film
  • Full Size Photo (~250kb)

If you look at a map of Arizona, you will see the Goldwater Range taking up a large chunk of the south-west Arizona desert. You will also notice that there are actually public roads that cut through the range. This turns out to be a fairly active operations area, and you are likely to see just about every kind of USAF and Navy plane flying through this area on any given day.

The day that I picked to drive through this area was a cloudy and somewhat rainy spring day. Very unusual for the desert, where it is normally hot and clear.

As I was driving along, I spotted a B-52 flying low and fast across the sky in front of me. I stopped the car, and climbed on top of the roof for a better view (note, never buy a rental car that I have driven). As I started to track the Buff with my camera, they went into a rather aggressive turn. They also started to put on the power, as you can see from the characteristic B-52 black smoke. This gave me a chance to take a few photos. However, as they started to bear down on my position, I noticed that the bomb bay doors were opening. You can see that in the photo if you look closely. At this point, it dawned on me that my camera was emitting a red light as part of the auto-focus, and that smart bombs home in on red light spots. At that point, I decided that I should be somewhere else, so I got back in the car and high-tailed it out of there. They didn't drop any bombs, but there was no way that I was sticking around to find out if they really had mistaken my camera for their aim point, or if I was simply being played with.

The thick air really held the jet smoke, which serves to add a great deal of drama to an otherwise featureless background.

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