FCLP Training for the Growlers

Naval aviators have to practice the art of landing on a carrier a lot.  Before they ever go to the boat, they undertake a lot of field carrier landing practice.  This involves flying the carrier pattern to a runway as if it was the boat.  The outline of the deck landing area is painted on the runway, the lighting is replicated and the guidance calls are provided by crews alongside the runway just as if they were at sea.  The crews fly around the pattern and thump onto the runway just like it was the deck and then apply power just like they would if they were aiming for a wire.

Of course, there is no wire so they power up and fly away to repeat again.  The goal is to be as practiced with the whole procedure as possible before they ever go to sea.  Naturally, there is still a difference dealing with a static runway in a field as opposed to a moving ship in open sea.  Still, it is the way to prepare.  Naval air stations tend to have separate fields away from the main base at which this training can take place.  They are away from the normal base flying and allow this training to take place uninterrupted.

NAS Whidbey Island has its outlying field at Coupeville.  They announce when flying training will take place there in order to keep the local community aware of the potential noise.  Usually there is little chance for me to go because of work but it turned out that one of the flying days was scheduled to have good weather and I should be able to take time off.  Not only was the weather due to be good but the wind was in a direction that meant they would be flying to the end of the runway that is more accessible.  I planned to be there.

As it happened, something came up at work and I had to go to Seattle before I could leave.  Consequently, I was behind schedule.  I eventually managed to get on my way and I got to Mukilteo just in time to catch a ferry.  Once on the island, I headed up to Coupeville and, sure enough, as I got closer, I could see Growlers flying patterns.  I got to the field and parked up away from the road.  I walked back, all the time hearing jets flying around.  Then I was in position to get some shots.

I kept moving so I could get closer to the touchdown point but the flying stopped as I got closer.  Then they packed up operations.  They were done, at least until the evening.  If I had missed the boat, I would have missed the whole thing!

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Fort Casey Lighthouse

My trip to Whidbey Island meant I had a fair bit of spare time to work with.  I was chatting with a guy while I was there and he suggested a trip to Fort Casey.  It was barely five minutes from where I was and it was a sunny day so why not.  Fort Casey is one of the forts that were built to protect the Puget Sound area from possible invasion.  Not only was it a fort but it also has a lighthouse.  When I first got there, the lighthouse was off in the distance but, after a little exploration, I headed over to see it.

As with a lot of lighthouses in this part of the world, it is not terribly large.  It doesn’t have to shine too far since there are islands all over the place blocking the line of sight so no need for it to be too high.  Still, it is well maintained and comes in standard lighthouse white!

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A Sick IL-76 Waiting for Help Perhaps?

Suddenly IL-76s are appearing at Paine Field on a regular basis.  I came across one by surprise not long ago but didn’t get a chance to track its progress.  However, a quick check on Flightaware showed it had departed.  Fortunately, I checked the flight and realized that it did a quick pattern and then landed again.  After that, it didn’t move for ages and was still there when I next visited.  I wonder whether it got sick and has been awaiting parts?  Anyway, since taking this shot it has departed to Iceland successfully.  At the time of writing, it is back though.  So much Ilyushin traffic!

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Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach was quite a way north of where we were staying in Oregon.  However, it was on our route home so we stopped off to wander along the sands for a bit prior to hunting down some lunch.  We were not the only ones enjoying a sunny day on the beach but, given the expanse of sand available, there was plenty of space for everyone to spread out so it wasn’t crowded.

The huge flat sands were most impressive and the rocks that sit out in the water look very cool.  It is hard to gauge their scale when they are out like that as they are so separated from the people that you don’t have enough of a reference to work with.  It is safe to say that they are pretty big though.  There was a bit of sea spray in the air which made everything take on a slightly more misty look when you were looking south towards the sun.  Looking north this was a lot less apparent.  I could see why a landscape photographer would come here to spend some time in the early and late hours.

