Alumni Stories

Aerial Photos of ISS

By Chip Thuss

As members of the yearbook staff Bob Montgomery and I wanted to photograph the dorms from the air. The seniors organized a miny DERF rally and the plan was for them to spell out Derf on the roof of the dorms using empty wooden coke cartons. Bob had just learned to fly (in Pell City). Since we both played soccer we would have to 'rush' (at times exceeding 100 mph) to Pell City, rent a plane, fly back to the school under Birmigham approach radar, take the photos, return to Pell City and get back in time for soccer practice. Coach Woodard hated for you to be late!

We were able to accomplish everything though during the "low" flight passes over the school for the photos I didn't feel that we were close enough. I never looked out of my viewfinder as Bob would circle around time and again at my insistence for 'one more pass'. As we got lower the heated air ,from the approaching summer, would bounce the plane around and I would tell Bob repeatedly to hold it steady. During the last pass I was concentrating hard on the target of DERF letters on the dorm roof while urging Bob to get a little lower.

In hindsight a telephoto lens would have been a wise investment. As we flew over the soccer fields I got my photo and Bob climbed up to head back. I looked up and told him I thought we got a good photo only to see that he looked very pale and shaken but not quit shocky. He kept saying that "we were really low" that last pass.

Well, looking through a 50 mm lens gives you no perspective on height. I just figured he was worried about Birmingham approach control finding out who was flying so low. It wasn't until we got back to practice that everyone told us how nuts we were. Turns out that the last pass, as I pushed Bob lower and lower, that he pulled up just in time for everything but the tail wheel of the plane to miss the trees lining the field. I never felt the tree but I'm sure that Bob Montgomery will never forget the view!

Chip Thuss