Ken Snyder Photography: Blog en-us Ken Snyder (Ken Snyder Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:36:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:36:00 GMT Ken Snyder Photography: Blog 92 120 Malaysian Air Theory...        I normally don't want to get involved in politics or opinions in my photography site and blog, but I felt this was the quickest and easiest way to get a relatively large amount of information out there.  Many of my friends, knowing that my "day job" (and often "night job" as well...) involves flying airplanes, have asked my opinion about a theory on the missing Malaysian Air flight that was posted in Wired Magazine's site by a gentleman named Chris Goodfellow.  If you haven't seen it, here is a link to Goodfellow's article:  In a nutshell, he suggests two possibilities:  An electrical fire that causes the crew to de-power the airplane inflight, thus eliminating power to the radios and transponder, or a situation in which an under-inflated nose landing gear tire catches fire and the smoke enters the cockpit, incapacitating the crew yet allowing the autopilot to continue to fly the aircraft.  He cites the case of a Douglas DC-8 that had a tire fire during takeoff.  For more information on that accident see:  Goodfellow also suggests that in a fire the cockpit crew would NOT want to go on oxygen, but would use a smoke hood--a device that goes over the head and provides oxygen for 12-20 minutes in order to fight the fire.  That is preposterous!

Here is my response to Mr. Goodfellow's article:

         Quite honestly, I'm not much in favor of Goodfellow's theories for a number of reasons.  The first being that every airplane I've flown has had the same memory item for smoke in the cockpit--Oxygen masks and regulators ON/100% (so you're breathing 100 % oxygen--the regulators also have a setting where you can mix ambient air to make the O2 in the bottle last longer, a definite no-no in a smoky environment).  Next item is "Crew Communication, establish." Then, if you don't have a full-face oxygen mask, you'd put on smoke goggles. They don't differentiate between smoke or fire in the checklist.  The smoke hood he refers to IS for fighting a fire in the cabin/cockpit area, but it is not meant to fly the airplane while it is burning.


         As far as the electrical fire scenario goes, the checklists have you take the electrical busses down in a sequential manner, starting with the high-load items.  The LAST bus you take down is the standby bus, especially in a Fly By Wire airplane.  The standby bus has, among other things, the captain's instruments, the number one communication radios (VHF and HF), the number one navigation radio, and emergency lighting.  These are the LAST items you would want to lose.  In the article Goodfellow mentions the mantra "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate" which is true. However in an emergency, communicating IS part of aviating.  Assuming the airplane was under control, one pilot would be flying and the other (along with flight attendants or whoever else) would be fighting the fire.  The flying pilot would definitely have time to make a mayday call.  Also, in an electrical fire situation (as he describes it), the autopilots and transponders would be inoperative, so the scenario where they were overcome and the airplane flew on would not necessarily hold true.


         Goodfellow's other scenario involves an overheated nose tire catching fire.  I don't agree with this on a number of levels.  First of all, the accident he references involved a main landing gear tire, not a nose wheel.  There is a lot more weight on the mains than the nose--that's why the main landing gear tires are bigger.  Secondly, if a nose gear tire was overheated during taxi/takeoff to the point of failure, it would be throwing rubber during takeoff and that would be immediately noticeable to the crew as pieces hit the lower fuselage during the roll.  My guess is, in that scenario, they would have probably continued the takeoff (depending on where during the roll it happened), gone out, NOT retracted the gear, dumped fuel, and returned for landing.  I cannot fathom a scenario where they would have continued on with a blown nose tire.  Not only do you have the issue of the tire, but there is a strong possibility that the tire would have thrown rubber into one or both of the engines.  Not a good thing when you're headed across the ocean.


         The airplane in Goodfellow's example crashed after only ten minutes (brake release was at 0828, they crashed at 0838).  They knew they had a problem immediately and were returning to land.   Within a very short time after gear retraction on the DC-8, they had pressurization and hydraulic failures, and the fire was fed by hydraulic fluid (still turning during retraction, the flailing tire tore up hydraulic lines in the wheel well).  In the Malaysia situation, I would expect much the same result--i.e. hydraulic system issues if the tire was retracted while burning and throwing rubber.  Now, if it didn't get any hydraulic lines, but was still burning when retracted and continued to burn in the enclosed wheel well, it would almost certainly have caught the remaining tire on fire, which would have created a small explosion when it burst due to the fire (we're talking 200 psi tires here).  They definitely would have heard that and said something.  Finally, if the tire(s) had burned enough to breach the pressure vessel of the airplane, which would have to happen to get smoke inside the cockpit, the structural integrity would have soon been compromised and there is no way the airplane would have flown several more hours.  I would have to say that the airplane probably would have been lost--as was the DC8 in his example and the Valujet DC9 at Miami in 1996 (though that was a cargo fire)--very soon after takeoff.


