The appearance of a Gulfstream GIV is not something that would normally be sufficiently unusual to justify a trip out. However, this GIV was a bit unusual. It belongs to NOAA and they use it for tracking weather systems. It was operating out of Paine Field and I only got to see it once. It would launch and head out over the Pacific for six or seven hours before coming back. The return was always in the evening after dark so never an opportunity to get a shot. The rear radar installation is pretty conspicuous. However, the nose radar is also a modification. The radome is a different shape and the additional air data sensors around the radome may either be because of the change of shape or could be related to its mission.
Sadly, it departed to Florida before I could get a chance to see it on the ground. It would have been nice to see it close up (or even in halfway decent weather – not something I was given this time around) but that was not to be on this occasion.
The Evergreen Aviation Museum has more aircraft than it has space to display. Some of them are parked out in the parking lot including a NASA Gulfstream II. This is no normal GII either. It is one of the four Gulfstreams that NASA had converted to act as Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA). They were used for the shuttle crews to practice the approach and landing phase of a mission when the shuttle was gliding (very steeply) in the atmosphere.
The main gear was deployed to increase drag, the thrust reversers were engaged in flight and the flaps could be moved up as well as down to modulate life. One seat was set up as a shuttle pilot station while an instructor sat in the other. Many practice landings could be carried out using the STA fleet. They also provided a secondary transport function.
The aircraft is currently in a rather ignominious position in the parking lot and it will hopefully find a better permanent home.
When I am shooting at a major airport, I am always pleased to get some corporate jets. A steady stream of airliners – often from the same airline – is okay but variety spices things up and corporate jets can do that. (NetJets and FlexJet do undermine that variety a little but not too much.) On this occasion, I was treated to a selection of Savannah’s finest products. They didn’t arrival in age related order but I will forgive that.
The first to show up was a G650. Top of the line for Gulfstream, this is a cool looking jet. It is a totally clean sheet design for Gulfstream who have tended to tweak previous jets to bring new capabilities. It looks different and has great performance. (It is also spawning a new generation of smaller – relatively – jets that I look forward to seeing.)
Next were some G450s. A previous generation but still a good performer and something that sells well. The fuselage is clearly Gulfstream but the wings and engines and significant steps forward from their predecessors. Not cutting edge but still something the Gulfstream thinks has appeal.
The last was a G-III. This is really going back a bit. Not a G-IISP but not far off. The fuselage is familiar, the wing similar but the engines are the old Speys and they have none too subtle hushkits fitted to them in order to meet current noise regulations. This is certainly a vintage jet by corporate standards and I was pretty pleased to see one still flying. These are often found now lurking at airports with the signs of lack of use clear to see. Shame we didn’t have an original Gulfstream turboprop but they are rare beasts these days.
Waukegan Airport is the home for a number of corporate aircraft. One of the regular visitors is a Gulfstream belonging to a man who has a home in the area and who is associated with Chicago area sports in a big way. However, the aircraft is wearing colors that are more associated with his college playing days in North Carolina. The result is possibly not the most attractive paint job you have ever seen. It does include the logo of the man in question in his trademark (literally) pose of Air Jordan. I once spent a portion of a day driving around the airfield with the Airport Manager. As we went through one of the electronic gates, he spotted the remnants of a cigar on the ground outside the gate. Apparently, this is one of Michael’s cigars. He is not allowed to smoke them when on the ramp so he drops them just before entering the area.
Airliners were not the only thing we got to see above LAX. On the south side of the field are some FBOs and they had an interesting selection of planes parked up on their ramps. As we passed overhead, it was a good time to see what was around. There were plenty of Gulfstreams on show. The view from above shows just how large the wing is on the largest of Savannah’s products. We also had some BBJs, a 757 that appeared to belong to a casino and some Cessnas, Challengers, Falcons and Hawkers. I am not sure I would be able to choose which one to use today. Maybe I will rotate them?
If you are like me, when you are shopping for your next business jet, you are always making a choice between three types. Our tricky decision is between the Gulfstream, the Bombardier Global 6000 and the Dassault Falcon 7X. They each have slightly different characteristics and capabilities but they are all great jets and suitable for our day-to-day needs. Which one to take is a tough call which is why I would probably get one of each and decide on a given day which one was best.
