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Thunder Through the Valleys LOW LEVEL FLYING - LOW LEVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

  • The many pilots interviewed from squadrons across Europe and the United States discuss the skills and dangers of flying fast and low over diverse terrain from desert canyons, snow covered mountains and the sea, day and night.
  • Stunning images of low flying military aircraft (from A-7 Corsairs and R/F-4 Phantoms to Tucanos, Tornados, the Sk 60, B-1B Lancer, Mirage 2000B/C/N, F-22A Raptor, F-16C/D Fighting Falcon, F-16I Sufa, F-16C Barak and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet) photographed from a mountainside or air to air.
  • Philip Stevens the writer and photographer explains how the projects were planned and executed, he reveals where many of his images were taken.
A B-1B Lancer taxiing in at the end of a flight. Pointing down from each side of the nose are the Structural Mode Control System (SMCS) vanes. Known as ‘smuks’ these accelerometers stabilise the aircraft longitudinally at low altitude and in turbulent air to reduce the strain on the airframe and increase crew comfort.
  • Low-level flying in military aircraft is challenging for the pilot as it is for the photographer capturing the action.

B-1B Lancer flying at 500 feet and 540 knots over the Bighorn National Forest within the Bighorn Mountain Range, Wyoming.

  • Low flyers describe the sorties they will never forget, from a show of force over Afghanistan at night to a bird strike which nearly blinded the pilot.
‘CAG bird’ (Commander of the Air Group) F/A-18E Super Hornet (166959 AG-400) of VFA-25 Fist of the Fleet with Carrier Air Wing Nine (CVW-9) assigned to USS Harry S Truman is land based at NAS Lemoore, California. It is flying through ‘Star Wars’ Canyon, Death Valley.
  • Philip Stevens, writer and photographer, describes how and where he took many of the stunning images.
Teamwork aboard USS George HW Bush in the Eastern Mediterranean in support Operation Inherent Resolve. Seconds from launching, the animated yellow shirt directs operations.
Captain James McCall III Commander Air Group (CAG), Carrier Air Wing Eight asserts that there is still a real need for the US Navy to continue with low flying training, ‘Low altitude flying training is designed to build aviation flying skills in a very dynamic environment.
  • Philip Stevens has been shooting images for his book since 2004, he started writing in 2012. His publishing contract was signed in 2016. Finally in early 2018 the images and manuscript were delivered to the publisher.
Armée de l’Air Captain Stephen ‘Fisher’ Price has 900 hours on the Mirage 2000N, he is meticulously planning a low-level strike against a target defended by Mirage 2000Cs from Luxeuil.
Armée de l’Air Mirage 2000C based in the south of France at Orange-Caritat with EC 02.005. They are within easy reach of the mountainous Auvergne region of the Massif Central where this aircraft was photographed.

Turkish Air Force 161 Filo F-16C block 50+ Fighting Falcon pulling up at over the Kapıdağ Peninsula which extends into the Sea of Marmara in Balıkesir Province.

Capt. Ulas Avsar a very experienced F-16 instructor pilot in the Turkish Air Force has 2,300 hours on LANTIRN, he spoke about maritime strikes they train for; 'Targets are not always ground based 161 Filo pilots can be tasked to attack shipping. A maritime target is different because it is moving but more importantly they are an aggressive animal if attacked.'
For 338 Mira of the Hellenic Air Force, low-level strike is their primary role, 60% of their flights are at low-level down to 300 feet AGL. This F-4E(AUP) Phantom II is pulling up over Santomeri in the Peloponnese mountains.

Left: Hellenic Air Force A-7E Corsair II (160543) in the Peloponnese mountains. 336 Mira Commander Lt-Col. Petez Mittaris, reported that 83% of his squadron’s flights were at low-level.

Lt-Col. George Bontzios aka ‘Sniper’ a former SOT Commander, a SOT and TLP graduate said; ‘If you are not trained well at low-level when you are behind an aircraft using terrain masking you cannot take a shot with an AMRAAM [Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile] for example. He is going to escape because the background helps, it confuses everything.’
Two Sk 60s flying at 100 feet AGL in the ‘northern box’ training area. Capt. Bäckström is acutely aware of the dangers when flying low in Sweden, he has seen the numbers of masts and particularly wind farms increase significantly in recent years, ‘The windmills pop-up like mushrooms.'
USAF Major Michael ‘Deep’ Frye flying his F-22A Raptor (05-081 TY) fast and low past the ‘Spur’ in the Mach Loop, described the sortie to the Loop as; ‘Enabling them to integrate and practice manoeuvres in an austere environment very different from their home in the 'Sunshine State' [Florida].’
RAF Squadron Leader Keith ‘Woody’ Woodsford, is a former Tornado GR.4 pilot with IX(B) Squadron on exchange with the US Navy as an F/A-18E Super Hornet instructor pilot. He compared 100 feet OLF training in a two-seat Tornado GR.4 with the single-seat F/A-18E; ‘You can’t fly that low in an F/A-18E and perform the same tasks as well.’
Philip Stevens, writer and photographer. Above: After low-level air to air photo-shoot with the Swedish Air Force. Right: On a hillside in the south of France.

Philip Stevens a photo-journalist for 40 years has travelled across Europe and the United States in pursuit of the perfect image, which captures an aircraft by combining action with the best light and background. This is what low-level flying photography from a mountainside is about.

Published by Fonthill Media - ISBN: 978-1-78155-724-2 - Size: 225 x 248 mm - 128 pages - Photographs: 187 in colour - Retail price: £25 / $40 in paperback, click button for special offer.
Now in stock, click button for special offer or send email to office@targeta.co.uk to place order
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Philip Stevens Target Aviation Photography
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