Thunder over Louisville 2012

That’s what I call a weekend!

I got a call about 10 days ago from Paul Wood of the Warbird Heritage Foundation and The Hoppers.  Paul asked whether I might be interested in shooting a promo video for the foundation’s A-4B Skyhawk.  Not being an idiot, I said yes.  After trading some dates back and forth, it turned out that Thunder Over Louisville had a slot open the next weekend.  So I loaded up on Thursday afternoon and headed out for Louisville.

The Louisville show is pretty interesting.  It’s one of the largest airshows in the country.  The box is over the Ohio River between two bridges with a boat out in the middle marking show center.  The announcers and the air boss have one of the best vantage points of any airshow in the country.  It’s a balcony on the 24th floor of the Galt House hotel with a commanding view of the box.  And it’s perhaps unique in that the boss is actually above many of the aircraft for non-trivial parts of the show.

I understand that the local TV stations rotate as partner stations for coverage of the show.  This year, it was WDRB Fox 41 and I checked out the command center on the morning of the show.  Lots of activity.  The airshow started out as a way to keep the crowd occupied while it waited for the fireworks display that takes place on the river and one of the bridges.  The airshow has since grown to attract as least as many people as the fireworks.  WDRB had something like 10 exterior cameras to cover the show and I found that the TV coverage was really quite good.  I prefer to be at close as I can get to the aircraft, but the TV coverage was good enough that I could definitely see myself watching the TV even while the aircraft were in the air.

But, like I said, I’m about being as close as possible to the aircraft.  Most of the larger aircraft staged from the Kentucky Air Guard installation on the east side of Louisville International Airport.  That’s where I spent the show.  Ace photographer and enthusiast Lindsay Shipps joined us on the ramp to shoot stills on Friday and she shot stills from the command center downtown on Saturday.

Paul started out by doing a planeside interview.  Mostly talking about the aircraft and the foundation.  But we also got him talking about acro and related subjects to use for the Acro Camp movie, including having Paul trash-talk Jim Rodriguez and give us a “go fint out” for the conclusion of the film.

Then is was time to mount up and fly.  I put four cameras in the aircraft.  I entertained thoughts of putting a camera in the tailhook, but if was just too greasy and I wasn’t entirely sure that the camera would stay on the hook at speeds of 500 knots.  But we got really good shots.  This one is from the primary rear-facing camera.  Others included one mounted on the other side of the dash facing mostly forward and one on the side of the ejection seat looking right.

The last camera, and I think my favorite, if the one on top of the seat.  This cam has something like a half inch of clearance between the seat and the canopy.  The ejection seat handle (curtain style) sticks up into the field of view, but the yellow color actually looks good in the frame and, because it tends to frame Paul’s helmet, it’s actually  not that bothersome.

I gave copies of all of my Friday footage to WDRB at the end of the day and WDRB used some of it in the backgrounder material about the A-4 in Saturday’s coverage.  Friday was low and overcast, but not nearly as bad as Saturday, so having some footage with the sun on the aircraft and the landscape was really cool.  This shot shows shows some of the Airspeed footage on WDRB in the Heritage Room at the 123rd Airlift Wing.

I’m supposed to be getting some footage from the cameras downtown to put into the promo vieo.  I should have that soon and then I’ll get to working on the video.  You can expect to see it as an Airspeed episode at about the time that it goes to the foundation.


About Steve Tupper

Stephen Force is the superhero alter ego of mild-mannered tech and aviation lawyer, commercial pilot (glider, with private privileges in ASEL, ASES, AMEL, IA, and DC-3 (SIC) type-rated), and Civil Air Patrol lieutenant colonel Steve Tupper. Steve writes, records, and brings you the inside story about everything that really matters in aviation. He's flown with the USAF Thunderbirds, he's and airshow performer and air boss, and he's one of only five pilots ever to earn a FAST card in the glider category. Follow Steve's ongoing quest to do all that is cool in aviation at or on Twitter as @StephenForce.


  1. Awwww, Steve. I am not an ‘ace photographer’ in any way– total amateur. Yeah, I freeze a prop now and then. Who doesn’t? Photos are in your Drop Box. Enjoy!

  2. Hi. Some great pics, I can only imagine and dream what it is like to fly a jet like that :o)

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