Alabama Air National Guard


RF-84F Thunderflash (1)

RF-84F Thunderflash (1)

Many of you know that I begun a temporary job last month with a company working at the Alabama Air National Guard after being laid off back in October.  I never realized the history of the Alabama ANG until now. The base actually began as the the grass roots effort of one man.

Major James A. Meissner a World War I flying ace and a former member of Eddie Rickenbacker’s famous “Hat-in-the-Ring” squadron. In 1919 Meissner organized some ten to twelve ex-aviators from the recent war and formed the Birmingham Flying Club. The primary purpose of the club was the promotion of aviation in the City of Birmingham and the State of Alabama.

By January of 1922 Meissner had persuaded the Federal Government to recognize the unit as a National Guard flying squadron and it became the 135th Observation Squadron, Alabama National Guard. Twenty-six officers and one hundred twenty enlisted men assigned to the squadron began developing the tract of land that was to be used for the air base. By the end of July of the same year, seven Curtiss JN-4Ds, the famed Jenny, and necessary support equipment were on hand, functioning as a flying unit under the direction of Major Meissner.

The air base has a small park located at the entrance where several aircraft are on display. I took a few minutes during my lunch break one day to take a few photographs. I processed these using Lightroom and NiK software. Some were also processed with SilverEfex Pro using selective coloring.


RF-84F Thunderflash (2)

RF-84F Thunderflash (2)

The Republic RF-84F Thunderflash was the first of the modern jets to be designed specifically for photo-reconnaissance. The reconnaissance fighter was equipped with a combination of standard aerial cameras and dicing camera for close-up photos of individual targets. The fighter-type aircraft was also equipped with the Tri-Metrogon camera which could take horizon-to-horizon pictures. Unlike the Thunderstreak, the Thunderflash had its air-intake ducts located in the wing roots rather than the nose, which was elongated and enclosed to permit installation of a sweeping variety of camera and electronic equipment. It was the first reconnaissance fighter to have a camera control system and a viewfinder for the pilot, who also acted as the cameraman. The aircraft was first tested in February 1952, and 715 of the aircraft were produced.


Armament: Four .50-cal. machine guns mounted in the wings
Engine: Wright “Sapphire” J-65-W-7 of 7,800 lbs. thrust
Maximum speed: 629 mph
Cruising speed: 542 mph
Range: 2,000 miles


RF-4C (1)

RF-4C (1)

The second plane is a McDonnell Douglas RF-4C. The RF-4C was developed in the early 1960s, when the USAF recognized the need for more tactical reconnaissance aircraft to reinforce the RF-101s then in service. The USAF chose a modification of the F-4C fighter. The RF-4C development program began in 1962, and the first production aircraft made its initial flight on May 18, 1964.

RF-4C (2)

RF-4C (2)

The RF-4C can carry a variety of cameras in three different stations in its nose section. It could take photos at both high and low altitude, day or night. The RF-4C carried no offensive armament, although during the last few years of its service some were fitted with four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for defense.

RF-4C (3)

RF-4C (3)


Engines: Two General Electric J79-GE-15s of 17,000 lbs. thrust each
Maximum speed: 1,384 mph
Range: 1,632 miles without aerial refueling
Ceiling: 55,200 ft.
Span: 38 ft. 5 in.
Length: 62 ft. 10 in.
Height: 16 ft. 6 in.


RF-4C (4)

RF-4C (4)


  1. Edith Levy January 6, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    Happy New year Phillip. Wonderful set of images.

    • Phillip January 7, 2012 at 10:39 am #

      I appreciate it Edith. I also hope that you and your family have a wonderful new year!

  2. Eden January 7, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Awesome, awesome post Mr. Burrow! Excellent work.

    • Phillip January 7, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Thank you so much Eden!

  3. Adam Allegro January 9, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    That last shot looks awesome. I dig the processing on all these. Nice informative post as well! Good job!

    • Phillip January 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

      Thanks Adam. I really appreciate your comment!

  4. Len Saltiel January 9, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Great work Phillip. I especially like the last two subjects and how the processing makes them appealing in different ways.

    • Phillip January 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

      Thank you Len. I really was pleased with the selective coloring process. I’ll be trying it again.

  5. Jimi Jones January 9, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Excellent post, Phillip. I love these type of write ups with some history attached. 🙂

    The images are fantastically processed, man. Lovely series of shots. Must be fun working around this atmosphere.

    All the best for 2012 and beyond!

    • Phillip January 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

      Thanks Jimi. It is fun to a degree. I have to say that I have never been around any people more polite than these guys. We have somehow lost that in the outside world. Maybe it is just me, but it was so very noticeable.

  6. Andrew Graeme Gould January 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Interesting background to this colourful and creative series!

    • Phillip January 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

      Thank you Andy. I really like learning the “rest of the story” behind something. It just adds so much to the photograph.

  7. deniseippolito January 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    Fantastic images Phillip. I especially like the last one!

    • Phillip January 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      Thank you so much Denise!

  8. Marc January 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    Great post Phillip. Love the sunburst, magical!

    • Phillip January 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      I appreciate it Mark.

  9. Shad January 13, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Great shots! I especially love the processing. Well done sir.

    • Phillip January 13, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      Thanks, I appreciate your comment Shad!

  10. WildBlack January 13, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Amazing HDR! Well captured 🙂

    • Phillip January 13, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      Thank you so much for visiting!

  11. Phillip January 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    Thank you so much for the Pingback Eden!

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  1. By Friday Favorites « Eden's Captures on January 13, 2012 at 6:06 am

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