By Tom Demerly.

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Brutal and intimate, Fury delivers an artful insight into the horror of war so masterful it leaves you tense and beaten.

Writer and Director David Ayer, who also made Training Day and End of Watch, rivals the terror and rhythm of Saving Private Ryan in Fury but with a more visual and animated presentation. Many of the scenes in Fury appear ghostly and impressionistic, almost like a graphic novel. They combine a vivid and experiential depiction of war. The movie is so effective at drawing you in you leave the theatre stiff and battle fatigued, as though you had spent cold hours in a rattling Sherman tank like the characters so brightly brought to life in the movie.

Fury opens a little clunky, trying a little too hard to show the horrors of war and knocking off the initial story line of Saving Private Ryan perhaps more closely than not. Once the movie moves out, literally and figuratively, it hits its stride and you better take a deep breath.

The second act of Fury is one of the most incredible scenes in any war movie. In an artful reflection of the true horror of war, David Ayer builds this scene without a shot fired or even a weapon in the scene. It is only characters, dialogue and circumstance combined with terrifying contrast and predicament that build an awful tension. Ayer was brilliant to include this scene because it adds an ingredient missing from the current perspective of conflict; context. It dramatically shows the contrast between fragile civility and apocalyptic war. Most war movies show sweeping battlefields and fast action. This scene brings the horror of war into your dining room. This scene alone is a triumph of the film and leaves you ragged and stressed.

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The degree of technical accuracy in Fury is remarkable, down to the minute details of personal equipment, tactics and set dressing. The entire production is built around meticulous attention to detail, and this realism supports a plot that does, at times, feel like a bit of a stretch until you recall your history of WWII. Fury is likely more realistic than we’re comfortable accepting.

In a four on one tank duel with the vastly superior German Tiger I tank, the U.S. Sherman tanks demonstrate the authentic tactics used to try to defeat the boxy German monster, and with the usual authentic result. This scene conjured images of the huge tank battles in the Iraq Wars along with WWII.

Brad Pitt is predictably excellent and does not weigh the film down with his brand. Other characters follow the real life storylines of the people you knew in the army; the offensive hick, the Latino, the brainy guy. Those stereotypes are redone in Fury but with maxed-out realism. If there is a standout performance in the film it is Alicia von Rittberg as Emma. Her character is a flower in the battlefield, and this impossible contrast creates an unbearable tension.

Fury is an ordeal to see. You don’t leave wanting another look, but you do leave in awe of what a well-crafted visual story can do to you. It’s also an ode to the harrowing ordeal of our greatest generation and the horrors that contrast against their great successes. Fury earns its place on the shelf with truly great war films with its realism, horror and even its sensitivity.

By Tom Demerly.

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Max the kitten has died.

He was only 5 weeks old.

Max’s introduction into this world was bad. Someone abused him when he was only 2 weeks old. He suffered a broken back and hind legs, likely thrown out of a car or building. His injuries went untreated for another 2 weeks. Eventually a Good Samaritan named Jman found Max and wrote about the kitten’s difficult life on Facebook. People reached out and helped.

But it was too late.

What can we take from the short, tragic life of Max the Kitten?

We have choices of how to shape the world. We can build a world of empathy and kindness, or be indifferent and callous.

There are many things we can’t change about life and the world, but within our sphere of influence- the small spectrum of things we can influence- we have an individual choice. We can build our own little world. The man who found and helped Max built that world for him, a world of safety and love. So despite Max’s injuries and suffering he left this earth from a good place after entering it from a bad one. Mankind initially failed him, but tried to redeem itself.

As small individual worlds of healing and kindness are created, they slowly begin to connect to a collective goodness. The world we build, built one person, one small sphere of influence, begins to slowly connect into a greater goodness.

There is a belief that how a person and culture treats animals is reflective of their overall character: if they are kind or cruel. There is science that shows empathy is taught and grows from empathy, and cruelty and indifference does the same. Humans are not wired a particular way. They reflect what they are shown.

So while there is tragic sadness to the cruelty heaped upon poor little Max and his death, there is also hope in the care and love he received in his final week.

The problem is the race between these two extremes is a tight one.

