This goes back quite a while to a day when I was at Paine Field for some 777X activities. After all that I had been there for was done, I was getting ready to pack up and go when I saw something off to the east approaching the field. It was large but seemed rather slow. It turned out to be a C-17. It made a pass straight across the field and I was hoping that they would break into the pattern but I was to be disappointed. They turned to the south and headed off towards McChord. Still, it was a nice addition to a sunny day of aviation photography.
After such a long time of struggling to get shots of the Boeing T-33 chase planes, I seem to have had a lot more luck recently. One showed up at Paine Field and, rather than just shooting an approach and departing straight to Boeing Field, it made a full stop landing, taxied back, took off, entered the pattern and came around again. This was a welcome addition to a sunny afternoon. There was only one crew onboard so I guess with was some continuation training.
As the plane taxied back to the threshold, I got a good look at the upper side of the front fuselage. There appear to be quite a variety of antennae mounted on there. I didn’t know whether they were GPS location antennae or other types but there are plenty there. Whether they are used for different functions or are needed for validating test data and cross referencing, I have no idea. Some of them may even be redundant but no one has seen the need to remove them. Whatever the reasons, there are lots there!
A small twin is not going to get a lot of attention from the local photographers at Paine Field on a busy day with lots of traffic. However, it was still relatively early in the day and the air still had a fair bit of moisture in it. I took a guess that this might result in some prop vortices so decided to shoot it anyway. Sure enough, some swirls of moisture showed themselves. Not a dramatic look to them but still what I was after and there wasn’t anything else to do anyway!
Two visits to Paine Field in close succession resulted in two times to view a Lufthansa Cargo 777F undergoing tests. Lufthansa Cargo is in the process of replacing its MD-11F fleet with the 777F and one of the jets was undergoing a number of pre-acceptance flights. It was shooting a couple of approaches while the 777X was getting ready to depart on one of the days and doing a little more flying on another. On the second day, it came in with the RAT deployed too which makes for a noisier aircraft!
Often, when the jets are on the approach, I use the 500mm to get the shots as it is further out and then switch rapidly to the 100-400 for the closer in shots. Having got a bunch of shots in nice conditions on the first day, I decided to stick with the longer fixed lens for later approaches to do something different. Some tight crops on the cockpit and some compression of the features of the plane were the goal. It made for something a little different and I was quite pleased with the outcome. I also got to see the crew wearing masks in the cockpit!
Over six months ago, the Honeywell Boeing 757 testbed ferried from Phoenix – its home base – to Paine Field for maintenance work at ATS. I don’t know whether there were mods to be done too but, with a jet like this, that wouldn’t seem to be a stretch. I only found out it was there when I saw it outside the ATS hangars one time. I figured this was one to watch since it would have to go home at some point.
Whether there was a ton to be done or whether COVID delayed progress, I don’t know. However, it stayed at ATS for a long time. I had an alert on it should a flight plan be filed but nothing happened. I talked to other people up there and we all wondered when it would move. Then, finally a flight plan was filed for a flight coming back to Paine Field. This was good news since it would mean taxi shots, departure and arrival. I headed up. First flight after a long layup is not likely to go smoothly and the time for departure kept slipping and slipping. Eventually, later in the day, the flight disappeared off FlightAware.
A few days later, up it popped online again. Unfortunately, this time it was a flight direct to Phoenix so redelivery. That was unfortunate. So was the fact that we were experiencing some torrential rains. However, this is a rare one so I headed up. As per the last time, the departure time slipped a bit but then it pulled on to the taxiway heading for the runway. Amazingly, the rain had abated and it looked very promising. I got out of the car and walked to the bank to get some shots. At some point, I began to feel some rain drops. Then I felt what seemed to be the stream from a fire hose. The rain came pummeling down and I was instantly soaked. At this point, I was wet so no point heading back to the car.
