About Ben Ullings


portretpf 13042018 29 

It was at the age of 13 that I took my first black & white aircraft pictures in 1966, using the Agfa Clack camera borrowed from my mother. That was at Schiphol-Oost, the former location of Amsterdam's international airport.  

As my hobby activities progressed, I started to publish features and accompanying photography in an array of magazines all over the world. Later a range of books also followed. These activities have since continued almost without interruption. 

Based on my writing and photography activities expanding, I established Aviation Photos International as the 'umbrella' for my aviation collection. This also facilitated the recovery of at least a small portion of the considerable costs involved in travel and flying to conduct my hobby, versus generally very marginal remunerations from aviation publications and alike.

A true milestone in my hobby career took place on 27 March 1981, when the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force provided the opportunity for my very first air-to-air session. Several more flights followed that year, including the unforgettable first fast jet experience on board of a Royal Canadian Air Force CF-104D. Air-to-air photography became a passion!  

In June 1982 it was Cor de Blij who arranged my first Harvard flight and introduced me to the Fokker Four Team on the same day at Lelystad. That was the start of a treasured friendship and dozens of exiting photo sessions together. In August 1982 he also brought me to the Stichting Vliegsport Gilze-Rijen, now the Koninklijke Luchtmacht Historische Vlucht - KLuHV (Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight), where I flew my first session with them nearby the base.

Many more photo missions from Gilze would follow with the expert assistance of many different pilots. The Historic Flight's quarters have meanwhile become a 'second home'. My airborne photography of KLuHV aircraft over the years was extensively featured in two books about the Flight and its history. "35 Jaar bewogen door de tijd" appeared in September 2004 and "De Tijd Vliegt" in August 2013. The latter can still be ordered via www.kluhv.nl

kluhv trio kopie

In 1994 I was invited to visit the Royal Jordanian Falcons in their home country. One of the sessions was flown out of Aqaba early morning over the spectacular Wadi-Rum desert and produced the picture that was chosen "Best of the Best" in the annual photo contest of Aviation Week & Space Technology. A coveted award. In the following year I was asked to portray the aircraft of the Royal Jordan Air Force in flight. An unforgettable  privilege and experience. Several visits to this beautiful country have followed since.

My aviation photography career ran parallel to a successful full time occupation, from 1974 initially in logistics linked to the trading of chemicals. Later, from 1982, I progressed to senior management positions in the worldwide transportation of liquid products by tank containers. In 2013 I was able to retire early from this exciting industry.

Already in 2000 Robert van Diemen en I made the first flight together and the 200th was accomplished on 30 August 2023. Hopefully many more will follow! Jointly enjoying the fun of flying, we have become a real team. And Robert also owns a beautiful and photogenic Bolkow 207 that has been a cameraship and target several times! 

rvd trio

In the course of time some very special photo missions took place. Amongst these the encounter with Martinair's MD11 "Prinses Máxima", the missions flown in Portugal in 2006 and KLM's 90th anniversary celebration flight in 2009.  The photo galleries will show you many more exciting adventures. 

In August 2006 I spent an unforgettable weekend in Lausanne with the Association pour le Maintien du Patrimoine Aéronautique (AMPA) portraying several of their flying 'gems'. Also in the years after I would meet these friends and their aircraft again at several locations

 ampa trio kopie

 One of these locations was the annual fly in at Schaffen-Diest (Belgium). For decades already this event, with the fine assistance from the organizing team, has offered me exceptional air-to-air opportunities. 

 schaffen trio

Accompanying Texan SE-CHP on its ferry flight from Sweden to Lelystad in 2016 and later portraying the aircraft in its current PH-TXN livery was an exceptional combination. And meanwhile PH-TXN has been an invaluable camera plane already several times. The mission to Sweden also brought me together with Cessna 210 N8241M, that sice has proved to be a major asset in portraying an array of flying beauties.

chp txn 8241m

 Over the years, fine friends at the Aeroretro organization in St.Dizier (France) not only provided a chance to fly in some of their own unique aircraft, but also assisted in capturing some of their associates in the air.