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With humanity comes the responsibility of massive intellect. In general mankind has done a bad job of administering this responsibility. Mankind isn’t very kind. Our collective conduct is rife with cruelty and indifference. But within our own individual worlds we can build something better. A place where empathy and compassion are our greatest virtues, the first things we do, and in that we become wiser, stronger, smarter and more fulfilled in our own brief, ephemeral lives.

Nobel Science Prize winner, author and inventor of the communications satellite, Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, “We each create our own reality”. Clarke’s observation is true. And while our collective reality is rife with disparity and conflict, our individual realities can be abundant with kindness and empathy, a haven from the friction that exists between these extremes.

Eventually similar realities begin to connect into something called a “functioning core”. These connected realities become a group of people who expand the values of empathy and kindness across cultures and humanity. The virtue of kindness and empathy rises to trump selfishness and solitude.

I didn’t want Max’s short feline life to go unnoticed, nor did I want to leave Jman’s act of empathy unrecognized. Because these things are our moral compass. Our collective guidebook to something better. Our hope. One kitten at a time.

Postscript:

If you want to help create a greater functioning core and build an individual reality of kindness and empathy, you can. Volunteer at your local animal shelter. Spend a day at a local food bank. Make a donation, however small, to a cause that helps those who cannot help themselves. Here are two of my favorite:

The Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter in Tucson, Arizona:

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The Dearborn Animal Shelter in Dearborn, Michigan:

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(Really…) By Tom Demerly.

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The cycling press has seen some pointed allegations of plagiarism recently, especially in equipment reviews. Most notably the online publication Bikerumor.com has come under criticism for potential plagiarism of gear reviews from noted editors like James Huang of cyclingnews.com.

In cycling media it’s pretty easy to flush out who the original authors are and who the copycats are. You look at content and publication dates. When things are worded closely it may be a coincidence or it may be strict adherence to journalistic format. You can only say so much that is unique about a guy riding around a track for an hour.

But when things are worded identically and formatted in exactly the same order that smacks of quick and dirty cutting and pasting: that’s plagiarism.

Luckily, most writers in the cycling industry are terrible and have no training or even a grasp of English usage. You wouldn’t want to copy their work, let alone read it. So it goes un-copied. And unread.

I’m lucky. My early journalism, media and English teachers hammered me with the rules for original content. Every one of my journalism and media teachers worked in active news and feature publication before they taught. One of them, Mr. Russ Gibb, revolutionized media by popularizing subscriber television. These are the guys I learned from; Mr. Bartell, Mr. Korinek, Mr. Gibb. Later I had editors who were both smarter and better writers than me. That helped, and I learned from them too.

Like libel, plagiarism can be difficult to prove. Part of the reason is that a formally trained journalist writes in a format taught to all journalists. It’s the common “Inverted Pyramid” that starts with a lead, contains a “who, what, where, when…” and ends with a conclusion. Feature content is a little less structured but generally starts with a “hook” to draw readers in, something fast and catchy to hold them and then terse, tight copy to tell the story.

That’s how it should be.

The biggest temptation for journalists to cheat the system came when word processing software gave them “cut and paste” capability. It became easier to cut and past with a few keystrokes, do a quick rewrite and call it your own. Before that, and I am proud to say I wrote in this era, we used typewriters with no “CTRL C” capability. We actually had to think.

Any journalist or creative writer will tell you there are only so many stories, so many plots. That’s a fact. Depending on where you learned to write you ascribe to the knowledge that there are somewhere between 7 and 20 storylines in all of human communication. That’s it. Everything written is some variation on those formats. The problem isn’t when someone tells the same story, even in the same order or similar voice. The problem is when someone steals someone’s hard work through a quick cut and paste and then calls it there own, then sells it (and ad space around it) and benefits from it.

I recently wrote a feature about an endurance athlete who did a long distance open water swim. It was a luxurious article to write, something I could really get into since I knew the characters and genuinely admire them. I took my time with it. Fawned over it. Spent too much time on it by the measure of any barking editor hanging over a copywriter like a Damocles deadline.

Two days after I wrote that story a local feature writer knocked off my article nearly word-for-word including verbatim quotes that came from questions I had written, and asked. They stole my “slant” on the topic. I earned that journalistic intimacy over time because of my familiarity with the topic. Those were the things I brought to the table with this story, and another writer pulled them off my table, put it on their own and said, “Look at this story!”

