The first flight of the 777X took place while I was out of the country which annoyed me quite a bit. Having seen the things sitting around at Everett for ages and even watched the taxi trials, I was in the wrong place when they finally got airborne. However, with an extensive flight test program to come, I knew there would be other opportunities. I did manage to be at Boeing Field for a departure on one of the flights. Conditions weren’t great, though.
With the viewing area closed while Boeing parks 737s wherever it can find a space, I was a long way from the rotation point. It was in the rain as it rolled and, while it stayed below the clouds until well past me, things were not ideal. Still, I had seen it fly.
On another occasion I was able to be there when it returned. This had also been a day with some pretty crummy conditions but this time I was seeing the weather starting to improve as the day wore on. A little bit of a wait while they flew test activities over Central Washington was not such a bad thing. Indeed, as they turned for home, the sun was coming out. However, the wind was not abating!
When they called up on approach, I wandered to one side to see how far up the approach I could see. Despite me being to the right side of the runway from their perspective, when I first got a good shot, the jet was actually pointing beyond me to the right. The crosswind was obviously pretty strong. Early in the flight test program, I wonder whether they really wanted to be testing this capability. Of course this then meant I got a head on view as they got closer before running past me. Shots in nice light! Happy guy. In the next year we shall see plenty of these but, for now, I am happy to have got something reasonable of this airframe off the ground.
I read that Cranfield is getting a new SAAB 340 to be used as a flying testbed. It is replacing the current Jetstream 31. The plane is used for test work but it is also used as a flying classroom for aeronautical engineering students. The Jetstream 31 was an old BAE Systems airframe (one I was involved with in my days at Warton) and it replaced a Jetstream 200. That old Astazou powered airframe was in use in the late 80s when I went through the course. Here are shots of that old plane when we were using it as well as the current one when it showed up at RIAT.
You don’t often get to see an airliner maneuvering at low level. They tend to be up and away or approaching to land in a stable configuration. Each year at Fleet Week, united bring one of their airliners as part of the air show and it gets to be thrown around the bay, if not with abandon, at least with more vigor than is the norm for an airliner. In the past, the 747 has been the display aircraft of choice. Since I have been here, they have been using the 757.
The bay provides a nice backdrop for any display but one that uses a big airplane is well suited to the area since they have to maintain a reasonable distance from the shore at all times unless they are climbing out over the crowd. A combination of clean passes and gear and flaps deployed passes made for some good variety and some aggressive climb outs at high power and low weight were nice. Watching the plane turn over the Marin side of the bay was also pretty cool.
This may not be the most dynamic of air show performances but it has a novelty factor that makes it worth seeing and it certainly brought some variety to the show on the day. I’m just glad I got to see it this year. Last year they displayed on the day I was there but the low cloud base meant that we mainly heard them above the clouds but saw very little.
In putting together a recent post about the kite festival in San Ramon I was taken back to my kite flying exploits when I lived in Lancashire. I had always been a kite fan as a kid and had a Peter Powell stunt kite at some point. In the early 90s, the designs of kites really got inventive. I bought my first flexifoil kite when I lived in Lytham and had a lot of fun flying it on the green by the sea. A few of my friends also got into the flying and they bought the same kite. The design meant it was easy to stack them on the same lines which meant you could have quite a lot of pull if the wind was good.
We weren’t the only ones flying though. Some other people were flying on the sands at St Annes so we headed down there one time to join in making quite a stack. My flexi was 6’ in span. We had about ten of them on the line with two 8’ span kites and one 10’ on top. The wind was not strong but this was quite a combination.
We all had a go at flying this. I found that I could turn it one way a lot better than the other as a result of lacking arm strength on one side. We all got dragged along by the combination. Retreating along the beach needed a couple of guys to drag you back. My mate, Rich, got caught by a big gust and went rolling down the beach. We realized later that his watch had been ripped off and we never found it. I guess kite flying is more dangerous than we realized!
San Ramon holds an annual kite festival which we checked out last year. This time we went back and, rather than get too distracted by the other stuff that was there, we focused on the kite flying itself. There is a large field on which a series of demonstrations of different types and numbers of kites was undertaken. The quality of flying was very impressive. (I will caveat that by pointing out that a bunch of kids were flying their own kites around the field edges. They had obviously just had a kite bought for the, but the parents didn’t seem terribly bothered what they were doing with them so you could get a swift kite to the head if you weren’t careful – and I obviously wasn’t!).
