When you consider the large cabin corporate jets, there is one jet that has not had as much success as it deserves. The Legacy 600 from Embraer is a derivative of the E135 regional jet but transformed into a longer range and far more comfortable jet. It hasn’t done much to dent the market that Gulfstream, Dassault and Bombardier have been operating in. It doesn’t have the super long range of some of the competitor products but, given that many operators never go off the US East Coast, that range is not a big deal for many customers. Prestige is though and the Legacy has never had the same cachet given its regional jet heritage.
This one showed up at San Jose on a sunny winters day. The interesting thing was that something very similar was also flying that day. The second aircraft is not a Legacy, though. It is an E145 that is operated by Intel. They have outfitted it as a corporate shuttle. It runs their staff between their locations. I don’t know what the interior is like but externally it looks a lot like a bizjet which, I guess is what it is.
The engineer in me is always pleased by a plane with extra bits added. This Learjet 60 was departing San Jose. As it taxied out, you could see a lot of extra probes on the front fuselage and some antennae on the fin. It is a Federal Aviation Administration jet, hence its abbreviated registration number. I assume it is used for flight checking services when the performance of things like instrument landing systems is calibrated. Whatever it does, it has a few added extras compared to the average bizjet.
Boring paint schemes are far too common these days on airliners. The all white plane with just a hint of color is a little too much of a feature of things these days. A few airlines break the mold but not enough. One of the boring ones is Air China. They are not at all interesting for most of their fleet. However, some of their Airbus A330s are painted in a livery that is a bit more interesting. Sadly, I had never seen one. They fly in to San Jose but almost always they bring a jet in plain white. However, they changed it on a day when we were going to San Jose for some shopping so I added a small diversion.
This scheme is not the most dramatic and shooting it in the middle of the day is not going to emphasize it in the best way but I wasn’t going to miss the chance. San Jose provides a great location for getting close to the jets. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one interested in it coming. A few people showed up just before arrival and left straight afterwards. I just wish more airlines would adopt interesting colors. The planes are not very varied so the liveries are all that is left to mix it up.
I was down in San Jose and I ended up getting some lunch next to the Avaya Stadium. This is the home of the San Jose Earthquakes, a Major League Soccer side. They were having a pre-season game and a steady stream of people was showing up. The stands didn’t look like they were filling up to much. I don’t know whether the Quakes get a good attendance or not or whether being a pre-season game made a difference. Either way, some of the fans up at the top of the stand were certainly making their presence felt. I decided to shoot a pano sequence of the stadium for fun. Blending it proved a little difficult because of the constant movement of vehicles and people in the foreground but most of the odd artifacts will probably not be too obvious.
West Coast airline flying includes a lot of Virgin America. Headquartered in Redwood City, just down the peninsula from SFO, Virgin America has been struggling to establish itself as a carrier with a different level of service. It must have done well enough because Alaska got worried enough to buy it. They call it a merger but Alaska bought Virgin. Everyone wonder what will happen next since the fleets are totally dissimilar as is the customer service. Alaska repainted one of their jets in a new livery to celebrate the completion of the acquisition.
It is one of their 737-900s and the colors migrate from red to blue to symbolize the joining of the two. I have missed the jet on numerous occasions. I thought I was never going to catch it but finally saw it at San Jose. You are a lot closer to the flight path at San Jose which is good. What is even better is being there on the pouring rain when the clouds part five minutes before the jet arrives. Sadly, the weather closed in just as it took off again but the light was okay over the airport, even if it wasn’t where I was. Still, I finally got it!
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.
When you live in the Bay Area, all of the flights to interesting overseas destinations go from SFO. However, there is a lot of demand for these flights and SFO is not the most convenient airport for everyone. Oakland has flights from London and Oslo. The other airport that is fighting for business is San Jose. They have recently added flight by Lufthansa and British Airways. This was enough to drag me down there to see what is moving.
San Jose is not a bad airport to shoot at. There are a few locations which give you good options for getting shots of the jets either arriving or departing. On the day I went, Lufthansa were using their A340 in Star Alliance colors. I have to admit I was a touch disappointed because I wanted a Lufthansa jet in house colors. However, there will be another time. I got there later in the day so didn’t see it arrive. However, I was there for departure.
After it had gone, I headed down to the arrival end. There was going to be a fair bit of time before the BA jet arrived so I would see what showed up. That will probably be another post. Eventually, the BA jet showed up on approach. It came down from the coast side so I could see it from a long way out. It turned on approach and then I got. A bunch of shots of it as it came down the approach. The 787-9 is a better proportioned jet than the 787-8. I think both jets are bigger than they appear. Having not tried either out yet, I don’t know what they are like to fly in. However, the BA colors look nice on it. I got the shot I was after and then headed off. At some point, I shall go for the departure shot too. I should do that before the light gets too low!
When APB launched their Scimitar winglet retrofit program, they picked up a number of customer pretty quickly. I was soon seeing them fitted across the 800 and 900 series 737s of a number of operators. United and Alaska both seem to have gone all in pretty quickly. However, I guess the 700 series jets were not such a high priority – maybe the business case is not as compelling. Consequently, I hadn’t seen them fitted to any 700 series jets until I came across this United example. It was the first I had seen in action. I still haven’t seen many so I wonder whether this is going to be a fleet fitment or if United are testing it on a few airframes before making a larger decision. Anyone know?
The top of Mount Hamilton provides a view down to San Jose in the valley below and then on to San Francisco Bay. You can see all the way up to San Francisco if the weather is clear enough. On the day we were there, the conditions were a little less clear but we still could see a good distance. Beyond San Jose, the hangars at Moffett Field were easy to spot as was Levi Stadium and the many buildings scattered around the shoreline of the bay.
I would love to be up on the top of the mountain early in the morning on a day with really clear skies. However, it is not an insignificant drive to get up there and you want to make sure it is going to be worth it. Therefore, while I am going to try and do this at some point, it is going to be a combination of good planning, luck and readiness to head off on short notice in order to make it all work out.
In the days before reflecting telescopes, refractors were used. In order to see further and further they got larger and larger. This meant very long telescopes and making these was technically very difficult. The reflecting scopes removed the length limitations and introduced far larger apertures in a manageable size. The old refractors were overtaken. However, they are still very usable. The 36 inch refractor at the Lick Observatory is still in regular use. They do provide tours of it for visitors.
The building it is housed in is quite grand in itself. A function of its time, it has a wonderful wooden floor that is designed to be raised and lowered to allow the observer to reach the end of the telescope irrespective of what angle it is pointing at. The floor movement is current not in use and they have a sturdy ladder instead. The telescope itself is quite huge and it is amazing to think how long it has been in use.
The tour was very interesting and the guide really had a passion for the scope and the work they do with it. He also allowed me to get some additional shots once everyone had moved on which was very kind.