The B-1B Lancer (or Bone to almost everyone who cares) is an impressive piece of hardware. It might have some performance limitations resulting from the redesign it underwent from the original canceled B-1A to the B-1B – changes that might not look that obvious but run quite deep – but it is still a very capable jet. The blended airframe shaping really appeals to an aero guy like me while the swing wing is now a concept that is disappearing as other types retire so it is becoming the last of the line. Add to that four afterburning engines and you get something that makes an impression.
It used to be a regular performer at air shows but these days you don’t see them as much. However, it can still turn heads when it makes fast passes and plugs in the burners. A bit of vapor can also be pulled as they get the speed and load on. Seeing them launch from close to the runway is always worthwhile. They are such an imposing jet. Sadly, their limitations and the cost of supporting them will probably mean they get retired long before the B-52s that they were once considered to replace. Here are some shots of my Bone encounters.
I haven’t shot at BFI for quite a while now. I do look forward to getting back there before too long. Since BFI is closer to downtown, it gets a lot of biz jet traffic. There are some high net worth individuals and big businesses in the area so some of these jets are at the higher end of the range. Here is a selection of the more recent corporate jets I shot prior to the curtailment of my excursions!
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!
I have been noticeably unsuccessful when shooting JetSuite X aircraft. When we lived in the Bay Area, they were running flights out of Concord. I did see some aircraft on the ramp but they were not convenient to shoot and I never saw them move. I have seen them a few times at Boeing Field but the conditions have always been less them impressive. Finally, I got to see one landing on a nice day!
Their schedules are easy to track so I knew it was going to be coming in. It wasn’t why I was there but you will take any opportunity! The white with red stripe livery is a slightly odd one but, on a sunny day, it looks pretty nice. I have often pondered what they are re like to use but have not found out to date. I don’t know whether they will survive the current crisis so maybe the opportunity is gone?
I was thinking back to previous RIAT shows when I was putting together the 2006 post here. RIAT was my first encounter with the B-2. I recall it showing up to a show one year for a flyby without landing. It flew through accompanied by a pair of F-15Cs, one on each wing. Then, another year – maybe the next but I don’t recall for sure – one was actually deployed to the show. It was parked up so close to everyone on the flight line. I took quite a few pictures of it because it was so new and interesting. (A few pictures in the film days was a let less than it became in the digital days!) Even now, I think a show would consider it quite a coup to have a B-2 on the ground.
The idea for this was spotted by my friend, Paul, during a visit of his but we missed it at the time. It was early in the morning and the water was calm as a millpond. However, the jet was beyond the water before he spotted it. I have missed the chance since or there was not water. However, while the conditions weren’t ideal, when I saw the Dreamlifter taxiing back to the ramp, I realized the opportunity was going to be there this time.
The water wasn’t quite still and I had the long lens on the camera but a phone is a good second best these days. The jet taxied in with Mt Rainier in the background before reaching the north end of the field and crossing over. Then it was time to be ready. The phone has the added advantage of being able to shoot through the fence with no interference.
When we first lived in Chicago, I was working for a UK based company. I used to make regular trips to London to check in with the mother ship. For the return journey, I would usually take the morning flight back to O’Hare from Heathrow. In those days, BA operated from Terminal 4 and there was a Hilton hotel attached to the terminal. This made the whole process very easy. Get up, walk across the bridge to the terminal and check in. It also meant I could get the occasional shots of operations.
There was a fire escape on the side of the hotel that provided a view to the east and to a bit of the airfield itself. It was a bit restricted as views go but it was not bad. I could get some shots of the operations if the direction of the flow was right. I would also get up early sometimes to see the arrivals coming in as the sun was coming up. Here are some of the shots I got from there.
Ahead of an ISAP symposium many years ago, my friend Richard had arranged a visit to JRB Carswell at Fort Worth. As well as being the home of the Lockheed Martin assembly plant, it also hosts the 301st FW of the USAF Reserve with their F-16s. They were great hosts and we got to spend a bunch of time around the base. On their ramp space, we had a lot of freedom to shoot them prepping for missions and heading out.
We also got to go to the EOR and see them come in after their missions and have the jets safed prior to taxiing back to the ramp. Being close to the jets while they are doing real work is such a different experience to seeing them at an air show when things are all a bit more contrived. This was a new experience for me at the time and so I was following the example of a few of the other guys when looking to see what sort of things to get shots of. It was a great learning experience and a bunch of fun too!
In the saga of mergers that have characterized the US airline industry over the decades, plenty of airlines have disappeared – subsumed into a larger merger partner. One such airline is American West. I was looking for some old shots for another project and came across a bunch of shots of this airline. It merged with USAir and then ultimately into American Airlines. It had a more interesting color scheme than is usually the case these days so I figured I would pop a few shots of their jets into a post.
I believe one of these jets is a retro scheme as part of the American Airlines retro jet program. The rest, though, are from the days when the airline was an active competitor. A search on the registrations of some of these jets would have, until recently shown them as still active in the American Airlines fleet. Now, with most of the fleets on the ground and given the age of some of these jets, I suspect a lot of them won’t be making it back in to service.
Edwards AFB has been the home to an amazing range of interesting aircraft types. Many of them have found their way to prominent museums around the country given the significance of what they achieved. Others never found interest and got disposed of. Some never lasted long enough to be preserved given the hazardous nature of what they did. However, there was a storage program for the rest and Edwards has a museum of some of these preserved airframes.
I haven’t been to Edwards for a long time so I don’t know what the current situation is with the collection but I did get to check it out on a previous visit. The collection was mainly front line types that had been used for testing purposes. (This is the USAF side of things rather than the NASA collection.) There are some types there that I didn’t see which I would like to have done like the YA-7F. However, there was a test A-7D with an air data boom. Here are some of the shots I got that day. I also shot a couple of other jets that were away from the rest but these were only with my phone and phone quality in those days was not what it is now.