We flew across Lake Union on our way back to Kenmore so went over the top of Kenmore Air’s base there. It turned out to be a busy time for the base. There were a bunch of planes on the water heading in and out of the base with others tied up awaiting their next flight. Having watched ops at the base on a number of occasions, the view from above provided a very different perspective to what I have seen before. At some point I hope to fly in there to experience it for myself.
I had a work day up in Vancouver. I finished up in the office at the end of the day just when rush hour traffic would be at its worst. The sun was out and the temperature was still nice so I figured I might delay my drive home for an hour or so and head to Stanley Park. It is a nice place to hang out, there is always plenty going on in the harbor and the floatplane departures might have factored in to my decision making.
There is a bit of an evening rush of departures but, with the days getting shorter and floatplane operations being a very visual thing, I figured they wouldn’t be going out too late if they were to be back before dark. I was actually pretty lucky as there was a wave of departures shortly after I got there and then, when I thought it had all wrapped up, another burst of flights headed out. Meanwhile, there were arrivals coming overhead for landing. It killed a bit of time and made for an easier drive home when I headed back south again.
A couple of Kenmore Air planes departed from Kenmore while I was at Log Boom Park. The conditions were pretty damp and humid (and were about to be joined by pretty heavy downpours of rain!). This meant the departing planes had a good chance of pulling some streamers from the prop tips. Sure enough, when the Otter took off (and it started the takeoff run a little early which helped the shooting angles) the prop was streaming some vapor. The shape of the cone of the tip vortices as they flow across the fuselage was quite interesting.
A little while later (and just before the downpour began), a turbo Beaver came out. It, too, pulled some nice vapor from the prop tips as it accelerated across the water. A bit of a cross wind was apparently coming in (no doubt related to the impending storm) and they got airborne one float at a time. At this point we retreated to the car – but not in time to avoid the rain entirely!
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.
The top of the Space Needle is a good place to watch the floatplane traffic in to Lake Union. They tend to fly really close by. Shooting through the glass is not ideal but the passing Otters are too good to pass up. If you can, getting to the gaps between the glass is a good idea but it is hard to do this and get a good angle on the planes as they pass. Boeing also helped out with an Oman Air 737 Max taking off from Boeing Field and coming our way.
The floatplane activity on Lake Union is fun to check out, not just for an aviation geek like me, but for plenty of visitors to the city too. I have previously gone down to the lakeshore to check them out but, one evening, while driving into the city to drop a friend off, I was coming down the road on the hill overlooking the lake when a plane took off giving an interesting alternative perspective on its departure. I figured this needed to be explored further.
The question was where to go. The road I had been on was not one on which stopping was practical. Parallel roads exist but there are buildings along most of them so the view is obscured. However, I did find a location that had a clear view of most of the lake (aside from one building that was right in the touchdown zone! I wasn’t around for much of the traffic but I did get to see a few arrivals and departures. Looking down on the flights and having some scenery behind them including the cityscape rather than the sky is a nice change. I may have to try this out again at a busier time.
A trip to Green Lake, a short distance from Whistler, was a chance to see the floatplane base. We had heard a few aircraft in the area so I was keen to see what was going on. We started out at the base where a Beaver and an Otter were both just getting ready to leave. I didn’t realize the direction of the wind so I didn’t make any effort to get out to the lake. I thought that they would be long gone. In fact, they taxied down the lake to take off back in our direction. I would have had plenty of time to get out to see the departure if I had left when they headed out.
Instead, I was walking through the trees when both planes took off. I got a couple of shots through the trees but missed the main opportunity. I understand that Whistler Air is a subsidiary of Harbour Air in Vancouver. They are clearly locally branded though. There was a bit more movement before we left with planes making their approach along the lake. They tended to land a little away from us but then keep up on the step as close in as possible to minimize taxi time. This meant they were still moving well as they got to us.
The floatplane activity of Kenmore Air is busy on Lake Union in Seattle. The end of the day means a lot of planes are moving from Lake Union back to the home base at Kenmore. It makes for a rush hour of planes coming back in good light. I wandered out to the pier at Log Boom Park which gives a great view of the incoming planes. Then I just waited. You know they are all going to be back before sundown so it is pretty predictable.
The inbound traffic is a combination of Otters and Beavers. De Havilland Canada’s finest show up further down the lake as they come across from Lake Union and then they head up the lake. On this occasion, the wind was from the north so they made straight in approaches, landed and continued straight in to the base. On another day I was there without a camera and the wind was a southerly. They then overflew the base and made a tight turn coming back onto the lake with the evening light on the nose. I will have to try and get that before too long!
One evening after work I headed down to Kenmore. It is a short distance from my office and, sitting at the top of Lake Washington, it has a nice waterfront park including a pier. I walked out on the pier to see the arrivals of the Kenmore floatplanes at the end of their workday. They are not the only arrivals, though. Various boats were out on the lake including some rowing crews carrying out their training. One of the crews was heading in when a floatplane came in to land. I suspect they had plenty of space but the plane did seem to adjust its course a bit to avoid them. Taxiing in after touchdown (landing seems to be the wrong word) they did seem to be chasing the crew down a bit!
Every once in a while, when photographing a fast jet at transonic speeds, you might get something in the background that allows the diffraction caused by the formation of shockwaves to be visualized. I have posted about that here. I was in Vancouver and shooting the floatplanes taking off from the harbor (since it is a Canadian harbor, perhaps I should write harbour). As I was looking through the images zoomed in to check on sharpness, I realized that there was a visual effect of a similar nature. (If you think this is a Schlieren effect, it is not. That is a technique that involves a certain type of lighting to show the density differences but should not be applied to every time you see it in the wild.)
I don’t know whether what is showing up is the result of shocks forming on the props as they spin rapidly or just the tip vortices causing a similar effect. You can often see diffraction in trailing vortices. Whatever the reason, as you look above the aircraft at the patterns of structures on the shoreline beyond, you can clearly see some interesting effects. Since the props are spinning fast and there is an overlap of the wakes from each pass of a blade, the shapes are rather complex. Now I know that this is a thing, I might be tempted to take a longer lens and see what I can get in more detail of this interesting visual effect.