Page 6 - World Airshow News Autumn 2023
P. 6

Jim Froneberger: Editor

                                  A Raptor on the Wing

                              T   his is a very special issue of World   Aero Media Group, one of the top air-to-air photographers in the
                                                                   Those requirements sent me immediately to Scott Slocum of
                                  Airshow News. We are honored
                                  to feature an amazing cover story
                              written exclusively for us by the cur-  country. Scott owns a B58 Baron and has experience shooting
                                                                 everything from Extras and Pitts to countless warbirds, business
                              rent  USAF  F-22  Raptor  Demo  Team   jets, and even the F-35. His work has also graced our covers many
                              Commander and Pilot, Capt. Sam     times over the last 15 years or so.
                              “RaZZ” Larson. In what I believe is one   Scott and I prepared a proposal for ACC, outlining our plans
                              of the best articles in the history of this   to accomplish the shoot at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh in July.
                              magazine, RaZZ not only describes his   RaZZ then took the proposal up the chain of command for ap-
                              journey from the airshow fence to the   proval. The results are Scott’s spectacular air-to-air photographs
                              cockpit of the world’s top air superior-  that you see on our cover and in RaZZ’s article. I can think of
                              ity fighter, he also offers fascinating in-  no better way to close this column than with Scott’s own words
                              sight into what it’s actually like to fly   about how he and RaZZ made the magic happen at AirVenture:
          the Raptor airshow demonstration. For our cover, we were also
          able to put together an eye-popping air-to-air photo shoot with   “When the opportunity came up to shoot air-to-air with the
          RaZZ during EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.                 F-22 at AirVenture this year, I was a little concerned about the
            If you are a regular reader of this magazine, you probably al-  massive performance difference between our B58 Baron photo
          ready know that, as a teenager, RaZZ was one of our contributing   ship and the Raptor. I planned a series of shots under the as-
          photographers and writers. Contributing Editor Michael Galla-  sumption that the Raptor would be hanging on in slow flight
          gher met Sam and his dad at an airshow in the Midwest, and   without much in the way of speed to do anything ‘unusual.’ How-
          while we generally don’t use teenagers as contributors, Sam so   ever, as a Plan B, I had a few more aggressive shots in mind that I
          impressed us with his quality work and his maturity, we gave him   would at least ask about.
          the opportunity to represent our magazine at airshows.   “After a six-month approval process, it was finally time to
            Sam went on to the USAF Academy, and while there, he got   brief the flight in Oshkosh. My photo pilot, Bernie Vasquez, and
          his first shot at being an airshow performer as a member of the   I met with F-22 Demo Pilot Capt. Sam ‘RaZZ’ Larson in person
          Academy’s Wings of Blue parachute team. At the conclusion of   for the first time.
          his senior year in 2015, before heading off to USAF pilot training,   “When I brief photo flights, I normally handle the creative
          Sam wrote his first full-length feature for World Airshow News   first and then we flight brief to determine how to make the cre-
          about his experiences jumping out of perfectly good airplanes   ative happen safely and efficiently. In this case, my first question
          with the Wings of Blue.                                was about speed. ‘Our Baron can do 90 to 176 knots (door off
            Fast forward to the fall of 2022, and I get an email from Sam   speed), what is the minimum you need for climb?’
          saying he had just been named the 2023-2024 F-22 Demo Pilot!   ‘It doesn’t matter,’ said RaZZ. ‘Don’t worry about the speed. I
          He now had a callsign, RaZZ, and he said he was looking forward   will adjust.’
          to seeing everyone at the ICAS Convention. We were all so ex-  “Bernie and I looked at each other skeptically, but then pro-
          cited to hear his news.                                ceeded with the brief where I presented the shot ideas, including
            While at ICAS, RaZZ and I discussed whether he might give   the ‘aggressive’ ones.
          some thought to writing another article, this time about his jour-  “A scattered cloud layer had formed about 15 miles away, so
          ney to the cockpit of the Raptor. Given Sam’s busy schedule, we   we decided to go for it. Bernie and I took off first and proceeded
          also discussed a Plan B where Contributing Editor Denise Decker   with an aggressive climb to get above the clouds as soon as pos-
          would do an interview and handle the writing chores, but we all   sible. I looked back to see if RaZZ was coming in yet. He was
          felt a first person account would be more impactful. As it turned   coming all right, coming in fast! I told Bernie to prepare for an
          out, Sam found the time to write, and his article can be found   overshoot on the right side, but to my amazement, RaZZ stood
          starting on page 14.                                   the big jet on its tail and joined the formation and held it there
            As an aviation photographer himself, RaZZ knew a great ar-  like glue! I was so taken by the maneuvering, I almost forgot I
          ticle also needs great photos, so he offered to help coordinate an   was supposed to be shooting! It really didn’t matter what speed
          air-to-air photo shoot. He directed me to Air Combat Command   we were flying; RaZZ was able to execute everything briefed like
          (ACC) Branch Chief, Maj. Matthew “Fats” Bittner, who filled me   clockwork.
          in on what we needed to do to start the approval process.  “It was a privilege flying next to America’s premier fighter air-
            As a photographer, I would have normally jumped at the   craft, but even more, it was an honor to watch the pilot who has
          chance to shoot the Raptor air-to-air myself, but for such an im-  mastered the technology to squeeze every ounce of performance,
          portant, high-profile shoot, I knew I needed someone with a lot   no matter the speed.”
          of experience shooting high performance aircraft. It would also
          help if they had access to a Beech Baron, which I was told that the   Thanks RaZZ. Thanks Scott. We hope everyone enjoys this
          USAF prefers as a civilian photo platform.             very special issue.

                                     6  Autumn 2023
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