What can I do? Nothing. Nor do I have the rancor to do anything. Instead it makes me want to be more original, more stylized, more unique and more professional in my writing. It makes me want to hone my craft to a degree that, when people read my stuff, they know it is me. And when they read something similar, they say, “This sounds like something Demerly would write.”

The ultimate praise for a writer and author is to have a “style” attributed to them. You hear literary comparisons that say, “This is like Hemmingway” or, an ultimate complement like “Reads like a Tom Clancy novel.” Through style, voice, innovation and commercial success some writers have built their own “brand”, a style so unique they own it, no matter who borrows it.

Until a writer achieves that level of uniqueness and originality it kind of all boils down to “who, where, when and what”. And the best way to rise above the in-actionable (even when accurate) accusations of plagiarism is to simply elevate your writing above it, so no one can steal it.

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By Tom Demerly.

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I was sick.

Some kind of flu. It’s going around. And not enough sleep. Been up since 4:45 AM working a triathlon down on Belle Isle in Downtown Detroit. The State just took the island back from Detroit so people from the suburbs go there again. It’s OK.

I decided to take the long way home. You drive through factories, past a Mosque and through Mexicantown. It’s colorful and interesting. Like a meal eaten in a small foreign country, you’re not sure what you’ll find in it.

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I saw some kind of weird industrial… I’m not sure what it was. Art? Lawn maintenance equipment? Something from a steel mill? Stopped to shoot a photo or two. A little farther down the road, through Mexicantown, the candles and bottles on the corner reminded me, and all the stuffed animals. “Man, I gotta get this…”

When I walked across the street I briefly let my guard down. Men had set up an OP (observation point) on the corner across from where I was headed, offset but with full visibility on my objective. The second they saw my camera I heard them, “He’s takin’ pictures of it.” There were three of them. Now they were between my vehicle and me. Hmmm.

There were liquor bottles, lots of them. Writing on the street, out into the street. Stuffed animals. Notes written on the pole with a sharpie, paint pen, everything. Some in English, most in Spanish. The stuffed animals were fastened all the way up the pole. Some of them were oddly garroted to the pole with wire. They were filthy from weeks in the rain. It looked like a drug cartel had murdered stuffed animals.

“What you takin’ pictures?” The tallest of the three asked. He left off the word “of”.

I walked across the street to make eye contact and speak with them at a normal conversational distance. As if it were normal for me. “I was driving home and I saw this. I’ve seen it before, with people around it at night, and candles.”

The skin on his face seemed drawn tight to his skull. He was tall, handsome and fit. Held his head a couple degrees above level. But he looked tired. “Hey man, lemme show you…”

Now let’s back up a few steps. I’m a guy pretty obviously out of my element, carrying a few thousand bucks worth of camera gear, big camera gear. My truck is parked in a lot filled with broken glass and a car, an old car, with a very large woman in it coughing… or singing… or… I’m not sure. Something really big is hanging down underneath the car. It lists to the side she is on. A man sits obscured by a dense cloud of smoke next to her. I decide this is a great photo op for my friends on social media back in the ‘burbs. The way I would photograph a peacock at the zoo. It was just so… urban.

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But this isn’t a peacock in a cage. These are the lives of people, dense and complex, dynamic and evolving.

“I got a picture of him in here.” I walk into a smoky party store with a wall encased behind thick, marginally clear, mostly yellowed plastic. I’m a little wary, heck, I’m scared, so I don’t notice where the fruit pies are. There are lots of bottles behind the plastic wall, and a low man with a gigantic head that melts into an even wider neck. Patches of black hair on his head. Lottery tickets, just a few.

“Here man, this is all about it.” It’s behind the thick, yellowed lexan armor. Glare is coming off it so it’s tough to photograph.

His name was Ryan Dewayne Lee Jenkins. Nickname, apparently, “Duke”. Jenkins was eulogized on Friday, July 25. He was shot to death standing at that corner some days earlier. No one explained to me why, and I did not ask. The funeral card in the party store said, “Celebrating the Life Of…” In the photo Jenkins is making some sort of hand sign and his fingernails appear… unusual.

I do not know what happened. I did not ask. I should have. The man told me Jenkins was shot to death. There was a tension surrounding the topic, perhaps continued pain from the loss. Maybe more. I don’t know. The body language of everyone interacting with me was… guarded. I would suspect it might be, especially toward some odd guy carrying a camera taking photos of what is a sacred and intimate memorial. So I took my photos and left.

