I was driving over to Seattle a while back and, as I crossed the I-90 floating bridge, I saw a Learjet maneuvering at low level around the hill ahead of me. I decided to see what was going on since I suspected this might be an FAA jet flying a variety of approaches. Sure enough, it was one of their Lear 60s. I have seen them on a number of occasions before at different airports. Tracking them on something like FlightRadar24, it is easy to work out what they are since they fly a tone of patterns around an airport normally dealing with simple arrivals and departures.
Boeing Field is not such an airport as it has a lot of training activity but the Lear is a bit faster than the average piston single. I didn’t know how long it had been there so it could have gone before I arrived but they still had a few circuits to do before they were finished. These involved a different sequence of approaches from offset positions from which they could take their measurements and then break off to do it again. It is interesting to see a business jet being thrown around like this in a way that would not keep the average customer happy!
An older generation of Learjet was heading out from Boeing Field. I almost ignored it but I got a few shots as it rotated and climbed out. As it did so I noticed it had a pod on an underwing pylon. A little further research shows it belongs to Phoenix Air. Apparently, they have a few Learjets that have electronic gear fitted – sometimes on pylons and sometimes internally. This pod appears to have dielectric elements front and rear so may well be an EW pod of some sort. I wonder if anyone knows more about these guys and what they would be up to.
At was at BFI awaiting the arrival of something and I was checking FlightRadar24 to see what was coming in. I saw a Learjet 60 on the screen south of SeaTac and tapped on it. As soon as I saw the flight path, it was clear who the jet belonged to. The shot below was what I saw and the repeated patterns around SeaTac suggested it was an FAA aircraft undertaking calibration flights for the airport instrumentation.
I stopped thinking about it for a while until I saw a jet appear on the approach to BFI that I hadn’t been aware of. Sure enough, it was the FAA Lear 60. They plonked it down right on the keys and quickly exited to the FBO. I imagine that flying repeated sequences of approaches is not the most exciting way to spend the day so they were glad of the break.
San Jose has a little park next to the airport which provides a good place to watch the approaching aircraft. It is also situated right next to the taxiway that the corporate jets use to get to the threshold for departure. You get a really good view of them and, as the day progresses, the light is on them nicely. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, there is a big fence in the way. It is a high fence and there are no spaces to photograph through. The only option is to get very close to the mesh, try and align with the holes as well as you can and then shoot wide open to blur out any wire that does get in the shot. It works surprisingly well.
In this case a couple of Bombardier’s jets showed up. The Lear was nice to see but I do prefer the big corporate jets and the Global Express has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I think it is an elegant jet and this one was painted nicely to enhance the lines. I await the first chance I shall get to see the Global 7000 to see whether it shares the family looks. I should pay my friends in Wichita a trip – to see them of course!
After building on the basic Learjet family for many years, Learjet decided to update things with the Lear 45. This was a new design for them, even if it was based on many of the original Learjet design features. It also spawned a shrink with the Learjet 40. For a while this was a popular jet but, with many manufacturers adding new types to the market, the Lears were beginning to look rather dated and the sales suffered.
The response was the Learjet 75. A new engine and a bunch of revisions were introduced to try and reinvigorate the type and get some more airframes moving out of the production halls at Wichita. The result has been mixed. Some customers were pleased with the new type but the competition is still strong and some customers are not coming back. I hadn’t seen one in the wild until recently when one showed up at San Jose. It is still the same basic airframe so it looks okay (although if you ever get inside one, you will be surprised how cramped it is). Whether it is enough to save the brand, we shall have to wait and see.
Unlike living in Chicago where you had a strong chance of getting a direct flight to most places, I often find myself changing planes in other cities these days. Sometimes the layover is a quick one and others I have a bit of time to stretch my legs and get something to eat. I recently went through Denver en route to my destination. The terminal that Southwest use at Denver has an interesting center section. A shuttle system takes people between terminals below the ground. It comes in to the heart of the building in an open section that you can look in to from the main terminal level. It appears to be designed to look like an ancient ruin that has been unearthed.
Hanging above it is a Learjet which obviously gets a passing look from me. I was more interested this time in the “ruins”. A panorama seemed like the best option so I took the shots to stitch together later. As it happened, the return leg came back through DIA although this time it was late in the day. I did get some shots of the main terminal building as we taxied out for departure. It certainly is a striking structure.