A feature of the Japanese countryside is the amount of rice that is growing everywhere you go. I was often amazed to see small sections of rice growing in little spaces between developments of buildings and homes. Further out, where there is more space, the rice fields are substantial. These rice fields were in Ibaraki prefecture. As the sun got lower in the sky, the tops of the plants caught the light nicely as they blew in the breeze. It had quite a peaceful feel to it all.
Not long ago, I posted about seeing an Avanti for the first time in a while. The lack of Avantis having been broken, I have seen a couple more. I saw that one had come in to Boeing Field and I was there before it fired up for its next flight. It taxied out on the opposite side of the field and then took off to the northeast.
A short while later, I saw a silhouette of a plane on approach and looked closer to see what it was. It looked pretty like an Avanti so I figured it was the same aircraft returning for some reason. I was a bit bothered that something might be wrong but happy to get another chance to shoot it. As it got closer thought, it was clearly not in the same paint scheme. Instead, it turned out to be a Canadian registered example and a pretty nice looking one at that.
We relocated to the other end of Boeing Field for the return of the Blue Angels. They ran in across the field trailing white smoke. Unfortunately, with little wind, this meant a pall of smoke was now hanging over the airport. As they broke into the downwind and then turned onto final, it was sometimes hard to see them at all. A healthy boosting of the contrast makes some of the shots a bit more visible but, in truth, the viz was really awful. I only hope they had a slightly better view of the ground than we had of them since their being able to see was slightly more important.
The subject of this post ended up getting some coverage but, when I saw it, I didn’t know about the interest surrounding it. I was at BFI awaiting the departure of another aircraft when a turboprop took off over me. I had the camera to hand so grabbed some shots of what I realized was an Airbus CN235. Painted in a dark gray scheme, it looked a little odd. A closer look at the shots showed it had a few lumps and bumps suggestive of an array of antennae. I figured it was just passing through en route to somewhere more interesting.
However, that wasn’t the case. It had been spotted flying some patterns over the city. I had seen some odd flight paths on Flightaware being flown by a plane called Spud21. I loved the name! it was flying orbits over the city but I couldn’t see anything else about it. However, when I saw the plane crop up in the media, the article identified that it was the owner of the Spud21 callsign.
I don’t know what the purpose of the flights was. It is suggested that the aircraft is owned by the US military but whether it is for their use or is in support of an overseas operator, whether these flights were for testing purposes or were checking out the residents I don’t know. I do know that it was something a little out of the ordinary though.
The smaller end of the corporate jet market has taken a pounding in recent years. The downturn in the economy hit that part of the market particularly hard. One company that has been doing well, though, is Nextant. Their first product is the rebuilding of the Hawker 400 jet. They re-engine it, upgrade the cockpit and completely rebuild the interior. The result is the 400XT. This example showed up at Boeing Field while I was there. It looked pretty nice in its new paint scheme. I was never terribly bothered by the Hawker 400 (or Beechjet or Mitsubishi jet if you go back a while) and the shape isn’t much changed. However, the paint job on this one made it look better than average. Nextant are now working on a King Air rebuild program.
Boeing Field not only is the home of development flight test activities for the commercial aircraft business but it is also where the production flight testing for the 737s is done. After the first flight from Renton, the jets come to Boeing Field for acceptance testing and delivery to the customers. Therefore, you can see 737s that you are unlikely to see again once they get into service. I had three customer aircraft on test flights at various times while I was there on one trip.
One of them is not such a surprise for anyone in Europe. A Ryanair 737 landed just as the sun was setting. That is a sight that many European travelers will have seen although we don’t get to see them over here. However, the other two were slightly more interesting to me. One was an Aeroflot jet and the other was from Iraqi Airways. I got the Aeroflot jet twice as it happened. It departed when I was passing through on my way to a meeting and it happened to come back late that day when I was coming back.
The Iraqi jet was one I had seen parked up as I drove by but I didn’t see it leave. However, it was due to return at the end of the day and actually came in not long before the Aeroflot jet. It was clearly going to be in before the sun went down. Aeroflot was a bit of a closer call. We knew it was coming but were watching the shadows stretch across the field and some clouds drift in. Fortunately, the cloud passed just in time and the sun was still just above the horizon so we ended up with some lovely light.
