Blog

The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

DCA Planespotting - May 4th, 2018

Despite all the aviation photography I capture, I've only been to Gravelly Point a handful of times; twice on dates, and a few other times just to stop in the parking lot and check my phone before hitting the road after leaving a photoshoot at DCA proper.  This may be shocking to you, but I've never photographed at Gravelly Point before.  Never.  I've just never taken the time to, since I normally am photographing on assignment on an active airfield for my aviation work.

Friday, Star Wars Day, was no different; I had left DCA after a full day of photographing and decided to stop and respond to a few texts before hitting the GW Parkway, except this time I actually had my telephoto with me and was in no rush, so I decided to hop out and see what I could capture for a few minutes.  Plus, it was odd lighting; the sun was setting, but a storm was moving in at the same time.

Before I left DCA I did spot one of these HC-144 Ocean Sentries; I heard there was a whole group that had flown in while I was there, but I only saw this one taxiing.  That was before I left DCA though.

DCA Planespotting 1.jpg

Now enjoy these photos I captured in a span of only 20min at Gravelly Point.  Gravelly Point geographically lies just over 1,000ft from end of R/W 19, squarely below the runway's glide slope on the Potomac River, giving an impressive perspective of aircraft turning to final only a few hundred feet overhead.

DCA Planespotting 2.jpg
DCA Planespotting 3.jpg
DCA Planespotting 4.jpg
DCA Planespotting 5.jpg

The park also offers some great views of the DC skyline, though I didn't venture very far off the runway centerline; I have still never been to the waterfront at Gravelly Point, so I don't know what other views it may offer.

DCA Planespotting 6.jpg

I also decided to try catching video of one of the arrivals; with the storm moving in, all aircraft were performing crosswind landings, which, while routine flying for experienced pilots, is still impressive to see, especially to the uninitiated like some of the other onlookers enjoying the finally-warm weather in the park.

NASA's Orville and Santa Claus Visit the Dulles Funway

This past Wednesday, just a few days before taking off on his 'round the World trip to deliver toys to all girls and boys on his nice list, Santa and Mrs. Claus landed at the Dulles Funway to meet kids and wish them a Merry Christmas.

Santa's timing was perfect; Orville, NASA's flying squirrel mascot (named after Orville Wright), also dropped by to present Santa Claus with Quiet Super-Santa Transport (QueSST) technology which will enable him to circumnavigate the World faster and quieter than ever before, thanks to NASA Aeronautics.

NASA Orville Santa 1.jpg

After the technology transfer, it was time to relax and have some fun; Santa and Orville spent some time playing with kids awaiting their flights at the Dulles Funway kids play area.

NASA Orville Santa 2.jpg

Even flight crew stopped by to with Santa a safe Christmas flight and show off their holiday cheer!

NASA Orville Santa 3.jpg

All that play wore Santa out, and he decided to get a massage at Be Relax in Dulles' Concourse B.  He is sure to now be loosened up and ready to fly tomorrow night!

NASA Orville Santa 4.jpg

Meanwhile, Orville had decided to head outside and check out the aircraft; he is a flying squirrel after all!  A Southwest flight was just arriving and he helped marshal in the 737, and even  assisted ramp crew offload luggage!

NASA Orville Santa 5.jpg
NASA Orville Santa 6.jpg

Before going back inside, Orville greeted passengers boarding the outbound flight, giving high-fives and taking selfies.

NASA Orville Santa 7.jpg

As his day came to a close, Orville checked the flight status boards to see when he was scheduled to take off from Dulles; thankfully, Travelers Aid was there to help Orville find his way to the gate.

NASA Orville Santa 8.jpg

...and of course on the way there Orville had to join in singing with the carolers!

NASA Orville Santa 9.jpg

AirlineGeeks.com

A Planespotter’s Dream Gig: A Look into the Life of an Airport Photographer

This morning, AirlineGeeks.com features a profile of me, highlighting my aviation photography, and giving a glimpse into what it’s like when I cover large-scale corporate events.  I invite you to read the full article on the AirlineGeeks website by clicking here or the article preview below.

It is an immeasurable honor that my photography has inspired a profile to be written about me and my work. I’m proud to work so closely with so many people at Dulles International and Reagan National airports, amongst the Airports Authority, the airlines, and their partners, all of whom work hard to keep the DC airports operating smoothly, and welcoming passengers the whole-world over.

