Floatplane Fest

I was in Vancouver for a few days for work and I managed to catch up with my buddy Mark when I arrived.  He suggested to me a good opportunity for shooting the floatplanes is at the end of the day from Brockton Point in Stanley Park.  I had only shot them from the shore near the convention center (other than an opportunist shot or two while walking in the park and that doesn’t count) so I was interested to see how this location worked out.  I managed to get out of work at a good time one evening and the weather was looking very nice so it was off to the park for me.

This location is a lot of fun.  In the evening, the light is well positioned and, at this time of year, the sun is lower and the light is nice and just gets better and better as the evening sets in.  The aircraft were arriving from the east so they were very distant but it is the departures that we were after.  The planes head along the shore from the base and then turn towards you and start their run.  Often, they are pointing straight at you for a while.

Depending on the type and the pilot, they can climb steeply or can keep it nice and low as they come by.  Sometimes, there might be a boat on their preferred take off run and, since they have to divert to one side which can result in a nice turn back towards you as they round the point and head to Lion’s Gate.  The Otters are the most common type with the Beavers coming second.  There are still some Twin Otters but they are a lot less common than they used to be so they end up being more interesting when they show up.  How can it be that I get complacent about seeing Otters on floats?  (The fact we have them in Seattle too probably doesn’t help!)

Mark certainly called this one correctly.  Brockton Point is a nice place to hang out on a sunny fall evening in any circumstances but the addition of a steady stream of floatplanes to this makes for a wonderful combination is you are someone like me.  What’s more, it is a reliable option.  Until the winter light stops flying at the end of the afternoon, you have scheduled departures to rely on so this is not a case of turning up in the hope of seeing something.  You will definitely get plenty of planes.

Posted in aircraft, civil, photo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Red Pandas are Performers

Visiting the zoo is often a game of hide and seek with the animals.  They live according to their normal schedules and are not inclined to be active just because you happen to be there.  They also will find a favored location in their enclosure which is not putting them on display to the animals on the other side of the glass.  You may catch a glimpse of something sleeping in a shadowy space or you may wonder whether the animal is even in there.

When we got to the red panda enclosure, I was half expecting to not see very much.  I figured this would be another reclusive creature.  I was wrong.  I don’t know whether they are naturally energetic creatures, whether they are curious about their visitors or whether some unseen motivation is given to them to get out there but these guys were the exact opposite of what I had anticipated.  They had a number of trees within their space and they were very happy to zip around through the branches.  This often brought them right up front to where the visitors were standing.  They would happily motor about, stare at the people, head back, disappear for a while before reappearing and repeating the process.  Their public was suitably appreciative.

Posted in Pacific Northwest, photo, wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Surprise Appearance of This Two-Seater

Paine Field is the home of Paul Allen’s collection which includes a MiG29UB.  I had seen it being dragged around the airport once but had never seen it fly.  I was there to catch the Catfish, as described in this post, when a loud engine noise came from the right.  I hadn’t been paying attention but, when the MiG taxied towards us, I certainly did.  It came right by where I was and then held at the end of the runway before lining up and departing – sadly in dry power only.  It was a bit far away and the heat haze was bad but who wouldn’t take a shot anyway?

Posted in aircraft, military, Pacific Northwest, photo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roslyn/Cicely Alaska

If you are not too young, you may have watched a TV show in the 90s called Northern Exposure.  Set in the fictional town of Cicely Alaska, it revolved around a young doctor from New York who had been sponsored through school and, in order to fulfill his sponsorship obligations, had to go and work in this remote town.  It was a quirky show and I liked it.  It wasn’t filmed in Alaska though.  The exterior work was mainly done in a town called Roslyn that sits just on the other side of the Cascades from Seattle.  We decided to take a trip.

Roslyn was a mining town for many years.  However, when the coal became too uneconomic to mine, things got very quiet.  There is a little museum in the center of the town which includes a display outside of some of the mining equipment.  There is also a memorial to the miners including a lengthy list of those that lost their lives in the mines.

There are a few buildings that you might recognize from the TV show.  The opening sequence of the show includes a moose wandering around the town and passing a café called Roslyn’s Café.  The apostrophe and s were added for that sequence but the Roslyn Café is still there and we had a good lunch inside.  The doctor’s office is now a gift shop in which you can get plenty of Northern Exposure related goodies.  The tavern that was central to the show, The Brick, is also there although clearly the interior shots were done on a stage since it looks very different.

The drive to Roslyn takes you across the Cascades via Snoqualmie Pass and it is a pretty drive on its own but Roslyn was a fun place to visit.  It is a small town with a few interesting shops and no shortage of places to eat and drink.  We also wandered out of the center a bit, up the hill to see the local church.  Then we headed on our way.

Posted in Pacific Northwest, photo | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

787 Development Jets

Two versions of the Boeing 787 have been in service for a while.  However, development activities continue.  The 787-10 is still undergoing flight test but work also continues on the older jets.  Some of this is also related to the Dash 10.  I had a post on my first encounter with the 787-10 which I wrote about here.  I have since come across another of the test aircraft.  This one is plain white and doesn’t benefit from the nice house colors that Boeing has.

