Rick Llinares of Dash 2 Aviation Photo flies with the 1st Fighter Wing

"Okay we have good engine and are going into afterburner" proclaimed "Balls" the fighter pilot selected to fly the two seat F-15D or "Tub" the designated photo bird for my 'dream come true' flight. The takeoff roll of the powerful two seat Eagle is brief and exhilarating. Like most fighter pilots I have flown with, they go through a verbal checklist aloud, the result no doubt of years of superb training. I was given the honor to fly with the First Fighter Wing at Langley AFB Hampton, Virginia in early October.

The First Fighter Wing or 1st FW for short, operates two squadrons of F-22 Raptors, the 27th and 94th FS, as well as a single squadron of older F-15 Eagles, the 71st FS. Since there are no two seat versions of the F-22, I was placed in the rear cockpit of the F-15D for the flight that would provide me a chance to shoot both aircraft. There are few environments as difficult on photographers as the back seat of a modern fighter jet. While there is certainly an element of thrill and enjoyment to it, the cockpit is a tough place to take good photos from. Wearing the helmet, mask, G-suit and harness is tough. Throw in the fact that you are sitting on an ejection seat that can rocket you out of the aircraft at the pull of a handle, along with the 'fishbowl' effect of the canopy and the faint of heart or claustrophobic will definitely not have fun! In my case, a childhood proclivity to motion sickness makes for a tough flight, hence my given callsign "Ralph".

In any case, the images in this segment are a small sample from my visit to the 1st FW, I hope you enjoy them. All the images were taken by either my Canon 5D or 30D digital cameras. My thanks and gratitude to the 1st FW for their support.

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