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But as I was leaving one of the men walked up to my truck. I rolled the window down. “Hey man,” he said, “You wanna see something else?”

“Yeah” I told him.

“Go down there, four blocks. There is a candy store. A veteran and a girl own it. It’s new. It’s all they do. Brand new. Sells candy. They’re trying to make it. Go on down there and take some pictures of it and talk it up. They’re doin’ good, tryin’ to make it…”

I followed his directions but didn’t find the candy store. Dropped a pin on a GPS map on my phone and told myself to come back here- that there was more to the story. Much more. My head felt worse and I was so tired it was hard to drive. I went home. But I told this guy I’d help him by telling his story, so I sat down to type before I went to bed.

Detroit isn’t raw, urban or dangerous. It’s not “on the brink”. It isn’t particularly cool or edgy. It’s small town USA in the second decade of the 21st century. People work, they’re friendly, they welcome you. They strive for a better tomorrow. They aren’t closed off and there are no barriers. Two things missing from Detroit are falsehood and pretentiousness. We know the city is run down and dirty. We’ve been through a lot. We’re working on that. It didn’t happen over night. We’re responsible for it, we’ll fix it, and it won’t happen again in our lifetimes. And as it heals and rebuilds its’ stories peel away like scabs off a wound, and sometimes they reveal scars.

 

Photos and Story by Tom Demerly. (Feel free to share these photos and mention Baltia Thunder Over Michigan)

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The Baltia Thunder Over Michigan Airshow at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan on Saturday and Sunday, August 9 and 10, 2014 was one of the largest displays of historic and modern aircraft this year. Most of the aircraft displayed are privately owned, including one of the largest gatherings of T-6 Texan and Harvard trainers anywhere. Thunder Over Michigan also featured the U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Team, The Thunderbirds, along with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team and other airshow acts.

This is my home town airshow, one of the shows I grew up with, so it was a special event to me. Airshow organizers provided photographers with taxiway passes for special access to the aircraft and crews along with a great hospitality tent with food, drinks, bathrooms and detailed information on every aircraft in the show. Tom Walsh, the coordinator of the photo area, did an incredible job hosting aviation photographers from around the world.

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The early morning light provided a unique opportunity for photos on both Friday before the show opened and on Saturday, the first show day.

This crew (above) prepares the famous B-17G, “Yankee Lady”, that lives at Willow Run Airport as part of the Yankee Air Museum. It is a flying piece of history that is beautifully maintained. Several years ago I got a chance to fly in Yankee Lady out of Willow Run as a guest.

Yankee Lady was built in 1945 and once flew as a Coast Guard PB-1G before being sold at auction for only $5,997 to a smelting company and then to an aerial survey company. It later had a career as an aerial fire bomber and also flew in the filming of the movie Tora Tora Tora about the attack on Pearl Harbor. In it’s current condition the aircraft has been completely restored, including the replacement of all fuel and electrical systems. It is seen flying frequently around Willow Run airport.

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Thunder Over Michigan attracted veterans who were pleased to share stories about the planes and people who built the history celebrated here. The show crossed aviation eras from before WWII to the modern era. Here a veteran and one of the airshow pilots chat before the arrival of show crowds.

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A unique perspective on the “Fork Tailed Devil”, the P-38J Lightening “Ruff Stuff”, belonging to Mr. Ron Fagen of Granite Falls, Minnesota. There are only seven P-38 Lightenings left flying and this is the second one I’ve been lucky enough to see. Ruff Stuff was built in 1945 and never saw active service. It has changed ownership several times but its most recent restoration and the stewardship of Ron Fagen in his Fagen Fighters Museum insure its future as a national treasure.

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We each shot unobstructed photos of the incredible airplanes out on the flight line, an area restricted from the general public on show day during flight demonstrations. Here we set up his shots of a TBM Avenger torpedo and dive bomber.

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Photographers brought an impressive array of photo equipment to capture the action. We used aviation band scanners to listen in on aircraft communications and air traffic control radio from the show Air Boss.  Shooting aircraft requires big telephoto and zoom lenses to capture the action. Canon equipment outnumbered Nikon significantly. Monitoring the show and airport air traffic control enabled us to set up shots before aircraft arrived, especially helpful with fast jets.

