In the run up to Christmas, online retail had clearly been very busy. UPS runs their Seattle flights to Boeing Field and, while I was there, the traffic levels were well above the norm. I have posted the Asia Pacific 757 freighter in a previous post but UPS’s own fleet were really moving. Arrivals and departures were pretty frequent. As soon as the jets were on the ramp, the team whirled into motion getting the containers off and loading up the outbound loads.
Kenmore’s floatplane operations are the best known part of their business but they have a lot of flights using the Cessna Caravan from land bases. One of them returned to their Boeing Field base while I was there. The Caravan is perfectly capable of using the short runway at the airport and, with plenty of traffic using the main runway, this one came in on the short side. That brought it closer to me so I was pretty happy about it.
My first trip to my new spot at Boeing Field, as described in this blog post, resulted in a fair bit of activity. Not long after I got there, I saw a Gulfstream G650 taxiing from the south end of the ramp towards the departure runway. This location gave a few spots where the jet was clear of buildings and you could get a shot. It ended up holding at the threshold for quite a while as other movements came and went.
Once it got clearance, it made a spiritedly takeoff. Long range bizjets are rarely making use of their full capabilities so, when they are lightly loaded, they are off in quick time. This was the case for the G650 and I got some shots of it rotating and climbing away. Not a bad start for this spot.
Looking for something unusual keeps things interesting when you have been shooting the same stuff for a while while not able to go anywhere. I had seen a couple of movements in recent months of Asia Pacific Airlines and their Boeing 757s. However, I had never been in a position to catch one. Christmas Eve I was off work and one was due in to Boeing Field. It was on their own flight number but I had a suspicion that they were supporting UPS.
Sure enough, when the jet landed, it taxied up to a spot on the UPS ramp and started unloading. UPS had been running a large amount of movements through Seattle that day and the preceding days so I guess the Christmas rush meant it was necessary to charter in additional capacity to deal with the demand. An interesting looking plane and nice to see something different for a change.
From my new spot, you have a good view of the main civil ramp at Boeing as well as a slightly more distant view of the military ramp. The civil ramp was full of Max jets waiting to get delivered now that customers can start accepting the jets again. Not all agencies have cleared the Max so I guess Boeing was focusing on those that have and aiming to get as much cash as they could in before year end. You could also see the stored jets on part of the ramp as well as those in the parking lot across Marginal Way.
There were three 777X development airframes parked while the second jet was out on a test flight. I was hoping to get it returning but it was out over the Pacific off the Oregon coast and I rightly guessed that, despite the online forecast, it wouldn’t be back before sunset. The military ramp was a little quieter than I expected with a couple of KC-46s and some P-8s including the next one for the Royal Air Force. There were also two KC-46s up on the civilian flight test ramp. Plenty to see and it would have been better in morning light.
The first decent sized arrival I got on my BFI visit was a US Navy P-8 Poseidon returning from a test flight. It gave me a chance to get the hang of picking the arriving planes up against the background and working out their positions as the are on final. Things are pretty cluttered in the background which doesn’t help make a photo look interesting but, once they are over the airfield itself, the background is a lot cleaner and the plane stands out more.
Once over the runway, everything is unobstructed so you get a good view of the touchdown and roll out. The runway wasn’t too damp so not much in the way of spray from reverse thrust but a good amount of tire smoke as the mains hit the ground. Heat haze was not too much of a problem as the conditions were not too sunny but you still had to be pretty close in before the shots were sharp enough to look at closely.
A while back I took a drive around some streets on the hill overlooking Boeing Field. I was looking for a good location to get a shot of the field and, since you have a lot of elevation, to see whether you could get a look down on arriving and departing traffic. At the time, I didn’t find much. There is a lot of tree growth up there where there aren’t buildings and I thought I was out of luck.
More recently, I was looking at some photos posted by local photographers and saw exactly what I had previously been looking for. I took a look at the backgrounds to the shots and tried to triangulate where the photographer might have been. I focused on an area that looked like it would be right and then took a closer look on Google Maps. There appeared to be a pathway through the bushes to an open area so I figured an exploration was in order.
The path was there if a little overgrown. There was some crap at the entrance which made me wonder whether this was somewhere I really wanted to go but I walked in sans kit to see what it was like. Turned out to be a pretty good spot. A great view over the airfield looking down on the ramp but the terminal and the Boeing ramp on the opposite side. It is a morning location ideally because, at this time of year, the light has moved around by late morning. However, while I was late, it was still an option. If things get cloudy, it helps a lot.
You are quite a way from the action. It was time for the longest lenses and, even then, a bit of cropping is required for some angles. Also, you get some cluttered backgrounds against which the smaller planes can be lost making the shots of little value. It does provide for a different view and, unlike the other spots I shoot at BFI, you can get arrivals and departures. I did try a second visit one morning but it was foggy and the field was shut down! However, I shall given the location another visit at some point soon. The light would last longer in the summer but I suspect heat haze will be a real problem by then.
The afternoon lighting was looking good and, when I saw a P-8 was up, I was tempted to get some shots. When I saw the Dornier was also coming in, it helped make up my mind. Even better, it spared me from a fruitless trip. The P-8 was out of Boeing Field and was scheduled to make approaches at Everett before returning to base. I would have been tempted to shoot it up there but, with the 328Jet in the mix, I figured Boeing Field was it.
As it turned out, the flight plan for Everett was a distraction. I watched the jet heading back up from Oregon and it looked like it was coming direct to Boeing Field. That was indeed the case. No approach to Everett. If I had been up there, I would have been pretty annoyed. As it was, I got the arrival, even if the conditions were nowhere near as nice as they had been when I first headed out. This one was a US Navy example.
There is no shortage of DHC Beavers in the PNW, even of the turbine variety. Plenty of them are on floats, too, so even that doesn’t make it particularly special. However, when you haven’t been able to shoot much aviation for a long time, one is a welcome sight. Even better when it switches to the closer runway when on approach.
Boeing has been building and testing 737 Max jets throughout the grounding so having them flying is not a great surprise. However, with the grounding order lifted by the FAA, things are moving into a higher gear. United took delivery of a jet and American Airlines has indicated it will start service before the end of the year. Two jets were up on the same day which leads me to think that they have already undergone the mod programs and are being tested prior to delivery to the airline.