Aviation Photo #0905387 General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon (401) - USA - Air Force

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USAF Thunderbirds had a mishap during Saturday's performance at the Chicago Air and Water Show. This shot captures the right missile rail of the rear F-16D touching the left horizontal stabilizer of the F-16C on the right hand corner of the diamond formation. The missile rail broke off seconds later, falling safely into Lake Michigan. Wish I got that shot...
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    Chris Ware
    USA - Air Force
    General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon (401)
    General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon (401)
    General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon (401)
    General Dynamics
    **-****
    Chicago
    Illinois
    USA
    August 20, 2005
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Distinct Views: 159,814
Photo Added: August 22, 2005

Comments (113)

Anonymous
13 years ago
Once in a lifetime shot. If I had your timing, I would still be married.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Wow! An extremely interesting variation on a classic airshow photo.
Anonymous
13 years ago
It shows the rail bending, right before it broke. I think that's ideal timing for the most dramatic shot.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Right shot at almost the right time. Perfect would've been seeing the part of the missile rail break off!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Very sharp photography and of a very rare touching of two thunderbird performers.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Nice Catch! Got the moment the two planes made contact...
Anonymous
13 years ago
Nice crystal clear picture. A very patriotic photo.

Good formation of planes.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Perfect shot done in perfect time! Great job Chris! Ciao!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Great timing!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Photo clearly shows the moment of contact between T-bird 2 and 4. The photo also highlights that T-bird 2 is flying his position way too tight in the diamond formation when compared to T-bird 3's position; and is likely the cause of the mishap. The Thunderbirds fly a much flatter diamond formation than the Blue Angels when compared in profile and head on. The position of the Thunderbird wingmen is critical in providing the slot aircraft sufficient space; as the slot man is flying a more forward position. The Blue Angels slot pilot flies further aft and lower than the Thunder Bird slot aircraft. This gives the Blue Angel diamond a lesser overall wing span but a greater length to the formation. The Thunderbird diamonds wing span is wider with less length to the formation.
Anonymous
13 years ago
The angle and a lovely bit of cloud to set it off.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Right place at the right time for sure! You have to wonder if a Windy City big-wig was occupying the back seat of the slot and if he/she left his breakfast on board. Good work!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Very good photo
Anonymous
13 years ago
You're very lucky !!!.it's A nice picture,you can keep on focus while they moved fast
Anonymous
13 years ago
Great timing, the picture is so clear I can see the detail on these birds
Anonymous
13 years ago
There is picture show us all pilots have had high-tech in flight.
Anonymous
13 years ago
The Falcon's are in tight formation and got four of them in a single shot. You can see the full colors on them from up close.
Anonymous
13 years ago
It is hard to get a shot when the plane goes so fast he was there at the right time to get the shot
Anonymous
13 years ago
Good picture, nice framing. Good view of the formation.
Anonymous
13 years ago
One of the best shots this week.....its awesome
Anonymous
13 years ago
It's fantastic. Thunderbirds the Best!!!
Anonymous
13 years ago
I love aerobatic team,and thunderbirds are really great...
Anonymous
13 years ago
Nice shot! Excellent and brilliant!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Great shot
Anonymous
13 years ago
This shows just how dangerous this close formation flying truly is, just one minor mistake can mean a major disaster!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Just good timing ;)
Anonymous
13 years ago
Great shot of incident!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Truly awesome how you can see the strain in the wingtip rail.

I would wager that T-bird 4 was more out of position. Due to parallax, if it were in position, its nose would look like it is under T-bird 1's left horizontal stab. It might be that T-bird 2 was a little close, but 4 looks to have been further off.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Wonderful timing. Congratulations!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Catching a display team do something wrong? Thats incredible. Well worth watching a jet team such as The Red Arrows. Recommend to anyone!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Will the pilot have to pay for a new rail?!?...Even if the drama wasn't captured, this is a great formation shot.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Poor Thunderbirds. Seems like they're always breaking airplanes, but I know it's just pure misfortune, not lack of pilot skill. Nice shot, once in a lifetime capture.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Yeah....! Really action!
Anonymous
13 years ago
You can really see the rail flexing. Amazing it did not end in disaster.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Well shot. lucky to be in the right place at the right time. the missile rail is clearly bent in the picture, visually proving it was actually touching the other plane.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Balanced composition and good background contrast
Anonymous
13 years ago
Great timing...guess I won't be seeing the Thunderbirds this weekend! :(
Anonymous
13 years ago
Timing :)

