Summer of Stealth – Boom, Bang, Hang.

Most people assume that in order to fly a USAF jet or bomber, that you need to be a great pilot, have an awesome moustache, or wear really cool aviator sunglasses. While all of that is 100% true, the very first qualification that you need to pass is to be able to fit in the jet. More specifically, the ejection seat. And if I was to fly in a B-2 Spirit, affectionally know as simply the Stealth Bomber, I would need to be able to fit in the ACES II ejection seat.  And by fit, I mean not be too tall nor have too long of a femur.  While that is the only part of the qualification that you don’t have any control over, the rest of the basic training to fly an orientation flight in a Stealth Bomber is a lot more complicated.

For three years, I tenaciously pursued a story that would bring me back to Whiteman AFB, home of the 509th Bomb Wing and the famed B-2. Back in 2009, I had the rare opportunity to spend a week at Whiteman and witness first hand the close knit community that helps provide our nations strategic deterrence and global power though the B-2. And with all the stars finally lining up, I was invited back to not only spend a week with the men and women of Whiteman, but to be able to strap into an ACES II and actually go up in a B-2 Stealth Bomber.

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2013 Year-End Review

With the end of the year on the doorstep, I’d like to share some of my favorite images over the past 12 months. I’ve been very lucky to have several unique adventures in 2013 and have made some great friends along the way. What a trip it has been! This year I visited 3 different continents, had 9 air-to-airs with everything from a 1944 B-17 to the latest USAF F-35, racked up over 84 hours in airplanes so I could take pics of more airplanes, seen the President of the United States twice, sat in Marine One, was apart of 3 Fini-Flights, slept 21 hours on the cold metal floor of a KC-135, had 2 MRE’s (Veggie Lasagna & Cheese Tortellini), flew 15.2 combat hours over Afghanistan, and ultimately shot 33,683 images.  None of these image would have been possible with out the friends and pilots who have helped me along the way, the amazing USAF Public Affairs folks who supported me, and the countless men and women of the Armed Forces that went out of their way to help me capture these shots. Thank you for your continued support!

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Air & Space magazine cover from The Smithsonian Museum

Better late then never. On last month’s magazine shelves, you can find my image of a lone U-2 Dragon Lady banking over Northern California gracing the cover of Air & Space Magazine. If the name sounds familiar, but you can’t quite place it, it is the magazine of The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.  This was the first ever aviation magazine that I was given as a child, so I was extremely excited to have one of my images on the cover 30 years later. Click more to see pics from this air to air.

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To the edge of space

On the horizon I saw the deepest shades of blue that I had ever seen in my entire life. As my eyes tracked upwards, the blue’s blended into the darkness of space. As my pilot, Lt. Col. Jon “Huggy” Huggins just said, at this very moment, out of 6 billion human beings, I was the highest person in the entire world. The only other humans higher then me were the 6 astronauts in the International Space Station. And naively, my eyes looked into the darkness of space to see if I could see them.

The only noise I could hear in my space suit was my own deep breaths, much a kin to the sound of Darth Vader. A faint and distant roar reminded me that behind me was a single engine, whose thrust was the only thing keeping my pilot and I aloft at the edge of space. With Huggy’s seat 18 inches below me, I was the highest person in the whole world cruising along above 70,000 feet at just below the speed of sound. And in doing so, I had just become the first Indian to fly in U-2 Dragon Lady and became the fourth highest flying person of Indo-American decent (following Rakesh Sharma, Kalpana Chawla (who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia) and Sunita Williams).

In the next few weeks, I will be blogging on my incredible adventure with the men and women of Beale A.F.B. and their incredible mission flying the U-2 Dragon Lady. While this is an amazingly unique airplane, one that has been reinvented over the past 55 years, it is merely a finely crafted hunk of steel. One that soars to the sky thanks to a crew of hundreds of anonymous Airmen, ranging from the pilots, to maintainers, life support, physiological support, intelligence analysts, egress trainers, fire fighters, air traffic controllers, public affairs, to countless other members of Team Beale.

In addition to images, thanks to Walter Colby Productions, we will be sharing a rare peek into what it takes to send someone to the edge of space. From a checkup with the flight doc, to egress and parachute training, to an explosive decompression in a hyperbaric chamber, we will show what it takes to strap on the suit and become the highest person in the world. But until then, here is a teaser of this incredible flight aboard an amazing airplane.

Behind the camera – Vertical Challenge 2008

Hello everyone.  Warm weather and blue skies can only mean one thing; it’s airshow season once again.  And here in the Bay Area, the first major airshow of the year is Vertical Challenge at the Hiller Aviation Museum.  The largest all helicopter airshow in the United States bring some serious rotor power with it each year.  This years headline act was the Red Bull BO-105 CBS helicopter, flown by the incredible Chuck Aaron.  The only FAA licensed person to perform acrobatics in a helicopter, Chuck wows the crowds with his loops, rolls, and Cuban 8’s in an amazing display of precision and control.  And I had a chance to be one of the small handful of people to actually go inverted in a helicopter, and survive! 🙂

Today’s post is the first in a new series of entries entitled “Behind The Camera”, which will break down the anatomy of a particular shot.  This shot just happened to land on the cover of the upcoming issue of In Flight USA.

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