Author Archives: Rob

Almost Perfect MH-60 Timing

As we started our drive home from Oregon, we were to pass through Astoria.  There is an airfield at Astoria and it is home to a Coast Guard helicopter unit that flies the MH-60T Jayhawk.  I think this is one of the better-looking variants of the Black Hawk family both because of the paint job but also the configuration of external fuel tanks.  I hoped we might see one there, but we had a long drive home and I wasn’t going to subject Nancy to a long delay.

Imagine my frustration as we pulled off US101 towards the airport when an MH-60 flies over our heads towards the airport a mile away.  The light was great, and it looked good but I was driving and it was going to land long before we could get there.  Had I blown it?  Two minutes earlier and we would have been fine.  I pulled up and it was taxiing towards me.  I grabbed the camera and got a few shots as it headed to the Coast Guard ramp.  Check out the logo of Astoria in the shape of the Jayhawk.

However, it didn’t shut down.  I thought they might just be running after landing checks but Nancy asked why they hadn’t stopped everything so we waited for a while.  Sure enough, another crew walked across the ramp and climbed on board.  A few minutes later, they taxied back our way and then lifted.  The departure route has the bridge across the Columbia River in the background and, with great winter light, it looked great.  They turned down to the south and were gone.  I got back in the car and we were back on the road barely ten minutes after leaving 101.  I got my helicopter and Nancy didn’t have a long delay!

Tokul Tunnel

My walk along the trail up near Snoqualmie started and ended at a road that went above the old railroad bed.  There was a small tunnel under the road.  I assume this was once a proper rail tunnel or a bridge but the tunnel that is there now looks like a more modern construction.  Even so, it is a little interesting so here are some shots of it.

Eviation Alice Readying To Fly

North of Seattle is Arlington and the airport at Arlington is home to Eviation, a company developing an electric powered aircraft called Alice.  They undertook some low speed taxi trials during December but plans for high speed taxi and flight were thwarted by consistently bad weather.  A recent nice day on a Sunday looked like the first opportunity to do some testing again and a NOTAM was published meaning we knew something was up.

I met my buddy, Bob, up at Arlington and Alice was already out on the field when we got there.  The time for the testing was at the end of the day so they were preparing for when the runway was theirs to use.  Sadly, the aircraft was not playing ball.  As is the way with flight test, things were not necessarily doing what they were supposed to.  They did run one of the motors up to speed but the other failed to perform and resulted in the first shutting down too.  Not ideal for an aircraft.  No doubt they will resolve such things in due course.  By the time they had spent some time troubleshooting, the sun was setting and there was going to be no taxi trial.

I chose the side of the field that was backlit since it was closer to where the testing would take place.  Some great shots from the other side with the setting sun on the mountains behind were made by others.  However, I was in the right spot when they dragged the plane back to the hangar.  Things were getting pretty dark  and I was very pleased to have brought the 70-200 f/2.8 with me since it did a great job with the lack of light.  The raw images looked very subdued but they really came out well when I processed them.

I put together a piece for GAR on what we had seen.  You can see that piece here if you want to check it out.  It seems to have generated a lot of traffic which suggests there is a lot of interest in some of these electric aircraft projects.  Whether they will be successful or not, we shall see.  In the meantime, the weather got bad again but we shall hopefully have a break in it soon and a chance to see them taxiing the plane and then flying it.

Haystack Rock

Cannon Beach is well known but one of its most famous landmarks is Haystack Rock.  This sits on the shore just a short distance from where we were staying so we walked by it a few times and could see it from our balcony whenever we liked.  It is a sizeable thing!  It sits right at the tide line so, at high tide, it is in the water but, when the tide retreats, you can walk out to it.  However, it is a protected site so no climbing.

On gray and stormy days, it looks pretty bleak.  When the sun is out and illuminating it with that nice low winter light angle, it looks totally different.  I suspect, if I stayed there longer, I would probably photograph it a hundred different ways and still not be satisfied with what I got.  I won’t be alone, of course.  It has been photographed more times than anyone could count.

Down in the Slough at Kenmore

It has taken a while for this post from the 75th anniversary celebrations at Kenmore Air.  They operated one of the planes from the slough that runs alongside the base.  They had back taxied one of the Otters to start its takeoff run from earlier to mean it was taking off close to the spectators.  Then, when landing, they brought it down in the slough again.  It made for a great view of the plane compared to the normal departures and arrivals way out in Lake Washington.

