Boeing Field always has the possibility of something interesting going on and a P-8 test flight for a US Navy jet was on the cards while I was there a while back. Even better news was that it wasn’t a long flight that they had planned. Consequently, I was going to be there for both departure and return. Since the jet was lightly loaded, takeoff was not labored and they were well up by the time they were close to me. Still, not a big angle on the jet with the light as it was.
I didn’t head to the approach end for the return as I was waiting for something else. It did mean I was closer to the jet as it rolled out on is landing run. The military ramp for Boeing is at that end of the field so the jet rolled to the end and turned off. Heat haze is always a problem at this time of year but things looked surprisingly good considering.
The test program for the Boeing 777X is gradually increasing and a third jet has been added to the fleet. I stopped by Boeing Field because all three jets were scheduled to fly on this day. Having seen the first two, I was hoping for the third since I haven’t got any shots of it and its livery which is different to the first two. Sadly, I was to be disappointed as they scrubbed the flight.
However, the first two jets did fly. They were both already airborne by the time I got there. The arrival times back for both were supposed to be pretty close but you can’t put too much stock in those times as things on test will be what they will be. I headed to the arrival end for the first of them. It wasn’t that late so the light wasn’t ideal but it was still a bit better as we were well passed the solstice and heading to the equinox. Happy to take the shot of course.
I moved to the other end of the field when the second jet came in. I wasn’t interested in repeating the shot I had already taken (plus I had shot this jet in similar circumstances before) so some images at the other end seemed worthwhile. They landed short but had clearance for a high speed run on the runway so that brought them down to where I was. Fortuitously, they took the exit directly in front of me. I missed the transition of the wingtips while changing cameras. The tips were down in one set of shots but were folded as they taxied off the runway. The wide angle view is a nice one to get of something so large.
An early ISAP symposium included a visit to Lockheed Martin’s facility at Fort Worth. We were there to see the first F-35 test aircraft, AA-1. In addition, they had arranged to bring Glacier Girl, a P-38 Lightning, to be there too to provide two Lockheed Lightnings. However, while I was up the scissor lift that was provided for us to get an elevated view, I looked the opposite direction. There were two interesting looking airframes parked up. One was an old F-16 that had probably been used for test duties. The other was not a flyable plane but it was some sort of test rig for the STOVL configuration of the F-35 – what would become the F-35B. A couple of cool looking items that you wouldn’t normally get to see.
Edwards AFB has been the home to an amazing range of interesting aircraft types. Many of them have found their way to prominent museums around the country given the significance of what they achieved. Others never found interest and got disposed of. Some never lasted long enough to be preserved given the hazardous nature of what they did. However, there was a storage program for the rest and Edwards has a museum of some of these preserved airframes.
I haven’t been to Edwards for a long time so I don’t know what the current situation is with the collection but I did get to check it out on a previous visit. The collection was mainly front line types that had been used for testing purposes. (This is the USAF side of things rather than the NASA collection.) There are some types there that I didn’t see which I would like to have done like the YA-7F. However, there was a test A-7D with an air data boom. Here are some of the shots I got that day. I also shot a couple of other jets that were away from the rest but these were only with my phone and phone quality in those days was not what it is now.
I heard a rumor about a Gulfstream test jet being at Boeing Field. With a Saturday morning free, I decided to head over and investigate. One of the things I had seen suggested it might be the G700. Since that had only recently had its first flight, I was surprised it would be operating out of the west coast rather than Georgia so I decided to try and see it. Of course, it wasn’t the G700. Instead it was a G600 test airframe. Since I had not seen a G600, I was still pleased to catch it. The weather was crummy and it was due to go back to Savannah so I was wondering what sort of shots I would get.
Like any test jet, it didn’t depart when scheduled. It was an hour later than planned when it rolled to the runway and then hung around at the hold point for ages. Then it turned and taxied down towards the end where I was. I couldn’t see it departing in the opposite direction because SeaTac was still flowing to the south and wasn’t showing any sign of changing. It came down past me to the end of the runway and then turned around and taxied back the way it had come. After all of this it departed into the overcast.
Given that I was expected a departure from the far end and a swift climb into the gloom, I hadn’t expected to get many shots I was pleased with. Therefore, this sojourn down to my end and back provided plenty of chances to get a bunch of shots so this turned out to be a lot luckier than expected. I am also a sucker for a jet in primer so thrown in a few instrumented panels for test purposes and I am a happy camper!