      I'm not a big conspiracy theorist, but the way this thing happened, I'm afraid this airplane landed somewhere safely and is being held by someone who doesn't want people to know where it is.  I hope I'm wrong, but my fear is that it is being modified for use as a weapon.  The pilot suicide scenario some are suggesting doesn't ring true with me either, because I don't see someone who is suicidal going to all the trouble to reprogram the computer to fly off course just to dive into the ocean.  I don't buy the mechanical failure argument for the reasons I've already stated--assuming the crew is not out to hurt themselves, there is no scenario I can picture where ALL communications would be lost so suddenly that they could not have called someone, yet the airplane was left intact enough to allow it to fly another 6 or 7 hours.  I'm afraid this airplane is going to pop up somewhere in the world in a very big way.  And, given the size and range of the airplane, it could appear ANYWHERE.  As it is, the airplane can carry passengers and cargo for around 18 hours.  A lighter airplane burns less fuel, so I think that range can possibly be stretched further in a terrorist scenario. By adding auxiliary fuel tanks, the thing could carry enough fuel to fly 24 hours or more and reach pretty much any point on the globe in one leg.  Scary thought.


(Ken Snyder Photography) Flight 370 Malaysian Thu, 20 Mar 2014 16:15:28 GMT
A Dream... Back in 2001 my friend Henry, who pretty much has his finger on the pulse of aviation in the Seattle area, introduced me to Bob Demptster, a gentleman who, like most of us, has dreams.  Big dreams.  The difference between many of us and Bob is that he follows through with his dreams.  When I first met him he had his dream, an office, an overwhelming interest in a 1924 around-the-world flight, and a lot of nifty coffee mugs, one of which he was kind enough to give me.  


Before I continue, let's talk a little about that round-the-world flight.  In 1924, not quite 21 years after the Wright brothers made the first powered flight, eight men set out in four state-of-the-art (for the time) airplanes on a trip around the world. Named for four cities in the United States:  Seattle, Boston, Chicago, and New Orleans, the airplanes had a top speed of just over one hundred miles an hour.  Their normal cruise speed was right around 90 miles per hour, and it took them almost six months to complete the round-the-world trip.  Of the original airplanes, the Chicago and New Orleans completed the trip relatively unscathed.  The Seattle (the namesake of Bob's airplane) was lost in an accident in Alaska; after surviving the accident, the crew, Major Frederick Martin and Sergeant Alva Harvey spent several days walking back to civilization.  The original Boston was lost after being damaged during a water landing.  Unfortunately, as the airplane was being hoisted onto a ship the boom broke, dropping the airplane and damaging it beyond repair.  To complete the trip the prototype--which wasn't supposed to be involved in the flight-- was named "Boston II" and was pressed into service to finish the last legs of the journey.  The New Orleans is now on display in a museum in Santa Monica, California, and the Chicago is in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.  Unfortunately, the Boston II was scrapped at Kelly Field in San Antonio, TX in 1932. To put this trip in perspective, it was  followed by the news media as closely as the Lindbergh flight three years later or the moon landings 45 years later.  These guys were rock stars who made Maverick and Iceman look like pansies!


Back to Bob and his dream...

On a recent trip to Seattle, Henry and I stopped by Boeing Field and found Bob at his hangar.  He was nice enough to show me how his dream has progressed since he gave me that mug all those years ago:


Seattle World Cruiser



And here's Bob, the man with the dream who built this airplane from scratch!  In building this replica he has tried to be as true to the original as possible--to the point of finding Liberty engines, the original power plant for the Douglas World Cruisers.  You'll notice Bob has even painted the names of the original crew, Major Frederick Martin and Sergeant Alva Harvey, on the cockpits.  He's made changes in the design where safety or legality dictate.  For example, the fabrics and coatings of the day were highly flammable, so Bob has used more modern--and safer--materials for the coverings of the fuselage and wings.  Another tip of his hat to the modern era was the installation of wheel brakes, something the original airplanes did not have.


