A step back in time to the mid 2000s. I had a work trip to Anchorage having been invited up by a potential client to discuss their business. We lived in Chicago at the time and I needed to fly to Seattle to connect to Anchorage. (Interestingly, the return leg was possible to make direct overnight.). I had not expected Anchorage airport to be too much. I knew, even then, that it was a hub for freight traffic across the Pacific but I did not think it would be that busy.
When we landed and I walked down the jet bridge, I looked out of the window to see rows of 747s, MD-11s and DC-10s. It was quite an eye-opener to see just how many large jets were laying over there. There was a steady stream of movements too. These planes were not just waiting around for business. The airport downtown was another reminder with everyone I spoke to in the bar being a crew on layover.
The meetings went well but didn’t lead to anything. The timing of the trips meant I had some time to kill so I spent a bit of time out at the airport watching the arrivals and departures. There were the unusual locals that Alaska is known for and the props will definitely be worth a separate post. For this one I shall share the jets that came and went. Many of these are types or operators that have ceased to be. It was a great thing to see and I’m glad I got the chance to be there, however briefly. A specific trip up is something I would like to try and do at some point. All those Alaska Airlines points have got to be worth something!
An unusual operator is a good reason for a trip out. I had seen some 757 flights in and out of Seattle that seemed to be running a circular route including LA and Hawaii. The airline was called Asia Pacific Airlines and was flying 757s. However, I didn’t have the opportunity to get to see them while these flights were underway. Jump forward to Christmas Eve and I had a day off and they were coming in to Boeing Field. This seemed like it was worth a trip.
They appeared to be providing additional capacity for UPS which was dealing with the big rush in the last days before Christmas. Although the jet was due in a bit later than ideal, I was definitely hanging around to see it. I had got everything done for Christmas so I wasn’t under pressure. The green and white scheme is an interesting change from the usual UPS colors. It landed and taxied to the UPS ramp where the ground crew went to work unloading and reloading it. I didn’t wait for departure, though. Christmas was coming!
The UPS traffic at Boeing Field was busy in the run up to Christmas. As the light was starting to fade and the day end, another UPS jet taxied for departure. It got airborne and headed off to its next destination as the sky in the background had a nice warm look to it.
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.
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.
Winter in the PNW does not mean reliable conditions for photographing planes. If the weather is bad, you might decide it isn’t worth going out. If it is raining and threatening to rain harder, there is a strong possibility you would skip a shot opportunity. However, 727s are getting pretty rare these days so that seems worthy of a trip out.
The weather was unpleasant when it made its approach but not as bad as it got a short while later. I went with my normal approach for shooting in really bad conditions by pushing the overexposure pretty high. I include a couple of edits. For the main image, I actually blended two different process versions in Photoshop to get the combination that most reflects how the shot looked through the view finder. The other edit is a straightforward Lightroom edit where the angle and the light suited it.
Scrolling through some shots for something else, I saw these two shots of a Dreamlifter departing Paine Field one evening. I think I actually posted about that flight on another day but I guess I ignored the view of the jet as it headed in to the distance. The sky was beginning to develop a nice color and the air was very clear giving a good view of the Cascades mountains in the distance so why not share them now – particularly as it is a time when I am not getting much aviation photography done!
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.