Friday 18 December 2015

LIMA 2015 Part 06 - Airshow - Indoors and Outdoors, and back Home [Updated 31.01.2016]

Day 2 is an awesome brand new day. We were there early that day. Let's start off with a choper parked outside, an AW-139.

Most of the aircraft were still there at the display area, albeit with a change in position, such as the A400. There was now more items around it like AC carts and some tables for merchandise. The area around dome of the jets were already barricaded, which prevented many from going near them. 

Nose of the A400. Look at the In-flight refuelling probe

Was lucky to be with one of the groups touring the A400. Managed to get a shot of the interior of the A400. Fairly spacious.

Large Cargo area of the A400

Sadly though that they restricted the access to the cockpit, so no shots there. Spent quite some time there before adjourning to the indoor display area. Trust me, it was really hot, and since we had seen most of the aircraft at the outdoor display, it was time to get indoors to enjoy the cool air-conditioned environment.

Let me find more indoor pics to fill this area.

There were quite a number of scaled models within the indoor area.

Patrol Boat Replica

Further on the other side of the display were several submarine models. 

And moving around even further (was not really keeping track of which part of the insides we were at) we had this scaled model of a militarized Saab 2000. Looks like an aerial radar platform.

Saab 2000

There is also a mockup of the leading edge of the A400's vertical stabilizer behind the model.

Yea, it is HUGE. See human for size comparison

And luck would have it that we were at the side portion of the indoor display area with windows. A sound was heard and when we looked up, we saw a greyish aircraft flying past. It was thin and long. It was now time to make a decision. Either to take that this was the final fly-by and to remain inside, OR to rush out as fast as we could and hope that there would be a second fly-by.

Being me, of course I dashed out for that golden opportunity to see IT again. It was the B-52 by the way.

B-52 with Gears down

Lighting could not have been worse with heavy backlit clouds (ugh). But a chance with this BUFF as they would call it, overcame the feeling. Snapped away.

And that was the last fly-by for the entire LIMA 2015 show. It head back after this show.

Continuing on...

The displays were similar to that of the first day, with the Sukhoi SU-30MKM, Dassault Rafale, Viper, Al-Fursan, Black Knights, Aerotree and so on.

Here are some shots that I did not quite nail on the first day.

Al-Fursan Aerobatic Team

Breaking formation

Managed to get this solo performer this round at low altitude (better prepared), the Zivko Edge 540. This is then followed by the Krisakti

Pulling a tight turn


After 2 hours, the display was all over, and it was time to roam the grounds again for the last time as this was the last day we were there. Had closeups of a few aircraft before hitting the cool air-conditioned area.

USAF P-8 Poseidon

RMAF EC725AP Cougar [Larger]

And to complete the entire airshow, here is the shot of the Jets from around Asia (and France)

Su-30s, F-16s, Rafales

Well that is it for the Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition 2015. It was a great trip there, with opportunities to see the A-400M (Malaysia's First A400), B-52, China's August 1st Aerobatics Team, the Al-Fursan Team, and others from Neighbouring countries. Apart from that, we managed to spot AirAsia's new liveried aircraft (Connecting Asia), as well as the interior of the Falcon 7x.

Of course, all the parked airplanes and helicopters were easily accessible (for photos) and really up close.

So here are some Key takeaways, based on my experience of the airshow, for photographers looking for information for future LIMA events:

  • I used a 70-300 mm Lens for all zoom shots, on an EOS 600D (1.6x crop) body
  • Solo performers may appear very small (Su-30MKM) should they be up high (even at 300)
  • With such bright sunlight, set for fast shutter speed and small aperture. It is normal to have shutter speeds of 1/1250 at F 8.0
  • Wide shots were done with a 10-18mm lens (set mostly at 10mm on a crop body). Good for indoor display too.
  • Most of the performances will be heavily backlit if viewed from the exhibition area as you are pointing straight up.
  • Could try to head to the opposite side of the runway (not tried yet), though that would necessitate a longer zoom lens
  • Lens hoods are very useful against flares
  • 2 fully charged batteries should be able to take you through the whole day (with minimal video)
  • Have an accessible pack for your lenses should you want to change them (and you would want to change them for group performances. I did between the 70-300 and the 18-135)
  • 18-135 (or similar) would be good for team aerobatic performances to capture formation breaks 
  • An umbrella or a large hat with plenty of sunblock will enhance your experience (umbrella to review your shots on the LCD as with such bright sunlight, and even at maximum brightness of the LCD, you don't see much)
  • Before the airshow starts, look for planes with large horizontal stabilizers as they provide a fair amount of shade
  • Walk to every corner. You might find a hidden gem.
  • 3-4 16GB SD cards would be fine (2-day event). 16GB at 18MP with JPG gives me about 2200 shots
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, enjoy the airshow. Remember to put away your camera once in a while to truly experience the moment. Take it in with your own eyes and ears. It will provide a better memory than the thousands of images captured.
With that said, have a great time. Here are some shots at both Langkawi and Penang Airport on my Return trip. Yes, I had to go down to Subang and back up to Penang.

