We went to the air base of Wittmund, northern Germany, to participate a photography session (air-air) organized between the Aviation Photocrew and COAP (Centre of Aviation Photography) with the Eurofighters of the Luftwaffe Germany and the Skyhawks of the Canadian company TOP ACES, which serves the German air force, as strikers and target towers, among other services.
Aviation Photocrew (leaded by Eric Coeckelberghs and where our friend Peng Chen is a renowned member) and COAP (leaded by Rich Cooper) are companies specialized in organizing these types of events, where photographers from all over the world come to realize a dream. They have the resources, the necessary equipment and the contacts for converting the impossible for other countries (including Spain) into something everyday and successful, and you can see that just by checking the amount of activities included in the package of the activities they provide.
The session took place one Monday, an unforgettable 4th of June. At 5:45 we were at the main entrance of the air base of Wittmund (until a few years ago – air base of the Phantoms of the Luftwaffe), where we attended the presentations of the organizers and the photographers.
We were all a bit worried because the sky was completely covered with clouds and it was drizzling lightly, a truly horrible day for flying and even worse for shooting. We waited for some time at the platform next to the provocative sound of our Skyvan, until they decided at the briefing that the event is taking place if the organizers or pilots decide to terminate it or do not want to fly.
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 70D | 15 mm. | F8 | 1/1000 | Skyvan | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
Although we had to wait for a while and the weather seemed to be going even worse, suddenly we received great news from the organizers, that the clouds now were at a lower altitude and above them we would find clear skies and a bright sun.
They started preparing our harnesses and everything necessary for our security and for the figthers who will follow us. Firstly, we had to seal the battery covers and the cards with american tape, as well as the junktion between the camera and the lens, so that nothing is accidentally dropped and could hit one of the planes following us.
The cameras also had security straps that were hooked to the side of our harnesses.
Eric gave us information about the mission and said that they will fly with us with two A-4Ns and two Typhoons. He also showed us our assigned seats in the Skyvan. I had a seat on the left side (overlooking the tail of the plane). The space inside the airplane and the seats were organized differently than the usual: lying down, sitting or standing, so that the front rows are not an obstacle for the rest.
We took off when the tailgate opened. The impression you get from the ascent is that it makes everything smaller and you have that strange feeling, how easy it would be to roll down from the plane, if there were no security belts holding you. We are ascending in circles through the clouds and just after flying over them, a radiant sun came out. The clouds looked like soft cotton.
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 70D | 19 mm. | F8 | 1/250 | Short SC-7 Skyvan 3-100 OE-FDE | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
And the fun began. We could see in the distance how the A-4 Skyhawks were slowly approaching our tail. They began to pose for us in different positions, they would go and return and on the third occasion they would return with the 2 Eurofighters making different formations and passing under our Skyvan. We couldn’t stop taking pictures.
Now it was the turn of the EFAS. One of them carried a painting commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of the aviation AS in World War I Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (Richthofen is also the name of the Jagdgeschwader 71 combat wing).
After a long session with the EFAS, the fighters said goodbye to us. The flight lasted almost 1:30h. Those of us inside the Skyvan looked at each other and we nodded and smiled, a sign that everything had gone well and that we were satisfied with the flight.
We touched down in Wittmund and we were directed to the platform, where the A-4N of TOP Aces was to park together with our Skyvan. We all landed with a smile as it was a great day!
We hope to repeat this experience again, it is something unique for those of us who love airplanes, to be able to photograph them in their natural habitat, above the clouds.
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 70D | 59 mm. | F13 | 1/800 | Eurofighters & A-4N Skyhawks | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 70D | 50 mm. | F18 | 1/320 | Eurofighter 30+90 Richthofen | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 5D Mark III | 135 mm. | F9 | 1/1600 | Eurofighter Luftwaffe | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 5D Mark III | 300 mm. | F10 | 1/1600 | A-4N Skyhawks & Eurofighters | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 5D Mark III | 300 mm. | F8 | 1/1250 | Eurofighter 30+90 Richthofen | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 5D Mark III | 255 mm. | F9 | 1/1600 | A-4N Skyhawks | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 5D Mark III | 214 mm. | F9 | 1/1250 | A-4N Skyhawk | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 5D Mark III | 400 mm. | F9 | 1/1250 | A-4N Skyhawk | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
↑ Richard Sánchez (c) | Canon EOS 5D Mark III | 158 mm. | F9 | 1/2000 | Eurofighters & A-4N Skyhawks | Aviation Photocrew & COAP
Thanks to Aviation Photocrew and Center of Aviation photography (COAP) for making this Air to Air possible.
Photo and text: Richard Sánchez.
Translation: Nedzhmie Yusufova