Behind the Quick Shot: Flying Lauren

Air shows are a great place to go if you want to see some incredible flying machines and aerobatic feats by talented pilots. Usually, these pilots are mature and experienced men, so you can imagine my surprise and excitement when one of the best aerial performances from the Little Gransden Show came from a 27-year old female pilot named Lauren Richardson.

Lauren Richardson is the owner and pilot of a Pitts Special biplane, registration G-BKDR. At 27 years old, she is one of the youngest aerobatic and display pilots in the United Kingdom and world. But don't let her age deceive you - she's also one of the most naturally talented and accomplished pilots!

Many air show pilots linger behind the scenes, rarely interacting with the crowd - but Lauren believes in being approachable and goes out of her way to meet and greet with spectators and aviation enthusiasts. She also brings a unique, dynamic, and stylish flair to her performances, all with the goal of being more than just "your average air show pilot."

Lauren started flying only 6 years ago when she got her private pilots license. At the time, she thought aerobatic pilots were "utterly mad" (her words!) and had no intention of ever trying anything remotely aerobatic. About two years later, she changed her mind after a ride in a two seat Pitts Special (the same plane she flies now, but with one seat). The flight was supposed to be straight and level so that she could enjoy flying in one of these fine aircraft, but the pilot she was with decided her experience flying in the Pitt should include just one quick loop. That was it - she was hooked. 

Seeing the world from upside down was the most incredible thing I had ever experienced and somehow, there and then, I just knew I had to learn to really fly. The freedom and joy of it all was verging on narcotic.
— Lauren Richardson

Since her first aerobatic experience was in a two seater Pitts, it was only natural that she would grow into flying and owning a Pitts Special. You could say the girl in her took over - the plane was just too pretty and fun looking - she just had to have it!

Looking back at the 2014 flying season, Lauren said her experience at Little Gransden was probably her favorite; it's her "home" airfield and her parents had a chance to see her display. But that wasn't the only fond memory from 2014 - during the Cleethorpes Show she ended up signing autographs and posing for pictures with the crowd. At one point a little 9 year old girl told Lauren that she wants to become a pilot because she saw Lauren's display. For Lauren, experiences like that make all the hard work that goes into preparing these shows worth every bit of sweat.

Lauren likes to create interesting and engaging displays at the shows, so she's got lots of work planned for the off season to bring some new tricks to her 2015 performances. But Lauren isn't willing to spill the beans on those new tricks yet, so stay tuned for a new "Top Secret" performance next year!

For Lauren, seeing hundreds of thousands of people looking up at her during the displays is the most rewarding part of flying, and she loves to meet and greet with the audience after a performance to absorb their energy, excitement, and encouragement. The rest of us, looking up from the bleachers with our mouths agape, can barely wait to see what tricks and performances she'll bring us next year. 

To learn more about Lauren and the Aerobatic Project, visit her website at theaerobaticproject.com. You can also check out pictures and videos she's posted on her Twitter and Facebook page. Many thanks to Lauren for taking the time to chat with me for this "Behind the Quick Shot" post!

Lauren in her Pitts Special taxiing at the Little Gransden Show.

Despite a perfect display, her engine cut after landing, so she had to get towed back to the parking area. That didn't damped Lauren's mood at all - she kept smiling despite the hiccup and the crowd gave her a standing ovation upon her return.

Quick Shot: Shuttleworth Collection Air Show

Europe is known for having a complex and colorful history - you can hardly walk down a street without coming across a building from the 12th century or some old castle where Sir Arthur dueled. So it's not surprising that Europe also has a fantastic collection of historical aircraft, some of which can't be seen flying anywhere else.

Of course anyone who owns a piece of aviation history wants to show it off to the public, and this weekend was one of the popular British air shows to see historical aircraft. The show was held at the Shuttleworth Collection Museum at Old Warden Park outside Biggleswade, UK and featured aircraft ranging from the old and bizarre to fast and modern. 

Unlike my previous two aviation photo shoots, this one was done entirely from the ground. I shot primarily with my Nikon 80-400mm lens and used my new Nikon D610 body for the ground-to-air shots because it offered a faster frames per second capture rate.

If you ever have the chance to see this collection, I'd highly recommend it! And you can enjoy it in true British style while picnicking and drinking a pint of the finest ale!

This is a more unique aircraft - it's actually a towed glider called the Eon Primary! I'm not sure you could get me strapped into that chair to fly that contraption either!

At first glance, this small transport aircraft doesn't seem all that special - but check out the point on the windshield. How'd you like to get fingerprints out of that?

Mark came out to play with one of the most modern aircraft, the GOFF PETROLEUM Extra; as expected, Mark put on quite the show with some daring acrobatic work to please the crowd.

This German World War II aircraft is called a Frieseler Storch and was one of the more unusual characters that took to the skies - it's an incredibly slow flying airplane and has a very awkward way of moving through the sky.

This was one of the half dozen biplanes on display at the show - I love the bright polished finish of this 1937 Hawker Demon contrasting with what was a particularly beautiful British afternoon.

If you look closely on this Spitfire, you can see a series of white stripes on the wings and underside of this fighter - those stripes are called invasion stripes and were painted using mops and whatever white paint could be found before the Allied invasion on D-Day. These are obviously a re-paint since the real stripes were applied crudely just hours before the invasion.

This Spartan Executive is probably my favorite aircraft from the show - but this was taken back at the Little Gransden Airfield. The plane normally resides at the airfield where I'm temporarily living, so I've had two weeks to drool over that polished aluminum finish!

I absolutely love these World War II classics like the Spitfire - very few still fly and the ones that do mostly reside in Europe, so it was a real treat to be buzzed by them during the show.

Mark and the GOFF PETROLEUM Extra closed out the show, giving me a chance to get a few more shots of him at work with a great display of aerobatics.