The All-Star baseball game was in Seattle this year. Baseball is not my thing so I wasn’t paying too much attention although I did have a meeting near the stadium and discovered just how much a parking garage will charge on the day of the All-Star game! However, they did have some USAF F-35As in town for the flyover proceedings. I was south of the city later in the day and started to head north close to the time when the game was due to start. I had been hoping that I might get up to Boeing Field for their launch but, as I drove north, I could see the jets pulling off their run over the stadium.
I figured they would recover quickly but headed for the approach end of Boeing Field just in case. Fortunately, they had taken the scenic route and had been touring around Puget Sound. I was there in plenty of time for their landings. One thing that I had not really noticed before about the F-35A is the approach angle of attack that the jet adopts. The planes seem to have quite a nose high attitude when on approach. The radome is short so the field of view is probably not a problem, but I was surprised I had not spotted this previously.
I got the jets all landing but they were really a series of repetitive shots of similar looking jets. Nothing too special but still nice to have a different jet here for a while.
Working through some older shots for another project, I ended up looking at some shots of an RAF Typhoon displaying. As I was zoomed in on some of the shots, it was interesting to see the air data vanes on the underside of the front fuselage as the plane maneuvered. There are several vanes around the underside of the front fuselage and the differences between them can tell yaw and pitch angles. In one shot when the jet was climbing straight up, the vanes are all pointing in similar directions. Shortly before this, as the jet was pulling hard, the angle of attack was higher and the flow up around the front fuselage results in some significant differences in vane angle.
This is the sort of thing that is very important when designing and clearing a flight control system. We had a front fuselage wind tunnel model for the Typhoon during the development program. This was used for intake design but also for air data system modeling. The way in which the various vanes move is vital to understanding the control law requirements. It is also important when considering failure modes. If one vane should fail, how much it impacts the flight control behavior and how much the system detect the failure. Will the aircraft be vulnerable to control loss in the interim? The Tornado did not have as complex a flight control system, but it did have augmentation of the controls and, as it rolled, you would get quite different readings from the angle of attack probes on each side of the fuselage. How much of a difference was normal versus what was a failure was an interesting analysis problem which I enjoyed working on. My days on Typhoon were relatively limited and shortly before first flight so I never got involved with the results of the testing program, but I do enjoy looking at the resulting aircraft whenever I get the chance.
I had taken a day off to go to Coupeville earlier this year. Since I was heading to Whidbey Island for the day, I went to Ault Field at the beginning of the day to see if there was any traffic. I went to Moran Beach to see if anything was coming in when the light is still favorable in that location. I actually got pretty lucky. There were a bunch of Growlers already up and about and they were recovering before I had to move off. Some squadron jets including some in special schemes were coming in. Recovering overhead me while others were on the approach, it felt pretty busy. Here are some of the shots from that morning.
The Antelope Valley Airshow at Edwards AFB last year gave access to some very unusual airframes including some unique types. In the 90s, an F-16D airframe was converted into a variable stability testbed. It was used for test pilot training but also became a testbed for other technologies. Known as VISTA, it also tested a thrust vectoring nozzle on the engine as MATV, performing some amazing maneuvers. I know one of the test pilots that flew it including when it misbehaved!
The aircraft continues to be used for new developments and, relatively recently, it was re-designated to be an X-plane. It is now known as the X-62 while continuing to perform some of its original test pilot training roles. It was on display in one of the hangars at Edwards. It was a bit hard to get good shots of it since everything was rather crowded, but I was able to get a few that I was happy with.
It’s been a while since I posted some images of Marine Corps Hornets having issues starting up to depart from Boeing Field after a weekend visiting for training. I didn’t include any images in there of them actually taking off. I got a reasonable spot to try and see them take offs even though the weather was not really great. I was surprised at just how quickly the jets got airborne. They were already quite high by the time that they came by me. I was still able to get some reasonable shots of them. Fast jets are always a nice change to the usual Boeing Field traffic.
When I was first into aviation, the Phantom was everywhere. It was operated by numerous air forces and the RAF had tons of them (including some that had cascaded from the Royal Navy). At all of my early air shows, there would be Phantoms on static and part of the flying display. While they had started their RAF career in the strike and ground attack role, by this time they were purely used for air defense.