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All the photographers enjoyed the same access to the field as the official Air Force Thunderbird photographers Manuel Martinez (left) and Stan Parker (right). I got a chance to grab a photo with these guys as they worked and even got a few tips on aviation photography from two of the best guys in the business.

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Friday, August 8, was arrival day for many of the aircraft in the show, with planes flying in from all over the U.S.. A highlight was this F-86F Sabre, “Smoky”, owned by Paul Wood from Waukegan, Illinois. The restoration and maintenance of this Korean War era jet is impeccable and it is a favorite of photographers. The aircraft was first owned by the U.S. Air Force then sold to the Fuerza Aerea Argentina or the Argentinian Air Force in 1960. It was later acquired privately in the U.S.

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Paul Wood taxis his F-86F Sabre into the parking area. Notice the open speed brakes and the three holes for the .50 caliber machine guns.

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The F-86F has a natural metal finish that is difficult to maintain but brilliant to see on a sunny day. The bubble canopy of the F-86F provided pilots with excellent visibility and inspired the design of the canopy on the most recent fighters including the F-22 Raptor. Pilots like to taxi with the canopy open for ventilation but must duck down to close the canopy fully.

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Paul Wood cranks his F-86F through a flight demonstration that showed the maneuverability and thrust to weight ratio of the F-86F. Considering this jet was built in the late 1940’s it remains an impressive performer. The F-86 was the first fully operational U.S. jet fighter with swept wings.

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A few minutes later the U.S. Army Parachute Team’s C-31A Troopship flew into the pattern at Willow Run for a landing. The pilots obliged photographers with a low pass before final approach. This is a nice sounding, Rolls-Royce powered aircraft built by Fokker. It can carry up to 25 jump equipped soldiers for demonstrations.

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We had excellent access to active taxiways throughout Friday and were accompanied by helpful “safeties” who kept us from getting run over by aircraft when we were looking through a camera viewfinder. It was a remarkable experience to be so close to the aircraft as they came and went during arrival and show rehearsal.

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This unusual aircraft is the de Havilland DH-115 Vampire formerly of the Royal Navy and now belonging to Marty Tibbits of Detroit. It is a pretty, unusual aircraft that operated from Royal Navy aircraft carriers after 1945 and also served, in a different version, with the Royal Air Force. The Vampire, in its many versions, was a successful aircraft that was flown by several countries through the 1990’s, including, oddly enough, Rhodesia.

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If there was one perfect P-51D Mustang at the show it was Mark Peterson’s “Hell-er Bust” from Boise, Idaho. The aircraft is painted in a photogenic livery and carries a pair of simulated 500 lb. general purpose bombs. Here Mark taxis in after his arrival on Friday. Hell-er Bust has an impressive history since being built in 1945 at the North American Aircraft plant in Inglewood, California. She first joined the legendary 8th Air Force in 1945 but was transferred to the Swedish Air Force in 1948 and the to the Dominican Republc from 1952 to 1984, making it one of the last remaining truly operational Mustangs while in service with the Dominican Republic. Hell-er Bust uses the classic Packard Merlin V-1650-7 engine that produces that goose bump-inducing Mustang sound.

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The B-25D “Yankee Warrior” is one of the planes that lives at Willow Run as part of the Yankee Air Museum. We are lucky enough to see it fly around the airport occasionally and got a good look at it on reception day. Five of its .50 caliber machine guns are visible in this view. Yankee Warrior is a combat veteran of WWII, having flown eight bombing missions over Italy before it was retired, then restored.

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Yankee Warrior had a rather attractive pilot flying on arrival day and was meticulously turned out in its natural metal finish. This B-25 is a frequent visitor to air shows around the U.S. but I never found out who the pilot pictured here is.

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A number of exciting private jets flew in on Friday including this Aero Vodochody L-39C belonging to Tim Brutsche of Battle Creek, Michigan. Brutsche owns Brutsche Concrete in Battle Creek and is a licensed Air Transport Pilot (ATP) who has been an active promoter of youth in aviation for years.

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Here is Tom and his co-pilot, perhaps his wife Beth Franklin-Brutsche who frequently flies with him, taxiing their L-39C to its parking ramp.

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Aircraft owners spent time on Friday chatting with photographers and polishing their airplanes for the show opening on Saturday. This TBM-3E Avenger gets a shine in the morning.