Weststar B727-23(Q) (N800AK) [Larger]
YES! a 727 at LGK

Then off I wend on my flight. The next few images are from Penang International Airport. First up was Silkair's first B737-800 (9V-MGA), now back in normal colours.

Silkair B737-8SA (9V-MGA)

Silkair departing

AirAsia's 100th Awesome Plane

My ride from Subang

That's all for the LIMA Posts. Back to Penang Planespotting moments.


Wednesday 11 November 2015

LIMA 2015 Part 05 (Day 1 of Exhibition) - Airshow - Props, Jets and more [Updated 20.11.2015]

Just looking at the dates and oh my, it has been close to 3 months since my last update. Lots of stuff have been going on, but I'm glad to say that we shall be moving on. 

To continue from the previous post right after the RSAF Black Knights. Krisakti / Aerotree was next, with one of the ship being piloted by our own Red Bull Air Racer. The solo performer in the Zivko Edge was out doing all sorts of maneuvers, many of which were tight turns, loops and more. 

Solo Zivko Edge 540 (N540WA)

I felt both the Reds (Extra EA-300L) and the White (Zivko Edge 540) complimented each other. While the Reds were sturdy, calm and synchronised always, we had the white to add the tanginess to the show. It would disappear for a moment before swooping in from behind the centre-stage area, wowing the crowds by pulling of sharp climbs.

The Aerobatic team was painted with the Aerotree on the top and the Malaysian Flag below. So whatever angle anyone is viewing them, they would see something.

Doing a vertical climb

Before performing a loop

Like other group performers, the show first started with the entire Krisakti group before they split and execute very close passes at each other.

Good thing about smaller planes like these at airshows is that they are slower and easier to track and follow, not to mention being able to lower your shutter speed for sharp shots to give the props the bluriness. However, with the size of the props, even a 300mm lens on a 1.6x crop body can have a hard time filling the entire frame while shooting from the apron. Future photographers of LIMA might want to consider using maybe >300mm or add a teleconverter for the added reach needed.

The reds made a flyby to signify their exit while the solo white came in at an angle to land on the runway at high speed. Awesome flying guys.

It was like a non-stop music playing for 2 hours with displays of so many different jets from different countries. This next one was what I only saw (heard of) on the internet and in games (Sky Target for those of you who know), the Rafale.

Rafale B (104-1C)

While this Rafale was a two-seater variant, it appeared that only one person was present in the aircraft during the display. From what we were treated, the Rafale was LOUD but its agility really stood out, even for an aircraft its size.

Glowing behind

Generating Vortices

I think if a video camera was rolling pointed at the audience, you would see their heads turning from left to right, then right to left, then up with eyes squinting away. Trust me, I know. I was one of them.

Low-Speed Gear-Down Flyby

And he's off again

With Afterburners engaged

Closeup with brighter shot of the belly

The pilot started with a bang, and it had to end with one too. Instead of coming in for an approach like all other aircraft (well except the Zivko), it flew along the length of the runway, invert itself while extending the gear, and pulling back on the stick to make a full 180 degree turn to touchdown on the runway. (now let me find the appropriate shots).

Braking on the runway

That is one large magnificent jet we had. The next one was much smaller but incredibly agile, nicknamed the "Viper". Equipped with fly-by-wire controls and designed to be somewhat aerodynamically unstable at lower speeds, it shows how much the jets have evolved with the heavy reliance on fast on-board computers. These changes help by reducing the weight and to improve maneuverability. Again, >300mm lens on a crop body is desired for close-up shots of such small fighter jets.

Generating vortices (92-3912)

(Photos from the other side would be much better)

Topside during high-speed pass

Honestly speaking, most of the acts of single jets are very similar to each other. You have the knife edge, the 4 direction (top, left, right, inverted) flight direction, low-speed fly-by and so on. 

