Yankee Air Museum Photoshoot

(photo by Tom Pawlesh)
by Tom Pawlesh
With the airshow season pretty much cancelled this year due to COVID-19, finding an aviation event to get excited about has been next to impossible. The weekend of August 29-30, 2020 should have been the Yankee Air Museum’s annual Thunder Over Michigan Airshow. The show was cancelled, but the museum did host Pete Lerro of Lerro Photography for an exciting vintage aircraft photo shoot. Pete Lerro, a commercial photographer, specializes in themed photo shoots and workshops including railroads, lighthouses, military reenactments and vintage aircraft. Having Pete do his workshop at the museum gave the volunteers a chance to get out and fly their aircraft.
The Vintage Aircraft photo shoot took place on Saturday, August 29 and included four shoots, a morning air-to-air, afternoon reenactor shoot, evening air-to-air and night engine run. Tickets were sold al la carte, and I purchased the morning air-to-air, afternoon reenactor and night shoot. I have attended three of Pete’s railroad charters, and they are well done and professional so I was looking forward to an exciting day of aviation photography.

My morning air-to-air shoot was postponed until Sunday morning due to weather, so I arrived at the Yankee Air Museum after lunch. Our ID’s were checked and we filled out the usual waivers and COVID-19 health questionnaire. We were briefed on the afternoon reenactor shoot and where we could go while on the ramp. Pete posed the reenactors around the outside of the B-25 and B-17, and then inside the B-17. We took turns photographing the waist gunners, navigator, pilots and bombardier. Also on hand were a few pin-up girls and a young lady dressed as a WASP.

When the afternoon shoot was over, those that had bought tickets for the evening air-to-air were briefed and boarded the C-47 Hairless Joe. The morning and evening air-to-air shoots were identical, we photographed the UH-1H Huey for 10 minutes, the B-17G Yankee Lady for 20 minutes and the B-25D Yankee Warrior for 20 minutes. Eight photographers, Pete and the crew chief were in the C-47’s cabin, with the last three windows removed. Even so, the remaining windows were crystal clear and shooting through them was not a problem. The photographers were teamed up with a window buddy so two people could shoot through each window at a time. During the shoot, Pete rotated the group so everyone shot each aircraft from each window.

 After the air-to-air shoot, a box lunch was provided for dinner while Pete and his crew set up the lights for the night engine run. Pete always has a surprise and tonight the Ford Trimotor was added to the line up of B-25, B-17, C-47 and UH-1H. Our first aircraft was Yankee Warrior. Pete had arranged for an airport fire truck to soak down the ramp in front of each aircraft to create an evocative reflective environment. After engine-start, we had five minutes to photograph each aircraft, which was plenty of time to capture every angle. There was also time to get shots before the engines started. The Ford Trimotor sat parked next to the B-25, so we moved to that aircraft while Pete and his crew repositioned the lights and the fire truck hosed the ramp down. Next in line was the UH-1H Huey. After the pilots started the engines, they did a few turns in hover for the videographers which was another surprise. While we were photographing the Huey, the Yankee Air Museum crew moved the B-25 and Trimotor out, replacing them with Yankee Lady and Hairless Joe. We moved back to the original spot and took our photographs of the B-17 and then the C-47. The night shoot was well choreographed, and we were able to photograph all five aircraft in a short amount of time. After the C-47 engines were shut down, Pete had a group of paratrooper reenactors pose around the C-47.

Pete Lerro and his crew did a fantastic job setting up all the photo shoots and taking care of many tiny details. The volunteers at the Yankee Air Museum were gracious hosts and worked tirelessly moving, fueling and flying their aircraft for us. A special thanks to the reenactors who gave their time to dress up in heavy, high altitude flying gear on a hot summer’s day to give extra life to our photography.

Flying Graphics

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