Aviation artist visits Columbus

Mr. Keith Ferris, Air Force aviation artist, presents 1st Lt. Timothy Grebs, 37th Flying Training Squadron Instructor Pilot, with a lithograph of the old T-37 paint scheme. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Kenn Brown)

Mr. Keith Ferris, Air Force aviation artist, presents 1st Lt. Timothy Grebs, 37th Flying Training Squadron Instructor Pilot, with a lithograph of the old T-37 paint scheme. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Kenn Brown)

Mr. Keith Ferris, Air Force aviation artist, discusses his art techniques with Jana Hudson, wife of Capt. Dustin Hudson, 37th Flying Training Squadron Instructor Pilot, Thursday during a briefing in the Phillips Auditorium. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Sonic Johnson)

Mr. Keith Ferris, Air Force aviation artist, discusses his art techniques with Jana Hudson, wife of Capt. Dustin Hudson, 37th Flying Training Squadron Instructor Pilot, Thursday during a briefing in the Phillips Auditorium. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Sonic Johnson)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- A preeminent military aviation artist paid a visit to Columbus AFB this week.
Mr. Keith Ferris, a participant in the Air Force Art Program, is visiting Columbus to document the T-37's final days in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training.
He is no stranger to the T-37. In the mid-80s he had been working with the Air Force on deceptive methods of painting aircraft. He was asked if he could design a paint scheme for an aircraft to improve its visibility. The result of his research is the current paint design on the T-37B.
At the time, the T-37s were painted all white and the soot from the engine exhaust caused the rear part of the aircraft to always look dirty. "The concept is quiet simple" explained Ferris. "High visibility is about high contrast. Make the top light, the bottom dark and it will stand out against most backgrounds. "Ferris also explained that the human eye looks for an aircraft as a straight line for the fuselage and a vertical line (tail) sticking up at the end. "This is why the blue paint continues up the tail of the T-37, so if you can only see the blue, it looks like an airplane, if you can only see the white, it still takes the basic shape of an aircraft."
Ferris has participated in the United States Air Force Art Program for more than 46 years logging more than 300 hours in over 14 different jet fighter and bomber aircraft and has flown in most aircraft types in the Air Force inventory while documenting the Air Force mission with art.
Flying the T-37 on a formation sortie, Ferris was visibly exited upon his return. "What a great aircraft" extolled Ferris. "I am 78 years old and we pulled 6-Gs...without a G-Suit, what a great feeling!"
A G is the force of gravity, with 1 G being what you feel everyday. 6 G's is six times the force of gravity, making every part of your body weigh six times more than your normal weight.
Ferris had maintained his altitude chamber qualification for over 40 years. He still recalls his sorties in the F-15E at Seymour-Johnson AFB, N.C. "We did three air-to-air engagements were we sustained 5-Gs for quite a while."
Born in 1929, the son of a career Air Force Officer with over 5,000 flying hours, Mr. Ferris grew up around military aviation. Mr. Ferris was in the first grade at Maxwell Field, Ala., while his father was in the Air Corps Tactical School class of 1936 with aviation legends like Ira C. Eaker and Nathan Twinning often visiting the house.
Mr. Ferris created the 25 foot high by 75 foot wide mural in oil "Fortresses Under Fire" in the World War II Gallery of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The mural took 135 days of research and was painted on-site in 75 days.
The mural is a slice in time in W.W. II featuring B-17 aircraft #050 "Thunderbird" on August 15th, 1944 in a bombing mission over Wiesbaden, Germany. Ferris used both US and German Luftwaffe archives in his research for the mural.
Ferris is spending the week being immersed ion the flying training mission of the base. "It is great to see the youthful enthusiasm of all the young student pilots and instructors." It is not like that in the outside world.
Ferris is frequently asked if he was ever in the Air Force. As a Texas A&M cadet, he was medically disqualified from aviation service early on due to allergies. "I was never in the Air Force, but I never got out of it either" noted Ferris.
For more information about the artist and his work please visit the Ferris web site at www.keithferrisart.com.