Stone Gate House

There is a gate house to the estate that has now become the arboretum in Seattle.  I assume it once kept unwanted visitors at bay.  Now, it sits beside the road doing very little.  I don’t know if it is used at various times throughout the year but, when we were there, it was locked up securely which didn’t give the impression that it was regularly occupied.  The stone structure fits in nicely with the surrounding trees.

Silk Air But Not For Long

Singapore Airlines has been rationalizing their operations and one of the changes that they are making is getting rid of their subsidiary Silk Air and integrating its operations in to the mainline airline.  Silk Air has ordered a bunch of 737s from Boeing and these are in the process of being delivered.  A number of the planes were already painted in the Silk Air colors and apparently the airline determined it was cheaper for them to repaint them than to have Boeing do it.  Consequently, they are being test flown in the old colors.

I assume that later jets will be painted in Singapore colors as they come off the line (depending on how much Boeing charges for that change order) but I have yet to see one in the new colors.  I hope to get one before too long since I don’t have any plans to be in Singapore for a while.  We shall see.  I have got some distant shots of one passing near the house as it returned to BFI as well as some shots from BFI itself.

Snoqualmie Falls Is A Bit More Active Now

The recent months in the Pacific Northwest have been very wet.  It has felt like it was always raining and not just gentle rain but heavy rain on a regular basis.  This means that there is plenty of water in the mountains and the rivers coming out of the Cascades are heavy with flow.  I figured a trip up to Snoqualmie Falls was in order.  A few months back I had been up there when the flow over the falls was very low.

With the two power stations built in to the falls, the demands that they put on the water often mean that there is a lot less to go over the falls themselves.  Once the water levels get high, though, there is more than enough for everyone!  The falls were really raging.  The spray blowing up from the river was quite intense and, depending on which way the wind was blowing, you could either be quite dry or getting a deluge.

Since I made the visit, the weather hasn’t got any better.  I imagine that the falls have continued to be in full flow ever since.  Downstream, the river valleys have been in flood with the river levels all high.  Hopefully no one is suffering too much – those areas are prone to flooding anyway and they tend to be ready for it.

Helijet Sunday Ops

The weather in Victoria over the Thanksgiving weekend was not great for aviation photography with a fair bit of rain and definitely only one day when the sun showed up.  That day was not going to be one on which I would suggest to Nancy I go photographing helicopters.  That might not have been the smartest suggestion.  However, when the morning was rainy and cloudy and we were planning on a relaxing day, things could be different.

I hopped in the car and drove around to the heliport which is used by Helijet for their shuttle service to Vancouver.  The Sunday schedule is not the busiest so I had to plan accordingly so I got there in time for an arrival and they were scheduled to head back out again not long afterwards.  I could fit all of this in before heading back for a spot of lunch.

The S-76 is a pretty elegant looking helicopter.  The design has been around for a long time and has gone through a number of iterations but the basic airframe shape is good in my opinion.  It is a lot larger than you might imagine with plenty of seating capacity which makes it good for this shuttle service.  One of the airframes was parked at the heliport when I got there so I got some shots of that.  Then it was a question of waiting for the inbound flight to arrive.

The problem with the heliport is the fencing.  It has quite a tight mesh and it is possible to shoot through it but it requires some care in aligning the end of the lens with the holes.  Sometimes I do better with this than other times.  When the helicopter is coming in, I have to try hard to get it right.  Stepping back away from the fence does provide a little elevation but not much so shooting through the fence is going to be required.

The sky was grey and dreary so approach shots were not going to be too good but I was going to try them anyway.  Once it was close to touchdown, it was a sprint to the fence.  They taxi off the pad to the space in front of the terminal (generous description, I know) and then shut down.  It was too long before they were firing up again.  Given that the wind was not too strong, they were able to lift and head straight out.  As they got on to the pad, it was noticeable just how far aft the rotor was pitched.  Once airborne, this resulting in a nose high altitude and then they were off.

Victoria Watersports

Victoria residents like to make use of the water for their activities.  While we were there – and despite the weather being far from friendly – there were plenty of people out on the water.  Their choice of activities varied.  We had some stand up paddle boarders, there were kayakers, canoes and what looked like dragon boat teams but maybe that isn’t the right term for this type of boat.  Wherever I was wandering, there was always someone out on the water.  They managed to avoid the ferries and floatplanes without too much trouble!