Crummy weather and a lack of light is not usually a recipe for heading out to shoot planes. However, I was up in Everett getting the car serviced and, as I prepared to leave when the work was done, I figured I would have a quick check on what was moving up the road. Turned out ATS had another Janet 737 out on a test flight.
I have shot the Janet 737s at Paine Field in far better conditions but I figured it was worth a quick diversion before heading home. The wind was very strong and from the southwest. As the 737 came down the approach, it was pointing in my direction as it compensated for the crosswind. A short while before it arrived, we had experienced some nice sun poking through the clouds but, sadly, this had gone by the time it arrived so it was dull lighting. This somehow made the airframe paint seem a little warmer than I recall previously.
A sunny but cool Sunday afternoon with a bit of spare time on my hands meant I headed over to Kenmore to see whether there was any floatplane activity. The answer was not much. However, I did get something a little larger overhead. Traffic in to Paine Field was running on a northerly flow. A Dreamlifter made an approach and was followed a little later by a 747-8F destined for UPS once test flying is complete. They both turned on to approach overhead the north end of Lake Washington so I got shots of them both.
I had a brief visit to Seattle Tacoma International to get some images for work. These images were not of the aircraft but the configuration of the roadways in to the airport. Not a great opportunity for photographing an aircraft. However, you could just see some of the ramp area and, as the sun came out, the Alaska Airlines A321neo in the More To Love markings taxied in. It was just visible above the terminal buildings so it would have been rude not to get a shot!
Production of 737 Max jets is underway again and that means some flight testing of new jets. I was heading back from Boeing Field but stopped at the approach end to get a shot from the underside. I almost didn’t get there in time so was not exactly where I wanted to be to take the shot but it still worked out reasonably well. I do like a different angle every once in a while and underneath is certainly worth a go every once in a while.
The Omni Air International 767s are a regular feature at Boeing Field. I have even blogged about them recently when I caught one actually flying as opposed to the usual being parked up near the Kenmore ramp. However, I have not seen one up at Paine Field before. Having one arrive while up there at the weekend was a bit of a surprise. I believe that it was heading to ATS for some maintenance work. I guess it was a bit if an unusual thing for the crew too since, once they had run all the way to the far end of the runway, they seemed to struggle a bit with where they were supposed to go next. They worked it out eventually, though.
Two visits to Paine Field in close succession resulted in two times to view a Lufthansa Cargo 777F undergoing tests. Lufthansa Cargo is in the process of replacing its MD-11F fleet with the 777F and one of the jets was undergoing a number of pre-acceptance flights. It was shooting a couple of approaches while the 777X was getting ready to depart on one of the days and doing a little more flying on another. On the second day, it came in with the RAT deployed too which makes for a noisier aircraft!
Often, when the jets are on the approach, I use the 500mm to get the shots as it is further out and then switch rapidly to the 100-400 for the closer in shots. Having got a bunch of shots in nice conditions on the first day, I decided to stick with the longer fixed lens for later approaches to do something different. Some tight crops on the cockpit and some compression of the features of the plane were the goal. It made for something a little different and I was quite pleased with the outcome. I also got to see the crew wearing masks in the cockpit!
Over six months ago, the Honeywell Boeing 757 testbed ferried from Phoenix – its home base – to Paine Field for maintenance work at ATS. I don’t know whether there were mods to be done too but, with a jet like this, that wouldn’t seem to be a stretch. I only found out it was there when I saw it outside the ATS hangars one time. I figured this was one to watch since it would have to go home at some point.
Whether there was a ton to be done or whether COVID delayed progress, I don’t know. However, it stayed at ATS for a long time. I had an alert on it should a flight plan be filed but nothing happened. I talked to other people up there and we all wondered when it would move. Then, finally a flight plan was filed for a flight coming back to Paine Field. This was good news since it would mean taxi shots, departure and arrival. I headed up. First flight after a long layup is not likely to go smoothly and the time for departure kept slipping and slipping. Eventually, later in the day, the flight disappeared off FlightAware.
A few days later, up it popped online again. Unfortunately, this time it was a flight direct to Phoenix so redelivery. That was unfortunate. So was the fact that we were experiencing some torrential rains. However, this is a rare one so I headed up. As per the last time, the departure time slipped a bit but then it pulled on to the taxiway heading for the runway. Amazingly, the rain had abated and it looked very promising. I got out of the car and walked to the bank to get some shots. At some point, I began to feel some rain drops. Then I felt what seemed to be the stream from a fire hose. The rain came pummeling down and I was instantly soaked. At this point, I was wet so no point heading back to the car.
When they got to the hold point, they stayed around for a while. Then someone came to the door on our side and opened it. I imagine they were getting pretty wet doing this since I was. As it sat there at low power, it was still pulling a vortex into the inlet of one of the engines. Maybe there was a door open warning but they closed it again and then pulled towards the active runway. The plane is covered in graphics pointing at parts of the airframe that have Honeywell technology installed. Its most distinguishing feature, though, is the pylon mounted on the side of the front fuselage on which turboprop engines can be mounted for airborne testing. No engines are there at the moment but the pylon itself is pretty substantial. Coming towards us and then lining up, we had the pylon on our. Side. They powered up and disappeared in to the gloom as they climbed out heading home to Phoenix.
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.
Boeing was supposed to be making the first flight of the fourth 777X one Saturday, so I headed up to Paine Field to see it. The weather was not great with low clouds and rain and it was below minima for the flight, so we didn’t get to see the 777X. However, an American Airlines 787 was doing a test flight and it took off in the damp conditions.
As they powered up the jet, the moisture on the surface of the runway got sucked up in the vortex that forms between the inlet and the ground at high power and low forward speed. A dull day makes it easier to see this as well, so I was able to get a few shots of it. The lack of flying that day was a disappointment but this meant the days wasn’t a total bust.
Every once in a while, I am looking for something in the catalog of images and it takes me on a journey to look through some other images. That can result in a blog post that doesn’t have a story. This is one of those posts. I have a bunch of shots from Narita while waiting for my flights home and that includes a bunch of freighters. I like freighters since they are often operators that you don’t normally see and they break up the flow of the familiar airlines. Here are some of those from my visits.