A Fearless Maine Artist
I love flying. I can’t do anymore small aircraft aerial photography or military flying because on the arthritis in my hips and back.
My late wife once commented on a photo I took during a commercial photo flight a few years ago – about how it looked like you could see under the aircraft. Yes, we were banked just about vertically and I did indeed capture well under the aircraft with my wide angled lens. It was just part of the job. I had to photograph a property that happened to be very close to a military airfield and we had to turn very sharply over its boundary to avoid infringing into their airspace which required banking the airplane very sharply and as the pilot did so I took as many photos as I could while still over the property.
Fun to me!
The self portrait in the fighter – an F-15 and I was on a photo flight with four other F-15s getting reference photos for a painting I was doing and donating it to the unit flying the fighters. It was my old unit and I was in the Air Force Art Program so it eased the process of me doing it at all. At the end of the photo flight we were off burning off excess fuel to lighten the aircraft for landing. One of the four F-15s declared an emergency and my pilot said “I’ll fly chase” to get close and check the emergency aircraft for obvious leaks etc. We were at 10,000 feet and about ten miles away. We had to get down to the emergency aircraft’s altitude of about 2000 ft. FAST. The pilot slammed the F-15 into a 180 degree turn as we were doing about 400 - 500 MPH, (its what fighters do and the F-15 does it better than most others) the wings were vertical instantly and we pulled about 4 G's as we reversed direction. I was suddenly about 800 lbs. and my camera slammed into my chest weighing about 10 lbs. After the turn he stomped on the right rudder pedal and pointed the nose straight down and we spiraled down from 10,000 ft. to 2000 ft. in about 20 – 30 seconds. I was thrilled. Commercial airliners usually descend at about 500 ft. per minute for passenger comfort. So we descended at the rate of about 16,000 ft. per minute. (Its what fighters do – up and down!) The initial 4-Gs were a big surprise but not terrible and I was able to peel the camera off my chest and grab a few very disorienting photos with the horizon tilted almost 90 degrees vertical. The most fun I’ve had – ever!
The emergency aircraft only had a faulty indicator and not a real problem with its landing gear. We all lived happily ever after.
- Eric Michelsen
There are several more prints and images to explore at: www.ericmichelsenart.com
Eric Michelsen is an artist member of the American Society of Aviation Artists, the Air Force Art Program and the Professional Aerial Photographers Association. Combining his outstanding artistic ability with a wealth of knowledge gained as an aerial and aviation photographer, Eric's aviation art stands out for it's strong painterly quality and powerful, technically accurate imagery.
Art, Culture, Unity and Soul