I especially have to thank Ryan from AirlineGeeks for shadowing and interviewing me during the Air India inaugural a few weeks ago. I also must thank Airport Operations; without their skilled assistance, I would never be able to cover airfield actives with the depth I capture. Finally I must thank my many partners in the numerous PR, marketing, communications, and media departments and outlets I have worked with over the years - it is because of their efforts on many projects that my photos have been presented to a global audience.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me in growing my career to where it stands today - today marks a true milestone; I can’t begin to describe how honored I am to be receiving such recognition, and I am excited to learn the next heights my career will take. Thank you!

Air India at Washington Dulles International Airport

On a warm, drizzly Summer morning, Air India's inaugural flight between Delhi, India, and Washington, DC landed at Washington Dulles International Airport, greeted by a delegation from the Embassy of India, distinguished guests, and a crowd of media who gathered alongside the runway.  Upon landing, the 777-200LR was welcomed with a ceremonial water arch, and the aircraft blessed upon arriving to its gate.

Following refreshments, a press conference commenced with performances of Jana Gana Mana and The Star-Spangled Banner, national anthems of India and the United States, and a traditional Indian dance.  Speakers included Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, Ambassador of India to the United States His Excellency Navtej Sarna, Air India’s Chairman Ashwani Lohani, and representatives from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to include Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Margaret McKeough, and Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Jerome Davis.  After remarks from each of the speakers, a ceremonial cake cutting and exchange of gifts was enjoyed by the distinguished guests.

After the festivities, I made my way onto the ramp for one more aircraft walk around, and finally onto the runway to watch Air India’s flight depart Dulles for the first time on it’s new non-stop route back to Indira Gandhi International Airport.  Luckily the weather had cleared up during the press conference and the skies were now blue with heavy bands of clouds quickly moving across the horizon, creating additional dramatic effect for Air India’s first departure.

Air India IAD 9.jpg

We don't believe in walls; 

we believe in bridges.

Terry McAuliffe, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia

SOARING - A Short Film by J. David Buerk

Recently I accompanied my friend Ellen up to Connecticut to help her buy a new car - a metallic green Nissan Xterra.  In this case, one of only two green Xterras for sale on the East Coast.  After buying the car, we convoyed back down to Blairstown, New Jersey, a small township roughly 60 miles West of New York City.  Blairstown is home to Blair Academy, a prep school, and Blairstown Airport, a single runway public use airfield that is a base for Jersey Ridge Soaring, a glider business owned by Ellen's parents.

It's long been a dream of mine to get a pilots license and learn to fly an aircraft recreationally.  I flew twice that day; my first flight was scenic, and the second was an actual flight lesson where I was on the stick most of the flight - my first time actually flying an aircraft!

Without further ado, I present to you a short film I assembled from the bits of footage I gathered that day.

For months Ellen has been begging me to come and try flying in a glider, and for months I've told her, "aircraft are supposed to have engines." I've been in small aircraft plenty of times; mostly helicopters, but even a hot air balloon, which of course isn't powered.  If anything, I finally realized gliders are safer in that you can actually steer them.

My first flight was scenic, encompassing the photos and video footage you see here.  My second flight, after gaining just 500AGL, I was told, "Ok, follow the tow plane!"  Basically as soon as we were off the ground I was given control of the aircraft.  There were only two instances where it was a bit too much and I gave back the controls (beyond departure and landing); once while getting kicked around during towing, and once when a thermal became a bit too strong for my (lack of) skill level.

I'd managed to find and get centered in a 400ft/min thermal, gaining over 1,000 feet in altitude, before the updraft mixed with the crosswind was getting too dicey for my own inexperienced comfort at the controls.  That's a pretty solid thermal to latch onto, and a far cry from the first flight, which hardly had any thermal activity, lending itself to a short, ~40min flight.  The second flight was a little under an hour long.  What threw me off the most during my stick time was the lack of feedback through the stick, as well as how much movement it had available; at some points it felt as if my legs were in the way of the stick.  Also, there was the slight delay for inputs which also befuddled.  I found it interesting that the gliders' airspeed is in MPH instead of knots.  Both flights we were towed up to 2,500ft before releasing, and reached a max altitude of ~3,500ft on the second flight.

Glider aircraft are also called sailplanes because of their similarity to sailing a sailboat; wind currents are your friend, but you must know how to use them.  Flying in the sailplane feels like flying in a sky kayak.

I skipped over it, but immediately after buying Ellen's truck, we all got dinner at a Texas Roadhouse in Connecticut - Alyssa had driven over from Woonsocket, Rhode Island to catch dinner with me and my friends (you should have come flying with us!).  After dinner, we departed for Blairstown for a weekend flying, which you just read about.

Gliders are definitely something I will be doing again, though I find it ironic that I still have not been up in a single-engine airplane.  I can't wait to get more flight time in!