My sister and I recently had a once in a lifetime opportunity to tag along with our dad, acclaimed aviation photographer Paul Bowen, as he shot from a WWII B-25 Mitchell bomber on a Bombardier photo shoot.

Headset plugged in. Check. Strapped into the nose gunner position. Check. Ready for take off. Check. I watched the runway whiz by under my feet. We gained speed. And just like that, we were off and flying. The adrenaline rush was off the charts.

As departed from Chino and flew out to Catalina Island, my sister and I peered out the nose in awe. We circled the island a few times taking in the beauty. Then, two state-of-the-art Bombardier Challenger corporate jets appeared in the sky next to us. I’ve coordinated more static displays than I can count. I’ve even ridden on these amazing aircraft a time or two. But to see them in this setting was mind blowing. It gave me an entirely different appreciation for the wonder of flight.

Choreographing a ballet in the sky

Part of my dad’s job is choreographing a ballet in the sky. As he provided instructions over the headset, they moved perfectly into place. The heavens opened up and beams rolled off the plane like liquid light. The planes banked in unison. Then he’d call out the next command.

Toward the end of the shoot, my dad asked us back to the open-air tail gunner position where he’s tethered in. It was time for the famous wingtip vortices. The Challenger 300 and Challenger 605 took turns behind the B-25. They were so close. I felt as though I could reach out and touch these “flying sculptures,” as my dad calls them. The Challenger 300 dipped down and then up through the clouds as the circulating air generated by the lift rolled down the wings and off the winglets. And there they were. Wingtip vortices. Spinning in what seemed like slow motion behind the aircraft. I suddenly felt a few teardrops gently rolling down my cheek. I was speechless and couldn’t stop smiling.

After the sun had set and we were heading back to Chino, I was reminded of why I am so passionate about aviation. It’s not just what I do for a living. It permeates every facet of my life. It is a part of me. Sharing that flight with two of the most significant people in my life is a memory I will always cherish.