When my buddy, Mark, was visiting, he wanted to get a little floatplane flying in and took me along for the ride. Kenmore Air have a ticket you can get for a ride along with the scheduled service. You don’t know exactly where you will be going but you will head out to the Gulf Islands and will be out for about three hours. Originally, they said we would stop off at Lake Union to pick up and drop off but that ultimately wasn’t needed although we do do a flyby as I covered in this post about the Space Needle.
The weather wasn’t too sunny which actually made for some smooth flying conditions. We were in a piston Beaver and probably never got above 1,000’ when transiting. Some of the sections were a bit below that which meant a great view of the scenery. We also saw some boats and they got a post here as well. We skirted passed some islands and over others as we made our way. Our first stop was Friday Harbor and the second was Deer Harbor.
There was a small airfield on one of the islands that we passed close by. A brief look down the runway as we crossed the center line but then it got harder to see. It was surrounded by trees so was hard to make out. These shots are a selection of those that I got as we made our way around the islands and across the bays and inlets. With spring coming, I think I might need to book another one of these trips.
Our aerial adventure with Kenmore Air included a lot of time over the waters of Puget Sound. Very little time was spent over land. The waters were not very busy but there was enough boat traffic to see as we soared overhead. We weren’t always close, though, so sometimes things were watched from a distance. We did have a pretty close pass on a freighter though. It was making good speed heading into the sound.
Ferry traffic is a regular thing to see with the Washington State Ferries heading to and fro across the waters. As we were closing in on Friday Harbor, we saw one ferry. It was a smaller one that was running between the islands and it was a bit hard to get a good view of. The ferries between Edmonds and Kingston are a lot more heavily used and so are a lot bigger. They were passing each other mid crossing as we ran south so I managed to get a few shots of them from above as we headed overhead.
We flew across Lake Union on our way back to Kenmore so went over the top of Kenmore Air’s base there. It turned out to be a busy time for the base. There were a bunch of planes on the water heading in and out of the base with others tied up awaiting their next flight. Having watched ops at the base on a number of occasions, the view from above provided a very different perspective to what I have seen before. At some point I hope to fly in there to experience it for myself.
With a friend visiting from the UK who was keen to experience some float plane flying, we booked ourselves on some flights with Kenmore Air. Having spent a fair bit of time over the last couple of years photographing their planes in service, it was nice to be actually experiencing their flying for a change. It proved to be a fun time and I will cover more bits of it in coming posts. Today I am focusing on their base. They were happy for us to wander around while we waited for our flight which was a lot of fun. Plenty of aircraft up on the land awaiting their next flights so here are some shots.
A couple of Kenmore Air planes departed from Kenmore while I was at Log Boom Park. The conditions were pretty damp and humid (and were about to be joined by pretty heavy downpours of rain!). This meant the departing planes had a good chance of pulling some streamers from the prop tips. Sure enough, when the Otter took off (and it started the takeoff run a little early which helped the shooting angles) the prop was streaming some vapor. The shape of the cone of the tip vortices as they flow across the fuselage was quite interesting.
A little while later (and just before the downpour began), a turbo Beaver came out. It, too, pulled some nice vapor from the prop tips as it accelerated across the water. A bit of a cross wind was apparently coming in (no doubt related to the impending storm) and they got airborne one float at a time. At this point we retreated to the car – but not in time to avoid the rain entirely!
Getting an Otter at Kenmore is not a challenge. The Kenmore Air fleet returns to their home base each evening so a steady stream of them can be relied on. What I hadn’t seen before was two showing up almost simultaneously. I was watching the first on final approach when I saw a second appear in the background. It provided a slightly more dynamic view of a regular occurrence.
The top of the Space Needle is a good place to watch the floatplane traffic in to Lake Union. They tend to fly really close by. Shooting through the glass is not ideal but the passing Otters are too good to pass up. If you can, getting to the gaps between the glass is a good idea but it is hard to do this and get a good angle on the planes as they pass. Boeing also helped out with an Oman Air 737 Max taking off from Boeing Field and coming our way.
While the Space Needle is a great place to view the city of Seattle, it is also good for seeing floatplanes. Lake Union is a base for many floatplane operations and the routes take the planes close to the Needle. On the day we were there, the wind was quite strong from the south so the planes were water taxiing to the other end of the lake before taking off. We had quite a procession with a stream takeoff from a couple of them.
Once airborne, the commenced a turn towards Elliott Bay which took them just north of us and pretty close. I wasn’t well set up to get shots but I managed to get a few. I tried my best to shoot through the gaps between the glass panels but sometimes I shot through the glass which was surprisingly good. You get the feeling of being air to air, even while standing on something solid.
The floatplane activity on Lake Union is fun to check out, not just for an aviation geek like me, but for plenty of visitors to the city too. I have previously gone down to the lakeshore to check them out but, one evening, while driving into the city to drop a friend off, I was coming down the road on the hill overlooking the lake when a plane took off giving an interesting alternative perspective on its departure. I figured this needed to be explored further.
The question was where to go. The road I had been on was not one on which stopping was practical. Parallel roads exist but there are buildings along most of them so the view is obscured. However, I did find a location that had a clear view of most of the lake (aside from one building that was right in the touchdown zone! I wasn’t around for much of the traffic but I did get to see a few arrivals and departures. Looking down on the flights and having some scenery behind them including the cityscape rather than the sky is a nice change. I may have to try this out again at a busier time.
The floatplane activity of Kenmore Air is busy on Lake Union in Seattle. The end of the day means a lot of planes are moving from Lake Union back to the home base at Kenmore. It makes for a rush hour of planes coming back in good light. I wandered out to the pier at Log Boom Park which gives a great view of the incoming planes. Then I just waited. You know they are all going to be back before sundown so it is pretty predictable.
The inbound traffic is a combination of Otters and Beavers. De Havilland Canada’s finest show up further down the lake as they come across from Lake Union and then they head up the lake. On this occasion, the wind was from the north so they made straight in approaches, landed and continued straight in to the base. On another day I was there without a camera and the wind was a southerly. They then overflew the base and made a tight turn coming back onto the lake with the evening light on the nose. I will have to try and get that before too long!