With long haul travel having almost vanished (other than a lot of use of passenger jets for freight movements), some of the regular visitors to Seattle and now a distant memory. Virgin Atlantic was a regular visitor and they had migrated from other types to the 787-9 recently. Here was one heading to SeaTac while I was at Boeing Field. With the reduced size of the airline post COVID (and assuming it survives), will they be coming to Seattle again any time soon? I hope so.
Boeing was ready to deliver a 787 to Turkish Airlines. Normally these take place from the Delivery Center which is a nice building justifying the large wedge of cash that has just been handed over. Boeing crews usually taxi out from the ramp but customer flights seem to get towed to the ramp entrance. Maybe they don’t trust the customer pilots in amongst all of their expensive jets.
The departure was to the north so they taxied to the south end of the field before lining up for departure. A flight to Istanbul is a decent length but, without any payload, it still doesn’t take long for them to get airborne. Judging by the distance to go boards, they were off in about 4,000’. Consequently, they had reached a decent height by the time they came by my location. They headed off to the north to start the long trip home.
The B-1B Lancer (or Bone to almost everyone who cares) is an impressive piece of hardware. It might have some performance limitations resulting from the redesign it underwent from the original canceled B-1A to the B-1B – changes that might not look that obvious but run quite deep – but it is still a very capable jet. The blended airframe shaping really appeals to an aero guy like me while the swing wing is now a concept that is disappearing as other types retire so it is becoming the last of the line. Add to that four afterburning engines and you get something that makes an impression.
It used to be a regular performer at air shows but these days you don’t see them as much. However, it can still turn heads when it makes fast passes and plugs in the burners. A bit of vapor can also be pulled as they get the speed and load on. Seeing them launch from close to the runway is always worthwhile. They are such an imposing jet. Sadly, their limitations and the cost of supporting them will probably mean they get retired long before the B-52s that they were once considered to replace. Here are some shots of my Bone encounters.
These shots aren’t particularly nice but, at the time I took them, I didn’t realize that they would be a bit more significant for a friend of mine. He was a skipper for Virgin Atlantic and making his first run to Seattle. I went out to get his arrival despite it being a bit gloomy. We met up afterwards for a beer and some food. He flew back the following day.
Since that time, the airline business (along with many businesses) has taken a bad turn and Virgin Atlantic has been getting rid of staff. My friend was eligible for retirement and decided to take it. Consequently, this flight turned out to be the last landing he made in his commercial flying career. The return leg landing was made by another member of his crew. It would have been nice if the conditions were better but I am glad I was there to see it. Happy retirement Chris and see you soon I hope!
The idea for this was spotted by my friend, Paul, during a visit of his but we missed it at the time. It was early in the morning and the water was calm as a millpond. However, the jet was beyond the water before he spotted it. I have missed the chance since or there was not water. However, while the conditions weren’t ideal, when I saw the Dreamlifter taxiing back to the ramp, I realized the opportunity was going to be there this time.
The water wasn’t quite still and I had the long lens on the camera but a phone is a good second best these days. The jet taxied in with Mt Rainier in the background before reaching the north end of the field and crossing over. Then it was time to be ready. The phone has the added advantage of being able to shoot through the fence with no interference.
The answer to that question is clearly “not much” but it isn’t zero. We do get things flying overhead here on a regular basis. We are on the approach to SeaTac for some arrivals and we do sometimes get Boeing Field traffic too. It’s a rarity when there is something interesting and I am ready, though, so that doesn’t provide a lot. However, I did recently have a T-38 from Boeing’s chase fleet come over the house. It was a bit high but it was enough to get me out in the driveway!
We have also had helicopters fly over on occasion. An Army Chinook came past one time while and Navy Seahawk was another transient. In each case, I only heard them shortly before they arrived so grabbed the camera while at my desk and shot through the window. That is not a good plan but it was all I had available at the time. These can count as my lockdown at home aviation projects!
This is my first shoot of a moving plane that wasn’t taken from my yard since the virus shelter at home started. With a slight relaxation of the state rules, I saw that a Dreamlifter was due in to Paine Field from Charleston. It was due to arrive some time after 8pm. With the sundown not long before 9 and the weather looking lovely (unlike the forecast for the rest of the week), it seemed like the light would be very good. I have got a lot of Dreamlifter shots at this point so, if it had been anything other than shortly before sunset, I wouldn’t have thought of going. With this light, though, why not.
I was tracking it on two services and they showed rather different arrival times. I got there with some margin just in case but, even so, the jet was already getting ready to turn downwind when I pulled up. The arrival procedure takes a while so it wasn’t a rush, but I should probably have added a little time. The sky was so clear you could see the jet flying the approach from miles out. As it turned to final, the low light angle even picked out the texture on the side of the jet! The air was still so you could hear it from a long way out too. After all that, it was suddenly so close and touched down just a little away from my spot. Time to pack up and head home.
The demise of a bunch of airline fleets of 757s at the moment is a shame as it is a type I was always fond of from the days of British Airways using them for shuttle services around the UK as well as being the first commercial jet I flew on heading to Lisbon from Heathrow. The military has also made use of the jet of course. The New Zealand 757 displays in the past have been pretty impressive and maybe that gives me an idea for a future post. The USAF has a bunch of them, designated as C-32, and they are used for VIP transportation.
They are not a type that you often come across but I have seen them on a few occasions. An Andrews AFB Open House provided one movement – they are based there so not such a surprise. Another was at Nellis AFB when one launched just prior to a Red Flag launch when we were waiting between the runways for the action to kick off. The VIP colors of the USAF jets are quite elegant and they suit the 757 nicely.
After two month of shelter at home, I did finally venture out in the car to see something other than the house or my bike routes. I swung by Paine Field to see some of the stored Southwest 737s that are there. Planes seem to have been arriving and then heading out again so I don’t know what the overall plan is. They also seem to have moved from where they were when they first came in. I got to see a few of them scattered around near FHCAM.
These jets look like they are in place for a while. The nacelle inlet which is normally unpainted metal is currently covered in some black coating which runs on to the inlet blanking. The exhaust ducts are similarly blocked up. The jets are arrayed around the ramp and, while behind the fencing, the use of a monopod with a ball head and the remote shooting app from Canon allowed me to see what the shots looked like and to take the pictures. I went with a few panos since things are rather close to the fence in some places.
Omni provides a lot of charter work in the Seattle area, presumably military work for JBLM. The planes usually operate from SeaTac but then will reposition to Boeing Field. There is often an Omni 767 parked up at the south end of the field but I have not ever seemed to have been there when they are moving. More recently, I happened across one coming in to land after a short trip from SeaTac (I could probably have driven it faster given the routing that they had to take). It was nice to see one up and about so it prompted this post with a few Omni 767s.