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.
With the grounding order rescinded but the FAA, Boeing was getting Max jets ready to go for customers that were in a position to take delivery – namely US airlines and those that use US registered aircraft. United has a bunch of Max 9 jets on order and one of them was making a test flight just before Christmas. I got to see it return from its test. It taxied back in the south entrance to their ramp past a bunch of other test airframes awaiting acceptance.
In the run up to Christmas, online retail had clearly been very busy. UPS runs their Seattle flights to Boeing Field and, while I was there, the traffic levels were well above the norm. I have posted the Asia Pacific 757 freighter in a previous post but UPS’s own fleet were really moving. Arrivals and departures were pretty frequent. As soon as the jets were on the ramp, the team whirled into motion getting the containers off and loading up the outbound loads.
While the Comet may have been the first jet airliner, it was a configuration that was not well suited to development. Boeing put together its development approach to the jet airliner through a project called the Dash 80. The shape of the airframe may look familiar but this was a one off. It was a hand built aircraft and undertook development that then migrated into two further airframes. One was what became the C-135 family while the other was enlarged and became the Boeing 707.
The Dash 80 get used for all sorts of things but finally ended being donated to the Smithsonian and ferried to the Udvar-Hazy facility at Dulles. That is where I got to see it on a visit there in the mid 2000s. I haven’t been back since and would love to check this place out again. Here are some old shots of this historic jet.
We were walking along the shore in Mukilteo on a sunny Saturday afternoon when I looked up and saw something large on the approach to Paine Field. At first I assumed it was one of the scheduled E175s but, as I pulled the camera up to my eye, I realized it was a 777. As it got closer, it was apparent that it was a China Airlines Cargo freighter on test – the first time I have seen one. The midwinter light made for a nice shot.
I wasn’t close to the FedEx 767 as it came in and shot a missed approach but the low sun angle on the underside of the jet looked quite nice. The crew flew a tight pattern back to make their approach and landing. They did run reasonably long so I got to see them as they turned off the head back to the ramp. They were going to take an earlier exit but something was in the way so I got a bit lucky.
Looking for something unusual keeps things interesting when you have been shooting the same stuff for a while while not able to go anywhere. I had seen a couple of movements in recent months of Asia Pacific Airlines and their Boeing 757s. However, I had never been in a position to catch one. Christmas Eve I was off work and one was due in to Boeing Field. It was on their own flight number but I had a suspicion that they were supporting UPS.
Sure enough, when the jet landed, it taxied up to a spot on the UPS ramp and started unloading. UPS had been running a large amount of movements through Seattle that day and the preceding days so I guess the Christmas rush meant it was necessary to charter in additional capacity to deal with the demand. An interesting looking plane and nice to see something different for a change.
When the pandemic first hit in a big way, I wasn’t going anywhere to shoot but, once it was okay to make trips without interfacing with other people too much, I did got to Paine Field to see the stored Southwest 737s and I wrote about it in this post. I was back up there recently and, while they have been cycling jets in and out, there are still a lot of their 737s parked there – predominantly but not only, 737-700s.
Some of them are up near the old cross runway and lined up in a good spot for a shot when the morning light is on them. I was a little later than ideal but I still managed to get something. Many of them are around near the FHCAM facility – still sadly closed and with no idea what the future might hold. I had brought some steps which meant I could shoot over the fence. The planes are really tight in there so I may a lot of use of panos to get decent coverage of the planes. I did also get some of the planes further away.
The coverings on the openings on the airframes were pretty comprehensive. Everything that is exposed has been taped over to prevent moisture or creatures getting in and causing harm. There have been various stories coming out of the issues affecting planes that have been in storage for a long time so, while this prep is good, there will still be much to do when these planes are returned to service. Meanwhile, Southwest is now taking delivery of its Max jets so it will be interesting to see how many of these planes do have a future.
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.