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The P-47D Thunderbolt “Jacky’s Revenge” was restored from former Peruvian Air Force service in 1966 and painted in U.S. livery with D-Day invasion stripes on the wings and fuselage.

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There were so many T-6 Texans, Harvards and this AT-16 Texan from Blanchester, Ohio it was hard to pick just one to photograph, but this bright orange and yellow paint scheme stood out from the other aircraft.

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We got a raised maintenance platform to shoot photos from each day, making it easy to get great shots of aircraft taxiing and of the flight demonstrations. Each of the photographers took turns in a corner. We used a pilot band radio receiver to help locate inbound aircraft. When one photographer would see an aircraft inbound to the demonstration field they would shout out, “Aircraft, inbound, from the east…” for the other photographers to get their shot.

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An operational German Luftwaffe Transall C-160D from Air Transport Wing 61at Penzing AB, Germany made a special visit to the show. The Transall is a workhorse twin-engine tactical transport that serves air force around the world and is especially prolific in Europe and Africa. It makes a pretty “whirring” noise like a mini-C-130.

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The flight crew of our visiting German Transall were happy to be at the air show and brought a big tent filled with their squadron mugs, T-shirts, patches and other memorabilia. They enjoyed chatting with the crowd in English and in German and also had fun shooting photos of the other flight demonstrations while they earned some cash selling souvenirs.

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Friday was a relaxed day and a chance to meet the Thunderbird pilots in person without any fences. I caught the entire flight demonstration team here for a candid group shot here.

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Thunderbird #6 Opposing Solo, Major Jason Curtis of Kalispell, Montana, taxis out for Friday practice. He is a drummer and competitive snowboarder and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2004.

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Thunderbird #1, Lt. Col. Bob Moseley taxis out for flight demonstration practice on Friday. The names of the enlisted flight maintenance crew for this aircraft are painted on the right side of the cockpit with Lt. Col. Moseley’s name on the left side of the aircraft. Moseley is a graduate of Virginia Military Institute and has flown both the F-15 and F-22.

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We had an interesting incident on Friday, practice day, when Thunderbird #3, Maj. Caroline Jensen, had a “bird strike”, sucking a bird into the intake of her F-16. The bird damaged the engine and caused her to safely circle the field and make an expedient landing.

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Major Jensen taxied past the photo stand on her way back to the flight line to switch to the reserve aircraft that was already preflighted by the Thunderbird ground crew and ready for engine run-up.

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She quickly climbed down from the damaged #3 aircraft and ran to the waiting reserve aircraft while the ground crew began to survey the damage to her F-16.

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All of the Thunderbird ground crew wanted to see the damage to the inside of the F-16 intake from the bird strike. The man in the red shirt is likely the aircraft engine manufacturer’s technical rep who travels with the Thunderbirds, Mr. Tom Eshelman from Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines. That a jet engine can withstand a high speed bird induction through its turbine fans and continue to fly safely is an impressive accomplishment by Pratt & Whitney.

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Major Jensen climbs up to the reserve F-16 to rejoin the demonstration formation after running to the alternate jet that was already preflighted by the Thunderbird ground crew.

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Lighting conditions on Friday practice for the flight demonstration were poor with flat and overcast skies. It was less than ideal for good photos. We enjoyed the practice after shooting a few photos and checked the weather for Saturday, hoping for better lighting conditions for aerial photography.

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The weather on Saturday started misty but the fog burned off quickly as crews got their aircraft ready for the first day of the show. I liked this shot of the B-17G Yankee Lady with the U.S. flag in the sky overhead.

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The first big flight demonstration was an giant formations of T-6 Texans and Mk IV Harvards. This is only half of the total formation. The  combined sound of their radial engines was an amazing recollection of what it was like to be near one of the big WWII fighter training bases.

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The formation flying continued throughout the morning with an intricately coordinated double-racetrack pattern of aircraft flying over Willow Run. This tight formation of a P-38, P-51 and the B-17 G Yankee Lady is a living display of air power over the Pacific and the European theaters during WWII. I can’t help but wonder what the view from inside the cockpit must be like.

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Ruff Stuff, the Lockheed P-38, did a few photo-pass fly-bys for photographers, giving us the opportunity to shoot photos from different angles.

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P-38 Lightening Ruff Stuff as viewed from the rear quarter. Notice the superchargers on top of each of the engine booms.

