Getting an Otter at Kenmore is not a challenge. The Kenmore Air fleet returns to their home base each evening so a steady stream of them can be relied on. What I hadn’t seen before was two showing up almost simultaneously. I was watching the first on final approach when I saw a second appear in the background. It provided a slightly more dynamic view of a regular occurrence.
I walked along the harbour shoreline in Victoria to go and see some of the floatplanes in operation. The planes have to take off and “land” in the outer area of the harbour so they are a bit away from the easiest spots to watch things from when they are most active. I saw a couple of planes making their approach. They came in through the entrance to the harbour before making the turn to line up for landing. A nice arc to final approach and then touching down to be at water taxi speed by the time the entered the restricted area of the harbour itself. Fun to watch and I could have spent plenty of time there on a sunny afternoon!
Harbour Air is the big player in the Victoria floatplane business. Most of their airframes were in standard colors but one of them was painted up in a nice Canadian Flag color scheme. I first saw it moored up against the jetty but later, when walking down near the water, it taxied out for departure. The takeoff run is a bit far out but I got some shots of it as it went on its way.
Standing in Gas Works Park, you have a view straight down Lake Union. At the other end of Lake Union is one of the bases for Kenmore Air. They operate floatplanes from there on a regular series of services as well as some sightseeing trips. We got there just as a bunch of planes took off in close succession and I was a bit annoyed to miss out the chance to get some shots of them. However, they are a busy company so we knew we would get some more flight before too long.
They start their takeoff run at the other end of the lake so they get airborne long before they reached us. With so much clutter in the background and a lot of ambient noise, you didn’t always immediately pick out that a departure was coming your way. Once they got airborne and a lot closer, they were easier to identify. They would turn before they reached us and head off en route. I could probably have spent a lot of time there watching the flights but Nancy is not quite so keen so we lingered a short while and then moved on.
Coming across something old school is fun. Go back through the Canadian aircraft history and you come to the Dash 7. This four engine turboprop could achieve some pretty dramatic steep approaches and departures. It was the first aircraft to operate in to London City using a 7.5 degree approach angle. The Dash 8 family was the replacement for the Dash 7 and led to the Q400. I flew on a Dash 7 in 1994 in a US Air Express flight between DC and Philly.
You don’t seem them around anymore but, I came across a couple of them in Toronto. They were parked up at Billy Bishop Airport around the back of the terminal. You can see who has been using one of them based on what is written on the side. I assume these two are stored awaiting their next tasking but maybe they are more active than I realize. I hope they still get good usage.
A few years ago we spent some time in Victoria on Vancouver Island. Victoria has a lot of floatplane activity and, at the time, an airline called West Coast Air was operating with a large fleet of Twin Otters. Since that time, West Coast was taken over by Harbour Air. Harbour Air is the dominant operator at Vancouver. However, while we were there, we saw only one Twin Otter. A check online seems to suggest that they have focused more on the Otters and Beavers and reduced the Twin Otter fleet. I assume they are not so economical for the type of operations they undertake but, if anyone has any more information about what happened, pleas let me know.
A trip to the northwest may involve seeing plenty of wildlife but the Otters and Beavers that I was most excited about were slightly different. These came from the stable of deHavilland Canada. More importantly, they were on floats. The Pacific Northwest is a great place for watching floatplanes. They are heavily used for transportation between many locations on the water. I saw a few while we were on San Juan Island or on the ferries between the islands but not a large number and not when I was in a position to get good shots. However, once we got to Vancouver, things ramped up a bit.
If you have not been to Vancouver, the harbour (it is a Canadian harbor so I think I am spelling it correctly) has a very busy floatplane base. Flights go to surrounding areas and the gulf islands on a regular basis. The planes are a combination of turbine powered Otters and Beavers with either piston engines or turbine conversions. Harbour Air is the dominant operator but others do show up occasionally. The area along the waterfront has undergone a big redevelopment with a convention center and it has great walkways along the water that provide an excellent view of the operations. Planes seem to be coming and going all the time. The may come in across Stanley Park and land in front of you or swing around the harbor and land towards you depending on the wind. As they water taxi in someone else will be heading out and departing towards North Vancouver before turning around the park and heading out over Lions Gate.
We were there at the end of the day so the evening light was very nice on the aircraft. The large number of high rise buildings on the shore does mean that shadows can encroach before the sun has gone down but this is a small issue. Later in the visit we were over in Stanley Park and I got to see some aircraft taking off since they came closer to our position. The damp air certainly makes for some nice streaming vortices off the props when they are at takeoff power.
A while back a friend of mine told me about a modified Dash 8 that the Army was using that had been flying out of his airport. It ended up coming to Livermore – a short drive from home. I went to see it but it was parked in a hangar on the other side of the field and I couldn’t see much. It flew a few times but never when I could see it. I figured that there was nothing much to do since I wouldn’t see it. Imagine my surprise when I came across its siblings.
I was driving around Tucson International when I saw two Dash 8s parked up. Sure enough, they were in the same configuration as the previous one. This time they had their civilian markings obscured. A little check with Google and they are apparently RO-6A airframes. The Air Force operates Dash 8s to monitor ranges for traffic under the -7 designation but these are different. Spooky stuff no doubt. Sadly, they didn’t move while I was there but they had been active. I was just glad to catch them out in the wild.