It was early doors for me on Monday, as a planned trip to the fence line at RAF Lakenheath was on the agenda.
Arrived early so I could get a reasonable spot to park the car, to my astonishment the place was packed, by 0730 am it was rammed all along the approach end to runway 24 and the forest entrance had no spaces at all, I can see a accident occurring there one day, if that happens, which I hope it doesn’t, I think the entrance to the forest end as well as parking on the side of the road will be a no go, heaven forbid if some of us have to walk a few yards to the end of the runway.
The purpose of the visit was a two week deployment of 12 Air Force Reserve F-16Cs from the 482nd Fighter Wing, 93rd Fighter Squadron, Makos, based at Homestead Air Force Base, Florida, all aircraft were coded FM. As the wind direction was marginal, was it going to be Runway 24 or 06, most photographers that were there were hoping for 06, as with this the climb out of the jets you can get some good banking shots, if the pilots play ball. It was not to be, as the first wave of jets taxied out at 08-15am to the final check’s, before proceeding to runway 24 which was great as the light first thing in the morning would be in your favour, thank you. With the F-16s doing sorties with the resident F-15E Eagles the sorties would last for approximately 60mins before recovering back to base , with the light still at its best I for one was hoping the recoveries will be on runway 24, I was not disappointed, with a few overshoots by a couple of Eagles, followed by a couple of Vipers this gave me the opportunity to get some of the jets in the landing configuration.
With the wind getting stronger by the hour the change of runway was inevitable so it was Runway 06 for the afternoons sorties which was a bit difficult photographically as the high sun this time of year had moved round, the high contrast made the images a bit dark and the tail plane in shadow, thanks to software available to us we can overcome the problem later in post processing. I must say that the performance take offs by some of the jets was outstanding, some kept low and banked towards the waiting photographers at the end of runway 24 some were straight up no chance of getting anything reasonable. On the recovery side to the afternoons missions , once again a couple of pilots from both types of aircraft gave us a little show and showed us what they can do, for me the winning jet goes to the F-16c wearing the markings of the 482nd Fighter Wing who did some fantastic fly throughs.
I had a great day at the heath I managed to photograph two out of three F-15s wearing heritage markings to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-day as well as a few others in great light and 8 of the 12 visiting F-16Cs, it was also nice to catch up with friends old and new.