Everyone’s excited about the return of the military jet demonstration teams to the airshow circuit for the 2014 season. After a years absence, most photographers I know are ready for their return. Some are already planning their schedules around shows they will perform at.
I personally welcome the return, however having shot them so many times over the years, they will not be a deciding factor as to what events I attend.
Excitement aside, there is one element of the of the military teams performance that is gone forever never to return. That is the JATO performed by the Blue Angels C130 Fat Albert.
For those of you who never got to see this, here is a brief explanation. The acronym (JATO) stands for jet assisted takeoff. This is a means of lifting aircraft off of very short air strips in the minimum amount of distance. It is accomplished by attaching canisters containing rocket propellant to racks mounted on the sides of the planes fuselage. These canisters known as JATO bottles are triggered by the pilot when the correct takeoff speed is reached. Once fired the bottles provide jet force lift to turboprop and heavy jet aircraft. They remain on for a short time until they exhaust their fuel.
It is a truly amazing site to see as heavy aircraft are launched into the air in this manner. It would be nice to see it once again, but the cost, logistics, and lack of serviceable JATO bottles makes this a near impossibility.