One of the things I was interested to see at Moses Lake was the new testbed being fitted out for Rolls Royce. Rolls currently has a Boeing 747-200 that they use for airborne testing of their engines. I shot it at Tucson and posted about it here. They recently acquired a 747-400 from Qantas to use as a testbed and it was moved to Moses Lake for conversion by Aerotec. I don’t know the timescales for the conversion process but it will be interesting to see it when ready in house colors and hopefully with a big engine installed on one of the inboard pylons.
I posted here about KLM retiring their 747s early as a result of the COVID-19 related pummeling that the airlines have taken. It wasn’t long before another airline made the same announcement – this time it was Qantas. Qantas has operated the 747s since the beginning and it is quite a shame to see that they are no more. Here are some of my Qantas 747s from over the years. I should note that there is a rumor that they may not be gone for good and could return. That would be great but I suspect it will not be the case given that they didn’t have long left anyway and things are going to be rough for a while for the airlines in all probability.
The massive reductions in air service as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has put airlines in a tough spot. One of the first things they have done is ground a significant portion of their fleets. For some airlines with types that were due to go out of service before too long anyway, this just accelerated the plans. The KLM 747s were due to last until 2021 but they have been grounded and are not expected to return. As I have done with the end of 747 operations for other airlines in the past, this is a small tribute to the KLM 747 fleet. An interesting livery amongst a world of white jets.
I was out one evening awaiting the arrival of something that currently escapes my memory. In the meantime, I was in position to get the arrival of a few widebodies. Since SeaTac tends to put the widebodies on the inner runway, they are the ones you can get from this park location while almost everything else (plus the occasional wide body!) goes to the outer runway behind you and through the trees.
On this evening, we had four widebodies come in. Condor brought their regular 767 flight. This were joined by an Air China Cargo Boeing 747-400F, a FedEx 777F and last but by no means least, a British Airways 747-400. The evening light was very favorable and this location is both easily accessible and pretty good for this approach.
RIAT is known for special formations and British Airways has been part of them in the past. Concorde with the Red Arrows and an A380 with the Red Arrows spring to mind. For 2019 and BA’s 100th anniversary, they wanted to do something special. The focal point was to be the BOAC liveried 747-400. I shot this jet at SeaTac and covered it in this post. To see it in formation with the Red Arrows sounded pretty good. They put together two passes.
The first was from the right and involved a gentle turn in the direction of the crowd to give a slightly topside view of things. This was nice but the distance involved did mean there was a bit of heat haze to combat. The second pass in the other direction was a more straight pass along the display axis. The sun was popping in and out during this time so the colors popped sometimes and not others. It made for some tricky shooting but it still looked pretty good and it was nice to just watch when not shooting.
The passenger 747 fleet is something that is shrinking fast. US operators have retired theirs but other operators still have fleets in use, some of which (like British Airways) are still fairly large. However, they are definitely not as common a sight as they used to be and seeing one from a different operator is a nice surprise. At Haneda I saw a couple of operators. A Qantas jet was parked on the far side of the field and, while visible, wasn’t much of a shot. However, a Thai Airways jet was on the gate when I arrived so it seemed like there was a fair chance it would move before I overheated and gave up.
It took a while but eventually it did push back and taxi for the runway I was watching. It then sat at the hold for what seemed like a ridiculously long time. It probably wasn’t that long but I was wilting in the heat and begging it to move. Finally it did line up and got off the ground pretty quickly. I guess the run to Thailand is not a long one so it wouldn’t have been very heavy. I wonder whether I shall ever see one of these again?
The BOAC retro jet that BA has painted up was a nice treat to get. There are two other retro jets in other colors but, based on their interior configuration, they should not normally be used on the Seattle route. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting a chance to get them any time soon. Then, I saw that the Landor scheme aircraft was coming to SeaTac. It must have been a substitution. Now I was interested. However, it pushed off the gate at Heathrow and then went back on with some engine start issue. Was it going to scrub?
Apparently not. The issue was resolved and they pushed again. While the passengers were, no doubt, unimpressed by this, I was delighted. It now meant the arrival was at nearly 7pm. No problem to get to SeaTac after work and the light might be really nice. The weather was better than forecast although the chance of Mt Rainier making a second appearance was low. Again, plenty were out for the arrival. She showed up on the approach and the light played ball. This jet would have been delivered to BA with these colors so it was a case of reverting to how she had appeared many years before.
When I was very young, BOAC still existed but it was soon merged in to British Airways. I remember model kits being for BOAC jets and I have seen some preserved aircraft in BOAC colors. As part of British Airways’ 100th year celebrations, they have painted up four airframes in legacy colors. The first to appear was a 747-400 in the BOAC scheme. I saw a bunch of shots of it online and was keen to see it for myself. It appeared on the schedule for an evening arrival at SeaTac so I made sure to be down there.
They were making a southerly flow that day and the evening is not a good time for that approach path as there are few locations to get good shots. However, I was “lucky” in that it was a crummy day for weather. The water tower location would normally have been horribly backlit but, since there was no sun, it might just do. I did get the shots and, by virtue of shooting quite heavily overexposed and then pulling back in post, I was able to get something I was reasonably pleased with.
I did really want the sun though and, not two weeks later, the jet was back on the SeaTac run. Again the evening arrival but this time it was sunny and the flow was northerly. This provides some opportunities for getting the iconic SeaTac arrival shot with Mt Rainier in the background. I was certainly not alone as she came down the approach nicely illuminated by the evening light. Thank goodness for time changes and being done with work by then!
This is just a gratuitous Boeing 747 post. The jets are fast disappearing from service with the major airlines but British Airways (those of you that call them British Air just stop!) has a substantial number of them left and they are due to stay around for a few more years. This one was arriving at SFO in 2018. It came into view across Coyote Point and headed down the approach in nice winter light. There will come a time when they are gone so appreciate it now. I have flown on more of them than I can recall so have plenty of happy memories of traveling on them.
Lufthansa changed their livery recently. It was not universally appreciated and I can’t say I disagree. It really is rather dull. I hadn’t even bothered to keep an eye on whether it was on a jet coming to Seattle. Instead, while out in Federal Way, I saw a 747 heading my way so decided to take a couple of shots. Turns out it was the new colors (or lack thereof). Soon it will be a common sight as they repaint the fleet but this was my first encounter.