Low level in Death Valley…

In the middle of nowhere you can find a famous low level flying area, officially called Jedi Transition, also known as Rainbow Canyon or Star Wars Canyon, which is located East of Las Vegas, near the western edge of the Death Valley National Park in California. The Jedi Transition is part of the low level corridor ‘Sidewinder’, which belongs to the R2508 Special Use Airspace Complex, in Panamint Valley.

The Jedi Transition is used for military low flying practice by the United States Air Force (USAF), United States Marine Corps (USMC) and United States Navy (USN). Most visiting jets are from Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore with their F-18 Super Hornets and airframes from the various test units based at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) and Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake.

For photographing fast jets in their natural environment, this area is THE place to be. Each day you have the chance to find some low-level traffic in this area but you have to be very patient as there is no flight schedule available. One day you can get 5 passing aircraft, the next day 15, but a day or 2 later it also can be none.

VORTEX-images paid some visits to this area and were very pleased with the results. We caught a lot of different airframes from the USAF, USMC and USN, but also one NASA F-18 Hornet, one Canadian Air Force C-130 Hercules, two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Lightning II’s and one civil registered Alpha-Jet. Most remarkable jets to photograph were the F-16 Fighting Falcons from Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska. These jets are part of the 18th Aggressor Squadron which is a unit dedicated to simulate enemy aircraft during large scale exercises. In order to distinct them from other units they have painted their aircraft is various colorful paintschemes.