Boeing is not having a good time of it at the moment. The 737 Max saga hurt it significantly and it is still getting in to delivering jets that have been stored for a long time. Some countries have still not cleared it to fly. Meanwhile, the 787 program is in a bit of a hole with a variety of quality problems showing up such that deliveries have almost ground to a halt. Those two programs are supposed to be cash generators at the moment which allow investment in the next program. The KC-46 is also not what you would call a success!
That program is the 777X and it is not going well either. In the aftermath of the Max problems, the certification program is getting significantly dragged out. Initially engine problems delayed first flight but now that is a distant memory as all sorts of other things are meaning that service entry is not likely until early 2024. They should have been in service last year under the original plan.
Production of the last original 777s other than freighters is now complete and production of 777X airframes is well underway. However, there is nothing to do with them for now so a steady stream of green airframes is piling up at Paine Field. The cross runway (it doesn’t seem fair to call it a runway given that Boeing has used it as a parking lot for the last decade) is now filling up with airframes with weights where the engines would be and either no wing tips or they are covered with film to disguise the customer airline markings. Line numbers are taped to the gear doors. It all looks rather familiar and sad. It will be a while before these jets are readied for customers and it will be interesting to see how many Paine Field can hold before the production line churns out even more of them than there is space for.
I’ve seen the JetStar prototype a few times in various visits to the Museum of Flight restoration facility up at Paine Field. The JetStar is a favorite of mine as might be determined by several of my posts over the years. The prototype is a bit different, though. It was built with two engines – Bristol Orpheus turbojets. After the first two aircraft, the rest were four engined. After it finished testing, it was used by Lockheed for transport duties. It ended up in Vancouver before coming into the museum’s collection. These shots are of it in the restoration shop.
I have posted a few shots from a visit to Paine Field one evening when the light was really nice. The bigger movements of that evening have got their own posts but there was a fair bit of light aircraft traffic that evening. Some of these were vintage types or at least types that have been a round so long that they should probably qualify as vintage these days. The warm, low light made for good shots of what otherwise might not be the most interesting of photo subjects.
I was up at Paine Field one weekend morning awaiting a Dreamlifter movement – more of that in another post – and one of the local Embraer operations was departing while I was waiting. Sure, an Embraer E175 is not the most exciting photo subject but I wasn’t doing anything else and the morning light was alright so why not get some shots of it as it taxied by and lined up to depart.
I posted some shots of the Black Hawks that were delivering personnel to Paine Field for their onward flight in a USAF C-32. There were only a few shots in that post, but I took a lot of photos of the Black Hawks as they made there approach. Since there is a limit to what I get to shoot these days, I felt a post could certainly be made of some of the other shots from that day. Nice evening light really helps a Black Hawk look good.
Dreamlifter operations at Paine Field are heavily curtailed these days. No more 787s are being built there so no parts deliveries are required. However, the jet is being used to deliver the occasional 767 cockpit section which means there are still occasions when they show up. One morning, the light was great, and one was due in. Moreover, the wind was from the north and the airport was on northerly flow, so it meant getting an approach shot was achievable. I was ready and waiting. However, despite the other ops being northerly, the Dreamlifter was sent to the north to make a southerly approach – maybe for the ILS? I was at the wrong end. It didn’t even taxi all the way to the end, so I only got it as it turned off a bit north of me. These chances are not frequent, so I was pretty annoyed!
The KC-46 Pegasus program continues to be a problem for Boeing. Delivery rates are lower than planned and articles describing the shortcomings in the jets continue to get circulated. They have a long way to go, and Boeing is going to have to spend a lot more money before they are fully capable. Meanwhile, jet do continue to be built and delivered. The earliest jets were given civil registrations because they were undergoing a civil certification program as well as a military one. Two of those jets are now back at Everett getting reworked – presumably because they will ultimately get delivered to the USAF. I shot a couple of them on the airfield while up there one sunny weekend.
This was a bit of a mistake. I saw a Boeing 747-8 was due for a flight at Paine Field. The 747-8I that Lufthansa declined to take delivery of has been active recently and I thought this was it. Instead, it was a freighter that was due for a short test flight. Not what I had in mind but still not too bad. It was another UPS jet. There are some non-UPS 747s still to be built before the line is closed soon and I will want to see some of those.
It was early in the day so the light was best on the east side. That limits your options but I got it taxiing down for departure and heading out. It was a 30 minute flight so I got the return too before heading off. I wish I hadn’t been so eager to get back because a Janet 737 showed up half an hour after I left! Oh well.
Rarity value of Boeing’s production jets is a nice feature of living here. The 787 line is closing at Everett but there are still plenty of jets to be delivered as a result of some production quality issues. An Uzbekistan Dreamliner was built last year and I saw its colorful livery on the flight line a while back. It was finally lined up to depart recently so I decided to watch it go. It had done some test flying in lovely light in the preceding days but I was unable to be there for that.
The conditions weren’t as nice as they had been previously but they were okay and it did mean that the heat haze which is a big deal at this time of year was not such a factor. They were departing to the north so came out of the South Gate of the Boeing ramp and taxied to the south end of the field. A long flight home means plenty of fuel but also no payload so a pretty early rotation. Even so, managed to get some shots of a jet I am unlikely to see again.
Having seen the increasing number of 777s and 787s parked up at Everett (777X won’t be certificated for another year or two and the 787s have stopped delivery since October due to fuselage issues and are only now starting to be accepted again), it reminded me of the number of 787s that were stored in the early days due to the extended test program given how many issues there were with the jet. (Does this all sound rather familiar?)
I didn’t live in the Pacific Northwest in those days but came up to Seattle for an ISAP symposium. The field trip included time with the Heritage Flight Museum n Paine Field. We were checking out the collection and also getting to see a few of the aircraft in action. A few of the attendees had also paid to get flights in the planes as well. We got to hang out on the ramp as well as on the berm which I understand was a popular spot in days gone by but is now out of bounds.
There were plenty of 787s parked around the field in those days. To be honest, I can’t recall whether deliveries were underway and the numbers had thinned a bit but the earliest airframes were the most trouble and they might have been the ones still sitting around awaiting a long list of rectification issues and the potential that the original customer wouldn’t even take them. These are some of the jets that I got shots of that day.