More from Boeing
We're not exactly fashion photographers, but we spend an awful lot of time taking pictures of "super models" doing some pretty amazing runway work.
The two of us make up Boeing's Flight Test Photography department, and we think we have the best jobs in the company - most of the time. Some doubt creeps into our minds on those occasions when we have to be on the runway at Edwards Air Force Base at 4 a.m., or when we have to climb inside a fuel tank or an engine.
While many of you have seen examples of our work - in the form of press-release photos, first-flight videos or if you have been reading this journal on a regular basis - the vast majority of our work is seen by a very limited number of people, or no one at all.
That's because a lot of our work deals with the technical side of Flight Test, and the images we take would be of little interest to anyone except those who request it.
Sometimes, the images we produce would seem downright boring to most people. For example, we might be asked to video tape the reaction of a certain part under specific flight conditions. Well, if the desired reaction is no reaction at all, and if the test is successful, the video will show this certain part doing nothing. Pretty boring to most people, but the engineers who designed the part will do cartwheels in the aisles when they see the video.
We also get to do our share of exciting stuff, especially during test programs like the one going on now with the 777-200LR Worldliner. We accompany planes to places like Edwards, where they test things like minimum flying velocity, abusive takeoffs and engine failures. Those are very dramatic. On occasion, our jobs have taken us to some exotic locations - including New Zealand and South America - but that doesn't happen very often.
As you can see, this was a great location for testing - no mountains, clear sky and early morning cool air.
For the most part, the videos and photos we capture are used for data analysis and serve as visual records so if the FAA or anyone else wants to know how a certain test was instrumented, we can pull out a photo and show them. Visual data is considered backup data to the digital data, but on those rare occasions when digital data fails, the visual data becomes primary.
Between the two of us, we have 43 years of Boeing experience, 38 of those in Flight Test. That is a real benefit because of the technical aspects of our job. We've gained a lot of intricate knowledge about airplane systems, and when a lot of technical jargon is being tossed around in pre-flight meetings, we understand most of it. If there is something we don't understand, we always ask. We get only one chance during these tests. They are very expensive and if the test is a success, they won't do it again just because we didn't get our photo.
We're referred to as Flight Test photographers, but that only tells part of the story. We're really a full-service organization when it comes to photo and video, including printing and editing. For instance, if someone wants a DVD with video highlights from tests being conducted at Edwards, we can put it together. We can even provide full darkroom and motion picture services, although the evolution of digital photography and video has made that more or less obsolete.
We also take a lot of pride in our response times. When we're asked to be on the runway in 13 minutes to capture something, we try to be there in 12 - because we have the best jobs in the company.