Category Archives: military

Delivery of a KC-46?

Seeing a KC-46 at Boeing Field is not necessarily such a surprise.  However, seeing one parked up at the FBO was more unusual.  I am not sure whether the aircraft had been accepted and was ready for delivery or had actually come across country for a visit.  Either way, a USAF crew was about to fly it back across the country.  The size of the taxiways meant that it had to cross the runway to taxi up to the departure end where it could line up and head off on its way east.  Was it a delivery?  Who knows?

P-8 On a Sunny Day

I stopped for lunch and to take some calls at Boeing Field.  While I was eating my sandwich, a US Navy P-8 rolled out of the Boeing military ramp to head off on test.  With Seattle on a southerly flow, the P-8 needed to taxi the length of the field for departure.  It came past me so the sandwich had to take a pause while I got a couple of shots.

Prior to take off, they carried out a rejected takeoff and backtracked for the real departure.  One a sunny day like this, the heat haze looking that far up the field is pretty bad so not real chance to get a good shot.  The departure itself was a lot better.  By the time it rotated, it was close enough to mean the haze, while still present, was a lot less troublesome.  As soon as it climbed out, the problem went away.  Its interesting that the low light angles of the winter are already being replaced with a transition to the harsher high sun but it is still worth being out.

Three Black Hawks Bring In Some Passengers

The evening departure of the C-32 was covered in this previous post.  I hinted then about the arrival of some of the passengers.  I’m not sure where they had been visiting but they returned Ina. Three ship of Black Hawks.  Some of those who had been around earlier in the day had seen the departure and apparently it followed the same process.

The three ship of Black Hawks flew downwind on the west side of the field having approached from the south.  They then turned to final in a stream, descending to a lower level and flying the length of the runway prior to setting down near the fire station and close to the awaiting C-32.  Since it was late in the day, the light on them was really nice once they were over the field (conversely, they were seriously backlit while downwind).

After dropping off their passengers, they pulled up and departed back to the south, presumably heading towards JBLM.  I haven’t seen any UH-60s for a while so this was a nice change from the norm.  It was also fun looking at the crew on board with the helmet and face masks as they looked back at us.  Hopefully they didn’t mind being photographed too much!

HDR Processing on a Slide

I decided to try a little experiment with my slide scanning.  Having scanned a bunch of slides and negatives using a DSLR and macro lens set up, I had come across a few slides where the image just didn’t seem to work out very well.  A big part of this is that the original slides were not very well exposed so I was starting from a less than ideal place.  However, when editing the raw file, I found I wasn’t able to get a balance of exposures that I liked, despite slides supposedly having a very narrow dynamic range.

Since I could see some detail in the original slide, I figured an HDR approach might be of use.  I took three shots of the slide with differing exposure – an inconvenient thing to do when tethered since the AEB function didn’t seem to work on the 40D in that mode – and then ran the HDR function in Lightroom on the three exposures.  Despite the borders possibly confusing the algorithm, it seemed to do a pretty reasonable job of getting more of the image in a usable exposure range.  This is not a great image and would not normally be making it to the blog but, as an example of getting something more out of a problem shot, I thought it might be of interest to someone.

VIP Travel USAF Style

The USAF operates a small fleet of Boeing 757s for VIP transport.  These C-32s are often thought of for their role transporting the Vice President when they adopt the call sign of Air Force Two.  However, they transport a lot more people than just the Veep with other cabinet officials using them as well as senior Air Force staff.

One of them was at Paine Field for a while.  I had heard that it had flown in but had assumed it had gone again.  When I went up one evening after work (when the light was looking great and another jet I was interested in was due back), the people there told me it was still around.  I figured it would be there for a lot longer and paid no further attention until someone noticed that it had moved out of its parking area on to a taxiway.

As with all of these things, nothing happened fast.  Since the light was just getting better and better, I didn’t mind too much.  Eventually a bunch of the passengers showed up – that will warrant its own post – and then they started up and taxied.  They had to hold for a short while near the threshold so there was lots of time to get some shots.  Then they were off.  I figured, being a 757, they would be airborne quickly. They must have been heavy, though, since they ran a long way down the field before rotating.