And the Colors look great
Anonymous
13 years ago
Captured the split second the two aircraft touched
Anonymous
13 years ago
To be able to capture this pic at this particular time of contact.....excellent!
Thanks for sharing!
Thankful all is well & they are cleared to perform again.
Anonymous
13 years ago
I have not seen the news footage yet but this pictures speaks volumes about what could have happen.
Anonymous
13 years ago
The photo is clear and vivid, not always possible in aviation photos. Additionally, it caught an instant that could have turned to tragedy.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Caught at the right time!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Wow !! the good shot, the best moment
Anonymous
13 years ago
A "once in a lifetime" picture. Two planes touching in flight and they flew away. The skill to fly in formation is amazing, but to actually touch and keep going is a true test of skill and nerves, to react without over reacting. Amazing barely begins to describe it.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Congratulation for the good shot just in right time
Anonymous
13 years ago
Really nice pic
Anonymous
13 years ago
Superb detail and clarity.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Fantastic timing great clarity shows how close and how dangerous this can be its never common place
Anonymous
13 years ago
This is one for the ages! The Trib and Sun-Times would've payed good cash for it too! Congrats Chris.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Superb shot! Great!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Thanks everyone for all the positive comments. It's a great feeling to get such a good shot, every photographer should have the opportunity at least once! There is something to be said for looking in the right place at the right time...

I was actually lucky enough to get three frames in this pass - this was the first. The second is about 0.2 seconds later, against the cloudy background to the right in this frame, and shows the missile rail deforming just before breaking. The third shows the slot aircraft falling back just after the rail broke away. An amazingly calm response by both pilots. This incident really could have been much worse than in was.