In the cockpitBob Dempster sits in the cockpit of the Seattle World Cruiser.

If you would like to learn more about this project you can visit the Seattle World Cruiser Association's website at


Oh, and don't think the dream stops with a flying replica.  No sir!  Bob intends to follow the path the original airplanes did nearly 90 years ago and fly this airplane around the world!  He knows how to get around the world since he's already done it once, in a Piper Super Cub.  If I was a betting man, my money would be on him.



(Ken Snyder Photography) Airplane Douglas World Cruiser Seattle Seattle World Cruiser Fri, 10 Jan 2014 06:47:36 GMT
A portrait of Kaydee (aka Piddles D Wonderdog). The family was gone for the night, so I decided to sleep on the couch with the Christmas tree lights on.  As soon as I turned out the light, about 1230 am, I looked over at the tree and thought "that looks pretty cool; I should get the camera."  So up I got, gathered up the camera, tripod, flash, and colored gels, and went to work.  My idea was to get the tree and fireplace.  Then Kaydee came in and fell asleep by the fireplace.  The lighting wasn't working with her sleeping by the fireplace, so I grabbed some puppy treats and worked with her a little bit.  I tried with her bed in front of the  tree, then I took the bed away.  This is number 64 of the 66 frames I took, many of them just tweaking the lighting.  To get this shot, I put the camera on a two-second time delay. Standing to camera right, I held the flash in my right hand, pushed the button, and then held a puppy treat out in my left hand.  I wanted her looking away from the flash so her eyes wouldn't glow and make her look like the "dog from hell."  I had to tweak things just a little bit in Lightroom, and here's the result:

Waiting for SantaWaiting for SantaKaydee, aka Piddles D Wonderdog, looking up at the ceiling in anticipation of hearing Santa and his reindeer on the roof.


(Ken Snyder Photography) Christmas Christmas tree Dog Night Portrait Sun, 22 Dec 2013 20:03:19 GMT
A camera, a bottle, a cooler, a flash, and a flashlight...  

What do you do when you take some camera gear, a bottle of liquor, an old foam cooler, a piece of plexiglass, and some patriotic material?  Take 91 pictures and try to figure out which one you like best...  None of them turned out exactly like I wanted, but the flash batteries were shot, the camera batteries were shot, and I decided to come in for the night.
This one was about the best.  I would like to eliminate the specular highlights on the spout and put a little more light on the material under the bottle.  I think a small softbox and a flash would spread the light out enough to get rid of the highlights.  I was using a flashlight in this case which is a pretty small light source and will give those highlights.
I have one of those heavy foam coolers like my mom used to get her medication in.  I put a flash in it with a radio trigger.  On top I had a piece of plexiglass covered with a piece of navy blue paper (didn't have any black) that I had cut the footprint of the bottle out of.  I taped the paper to the plexiglass with gaff tape (heavy black tape that sticks well but doesn't leave residue).  Because the flash showed through the cooler, I wrapped a black garbage bag around it, then I taped the material to the paper on the plexiglass.  I found I had to add a piece of tape to the edge of the p. glass because you could see a little light shining through the material.  The background is the night sky and trees behind the house.

By the way...don't look for another photograph like this anytime soon.  At the rate I go through liquor, this bottle will last me about two years at least!

(Ken Snyder Photography) Jack Daniels Light Painting Night Still Life Wed, 23 Oct 2013 04:44:36 GMT
My first trip on a train! Fifty-one years old and I've never been on a train!  That changed last weekend with, of all things, a request from our daughter to have her "little" (6'1" tall) brother come spend the weekend with her at Texas A&M University.  Now, my wife and I love our children, but when they are willing to give us a weekend by ourselves--well, that's a no-brainer!  The next dilemma was what to do?  After a little thought, Donna came up with the idea of riding the Texas State Railroad.  It turned out to be a great day!  If you want to see all the photos I've uploaded, click this link.  Otherwise, I'll put a few of my favorites up in here.


I like this photo of the engineer waving before the trip.

Ready to pull out of the stationReady to pull out of the stationThe engineer waves as he's getting ready to pull out of the station.


