This C-17 Rocketed Through Star Wars Canyon Like A Fighter Jet

The big cargo hauler executed a knife edge turn and dived down into the canyon in a way that would make an F-16 blush.

Eric Larson

Star Wars Canyon, also known as the Jedi Transition or Rainbow Canyon, and the aviation photographers that trek there, have offered up some of the most stunning and interesting images and footage of military aircraft over the last half-decade. The variety of aircraft that blast through the chasm is one of the locale's biggest attractions. Like fishing in some bizarre intercoastal waterway you truly never know what you might catch. In the case of pro photog Eric Larson, he recently caught a whale with one hell of an attitude. 

Fighter jets are the normal fare for Star Wars Canyon, but it also gets its share of propeller-driven aircraft and helicopters. It even gets larger aircraft like bombers and transports, but they always seem to take a far less aggressive and higher route towards the valley below. 

This wasn't the case for a C-17A Globemaster III from Edwards AFB that took to the canyon in a manner unlike seemingly any other 'heavy' caught on camera in the canyon before. 

Eric Larson
Eric Larson
Eric Larson

Eric describes his unique encounter with the C-17 as such:

"I've been wanting to get up to Death Valley for fresh jet pics all year, but I've been working solidly and haven't been able to make the trip since last December when the Dutch F-35s put on that epic show. So I'm up here for the week. 

I got to the 'amphitheater' and started keeping watch in the morning. A little after noon the sound of approaching jet engines got me up on my feet. I remember it because it was unusual in that the build-up of approaching jet noise was longer than usual. 

Then I saw a wing start to appear from behind a distant mountain.

Then more wing.

And more wing!

At first, I didn't comprehend what I was seeing, then the full C-17 came into view. It actually caught my breath and I just watched it for a couple heartbeats. Then I remembered to start shooting!

I remember thinking how remarkable it was that it was already so low in the canyon. I've seen a C-17 at the canyon before, but usually they just pass over the top. This one was down in it already!

The C-17 was crossing my line of sight from right-to-left at the canyon's entrance, then it made a huge arcing turn toward me proceeding down the canyon—the pilot made a powerful turn, banking the aircraft up to nearly 90 degrees.

I remember the lights were on and that made a significant impression. It was an awesome sight seeing a big jet like that maneuvering hard, lights on, coming straight at me!

He continued the turn, got pointed down the canyon and passed by, the shutter on my Canon 1DX firing off at high-speed.

It was so big and so close I had to rack the zoom out all the way on my telephoto lens to fit the whole thing in the frame!

I remarked on Facebook later noting how it's funny because I don't have to crop in much on these C-17 pics.

There was someone over on the saddle [another shooting location down the ridgeline] and we looked at each other and both put our arms up in the air!

It was quite a sight!"

That's an understatement. I have seen a lot of C-17 low-level videos and photos, including of the intense stuff the Aussies do with their C-17s, but the only other instance that I have seen something like this was in a video from Mach Loop in the UK:

Bravo on the amazing catch Eric, bravo!

Make sure to check out more of Eric's work at his website linked here, there are some stunning images on there outside of aviation.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com