I submitted this one as it was visually the most pleasing. Even though the second frame shows a little more deformation of the rail, the white aircraft against a cloudy background just did not have as much pop.
Anonymous
13 years ago
I am engineer who worked on the F16 project. This plane has shown it's worth all over the world, war an peace.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Very timely photo. The color is great and it offers a great image that even the news broadcasts couldn't touch.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Because it caught a very fortunate moment.
Anonymous
13 years ago
To capture this photo of high speed jets at the exact moment of this incident makes it a sensational photo in my books...
Anonymous
13 years ago
Precise and crisp demonstration of airplanes touching!
Anonymous
13 years ago
The photographer caught what I am sure was just a momentary instant where the two aircraft touch. Excellent angle, I wonder how far away the photographer was from the formation when he/she took the shot? I may purchase a copy of this print. Good job.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Very awesome! thanks for sharing this photo with us.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Good Shot!!!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Good shot but the resolution isn't the greatest.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Amazing shot! Only in Chicago to see it...
Anonymous
13 years ago
The picture capture the exact moment when the incident is produced.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Reach out and touch someone ? . . . Spectacular shot of being "up close and personal !"
Anonymous
13 years ago
This picture is absolute perfect.
100 points from possible 100 points.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Its a very rare shot and it would be a once in a life time shot
Anonymous
13 years ago
Great
Anonymous
13 years ago
Talk about "in the right place at the right time"! Fantastic... once in a lifetime shot. Congratulations.
Anonymous
13 years ago
White falcon..
Great!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Very cool picture
Anonymous
13 years ago
Nice composition of white and blue with addition of four sharp shapes.:)
Anonymous
13 years ago
Outstanding!!!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Other than Great Shot, photographing the Thunderbirds in formation is always a total thrill !!!
Anonymous
13 years ago
I was there too
Anonymous
13 years ago
The pic is great :)
I'd love to see it live!
Anonymous
13 years ago
This is a "luck shot"...............nice!!!!
Anonymous
13 years ago
One of the satisfying moments of being a photographer that makes all the frustration worth it. Thanks for posting this picture
Anonymous
13 years ago
Really amazing
Anonymous
13 years ago
This is just to not your everyday picture. Two aircraft touching in-flight.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Wow! its a nice shot! that's a real close shot of the plane almost 'touching' each other
Anonymous
13 years ago
A great clear picture and an interesting moment with a story.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Timing is everything!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Excellent shot!! As a photographer myself, these shots are hard to get! Great patience! I bet the USAF is looking for this image!!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Right place at right time with excellent clarity!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Absolutely perfect. Congratulations.
Anonymous
13 years ago
I wish I'd been there!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Anyone who is a pilot or who has flown often in smaller planes can appreciate how risky this situation was.
Anonymous
13 years ago
A great shot of an unforseeable event. The Photographer was one lucky SOB to get this amazing shot!!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Crystal clear, at a critical moment - these shots only come along evry so often... and the best usually miss them...
Anonymous
13 years ago
Hard to compose from the ground, perfect timing ,excellent exposure, lovely angle, ( just descending..) some blue, some cloud, a Winner !!
Anonymous
13 years ago
WOW... beautiful shot Chris... now where was your motor drive when you needed it?
Anonymous
13 years ago
Any picture of the Thunderbirds is a winner, but this picture is a champ because of the timing of the photo and the angle. Well done champ!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Great composition of the Thunderbird Diamond formation against a nice blue sky.
Anonymous
13 years ago
It is rare an event such as an air show incident is captured on film when it occurs. Note the right missile rail on the number four (Slot position behind the leader) is bending upward. In the next few seconds it will break off and fall to earth. Also of note is the number four aircraft is the F-16D which is used as a spare, and is actually the Narrators aircraft. Finally, look closely at the right and left wingmen and notice their heads are locked on to the leader’s aircraft, so as to stay in position during the demonstration.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Absolute professional and very lucky photo.
Congratulation
Anonymous
13 years ago
The detail of this photo is great! One can see the vapor trails over the top of the wing, and even some wing tip vortices. Great clarity.
Anonymous
13 years ago
Nice photo Chris
Anonymous
13 years ago
Fabulous shot of what could have ended in disaster for the t birds how about posting the other shots for us to see. Congratulations on a great photo Chris
Anonymous
13 years ago
Its so cool
Anonymous
13 years ago
Its awsome
Anonymous
13 years ago
You wish you got the shot of the rail falling, Chris you went one better you got the shot no-one else did!
Anonymous
13 years ago
This is kind of a scary moment for me. We live in Cheyenne, Wyoming where the Thunderbirds perform every year at our annual Frontier Days Rodeo.I've met all the pilots personally and you couldn't meet a bunch of greater guys in the world. This is just the stuff that we hope never happen year after year. Great shot and I take it that all the pilots were OK after this. It appears to be just a "bumper-kiss", but its still to close for comfort
Anonymous
13 years ago
Shoot, i actually flew into ORD just for this show, but it got so crowded i bailed and look what i miss? thanks, awesome shot!
Anonymous
13 years ago
I went the next day and i didnt get to see them because of this!!!
Anonymous
13 years ago
EEKK!!! That's a close shave! Beautiful photo of what could have been a scary situation.
Anonymous
13 years ago
I was there, that's a very scary thing that happened, I didn't know they'd be having this but got there the days it was performed, we flew into O'Hare.
Anonymous
13 years ago
They are a little too close.But we all should say they are good pilots and you are a good photographer! i made paper f16s one time and taped them together for the dimond formation.i colored them almost the same as the paint shceme on those f16s. awesome picture!!
Anonymous
13 years ago
Amazing Shot
Anonymous
12 years ago
Five Stars! Nice shot Well done!
Anonymous
12 years ago
Was this the woman pilot behind the controls? :)
Anonymous
11 years ago
It's nice picture, you were so lucky.
Anonymous
10 years ago
I was there and got this on my little handheld video camera...It was quite curious seeing the squad fly circles around the collision area looking for the rail, then having the show cancelled. This is also the reason there is a such thing as an aerobatic box- in Russia three people wouldv'e been speared.
Anonymous
9 years ago
All they need is a sturdy set of bumpers. Nice paintjob by the way, especially the bands across the nose

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