A sunny Sunday morning trip out for a bizjet got a bonus. I was a touch late for the arrival unfortunately but this G650ER had come in from Manila on its was to Teterboro. It would have been nice to catch it landing but, after it cleared customs, they taxied out for departure to the east coast. I’m sure it was nice to stretch the legs after a trans-Pacific trip although I doubt a G650 is that uncomfortable!
Category Archives: aircraft
Edwards Plane On A Pole
Heading into the show at Edwards took you past a lot of planes that had been preserved outside the base buildings. The parking areas around these buildings had been coned off given that there were thousands of vehicles making their way along the roads so stopping to grab shots looked like it might be frowned upon. However, we weren’t always moving so it was possible to grab shots out of the window. I would like to have got more and have seen the shots of others that I missed but I did get a P-59 Airacomet on one of the poles which is a relatively rare beast.
One Of The Oldest Tornados
The Tornado was entering service in big numbers with the RAF at the same time that I was getting seriously into aviation. I always felt it was the plane I knew the best. When I ended up working on them, it felt like a continuation of my youthful enthusiasm. The Tornado GR1 was my jet. After I moved on to other projects, MLU came along and that became the GR4. Somehow, the GR4 never felt like it was mine. I was a GR1 kid.
When I went to the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection at Old Sarum, there was a Tornado at one end of the hangar. It was a GR1 that had never been updated. Better than that, is was one of the earliest production jets that the RAF received. Some of the test jets at Warton were from this batch so this one really felt like one of the originals for me. The Tornado is long gone from RAF service but, for me, to see one of these earlier jets was really a treat. Camo with black radomes is how the Tornado should look!
Falcon 50 Through the Snow
Crappy conditions are not usually what you are after when photographing aircraft but, sometimes it is what you get and you have to make the best of it. One upside is that, if you are somewhere with a reasonable amount of traffic, you can play around with getting shots of something you weren’t necessarily focused on. While standing in the snow waiting for the Skycourier’s arrival, I did have a Falcon 50 on approach. I like the Falcon 50 a lot so this would normally have my attention already. However, crummy conditions almost left me in the car. I decided at the last minute to try it anyway.
I was really quite pleased with the patterns that the snow made around the jet as it came in. in such bad light, the landing lights are always going to be more dominant and their ability to light up the snow flurries ahead of them can work out well. These pictures will probably never be gracing anyone’s walls but I got a kick out of them when I went through them back at home.
Edwards AFB might be the home of the USAF flight test center but it is also home for NASA’s Armstrong test center. Consequently, NASA was included in the flying display. They put up a three ship formation that mad a series of passes. The formation was led by a Gulfstream with an F-15 and an F/A-18 on the wing tips. The Eagle is one that has been with NASA for years and is painted in a white scheme. The Hornet was still in Strike Test colors from Pax River but I have no idea how long it has been with NASA.
The two jets also did some demonstrations of sonic booms as they maneuvered high above the crowd with the booms reaching the ground at different times depending on how high they had been created. The sound was also modified by the maneuvering of the jet. Formations like this don’t appear regularly at air shows so this was a welcome addition to the flying program.
What Is Experimental About This?
Dassault is developing their business jet line. The 5X was stillborn as a result of engine supply issues but it led to the 6X which I got to see last year when it came through Boeing Field on tour. The next jet is the 10X. This is going to be a large cabin and long range jet to play with the Global 8000 and G800. However, it hasn’t flown yet. When I saw this jet at Boeing Field, I wondered what the story was. The large graphic on the side must either relate to something else or is delusion of grandeur on the part of the owner.
Checking Out The Northwest Helicopters’ Black Hawk
With the firefighting helicopters gathering at Snohomish to cover the local fire activity, I was able to chat to the crews a little while they waited to see what was to come. Northwest Helicopters had brought in a Black Hawk to support the fire if needed. It was a 1984 build airframe and had been painted in a blue scheme. The guys were complaining about the paint, though. It was a matte finish and the soot from the exhausts was discoloring the surface and was, apparently, impossible to clean up. The rest of the airframe looked fine for something that is nearly 40 years old.
They had a Bambi bucket with them for the firefighting side of things and were quite happy for me to check out the interior of the cockpit. Having shot their arrival, it was a shame that the visibility was so bad that they could not do what they had come to do and were stuck on the ground while I was there. A nice pair of guys to chat with, though, and I appreciate the time and access that they gave.