Close-up of the F-16 after the performance. [Larger]

The close up above shows many features of the F-16, such as the bubble canopy, the air inlet (which always gives me the impression of a smiley face) and of course, the placement of the landing lights at the landing gear door.

The F-16 marked the end of the 2-hour long aerial display. Yes, 2 HOURS. Isn't that just great? But by then, it was already 2 P.M. and most of the crowd were already dehydrated, and sweating profusely. A few more shots and the tarmac and it was indoors for all of us.

Lineup of J-10s [Larger]

Qatar A319-133LR (A7-CJA) - Dropping / Picking up VIPs

Quite a number of business / corporate jets were coming in. The Weststar fleet of 727 and the helicopter, this Qatar and a Thai A320 CJ were among some of them coming in and out, in addition to Gulfstreams, and smaller private planes.No shots of the Thai CJ as the heat haze was terrible at that length.

A400 engine

So indoors, here we come. We planned to spend some time indoors, before leaving to see the maritime display. But by the time we left the expo, the jam was horrendous. So just indoors and a visit to other parts of Langkawi. Not much time was spent indoors though.

Magnetic levitation of a model helicopter

Gun display (with locks of course)

The helicopter display was cool, with it spinning from left to right and back to left again. Wondering why didn't I lift it up. The other thing was the rifle display, with some carbines and machine guns, with some very nice to handle with smooth using parts, and others not so well oiled.

That completes Day 1 of the exhibition. Most of Day 2's performances are the same, so will only add those shots that are significantly different.

Next post to come.

Monday 20 July 2015

LIMA 2015 Part 04 (Day 1 of Exhibition) - Airshow

Just before the airshow began (which will take about 2.5 hours), we managed to get a sneak peak into a Falcon 7X Business Jet on display. Had to wait for a short while as they only allowed a few people in at a time. Of course, those inside would want to continue being inside as like some other aircraft on display, this one had an air conditioning unit connected to the baggage section of the jet, which cooled the entire cabin.

Spacious Cabin of the Falcon (N163FJ) Larger

Imagine being able to live in such luxury. Looks like the jet can seat approximately 8 people (maybe more) in great comfort. Seats have been tested and verified comfy. The cockpit boasts LCD and sidestick controllers. The visor gives the idea of how sunny and hot the place was.

Cockpit (and head) shot of the aircraft.

Just as I was waiting for a chance to have a seat in the cockpit, someone on the PA mentioned "... airshow will start in a moment". This was 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled time of 12:30pm. So we quickly rushed towards the runway, under the tail of one of the aircraft for shade, and waited for the airshow to start. By this time, all of us were quite dehydrated due to the scorching heat. Just take note that a bottle of 1.5L of water will cost you RM7 (if not more). Nothing we can do about, so do take note if you are going for the 2017 one.

RMAF Su-30MKM (M52-16)

First up was a solo performance by the RMAF's Mig replacement, the Su-30MKM. It is one LARGE aircraft and a loud one too. Upon takeoff, it did a sharp left turn and increased altitude for even more displays.


Snapping photos at 12:00 pm from the display area will give you frame filling shots (this was taken using a crop sensor body, 1.6x, at focal lengths of 200 mm to 300 mm depending on where the jet is), BUT, lighting will be incredibly horrible and would require lots of post processing.

Better to grab shots from an observation point on the opposite side. That would give you less backlighting, but you would need a lens with long focal lengths.

Cobra Manoeuvre (for your information, 300 mm)

Lots of high altitude displays, which makes it really hard to spot with the sun directly at you. A pic below shows just how big (small) it can be after you snap the photo.

Shutter speed of 1/500 at 300mm at F8.0

Parachutes and speedbrakes deployed

The performance took about 9 minutes. 

A sneak peak of what's coming up next.

Zivko Edge 540 (N540WA)

The solo aerobatic prop departing with a trail. The trail allows viewers to see the flight path of this one, seeing that it is quite small and white, which does not provide that much contrast in the hot Langkawi weather.

A lot of maneuvres were done, twisting and turning, performing low level fly past and many more. Some pics of the display.

To end his performance, the pilot did a daring turn and descend, very close to the ground. Inverting and aligning with the runway just before touchdown.

An interesting performance I must say. Must've trained a long time. Though he is the pilot for the Red Bull championship, so it should be a norm for him now.

"Turnaround" time for each performance was short. While the Edge 540 was out on the display run, the Al-Fursan aerobatics team had already begin warming up their aircraft for performance. The performing team for this LIMA used 7 Aermacchi MB339 NAT aircraft for the performance. You can see the distinctive red, green, blue and white smoke emitted from the 7 aircraft, which represents the colour of the UAE Flag.