Kenosha Hangar Visit

Back when we lived in Chicago, I went to Kenosha to photograph the Grumman Wildcat that had recently been lifted from Lake Michigan.  While I was there, I also got to have a look around the hangar which housed the collection of Chuck Greenhill.  His airworthy planes were stored in the hangar but it was also busy working on restorations of some Grumman amphibians.

His Duck was in the hangar and it was a great looking example.  I was disappointed that I never got to see it fly.  It looked immaculate.  I understand it has been sold and is now in Texas.  There were also two Mustangs parked in there.  One of them, Geraldine, they claimed to be the most authentic Mustang example in the world.  I don’t know how you would measure such things but they seemed very confident claiming this.  It even included a full, working armament so you could head up and shoot someone down if you were so inclined.

The amphibian restorations were very interesting.  Bare metal fuselages and the wings off while they were in work.  It would have been good to make regular visits to see how things progressed but I was not able to go back again so couldn’t do that.  Even so, pretty cool to see the workmanship on these airframes.

Random B-2 Spirit Shot

I was working through some shots and came across a sequence a little before a bunch of shots I have used a lot in the past.  It was of B-2s on approach to Nellis just before sunset.  I had some clear shots of them in the distance including as the gear was traveling.  Here is one of those shots.  I just liked it and thought I would share it here.

The End is Nigh for the Sentinels

On two previous occasions, the RAF’s Sentinel fleet has made an appearance on this blog.  The most recent was for a damp example at RIAT that was in this post.  The Sentinel fleet has spent a number of years under threat of retirement.  It is a small fleet and it is custom made so it will have very high sustainment costs.  Also, it provides a role principally in support of the Army so I imagine it isn’t the highest priority for some of the RAF upper echelons.

Previous reports of its retirement have been followed up with a reprieve.  However, the MOD in the UK has just issued a request for proposals (RFP) for companies to come and dismantle the aircraft (along with a pair of E-3D Sentrys).  This looks like it is really going to happen.  The RFP states that the aircraft are not for reuse and that the selected contractor will disassemble them on site at RAF Waddington.  Not only is the RAF not going to use them but they are making sure no one else does.

Various bits of information have flowed around about them.  There is a suggestion that obsolescence issues mean a lot of equipment needs to be replaced.  Since that will be a custom process, it will be an expensive thing to do and, with the axe having been hanging over them for a number of years, spending a lot of money on them if they might not be around for much longer just doesn’t seem likely.  Maybe there are other issues too.

I’ve had a soft spot for V Sqn from the Lightning and Tornado F3 days.  Seeing it move from a fast jet to a bizjet derivative was a bit odd but at least it survived while so many other squadrons disappeared.  I wonder whether it will surface again.  Maybe an F-35B unit at some point?  We shall see.  My best interaction with the Sentinels was on a Red Flag when I got to shoot them in some great light.  Farewell you oddball.

Boeing Flight Test Ramps

From my new spot, you have a good view of the main civil ramp at Boeing as well as a slightly more distant view of the military ramp.  The civil ramp was full of Max jets waiting to get delivered now that customers can start accepting the jets again.  Not all agencies have cleared the Max so I guess Boeing was focusing on those that have and aiming to get as much cash as they could in before year end.  You could also see the stored jets on part of the ramp as well as those in the parking lot across Marginal Way.

There were three 777X development airframes parked while the second jet was out on a test flight.  I was hoping to get it returning but it was out over the Pacific off the Oregon coast and I rightly guessed that, despite the online forecast, it wouldn’t be back before sunset.  The military ramp was a little quieter than I expected with a couple of KC-46s and some P-8s including the next one for the Royal Air Force.  There were also two KC-46s up on the civilian flight test ramp.  Plenty to see and it would have been better in morning light.

Return of a P-8 Test Flight From Above

The first decent sized arrival I got on my BFI visit was a US Navy P-8 Poseidon returning from a test flight.  It gave me a chance to get the hang of picking the arriving planes up against the background and working out their positions as the are on final.  Things are pretty cluttered in the background which doesn’t help make a photo look interesting but, once they are over the airfield itself, the background is a lot cleaner and the plane stands out more.

Once over the runway, everything is unobstructed so you get a good view of the touchdown and roll out.  The runway wasn’t too damp so not much in the way of spray from reverse thrust but a good amount of tire smoke as the mains hit the ground.  Heat haze was not too much of a problem as the conditions were not too sunny but you still had to be pretty close in before the shots were sharp enough to look at closely.