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The chunky looking P-47D Thunderbolt, predecessor to the modern A-10 Thunderbolt II, becomes more graceful in the air. The P-47D was used extensively in the ground attack role. The black and white stripes on the fuselage and wings are called “invasion stripes”. These helped other allied aircraft identify each other following the D-Day invasion to prevent them from shooting at each other and prevented ground crews from shooting at them.

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This P-63 King Cobra has a number of unique features including a centrally mounted M-37 30 mm cannon that fired through the propeller hub and an engine located directly behind the pilot. The pilot enters the aircraft through a side-hinged door, not a sliding canopy like the P-51 and P-47. Notice the intake for the centrally mounted engine immediately behind the cockpit. The tricycle landing gear was unique to the P-63 and its less successful little brother the P-39 Airacobra. Most P-63’s saw service with the Soviet Union, over 2,000 of the total of approximately 3,000 built were given to Russia by the U.S. under a lend-lease agreement. Russian pilots actually downed several Japanese planes in WWII with King Cobras.

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B-17G Yankee Lady turns in toward the crowd line. The “G” model B-17 had several upgrades over the precious “F” and “E” versions, most notably the forward facing chin turret with two Browning .50 caliber machine guns to prevent aerial attack from the front.

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This side view shows a puff of smoke from one of the B-17G’s engines and a good view of the ball turret under the aircraft.

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B-24 “Diamond Lil” has a fascinating history as one of the very early B-24A bombers built. The aircraft had a landing accident during its ferry flight to England in the early 1940’s and had to be returned to California for repair. It was converted to a C-87 transport, a modification that likely enabled it survive the war. It went on to be restored as a B-24 with the paint scheme seen here. In this photo the crew is initiating engine start and run-up for its flight demonstration.

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Following the flight demonstrations by the historic aircraft the Thunderbirds held the briefing for their demonstration flight. Here Major Caroline Jensen listens in before the beginning of the demonstration routine.

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The Thunderbird diamond and solo pilots salute the crowd at the beginning of their flight demonstration routine.

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Introductions of the pilots to the airshow crowd over the PA begin the show as the ground crew forms up for the demonstration in the background. From the preparation of the flight to the aerial maneuvers the entire show is carefully choreographed with impressive precision.

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Wearing a pair of G-suit pants the pilots climb the ladder to the cockpit while crew chiefs stand ready to prepare the aircraft for take-off.

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Engine start completed, Thunderbird #1 prepares to taxi to the active runway for take-off.

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With a plume of smoke the four-ship diamond formation begins their takeoff roll at the start of the flight demo routine.

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The opposing solo aircraft, Thunderbird #6, Maj. Jason Curtis, turns in across the crowd line as he closes on the the lead solo aircraft for one of their head-on passes.

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Blue skies and better light gave us a chance to grab good photos of the Thunderbird diamond formation as it flew by the photo stand near show-center.

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Lead solo Thunderbird #5 Maj. Blaine Jones turns in toward the crowd line for a high-speed pass.

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Thunderbird #6 demonstrates a five-point hesitation roll and gives a good plan-form view of the F-16. The paint scheme of the Thunderbirds aircraft is specially designed so the crowd can see the aircraft roll from a distance.

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The Thunderbird diamond formation at the top of an inverted loop at an altitude of about 2000 feet above ground level. The Thunderbirds have a “high show” routine and a “low show” routine for overcast conditions when a low cloud deck prevents them from being visible from the ground. We got to see the low show on Friday practice and the high show on Saturday.

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“From the left, Thunderbird #5, Major Blaine Jones, the Lead Solo, will execute a maximum performance, high-G turn.” This sequence shows the F-16 turn in under afterburners and pull up to 9G’s. In the third frame you can see the wings of the F-16 flex upward under the G-load.

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The two solos cross in the cross over break, one of the most spectacular and difficult to photograph maneuvers of the show.AA390

This pull-up maneuver is used to sequentially position the aircraft for entering the landing pattern and makes for a cool shot as the aircraft begin their break.

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This maneuver begins in the trail formation with the aircraft behind each other and completes a loop up to 2,000 feet where the formation rejoins with incredible precision during the inverted, changing to the diamond formation. Condensation formed on the wingtips streams off the aircraft at higher altitude as the air cools.

