AVweb has confirmed that the image last Thursday posted to our Picture Of The Week section of Capt. Christopher Stricklin's Sept. 14, 2003, ejection from Thunderbirds jet number 6 -- roughly eight-tenths of a second before aircraft impact -- is in fact authentic. It was shot by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III, Still Photographer, U.S. Air Force, from the catwalk atop the tower at Mountain Home AFB, and was not officially released by the Air Force until last Friday afternoon.
For the photographically inclined, Staff Sgt. Davis said he shot images with a Nikon D1X camera using a 300-mm lens with an aperture setting of 2.8 and shutter speeds of 1/1000 and 1/2000. For the now famous (and now official) shot, Davis "waited for the aircraft to level and clicked the shutter." And yes, he did experience some concern that the jet, which the Air Force says Stricklin turned away from the crowd, appeared instead to be directed at the tower. By his own account, the wreckage stopped just 100 feet shy of the tower's base. The nature of the lenses involved offer explanation for the automobiles so clearly visible in Davis' still image, but absent from the in-cockpit video. The picture and story have generated a great deal of material, rumors and interest. So we invite you to enjoy:
a (2.7Mb) still image shot by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III, available here
a new video (1.3Mb .wmv file, includes audio) shot from the air show line, here