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!
I mentioned the arrival of some USAF T-38s in this post. They weren’t alone, though. Boeing had both of their T-38 chase jets out on missions and they had to come back at some point. The day had lovely weather so I was going to wait around and get on with some work to see when they showed up. The jets have similar paint schemes but are slightly different in detail. I had shot one of them in nice conditions once so was keen to do better. I got both of them as they returned so finally felt like I had some success.
I wonder how long they will last. Since Boeing has won the contest to replace the T-38 in USAF service, I wonder whether the early T-7 jets they built will find their way to Boeing Field at some point to support flight test activities. They will probably not be a match for production jets so would be of less use for in service test activities. We shall see. The T-33s are still around so the T-38s may have years ahead of them.
This is part one of a two-parter. I was at Boeing Field sitting taking calls and doing emails and keeping an eye out for anything interesting. That included the Boeing chase T-38s but they are going to have their own post. They weren’t the only T-38s though. Three jets from Beale AFB also showed up. I missed the first and got the second as it landed. The third followed a while later. Strangely for Boeing Field (which sits under the SeaTac approach path) it did an overhead join and then broke into the pattern before landing.
The three jets were on the ground for a while and didn’t leave to late in the day. I heard them call up that they were taxiing and decided to try and get down to the other end of the field for the departure. As I drove down, I could hear them on the radio getting ready to go. I knew it was going to be close but sadly, it wasn’t close enough. As I pulled in to the parking area, they took off in formation. They kept it low and the light was gorgeous. It looked great but no photos to prove it. The third jet had taxied out but must have had an issue because it returned to the ramp. Oh well…
I have struggled to get shots of the Boeing chase aircraft in decent light. Whether it is the T-33s or the T-38s, my encounters have generally been on overcast days. Finally my luck changed and one of the T-38s came in to Paine Field for a couple of approaches on a sunny day. It was the middle of the day so the light angles weren’t great but it was certainly a step up. A couple of passes and then they headed to Boeing Field.
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.
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.