With the end of the Cold War, the RAF reduced in size and the Phantoms were withdrawn from service far faster than had originally been anticipated. It wasn’t long before they were all gone. A bunch ended up in museums and the rest were cut up. As I was exploring Kemble’s airfield – Cotswold Airport to give it its proper name – I was surprised to come across a bunch of bits of Phantoms alongside the road. A pair of fuselages including one of a Boscombe test jet that I had a kit of as a kid, some wings, fins and tail planes. It was all just sitting there so I grabbed a few shots. I have heard since that the airport was pressuring the owners to cover it all properly and I think it all went under cover shortly after I was there. A lucky break for me, I guess.
The number of times I have just missed something or didn’t even know it was close by I cannot count. However, sometimes I can get lucky, and I had one day when things just clicked. The result will be several posts. I was at Boeing Field to catch a test jet from Gulfstream (which I did and will appear here soon). I was waiting for it to show up on approach and was scanning FlightRadar24 when I saw an odd registration appear turning in to the approach. I tapped on it, and it showed as a Hawker Hunter.
Needless to say, this was quite a surprise. Then, another one appeared. The two came down the approach in trail. I got shots of both of them being a little brave/reckless with my shutter speed. Even as this was happening, a third and a fourth popped on screen and it was not long before the second pair had made it into my viewfinder.
They taxied to the ramp at Modern and shut down. Sadly, I wasn’t able to be there when they made the next leg of their trip to Alaska. One was delayed by engine issues and my friend was able to get some shots of it testing. I was hoping to catch them during their return but that took place while I was up in the Islands. However, I had got them once and that was a lucky break I am grateful for.
The Memorial Day weekend included the visit to Boeing Field of four F/A-18 Hornets from the US Marine Corps. I had heard that they were in the area but wasn’t able to get out to see them until the Monday of the holiday weekend when they were due to head home. Weather was a bit overcast so not great for shooting a grey jet! Still, I wasn’t going to ignore them. When I got there, the crews were just beginning to look like they would be ready to go.
However, things were not going to be smooth. One of the jets was the color jet and I had heard that it had been leaking fuel during the stay. Sure enough, when they fueled it up for departure, it must have leaked again because a bunch of ground crew – presumably from the FBO – were suddenly out with absorbent pads and brooms to clean up whatever had spilled. This took quite a while to get done so the four pilots were hanging around the jets waiting to be clear to go.
Finally, everything was tidied up and they crewed in for departure. The sound of engines starting was a positive one but, as one jet fired up one of the engines, it definitely didn’t sound like it was spooling up at the same rate as the others. Sure enough, one jet shut down and the pilot hopped out of the cockpit, walked back down the fuselage and slid to the ground. I’m not sure what he did to the jet but he then retraced his steps, back up on the jet and strapped back in. This time, the start sequence went okay and they were all ready to taxi.
I was planning to head up to Skagit for the May Fly Day at the Heritage Flight Museum anyway. As it turned out, I had been talking with Rich at COAP about the trip he was leading and, when he asked if I would like to tag along with their group, I said yes. They had been working with the Museum and arranged some opportunities to shoot from locations that normal ticket access wouldn’t allow.
The team at COAP and the team at the museum were super helpful and friendly. Add to that, the weather was great and the combination of aircraft they were able to put up was excellent so, the day was set to be a bunch of fun. It did not disappoint. I have shot at the museum fly days before but, sometimes, the planes I was after didn’t fly and sometimes the conditions weren’t ideal. On this occasion, everything came together. I did play around with my shots trying to get more dynamic images. The high vantage point we had available helped with that too.
I took a ton of shots and culled them heavily. The result was a few shots I was particularly happy with and it was nice that the museum shared a few of them on their social media platforms too. Seeing the Skyraider fly is always cool but the day was a trainer day and they put up some great trainer formations. The conditions were a little bumpy but they made a good job of it and there were shots to be had. I look forward to the next time I am up there.
With a nice forecast, the wind in the right direction and an indication of some operations, I figured a day off was worthwhile and headed up to Coupeville to see if I could get some Growler operations. I was pleased to see the fire trucks getting ready when I arrived, and that the meatball was at the north end. Looked like I was going to be in luck. Yes and no! I did get some ops and plenty of patterns but only a couple of jets actually showed up. Fortunately, one of them was a squadron color jet so I was able to get a bunch of shots to play with. I also shot a load of video so here is the edit of that too. Could have been a busier day but they finished up and the crews headed off so I did the same.