I have read a lot about Cape Air. They are a small operator in the New England area flying a fleet of (mainly) Cessna 402s. The reason I know this is that they have been heavily involved in the development of a new piston twin with Tecnam which they intend to use to replace their fleet. The first examples have started to show up but, for now, the 402 is still their workhorse. While I was sitting at a gate at Logan waiting for a flight home, we were right across from their ramp so I was able to watch the comings and goings of their planes. Seeing them mixing in with the big airliners was pretty impressive.
This post is a little late in coming to fruition but it is even more the case now than when I first wrote it. The corporate jet market has been in a bit of a slump for a while but one thing that is likely to provide a boost is a new model. Cessna launched the Latitude jet a few years ago. An evolution of their existing line, it took parts of the Sovereign and combined them with a new fuselage. (As an aside, I have never been a fan of the Sovereign. The fin looks like a barn door on it. The larger fuselage of the Latitude actually suits the fin size a lot better so things are a bit more in proportion. Still, not many of the Cessna jets are that elegant in my mind.)
The one at the top of this post was the first Latitude I got to photograph. I did see a test jet take off from Wichita Mid Continent when I was there visiting friends but I didn’t have a camera. They are easy to identify with the gently upcurved wingtips. Having seen this one, I have since come across a bunch of them. It appears that the arrival of the new type attracted a bunch of customers and Cessna was ready to build to meet that demand. Now I don’t consider them particularly noteworthy.
When I watched a Cessna Caravan on floats landing in Vancouver Harbour, I was rather critical of its water handling characteristics. It wallowed horribly and didn’t look like it was supposed to be there at all. However, the Caravan is not a bad plane and it is quite a rugged workhorse so I don’t have a gripe with it per se. Another float equipped example took off from Paine Field while I was awaiting something else and the combination of the afternoon light and the closeness to the plane meant I was rather pleased with the shots that were possible.
While the big jets are what Boeing is known for, they have a number of other aircraft that they use for their own purposes. I haven’t got all of these by any stretch of the imagination but I have come across a few at various times. They have BBJs that they use for executive transport. They also have some Bombardier Challengers that are able to promptly get people from A to B.
If you are looking a bit more locally, there is at least one Cessna Caravan that is used for various duties. I am not sure what its role is exactly but I imagine it is a handy way of getting people around the northwest and it can probably also move parts up to a certain size if needed.
Another runabout is a Northrop T-38. This can be used for chase duties but I also suspect it is a crew hack since it seems to make regular runs between BFI and Moses Lake without crossing paths with any of the test aircraft. There are also T-33s used for chase work but, sadly, I have get close to any in action. Just a distant overflight shot. Hopefully I will see them before too long.
The path of jets into SeaTac from the north takes them right over Boeing Field. Sometimes, when you are watching something on one path, something going into the other field gets in your field of view. Either that or a British Airways Boeing 747-400 decided to sneak up on a Cessna. Knowing some guys who fly for them, I wouldn’t rule it out.
I like bizjets but, if I am honest, my preference is for the bigger jets. The small jets are probably a more useful business tool but the big ones just look cooler. I recently have come across a steady stream of the smaller products though. The majority of these have been from the Cessna stable with CJs of various sizes popping up in front of me. Normally I don’t give them too much attention but today I am going to share a selection of the little fellas.
Today’s post is for my buddy Pete. Pete flies for a living and for fun. He loves to fly anything he can have a go with. There is one bizjets that he hasn’t got his hands on (yet) but which he really has a soft spot for. That is the Cessna Citation X. When it was introduced, the Citation X brought a far higher top speed than the competition. It did this by having two honking great engines strapped to a relatively small fuselage and a highly swept wing. It has been a popular seller.
It has been attractive to fractional programs as well as individuals so it is not unusual to see one show up at an airport that has regular bizjets traffic. Certain angles look good on the jet. Anything that emphasizes the size of the engines appeals to me but the sweep of the wings and the fin also give it a going fast while standing still feel. Here are some shots for you Pete.
Flipping through various shoots looking for something else, I happened to come across a few shots of aircraft from the FedEx fleet. It occurred to me that I could drag together a post that was focused purely on the FedEx aircraft types. FedEx has an extensive fleet of aircraft these days. Their early days of using Falcon 20s to move their packages around are long gone. Now they have a variety of aircraft types of different sizes and range to meet all of their needs.
The fleet is constantly in a state of regeneration. The types that have long been a part of FedEx operations are now going or gone and being replaced with something more up to date. The 727 fleet has gone. The A300s and A310s are still in use but the number in the fleet is gradually going down. The interesting thing about the FedEx fleet is the way the economics are changing. For a long time, second hand jets that had been retired from airline service made a lot of sense. The operating model involves a lot of jets flying from their home base to Memphis in the middle of the night to deliver packages to the hub. Then, after a quick turnaround of all of the sorted packages, the planes fly back to base. Then they sit on the ground for most of the day.
This model means that utilization for the aircraft is low. Having a less efficient jet is not a problem when it only flies a few hours each day. If it is cheap to buy, you can use it efficiently. Having a bunch of inefficient 727s works very well. Similarly, the smaller aircraft that feed into hubs also can be operated relatively cheaply. A fleet of Cessna Caravans that sit on the ground or a bunch of ATR42s is effective.
The 727s are gone now. They have been replaced with 757s which have all been retired by airline operators (a lot of them from British Airways).The big change is that new jets are being acquired. The operating economics for FedEx have changed. The DC-10s (which got upgraded to MD-10s) are gradually being replaced by new 767s. Meanwhile, the MD-11s which had previously been the kings of the long haul flights are now being relegated to domestic service while the 777F takes over the long haul missions. Direct from Memphis to China is now the norm for the 777F. You don’t see MD-11s crossing the Pacific as much any more. I think the Europe runs are limited too. The 777 can go direct with a decent payload and doesn’t need to stop for fuel in Anchorage.
The MD-11 will survive for a while yet. Its less efficient operate will mean it can be pushed onto shorter segments with lower utilization. The high utilization missions will be the preserve of the newer jets. The older jets will be fine on the flights that only involve a couple of trips a day. For these their low capital costs will offset any operational cost penalty. The migration of the fleet will continue though. Soon it will be a fleet with a few less types and things will be a bit less interesting. There will still be a bunch of 727s scattered around airports that had them donated though so keep an eye out for them.
Cessna Citations are not the most exciting business jets. The original versions are particularly uninspiring with their simple design and unswept wing. Normally I might not even bother if I came across one. This example showed up at Davis Monthan while we were on the ramp and it obviously wasn’t a standard version. It belongs to the Customs people. I imagine it spends a lot of time looking at what is going on along the border. Flying out of Tucson would support that idea. I imagine the sensors on board are a lot more interesting than the plane itself.
We spent a day in Stanley Park in Vancouver. This was not a day for photographing aircraft but there are so many operating in the area that it is hard to avoid. As we were walking along the shore, a Grand Caravan made an approach. I didn’t have the camera to hand so just watched it. Having made a dive at the final approach, it floated long (in the air, not on the water) and the pilot elected to go around. This gave me an opportunity to get the camera out.
Meanwhile, I could hear it coming around. It seemed rather loud for the approach path it had taken previously. Indeed, this time they took a path right across the bottom of the park. I got out from under a tree just in time to get some shots of it turning on to final. A far better angle than its first approach. Maybe the pilot deliberately went around because he knew what I wanted?