Taking To The Air – On Scene with Bill Wilson

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2011

On Friday I had the opportunity to get a unique view of the fleet week air show from the USCGC Aspen. Aspen is home ported in San Francisco, California and is responsible for servicing over 180 aids to navigation, in addition to 12 National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration buoys. She is one of the most advanced vessels afloat today, integrating the latest technological developments in computers, navigation, environmental protection, and remote monitoring systems. The Integrated Ships Control System coordinates radar, satellite navigation, and computer-generated charts with the ship’s controllable pitch propeller, rudder, and thrusters. With these advancements working in concert, Aspen can maintain station within a 5 meter circle without human intervention. Aspen is also equipped with an advanced oil-skimming system know as the Spilled Oil Recovery System (SORS).

Lt. Commander Roy R. Brubaker welcomes visitors aboard USCGC Aspen
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

Among the visitors on this particular outing where children from the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, who got to enjoy a day on the bay and a close up view of the air show.

Photo op on the bridge of the USCGC Aspen with the kids
from Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

There were four buoys placed in the bay forming a box that provides a target area for the air show. We were actually the north anchor of that box. So the vessel had a serious mission, we just got to go along for the ride and the great views it provided.

I am still in awe of how close one of the planes was able to come to us. These photos are with a 135mm telephoto lens.

You can see the beginning of the halo effect, the visible stream of air caused
by high speed
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

The halo effect becomes more pronounced
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

A tilt of the wings makes the pilots visible
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

We were treated to the entire Blue Angel performance, unlike Sunday’s weather related abbreviated performance. While one Blue Angel did get as close to us as the other plane, it never tilted or leveled out, but we did get a good view of the underside of the plane.

The ear plugs were definitely needed during this pass
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

Our return trip to Yerba Buena Island where the Coast Guard is based showed once again how busy the bay is. We passed a big cargo ship being towed from Oakland.

San Francisco from the bay
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

See Related: FLEET WEEK – The VIP PARTY at Pier 39

See Related On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive

Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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