On any given day, you may drive past the Medford Air Tanker Base and notice a bright red SUV with a couple of guys standing next to it with cameras and laptops. They are busy tracking aircraft movement, along with posting the latest flight patterns of wildfire tankers working nearby incidents, for thousands of their social media followers.
Meet Scott Swanson and Tim Crippin, together they have turned their passion for planes into a community-driven endeavor known as Rogue Valley AirWatch (RVAW). What started as personal Instagram accounts capturing the beauty of aircraft in the area has evolved into a comprehensive platform providing insights, history, and now, invaluable wildfire aviation coverage.
With over six years of experience documenting aircraft from all angles, Scott and Tim’s journey took a new direction when the idea of RVAW materialized. The vision was clear: establish a digital space where the local community could delve into the world of aviation, learn about their local aviation history, and gain insights into the planes soaring overhead.
Scott and Tim, having crossed paths at airports and airshows, decided to join forces due to their shared enthusiasm and mutual admiration for each other’s work. Their combined expertise in photography and aviation knowledge was the foundation on which RVAW was built.
However, RVAW’s emergence as a significant wildfire coverage resource was a serendipitous turn of events. The duo’s original focus naturally led them to highlight air tankers and other aircraft in the area. What started as simple notifications about aircraft presence quickly transformed into detailed analyses, visual explanations, and firsthand photographs of these aerial missions in action.
Their coverage caught the attention of pilots and ground crews, who began reaching out with information and even agreeing to interviews in the midst of the chaotic firefighting efforts. Social media buzzed with gratitude from individuals who found important information in RVAW’s updates, as these vital stories often go overlooked by traditional mainstream news outlets.
While Swanson and Crippin never wish for the devastation of a wildfire season, their commitment to public service and information sharing remains unwavering. Learning from the current summer’s experiences, they plan to bolster their resources and expand their coverage for potential future wildfire seasons.
Beyond wildfire coverage, RVAW’s upcoming website promises to be a treasure trove for aviation enthusiasts. Packed with stunning photographs, enlightening interviews, and valuable insights, the website is poised to become a hub for Southern Oregon’s aviation scene. The launch, scheduled in the coming weeks, is anticipated to bring together aviation aficionados from all walks of life.
As RVAW continues to soar, the dynamic duo is committed to reporting on a wide array of unique aircraft, ensuring that their audience remains engaged and informed. With a content roadmap that stretches into the future, Scott Swanson and Tim Crippin are poised to make a lasting impact on Southern Oregon’s aviation landscape.
The team at Rogue Valley AirWatch were kind enough to grant Medford Alert an interview, to dive a bit more into what makes this partnership and endeavor successful:
Medford Alert (MA): How long have you both been interested in this field?
Scott: I grew up around F-14’s with my dad in the Navy. Love the sound and it never gets old watching planes land and take off. I like to collect registration numbers (tail numbers you see on planes), so I try to photograph and catalog every plane I see.
Tim: Since childhood, my parents would take me out to the airport during the summers to watch the air tankers. And I’ve always lived somewhat close to the Medford Airport so I’ve always been able to see all the planes coming and going. Once I got my own camera I was wanting to share with others all the diverse aircraft Medford gets throughout the year.
MA: After you both met, when was the “Eureka moment” to create Rogue Valley AirWatch?
Scott: We’re both passionate plane spotters and have been covering the aircraft in the area on our personal Instagrams for over 6 years now. I’ve had the idea for an RVAW-style page for a while. I wanted a social media platform and website where people in the community could go for insights on planes they might have seen overhead and to learn more about aviation and our local aviation history. Tim and I know each other more from running into each other at the airport or airshows and following on social media. Because he’s a good guy, takes great photos, and has lots of knowledge of aviation, I asked if he was interested in joining the team.
MA: What are your short term and long term goals for Rogue Valley AirWatch?
Tim: Short term I’d say is to continue to provide detailed information and visuals of the current fire situations throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California. Long term would be to give a history of Medford aviation and give a place where people can come and ask whatever questions they have about aircraft flying over Medford.
Scott: Pretty much what Tim said. We will also continue to adapt to what the community wants to see more of.
MA: Any background that allows you both to do such a great job informing the public about plane movements?
Scott: My background is in marketing and data analysis so many of the visualizations and updates we are publishing is something I quite enjoy. Tim is regularly spending more time at the airport capturing photos and he has extensive knowledge on aircrafts and operations. I’ll regularly ping him with a question on this or that. Really it just comes down to we’re both passionate about aviation.
MA: Finally, anything either of you want to add or think the public should know?
Scott: This all took off much quicker and differently than either of us expected and we’re glad to know the content we’re delivering is unique and able to offer a new perspective into wildfire operations. Many of the areas we’re covering have had people living within those communities that had to evacuate reach out to us and are thankful for what we publish. While we anticipate things to slow down once wildfire season is over, beyond wildfire coverage, we have a website that will be launching in the next few weeks, loaded with much of what I mentioned: photos, interviews, insights, information, and becoming a “hub” for Southern Oregon aviation. We will continue reporting on and sharing interesting and unique aircraft that come through our skies and have content planned far out.
Medford Alert thanks both Tim and Scott for allowing us access into the unique workings of Rogue Valley AirWatch. You can connect with both of them, and Rogue Valley AirWatch directly, using the following links.
Scott IG: https://www.instagram.com/scoswanson/