Thomas A. Gieseke - Illustration / Art
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"Killer Bees"

Killer Bees

This was originally an illustration assignment, a cover for a school notebook called a "Trapper Keeper" for Mead Paper Products. There's a fun story that goes with it.

I needed reference for that crash helmet on the bee's head. So I called up the squadron that flew A-10s at the old Richards Gebauer Air Force Base just south of KC and asked them if I could come out and take some pictures of one of their helmets. They said, "Sure. No problem." Then I told them I was a private pilot and asked whether I could come in there with the Cessna 150 I was flying at the time. Again, they were accommodating. So I did.

I taxied over to General Aviation and then hoofed it quite a ways over to the building I needed to go. When I got there, they were most gracious, allowing me to take the helmet outside in the sunlight and take as many pictures as I needed. I told them as a gesture of gratitude that I would include their unit's name, 303rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, somewhere in the illustration.

They were ecstatic and, when I was finished, an airman gave me a ride to my plane, rather than having to walk all the way back. I started the plane up and got clearance from ground control to taxi to the runway.

As I was taxiing to the runway, I noticed a pair of those Fairchild Republic A-10s doing the same in front of me. Now, in my opinion, the A-10 is one of those airplanes that is so ugly that it's beautiful. (They are nicknamed "warthogs", not exactly the prettiest animal in the ark.) They have two monstrously large, external mounted, GE turbofan engines on the ass end. These things were built to just flat out go.

I finally got to the end of the runway and did my run-up and pre-flight checks, all the while keeping my eye on the two hogs that were sitting out there on the active runway. I opened the door of the Cessna so I could get the "full effect" of the A-10s' take off.

Their engines wound up with a high-pitched scream and the planes lurched forward like a couple of crazed, rabid guard dogs going after the mailman. They were deafening. I could feel the roar pounding on my chest. And before I could believe it, they hopped into the air like rockets. I sat there giggling like a kid, it was so friggin' cool.

Clearly, it was the best part of that assignment.

Giclée prints available
Certified, signed, titled, and numbered on archival paper from an edition of 20. Image size 14" X 14" (35.56 cm X 35.56 cm) on 15" X 15" (38.1 cm X 38.1 cm) paper size.
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Original painting no longer available.
19" X 19" (48.26 cm X 48.26 cm) Water-based inks on illustration board.