When they got to the hold point, they stayed around for a while. Then someone came to the door on our side and opened it. I imagine they were getting pretty wet doing this since I was. As it sat there at low power, it was still pulling a vortex into the inlet of one of the engines. Maybe there was a door open warning but they closed it again and then pulled towards the active runway. The plane is covered in graphics pointing at parts of the airframe that have Honeywell technology installed. Its most distinguishing feature, though, is the pylon mounted on the side of the front fuselage on which turboprop engines can be mounted for airborne testing. No engines are there at the moment but the pylon itself is pretty substantial. Coming towards us and then lining up, we had the pylon on our. Side. They powered up and disappeared in to the gloom as they climbed out heading home to Phoenix.
My previous unsuccessful trip to Paine Field on the Saturday for the first flight of the fourth 777X was followed up by a more successful Sunday visit. The dull and dreary Saturday weather had been replaced by clear skies (the smoke had finally gone away) and the sun was out. The time for takeoff was not going to be great because the sun would be high to backlit, but this was a first flight so the chances of it going on time were limited.
Sure enough, things got dragged out and the sun moved to a more favorable part of the sky. A 777F from Lufthansa Cargo was doing some test flying to provide some other interest and there was plenty of activity generally to photograph. Eventually the 777X was towed. From its parking spot to the south entrance to the Boeing ramp where it could start up.
It taxied up the Alpha taxiway to the hold point and then pulled into position. Normal Boeing practice is to do an accelerated and rejected takeoff before flying. They sat on the threshold and powered up, but the wingtips had not been lowered. I don’t know whether this was a test of the system that is designed to prevent taking off with the wing tips in the wrong position or not, but it seemed that way. Either way, the jet didn’t move.
They then lowered the wing tips, powered up, accelerated and then braked. Taxi back to the threshold again and a long way for some other traffic before they lined up again. The jet wasn’t heavy, but I was slightly surprised how much flap they had for takeoff compared to the other jets I have seen taking off there. Anyway, power on and off they went.
They were due to be flying for a few hours and then landing at Boeing Field so I figured I would make the trip down there for the arrival. On pulling up at Boeing Field, I bumped into my friend David so we were able to talk rubbish about planes for a while waiting for any arrivals. In due course the 777X showed up on approach by which time the light was a lot nicer than it had been for departure. Things may have taken longer than planned and meant the day was not much good for anything else but it was a fun outing and a successful trip.
Boeing was supposed to be making the first flight of the fourth 777X one Saturday, so I headed up to Paine Field to see it. The weather was not great with low clouds and rain and it was below minima for the flight, so we didn’t get to see the 777X. However, an American Airlines 787 was doing a test flight and it took off in the damp conditions.
As they powered up the jet, the moisture on the surface of the runway got sucked up in the vortex that forms between the inlet and the ground at high power and low forward speed. A dull day makes it easier to see this as well, so I was able to get a few shots of it. The lack of flying that day was a disappointment but this meant the days wasn’t a total bust.
Continuing my interest in Amazon Prime Air 737s, the one I saw arrive from the conversion line in China was ready for delivery to Sun Country – the airline that will be operating it for Amazon. It was a pretty sunny day when it went out so heat haze was a bit of a problem. The jet was towed out from the ATS facility. Once it was just short of the taxiway, they unhooked the jet and started it up. Plenty of heat haze looking across the airfield I’m afraid.
It taxied to the north end of the field and then took off towards me. It was obviously not heavy for its flight to Minneapolis and it was off the ground pretty rapidly. This made for more of a belly shot than would have been ideal but it still looked okay and actually gave me a better look at the color scheme than I had expected. It is quite a paint job that they have.
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?
In this recent post, I showed a shot of an Amazon Prime Air 737. With a bit more notice and better timing from an availability point of view, I saw that another jet was coming in to Paine Field from Anchorage. It was being delivered from the conversion line in China and would have the finishing touches taken care of by ATS at Everett. I was there and set up in plenty of time – except… I had one camera ready to go but the other one had been previously used for some video at home and was on manual focus. I was shooting with the 500mm initially and all was well. As the jet got closer, I switched to the 100-400 and everything was wrong. Nothing would focus. It seemed like forever but I must have realized fast and flicked the focus switch because I was able to shoot it as it came level with me and crossed the threshold. What an amateur mistake. Fortunately, I got away with it!