Bellingham's Lyle Jansma showcases classic cockpits in 360-degree apps

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 25, 2013 

Considering that he's not a pilot, Lyle Jansma has sat in some memorable cockpits.

Thanks to his persistence, Jansma has carved a niche in the world of photography with 360-degree images of cockpits of historic planes, such as the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, bringing World War II to a close.

"I've been able to sit on the wings and inside some pretty amazing aircraft," Jansma said.

His images of cockpits can be found on apps from more than a dozen aviation museums across the country, including The Museum of Flight in Seattle and the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

When viewed on an app or website, people can study the inside of a cockpit by looking up and down, side to side and front to back in the "you-are-there" wraparound scene.

Curators love the apps because they let aviation fans - whether at the museum or far away - see cockpits, and sometimes other interior parts of a plane, without putting the museum-quality aircraft at risk.

"It would be a lot of wear and tear if we let people walk inside them," said Sarah Swan, a spokeswoman for the Air Force museum in Dayton.

People also can buy Jansma's Cockpit360° app, which contains 360s of more than 100 aircraft.

"It started out as a hobby that I'm able to make money at now," he said. "It gives me a canvas to show my hobby."

Jansma was born in Bellingham but grew up in Hoquiam. His fascination with planes took hold early; he recalls making model airplanes, and hearing his grandfather talk about being a propeller mechanic in the South Pacific during World War II.

Photography took hold by high school, when a counselor who also taught photography encouraged Jansma to take his class. Later, Jansma pursued his interest in photography while exploring careers as a commercial fisher, a fisheries worker and a boat builder.

He began developing websites for boat companies and saw the value of panoramic photos to market their boats His ideas developed sooner than the technology to make it work smoothly, but he didn't give up.

"I kept with it," Jansma said. "I knew there was something there."

While living and working back in Whatcom County, Jansma became a volunteer photographer for Heritage Flight Museum, by Bellingham International Airport. Early on, he was asked to photograph a P-51 Mustang aloft near Mount Baker, and he began shooting cockpit 360s of planes in the museum's collection.

He next shot cockpits for the Museum of Flight in Seattle, and when the technology for easier viewing came on the market, Jansma started carving his apps niche in earnest, with technical help from Bellingham web designer Nathan Carnes.

Jansma also has a business shooting photos for real estate firms and other companies, but cockpit 360s are his passion - a passion with threads that keep finding new ways to come together.

While taking photos in Dayton, Jansma saw a Douglas A-20 Havoc, a plane his grandfather worked on during the war.

In the future, Jansma hopes to photograph the USS Intrepid in New York City, the aircraft carrier his father served on.

And not long ago, Jansma saw his son referring to his app while making a model airplane.


MORE ONLINE

Get this 360-degree-view of the Douglas Skyrider warplane at the Heritage Flight Museum, or click here to download a high-resolution image.

• Lyle Jansma's business website - jansmadesign.net - includes nine 360 aircraft tours.

• To see Jansma's aerial and airplane photography, go to aerocapture.com.

Reach DEAN KAHN at dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2291.

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