The Red Arrows have conducted a North American tour this year. It commenced just after RIAT so, while I saw them there, I hoped to catch them at some point during the tour. Their closest displays were in Oregon and Vancouver and I wasn’t able to go to either sadly. They did stage through Seattle, though, so I figured I would go and see them arrive. The twelve jets showed up on a heavily overcast day. They did some flybys over the city and then a run in across Boeing Field. A pair of jets landed directly while the remaining ten flew around a little more – nine ships in formation and one getting some photos. Then it was run and and break to landing before taxiing off to parking.
The Collings Foundation made its annual visit to the Seattle area recently including flights from Boeing Field. The weather had been rather uninspiring but I figured I would head along and hope for some gaps in the clouds. The Mustang and the P-40 didn’t fly while I was there. The B-24 and the B-17 did though. Sadly, the B-24 only flew once. The discussion was whether Seattle being a Boeing town meant that everyone wanted to fly on the B-17, despite the rarity of the B-24. The clouds had a habit of parting at just the wrong time and place with good light up the approach and down the runway but not where I wanted it to be. Even so, it was still nice to see these vintage planes again.
While watching a bunch of leisure craft heading through the locks at Ballard, a tour boat was coming from the opposite direction and was fed into the smaller lock. I headed across to watch it come into the lock. It was a pretty snug fit. All of the people onboard were out on the deck watching the lock process. I was watching them watching us. They were below me when the boat entered the lock but, once the water level was up, they were looking down at us on the lock side.
I am catching up on some things that happened quite a while ago. The visit of the Patrouille de France to Mather for a display as part of their US Tour was a combination of fun and frustration. I was covering the visit for GAR and had arranged to be there for the arrival, the practice and the show itself. They were supposed to show up relatively early but they had some serviceability issues and, when they finally showed up, the sun was setting.
There was still some light when the first jets flew into the pattern. As they taxied in, the light on them was rather nice. By the time the last jets (of the day) showed up, it was dark. The crews were very cheerful despite their difficult day and they spent a lot of time with some local kids for a French school. They didn’t all make it though. Two jets had diverted with problems and they would show up until late the following day. The A400M didn’t arrive until after I had left and it headed straight out the following morning to go and fix the two stragglers. The second day practice and flyby over the Golden Gate were scrubbed as a result with the flyby being achieved after the display rather than before.
The Society of Aviation History organized a visit to Salinas to the facility of Airmotive Specialties. Owned and run by Dave Teeters, Aviation Specialties provides a number of services but the thing that brings them most attention is the restoration of warbirds with a strong focus on P-51 Mustangs. During our visit, there were seven Mustangs in the hangar in various states of restoration. There were some other types too as well as some more commonplace types undergoing maintenance.
Dave has spent his life in this business having started working for his Dad before setting up on his own. He supplies parts to his Dad’s business and vice versa as they both operate in the same field. Dave has really committed to the processes and capabilities needed to restore these vintage aircraft. His team is one that he has trained and many of his staff have been with him for years. He has also invested in technology. So many parts for these aircraft are hand crafted but Dave has acquired numerically controlled machines to assist in producing a large number of components. These machines are also capable of digitizing the outline of existing components to allow him to reproduce them as needed.
The investment in these machines is substantial but the pay off comes in how quickly he can produce replacement parts once the process is done. Hand crafting these parts is an intensive business and, when sufficient are needed, the business case is straightforward. Even so, there are still many pieces that require the hand skills that are in short supply and are becoming rarer. Dave maintains capabilities with many old tools and techniques in order to make sure that they can always provide what the customers need.
The hangar was full of interesting projects in various states. Some were disassembled completely with rework on fuselages and wings plus various subassemblies. Others were fully complete and were just in for ongoing maintenance. A great looking Beech 18 was at the front of the hangar along with a P-51 due to be picked up by its owner. A couple of Robinson R44s were also parked in with a JetRanger – one of the R44s flew off later in the day.
Dave provided great access to our visit and was exceedingly generous with his time. He explained exactly how they work and answered any questions the group had for him. The hangar has some nice facilities for customers but, while they were very comfortable, the contents of the working area were of most interest to us and Dave gave us freedom to wander as we wished. It was a great time. Many thanks Dave.
I have never heard of Risso’s dolphins before. There are so many species of dolphin, you would have to be an expert to know them all but you do hear of many of them. Not so with this one for me. Once you find yourself in the middle of a bunch of them, though, you suddenly are terribly familiar with them. They were not a terribly sociable bunch at first but we hung around for a while and they gradually got more relaxed with us nearby.
As they age, they apparently get a lot lighter in color. A few of the dolphins were very light and, with the water being so calm, we were able to see them even when they were submerged. The group was a decent size and we would have some of them visible most of the time. They weren’t as keen on getting well out of the water but we did have some that would pop out and breach every once in a while. Being pointing in the right direction with the camera when it happened, though, was another thing.
We took a quick tour around the Grgich Hills winery when not on the Napa Valley Wine Train. I was surprised to learn that the name is a combination of a Mr. Grgich (of course) and a Mr. Hills (not so obvious). It was a relatively short tour but still informative. We also sampled some of the wine. I won’t tell you much about the wine making but here are some shots of the winery as we went around.
With Dad and Jan visiting, it was a chance to get out and see some of what the area has to offer. Dad likes trains and is also quite partial to wine so what better trip to make than a visit to the Napa Valley Wine Train. For those who are not familiar with it, the service runs from the town of Napa up through the Napa Valley. It pretty much parallels the main road (or you might argue the road parallels the rail line) and passes by many of the vineyards and wineries as it goes.
We took the trip that included the tour of the Grgich hills winery as well. Lunch was served on the train shortly after we departed Napa and we ate as we gently rumbled through the countryside. Since it was a rather damp day, being inside and watching everything outside while eating seemed to be a good plan. When we reached the winery, the train stopped to drop us off. It then continued up to the end of the line where they ran the locos around to pull them back down the route.
Once we had finished our tour of the winery, the train reappeared to pick us up. At this point, we boarded a different car. This one was a lounge car where we were served our desserts. Sitting inside facing seats eating dessert while watching the vineyards roll past was a great way to wrap up the trip. They ran a second trip later in the day with dinner served on board but, since it is dark so early at this time of year, I think our time was a far better one for the trip.
One of the beautiful features of Kauai is the northwestern coastline. Last year we took a look at it from the air and you can find the previous piece here if you want to look back at it. This year, we went the opposite way and went for the boat trip to see the coast from below! We were on a catamaran with a group of about a dozen other people. We cruised up the coast looking at the various features as we went. We could pull in to inlets, look at the caves, check out the water falling from above and see the mountains above.
The weather was a bit mixed with some cloud rolling in but it was still pretty good. The area is gorgeous and seeing it from this perspective was a really great thing. Bobbing about on the waves was very relaxing and we were at the end of the day so the whole trip had a very calming feeling to it.
The return leg was less calming though. The weather decided it wasn’t going to be calm any more. The wind got up a bit and the rain started. We bounced about on the way back. There was an area on the boat under cover which was welcome but, with the boat pitching about a bit, you needed to keep an eye on the horizon to avoid feeling rough. This worked fine and we got back without any problems (or loss of lunch). The rain did have some advantages with it providing a great rainbow at one point.
I would not say that there is a best way to see Na’Pali. If you can, the combination of air and sea is great. It certainly isn’t cheap but the two methods really do give you a great perspective on a beautiful area.