MCAS Yuma can be an interesting place at times, but during the final phase of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course (WTI), you’re always guaranteed some action.
I only spent a single day at the base, where the lighting is always tricky in the mornings.
I hadn’t travelled down to this base for a number of years, and I actually forgot where I was supposed to go to shoot, oops.
In true male fashion, I picked a road close to the base and drove along it, hoping that something would jump out that I’d recognise, like a blind squirrel finding a nut.
No such luck, but I did wander down to one of the FBOs and there I found a UH-1Y spooling up and getting ready to depart. It was worth getting lost in order to shoot this from a nice angle with decent light.
Then I had to make a phone call to one of my fellow photographers to find out where they’d camped out. Of course, close to the tower on the civilian side in an industrial estate! I was last to arrive, yeah, that is called fashionably late, right?
As soon as I pulled up an MV-22 got airbourne, and I hardly had time to get the camera out of the bag, to shoot this monstrosity of non-prop blur making aircraft. Tip; if you need to hide the lack of blur, shoot it when the blades are perpendicular to you.
Luckily I’d not missed the main launch, so all was no lost, yet.
It was nice to see the VMGR-452 KC-130Ts which are based out of New York. This was a squadron that I’d never shot before today.
I only caught a couple of AV-8Bs taking off, but it was great to see one fly, especially as the UK examples are now dead.
While on an ice-cream break from the action, the Mi-24 Hind that always takes part in the WTI exercises appeared out of nowhere, before landing at the base. I almost dropped my ice cream in an attempt to get a shot, but luckily the car bonnet wasn’t too curved and allowed my tub to stay upright, although it did melt a lot faster.
There were some interesting Marine Hornets mixed in with the typical grey examples. VMFA-232 “Red Devils” had a very striking F/A-18C flying with a red tail, but by this time the light was already getting a little tricky.
Another Marine squadron with a nicely coloured bird was a VMFA-122 F/A-18C. Although the squadron is named the “Werewolves”, this aircraft is painted in a “Candystripers” colour scheme, which is what VMFA-122 (then called VMF-122) was called between 1942 and 1957. It’s certainly a great looking paint-job, and a nice nod to their history.
For arrivals we went down to the usual spot near the end of the runway, except a small brush fire forced us to find other options this time around.
I elected to go a hundred meters back, which meant that I’d have to be fast to shoot the aircraft before they dipped below the fence, as they shot into nicer light. Luckily there was a patch of desert that had a slight natural mound that allowed a little more leeway.
From here I finally shot a couple of AV-8Bs with the moon as a backdrop, using the 500mm lens. Yet another type of shot that I’d never managed before.
Not a bad day out, and I’ve certainly had worse. The clientele in the bar we all chose to dine in later, reminded me, however, why I don’t come to this spot in Arizona that often.