These shots aren’t particularly nice but, at the time I took them, I didn’t realize that they would be a bit more significant for a friend of mine. He was a skipper for Virgin Atlantic and making his first run to Seattle. I went out to get his arrival despite it being a bit gloomy. We met up afterwards for a beer and some food. He flew back the following day.
Since that time, the airline business (along with many businesses) has taken a bad turn and Virgin Atlantic has been getting rid of staff. My friend was eligible for retirement and decided to take it. Consequently, this flight turned out to be the last landing he made in his commercial flying career. The return leg landing was made by another member of his crew. It would have been nice if the conditions were better but I am glad I was there to see it. Happy retirement Chris and see you soon I hope!
While I had headed to SeaTac to see the 21Air 767 arrive, I hung around for a couple of other arrivals. Delta operates a variety of long haul types into the airport and this includes A330s of the older and newer generations. First to arrive was an A330-300. A little while later, it was followed by an A330-900, the A330neo version. I thought I would try and get identical shots of both jets to see how much the engine and winglet changes showed up when looking at them in flight. Here are shots to compare the two types for you to make your own comparisons. I think the differences are there but they are not drastic.
One Saturday morning, I was scanning what was moving around the Seattle area and saw a Boeing 767-200 coming to SeaTac, operated by 21Air. I had never heard of this operator before and the picture online made the jet look like it was painted more interestingly than the average freighter. I figured I would pop down to get some shots, even though the conditions were not great. The light actually perked up a bit when the jet arrived so the results were better than I hoped. I asked a buddy about the operator and he, having never seen them before, was actually looking at two of their jets in LA. I wonder why they are suddenly on the west coast.
Alaska Airlines has a 737 flying in a special scheme as a Salute to Veterans. I have shot that in the past and it appeared on the blog in this post. I wasn’t aware until recently that they had painted a second jet in a similar scheme – this time from their regional fleet. This is an Embraer E175-E1. Here it is departing SeaTac one morning while I was awaiting my flight out.
If I hadn’t been with Joe who is a bit more familiar with the regular movements at Tucson International, I would not have been too interested in this aircraft. It looked like a pretty standard C-26 to me. However, Joe was quick to see it and told me it is one that he had not seen move (I can’t recall whether this was ever or just for a long time). Apparently, the turret under the fuselage is for surveillance activities of a spooky nature. Why it was moving on this day (was it watching me?) I have no idea. I was just glad that, rather than dismissing it as I might have done, I found out it was a little different.
The layout of SFO with the two pairs of cross runways makes for some operations that are quite specific to this airport. At peak times, parallel approaches are made to the 28 runways from along the bay shore. These approaches require the following plane to make sure it does not overtake the leading plane. I don’t know for sure but I imagine the choice of which side leads is based on the wind direction so the wake turbulence doesn’t affect the downwind plane.
Getting them close together is the goal as a photographer. Often they end up being separated by a lot more than you thought. When further out things look like they are close but then the approach turns out to be more offset than you expect and you don’t get a good shot when they come in to land.
Arrivals aren’t the only parallels though. The departures are sent of the 01s from both sides. The clearances are usually offset and the thresholds are slightly different so the planes often get airborne well apart. However, that is not always the case and sometimes you get what amounts to a formation takeoff. Once airborne, the planes turn to increase their separation. Getting a shot of them close together is something to try for if you can. They are too far away when they take off to be a great shot individually but getting both in frame certainly makes for a more unusual shot than is the case for most departure procedures for big airliners.
While at Coyote Point, I was surprised to see how the wind was clearing out some of the particulate matter in the air and giving me a good view of things at SFO. A few times I watched the departure of some of the big jets including three A380s. They each lined up on 28R for departure. What I had never noticed before is how much their jetwash disturbs the water off the end of the runway. Once they get to full power and before they move too far down the runway, the water gets quite some spray in motion. Probably not a good place to find yourself if you are one of the many birds that live in the bay!
Every once in a while I am looking for things to include in the blog from previous photographic outings. I was discussing an aircraft with an unusual radar installation which will now show up in an upcoming blog post as well. However, it triggered another thought about some radar testbed aircraft that I used to see quite regularly. For a number of years I was working in Washington DC on a regular basis and I would fly in to BWI airport. Aside from being a popular hub for Southwest, it is also the home of a Northrop Grumman radar plant.
They have a hangar on site which not only deals with their corporate aircraft but also their testbeds for the airborne radar programs. This hangar is located along a tree lined taxiway so everything is pretty obscured from view (unless you are airborne when you can see in a lot more clearly). The two testbeds that I saw quite frequently were a Sabreliner business jet and a BAC 1-11 airliner. The 1-11 was a regular sight when I was a lot younger but now they are almost all gone. Therefore, this was the one I was always pleased to see.
Sadly, I often saw them when I was without a camera or the camera was away. No electronics below 10,000’ in those days. However, I did catch them occasionally so these shots are a reminder of what was there. I suspect that the 1-11 is no longer in use. I imagine it was becoming a pain to maintain but I don’t know for sure whether it still is around. If you know, please do tell me.
I had some shots on a previous post of Denver International Airport. I was back there again after that visit and we flew an approach that brought us past the airport before circling back in to land. I got some shots of the field as we came by. They give some idea of the size of the airport as well as its ability to expand in the future. The layout of the runways also shows up well. This is an example of what you get if you design an airport from scratch rather than expand one you already have with development encroaching upon it.
Once again the annual symposium of ISAP, the International Society of Aviation Photographers is back around. This year it is being held up in Seattle. It is always a good chance to meet up with old friends and spend a few days discussing planes and taking pictures of them. I am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out this year. Hopefully, it will be a great event. We shall see.
No doubt, there will be some pictures from this event that make their way onto the blog. Stay tuned to see what shows up here in the coming weeks! As to the reason for the A-10 picture above, it has nothing to do with ISAP. It’s just a picture of a plane that I like!