Since before I took delivery of N84MR, I wanted to have a photo of my airplane over New York Harbor, maybe with the Statue of Liberty in the background.
A friend of mine has an aerial photography business, and I approached him a couple of months ago. I was surprised at the logistics needed to accomplish my goal. The most important aspect of the shoot is to have both airplanes piloted by experienced formation formation flyers; i.e. not him, and not me. He works with a couple of airline captains who have plenty of hours flying formation together in the military.
The toughest part of the whole thing was finding a time that worked for four people - two airline pilots with their own schedules, and the photographer, and me.
It all came together this morning, when we departed Central Jersey Regional Airport (47N) to do the shoot. I had never flown in a formation before - it’s very disconcerting at first; every bone in my body was cringing at the closeness of the photo ship (a Cessna 172, N347SP). N347SP flew Lead, with N84MR as Wing, i.e. doing all the maneuvering to stay in position.
We had faxed our intentions to New York TRACON, so they were expecting us. They routed “November Three Four Seven Sierra Pop, Flight of Two” over the 22 numbers at Newark International, and then to “The Lady”. Then they did what we didn’t expect, or at any rate had hoped wouldn’t happen: They terminated our radar coverage, and dumped us into the VFR corridor for the shoot. Fortunately, it was a quiet day in the harbor.
Being tucked into a tight formation for about 40 minutes while orbiting the Statue of Liberty and the harbor in general is something I won’t soon forget. I’m still not sure exactly what photos were taken; I think there may have been some with lower Manhattan and the Verazzano Bridge in the background, too, as well as a few over Round Valley Reservoir in NJ.
On the way home, I got my first lesson (but definitely not my last) in formation flying. It’s requires absolute concentration; it’s demanding, and it’s one of the more satisfying tasks I’ve ever attempted.
It will be a few days before I get to see the proofs. Hopefully, there’ll be at least one photo worth sending to Clyde. Regardless, this was a day to remember.
PS - Best comments of the day: The airline pilot who flew with me in N84MR… “This is just like flying a 757.”; and, “I just can’t IMAGINE this airplane with an IO-550 in it.” (The last comment as we tried to NOT pass the 172 at one point).