6 Minutes in the Air

What was meant to be a fun outing to the Klerksdorp Air Show on 30 July 2012 turned to disaster when a L-39 Albatros suddenly dropped from the sky and hit the ground.

I am ill equipped to do aviation photography as I own only a basic 75-300mm lens. But the idea was to have some fun while practicing to focus on high speed action. More high speed action than capturing two jets you could not ask for. Following the jets through their routine was exciting.

“Amen. Let the engines roar.” were the words that the pastor who opened the show used to end his prayer. Moments later, when the L-39 Albatros of Gianfranco Cicogna hit the ground I continued taking a few photos instinctively but could not believe what I was seeing. I was still following the plane and got a last shot of his jet upside down and was zooming out for the next shot when all I saw was flames and smoke. The words of the pastors prayer and theme song from Top Gun, which had been played during the performance, rang through my head. A silent prayer asking for protection were my in my thoughts.

I stopped taking further photos and went home. The day, for me, was over.

When I got home I downloaded the photos from my memory card to my computer. As I looked through them I was still in shock of what I had witnessed. After a prayer asking for guidance I posted this set of four images to my Facebook wall. My thoughts were that the news would soon spread and people will soon ask questions and that there will be much confusion about what happened. I remembered how it felt when someone I knew got killed in a car accident and how, when I saw photographs of the accident scene, it brought a kind of closure to the unbelief one feels when such an event occurs. I hoped that these four photos would explain and bring closure to a terrible event for those who were not there to see it. Those last few photos are something I wish I never needed to take.

Gianfranco Cicogna and Charles Urban spent just 6 minutes in the air. The time of take-off recorded by the GPS time on my camera was 9:45am, and the crash occurred at 9:51am. I photographed the last six minutes of someones life, something I never want to do again. I loaded an album of photos to my Facebook Page which I entitled “6 Minutes in the Air” in memory of Gianfranco Cicogna. The images from this album are available at high resolution at no charge via email on request (not for commercial use).

Gianfranco, may you rest in peace.

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