Meanwhile, one of the 787-8 test aircraft has recently been testing the newest version of the Rolls Royce Trent 1000.  I saw this engine when it was being tested on Rolls’ testbed in Tucson and that was in this post.  Now it has been fitted to its intended platform and is undergoing trials.  These have included lengthy flights around the US including one in which they traced out the planform of the aircraft across multiple states.  If you are going to go flying for 18 hours, you might as well find a way to have fun with it.  The aircraft is carrying the same logo on the engine nacelle that was on the testbed.  Hopefully, the delayed upgraded engine will soon be in service, not just on the Dash 10 but also on the other variants.

Posted in aircraft, civil, Pacific Northwest, photo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Macaws of Different Colors

The Macaw is a bird that really looks like it has been created for our amusement.  The bright colors and personality of the birds combined with their intelligence makes them instantly attractive.  We can forget for a while that they are the way they are because they are adapted for the environment in which they live (by which I don’t mean a zoo).

We saw a few of them at Cougar Mountain Zoo.  Some of them were out on perches in the zoo grounds.  A few were brought up to a stage to demonstrate their intelligence and dexterity.  They really are a quite amazing bird.  While it is easy to be impressed by their capabilities, you don’t ever forget how amazing they look.  The vivid colors and the fascinating shape make it easy to just spend time watching them.  What a fantastic creature.

Posted in Pacific Northwest, photo, wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

T-45 Nose Gear Door Sequencing

With a title like that, who could resist reading this one!  The T-45 is a plane I have a close affinity with.  It was my involvement with the project that first brought me to work in the US and it is responsible for me meeting Nancy.  Aside from that, I got quite involved in many aspects of the plane’s design so feel like I know it quite well.  It did not have a smooth entry to service and went through a multitude of upgrades prior to being accepted in to service.  One of the lesser known items was the nose gear doors.

These were lumped in to a bunch of issues relating to directional stability.  The front fuselage of the T-45 is considerably deeper than the original Hawk but the design originally had the same fin and actually lost the ventral fins that were either side of the airbrake on the original.  Directional control was enhanced by adding a fin cap, modifying the rudder design and adding a new ventral fin on the arrestor hook fairing.  One other change was made too.

The carrier launch requirements meant the simple nose gear was replaced with a far chunkier assembly with dual wheels and the catapult launch bar, all of which was beefier enough to take the catapult launch loads.  Covering this all up were big nose gear doors.  These were originally either open or closed.  If you look at the doors, you can see they are like adding large fins to the front fuselage.  This is very destabilizing.  The rear doors must stay open when the gear is down but the front doors were rescheduled to close again once the gear was down, making a substantial difference in directional stability.  They have to open while the gear is transitioning and stability is reduced during this phase but it doesn’t last long.  However, if you watch the retraction and extension sequence, you get a brief glimpse at how big these doors really are.  From what I understand, a similar issue affected the F-35 and only the first airframe, AA-1, had the old single huge gear door.

Posted in aircraft, military, photo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waterfall Park

I was with a couple of colleagues in downtown Seattle between meetings.  We were walking along the street just killing some time when we came upon Waterfall Park.  Tucked on the corner of a block in amongst the buildings, it is a little area with a waterfall (what a shock I hear you cry) running down an artificial rock face into a pool.  It seems set up to provide a restful spot for workers to enjoy in the middle of the day.  Indeed, it closes by mid-afternoon.  There was a security guy on duty so maybe someone has tried to mess with it in the past which is rather disappointing.  I only had my phone with me but hopefully you can get a feel for the spot.

Posted in Pacific Northwest, photo | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Stirring Spitfire Performance

In my younger days, I was all about modern aircraft and didn’t have much interest in warbirds.  Over time and having been involved with a number of groups that operate these aircraft, I have grown far more interested.  Being in the US, you get a lot of American vintage aircraft to see.  In the UK I might not have been so bothered about Spitfires but, now I see them less often, they have become of greater interest.

The later model Spitfires seem less graceful to me but the earlier models have a simpler and more elegant appearance.  This one was carrying out some flybys at Paine Field during the Open Day.  The rumble of the Merlin is well known and common to the P-51s.  The line of the Spitfire is unique, though, and seeing it swooping by was really quite exciting.  What a great looking aircraft.

Posted in Air Shows, aircraft, military, Pacific Northwest, photo, vintage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gorillas Have a Taste for Flowers

I knew that gorillas were vegetarians, happy to chomp on branches and leaves for hours at a time.  What I didn’t know is that they have what I guess might be considered a sweet tooth.  They were scattered throughout their enclosure but two of them were together in one section that had a glass viewing wall for the other apes to watch them.  The staff had recently put a load of food out for them and this included some bunches of flowers.

When I first saw the flowers, I was slightly perplexed.  It seemed like an odd thing to have put out.  However, the alpha male homed in on them.  Even then I assumed he would eat the leaves.  Not so.  He was happy to strip the flowers from the branches and chew them up.  The rate at which he went through them made it seem pretty clear that this was a preferred treat for him.  Having never tried eating flowers, I have no idea what they taste like.  They smell nice so does that translate into a nice flavor?  I’m not going to try eating some to find out but, judging by his approach, there must be something to them.

Posted in Pacific Northwest, photo, wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment