photographing aircraft


**I am an avid photographer of aviation. **

I was recently reading about someone who is also an aviation photographer, and he photographed a plane before it crashed. It effected him alot mentally. And he is thinking about quitting photography all together.

I have been very lucky to not photographed any aircraft that has crashed. But it got me thinking alot. What would happen if I photographed a plane, then later I heard it in the media of it crashing. How would that effect me?

So my question is - Have you photographed an aircraft before it crashed?
If so, how did it effect you? Are you still doing aviation photography?


To me there is a huge difference in photographing an aircraft that at a later date is lost in an accident - and actually photographing or witnessing the accident.

I say this because I’ve taken photos of at least a dozen bizjets that perished in accidents. As a private pilot, and aviation enthusiast - I’m concerned about accidents, but my interest is learning the causes - and hopefully learn something from them.

All loss of life is tragic, if a crash occurs - I’m not really thinking about the people on board in the sense of my interest - I’m certainly aware and respect that lives were lost.

Google any registration of a downed aircraft, and it’s not unusual to find a dozen photos. So I guess it would be normal to take a moment while looking at the photo and realize what has happened, but I certainly wouldn’t take it personally.

Just my opinion.


I’m sorry but that’s just dumb.


I dunno if dumb is the right word, but I agree its a little far. I’ve flown 2 airplanes regularly that I know of that ended up in fatals, I’ve also flown 2 more that received major yet repairable damage.

As an airline employee I worked on one aircraft that killed 14 several years later. I also saw a crew the day before that would end up in a runway incursion the next day killing close to 20.
I was working the night of TWA 800, and before they removed the name list, looked it up and printed it out so that fellow employees could see if anyone they knew was aboard.

It happens and it sucks. I work for a railroad now. The engineers always tell me, there’s engineers who have killed somebody and those that will. A few have indeed had extraordinary accidents,maybe involving children, but by in large they’ve gotta get over it or they never continue.

I always default back to this…how many people a day die in cars, and how many times have I seen a traffic accident? I still drive my car to to the airport to fly though.


If you quit taking pictures of aircraft because one crashed then the next logical step would be to stop taking pictures of people. While the odds of an aircraft crashing are low, the odds of taking a picture of a person that will die is very high.


I’m pretty sure that there are no “odds” of taking a photo of a person that will die, because it is an absolute certainty that whomever you take a photo of will, eventually, die. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Just saying… :laughing:


I came to the same conclusion after much research involving consultations with the Dalli Lama, Donald Duck, and Marvin, visitations of graveyards, reading the Book, and talking to dentists, I have come to the conclusion of dying to be 100%, plus or minus 0%.


thanks for all the replies

I have taken many upon many photos of aircraft, so I guess if I did a search on em, I guess I would probably find one or two that crashed.

I never really thought of it, until I read the article. Than it got me thinking, that’s why I thought I’d ask everyone.


Photographed? No. Watched the aircraft take of 6 minutes before it crashed killing all on board? Yes. That day sucked.


I used to work on the ramp at YYZ for Innotech, I refueled Jetstar N520S, which then departed for White Plains NY.

N320S and N520S were regular Jetstar visitors to our ramp.

Aircraft with two crew and 6 passengers crashed on approach to White Plains, killing all on board.

Our fuel truck was immediately quarantined, checked and cleared. … 19810211-0

We also had a based Citation that departed for local training flight, that never made it back. It is very eerie to be notified of the loss, and then see the empty space in the hangar. … 19840926-0

If your around aircraft a lot, sooner or later there will be an accident where you are familiar with the aircraft and possibly the crew.

It is all a part of the calculated risk associated with flying.

Like trading war stories!, we had a Cessna 210 come on our ramp on Christmas day, on board was a husband and wife. The wife was a pilot for American Airlines.

They went to two FBO’s and nobody was there (Christmas morning), or at least nobody came outside, so when they taxied onto our ramp and stopped in front of the lounge, the wife jumped out and ran into the still running prop!! (fatal).

Also saw a guy walk right thru the PT6 of a Twin Otter that was just winding down, as he realized he was walking into the prop - though he didn’t realize he made it thru - he jumped back into the prop and was knocked out cold.

I’m rambling now, sorry!! Bottom line, I still take lots, and lots of photos!!


I was a controller for a long time, and the approach taken toward people who witnessed or were involved in accidents and incidents changed dramatically from the 70’s til today.

Back then, it was suck it up and work the next plane. The first crash I “saw” (as a GCA controller) went straight down off the scope. Two little blips followed it down, as the pilots had ejected. One pilot died, the other survived. I had no idea what to do or say. I was simply handed the next strip and got back to work. Later that evening, after several beers at the local bar, we got in a pickup truck and visited the crash site. That was the norm. I was 19.

In June of 1976, I was stationed on a carrier at San Diego, and my then-wife was a tower supervisor at Miramar. Her tower crew worked the two F-14’s that crashed within a day or so of each other on the field. All four pilots were killed. I got home the afternoon of the second crash and found all her tower controllers drinking and sobbing on my living room floor. They all had to be back at work the next morning, ready to roll.

I could go on and on with these stories. Back then, you simply moved on to the next assignment, the next plane.

That was “therapy” then. Suck it up.

Fast forward twenty years or so, and enlightened attitudes caught up with the levels of stress involved in these incidents for controllers and aircrews. The programs are called Critical Incident Stress Management by the FAA, and I’m sure that many non-government entities work in this area also.

Here is a link to NATCA’s CISM page that discusses reactions to stressful events:

The thing to remember is that everyone handles these things differently. If your friend is having issues with these incidents, tell him that this is a normal reaction, and professional therapists recognize these issues, if he wants to talk to a professional about it.

Its also true that some people have little reactions at all. This is normal, also. We recognize the danger faced in aviation every day and move on with our lives.

I’m a black humor kind of guy about it.

You gotta expect to lose a few.


I can’t imagine the stress levels of controllers.

I just watched an episode of Mayday, of the US Air B737 that collided with a Skywest Metroliner at LAX, after witnessing the exploding aircraft, calling emergency services - they went right back to work with one less runway.

The ATC tapes you could hear the controllers advising of an accident on the field as they continued to steer aircraft around the accident site!! … 19910201-0

I’m guessing the Mayday link only works in Canada?, but the episode is Season 9 entitled; Cleared for Disaster.


I saw a crash a week or so ago at PBI that killed all four on board. I was preflighting and the crowd around me wanted to believe it was anything other than a plane on fire. Ground directed traffic and called for a runway sweep to get the airport fully operational again. I had a four hour flight that night, when I finally took off, where I couldn’t think of anything but the tragedy. Life involves a high risk environment so we carry on and hope to learn enough from those that have passed to help those in our future.


That was a really sad accident. Involved N883FT … -pbia.html


Thanks for those nice insight


But I still agree with Frank!!