st.dizier trio

In November 2015 I had the opportunity to visit the Escuela de Ultraligeros of Daniel del Rosario at El Berriel airport on Gran Canaria (Spain). A memorable day that would lead to multiple sessions over the beautiful island, portraying locally based helicopters from Dani's ELA07 gyrocopter. Results can be found in gallery 1H0-01. 

gc trio

Also in Spain, but at the mainland at Cuatro Vientos near Madrid, I was hosted in 2017 by the Fundacion Infante de Orleans portraying their imaculate DH.89 Dragon Rapide over a variety of locations. What a beauty! Another very fine Spanish session that year was with two helicopters of the 802 Squadron based at Gando/Las Palmas. Yet the highlight then definitely was the encounter with a KLM Cityhopper Fokker 70, just before the type was phased out. In 2022 one more 'magic' Fokker encounter took place, when I could be alongside a Colombian Air Force F-28 Fellowship (one of the last five of the type still flying) during test flights over the Netherlands. 

2017 trio2 kopie

2018 was an exceptional year with many unforgettable sessions. Capturing the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster had been a wish for many years already. Portraying Dakota PH-PBA over my city of birth Amsterdam also had been on the 'list' for a long time. And the ability to picture a Polish Army MI-17 helicopter near the island of Texel then was one of several sessions linked to the airshow there.

2018 trio

Jaap van Mesdag, founder of "Vroege Vogels" (Early Birds) at Lelystad passed away in 2015. Already in 1987 he facilitated a photo session for me with one of their aircraft. Many followed such as with Mustang PH-JAT featured in the WWII Fighters section. In 2019 two immaculate aircraft from the collection 'posed' for pictures in the air, spanning a few decades of aviation history. A sad photoflight that year was the one accompanying Catalina PH-PBY on its last stretch in Dutch air space on its way to a new 'life' in the United States in May 2019. What a loss to historic aviation in the Netherlands!

2019 trio

Due to Covid and some unfortunate personal circumstances, the years that followed were not filled with a lot of air-to-air activity. But meanwhile I am 'on the hunt' again to set up exiting photo sessions. Some nice prospects are in the planning already.

With the help of Fokker Techniek at Woensdrecht, where the aircraft was modified extensively, I could recently portray a Japanese Coast Guard Gulfstream 550 with a temporary Dutch registration. The Recent Encounters Gallery includes some results of this exceptional get together.

Mentioning only a few names in this summary of fifty years plus of photography activities is doing many others short, but I know this will be understood. It is simply impossible to mention all of the hundreds of other people that have flown with and for me over the years or have supported my photography in other ways. On this website a tribute page is gratefully dedicated to all of them.

I have been truly blessed by meeting and flying with some of the best pilots around. Benefiting from their flying skills, inspiring suggestions and safety consciousness. And I am more than aware that those flights could never be made without the support of as many, if not more technicians. Yet my biggest supporter and facilitator over the years has undoubtedly been my dear wife Meta! Portraying her air-to-air twice was more than a special 'treat'.

meta x 3 kopie

Images on this site are available for use only after prior written permission. Please do not hesitate to contact me for any inquiry you may have in this respect.

The Publications section on this site provides some examples of the many contributions made to leading aviation publications all over the world.

If you think your aircraft is a 'centrefold', I will be happy to consider portraying it in flight. Experienced pilots and a variety of camera planes are available to support a safe and successful photosession.

Your support is always essential!

Many of my endeavours have been and still are dependent on the generous support of many people and authorities. Thank you in advance for providing such support and for granting requested facilities. It will enable me to fulfil my continuous objective:

Capturing Tomorrow's Aviation History Today!

Thank you for your interest in my work!

Ben Ullings


Opening portrait courtesy of Peter Franken and Pieter van Gemert portrayed me in 1995 flying in the backseat of an F-5F from the rear ramp of a Royal Jordanian Air Force Hercules.