Alaska Air Cargo Finally in Good Conditions
Alaska Air Cargo operates some 737-700s that have been converted to freighters. For some reason, I feel like I have struggled to get any good shots of them. I have either been too distant or the weather was crummy or I just made a bad job of the shots. They operate in and out of SEA daily so you would think that, after six years up here, I would have got something of them that I liked. Finally I got a bit more lucky. Some afternoon departures to the north on days when I could be there and the light was cooperating meant I was able to get something better. The -700 is not a big jet so, even with the 500mm, I was stretching things a bit but winter light makes everything better. If only the Cargo logo wasn’t hidden behind the wing for a good chunk of the time. The low light does make the texture of the door conversion on the front of the fuselage show up, though.
I had seen photos from the visits people had made to the airport in California City that showed a lot of old business jet airframes in storage. I was curious to see this place myself and so headed up there when I had some time one evening. There is a local business that takes old jets – principally Gulfstreams – and strips them for any components that will be useful in the secondary market. The owner of the place is welcoming to visitors and a friend was actually already there when I arrived. A little while later after sorting out issues with the gate opening, I was inside and free to roam around.
There are so many jets, it is hard to know where to start. Some of them are basically intact while others have had substantial elements removed. Sides of the fuselage might be cut out, gear may have been removed and engines are definitely a valuable commodity. Some of the control surfaces will have found a second life supporting an airworthy jet. Older generation jets like the G-II and G-III are represented but the G-IV is now knocking on a bit and so there are quite a few of those too. Some very old jets are scattered in amongst the carcasses including one that had been used as a military testbed.
The planes are squeezed in to all available spaces. As you walk around, you have to pay a lot of attention to make sure you don’t trip over anything or smack your head on part of an airframe. Also good to try and avoid getting in the shots of other photographers! I didn’t see any hazardous wildlife which helped make the walking around a little easier.
While most airframes were Gulfstreams, there were occasional exceptions. I came across a really old HS125. It was from the days of Viper engines so definitely an old one. It didn’t look to be in great condition but the dry desert air means that they survive pretty well for a long time.
EcoDemonstrator In Good Light Finally Arrives
Boeing has been running a program for the last 10 years called the EcoDemonstrator program. They have used a variety of aircraft over this time – often ones that were bailed back from operators or that had not yet been delivered. The most recent aircraft to participate was an older 777-200ER. I am not sure why this jet was picked but I do wonder whether they pick up aircraft that don’t have a lot of hours left before a major inspection so they are more affordable.
This one has been flying around for quite a while but I have never seen it moving. Then, not so long ago, I finally got to shoot it but it was a miserable day with low cloud and awful light. I felt like I was destined to never get a shot of it in nice conditions. Things changed when I went to Georgetown to see the Steam Plant. I was in the plant having a look around shortly after arriving when something large took off overhead. I pulled out my phone to see what it was a saw that the demonstrator was powered up on the Boeing ramp and scheduled for a flight.
This was a lucky break – not just that it was flying but that I happened to look at my phone to see it. I went back to the car to change lenses when I saw it had started to move. I was tricked a little, though. They moved it to the exit of the Boeing ramp and then it stayed there for ages. However, eventually it did taxi down the field and take off. It was quite high as it came by me but I was able to get some shots of it and the underside had some graphics about being powered by sustainable aviation fuel so that was something I hadn’t seen before.
I then finished my visit to the steam plant. The demonstrator was down off the Oregon coast flying various profiles on their test card. When Boeing Jets fly down there you are left guessing as to when they might return. They will be flying towards you and then reverse course to do more test points. There were some interesting departures from SEA early in the afternoon so I was hoping to shoot them and then return to Boeing Field for the demonstrator. I saw it head towards me but figured it would reverse course any time.
I was wrong. It was coming back and soon. This was not in the plan. The departures from SEA would have been good but this plane is unique so it was getting priority. I headed back to Boeing Field where I was not alone. Plenty of people had come out for it. A sunny Saturday was clearly good news for the local photographers. I then watched the planes come out of SEA that I had wanted to shoot but that would have to be accepted. Not long before the 777 showed up out in front of Mt Rainier and then it was on approach. I was happy with my results. Chatting with some of the locals, they said it was not long before it heads to storage in the desert. I know it flew a few times after this but maybe this was my last chance. Thank goodness the conditions were good and that I even realized!