The first flight of the 777X took place while I was out of the country which annoyed me quite a bit. Having seen the things sitting around at Everett for ages and even watched the taxi trials, I was in the wrong place when they finally got airborne. However, with an extensive flight test program to come, I knew there would be other opportunities. I did manage to be at Boeing Field for a departure on one of the flights. Conditions weren’t great, though.
With the viewing area closed while Boeing parks 737s wherever it can find a space, I was a long way from the rotation point. It was in the rain as it rolled and, while it stayed below the clouds until well past me, things were not ideal. Still, I had seen it fly.
On another occasion I was able to be there when it returned. This had also been a day with some pretty crummy conditions but this time I was seeing the weather starting to improve as the day wore on. A little bit of a wait while they flew test activities over Central Washington was not such a bad thing. Indeed, as they turned for home, the sun was coming out. However, the wind was not abating!
When they called up on approach, I wandered to one side to see how far up the approach I could see. Despite me being to the right side of the runway from their perspective, when I first got a good shot, the jet was actually pointing beyond me to the right. The crosswind was obviously pretty strong. Early in the flight test program, I wonder whether they really wanted to be testing this capability. Of course this then meant I got a head on view as they got closer before running past me. Shots in nice light! Happy guy. In the next year we shall see plenty of these but, for now, I am happy to have got something reasonable of this airframe off the ground.
The 777X initial airframe has already made it on the blog when it was parked on the ramp and when it undertook some taxi trials. It has since had the dodgy engines removed and I assume some more trustworthy examples are on their way. First flight will not be this year, though, based on what I am reading in the press. While the start of flying has not been achieved, production has continued. The initial customer aircraft have also now shown up. I understand that Lufthansa will be receiving at least one of these jets. The flight line now has four jets parked up – two in house colors and two all white. Hope we will see them up and active before too long! I hear a fifth came out with Emirates’ wing tips just after I took this! I have another primer one since which is below.
A lunchtime jaunt up to Everett was the result of ATS carrying out a test flight of a Janet 737. I got to the field with a little time in hand and was looking on FlightRadar24 for the position of the inbound jet when I saw something orbiting north of me up near Concrete. It turned out to be one of the Mitsubishi MRJ90 test aircraft. It was flying a series of patterns up there. Since they carry out the test flying from Moses Lake, I wasn’t so surprised. More importantly, I figured that they would head back to base when they were done.
Imagine my surprise when the radio burst to life with their callsign setting up on the approach. A Janet was worth the trip but the MRJ was truly a bonus. I have only seen one before and that was a delivery flight from Japan to Moses Lake that staged through San Jose and was in the blog here. I hoped it was a different jet, but wasn’t going to gripe if it wasn’t (and I was pretty sure it wasn’t based on recollection of the registration).
The jet hummed its way down the approach and landed in front of me (and a few others that either knew or had got similarly lucky). It them taxied back and held in front of FHCAM. There was a departing Embraer in front of it so I figured it was waiting for them. However, they departed and it didn’t move for a while. I needed to head back so was desperately hoping it would go soon. Just as I was about to give up, they released the brakes and taxied to the hold. The departure was pretty quiet with the Pratt GTFs not making much noise at all.
The original colors of the jet appear to have been overtaken by test markings. There were some details around the engine inlets and the upper rear fuselage had been painted black. I suspected this might be for testing of water ingestion to help visualize the water flow but if anyone knows better what the purpose is, please do let me know.
Having seen the fatigue test 777X emerged from the production hangars (as I covered in this post), I assumed it had moved to the test area. I once made a drive around the back of the factory at Everett to see some of the discarded airframe structures that they have stored once they are finished with. I wrote about that in this post. The fatigue test area is in the same place so I thought a drive around was a good idea. Sure enough, the 777X was in the fatigue test rig. I guess it will be there for quite a while as they push and pull it to simulate many cycles of loading and see whether the structure has any long term issues to be addressed.
The first two flight test 777X airframes have been on the flight line. However, something different was sitting outside the production hangars at Everett. It was a 777X but it was missing a few more cosmetic parts. This was the fatigue test aircraft. It was being readied for movement around to the area of the plant where they undertake the fatigue testing. This will probably be the last time you get to see it like this. Once testing is done, I suspect it will rapidly end up in pieces for further analysis.