Tag Archives: tanker

Red Flag Night Launches

Adobe periodically updates the processing algorithms that are used by Lightroom and Photoshop. Each update provides some improvements in how raw files are processed and it can be good to go back to older shots and to see how the newer process versions handle the images.  I find this particularly useful for images shot in low light and with high ISO.

I have some standard process settings I use but have also experimented with modified settings for use with high ISOs and the higher noise levels that come with them.  I got to some night launch shots from an old Red Flag exercise and had a play with the images.  The E-3 launch was actually as the light was going down but it still had some illumination so it didn’t need much work.

The KC-135 and B-1B shots were a different story and were at high ISOs and with very little light.  I was able to update the process version and apply some new settings I had worked out since the original processing and it resulted in some pretty reasonable outputs considering how little light there was to work with.

MC-130 on Exercise

In this previous post about the hangars at Moffett Field, I mentioned that I was there to cover an exercise.  The MC-130s were a big part of the exercise.  They were loading up and launching down to remote landing strips on the California coast.  The holds were full of equipment including off road vehicles.  Loading these up was a tight fit.  While the crews spent time getting everything ready to go, I was reasonably free to wander around the airframe and get some shots.

Here are some that I got that day.  These were some of the oldest Combat Shadow (and maybe Hercules) airframes around at the time and I suspect that they have been replaced by now, I think by Combat King J models.

First JASDF KC-46 Pegasus

The Japanese (JASDF) were a customer for the tanker version of the Boeing 767 when Boeing was offering it in the early days.  Japan and Italy were the only customers that I am aware of for that aircraft.  Therefore, it was not a massive surprise that Japan ordered the KC-46 when Boeing developed it for the USAF.  The first aircraft is now being completed and has been parked on the ramp up at Everett recently.  Here it is undergoing some testing.  Hopefully we shall get to see it flying soon.

Pegasus Heading Out and Back

Boeing seems to have addressed a lot of the problems with the KC-46 Pegasus program (but not all of them yet) and so the Air Force is taking delivery of jets at a regular rate.  Since plenty have been built, there are enough to deliver.  I was at Paine Field a while back when one of the jets was heading out on a test flight.  I ended up being there for both the departure and the arrival since the flight was not that long.  The good summer light that Seattle gets but we don’t like people to know about meant I got some reasonable shots of it.

Marine Corps Herc

The heat haze was a bit of a problem on this day so I was hoping that they would roll out a bit long to get into usable range.  They couldn’t have been more obliging.  It turned out to be a US Marine Corps KC-130J.  They didn’t exit early for the taxiway even though they could have done so with ease but instead rolled all the way to near me before exiting and taxiing back to the ramp in the other direction.  This was very kind of them.  I got them close enough in to have little in the way of heat haze and to get a decent look at them.

Military Surprises at Boeing Field

I was sitting at Boeing Field awaiting the return of a couple of jets.  Apps like FlightRadar24 allow you to keep an eye on where things are and when they are due in.  What they don’t usually cover is military flights.  Fortunately, I had the radio scanner sitting on the dash so, while I was busy doing something else while waiting, the sound of someone calling up on approach caught me by surprise.  I finished what I was doing and then got the camera just as a KC-135 hove in to view.  What a nice surprise.

A while later, something similar happened.  Another plane called up with what sounded like a Navy callsign.  This time I had a bit more time to get out and look up the approach to see what it might be.  A P-8 was coming in.  They got bounced around on short final by the gusty conditions which were combining with the airport buildings to make things pretty interesting for the crew.  I had an easier time taking the pictures I think.

The 767 That Never Was

Prior to the KC-46 Pegasus, Boeing had another go at selling the 767 to the USAF as a tanker.  The aircraft that they had intended to be the solution at that point was a different configuration to what ultimately made its way in to the inventory.  They went as far as building a speculative airframe for the project.  However, when the project was aborted (for reasons that are far too complex for a simple blog post), the airframe lay unfinished.  It was stored for a while at Paine Field before eventually being scrapped.  Here is a shot of it prior to its demise.

Sunrise on Stored KC-46s

Boeing is now delivering KC-46s to the Air Force at a rate that is a bit of an improvement.  There are still plenty of issues with the project (with some only recently discovered) but at least jets are now making their way to the customer, even if they are not flying them too much!  However, there are still a lot of the jets parked at Paine Field.  The early morning sun provides some nice light on the line of aircraft.  It is a rather cluttered view with plenty of airfield material in the shot but the light makes it a bit more appealing.

Tankers at Sunrise

Boeing started delivering KC-46s to the USAF as I covered in this post.  However, it didn’t take too long before the Air Force found various items of tooling in the aircraft that shouldn’t have been there and stopped taking delivery.  Consequently, rather than delivering the backlog, it has continued to build.  Paine Field had well over a dozen aircraft in various locations when we were there including three over by the Heritage Flight Foundation’s hangars.  Here three were illuminated nicely by the sun as it rose across the field so a pano seemed in order.

Rainy Pegasus Takeoff

I have shot KC-46s in bad conditions more often than would seem probable.  I got one in conditions so dark it was like a night shoot.  This time it was heavy rain.  Of course that can mean vapor.  The matte gray of fuselage actually looks better when it is wet.  I had hoped the inlets would fog but that didn’t happen.  However, the flat light helped the fuselage a bit which often gets too contrasts.  Besides that it throws up a ton of spray behind it as it accelerates down the runway. Rotating in front of me meant I was rather happy with the result compared to what I expected.