A Date with Mr. REAPER and DEATH – Day 3

“FAST 31, Whiteman Tower, Cleared for take off Runway 19. REAPR 21 is 10 miles initial for Runway 19.” And so the adventure of a lifetime began.

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Four months ago, while on a ten hour KC-135 flight from Chile to Texas, I asked a crazy question: “Hey Candy, what would it take to get me in the backseat of a T-38 and chase the B-2?” Paperwork, Persistence, Patience, and the hard work of dozens of people. With the strong support of the Whiteman AFB leadership and the dedication and foresight of the Public Affairs office, a lifelong dream of mine was fulfilled today. I got to fly in a United States Air Force T-38 Jet. And if that wasn’t cool enough, I got to “chase” a B-2 Stealth Bomber.

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Many of you have been following my adventures over these past couple of days as I prepared for my T-38 Ride. Egress/Parachute training, life support fitting of my flight suit, helmet, regulator, G-suit, and the Flight Doctor approvals. And today it all culminated for one of the coolest photo shoots of my career.

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My day started early at 8am. I met with Lt. Miller from Public Affairs, a superior photographer in his own right, and had a nice, light breakfast. I was quite nervous as this was my first ever ride in a fast jet. How does one deal with the exposure, what lenses & bodies to bring, how do I deal with canopy reflections, where to store all the unused equipment, spare compact flash cards and batteries. What formations were we going to do, how were we going to position the aircraft so that we get the most dynamic shots, safe altitudes, and light angles.

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Miller and I went to the 394th CTS (Combat Training Squadron) and met up with my T-38 pilot Capt Luke “Deuce” Jayne, and Capt Nichoas “Willy” Adcock and Maj Jared “Evel” Kennish; the B-2 Spirit pilots. They were flying the Spirit of Ohio this afternoon for my photo shoot before heading out on a 4 training mission. The briefing part of our mission is like any other mission the men and women of the 509th Bomb Wing fly. Planning and Preparation is the key to success. And working with these professionals, I know I was going to get some awesome shots.

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So as we accelerated down the runway, Deuce yanked the plane to the left and we began our rendezvous with the REAPR 21. 150 feet off the B-2’s 8 o’clock, the gear of the B-2 lowered and the photo shoot had begun. Just an hour earlier, I was sitting in the ready room of the 394th CTS with Deuce going over the final checklists for our flight. Emergency procedures, discrete frequencies, weather, airspace restrictions, etc. This was now feeling very real!

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At $15,000 an hour to have the B-2 Stealth Bomber in the air, there was little room for error. And as the Col. had mentioned earlier in the week, “No Pressure.” 🙂  But with all of the training, preparations, and briefings, this shoot went off without a hitch. And even more important then those aforementioned items, were the pilots: Deuce, Willy and Evel. Without their help, none of these shots would have been possible. Those pilots placed their planes exactly where I needed it to be: 360 degree turns, straight and level, echelon turns, and rolling over and aft of the B-2. These were just some of the shots that we briefed for our hour flight.

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And after our shoot was done, it was time to enter the MOA and get an orientation flight in the T-38 with Deuce at the controls. Loops, rolls, and being weightless were just some of the maneuvers that we did. It was so cool! I’ve been in many planes, but when you are doing Mach 0.98, you can’t help but smile. And before I knew it, it was time to return to base. 2 touch and goes in the right hand pattern and then it was “FAST 31, Whiteman Tower, Check wheels down, cleared to land Runway 19.” Floating to the ground was like landing on silk. Slow down, exit on Charlie and taxi back to the ramp.” It was simply amazing. A rare occasion; and the first person in 5 years to fly chase with the B-2.

Just like that it was all over and it’s time to head back to Life Support. Gear back and stowed, it was time for a beer.

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But this adventure is far from over. Stay tuned for my final day at Whiteman AFB tomorrow.

