British Airways was an early customer for the 787 when Boeing launched it in the form of the 787-8 and has been growing the fleet ever since. They now operate the -8, the -9 and the -10 versions. Their introduction allowed the retirement of the 767-300 fleet so the 787s are now the smallest of the widebodies (although the 787-10 has similar capacity to a 777-200ER). In Seattle, we tend to get the 787-9 or an occasional 787-10. However, Portland gets the 787-8 so, when I got to shoot one there, it was the first time I had seen a BA -8 in ages. They look quite stubby in comparison to the rest of the family.
The monumental screw up that was the 737 Max program has been getting back on track with the return to service of the 737-8 and 737-9 along with the new deliveries coming off the line. The 737-7 has been in flight test for a while now but its certification was going to be delayed until the main fleet issues had been resolved. Reports now suggest that it will be certificated in plenty of time before the year end deadline that Congress set for cockpit upgrade requirements.
A few Southwest 737-7s (Southwest is the significant customer for this marque) have been parked up at Renton for a while. These had been painted and then stored. However, a couple of 737-7s made flights to Boeing Field in recent times. These are Southwest jets but they have yet to be painted. The fact that they are on the move might be interpreted as suggesting that certification may not be too far away and that Southwest may soon be taking delivery. During the downturn that resulted from the pandemic, Southwest increased its -7 orders at the expense of the -8s. Now traffic is booming, I wonder whether Southwest will reverse that reversal and switch more orders to the -8.
This Challenger 604 taxied out at Boeing Field and I was slightly curious because it was in a grey paint job with a US flag on the fin. I didn’t think it was a government owned machine but maybe there was something interesting about it. When I got a good look at it, I could see that the airframe had some modifications. There were ventral fins and a fairing on the underside that looked like it might have been used for mounting something else which was now absent. A check on the registration shows it as registered to Boeing. They had a development program a while back to make a maritime patrol aircraft from the Challenger. Was this airframe part of that program originally? Where is it going now?
The F-15 Eagle recently had the fiftieth anniversary of its first flight. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that a jet that I still think as high up the pecking order is really over fifty years old. Of course, the jets in service now are not the originals but the F-15Cs started production in fiscal year 78 which meant they were delivered from around 1980 onwards. Therefore, they are over 40 years old which is quite something for a jet getting such heavy use today.
The 173FW put a four ship of F-15C/Ds up for the Sentry Eagle 2022 air show. They tore up the field in an impressive way for the practice days and the main show itself. Having been a fan of the F-15 since my youth, this was a lot of fun to watch. I got a series of shots of one of the jets as it pulled hard to the vertical in full burner and then turned towards the crowd direction. Looking at the surface of the rear wing, there is definitely some deformation of the skins as the structure is loaded up. This is not a problem. It is quite common to get aircraft skin to ripple under varying load conditions but it is usually something that is more common on aging airframes.
I do like shooting bizjets and they can provide a bit of variety amongst the regularity of the other aircraft around. However, there is one thing that can disappoint and that is the unimaginative way in which they are usually painted. Airlines have adopted the variations on white but the bizjets have been doing this for ages. Consequently, when one shows up that is not basically white, I am really pleased.
Black painted bizjets look so much more interesting. The engineer in my finds myself wondering how well they keep cool out in the sun on the ramp but, since I am not the customer, not a problem I need to worry about too much. Instead, I can just be pleased to shoot a jet that looks a little out of the ordinary.
I was up at Paine Field after work one day for the arrival of a DHL/Singapore Airlines 777F. Before it was due in, an Alaska Airlines 737 was due in on one of the scheduled flights. Alaska operations at Paine Field originally were just using the Embraers but, with the success of some of the routes, they have upgraded a number of the services to the 737. I thought this would be a good opportunity to see whether the low shutter speed settings I was planning for the 777F would be okay.
I wasn’t going down to some crazy low shutter speed. I wanted to make sure I got a good shot. However, when you are close to the runway, as is the case at the windsock, you don’t need to be too low to get some blur. I was only using the 24-105 at that range as things are very close. The level of background blur I got was okay. It would be good to get more but it was going to be fine for the 777F. When playing with this approach, you know that a bunch of the shots will not be sharp enough. Unfortunately, you never know whether the key moments will be the sharp ones. Fortunately, one of the better shots was with a healthy dose of tire smoke as they touched down. I was happy with the result.
Portland is a big base for FedEx it seems. (I think, at this point, I should called it FedEx Express but, since I am old enough to remember when they were called Federal Express, having Federal Express Express seems a bit redundant. I know, I am grumpy old git! Back on topic…) They had a ton of movements when Mark and I were there. On our first day, it was the afternoon and the southern runway was not ideal for photography given the light angles. Still, it was not terrible and the freighters provide a fair bit of variety.
The following morning, the light was move favorable for a while so we were able to get plenty of shots. The freighter traffic is usually busy at the beginning and end of the day for the express parcel business so we had enough to shoot. The big jets were operating with plenty of 767s on the move. They also had the feeder services with a steady stream of Super Cargomasters (Grand Caravans) and ATR72s to handle the local distribution. Good to take advantage of them before the replacement for the Cargomasters arrives.
The provision of aggressor services continues to expand across air forces. Some have come and gone and it is a developing situation with various old or retired military aircraft being picked up by the contractor market to provide services. Some of these seem to have a short life span as the demands of the customers increase beyond the point that older jets can be effective. One operator is called Tactical Air. They are operating a bunch of F-5s and have some based ay Klamath Falls.
One of their aircraft was on display in a hangar at Sentry Eagle 2022. It wasn’t the ideal conditions to try and get a shot of it but it was there and I was hardly going to pass it up. Earlier in the day, one of their jets had been towed to the north end of the field. I grabbed a shot as it passed, wrongly assuming it was a visiting T-38 and only realizing it wasn’t later. They had other jets parked at the alert facility but it was the sort of place that showing up with a camera seemed like it might be counterproductive so I didn’t get any shots of them.
The only 777s coming out of Everett at the moment are freighters. This can mean unusual airlines but not usually and I don’t head up there terribly often at the moment. However, one of the jets on test recently was destined for DHL’s operations in Singapore. Consequently, it is a hybrid of the DHL and Singapore markings. It seemed worth a look and it helped that they had taken off mid afternoon and were due back after work.
A few photographers had showed up for this arrival as was expected. At this time of year, even early evening is not the best of the light, but it was pretty good. They could be seen out as they set up for approach with Mount Rainier in the background. They touched down with the sound of the RAT buzzing in the background. I was ready to go and headed for the car, but I heard a shout from Royal and Nick that it was coming back. Sure enough, they had taxied back to do one further acceleration and abort on the runway, so we got a second chance at some shots.
I have posted about the JetStars that were stored at Klamath Falls. There were three airframes that we got a chance to check out. We were given a great opportunity because they also opened up the jets so we could look around inside. It was fun poking around inside what was once the premier form of executive transport. It was also interesting to see the difference in the configurations with things like the throttle quadrants looking very different between the jets.