During the 1990s, when I was producing a lot of concept images intended for international stock sales, I build a small plane, called the Drifter, and put a mono float on it with retractable gear so I could fly it off the lake in my backyard or land at an airport. Although it was very economical and light-weight with its 65 horsepower engine, it was still great for exploring and photographing a 60 mile radius of my home. For 12 years I used it to climb high above the clouds to photograph those amazing sculptures in the sky that I needed for my composite 3D and photo illustrations. The biggest problem I encountered was by the time I climbed to 8,000 to 10,000 feet to get my shot, the clouds would have moved or melted away. With a climb rate of only 500 per minute dropping to 300 as I got higher, it was very frustrating when I would miss the shot.
One evening as I took off from the lake with the intention of flying low because I didn’t notice any clouds in the sky. Then as I cleared the tree tops, off to the northeast, about 30 miles away, I saw the decaying remnants of a thunderstorm. Although it was very enticing to go and shoot it, wearing a T-shirt and shorts meant I wasn’t dressed for flying at high altitude. With no phone booth around to change into my thermal Superman outfit, I decided to just grin and bear it. During that long ascent I passed the time hoping the warmth of creative juices flowing would keep me warm and hypothermia at bay. Finally at 10,500 feet, I slowed the plane and started shooting. Before the sun set I was able to circle the cloud and descend to the darkness below.
Now with the AirCam that my son and I built and named Cloud Chaser, there is no problem getting above the clouds before they change. With two engines producing 100 hp each on a 1,000 pound plane it is more like a fast elevator ride rising vertically in the sky at 1,800 fpm.