It came as a good thing, then, that I got to see all three types at San Jose. This is an airport that is convenient for much of Silicon Valley. The prevalence of big jets is hardly a surprise given how much cash is floating around over there. I wonder if seeing them on this day will help me with my decision?
Much as the light aircraft movements at King County don’t get much attention, there is so much corporate jet traffic that it can also get overlooked. The bigger jets like the Globals tend to be more interesting to me. However, there are plenty of different types coming through. As with the light aircraft, here is a selection from a recent trip.
While I have written about my preference for Bombardier’s Global Express jets, the top of the Gulfstream range has been bolstered by the arrival of the G650 (and more recently the G650ER) and this is a fine looking aircraft. I have had a few encounters with the type recently including one that I saw at Midway. Tracking inbound traffic is fine for airliners but, with so many business jets blocked, often it is a surprise when something shows up. This one was showing up though, so I had time to be ready for it.
From a long way out you could see it since, while it is a business jet, it is really the size of a small airliner. The huge wing is apparent from head on and, as it comes past, the sleekness of the fuselage design is clear compared to the previous generations of Gulfstream. They have also made a far nicer job of the integration of the wing with the fuselage than was the case for the earlier jets.
I won’t be buying one any time soon but that doesn’t seem to have worried Gulfstream. Judging by the frequency with which they have been showing up, I imagine the sales team has been busy!
San Jose is not an airport I had even shot at before. Paul and I decided to try it out on our way back to Dublin. There appeared to be a parking area near the threshold so we figured that was worth a shot and put it in to the GPS. As we drove there, Paul checked out Flightaware to see whether there was much due in. A few airliners and a couple of corporate jets were on the system but nothing too dramatic.
We got to the location and, sure enough, there was a good parking area with a pretty clear view of the approach if you avoided some trees. As we pulled in and sat in the car, a Global Express flew by. I was a touch bummed by this since, if we had missed a cool movement, would there be anything else. As it turned out, I was wrong to worry. San Jose seems to have a steady flow of corporate jet movements. Many of them are blocked on Flightaware, hence us not knowing they were coming. We didn’t have long before we had to be somewhere else but, in that time, we got a lot of biz jet traffic.
San Jose is convenient for a lot of high tech companies so they base their aircraft there. We got the Apple G650 in the short time we spent. I have to say, I thought Apple would have made it look a bit cooler but there you go. Maybe they want to be inconspicuous. One of the local guys told us which ones were regulars based on the field. He was less bothered by them but we were interested as first timers.
I was back in Seattle recently and, while the reason for being there took up the majority of my time, I did have a couple of opportunities at the end of the days to pay a visit to Boeing Field. I had been there last year and made the best of the nice light later in the day then. This time, the light looked good but proved to be a bit fickle and the day was not as long given the time of year. However, I did get an interesting selection of aircraft to shoot. Boeing Field is a popular location for business aviation given its close proximity to Seattle city center. There were some very nice large jets visiting. An Airbus ACJ from Germany was parked up the entire time I was there but I never saw it move. However, I did get to see some Globals and Gulfstreams stretch their legs.
The Global Express is a great looking business jet. One arrived shortly after I did and I managed to get it as it came in. I was at a spot I hadn’t tried before. It gives a better angle on the aircraft as they approach and touch down but it does suffer from a more cluttered background which is a shame. The Global looked like it was heading out again as I got ready to leave for the evening so I decided to go to the departure end of the runway and try and get it head on. By now the light was really going but I ramped up the ISO and decided to go for it anyway. Having Mount Rainier in the background certainly doesn’t harm a shot but it was really a bit too dark.
The other nice visitor was a G650. The newest of the big Gulfstreams is a significant improvement from an aesthetic point of view as far as I am concerned. This one had a great paint scheme too so I was very happy to see it. The runway direction was changed just before it left so I got to see it as it was airborne rather than on the takeoff roll which was nice.
Throw in some Dassault Falcons and I had a lucky run given how limited the time was that I had there. Hopefully I will be back again sometime soon.