If I ignore the health hazards, the demonstrators were putting on some excellent displays. The individual flights were good but the coordinated flights were outstanding. Two, four and sometimes six kites were flown in formations which was very cool. The lines can overlap so they can continue to control the kites even when they have overlapped the lines several times. Of course, untangling them again is required to avoid a lot of pain when they land.
The different kite styles also bring different capabilities. Twin line kites can be steered left and right while the four line kites allow steering or rotation in place, moving up or going backwards. In the right hands, they are very maneuverable. I have tried a quad line many years ago and they are twitchy but incredibly clever provided you don’t keep crashing them.
I also put together a little video of the flying below. It turns out shooting video of kites is a bit harder than I expected. They can move quite quickly and are pretty close to you. Also, it is hard to predict their next move so tracking is a touch harder than you would hope. Still, video gives a far better impression of them than stills can achieve. Now I am thinking about trying to find some old photos of kite flying in Lytham. Where are they?
No great story for today’s post. I got some time to shoot at Boeing Field in the evening after a day of meetings and travel. Some of the interesting subjects got their own posts. Here are just a few shots of the other traffic that was coming in to the field. The evening light was fantastic and it was fun to watch the movements including some of the Boeing production traffic. Mongolian was a new airline for me. Sadly my timing was off and I didn’t get to see the Indian Navy P-8 on test. Never mind.
While I was with Eric, he suggested we do a little flying in his Champ. I haven’t flown a Champ before and Eric let me get some stick time. Most of the aircraft I have flown over the years have been pretty benign in yaw with not a lot of need to use my feet. The Champ is a different story. Plenty of rudder is required to fly it properly and I did nothing of the sort. A few turns later and I was starting to get a bit tidier but I certainly need a lot of practice to get comfortable with the aircraft.
Eric also flew some more dynamic maneuvers while I was shooting. I also grabbed some video clips. They aren’t a complete story but just a few clips so go the video below gives you a quick glimpse of what we did. Thanks Eric for a lot of fun and for reminding my stomach how long it is since I have flown anything resembling a dynamic maneuver!
My relative Pete is the sort of friend I was destined to have. Pete likes lots of fun things but at the heart of it for him (aside from his family of course) is flying. Pete has been flying all of his life and today he spends his working time at the pointy end of a 747. However, in the mean time, he owns a Piper Arrow which he spends as much time as possible flying.
I have told about our trip in some previous posts. However, I didn’t ever show you the beast itself – I am talking about the Arrow rather than Pete. After we had finished our trip, he had to take it across to Bournemouth for some maintenance so I hung around long enough to catch him departing from Sandown. Here, then, are some shots of Pete and his plane. Thanks for a great time mate.
My Dad’s 70th birthday seemed like something that deserved a decent present. What to get him though? As someone who spent his entire working career in London property, he has seen all parts of the city many times. However, I know he hasn’t seen it from above so much. Therefore, a helicopter ride over the city seemed like a good idea. The fact that I thought it would be really cool too is neither here nor there!
I asked a friend of mine who flies helicopters who he would recommend for this and, being an outstandingly good fellow, he volunteered his services. A very generous gesture. Having someone I know flying the trip meant it was a lot easier to discuss exactly what we wanted to do.
The helicopter corridor across London runs along the River Thames. You join it at Greenwich to avoid the London City Airport airspace and then head along the river through the city and out to the west until you reach Fulham at which point you peel off to avoid Heathrow – always a good idea if they aren’t expecting you!
The weather was not quite what we had hoped. The day started very nicely but the haze built up as we went. Flying early was probably a good idea since it didn’t clear up again until the evening at which point the birthday party was underway. I saw a few buildings that have sprung up since I left including The Shard. I do love London and seeing it again from such a great vantage point was a lot of fun. I hope Dad enjoyed it as much as I did!
More of our Isle of Wight flying here. Just a short highlight of a place I spent a lot of my childhood. Cowes is the place I lived and went to school for a number of years. We lived in a few places but our last home was in an apartment on the seafront. It was a great spot and I enjoyed living there. So much to see. We flew over it and I managed to grab one shot of our old place. I also got a shot my old school which appears to be about to be demolished with a huge new set of building having sprung up on our old playing fields.
A few shots of the harbor were also possible as we orbited around before we headed off to our next stop!