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Old 01-22-2015, 03:32 PM   #13
KevinM
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Massachusetts
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Hi Bob,

I fly a lot of aerial photography sorties these days with the Civil Air Patrol....not much search and rescue stuff happening since General Aviation kind of died a few years back. Aerial reconnaissance is pretty much what we do now.

Photographing stationary subjects in a fixed-wing airplane is not all that difficult, but attempting to put a photographer in a position to capture a specific scene that involves a moving object like a train, as well as other elements, is a whole LOT tougher. Unlike a helo, which can hover in the exact spot and wait for the scene to develop (wind conditions permitting), the fixed wing aircraft is continually moving (if we want to stay healthy ). Probably the slowest I can safely get and still maneuver in a 182 or 206 is about 75 Kt. That's just over 86 mph for the ground-pounders. Assuming I know what the photographer is trying to capture, I've got to assess the train's speed and position, as well as my own, and take into account what the winds aloft are doing, as I try to TIME getting the aircraft to that exact spot, with exactly the right bank angle, at exactly the right moment. It takes as much luck as it does skill.

Of course, if there is terrain around, things get even more interesting for the fixed-wing guys. I also have limitations on how low I can legally go. The helo can go as low as he dares, as long as he does not pose an undue hazard to persons or property on the ground. I say "dares" because helos still need to be concerned about the possibility of an engine failure and being able to get it on the ground safely if that happens.

If I am out to shoot an RP Photo of the Week, I'll take the helo any day over the fixed wing. Yes, it is several times more expensive. But it will be the difference between simply coming home with an aerial shot of a train, and coming home with a shot that will be worth the investment.
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