I was at BFI one day looking to get some other interesting visitors and I had got what I came for. I was just contemplating whether to go home or do something else before returning when I saw something on the approach at the other end of the field. It looked big, smoky and a prop so I thought I should wait a little longer. A look through the long lens told me it was a C-130! It was a Linden Air Cargo airframe, sadly unpainted in their colors which are very nice. I was most glad that I hadn’t been in a hurry to get on my way!
I caught one of the Boeing T-33 chase aircraft that had been out supporting the 777X flight trials. The weather had been crappy which is par for the course when I am seeing the Boeing chase planes. However, it did start to improve. A hint of sun came out as it came down the approach but the light was better a bit far out. I could see it in the distance but it was more shady as it got close. Still, not too bad. I heard a rumor that they might be retiring them before too long. I hope that isn’t the case but we shall see.
I was at the Museum of Flight for the IPMS exhibit but, while I was visiting, I figured it would be churlish not to take a picture of the M-21 that dominates the main hall. It is actually a bit difficult to photograph and there is a lot of contrast with the background and it is always busy so a bit cluttered. I knew it wasn’t going to be a great shot but decided to crop tighter on the airframe and shoot bracketed exposures and maybe go with an HDR process. It isn’t great but it came out better than I had expected.
Paul and I headed to Whidbey Island on the hunt. We would be happy to shoot a variety of stuff but P-3s were the goal. Whidbey still has them but they are disappearing fast so get what we can. As it turned out, we got a ton of P-3 action but it was all with the same plane. It flew a bunch of circuits after returning from a training sortie and then finally landed. However, it wasn’t done. A crew change and they were back up. That plane got some use that day. We could hear another engine running but it obviously wasn’t going flying. Here are lots of shots of one specific P-3 instead!
My inability to see a Boeing T-33 jet in nice conditions continues. I was at Boeing Field when one of the T-33s was taking off in support of a Pegasus test mission. The weather was crappy with rain and a heavy overcast. I thought that this was not going to work well but sometimes bad weather provides good opportunities so I gave it a go. Besides, I don’t see them enough to pass it by. As it turned out, the flat conditions and the dampness made the jet show up nicely against the background when it was still low on climb out. Once it was against the sky, things weren’t so great but it turned out a lot better than I expected.
How many times in this blog have I commented on the nice light at the end of the day being the provider of my best shots. It isn’t just about the shot though. Stuff just looks better (hence the better shots) when the sun is low. Mark and I had spent a good day at Coupeville and then at Ault Field but, as the evening was beginning to draw in, we knew a few jets had launched earlier and were due back. As a result, we anticipated some nice arrivals. Mark had also scoped out a better spot for the final turn the jets would be making.
It wasn’t long before we heard some calls on the approach frequency and so we headed to the new location. Our first trade was not the jets we had expected though. Some maritime patrol training was done and a couple of aircraft were making straight in approaches. A P-8 and a P-3 were welcome additions. They may not have been flying particularly interesting approaches but we would have taken them at any time and in this light all was good.
Then the Growlers showed up. The flew some nice curving approaches around us and the evening light was illuminating their topsides in a great way. Clearly these were going to be the shots of the day that we were most happy with. Not only that but they did the decent thing and didn’t land straight away. Instead, a couple of patterns meant we got a good chance to get some shots of them. Once they were down, the radio was quiet and we both had drives home to make so we called it a day. (Sadly, as I got on to I-5 to head south, a C-5 flew over me heading in what appeared to be the direction of Whidbey. That would have arrived in gorgeous light as it looked really nice as it passed over me!)
When Ault Field is operating on 25, the aircraft taxi out to the departure end along a taxiway that gradually brings them into view from the crash gate. The sound will usually precede them and, in the case of the P-3s, that is a pretty distinctive sound. As the day wears on, they are coming at you out of the sun so a bit more silhouetted but that helps to make them look more interesting. They pull around to the hold point, sometimes mixing in with the Growlers before departing off to the west. This is a sight that will soon be gone as the P-8s take over.
The SR-71 Blackbird provided a reconnaissance platform that was unmatched. It would have been pretty high in the sensitivity list when it came to its sensors and capabilities. Now the jets are all retired. The example that is in the Evergreen Aerospace Museum has one of the sensors extracted from the sensor bay and mounted on a stand in front of the aircraft. I imagine there was a time when this was something that would not be available for me to look at but now, I guess, this is just another obsolete piece of tech.
P-3 hunting was part of the plan when Paul and I headed to NAS Whidbey Island. We had some success. There was a nice bit of icing on the cake for us. An EP-3E showed up too. The EP-3 has a nice selection of large radomes added to the airframe to cover the wide variety of sensors that this type has to fulfill its role of listening to transmissions around the world. I don’t know how long the EP-3 has once the P-3s are gone from fleet service so getting one was a definite plus.
While I was wandering around by the SR-71 at Evergreen and taking some pictures, one of the museum docents approached me and asked if I wanted to go upstairs. I had seen the stairs and a gallery but the signage showed it as closed off. If I had an invitation, I wasn’t going to say no, though! The location put you above the Blackbird giving a great perspective that you don’t normally get. However, I was pretty close in so the lens I had was still not wide enough. Time for a pano instead. I took a sequence of shots to try and cover the whole thing as best I could. Then it was up to the software to do the stitching. The above shot was the result.