The woods of Northeast Texas reflected in the window of the car we rode in for the first part of the trip.



After awhile we went to the open car that had no windows.  Here's Donna with her head out the window.


And here I am.  In the wind.  After I spent so much time that morning trying to get my hair fixed just right!

KenKen(C)Ken Snyder



When we got to Rusk the passengers had lunch while the train crew got things "turned around."  Through a "wye" and a series of switches, they turned the engine around and coupled it to the opposite end of the cars.  So those of us who were in the front on the way from Palestine to Rusk were in the back on the return.

Locomotive and TenderLocomotive and Tender



The TSRR has a train at each station, which are about 30 miles apart.  About halfway between the stations, the westbound train pulls onto a siding while the eastbound train passes.  Donna got this photo of a young lady who has obviously done this ride before!

(C)Ken Snyder



I like this shot of the engineer climbing up on the train after the ride.  They definitely baby these locomotives, as can be seen by the rag in his right hand.  He's climbing into the cab, about to take the locomotive to it's storage facility. Time was of the essence since there was a heavy rainstorm bearing down on us.  Soon after this photo was taken, the heavens opened up and it started dumping.  I don't how much rain we got, or what the rainfall rate was, but I checked the radar summary chart and the tops of the storm over us were in excess of 50,000 feet. can take the pilot away from the radar...but (with the magic of technology) you can't keep the radar away from the pilot!

Ready to Clean UpReady to Clean Up

(Ken Snyder Photography) Palestine Railroad Rusk State Steam Texas Train Sun, 06 Oct 2013 05:22:05 GMT
Cool video about the emergency landing of Race 232 in Reno In my earlier post about Reno I showed this picture of 232, the Sea Fury that had to make an emergency landing after the air intake on the cowl failed and parts were ingested:



Just today I was e-mailed a link to an interesting video they put out about the problem.  It's about ten minutes long and gives a very interesting post-mortem of the emergency.  They show it from several different camera angles and interview both the pilot, former astronaut Hoot Gibson, and the maintenance crew chief.

(Ken Snyder Photography) Airplane Emergency Hawker Nevada Race Reno Reno Air Races Sea Fury Stead Sat, 05 Oct 2013 17:10:32 GMT
Reno! After over thirty years of trying, I was finally able to get to the Reno Air Races this year!  I flew from Houston to San Francisco, then rented a car and drove with Henry, a friend--and an experienced Reno Air Race fan--from Seattle that I've been causing trouble with since the seventh grade.  It was great to have him there to show me all the little tricks.  Like buy the entrance passes for the whole week on the first day, but buy pit passes on the days you need them.  That way you don't waste money on a pass you're not going to use...or waste an opportunity to see something else because you feel obligated to use the pit pass you paid for.  And buy souvenirs early because the selection gets picked over VERY quickly.


With race speeds reaching 500 miles per hour, the Reno Air Race is dubbed "the fastest motor sport in the world" (eat your heart out, Nascar!).  But Reno is so much more than just a race, or series of races.  Between races there are airshow acts ranging from small prop planes to jets; there is always something to see in the air.  And for those who appreciate old and restored airplanes, the static displays are fantastic also.


Of course, the real reason we're here is the photography, so without further ado:

Here's a self portrait I took in the propellor of a Lockheed Model 10 Electra, the same type of airplane Amelia Earhart was flying when she made her ill-fated flight around the world:


There were some beautifully restored Beech 18's there as well:

Beech 18Beech 18


Of course, the racing is what it's all about, and there was plenty of that by airplanes from several different classes:  Biplanes, Sport, T-6's, Jets, and, the racers everyone comes to see, the Unlimiteds.  The unlimited airplanes are fighter planes from World War II that, in most cases, have been highly modified through aerodynamic changes and installing higher powered engines than they had when they left the factories back in the 1940's.