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Lufthansa A340 and His Buddy

Heading back to Hawthorne after my flight over LAX, another plane was coming in to the southern complex.  I had forgotten it was due and, after moving to the south of the field, we could have got a good shot of it landing.  Never mind.  This Lufthansa A340-600 beat me but I was able to get a shot of him from a distance as we headed in and, since there was a parallel approach on the northside, I got his little cousin in the shot too.

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Swans on the Lake

When I was still at college (and because I am an old git, I was shooting on film), I spent some summers in Huntingdon, a town in Cambridgeshire that my mum lived in at the time.  The river Ouse ran through the town (actually separate Huntingdon from Godmanchester) and there was a park along the river that I walked in frequently.  One afternoon I was walking there when a swan took off on the water alongside me and I grabbed a single shot of it that was one I was really happy with.  (After I write this, I will go back through my stuff to see if I have a good scan of it to add to the bottom of this post.)

Ever since I have been shooting digitally, I have wanted to get shots of swans flying.  However, I haven’t lived in places where swans were very common.  That has changed since moving here.  There are some wetlands north of here that are heavily populated by swans and I shall be checking them out before too long.  However, we do get some swans in Juanita Bay.  Nancy and I were out for a walk a while back when three pairs of swans took off from the water near us and flew right by.  You can probably guess that I wasn’t carrying a camera that day.

A week or so later, I was back at Juanita Bay with the camera this time and there were swans hanging out in the same area.  I thought that, this time, my planning would pay dividends.  Sadly, that was not to be.  They seemed very content where they were and all I got was pictures of them sleeping, swimming or occasionally stretching their wings.  I shall be back for another attempt though.

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One of My Better Encounters with the Dreamlifter

I have had some mixed luck with the Dreamlifter.  Light failing at the wrong moment or the sun setting just before departure are two examples.  On this occasion, though, things worked out pretty well for me.  I was visiting Future of Flight so I was on their viewing deck when the jet departed.  I watched them start up (including some nice puffs of smoke as fuel and oil burned off at ignition) but they were partly obscured by a hangar.

Pushback made everything easier and they then taxied right towards me.  It is true that you are looking into the sun at this point but it was still not a problem to get shots of the plane without a problem.  They taxied out past the parked IL-76 and then held in front of us for a moment.  The wind was good for northerly departures so they taxied across the threshold and then down Alpha to the other end of Paine Field.

Take off had to wait for a couple of Cessnas and then they lined up and headed our way.  I was definitely not alone on the viewing terrace at this point!  Little areas of snow alongside the runway were apparent when the outboard engines disturbed them.  Then they were rotating and climbing towards us.  Finally I got some decent conditions for some shots.  Now, I guess, this will happen a lot and I will wonder why I ever was bothered about not shooting the jet in nice light.

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LAX is Attracting the Neos

The A320neo (and more recently the A321neo) has been a big seller for Airbus.  However, introduction has not been smooth with both of the engine suppliers struggling to meet their commitments for powerplants (Pratt and Whitney definitely having the worse time of it).  Despite this, the neos are turning up in service in a lot of places but I had not seen a lot of them.  My trip to LAX changed that a bit.

Here I got to see a few operators with the neos in service.  The far larger fan diameter of the new generation engines makes the neos reasonably easy to spot and I like a big high bypass engine so I appreciate the change.  It won’t be too long before they are around in huge numbers and won’t be worthy of comment but, on this trip, I was pleased to see so many.

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Beaches in the Mist

The moisture in the air along the Oregon coast can catch you out at times.  On one drive south out of Yachats we rounded a bend in the road where we looked down from quite a height along the beaches stretched beneath us.  It looked most impressive, but we were then on the way down a twisty road and had missed the pull off.  I made a note to come back another time.  This I did but the conditions had changed a lot.  There was now a lot more mist in the air and the beaches were disappearing into the glare from the sun.  Even so, it was still a very pretty location.

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