Before I was born, I was destined to be an aviator. Both of my now late grandfathers were deeply rooted in the aviation business. My paternal grandfather was a paratrooper in the United States 11th Airborne Division and a private pilot.
His boy, my father, was a science teacher and applied to be the teacher in space on the failed STS-51-L mission of Space Shuttle Challenger. He made it into the final selection stages of the program. For a while there, it looked like he would be an astronaut, but he was cut late into the selection process. When that mission finally launched, Space Shuttle Challenger failed catastrophically and all 7 crew members were killed. I shutter to think how close my dad was to being on that mission, and how close I came to never being born.
My maternal grandfather, after retiring as a US Naval Officer, went to work for the Lockheed Skunk Works. He worked as a head engineer for many experimental projects these black planes, missiles and covert operations equipment. When the Blackbird was in testing, he was offered a flight as a passenger. Being a family man, he declined due to personal medical concerns. Decades later, retired from Lockheed as a member of the advisory board to the whole company.
That’s where I come in. Since before I can remember, my parents and grandparents bombarded my life with passion for aircraft, space travel and the beauty in science as a whole. And before I can remember, the Blackbird, above all else, was my favorite aircraft. My childhood was constantly filled with trips to air museums, airshows and airports. I took my first orientation flight lesson at the age of nine, or as my grandfather said “as soon as I could reach the pedals”. I went to flight school in my late teens, and flew my first solo flight at the age of seventeen. That first solo flight is pictured below, as photographed by my father.
Another lifelong passion of mine is photography. All I’ve ever wanted to do is take pictures, so much so that 100% of my income now derives form photographing. I spend nearly all of my free time practicing and studying photography. Through my studies, I stumbled upon the work of QT Luong, a photographer who captured all 58 American National Parks with a large format film camera, a feat which no one else has yet performed. I was amazed at his project, and after a little organization, I discovered that I’ve visited eight of the thirty A-12 and SR-71 aircraft around the world, and photographed five of them. Instantly, it became a goal of mine to photograph all of these beautiful aircraft. Here, I will chronicle my thoughts and stories along this journey, as well as share the photographs I take of these beautiful birds. — Curt Mason
Project Habu featured on Gizmodo
I was thrilled to receive an email from Attila Nagy asking if he could share Project Habu project on Gizmodo! Of course, I accepted and days later, this article was posted.
It’s quite a thrill to see my work shared a community base of 22 million individual users.Thanks so much, Attila and Gizmodo, for the honor.
All other photography: http://www.flickr.com/photos/curtmason
Photography taken with my mobile phone: lookitthisphotograph.tumblr.com