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19 Replies to “A Date with Mr. REAPER and DEATH – Day 3”

  1. Amazing photos Sagar!

    Even though I’m more of a civil guy it’s amazing to read and see al the hard work that goes into a shoot and see it pay off in the actual shots! Please keep it up!

    Jurgen

  2. One word comes to mind after reading about your experience at Whiteman AFB —– WOW!!!!

    With a mom and dad that proudly served in the USAF, I am always blown away by the professionalism and dedication of these men and women as they go about the business of protecting the US.

    Thanks for your dedication to bringing their story to the masses!

    Craig

  3. Just Super work 🙂 After seeing all the pictures of both the aircraft and the folks which keep it flying and secure – I am truly amazed, and my respect for the down-on-the-ground Airman to high-above-in-the-sky driver has increased to a different level. Great job in show-casing what they do, and how they keep everything in shape 🙂

  4. Outstanding work Sagar – both the photos and the story to go with them. What a fantastic opportunity! Can’t wait to see what day 4 has in store for you.

    JD

  5. Sagar: Great shots! That one of the B-2 banking over the base is my favorite. Until you read the blog you don’t realize all of the preparations that go into this.

  6. Its always good to see the “loud, proud & fast” at their best.
    Thanks for bringing it to us and especially thank your hosts for what they do.
    Now how did you say an 58 yr old ex-zoomie could get a check ride 🙂 ?

    Looking forward to more of this stuff.

    Dan

  7. Sagar, sorry for the double post, but just had to add
    Greatly appreciate your efforts here, not just photographically but show casing our airmen.
    As a Nam era ex-zoomie, it never ceases to amaze what they do and their commitment.
    Every time they have been in harms way I am always drawn in to prayerfully and proudly watch our best in action.
    Whether watching them on the tarmac in the Gulf War, feeling like I was there or talking to them when I visited Edwards a few years back. Their honor, knowledge, commitment and bearing are an inspiration.

    Thanks,
    Dan

  8. Amazing story and photo’s.
    Good reading and intresting to see it from ground and maintance up to life support and flying the planes.
    Thanks Sagar for your hard work and to the men and women of the USAF who made this possible for us to see this great article.
    Keep up the good work.
    All the way from Europe.

    Jan-Arie

  9. Sagar,
    Awesome, brilliant!! Infact even the most superior adjectives fall woefully short to describes these shot, and I bet the experience would have been 1000times more exhilarating so!!

    Great angles on the B-2 not to mention some stupendous flying by the Air force to provide u with such great angles. Kudos to the entire team for pulling it off!

    Lastly a salute to the Airforce again for their skills and such stupendous work!

  10. Sagar,

    Absolutely awesome photos and descriptions of your current adventure. Thanks to the Air Force and all they do. I look forward to your daily reports and the outstanding photography.

  11. “And today it all culminated for one of the coolest photo shoots of my career.” Wait, lemme read that again. Uh, Sagar…? Whaddya mean, “one of the coolest” shoots? You have GOT to write about the ones that were cooler, my friend. This I have to read!

    By the way, too many people fall prey to gadget focus, and make the whole story about the machines and the numbers. Bravo for showing the people, the real story, and how the whole “machine” (the 509th) works so well. Great journalism.

  12. Sagar, congratulations on your blog and I will spend considerable time going through it shortly. I’ve just read the articles “A day with Mr Reaper and Death” and must say that I am very impressed. Both with your opportunity (I am SO jealous) but also at the professionalism of the USAF that shows through the words of your article. All too often we see politicans and sportsmen going up on junkets in RAAF aircraft for little or no benefit to the service concerned, but this time I think the USAF has been rewarded more than adequately with great pictures and excellent words. Well done!

    Next time, perhaps they’ll let you take pictures of the T38 from the B2? 😉

  13. Hey Sagar,
    Nice stuff there, but the B-2 you flew alongside of is Spirit of OHIO……unless they changed the name of course?? ;->

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