Plane Geekery Bucket List. Revised.

So, once upon a time I was a plane geek and had high hopes and dreams of seeing a Dreamliner, an A380, maybe an Antonov 225 thrown in for good measure. Living in Bangor, Maine, America you don’t think of it as a hotbed of aeronautical activity, I mean the majority of aircraft that visit Bangor are the top of the line Canadair Regional Jets and Embraer Regional Jets. However, in the past year or so, I’ve knocked all three of those aircraft mentioned above, off my so called plane geek photo bucket list. And all of them were HERE IN BANGOR!!!

The line from Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump holds very true for aircraft appearances and Bangor International Airport. “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get” better translates to “BGR, you never know what you’re going to get” in planegeek speak. As I type this, there are 5 F-15’s from the 173rd fighter wing in Oregon parked on the ramp at the airport right now. One of them is in the “my country will kick your ass” livery that pretty much screams ‘MURCA!! The odds of me getting up at O’Dark Thirty to get a photo of them leaving are probably slim to none, but I’m not ruling it out.

With all of the cool aircraft that come through Bangor, I’ve been very fortunate to see some really rare birds that you don’t normally see at other airports. Everything from F.R.E.D. the C-5, C-17s, a B-1, TONS of KC-135 Stratotankers, an A400M and more. It’s time to review and revise my bucket list of aircraft I want to photograph and add a few things that when I mention them, people look at me and say “what the hell is wrong with you anyway?”

The Starting Point

At the top of my list is a bird, that I’ll probably have to find in the desert, but I want to see an L-1011 TriStar one last time. Many of my first memories flying were on an L-1011 to California and Florida to visit family. Though riddled with problems, I’ll never forget seeing those mighty birds in Delta colors and the bright Eastern scheme.

Next is to photograph all of the special liveries that Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have. I’ve caught a few but still many remain. In all honesty, I’ve debated flying to Tampa and camping out on the parking garage for a few days to see what I can come up with. That and it’s Florida, and it’s not 48 and raining as it is in Bangor.

Another one I’ll be able to knock off relatively soon is the new Airbus A350. I say relatively soon because Qatar has daily service to Boston’s Logan International and I don’t need a reason to go to Boston for some artery clogging goodness from Mike’s Pastry while watching planes but the A350 would make it better.

These next few, the order doesn’t matter as they’ll probably be at an airshow somewhere sooner than I’d see them in Bangor. In no particular order I want in air shots of the F-35, B-52 and the E-4B Doomsday 747. Sure, the F-35 in flight is like a unicorn, but the others are old and proven they can fly. Plus, who doesn’t like a 747?

The next thing wouldn’t be just one aircraft, but many. If you know me, you know I like me some coffee. And even better yet, RED BULL. Enter the Red Bull Air Races. It’s fast planes, fast burst rates and fast heartbeats. Sign me up. Yesterday.

Another would be to have full ramp access for a day, at any airport and photograph planes coming in and out, the turnaround process of getting a plane in, luggage and passengers off, new luggage and passengers on, refueled, resnacked and back in the air. If there happens to be a 787, A380 or 747 in the mix, even better.

On the topic of full access, there are 3 other places I’d love to have full access to at some point. First being the Boeing plants in Washington, Airbus factory in Toulouse and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. They are a treasure trove of aviation gold from the beginning of assembly of an airliner to some of the most famous aviation artifacts known to mankind.

The Tricky Part

Now comes the tough part of this whole thing. It is truly going to be a bucket list item or it’s going to be the dream job to end all dream jobs. Every summer, I have several friends on Facebook who go skydiving. “They’re all HEY WANNA JUMP OUT OF A PERFECTLY GOOD PLANE?!?!?” My question is why would you do that? Unless the plane is going down and there’s no chance a shot of ether and a blow torch can help restart it, I’m keeping myself firmly planted in the thing.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t strap myself in, remove the door of the plane and head up to about 5,000 feet or more to take in air shots of, well, anything. Not enough of a rush? Ok, someone get a C-17, give me a harness and we’ll open up the back door and I’ll take photos looking out over the back edge. In fact, if we could do that with an F-35, B-52 and the E-4B, I could knock 4 birds off with one stone. Talk about Lean/Six Sigma.

In all seriousness, that right there is my dream job. Someone paying me to get in a plane and take photos of aircraft in flight. There is something relaxing when you’re looking down on this magnificent earth from above, it’s peaceful, beautiful and quite possibly stressful. But you know what? Let’s do this. It doesn’t have to be the F-35, B-52 or E-4B, I’ll take a Cessna, Cirrus, King Air, war bird or even an ultra light. I don’t care, they’re all aircraft and all awesome.

Watching videos and seeing photos of the amazingly talented Jessica Ambats makes me want to grab my camera and 70-200, throw on a David Clark headset, strap into a seat and take to the sky. This alone would be the very top of my bucket list, however, I’m keeping it realistic. It will happen someday, and trust me, you’ll hear all about it. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be at the 600 area by the localizer on the 33 end at BGR taking pictures of anything that flies by.


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