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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Editor’s Notebook: You Ought To Be in Pictures

James T. McKenna

EVERYONE LOVES THEIR AIRCRAFT, and everyone wants everybody else to love them, too. Even a clunker of a bird can endear itself to its pilots, and especially its mechanics. Which, I suspect, is one reason aviators make some of the most avid and innovative photographers. We like to show off our hardware and what we can do with it.

Who can blame us? Fliers are an elite group, no matter what they fly. Just taking control of a machine, lifting it into the air, moving it about, and returning it and its occupants safely to Earth seems mystical and death-defying to the uninitiated. Put that bird in some unusual attitudes or above some dynamic backgrounds, like a towering wildfire or roiling ocean waves, and you seem to take on superhuman aspects, even to many fellow fliers who have never dared such things. So why not capture the moment on film, to share with other airmen and those less fortunate (and enjoy the aftermath of the question, spoken or not, "You did that?")?

You’ve all got your favorite photographs of helicopters in action. Send them to us and we’ll post them on rotorandwing.com. Who knows? One might end up on the cover of the magazine.

We get plenty of interesting photographs here at Rotor & Wing. On page 11 of this issue, for instance, you’ll find one example. It’s small, and a bit grainy, but intriguing. It’s a picture of a British Army Apache Mk.1 just rising above a dust cloud. If you look close, you’ll notice a fellow in battle dress nestled at the root of the right wing. Look a little closer. You may not be able to tell, given the image quality, but there are two more troopers sitting on the left wing, one with his back against the fuselage. Trust me, they’re there.

These are among the four Royal Marines who hitched a ride on two Apaches to return to an Afghanistan battlefield Jan. 15 for a downed comrade. Sadly, he’d been killed. They brought him back on the wings with them.

Now we’ve heard of troops flying to safety on the wings on an Apache. Every AH-64 crewmember is trained in the technique, both to be in the cockpit and, if necessary for escape, to be the passenger on the wing. But this is the first I’ve heard of troops riding into the fight on Apache wings. Do you think the Apache crewmembers will keep photos of that sortie?

That is just one of the latest among many interesting shots. Recall the Chinook hovering in Afghanistan with its ramp on a rooftop so troops could load a prisoner, or the Black Hawk dropping water on burning homes in New Orleans after Katrina, or the U.S. Park Police Bell 206 pulling five people from the icy Potomac after the 1982 Air Florida crash in Washington. One of my favorites is a shot we recently ran of a descending U.S. Marine Corps MV-22, a condensation trail tracing the path of a blade tip.

I know you’ve all got your favorites, and we’d like to help you share them. Starting this month, send us some of your favorite shots of a helicopter in action, be it yours or one you observed, and we will post them in the photo archive of our Web site, rotorandwing.com. It’s a modest archive now, but we’re building it with the many images included in each print issue of R&W. With your help, we’ll add some more variety to it. As it builds, we’ll ask you and other readers to vote on your favorites among the latest additions to the archive. The top vote-getter could end up in the pages of the magazine. Who knows? We might discover a shot that is so compelling that it belongs on the cover of R&W.

Some things to keep in mind.

Send us action shots. That’s not to say we’ll exclude a great image of a helicopter on the ground. We do all love our rotorcraft. But they’re meant to fly. Let’s see them that way. (I’m not much of a photographer, but I prefer images with the blades in motion rather than frozen by a quick exposure. I’ll leave that to all you artistes out there, though.)

Whatever shots you do send should be yours to send (meaning you took them or you have the permission of the photographer who did to send them to us and you haven’t sold them to someone else to use). We will accept images in the public domain. So if you see a neat shot on a government Web site, for instance, let us know. (Not everything on government Web sites is free to use, though. Be sure you check. We certainly will.)

We won’t print an image you provide in the magazine without your permission. We won’t sell it without getting your permission first or without compensating you. And we’ll do our best to keep your images from being used elsewhere without your permission.

You can send your images to me at jmckenna@accessintel.com or mail them to the magazine. (The address is on pages 3, 6, and 7.)

We’re looking forward to helping you share your pride and joy with R&W’s readers and the world. Say "Cheese"!

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