The new international arrivals facility at SEA includes a long walkway that overlooks the ramp between the A concourse and the South Satellite. I was able to get a few shots as I wandered through there. A Delta A220-100 was taxiing by when I got there and there was another shortly afterwards. They are pretty common here these days. Since A Concourse is heavily used by Delta, no surprise that a lot of their jets were present. A few Southwest jets were over on B with some widebodies on the satellite.
When the arrivals at Nellis on on the 03 runways, it means a trip to Cheyenne. This is not the greatest part of the world to visit but it is a feature of a Nellis trip. The sun angles were still quite low while I was there so I decided to try shooting from further around the road than I have done previously. For the planes coming in on the left runway, I had a reasonable sun angle on them. For planes on the right, they were coming right over my head.
I quite liked shooting like this. The planes have a surprising amount of variety in their line up angles when this far from the threshold so, while they are all coming close to you, it is not a repeat of the same shot every time. Each pilot takes a slightly different line and some variation in elevation too. You get something akin to head on shots and then it is a case of rapidly swiveling around to get a shot from behind.
There is a lot of fencing and trees along that part of the road so getting a clean shot of everything is hard to achieve. However, it is still possible to get something a little different. With the light angles being less than ideal, rather than worry about shots that aren’t going to be very usable due to either glare or shadow, why not get something a little different. It does require some quick adjustments and it can get a touch noisy but it is still fun to try something a little different.
The weather at Nellis was definitely not playing ball for the majority of my time at Red Flag 22-2. However, as the recoveries from the afternoon exercise were completing, some of the regular base traffic was getting ready to launch. Nellis is a bit like Seattle (hear me out) in that, even when the weather is a bit crappy in the afternoon, there is a good chance the light improves later on. This proved to be the case on my first full day there.
As the later jets were launching, the clouds had cleared up a bit and there was some nice low angle sun to be had on the aircraft as they headed out. I had gone up past Gate 6 at the Speedway to be in place for any Flex departures and this proved to be a good spot. Some of the jets turned a little beyond me but gave a better top side view while other turned a bit earlier and were almost heading overhead where I was. The light was better than anything I had got earlier in the day so it worked for me.
I stopped at Boeing Field to make a couple of calls and I was pleasantly surprised to see that a Boeing T-38 chase jet was not far out. I was able to get the camera out in good time for it to arrive and, even better, while there was plenty of cloud around, the sun popped out to allow me to get a reasonable shot. I then went back to dealing with my calls. I had noticed a USAF T-38 further east in the state but had assumed it was not coming my way. However, I was wrong. A short while later, it called up on approach. The sun was less cooperative which was a shame for a gloom black painted jet but it was still good to shoot. From expecting nothing to getting two T-38s in short order was a nice surprise.
Singapore Airlines has been taking delivery of a bunch of 737 Max8 jets. These were bought by the Silk Air subsidiary but, after the order was place, Singapore decided to integrate that subsidiary into the main airline. Plenty of the aircraft had been painted before this decision was made and I guess Boeing’s price to repaint the jets was higher than the other options available so they were delivered in the old colors and then repainted after delivery. However, more recent jets have been painted in Singapore’s colors from new. 737 deliveries usually happen from Boeing Field but, for some reason, this jet was delivered from Paine Field. The sun popped out as it lined up to depart for Hawaii where it would stop en route. Not often you get an airline flight between Paine Field and Hawaii!
While I am happy to shoot a Phenom 100 if it happens to be passing, I am not usually going to go out of my way for one. However, if I have a cloudy Sunday afternoon with nothing much going on and one is coming to Boeing Field with Millennium Falcon paint on it, why not? This jet was making a tour around the west and was coming to BFI from Bellingham. I got it arriving and the side I shot had the Falcon painted on it. Apparently the other side has an X-Wing. The underside looked like it might be interesting and I did get a departure shot but it wasn’t as special as I had hoped.
Airlines seem to be consolidating their fleets these days with less and less types showing up. I am sure that this is true for Air France too but, recent experience at SEA feels like the opposite. We seem to have been the destination for a lot of the Air France long haul fleet. We have had 777s coming in here for a while. I imagine that they will be the ones we won’t see much of again but you should never bet on that. The 777-300ERs are likely to be around for a while, even if the -200ERs go away.
Then we have had the A330s and the A350s. I like the look of the A350 so was pleased to see them bringing that on this route. I had wrongly assumed that, with the A350 being deployed here, that was going to be a regular feature. Instead, we have now got 787s coming in. I was north of the airport when I got to shoot a 787-9 lining up for approach. When I have looked more recently, that is the jet showing on the schedule. Who knows what we will get next? I am pretty certain it won’t be the A380!
It was recently announced that Nellis AFB has ended operations of the F-15C/D Eagles. The Eagles have been at Nellis since the 1970s so this ends a long association. The Strike Eagles are still based there and there will, no doubt, be F-15EX jets based there in the not too distant future but this was still noteworthy within the aviation community. I have shot a bunch of based Eagles over the years including the aggressor jets. They went a while back so I won’t include them here but here are a few of the Nellis jets over the years.
It had been quite a while since I made a trip purely for aviation photography. I may have managed to sneak some photo elements in to other trips but nothing just for planes. I decided to go to Nellis for Red Flag 22-2. I had skipped 22-1 because it clashed with some other stuff despite having some things I was quite keen to shoot. German Tornados were supposed to be at 22-2 which I was keen to shoot but they sadly canceled before the event even kicked off.
Despite this, I still wanted to go. A couple of days off work seemed like a good plan and it was a chance to explore the capabilities of the R3 on aviation subjects. While the Germans were not attending, there were some foreign operators taking part. Singapore had brought its jets – admittedly, they didn’t have far to come with Singapore having units at Luke and Mountain home – and Saudi Arabia had brought some F-15SAs.
Things were not as active as they have been on some previous Red Flags. Not everything seemed to be flying in each wave. The B-1s only flew on one of the evening and one of the day sorties of the two I was there. Also, things seemed to happen earlier than is sometimes the case. There were some long gaps in flying when I wondered whether something was up. It was just a slow Flag I guess. However, it was a good chance to hang around and photograph some jets. I guess I can’t complain about that.
For a while, I had been thinking about trying to do some night photography of airliners. I had seen some good shots people had got but SeaTac does not have a lot of ambient light to illuminate aircraft flying overhead. It would be better if there was a large public space under the approach that would provide so brightness to work with. I was down at SeaTac to pick up a colleague and knew I would be there as the sun went down so I decided to have a go at some shots.
I used the 70-200 f/2.8 to get as much light as possible. The sun was going down so I was going through quite the transition of lighting conditions. Some were just twilight while other were when things were getting quite dark. The autofocus was also struggling since the center point was being used and the underside of the jet lacked much contrast in the dark. I still got a few usable images. The lack of light means they aren’t too great but it was fun to try something different. Now to find a better location!