Tag Archives: aircraft

Almost Perfect MH-60 Timing

As we started our drive home from Oregon, we were to pass through Astoria.  There is an airfield at Astoria and it is home to a Coast Guard helicopter unit that flies the MH-60T Jayhawk.  I think this is one of the better-looking variants of the Black Hawk family both because of the paint job but also the configuration of external fuel tanks.  I hoped we might see one there, but we had a long drive home and I wasn’t going to subject Nancy to a long delay.

Imagine my frustration as we pulled off US101 towards the airport when an MH-60 flies over our heads towards the airport a mile away.  The light was great, and it looked good but I was driving and it was going to land long before we could get there.  Had I blown it?  Two minutes earlier and we would have been fine.  I pulled up and it was taxiing towards me.  I grabbed the camera and got a few shots as it headed to the Coast Guard ramp.  Check out the logo of Astoria in the shape of the Jayhawk.

However, it didn’t shut down.  I thought they might just be running after landing checks but Nancy asked why they hadn’t stopped everything so we waited for a while.  Sure enough, another crew walked across the ramp and climbed on board.  A few minutes later, they taxied back our way and then lifted.  The departure route has the bridge across the Columbia River in the background and, with great winter light, it looked great.  They turned down to the south and were gone.  I got back in the car and we were back on the road barely ten minutes after leaving 101.  I got my helicopter and Nancy didn’t have a long delay!

Eviation Alice Readying To Fly

North of Seattle is Arlington and the airport at Arlington is home to Eviation, a company developing an electric powered aircraft called Alice.  They undertook some low speed taxi trials during December but plans for high speed taxi and flight were thwarted by consistently bad weather.  A recent nice day on a Sunday looked like the first opportunity to do some testing again and a NOTAM was published meaning we knew something was up.

I met my buddy, Bob, up at Arlington and Alice was already out on the field when we got there.  The time for the testing was at the end of the day so they were preparing for when the runway was theirs to use.  Sadly, the aircraft was not playing ball.  As is the way with flight test, things were not necessarily doing what they were supposed to.  They did run one of the motors up to speed but the other failed to perform and resulted in the first shutting down too.  Not ideal for an aircraft.  No doubt they will resolve such things in due course.  By the time they had spent some time troubleshooting, the sun was setting and there was going to be no taxi trial.

I chose the side of the field that was backlit since it was closer to where the testing would take place.  Some great shots from the other side with the setting sun on the mountains behind were made by others.  However, I was in the right spot when they dragged the plane back to the hangar.  Things were getting pretty dark  and I was very pleased to have brought the 70-200 f/2.8 with me since it did a great job with the lack of light.  The raw images looked very subdued but they really came out well when I processed them.

I put together a piece for GAR on what we had seen.  You can see that piece here if you want to check it out.  It seems to have generated a lot of traffic which suggests there is a lot of interest in some of these electric aircraft projects.  Whether they will be successful or not, we shall see.  In the meantime, the weather got bad again but we shall hopefully have a break in it soon and a chance to see them taxiing the plane and then flying it.

Down in the Slough at Kenmore

It has taken a while for this post from the 75th anniversary celebrations at Kenmore Air.  They operated one of the planes from the slough that runs alongside the base.  They had back taxied one of the Otters to start its takeoff run from earlier to mean it was taking off close to the spectators.  Then, when landing, they brought it down in the slough again.  It made for a great view of the plane compared to the normal departures and arrivals way out in Lake Washington.

Silk Air But Not For Long

Singapore Airlines has been rationalizing their operations and one of the changes that they are making is getting rid of their subsidiary Silk Air and integrating its operations in to the mainline airline.  Silk Air has ordered a bunch of 737s from Boeing and these are in the process of being delivered.  A number of the planes were already painted in the Silk Air colors and apparently the airline determined it was cheaper for them to repaint them than to have Boeing do it.  Consequently, they are being test flown in the old colors.

I assume that later jets will be painted in Singapore colors as they come off the line (depending on how much Boeing charges for that change order) but I have yet to see one in the new colors.  I hope to get one before too long since I don’t have any plans to be in Singapore for a while.  We shall see.  I have got some distant shots of one passing near the house as it returned to BFI as well as some shots from BFI itself.

Helijet Sunday Ops

The weather in Victoria over the Thanksgiving weekend was not great for aviation photography with a fair bit of rain and definitely only one day when the sun showed up.  That day was not going to be one on which I would suggest to Nancy I go photographing helicopters.  That might not have been the smartest suggestion.  However, when the morning was rainy and cloudy and we were planning on a relaxing day, things could be different.

I hopped in the car and drove around to the heliport which is used by Helijet for their shuttle service to Vancouver.  The Sunday schedule is not the busiest so I had to plan accordingly so I got there in time for an arrival and they were scheduled to head back out again not long afterwards.  I could fit all of this in before heading back for a spot of lunch.

