Several readers have written to ask about the Bee's front page photo of stunt pilot Sean D. Tucker's Oracle III biplane flying over the State Capitol that ran on Saturday, September 8, 2012. Sean was in town to perform in the California Capital Air Show at Mather airport that weekend. His team invited the Bee to ride along in their chase plane to get some photos we could use to preview Sean's performance at the air show. He flew his stunt plane while I rode in another plane just a few feet away (between 15 and 100 feet.)
This photo, provided courtesy of Brian Norris of the Oracle team, shows the chase plane during a similar flight earlier this year. It is a Piper Seneca III modified to accommodate photographers. The rear seats were removed, and the side was open to the wind. I wore a tethered safety harness which allowed me to move freely within the plane and safely lean out to get unobstructed views.
We flew near Mather where Tucker performed a few aerobatic stunts, and then we flew over the downtown area, circling the capitol building a few times, before returned to Mather. The on-board headset allowed me to speak directly to the pilot of the chase plane, and to Sean in order to coordinate the between the two aircraft. The whole flight took bout 30 minutes, and I shot several hundred frames.
This final photo is of Hall of Fame stunt pilot Sean D. Tucker sitting in the chase airplane in the hangar at Mather airport just prior to our flight. It was a thrilling experience and a rare opportunity to see a world-class stunt pilot in action, and from such a unique vantage point.