Low-Level Flying Photography
Photographic Logs for Sweden 2014S
(Swedish Air Force - Flygvapnet)

Low-flying photography with 2 HkpSkv (Helikopterskvadronen) at Linköping/Malmen in Sweden
Sikorsky Hkp16 Black Hawk
The Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk designated in Sweden Hkp16 (serials 161226 to 161239) is a medium-lift four bladed twin-engine helicopter. 14 helicopters were ordered in May 2011 and delivered in January 2012 and by March were being used in Afghanistan in the MEDEVAC role. Their purchase was pushed through due to protracted delays with the delivery of the NH Industries NH90 / Hkp14 helicopter. They are operated from Linköping/Malmen by 2 HkpSkv (Helikopterskvadronen).

For this air to air sortie there was no real pre-flight briefing apart from opening and closing the cabin door in flight which must be done at speeds not quicker than 80 knots. I was alone in the back. I was to wait for a helicopter to return to base so I could hop aboard and fly out with the Hkp16. With problems with the internal intercom we were delayed and the Hkp16 had already been in the hover a few minutes but the pilot patiently waited for us to get airborne. Eventually we set off south in trail about a mile apart until we got to the helicopter training area. With the Hkp16 alongside I had some control regarding our position and height. Well in to the sortie and now heading back north I asked if the Hkp14 could hover over one of the lakes and they were apparently happy to do that. Eventually they asked if I was happy as they wanted to leave and start their planned mission.

Early morning sortie length was 16 minutes alongside Hkp16 plus transit time of around ten minutes each way.
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Hkp16 Black Hawk (161237 '12') passing over a mirror lake
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Hkp16 Black Hawk (161237 '12')
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Hkp16 Black Hawk (161237 '12').
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Hkp16 Black Hawk (161237 '12') descending over a lake
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Hkp16 Black Hawk (161237 '12') passing over a telephone line hidden between the trees.
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Captain Andreas Höglund Hkp16 Black Hawk pilot commented; ”At low-level it is important not to fly into an object or wires and antennas, we always avoid flying low over cattle and buildings to show respect to the people living there. For missions abroad we similarly avoid flying over built up areas as it could be a hostile environment”.
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Hkp16 Black Hawk up close
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Hkp16 Black Hawk (161237 '12') over a mirror lake
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Low-flying photography with SAAB Sk 60s of the Flying Training School (FlygSkolan) at Linköping/Malmen in Sweden
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The three crews on the photo-sortie. Left to right: Captain Ronnie Westlund, Instructor Pilot (IP) and my pilot, Captain Klas Bäckström IP, P.Klemtsson, Philip Stevens (photographer), Major Niklas Iskasson, 2 Squadron Commander and the third pilot Captain Michael Zettegren IP.
For the article on FTS flying training we planned to fly a low-level three-ship sortie for some air to air images. The first morning was taken up with an extensive medical (including sight, hearing, blood, urine and respiration). Passed 'fit to fly' by the base doctor and I was on my way to be kitted out. Various boots, flight suit, oxygen mask and helmet were all tried on until I was happy. We then went across base to the squadron building and the crew changing rooms where two lockers were assigned to me for the week. The kit was to arrive in these lockers prior to the flight and on the day I was to select socks and thermal underwear.

The following day the three pilots (FTS instructors) met with me to discuss my requests and to plan the sortie. I wanted individual shots and two-ship formation shots with various backgrounds to depict low flying. We had discussed the hazards affecting low flying in the area and masts and wind mills was a common theme in my interviews. Consequently we planned to fly low past these obstacles. Other things were discussed and approved including a formation take-off.

The following day's weather briefing was not too good and so it was decided to skip a day when the weather was to be perfect according to the centrally coordinated military meteorologists that were consulted after the daily weather briefing.