The S-76 is a pretty elegant looking helicopter.  The design has been around for a long time and has gone through a number of iterations but the basic airframe shape is good in my opinion.  It is a lot larger than you might imagine with plenty of seating capacity which makes it good for this shuttle service.  One of the airframes was parked at the heliport when I got there so I got some shots of that.  Then it was a question of waiting for the inbound flight to arrive.

The problem with the heliport is the fencing.  It has quite a tight mesh and it is possible to shoot through it but it requires some care in aligning the end of the lens with the holes.  Sometimes I do better with this than other times.  When the helicopter is coming in, I have to try hard to get it right.  Stepping back away from the fence does provide a little elevation but not much so shooting through the fence is going to be required.

The sky was grey and dreary so approach shots were not going to be too good but I was going to try them anyway.  Once it was close to touchdown, it was a sprint to the fence.  They taxi off the pad to the space in front of the terminal (generous description, I know) and then shut down.  It was too long before they were firing up again.  Given that the wind was not too strong, they were able to lift and head straight out.  As they got on to the pad, it was noticeable just how far aft the rotor was pitched.  Once airborne, this resulting in a nose high altitude and then they were off.

The Fourth 787 Struggling to Fly

Of the original 787 development airframes, three are now in museums and Boeing has one that it continues to use for test work.  It was the fourth of the jets and, I assume, the closest to a production standard.  It was recently out at Boeing Field for a flight.  It taxied by me to the end of the taxiway where it then waited for a very long time.  Some fire trucks were close by but not attending it – just watching as far as I could tell.  They called up to say that they would be there for a long time so the tower was diverting things around them.

Eventually they taxied back before finally getting whatever was the issue sorted out at which point the runway in use had changed.  They had to head to the other end of the field for departure.  This time they did take off and headed off for whatever testing they had planned.  Not sure of whatever it was that caused them so much trouble but I guess it got resolved.

Wind And Rain Have A Benefit Sometimes

I may have complained a little about the weather being damp and windy during our trip to Victoria but there was one upside to this.  Unfortunately, it took one missed opportunity before I realized.  The wind was strong and from the west.  The normal approach for Harbour Air is to come in through the opening to the harbor and then touch down in the outer area before taxiing into the Inner Harbour.  With the wind coming from the opposite direction, they reversed the flow.

I had seen this once before on a previous visit to Victoria many years ago and had forgotten it could happen.  Our hotel was located right on the corner of the shoreline around which the planes would approach and we had a view out of our (not huge) window as they came around to touch down.  The first time I realized I could get the shot, I had to make so with shooting through the window.  This does not do much for image quality but it was still okay and I got an Otter coming in.

The next time something was due, I planned ahead.  The window of our room did open but it only opened a very small amount.  Not enough to get a camera out of except when looking off to one side.  However, the restriction on opening was the result of a small screw that was in the track for the window and it was not very securely fastened.  With my fingertip, I was able to remove the screw and with that out of the way, the window could fully open.  A Twin Otter was on the way so this time I was ready to get a clearer shot.  There is plenty of warning of their arrival because the sound of the props reaches you long before the plane does.  Besides, they are on final approach so hardly going too fast.  The only downside to this shot is that the touchdown location is further around and out of sight of where we were.  Bad weather can have its benefits.

Life Flight Bell 429

Boeing Field has a lot of aeromedical flights that come through and Life Flight Network is a regular part of operations.  They have a variety of types that they use including the Bell 429.  I think the 429 is a reasonable looking airframe compared to some of the other Bell products and the Life Flight colors certainly look good on it.  This one was arriving from the south with some nice light on it.

A Pair of G500s

Of the new generation of Gulfstream jets, the G500 was the first to test and the first to service.  It might have taken a long time to get certificated but it is now in service.  Even so, I haven’t seen too many of them yet.  However, I managed to get two on one day.  One of them was an approach to Boeing Field and what appeared to be a Gulfstream owned airframe was also parked on Modern Aviation’s ramp.

I think they are a pretty good looking airframe and have addressed some of my misgivings about the older generation Gulfstreams.  Now there are going to be a bunch of variants with the G500, G600, G700 and G800.  There is also going to be a G400 but I don’t yet know whether that is the same airframe design base or something different.  Probably similar though.  Can’t see much future for the G650 with all of these, though.

Harbour Air Movements In The Rain

I had a bit of time one morning during our Victoria stay to walk along the shoreline.  The hotel that we were staying in was right on the shore so I only had to step outside and then I could walk around to the more open are of the harbor.  This also meant I could get some shots of the Harbour Air operations.  Their floatplane base is in the Inner Harbour area but the planes taxi out to the outer areas for departure.

I was able to get some shots of arrivals and departures as well as taxiing planes.  Some of those I could shoot from our hotel window when I wanted to stay dry!  I was happy to shoot the Otter movements but I was more interested in the Twin Otters.  We have plenty of Otters around here with Kenmore but Twin Otters are not common down here so some variety was welcome.  Besides, it is a bigger plane so a little easier to shoot at a distance!