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The opposing solo high-alpha pass: Thunderbird #5 flies across show center at about 100 MPH or nearly the minimum speed the aircraft can maintain and still stay in the air. The speed brakes at the back of the aircraft are deployed to slow it down.

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Thunderbird #6, the opposing Solo, trails condensation vapor as it pulls up to the vertical to rejoin the four-ship diamond formation.

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All six aircraft form the wedge formation high into the afternoon sun with thick vapor trails coming off their wingtips.

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The six-aircraft wedge formation passes in review under slight overcast.

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Then flies into clear sky with a complete change of lighting.

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Finally the diamond formation pitches up to the vertical and executes the high bomb burst with one of the solo aircraft rolling vertically through the middle. It was a classic Thunderbird finale.

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Back on the ground with the chocks in place Thunderbird #1 prepares to shut his engine down at the end of the flight demonstration.

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It’s a tradition to wait after the airshow and meet the Thunderbird pilots in person for a handshake, photo and an autograph. Here the Thunderbird team leader, #1 Lt. Col. Greg Mosley, poses for a photo with a fan.

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Thunderbird 12, Major Darrick Lee, high-fives a fan at the end of the airshow.

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On my way out of the show I met aviation artist David Ails. Ails was displaying and selling some of his incredible digital aviation art depicting aircraft including the P-61 Black Widow and F-4 Phantom. Ails represents a new breed of aviation artist who uses digital media for creation of incredible images that depict historic aviation events and aircraft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Tom Demerly.

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Jon Logan died on May 17, 2012. He died of cancer. He was only 51 years old.

But I still do not understand: Where did Jon Logan go? Today at the Jon Logan Memorial Triathlon I learned where he went.

I am not a particularly religious person. I have read, with reverence, some from the Bible, the Koran, The Tao de Ching. I went to catichism. Religions offer inspiration and comfort. I admire those who follow them and I look to them for guidance too.  

People came to the Jon Logan Memorial Triathlon in Novi, Michigan in much the same way they go to any triathlon, and a little like some go to church. They wore special gear with sponsors’ logos. First time triathletes came with doubtful expressions and simple gear. Then it became apparent this race was very different. 

The setting was beautiful. A wonderful neighborhood of proud mansions with stately lawns, carefully trimmed and lushly landscaped. The sun rose a frosty haze through light mist. Giant freshwater birds put on a quiet airshow as athletes and volunteers arrived. People smiled, shook hands and hugged. The usual competitive silence before a triathlon was gone. Instead, there was fond celebration of friends and acquaintances. There was reverence for our tight knit community and a beautiful sport.

Then people lined up by the lake and got ready to race.

Dense fog rolled onto the swim course. The outer swim buoys disappeared as the lake was cloaked in grey. The mist absorbed the sounds around the lake and a church-like quiet fell. I don’t know if I imagined this, but it seemed like people lowered their voices. I heard one athlete ask another, “What do we do if the fog is too thick to swim?” The other athlete answered, “We do what Jon would do, we swim…”

Nothing stopped Jon Logan. Nothing. He did an Ironman with a broken collar bone, swimming with one arm. It was Lake Placid. With his wife Sandy, he raced Ironmans around the world, ticking off finishes with an effortless ease and a broad smile that made it look… fun. Then he would come back, inspire friends, mentor beginners, volunteer to help, and do the whole thing all over again.

Out in the fog, the strength, humility and courage of Jon Logan beckoned. Jon would have swam.

So people got in line. Announcements were made. Timing mats were set. Sandy Logan shared a prayer, and the athletes did what Jon would do. They raced.

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At the front of the race the best athletes in the Midwest tore away at each other for the win like hyenas on a kill. Fernando, DeCook, Krzyzanowski. Same for the women. In the middle and at the back of the race people learned the sport and were baptized as triathletes for the first time. Triathlon veterans went to the competitive altar to receive their sweaty communion on another racing Sunday.

They did, what Jon Logan did.

And while Jon Logan passed away some time ago, he was, very tangibly, there today. More importantly, Jon went home with everyone who raced today. For young athletes who never met Jon Logan in person, they know him now. They go forward inspired by his character and reverence for life, made stronger by his example. They know Jon Logan now.

Now I know exactly where Jon Logan went, he went to a new start line. We were glad to join him again today as his character and drive live on in the athletes who raced in his name and memory. Jon would have raced, so that is exactly what everyone did today.

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