Before the F-16s became the drone target conversion of choice for the USAF, the F-4 was the jet. The contract for conversion was run by Tracor which ultimately ended up being part of BAE Systems at the time I saw these jets. They did the conversion program at Mojave Airport in California. We were a bit of a distance from the ramp where they were parked but it was early in the day and the heat haze was not yet a problem so a long shot was feasible. Looking at these, I think they were both RF-4C jets that had either been converted or were about to be.
F-4 Phantoms are rapidly disappearing from service. They remain in a few countries but their replacements are lined up in most cases. The Turkish Air Force is still using them and brought some examples to RIAT. They made their way to the west end for us to get some shots. These jets had been planned for replacement by the F-35A Lightning II. However, with the political fall out of the Turkish acquisition of Russian missile systems, they have been blocked from the program. Maybe the F-4s will live on a little longer after all.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-80 is a jet that has had its time and is now rapidly disappearing from the skies of the US. However, they aren’t all gone. American Airlines has been a big user but the arrival of 737s and A319s means they are heading to the desert in large numbers. I had assumed that meant they were a rarity but DFW is clearly still seeing a lot of them. I was taking a shot of any of them that showed up since I might not get many more chances. I have, of course, shot them a lot of the years but this was a nice final encounter. Strange how pleased you are to see something that used to be a bit of a yawn.
There were two tankers I was hoping to shoot at Red Flag. One was the Colombian 767. It didn’t fly on the first day but on the second it started to taxi before returning to the ramp and shutting down. Never mind. The other was the Dutch KDC-10. I hadn’t shot one before and they are not likely to be in service for too much longer so this might have been my last chance. Therefore, I hoped it would fly and it didn’t let me down.
The winds were strong on the first day and it departed towards us off 21L. As soon as it was airborne, the nose cocked into the strong crosswind and it turned towards us. A right turn overhead and it was on its way to the ranges. When it returned, they went for a very impressive curving approach. It looked great. However, it wasn’t great from a flying perspective and a go around followed. The second approach was more conventional and more successful.
On the second day they flew again. This time the arrivals were from over the Speedway so a more traditional view of them coming in. I was hoping for a go around and a tight circuit to land but that was a tad optimistic. Maybe after the previous day they were more content to get the beast back on the ground.
Clouds are not a rarity in the Seattle area but we do actually have lots of nice weather in the summer. You will still get plenty of clouds though and these can be nice to see with the arriving jets. A FedEx MD-11 was turning on to its approach over Kenmore when I was down at the lake and I looked up to see it popping in and out of the clouds above. It was pulling a little vapor of its own but the way it seemed to be peeping through the clouds caught my eye so I grabbed a few shots.
Aside from FedEx, MD-11s are becoming pretty thin on the ground. Lufthansa Cargo has had a decent fleet of them but there will come a time before too long when they are all gone. I figured one weekend I would nip out and get the arrival of one of them. The arrivals of heavy jets, particularly freighters, are often put on the inside runway which gave me a bit of a chance but, at that time of day, there aren’t great spots. I found a place that is rather close to being underneath the jet but it would have to do. I still think it is a nice looking jet, even if it didn’t prove to be a success in its originally intended role.
The taxiway at Hyakuri jinks around the shrine and consequently the towers we were on. This is probably an inconvenience the crews but this didn’t stop them from being friendly. The kids on the tower next to me waved at the crews and always got a wave back. I joined in too and waved whether the kids were there or not. I don’t think I ever failed to get a response!
I was on the wrong tower at Hyakuri when the crews came out on the recce ramp to crew up. Rather than get down and move around and potentially miss it, I accepted that shooting through the trees would have to do. The ground crew did their work efficiently and the flightcrew walked around the jet before jumping in. Soon they were powered up and coming towards us. This was early in the day and the beginning of a fun day out!
Any visit to a base includes time when nothing much is going on. This can be time to take a break, have a snack, text someone an update on how things are going or even nap. Or, you can take panoramas. In the morning the light on the ramp was not ideal. It improved later in the day. Even so, you never know how much stuff is going to be out at any one time so shoot while you can. You can always delete later. Here is a zoomable and pannable pano from Hyakuri.
These Phantoms were taxiing towards me from the ramp and they headed out to depart. As the came along the taxiway, I got a moment as they started to merge from my position and, briefly, there was a moment when one was hidden behind the other with the exception of the wings. For that second I had a Phantom bi-plane in front of me before the effect was gone. I consider this the rare Phantom II/IV!