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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Hunting for jets in the High Sierra with Camden Thrasher | Hagerty Media

There is no sound, at first. They bank in silently under the ridgeline and below your feet, precise and deliberate little motions, slower than you expect-matte-gray shapes, dirty-looking, too distant to make out and then seemingly close enough to touch. The noise comes an instant later, various gases being burned and shoved aside, deafening and metallic.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/people/hunting-for-jets-in-the-high-sierra-with-camden-thrasher/
22 REPLIES 22
Mazz
New Driver

Gave me goosebumps. Gotta grab a beer. Experienced this on my 1978 KZ1000 A2A in 1980 as I was being transferred to US Naval Station @ Point Mugu for C-130 Antarctica expeditions. The pictures were awesome Camden! What a great way to combine our love for vehicles.
Mazz
New Driver

By the way, back then it was USN-F-14, Marines AV-8/A, and Air Force F-15/A-10 and some pretty awesome F-4's in case you were wondering.
mtgibby
Pit Crew

Amazing pictures! Reminds me of my time with an S-3B Viking Squadron when I was a much younger man. While not a true afterburner jet, the S-3 was still a fun (turbofan) ride. I got to sit in one of the backseats with our XO flying as we dropped cluster weapons on the target range in the Chocolate Mountains. He would bank hard left to see the weapon impact the decommissioned tanks and armored vehicles below. I managed to hold down my lunch, barely!
Chevelle_man
Intermediate Driver

I was an S-3A Sensor Operator mid 70s through late 80s. We normally flew over water, so low levels in the mountains was fun and scary at the same time, even though we couldn't do 500 knots. Flying off an aircraft carrier IS the most fun you can have with your clothes on!
Flashman
Technician

Thanks; your story almost takes me up there with them.
SJacobT
Detailer

Thanks so much, SS!
SJacobT
Detailer

I just looked for Lemans again and it seems to be widely available on several platforms - that must have happened recently!
Forester
Intermediate Driver

I've experienced these close and personal jets too. Back in the early 70s I was on a wildland fire fighting Helitack crew. We would fly into fires on the Sequoia National Forest. On one such fire assignment, we were flying down the Kern River at about 800' AGL, when all of a sudden a Corsair came up in front of us. (He must of been trailing us as he snuck under us and I could see the pilot). The Corsair was traveling very very slow with flaps out and landing gear down. The plane probably came out of Lemoore Naval Air Station. My helicopter was traveling about 60-80 knots, the Corsair wasn't going much faster as he passed underneath us. As he got further ahead he picked up his landing gear, tucked in his flaps and hit the gas. I remember seeing the flame of the engine as he roared off. That was cool for a 18 year old to see first hand. Through out my career as a wildland firefighter, I work closely with the the Navy as we share airspace all the time and mixed missions together. Most recently, I coordinated flights of cruise missiles through my fire's TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction airspace) so as not to cause conflicts with the military's scheduled training missions.
PS. When I was even younger, I worked on constructing trails in the Kern River drainage, and many times I would see these Navy jets on the deck below me carving the river. Speak of a roar!!
JimS
New Driver

In the summer of 1977, I was on a bicycle tour of England, Scotland, and Wales. One day I was riding along the shore of a lake. On the opposite side, an RAF fighter popped up over a hill and came straight toward me. He was coming in low and slow. Very intimidating to know I was in his sights. As he passed over I waved. A few seconds later I saw the same jet fly parallel to me. As he passed this time he waved back.
SteelyDan
Intermediate Driver

A few minutes ago I posted crusty old man comments about the top value auction at B-J. That those vehicles were doomed to be retired from actual use.
So this well crafted article on the experience of watching multi-million dollar machines in one edge of their performance envelopes piloted by our nation's finest is JUST what I needed!
Qw
Intermediate Driver

Awesome ,look out for rattlers !
MR
Intermediate Driver

There's not a set of keys on my keyboard to describe the emotions going through me as I viewed those photo's......Thanks!
ThumperUSMC
Intermediate Driver

I loved Low Level flying when I flew for the Marine Corps, retiring in 1989 at the ripe old age of 38.
It is absolutely the most fun you can have with your clothes on. It is also very intense, because any mistake or burble of air can end your career and your life in a heartbeat. The training is an absolute necessity and you start in increments. Was it difficult to end it all at retirement? Yes. It is still that way, nearly 40 years later. It's something you will always want to do again...
win59
Advanced Driver

Excellent - as always Sam!!
firkle
New Driver

As a former Navy pilot, with A-4, A-7, F-5 and FA-18 experience, this article took me back... Tremendous fun flying low, but I was also told early on, by a seasoned aviator - you can only tie the low altitude record.
Chevelle_man
Intermediate Driver

and the ground has a PK of 100.
eighthtry
Advanced Driver

We have flyovers at least once a year at Texas A&M football games in College Station. The planes are usually piloted by former A&M Corps of Cadet now Air Force/Navy pilots. There is nothing like having them zoom over and hit the afterburners on the way out of sight. Very quickly. Unbelievable. I could sit all day and watch it with your site lines. Winter, of course.
cassman66
Intermediate Driver

Great article! I lived in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1983. I drove from there to Glasgow frequently, and always saw the RAF practicing low level flying. Harriers were the most frequent that I saw. Beautiful country added to those very low, screaming fighters was fabulous!
steveadil
Pit Crew

Great story, great photos! But... no video??
terra-incognita
Intermediate Driver

For those geographically curious…here are some approximate locations.
Picture 2 & 13
35.934316, -118.482809
Looking south-west
https://goo.gl/maps/a5eGcPCQ1nfUY66y6

Picture 3
37.123899, -118.055122
Looking west/south-west
https://goo.gl/maps/38rB5kSJUaZxEjwr5
Eagledriver
New Driver

Hi Terra-incognita,I used to go to rainbow canyon quite a lot as .y wife loves jets and has trouble walking .I looked up your locations and they seem OK.Could you give me any more detail as to distance from road climbing rock,soil to top.frequency of jets that you observed the times upu were there.did you ever get a day of seeing nothing etc.thanks for any response in advance. 

terra-incognita
Intermediate Driver

Eagledriver
I apologize for the very late response - I just saw you post & questions.
Unfortunately, I have never been to these locations nor witnessed the flybys. I was curious about where the flightpaths were and figured out the locations & directions from analyzing the pictures. For the first location, it looks like you should be able to see the jets fine from along the road and not have to hike to a higher position. From the road to the location is about 450-foot elevation gain - short, but not an easy hike/climb.
I would imagine/hope that there are some websites that discuss these flights, the routes, and possible times. It does seem like there could be a lot of waiting around seeing nothing unless one had some usable intel.
Sorry for not having any detailed info.