The A2A Portrait is a Challenge!
It looks like they are cheesing it up for the camera, but nothing could be further from the truth. When flying in formation, the pilot of the subject aircraft is staring not down the camera lens but rather at the aircraft where the camera resides. Flying off the wing is the most common formation and it’s the responsibility of the pilot flying off the wing to not run into that wing. The lead aircraft, and in this case that is the photo platform, guides the flight through the skies. The subject aircraft makes sure three is no collision. This means they must watch that aircraft and in doing so, they appear to be staring down that lens barrel. And even with that, getting the A2A portrait is a challenge!
Before you take to the skies, you brief the flight. The brief covers everything from flight frequencies to the actual photographic goals of the flight. While you would love to do all the communication in the air via the radio, there are times when hand signals take over. The one unique hand signal I brief is the smile. Pilots concentrate so much in their craft, smiling just doesn’t come out. But we are having a ton of fun so when the light is right, I give the signal to smile. It is so off the wall that the pilots at first wonder what I’m signaling and then, they remember and the humor of this “non-technical” hand signal makes them smile. It’s not your everyday portrait and it’s a challenge, but afterward, the pilots love seeing them not just flying, but loving it!