AFTER-ACTION AND LESSONS LEARNED:
This is a review of Sorties 14-15-16 mission #12-T-3904 flown on 1-14-12 in the GA8 Airvan from APA.
(Pilot Bob Beabout. AP Trainer/MO Ed O'Brien on all sorties. Report prepared by Ed O'Brien)
Distribute to all CAP aircrews, air staff, Airborne Photographers, and interested parties.
Planning and briefing documents were good for these sorties. This improvement is worth praise. Good for all the participating AP*s. Congratulations! Bob Beabout was excellent in following directions, conducting flight portions of all sorties, helping trainees, and safely piloting the GA8. Thank you Bob!
There were 3 sorties flown in the APA-SW Practice Area, with 6 AP*s shooting, logging, and loading. Airborne Photography Trainees posted 68 photos.
We had several problems worth discussing and correcting. Overall - I think we took a step back on our photo and logging work this past Saturday 1-14-2012.
1. Several photos were not centered or didn't even have the complete target subject (full or partial) in the photo field. You are allowed to crop pictures. As best you can center the target. Provide some context to the target so relationships to road beds (in the case of a bridge), associated buildings or structures (in the case of facilities) or banks and infrastructure (in the case of dams) can be established. Fly parallel to the target when possible so the target doesn't run at odd or oblique angle across your pictures. You don't have to make it perfect - just center it enough to fully indicate the subject or target of the photo and provide some surrounding context. In this manner we are trying to eliminate ambiguity as to the subject/target. Specifics on this topic are taught in the Airborne Photography class and should be read in the Airborne Photographers task guide.
In the case of photos taken 1-14-12. Misalignment of target in the frame was likely due to the use of digital view finder cameras. These digital viewfinder cameras make for unpredictable and inconsistent photo results. In airborne missions we urge the use of SLRs or Optical View Finder cameras only. If you don't own one of these recommended cameras... get the SLR that is assigned to your group and shoot it enough to become comfortable. proficient, and expert. Also zoom lenses are easier to adjust than repositioning the plane. Zoom lenses are your friend. 135mm to 300mm zooms lenses seem to work best. I tried a 400mm and found it too heavy and difficult to keep on targets.
2. Crew Resource Management - Trainees are not just passive scanners but Airborne Photographers and therefore aircrew leaders. When on the target - help put the plane in the right position. "A little to the right." " Can we get closer?" "Any chance of cutting a little more to the south?" All are helpful instructions for the pilot. The pilot is there to be safe - fly with instruction from you - and to get the best pictures possible out of YOU. Pay attention to the set up of the plane around the target and how that set up affects the pictures. Within safety limits, adjust as needed. Also, tell your crew the sequencing of your work a) "Camera Ready - I have the target!" b) "Beginning Photo Run!" c) "Flash - Flash - Flash - Flash" d) "Photo run complete." You are the same as the lead bombardier at the Initial Aiming Point on a WW2 thousand plane raid. Every one is counting on your accuracy to fulfill their mission requirements this day. Fail - and everyone else does too. The placement of the plane is yours to command, within the limits of safety - of course. It is your job to let the pilot know - what you need, what part of the photography process you are performing - and that you have successfully completed the photo-mission. If you are uncertain - ask for another go around. Better to get it right the second time than come home with pictures not worth logging. CRM is no small issue. Be an active vocal participant with your aircrew. Particularly when over the target.
Several pictures were taken from a flatter than acceptable angle. (around 20-25 degrees) Asking the pilot to fly higher is a good way to eliminate this problem. (shoot at 45 degrees when possible. 45 degrees is generally accepted as the best trade off between reveal and coverage.) In the AP course we review this in some detail. A full discussion will not be provided in this document.
3. 3 AP*s incorrectly loaded Lats/Lons on 4 different photos. Once it was pointed out one AP* he sent this message.
2 of the photos are mine. The coordinates got screwed up on these two photos. The 9 in 39 got left off when I was typing which put me in the Pacific as well as the a mistype of 29 instead of 39 on another photo that place that one in Mexico. I’ve corrected these two and they were both mine. Lesson learned – to review the coordinates in the thumbnails post entry.
In this case the proper corrections were made nearly 24 hours after the sortie.