Al Fursan Team Preparing for takeoff

With some comments uttered by the commentator (not very clear), they were off. Rolling on the runway, and rotating in great synchronicity.

Taking off, 5 at a time

A note to future LIMA visitors, from where we were (underneath the shade of the horizontal stabilizer of the P-8 Poseidon), you will not be able to hear the commentators clearly. Sound system is not powerful enough to project the voice that far. If you are just there for the shots, then it is fine. Otherwise, you might want to get nearer to the main stage (near the Rafales from the previous post).

Being a larger group, they have more flexibility to fly in more formations and more styles. It was interesting to see them fly with such great precision. When the smoke trails are enabled.......

Colours of the UAE

In most aerial displays involving lots of aircraft such as this one, they usually start off with the group display, flying in various formations like the delta or the arrow formation. This will usually take about half the period of their display. For the other half of the display, the group splits up to two or even three smaller groups. For some moves, only a single unit breaks from the main group. Pics as below.

While they may appear to be flying in unison, these 7 aircraft are rarely flying at the same altitude. In the T formation above, the front 5 aircraft are several feet above the trailing two aircraft. The trailing aircraft themselves are also separated by several feet in terms of altitude. Flying like this however gives the impression that they are in a straight line. One possible reason is to provide better visuals for maneuvering the aircraft, and the other is to avoid possible wake turbulence caused by the aircraft in front, however insignificant they may be.

The team made a big loop right before splitting up to two groups.

One thing that I've noticed is that there are lots of photographers with incredibly long lens there. But what's more interesting is that for quite a number of them, their lens only goes up to the direction of the aircraft when the aircraft are nosediving towards the ground. I wonder if they are preparing to snap the event of the aircraft crashing. Don't really see them shooting the formation at other periods (Hmm.......)

One of the "trick moves" as I would like to call it is to pilot one aircraft upside down, while the other spirals around it.

Inverted Helix

We have always been reminded not to drink and drive. The pic below shows what happens when one drinks and fly.

Drunken Flying

It was not long before the individual aircraft joined the main group once again to wow the spectators and to give them a few more final displays before they end their show.

One last pass and the team was good to execute their final display before landing.

So with the spiralling helix display, the Al-Fursan team hands the airspace over to China's August 1st Aerobatic Team.

Taking off in great synchronisation. The team employ's a 6-ship formation for the entire display, one two of them a tandem seat unit, the J-10SY. The single seat variant is known as the J-10AY.

Pulling up for a vertical climb

Like many of the aerobatic teams that send a large group for display, this team starts with the group demonstrations first.

The J-10 employs a delta-wing configuration with canards, similar to the Rafales and the Eurofighter models. The distinctive shape can be seen in the picture above. Note that the refuelling probe stays out the entire time.

Smoke On

Unlike the Al-Fursan team that use strong coloured smoke, the August 1st team uses a milder mix for their smoke, a purple, pink and an orangy-beige smoke colour. The team then breaks formation for other displays.

Diamond Formation

Smoke dispenser mounted on pylons

Only 5 made the beautiful formation break above as the 6th ship was getting ready for a low pass. This one was with the lady pilot. This shows the proximity to the ground. You can see the Al-Fursan Team and our Krisakti team in the foreground.

Flying low for the lady pilot to wave to us

Or rather for us to wave to her

As soon as the team started with their performance, it ended. The J-10 uses parachutes to aid the braking process on the runway. 

Back after the display, taxiing to parking bay Larger

Always with the Red vs. Blue games, after the blue J-10s have landed, the Red F-16s went up. They are the RSAF's Black Knights. Unlike the Singapore Airshow which featured a 6-ship formation, only 2 were featured in LIMA, with a third on standby.

But 2 doesn't mean anything less. Sure there wasn't any "Rainfall" or "Seashell", but they were equally daring and spectacular, displaying most of what was shown during the Singapore Airshow, albeit with only two aircraft.

High-Speed head on pass

Knife Edge with the top facing us

Another with the bottom to us

They used the same music track as they did in Singapore Airshow 2014, this was the "Low & Slow" maneuver, where two jets fly in formation at a certain angle, but at very low speeds before engaging in full afterburner. Song is still fresh, "Roar" by Katy Perry.

Low & Slow

Then we had inverted flights, one bottom to bottom, and the other top to top.

Was hoping that they would end with flares, like they did in the Singapore Airshow, but sadly, no such display.

Time to start a new post.