A nice bonus during my evening photographing at Paine Field was the visit of a 777X test airframe from Boeing Field. They often file to go to Paine for a low approach and maybe some pattern work before returning to Boeing Field but don’t always follow through – sometimes just heading back to BFI. This time, they did show up. A nice evening with smooth conditions and they flew down the approach before powering up and going around as they cross the airfield boundary. A few shots in nice light are always welcome.
The day was fast running out and I was thinking about heading for home but one of the two 777X test aircraft out showed signs of heading home to BFI so I figured I would wait around for it. It looked like it would get back before the end of the light with a bit of margin so I decided it was good to wait. I have not shot a 777 landing from this location so wanted to get the shot.
However, while the time was looking good compared to sunset, it was not looking so good when thinking of the weather. There were some dark and stormy clouds off to the southwest and they seemed to be getting closer. As the 777X got to the city, I figured a coat was in order since it looked like the rain might arrive first.
Indeed it did and this brought the light levels way down. As it came down the approach, it was shrouded in rain and made for a less than distinct shape to shoot. Certainly not what I had been hoping for. However, why wait all that time and not take the shots. It touched down in the heavy rain but at least the reduced distance meant things weren’t as obscured. It rolled out and turned off the runway but I decided I was already done and headed to the car and dry warmth.
There is plenty of the 777X on this blog. The delays for the test programs and the likelihood that service entry will slip in to 2024 means that test aircraft are all that is going to be available for a while yet. Even so, with four test aircraft in use, there is plenty of test activity underway. One of the more dramatic testing processes is the minimum unstick testing.
The test is to determine the maximum lift at takeoff in various configurations. This allows calculation of the required take off speeds and the runway distance required. The test involves accelerating the aircraft more slowly than usual and pulling the noise fully up. The tail is dragged along the runway and the aircraft will then get airborne once it reaches sufficient speed.
The test requires a decent runway length and, presumably, nothing much off the end should anything go awry. To protect the aircraft, a tailskid is fitted to the rear fuselage to allow the crew to drag it along the runway surface without damaging the airframe. The skid frame is a metallic structure but I am not sure what the wearing surface is for the 777X. In the past, wood has been used as the abradable element.
WH001, the first 777-9 airframe, is the one that is going to be used for these tests. It has been fitted with the skid. I’m not sure whether the testing is already underway or whether it is ready for future use. I shot it on departure on a couple of occasions.
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.
The number of 777X airframes at Paine Field keeps growing. I pictured some before in this post and, one morning over the holidays, I was up that was for something else and figured the morning light is good on the east side of the field where some stored jets are. There are a bunch in a line along the disused cross runway so I got a shot or two before continuing with whatI had gone up there for.
While Boeing has delayed the entry to service date of the 777X, they have continued to produce airframes at Everett with the result being a number of stored airframes on the field. There are four jets in the test program and the rest are not going to fly until certification is close so, for now, they are finding spaces across the airport for them. Some are on the Boeing flight test ramp (with production of the other widebodies ramping down, space is more available I guess) while others are on the cross runway. This has been home to 787s and 737 Max jets over the years and now it is the turn of the 777X. Some of them are identifiable by the paint on the folded wing tips while others are unmarked for now.
My previous unsuccessful trip to Paine Field on the Saturday for the first flight of the fourth 777X was followed up by a more successful Sunday visit. The dull and dreary Saturday weather had been replaced by clear skies (the smoke had finally gone away) and the sun was out. The time for takeoff was not going to be great because the sun would be high to backlit, but this was a first flight so the chances of it going on time were limited.
Sure enough, things got dragged out and the sun moved to a more favorable part of the sky. A 777F from Lufthansa Cargo was doing some test flying to provide some other interest and there was plenty of activity generally to photograph. Eventually the 777X was towed. From its parking spot to the south entrance to the Boeing ramp where it could start up.
It taxied up the Alpha taxiway to the hold point and then pulled into position. Normal Boeing practice is to do an accelerated and rejected takeoff before flying. They sat on the threshold and powered up, but the wingtips had not been lowered. I don’t know whether this was a test of the system that is designed to prevent taking off with the wing tips in the wrong position or not, but it seemed that way. Either way, the jet didn’t move.
They then lowered the wing tips, powered up, accelerated and then braked. Taxi back to the threshold again and a long way for some other traffic before they lined up again. The jet wasn’t heavy, but I was slightly surprised how much flap they had for takeoff compared to the other jets I have seen taking off there. Anyway, power on and off they went.
They were due to be flying for a few hours and then landing at Boeing Field so I figured I would make the trip down there for the arrival. On pulling up at Boeing Field, I bumped into my friend David so we were able to talk rubbish about planes for a while waiting for any arrivals. In due course the 777X showed up on approach by which time the light was a lot nicer than it had been for departure. Things may have taken longer than planned and meant the day was not much good for anything else but it was a fun outing and a successful trip.
The test program for the Boeing 777X is gradually increasing and a third jet has been added to the fleet. I stopped by Boeing Field because all three jets were scheduled to fly on this day. Having seen the first two, I was hoping for the third since I haven’t got any shots of it and its livery which is different to the first two. Sadly, I was to be disappointed as they scrubbed the flight.
However, the first two jets did fly. They were both already airborne by the time I got there. The arrival times back for both were supposed to be pretty close but you can’t put too much stock in those times as things on test will be what they will be. I headed to the arrival end for the first of them. It wasn’t that late so the light wasn’t ideal but it was still a bit better as we were well passed the solstice and heading to the equinox. Happy to take the shot of course.
I moved to the other end of the field when the second jet came in. I wasn’t interested in repeating the shot I had already taken (plus I had shot this jet in similar circumstances before) so some images at the other end seemed worthwhile. They landed short but had clearance for a high speed run on the runway so that brought them down to where I was. Fortuitously, they took the exit directly in front of me. I missed the transition of the wingtips while changing cameras. The tips were down in one set of shots but were folded as they taxied off the runway. The wide angle view is a nice one to get of something so large.
On one day, I had an overflight from both of the initial 777X test airframes. The second one went straight over the house in less than ideal conditions but the first came just south of us if a little higher than is sometimes the case for aircraft heading back to Boeing Field. What I noticed in time was that the moon was on the flight path. Not much of a moon to be fair but the moon nonetheless. It crossed it quite nicely!
The first flight of the 777X took place while I was out of the country which annoyed me quite a bit. Having seen the things sitting around at Everett for ages and even watched the taxi trials, I was in the wrong place when they finally got airborne. However, with an extensive flight test program to come, I knew there would be other opportunities. I did manage to be at Boeing Field for a departure on one of the flights. Conditions weren’t great, though.
With the viewing area closed while Boeing parks 737s wherever it can find a space, I was a long way from the rotation point. It was in the rain as it rolled and, while it stayed below the clouds until well past me, things were not ideal. Still, I had seen it fly.
On another occasion I was able to be there when it returned. This had also been a day with some pretty crummy conditions but this time I was seeing the weather starting to improve as the day wore on. A little bit of a wait while they flew test activities over Central Washington was not such a bad thing. Indeed, as they turned for home, the sun was coming out. However, the wind was not abating!
When they called up on approach, I wandered to one side to see how far up the approach I could see. Despite me being to the right side of the runway from their perspective, when I first got a good shot, the jet was actually pointing beyond me to the right. The crosswind was obviously pretty strong. Early in the flight test program, I wonder whether they really wanted to be testing this capability. Of course this then meant I got a head on view as they got closer before running past me. Shots in nice light! Happy guy. In the next year we shall see plenty of these but, for now, I am happy to have got something reasonable of this airframe off the ground.