Additionally, there was another set of pictures taken at Perry Park Airport (which is just west of 1-25 near Larksburg- South of Castle Rock). However, the Lat/Lons were incorrectly logged - in WMIRS. The miss-logging made the location the target appear to be southwest of Limon CO. or about 53 miles from the actual target. When told about this problem the AP* moved one of his pictures to the correct location but left another picture of the same object remaining near Kiowa. The two photos of the same object were mapped 29-31 miles apart. Obviously the lat/lon logging error was repeated consistently with erroneous numbers. The miss-logging of one of the Perry Park Airport remained online until after 2:30pm 1-17-12 or 72 hours after the sortie.
On this same topic - all of the AP*s were asked to review the all sorties flown 1-14-12. None of them reported the Mapping miss-location problem in their full mission analysis and review. None of them spotted this logging problem independently. This particular point is a failure on all of our parts, including the class trainers.
For AP Trainees Downloading to WMIRs:
A. Check The Lat/Lons used before logging. Many locations have a website with the lat lons of the target. Many locations can be found on Google Earth/Mapquest/Google Maps etc. Do these match or come close to the locations in your notes?
B. Double Check with your crew. Do they have the same lat/lons as you? See if previous crews/sorties have logged the target location. Do all of these match within perimeters?
C. Triple Check by refreshing the WMIRS Map photo page after logging your pictures. Does the WMIRs photo map show your pictures out of position? You are advised to follow the procedure below.
There is quick reference primer that can be used at Squadron Meetings with, shooting and logging procedures (including titles) available here:
Basically it would be good to have the object named with colocation of town or road and direction view is shown. Meaning which direction your camera was pointed at the time
of the shot. This will help distinguish on picture from another. The title box has limited space available so this is a matter to work out. We are not to impose number like Tank Farm 004 picture. Instead "Tank Farm (West of Sedalia) -looking NNW" is preferred. Using distinctive or more specific titles is important during the analysis phase when the debriefer is looking over hundreds of photos at a time.
All crew members regarding photos uploads - please refresh the WMIRS photo page and check that your photos are properly placed on the WMIRS Mission Photo Map. In this case the photo miss-logging made the camera icon appear in the Western Pacific, Central Mexico, and Eastern Colorado on the photo map. This was easy to find. This was easy to see. This is easy to fix. However, you must follow the protocol (refresh then review the map page) to avoid this problem. Practice this procedure and vow to never let it happen again.
For AP Trainers - Corrective steps on WMIRS Procedures: As a training officer I must accept some responsibility for use of the WMIRs Photo Map matter, particularly for the Ft. Collins trainees. There was an obvious hole in our training that is now apparent. All AP* and trainers have been apprised. All AP*s now have the corrective steps in this email. AND, extra attention will be given in all further AP classes. Regarding this issue - If anything remains unclear on this topic please call Ed O'Brien directly at 303-871-9005.
An additional logging issue: One AP* logged his photos on 1-16-12 - this was the date he downloaded to WMIRs. All photos should be logged on the mission date. 104s, photos logs, and WMIRS should all have one date and normally that is the mission/sortie date. When acting as a photo briefer/debriefer look for photos under wrong dates. This misperception regarding the date seems persistent. If photos are logged under the wrong date the photos will be unsearchable, not distributable, or unknown for customer use. Don't make this mistake.
4. There is no hurry to accomplish your mission and SQTR sign offs. Practice (or lack of practice) on your camera and downloading procedures are apparent. Practice shooting from a car. Practice downloading to WMIRS. Practice before you call upon the time of your trainers, pilots, and planes. Practice. Practice, Practice and be ready before your SQTR sorties. You have 2 years after your class to finish this qualification. Use the extravagance of time as you need it. Fly only when you are ready to display your prowess on the full range of tasks, and not before.
5. Don't make excuses for poor work. This is not an introductory course. AP is an advanced course. Professional performance is required from our pilots, ICs, senior mission staff, Archer crews, and Airborne Photographers too. We had 12 pictures or about 18% fall below standards. We had 5 or about 7% that were completely miss-logged. That is better than a 40% to 50% failure rate of untrained MS/MOs on photo missions from a few years ago. However, 18% is still much much too high. Particularly when you account for the specific photo training received; the time allowed for planning, and the time allowed for downloading and review. We were not working at anywhere close to mission tempo on these sorties. At mission tempo I would expect this failure rate of 18% to soar. Not good. AP is a professional level course. Deem to be professional.