The Boeing P-8 Poseidon is not a new plane. In fact, it first flew in 2009. Why is it, then, that I have never seen one in flight before? I have seen them on the ground at various times. This has included air shows and seeing them on the flightline at Boeing Field. I have come close a number of times there including some of the Indian Navy Ark variants that have been undergoing testing. Despite all of this, I had not seen one fly.
Fortunately, I have finally overcome this shortcoming, if only briefly. I found myself at Boeing Field on a recent trip to Seattle where I was eating my lunch between landing from a flight and heading off to a meeting. A pretty narrow window in which to hope to get anything interesting but, this time, I was lucky. The P-8 taxied out shortly after I got there and lined up. He wasn’t going for a takeoff at first. A surge of power and acceleration down the runway followed by an application of the brakes and the rejected takeoff test was done. This meant a trip back down the taxiway and right past me to get back to the threshold.
The second time was supposed to be the full takeoff and the lightly loaded jet was promptly airborne and heading off to carry out its tests. It would be gone for a few hours so I wasn’t going to catch its return but it was great to finally see one moving and flying.
The end of the field trip for the ISAP Symposium was a visit to the Museum of Flight. Located at Boeing Field, this is a great museum and worth a visit whether you are an aviation nut or not. It has an impressive collection of aircraft and they are nicely displayed. Inside are some impressive machines including the always attractive M-12, a variant of the Blackbird family that was intended to launch high speed drones (a program that was not ultimately successful and was cancelled).
Outside is a further selection of great airframes including a British Airways Concorde, the prototype Boeing 747, a Boeing 727 in American Airlines colors and a NASA Boeing 737 which may (or may not) be a prototype. There are others too but these stand out. They also have a Space Shuttle crew trainer which, since it is not an original orbiter, is actually more accessible to the visitors. It was not a long visit so we had to move pretty quickly to get around but a good time nonetheless.
The field trip during the ISAP Symposium was held at Paine Field in Everett. We were hosted by the Heritage Flight Foundation and its owner John Sessions and they were excellent hosts. (I visited once before and you can see that post here.) Aside from the selection of aircraft still in the hangar where we were set up, they had arranged some photo sorties with some of their aircraft. The B-25, Grumpy, was the camera ship for a few photographers and the P-51 Mustang was the target. A T-6 also went up as a second camera ship. Each photo position was a paying ride with the T-6 obviously being the premium slot.
I had decided not to take the ride. It was not cheap although certainly not bad value for money. As the weather was not looking great, I wondered whether I had chosen wisely. As it was, the people who did go up did get some great images. The area certainly can provide some nice backdrops and the light, while flat, did not hurt things. However, even as someone on the ground, the flights seemed over very fast so I imagine for those on board, it was gone all to quickly.
For those of us on the ground, we got treated to the departure and arrivals of the aircraft plus a few passes of the P-51 and T-6 which were a lot of fun. Gloomy skies made it all a little flat looking but still a great sight. Being able to be close to the aircraft during the start up, taxi out and return was certainly worthwhile. The following day they were having a public event and I hope the weather improved for the large numbers they were expecting.
Hayman and I had a few hours to kill after we arrived in Seattle and before we had a ferry to catch (of which more in another post). We decided to stop off at Beoing Field to have a look around. We checked out a number of places including the excellent pilot shop they have and ended up near the end of the runway. I had looked at this location on a previous visit but not shot there. A 737 was up on a test flight and due in soon so we decided to hang around.
Before the 737 appeared, we did have a couple of corporate jets show up. Identifying them from underneath is a little hard to do, even for those of us with far too familiar a knowledge of this things. However, I was more interested in getting a slightly different shot from underneath. With power lines nearby, there was a relatively short period of time in which you could get a clear shot.
The 737 showed up shortly afterwards. We did get to shoot it as it passed overhead but I did remember to stop shooting at one point and just look. The view through a wide lens tends to make everything look small. However, having something the size of a 737 right over your head is very impressive and you need to stop taking pictures and just have a look every once in a while.