On the day we flew north to a defined low flying area known to Malmen pilots as the 'Northern Box'. Transiting to the low flying area we initially climbed out to 700 feet AGL before descending to 600 feet. On entering the 'Northern Box' low flying area we dropped to 100 feet and circled around the wind mills and a mast. On the return leg flying south and now with the sun behind me we got the better images including some shots over Vättern Sweden's the second largest lake and the sixth largest lake in Europe by surface area.

Early morning sortie of one hour ten minutes in duration.
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SAAB Sk 60 (60112 '112').
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Left to right: Formation take-off and climbout.
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SAAB Sk 60 (60036 '36') up close
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SAAB Sk 60 (60036 '36') braking away.
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Left to right: Some of the hazards for low flying even in the designated low flying areas include communication masts and wind farms.
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SAAB Sk 60 (60112 '112' and 60036 '36') turning close to one of the many wind mills in the low flying area
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SAAB Sk 60 (60112 '112' and 60036 '36')
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SAAB Sk 60 (60112 '112') up close.
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SAAB Sk 60 (60112 '112'). The 40+ year old design of the Sk 60 with the instructor and student sitting side by side has its advantages as the instructor can see exactly what the student is doing both with his hands and what he is looking at. It is also a disadvantages for the advanced training as you are not sitting in the centre like you are in a fighter.
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SAAB Sk 60 (60112 '112') over Vättern Sweden's second largest lake.
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Flying low over Vättern is the second largest lake (by surface area) in Sweden and the sixth largest lake in Europe.
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SAAB Sk 60 (60112 '112')
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Low-flying photography with 2.HkpSkv (Helikopterskvadronen) at Linköping/Malmen in Sweden.
AgustaWestland AW109MUH / Hkp15A utility helicopter
20 AgustaWestland AW109MUH / Hkp15As (serials 15021 to 15040) were delivered 2.HkpSkv (Helikopterskvadronen) at Linköping/Malmen from April 2006 to June 2007, six of the 20 were later converted for naval operations.

On my first afternoon at Malmen/Linkoping I joined Major Niklas Stranberg, 3 Squadron Commander with the Flying Training School (FTS) and his co-pilot Stefan Borg on a cross-country navigation exercise. The aim of the sortie was to fly along the route planned for the students to fly during the following week. We were to check the route for potential hazards such as cables and masts and to make sure they were marked on the student's maps. Remote landing grounds in the helicopter training area also had to be checked to make sure there were no livestock and any other potential dangers.

My aim was to get some low-level images of the Hkp15A for the article. As there was not a second helicopter available for air to airs I asked to be dropped off along the route when the terrain was ideal. The first drop off point was found for me, over the intercom I was asked as we slowed down and hovered if the adjacent wooden stand used by hunters (a small structure with steps leading to a platform up to a height of around twelve feet) was suitable for me. It was so I leapt out and clambered up the structure. Major Stranberg took off and flew vigorously within the small valley, retracting the wheels at one point. Flying at 60 knots and 20 feet (6m) above the ground the wheels are not retracted as a precaution for engine failure as there will not be enough time to lower your wheels before you hit the ground. At faster speeds the wheels can be more safely retracted. I eventually signalled to be picked up and we were soon continuing along our route.

Later we flew in to another small tree lined valley and I asked to be dropped off again. This time the landing spot was marshy waist high grass which made it difficult for me to get to the valley hillside. Major Stranberg lifted off and was soon flying an even more vigorous display demonstrating the agility of the helicopter and his flying skills.

Late afternoon sortie length was around 40 minutes.
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AgustaWestland Hkp15A (15029 '29') with Major Niklas Stranberg, 3 Squadron Commander at the controls.
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AgustaWestland Hkp15A (15029 '29')
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AgustaWestland Hkp15A (15029 '29') with wheels retracted.
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AgustaWestland Hkp15A (15029 '29')
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AgustaWestland Hkp15A (15029 '29')
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AgustaWestland Hkp15A (15029 '29')
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AgustaWestland Hkp15A (15029 '29')
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