6. Do not load bad pictures. We have provided the training. We have distributed the perimeters for your sortie. We have provided a practice place to download inside WMIRS. We have given you protocols to practice procedures so it will not reflect poorly on CAP, the AP program, or on you individually. Actual Mission/Sortie photo downloads are not the place to practice downloading. Stop it. Practice on your own time. Mission photos are for command, customers, and peer review. PLEASE DON'T LOAD BAD OR WORTHLESS MISSION PHOTOS. IT REFLECTS POORLY ON CAP'S CAPABILITES. If you have nothing but poor photos then stand up and take the hit. We will redo your sortie at a later date. Also, regarding this matter, review items 1 and 3 above.
7. I can not say this was our best show as APs. Snow can be a problem as light colors or white objects don't show well against snow. Shooting through glass is worse than shooting through an open photo window. The GA8 takes some getting use to. That said, there was good work accomplished under the exact same circumstances and weather that all AP*s were subjected to on this day. 12 of 68 photos fell below standards. More than poor picture taking - incorrect WMIRS logging was the predominant problem.
I urge Airborne Photography Trainees and team members to perform better. I urge you to become a true Airborne Photography Professional. This program is more than a 101 Card qualification. The Wing is applying extensive resources, effort, and time to AP training. This program depends upon top flight work - Figuratively and Literally. As an AP team member you are a critical mission asset. Success or failure of photo missions are on your shoulders and in your viewfinder.
8. GA8 as photo platform. We were testing the Airvan for airborne photos. Visibility was good. Using it to qualify 2 AP*s per sortie worked well and provided training efficiency . As for using the Airvan as a photo platform under normal mission circumstances the feedback from the AP*s was: a) it was difficult to shoot from the middle row/right seat. No photo window at that seat. All shots were through the sealed window. Tight shooting field between the strut and wheel. Not unlike shooting from the front seat of C-182. b) shooting from the right front (co-pilot) seat is nearly impossible because the window and door are too close to allow for movement of the AP and camera. c) Shooting from the backseat/right is difficult to see around the Archer-computer so the target comes into view quickly, limiting the number of pictures taken from that seat. d) backseat left (next to the photo window) Photo window works but is at a low angle for APs of average height. Uncomfortable position. We were on one-hour sorties and would've found any 3 plus hour missions uncomfortable. That stated - photo window works and can be utilized with good results. The GA8 is efficient and effective AP training platform. Extra eyes and brains on searches can be good too. Given some latitude and time - It is my opinion that this aircraft could be a very versatile, nimble, and adroit response vehicle dedicated to more missions than Archer. - Additional CAP missions to be considered for the GA8 are Command and Control, Communications, Liaison, Support/Logistics.
9. Suggestion regarding AirVan: If the mission requires a quick response with pictures taken from both sides of the plane simultaneously - The GA8 works. I recommend this set up for a tornado, flood, fire, or blizzard/snow assessment using multiple Airborne Photographers. In a case requiring many eyes and cameras with a lot of logging - the GA8 can be put to good use. More experimentation as a photo platform should be considered. CRM issues with 4 crew members sorting out duties was quickly configured with better than expected results.
Conclusion: There were 68 photos posted. There were 12 posted photos that fell below standards. That is a failure rate of 18%. We are improving... but slowly. We are learning... but slowly. Consider this after-action report more than standard growing pains. Make this report - Lessons Learned. Then - Lessons Applied.
Please distribute this review as you see fit.
1. Completing this course with her second AP* mission/sortie Katherine Mickevich CAP ID- 486436 is recommended for full AP status. Good going Katie!
2. After successfully completing his first AP* sortie Victor Sabatini CAP ID 283507 is recommended to progress to his second AP* mission/sortie.
3. Hank Eng CAP ID 392465 - Is recommended to continue to his second SQTR required sortie.
4. Chuck Sellers CAP ID 211568 - After completing this - his second required SQTR sortie - Is recommended to full AP status.
5. Doug Getchell CAP ID 100497 - is passed to perform his second sortie with training provisions.
6. Harvey Siegal CAP ID 101047 - is passed to perform his second sortie with training provisions.