Our Embraer 195 OE-LWD had its routine C-Check and was repainted. Afterwards, there was the obligatory test flight with our Embraer fleet manager as well as our technical pilot and as a special: an air-to-air photo shoot, which we take you on in this blog post!
The C-Check (major check) of an aircraft is a detailed inspection of the aircraft structure and all technical systems. In the process, all seats are removed and, for the most part, the fairing is also removed. The C-Check was performed on the OE-LWD after about 1,100 flying days and took about 7,000 working hours. This time in the hangar was also used to paint the Embraer in the latest Austrian design.
After all, an aircraft need a new coat of paint every six to eight years on average, depending on the area of operation and the resulting condition. For the Embraer, this means 170 liters of paint and 1200 working hours.
Afterwards, our fleet manager Ewald Roithner and our technical pilot Robert Ahornegger carried out the test flight that was required afterwards. And after the tests there was the air-to-air photo shoot.
The photographer on the photo flight is Dietmar Schreiber. Dietmar works at Flughafen Wien AG. Taking photos high up in the air is his great passion. He has completed around 300 such photo shoots so far. We met him for an interview:
Austrian: Dietmar, how do you get into such a rather unusual hobby?
Dietmar: I have had an interest in aviation since I was a child. I grew up in Schwechat, where all the airplanes flew over us on their landing approach. About 15 years ago, the first opportunity for a so-called air-to-air photo shoot arose. Over the years, this has developed into a hobby that is extremely fun. It is simply a great overall experience, from the flight preparation to the finished photo.
Austrian: You shoot from an open airplane. Are you afraid of heights?
Dietmar: Respectfully, yes, but not afraid of heights. Otherwise I couldn't do it. There can also be turbulence. Fear is a bad advisor there.
Austrian: How are you secured?
Dietmar: I am secured with my harness and firmly attached to the aircraft structure at least twice. My cameras are also secured twice.
Austrian: Do you need special equipment and training for shooting at dizzying heights?
Dietmar: Of course it is an advantage to use a really good camera. After all, enough time, energy and money goes into such shootings. In the end, the result should be right and justify the effort. In addition to the cameras, of course, you also need a safe harness, a headset to be connected to the pilot and, above all, warm clothing. With the aircraft door open, it can be quite cold. Up to around minus 10 degrees.
Austrian: Speaking of weather. What do you have to consider for the shooting?
Dietmar: The most important point is safety! Every pilot and every photographer has to be aware of dangers like unexpected turbulences or the proximity to the other aircraft. It has also happened that I canceled a shoot because of an "unsafe" pilot in the air. And, of course, the weather. It is extremely important to pay attention to the position of the sun. In the summer around noon, the light is simply not as beautiful as in the winter.
Austrian: How do you stay in contact with the pilot during the flight?
Dietmar: Normally I only talk to my pilot, i.e. in the plane I'm in. And he passes on the "orders" via radio to the aircraft I'm photographing. But I have also communicated directly with the pilots of the other aircraft via radio.
Austrian: What preparations do you make together with the pilots of your and the other aircraft?
Dietmar: There is a detailed briefing where all pilots are present at the same time. All details such as flight route, meeting point in the air, expected weather conditions or subjects I want to photograph are discussed in detail and also recorded in writing. We usually fly from different airports and meet in the air at an agreed time.
Austrian: Exactly, how do you find each other, how is such a meeting of the machines high up?
Dietmar: The exact meeting point with altitude, course and speed are important parts of the briefing. For this, the help of air traffic control is indispensable, they have to be informed and are involved.
Austrian: At what altitude does a shoot like this take place? And what is the maximum altitude at which you can fly?
Dietmar: That depends entirely on my target object, i.e. what type of aircraft I'm photographing. For example, I photograph the Austrian Embraer at an altitude of 10,000 to 12,000 feet. It would not be possible to go much higher with the doors open and without oxygen. I have been above 20,000 feet, but on those flights my aircraft had a pressurized cabin and I worked with the door closed.
Austrian: Does the plane fly slower than usual for a shoot?
Dietmar: It depends on the type of aircraft. There are simply limits to flying with the door open, and they are also below the "normal" speeds that a commercial aircraft normally flies. So in the case of the Embraer shooting: yes.
Austrian: Do you have a favorite machine?
Dietmar: No, no particular type. But in general I can say, the older the better. There is nothing like the sound of a big radial engine on a warbird or a Douglas DC-3.
Austrian: Have you also considered turning your hobby into a profession?
Dietmar: For me, photographing airplanes has always been a hobby, which I call a "professional" hobby and would like to continue doing so. To do it commercially would take the fun out of it for me.
Austrian: Thanks for the exciting look behind the scenes!