I was thinking back to previous RIAT shows when I was putting together the 2006 post here. RIAT was my first encounter with the B-2. I recall it showing up to a show one year for a flyby without landing. It flew through accompanied by a pair of F-15Cs, one on each wing. Then, another year – maybe the next but I don’t recall for sure – one was actually deployed to the show. It was parked up so close to everyone on the flight line. I took quite a few pictures of it because it was so new and interesting. (A few pictures in the film days was a let less than it became in the digital days!) Even now, I think a show would consider it quite a coup to have a B-2 on the ground.
The answer to that question is clearly “not much” but it isn’t zero. We do get things flying overhead here on a regular basis. We are on the approach to SeaTac for some arrivals and we do sometimes get Boeing Field traffic too. It’s a rarity when there is something interesting and I am ready, though, so that doesn’t provide a lot. However, I did recently have a T-38 from Boeing’s chase fleet come over the house. It was a bit high but it was enough to get me out in the driveway!
We have also had helicopters fly over on occasion. An Army Chinook came past one time while and Navy Seahawk was another transient. In each case, I only heard them shortly before they arrived so grabbed the camera while at my desk and shot through the window. That is not a good plan but it was all I had available at the time. These can count as my lockdown at home aviation projects!
A Beale AFB T-38 was parked over at the FBO when I was at Boeing Field. The canopies were up which gave me optimism but you never know whether they are just doing something to the jet or maybe haven’t long arrived. When the crew walked out to the jet, I realized it was good news. They taxied to the other end of the field and I waited. A nice low departure kept them below the skyline of the hill beyond the field and I was happy with a slightly unusual visitor being photographed.
The Boeing T-38 chase jets are something I have not had much success in hunting down. I have got some shots but they were not in great conditions. I did have another chance recently when at Boeing Field but, guess what, the clouds rolled in at just the wrong time. The T-38 flew nicely down the approach and provided a great opportunity but the light was not really playing ball. Still, at least I got some shots, even if the colors are hardly popping.
While the big jets are what Boeing is known for, they have a number of other aircraft that they use for their own purposes. I haven’t got all of these by any stretch of the imagination but I have come across a few at various times. They have BBJs that they use for executive transport. They also have some Bombardier Challengers that are able to promptly get people from A to B.
If you are looking a bit more locally, there is at least one Cessna Caravan that is used for various duties. I am not sure what its role is exactly but I imagine it is a handy way of getting people around the northwest and it can probably also move parts up to a certain size if needed.
Another runabout is a Northrop T-38. This can be used for chase duties but I also suspect it is a crew hack since it seems to make regular runs between BFI and Moses Lake without crossing paths with any of the test aircraft. There are also T-33s used for chase work but, sadly, I have get close to any in action. Just a distant overflight shot. Hopefully I will see them before too long.
Some aircraft I blog about are ones that I find cool and wish I had seen in action. This is not one of those. However, it does interest me because it is so different from many of the types from the same era. This is the Northrop F-89 Scorpion. The Castle Air Museum has an example on display and I have seen a few scattered around various museums. The Scorpion is, in theory at least, a fighter. However, looking at it, you might be forgiven for not realizing this. It is a big beast of a lane with an unswept wing and a decidedly chubby appearance.
It’s role was to shoot down bombers heading to the US. It was made in an era when jet engines were famously inefficient and having long range and endurance was tricky for a fighter. In order to operate far enough out to shoot the bombers while they were still out of range of their targets, the Scorpion focused on efficiency. It was not a maneuvering fighter. Its job was to get close enough to the bombers to launch its missiles.
These missiles look a bit odd too. They are not your traditional air to air missile designed for speed and agility. They also didn’t need to be. The Genie missile had a special warhead. It was a nuclear weapon. As long as it was reasonably close to the target, it was going to take it down. No clever tracking and requirement to get close to have the required effect. Ultimately, this combination was only suitable for a relatively limited type of target and the focus moved to newer fighters and missiles (although the nuclear armed missile concept lasted a lot longer). The Scorpion went into the history books.
One other aspect of the Scorpion is of interest. It had large wing tip fuel tanks to increase endurance. Someone came up with the idea of equipping the jet with unguided rockets and these were installed in the front of the tip tanks. I’m sure it was well worked out but the idea of having rocket exhaust plumes on the front of a fuel tank seemed bizarre to me as a kid.
As the visit to McCarran was getting towards the time we needed to leave for the Red Flag launch, we checked Flightaware and saw that a NASA T-38 was inbound. This was worthy of some attention. The question was, which runway would it land on? We hopped in the car and headed off to a spot near the 25 threshold. This was the direction it was coming from. If it made a straight in approach, we would catch it here. If it was directed to the 01 approach, it would need time to reposition and we would be able to move to a more suitable location.
We tracked the plane online and a look at the line of airliners up the approach told us it was going to 01. A hasty change of locations followed and we got to a suitable spot. An Aero Commander landed first which gave us an idea of the approach path. Then, the T-38 came into view. As is the case with the Talon, it was motoring down the approach. A quick adjustment and a few shots and then it was gone. All rather brief but a nice way to wrap up the visit.