Nellis in a day from Scotland – Part 2

I was awake before 7am – two reasons. 1: It was really mid afternoon in my head; 2: I was still worried about getting home without a hitch

Anyway, quick shower, check all my camera gear was working and clean; down to reception to meet Dave

I’d allowed for traffic to get to Nellis for 9am, and Dave was driving for the first time in the area so I’d said an 8am departure. As it was, even though it was busy the journey took just over 30 minutes – you can’t beat 10 lane wide highways – with the same amount of traffic on the road around Ayr it would have taken a few hours to travel the 25 miles or so

I showed Dave around the area and then we went and sat at the Speedway end till it was time for me head just across the road and the bus airside. There were a few departures from 03L, all based stuff; F16s and A10s, but the light was wrong to get any decent photos. And when they came back it was to land on both 21L and R so again the light was wrong

It wasn’t too long though before Dave had to take me to the pick up point at one of the remote gates for Nellis. There were already a few people there, some I recognised from before and even one guy I used to work with as an Assistant at West Drayton. I like to keep myself to myself though and so just waited for Laura and the Public Affairs team to arrive with the bus (I did talk to the ex collegue once we were airside – i’m not bad)

After a role call, it was on the bus and over to the runways. Nellis and the Public affairs team have a great set up with plenty of experiance dealing with the Media days. There was a quick brief on the bus: No photos of the Duluth F16s, no rear shots of the B2s and F22s, the RAAF wanted the missle on the left wingtip to be excluded; and no photos to be published of the based OT aircraft(this was a change from before as all the based aircraft were ok with photos). Some of this was going to be difficult as its hard to tell certain things apart until they were going past you – ok, the B2s and F22s were ok to recognise, but not a head on F16. As it was, the B2s still had a Master Sergeant with us who would check our cameras to ensure we were obeying the rules. Annoyingly, the best photo of the whole day for me is of an OT F15E taking off – no publishing of that one then. I’m going to send a print to the Sqn though

I have a favourite spot between the runways, at the 5000ft to go marker for 03L. Sorry, I haven’t explained what happens to us, or rather, what we’re allowed to do airside. There’s no ramp tour, which is understandable, it’s a busy place. We get taken to the Stand-by tower between the runways and are then pretty much allowed to go where we want as long as you don’t enter the cross taxiways or go as close to the runway as the stop bars/holding points. This time they’d marked red lines in the sand parallel to the runway edge.

It does make me laugh watching all the “drifting”. Someone sets up next to the runway, then someone else comes along and stands in front of them and a little closer to the runway, which then makes the previous person creep forward…. and on and on and on. With most people going to the 3000ft to go marker for 03L/R so that they’re right where the aircraft rotate, moving down that extra 2000ft gave me a fairly quiet area

Now, I could go into intricate details about all the movements that took place over the next 4 and a half hours but it would take ages. But as a guide I took around 715 photographs and about 15 minutes of video footage. It is a manic time as both runways are utilised. Again, its hilareous watching people sprint between the runways to catch all the movements. I was well set up with my 70 – 200mm on my 5D and the 300mm on my 300D which meant I didn’t have to move much. I wandered around for a few movements but it really wasn’t worth it; there’s only about 400 feet between the two runways!!

A memorable departure was from the E2. It was up quickly and then flew most of the length of the runway at about 20 feet as can be seen here.

But, i’ve got to say that most of it was memorable. The noise is always good thats for sure. And with the Camcorder here this time, I will be creating a new video soon.

One annoyance was a certain individual that for absolutely no reason came and stood right next to me. He had about 1500 feet to choose from and he was probably no more than 5 away from me. And he kept moving around, so he kept stepping in front of my camera at the wrong time. To make matters worse, when the B2s came in to land he followed me over to the other runway. On the video, all you can hear is his camera going ballistic as he rattled off no less than 30 pictures (i’ve counted them) in less than a 1000ft of runway – I mean, what do you need 30 pictures of one aircraft for? I’ve never got that mentality really – maybe I remember the days of slide film that was 1: expensive and 2: meant you had to change rolls of film all the time if you went crazy

The Duluth F16s were also humerous. I don’t think they’d been told that their base commander had said no photos, as they did some spectacular go arounds and kept the nose wheel up along the runway for as long as possible on landing. They must have wondered why no-one was taking any photos 🙂

It’s amazing how quick the time goes and before I knew it everything was on the ground and it was time to head back. There was a slight “cock up” in that the gate we were dropped off at and that Dave was to pick me up at had been closed, but I managed a lift back to the Speedway and met up with him there. He seemed to have had a good day too.

The next adventure was about to begin though. Back at the hotel it was time to ring United, luckily toll free from the room telephone. Over 2 hours later I had booked myself on the early flight to EWR direct – phew. No worries about missing the GLA flight, but it was a complicated process and there “Is going to be a fee, I hope thats ok?” I’d told myself that it doesn’t matter how much it costs and I’d decided that it was going to be around $400 so when the guy came back to me and said “I’m afraid its going to be $70” I nearly laughed. I quickly gave him my credit card details; and got him to confirm that it was definately a confirmed ticket – and went laughing all the way to The Hard Rock Cafe with Dave

But, you know when you get that feeling something isn’t quite right? I decided that I’d get up early and get over to LAS as soon as I could – just in case. So, at midnight I said goodbye to Dave and went to bed for 3 hours!!

LAS is a weird airport, it basically closes for about an hour and a half; from three to half 4 – something like that. What this does is build up a ridiculous amount of passengers that want to check in and go through security. When I arrived at the airport I went to an e-ticket machine to get my boarding pass. My hunch was right, something had gone wrong with my rebooking. I started a queue at the desks, totally unaware that behind me, by the entrance to the terminal, there was a good 1000 people waiting for the desks to open and that i’d seriously queue jumped. You know what though? no-one said anything!! That wouldn’t happen in the UK 🙂 But, it’s just as well I did as it took about 45 minutes to sort out. Turns out it was a wrong digit entered on my credit card. The lady at the desk gave me a “kind of boarding pass” and told me to head to the gate. By that time there would be a real booking made for me and i’d get my boarding pass there.

It was fingers crossed time again

Luckily, it worked. And I was on my way home. There was a 5 hour stop over at EWR where I didn’t do much. I went and looked for the lady that had helped me before but didn’t find her which is a shame. I wanted to say thanks

I arrived back at GLA at 7am. I still don’t know why it takes so long but, bearing in mind I only had hand luggage so didn’t need to wait for bags etc, why did it take 3 hours to get home? I only live 51 miles away from GLA. The roads and traffic are just shit. It was certainly something I didn’t need after such a little amount of sleep

When I finally got my head down it was 10:30am on Friday the 16th March. In the 78 and a half hours since I’d woken up on the 13th I’d had 7 hours sleep – was it all worth it?

Of course it was 🙂

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