A while back, I made a trek out to Paine Field around sunset to try and get a Dreamlifter in beautiful light. They decided to burn some fuel down to get to their preferred weight and the sun had gone before they took off. You would think I would learn from this but, oh no, I am still a sucker. Departure was scheduled for 8:50 and sunset was 9:03. The day was crystal clear so why not have a go. This time they would be departing to the north so the light angle would be better too.
I turned up at Paine Field and there were two Dreamlifters on that ramp. One had beacons on so that was a good thing. However, no noise yet from the ground cart – they don’t have an APU so need ground power to start. Time was ticking close to departure hour and I was getting nervous but the sound of the cart started so I relaxed a little. However, the start process for all four engines took forever. They were now after the planned time and hadn’t pushed. Eventually they pushed but did so at a glacial pace. Not sure how many minutes passed but we were now perilously close to sunset hour. I was disappointed but still knew that, once airborne, there would be sun for longer up there.
Finally they taxied but by now, the timing was looking worse. Moreover, this must have been the slowest taxi speed I have ever seen for a commercial jet. I wasn’t expecting Southwest taxi speeds but still. They had to get to the other end of the field and boy did they take their time. Then they held at the threshold for a while. The light was definitely past its prime by now.
Finally they did line up and roll. They were only going to Charleston so I expected a relatively spritely take off but they were obviously at a derated setting and rotated further up the field than I would have liked. The best rotation shots had the ILS framework directly in front of the jet. Crap! As it climbed out, the light was a bit better but not what I had really planned for. Oh well, third time lucky?
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.
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.
My buddy Paul was visiting so we had a day out looking for some interesting shot opportunities. We started off the day at Paine Field before the sun was really up. A Dreamlifter was due in and we figured we would give it a try. However, as we drove towards Everett, the fog was pretty thick. The field is on the top of the hill so we thought it might be clear, but things did not look promising as we got closer. The low cloud was also blocking off the sun that was just above the horizon which, given that it would have been backlighting the jet, might have been a bonus.
The Dreamlifter came out of the cloud very late on the approach and I was able to grab a few shots of it as it emerged. It was a rather ethereal look as it came into view. The dampness of the air meant that the plane was pulling vortices as it floated across the threshold and in to the touchdown zone. Conditions might not have been the sort of thing that sounded good, but the result was a really cool shot opportunity. As the plane taxied in to park, we got more shots of it although there was one that would have been fantastic, but Paul only spotted it when it was too late and I didn’t see it at all. I won’t say what it was but maybe there will be another chance in which case you will see it here!
Here is a bit of video I shot of a Dreamlifter heading out of Paine Field. I was there with a visitor who wanted to see the large beast and, rather than shoot more stills, I figured I would go with just video. If I had planned for it, things would have been a little better but hopefully it shares a little of the experience.
I have been gathering various shots of Boeing Dreamlifters over recent months and so figured I would just combine a bunch of them into a single post. No overriding theme here and some conditions were way nice than others. It is just a selection of shots of one of the more unusual looking aircraft around. Hopefully, one day, I shall get to shoot the Airbus Belugas too.
Damp and cloudy days are not always
ideal for aviation photography but they can provide some interesting
options. One weekend I was up at Everett
when they were approaching from the south.
The jets broke out of the cloud at quite low level but there was some
light from the side coming under the clouds.
The damp air meant that the jets were pulling some conspicuous vortices
as they flared for landing. They were a
long way off but it was possible to get some shots of them. The 747 produced vortices that were easier to
see but the 787s didn’t do too badly either.
The 787s fleeing the hurricane weren’t the only aircraft arriving at Paine Field while we were there. The regular schedule of 787 component deliveries was underway with the Dreamlifters. One of the jets landed just after we got there. We watched from the rooftop as it taxied in, the crew opened up the tail and a fuselage barrel section was offloaded. There was another Dreamlifter already parked up when we got there.
Once our tour was over, we headed back upstairs because this Dreamlifter was now ready to go. It pushed back and taxied out. I decided to try some video of it rather than more stills. The jet was off to Japan and was fueled up. Consequently, it used a good chunk of the runway to get airborne. I was watching through the camera and can admit to being a little surprised how long it ran. The video I got is below.
When planes are arriving at Paine Field from the north, I am usually up near Future of Flight. However, I was down at the south end when a Dreamlifter came in. They used the full length of the runway and turned on to the taxiway when they reached the end. This meant I got a good chance to shoot the plane from a place I had not done before. The weather was overcast which actually helped to show some of the textures associated with the modifications that the base 747-400 had received.
I have had some mixed luck with the Dreamlifter. Light failing at the wrong moment or the sun setting just before departure are two examples. On this occasion, though, things worked out pretty well for me. I was visiting Future of Flight so I was on their viewing deck when the jet departed. I watched them start up (including some nice puffs of smoke as fuel and oil burned off at ignition) but they were partly obscured by a hangar.
Pushback made everything easier and they then taxied right towards me. It is true that you are looking into the sun at this point but it was still not a problem to get shots of the plane without a problem. They taxied out past the parked IL-76 and then held in front of us for a moment. The wind was good for northerly departures so they taxied across the threshold and then down Alpha to the other end of Paine Field.
Take off had to wait for a couple of Cessnas and then they lined up and headed our way. I was definitely not alone on the viewing terrace at this point! Little areas of snow alongside the runway were apparent when the outboard engines disturbed them. Then they were rotating and climbing towards us. Finally I got some decent conditions for some shots. Now, I guess, this will happen a lot and I will wonder why I ever was bothered about not shooting the jet in nice light.