The races this year were safe for the pilots, but that is not to say all the equipment survived intact.  The engines are run extremely hard during the race and malfunctions are not uncommon.  I witnessed two "maydays" in which the airplanes had malfunctions serious enough to require an emergency landing.  The first was in the first race I saw, a T-6 heat in which the airplane "Six Cat" had a connecting rod come apart and punch a hole in the bottom of the engine, causing it to seize.:


The second mayday was on Saturday, the day before the much-awaited Gold race, when the Hawker Sea Fury "Race 232" flown by former astronaut Hoot Gibson emitted three backfires as she passed the home pylon  right in front of the crowd.  Hoot immediately pulled up to bleed off airspeed and configure for landing.  Here's the airplane before the flight--note how clean and streamlined the top of the cowl is right behind the propeller.:


Here she is about the time of the "event:"

And here she is after.  Note the damage to the intake section on top of the cowl (the lower cowl sections have been opened, but the one on top was definitely damaged when the old girl backfired):


Finally, Sunday rolled around and the race everyone was waiting for: the Unlimited Gold race.  Here are the airplanes starting up in front of the crowd:

Before the Gold RaceBefore the Gold Race


And here is the winner, Voodoo, piloted by 26 year-old Steve Hinton Jr:


(Ken Snyder Photography) Airplane Fury Hawker P-51 Race Reno Reno Air Races Sea T-6 T6 Unlimited Warbird Tue, 01 Oct 2013 02:08:13 GMT
A little time away... One of the highlights of the year for our family is our vacation, a block of time when we can leave the heat and humidity of Southeast Texas behind and return to our roots by visiting family and friends in Montana and Eastern Washington.  Not only is it a great opportunity to spend time with the family, but I also look forward to the time as an extended photographic trip.  Here are some of my favorite shots from this year's trip:


On the way up to Great Falls, we stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, site of the defeat of Lt. Col. George Custer on June 25, 1876.  It was late in the evening and the light was just fantastic for photography.  The lone stone with a flag by it marks the grave of the remains of several soldiers that were found on the battlefield during excavations in 1958, 1984, 1985, and 1989. 

Little Bighorn National CemeteryLittle Bighorn National CemeteryThe late evening light plays on the headstones in the National Cemetery at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, site of Custer's defeat in 1876. The headstone with the flag marks the grave of remains of soldiers found on the battlefield in 1958, 1984, 1985, and 1989.


On a lighter note, my son and I went out to get some shots of the Milky Way one evening, about 20 miles east of Great Falls, Montana.  I decided to experiment a little and took this shot of him looking through his camera.  I used a 30 second exposure at f4.0.  For lighting him, I used a small LED penlight I got at Wal Mart for around three bucks.  The orange glow in the background is caused by light pollution from the lights of Great Falls; if we do this again in the same area, I'm going to use about a 3/4 CTO (orange) gel to cover my light.  That should pretty closely match the glow from the lights in the distance. Your thoughts?

Kevin light paintedKevin light paintedA night shot of Kevin with the Milky Way behind. I used a $3 LED Penlight to light paint Kevin for 15 seconds of the 30-second exposure.


Last but not least, during our annual trip to a family cabin in the Glacier Park area, we hiked up to Avalanche Lake.  Avalanche is a relatively easy hike of about four and a half miles (round trip).  Since it is one of the easier hikes in the park, it's one of the more popular stops on the Going to the Sun Road, the highway that crosses the middle of Glacier Park.  If you're interested in making the hike yourself, the trailhead is located just east of Lake McDonald; just park at or take the bus to the Trail of the Cedars.  If you don't want to walk the entire two-and-a-half miles to the lake, you can take the beautiful and very easy Trail of the Cedars which is about a one mile walk, mostly flat, that takes you up to Avalanche Gorge and then back to the parking lot.

Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park MontanaAvalanche Lake, Glacier National Park MontanaThe reflection of the mountains in Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

(Ken Snyder Photography) Battlefield Cemetery Custer Gravestone Headstone Little Bighorn National Cemetery Mon, 30 Sep 2013 06:23:13 GMT
Welcome to my new site Welcome!  I've just started this site,, and I'm quite excited.  Over the next several days I'll be putting up more catalogs of photos, everything from sports to mountain scenes to airplanes.  Feel free to come in and browse occasionally--the site will be changing a lot over the next few weeks.

That being said, since this is a new site, if you see something you don't like, or better yet, something you really do like with regard to the way the site is set up, please let me know.  I'm working to make this as user friendly as possible.

(Ken Snyder Photography) Ken Photography Snyder Spring, TX Texas aviation photography fine art photography landscape photography sports photography youth sports photography Sun, 03 Mar 2013 16:33:25 GMT