Alan Radecki, aerospace and flight test photographer for Northrop Grumman and author of A Mojave Scrapbook, was featured on Aerotech NewsRadio May 31.
He shared how his experience as a professional photographer and passion for aviation history led to a rather unique blog, Vintage Air, which he began in September 2011. Though the blog has not been around for long, it has already started “getting world-wide attention.”
Radecki has spent a lifetime in aviation and photography. He received his first camera when he was six years old.
“I was fortunate to have a father who was a journalist for a while, magazine editor and professor of journalism and graphic arts,” said Radecki. He added that his father “happened to be an aviation nut” and took him to many air shows as a child. Since that time he continued to pursue careers in aviation and photography.
Radecki had begun to collect vintage aviation photographs that were “literally rotting away” in antique stores. “I’m passionate about history and about preserving history,” Radecki said. He added that the history of photography and the history of aviation both came about at the same time and the images “are like snapshots in time.”
Radecki researches the images in his collection and writes about the stories behind them. He recalled that writing about Jesse Brown, the first African American aviator in the U.S. Navy, was the first time he “got choked up” writing a blog post. Brown was flying lead on a mission from a Korean War aircraft carrier when he was forced to crash land due to ground fire. His wingman, Thomas Hudner, seeing that Brown was still living, crash-landed his own plane to try to save Brown.
Unfortunately, they were unable to retrieve Brown and Hudner was forced to leave with the helicopter before dark. After Brown died Hudner and his men bombed the area as kind of a “Viking” funeral to ensure that the Chinese would not desecrate the body. The soldiers read the Lord’s Prayer over the radio as they bombed the area. Brown was the Navy’s first African-American aviator, and was the first Navy casualty of the Korean War. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal, and had a ship named after him. Hudner was given the Medal of Honor. The image shown in the blog post features the squadron’s aircraft on the deck of the USS Leyte just days before the incident happened.
The Vintage Air blog went viral after Radecki posted an image of a man strapped the fuselage of a DC-8 jet airliner flying at 250 mph at about 50 feet off the ground. The man, known as the Human Fly, made a name for himself as a wing-walker who took the 1920s practice a little further. The Human Fly would perform this stunt at various air shows with the help of pilot Clay Lacey. The image shown on the blog was taken at the Mojave Airport.
The Vintage Air blog can be found at vintageairphotos.blogspot.com and is a division of MojaveWest Media Works.
To hear the full broadcast, visit our radio page here. Aerotech NewsRadio is a weekly program broadcasting on Thursday mornings at 11 a.m. Tune into 1380 on the AM dial to hear the show live.