The new international arrivals facility at SEA includes a long walkway that overlooks the ramp between the A concourse and the South Satellite. I was able to get a few shots as I wandered through there. A Delta A220-100 was taxiing by when I got there and there was another shortly afterwards. They are pretty common here these days. Since A Concourse is heavily used by Delta, no surprise that a lot of their jets were present. A few Southwest jets were over on B with some widebodies on the satellite.
Watching the bird flying around Juanita Bay can bring out the aero guy in me. I was watching some ducks flying across the water and coming in to land. While the wings were working hard, it was also possible to see the feathers fluttering on the back of the duck just below the neck. Clearly, the flow is separating in this location when they are maxing out the lift and the feather get disturbed by the separation. Does anyone else but me care? Probably not so maybe no one is even reading at this point!
When the arrivals at Nellis on on the 03 runways, it means a trip to Cheyenne. This is not the greatest part of the world to visit but it is a feature of a Nellis trip. The sun angles were still quite low while I was there so I decided to try shooting from further around the road than I have done previously. For the planes coming in on the left runway, I had a reasonable sun angle on them. For planes on the right, they were coming right over my head.
I quite liked shooting like this. The planes have a surprising amount of variety in their line up angles when this far from the threshold so, while they are all coming close to you, it is not a repeat of the same shot every time. Each pilot takes a slightly different line and some variation in elevation too. You get something akin to head on shots and then it is a case of rapidly swiveling around to get a shot from behind.
There is a lot of fencing and trees along that part of the road so getting a clean shot of everything is hard to achieve. However, it is still possible to get something a little different. With the light angles being less than ideal, rather than worry about shots that aren’t going to be very usable due to either glare or shadow, why not get something a little different. It does require some quick adjustments and it can get a touch noisy but it is still fun to try something a little different.
Anyone that has arrived in Seattle on an international flight will know that the arrivals facility was a bit cramped and unwelcoming. The airport has been building a new arrivals facility for a while now. It was supposed to open a while back but got delayed by a variety of things, not least COVID. The new building has been built alongside the A concourse in the main terminal with a bridge connecting the South Satellite to bring arriving passengers across.
The whole thing is due to have a soft open in April 2022 and be fully open by May. The airport requested volunteers to come and help test the systems to see how they handle a volume of people. You can do a variety of tests but the true test is when a load of people show up. This is still not going to be as much load as it will get when multiple international flights arrive at the same time but it is part of the process.
I volunteered to take part. Yes, I was happy to help out but I was also keen to have a nose around the new facility. I was hoping to get to see the new bridge and the view it provides of the ramp area but was to be disappointed. Everything we were testing was on the A concourse side of things. We did have a good view of the new bridge though.
We were given assignments for our run through the arrivals procedure. We had various elements that we needed to engage with and evaluate. I was arriving on a flight with Emirates and had to connect to a Delta flight. I needed to collect one piece of luggage and then clear immigration and recheck my luggage. At two locations, we had to complete surveys based on what we had experienced. We started at a gate waiting area and then entered the gate to turn on to the route an arriving passenger would take. The route is alongside the ramp area so you get a great view of the airport as you walk through. The new buildings are quite airy and spacious and very white!
Most things worked well enough. A few things could do with tweaking and it will be interesting to see whether the areas that got backed up for us will cope when the real passengers show up and staffing is increased. Hopefully it will be a lot nicer way to arrive in SEA than was previously the case. I would avoid it in the first few days since I imagine there will be some teething issues but, after that, it should be a welcome change.
For a while, I was able to shoot up at Arlington a bit. Our location there in the afternoons is close to the ramp used by Airlift Northwest. They have some Airbus Helicopters EC135s that they use for aeromedical flights. It is a nice looking airframe and theirs are painted well. (They have recently painted one in UW colors which I have only shot from a distance.). They seemed to be in action a lot while I was there so was able to get the teams crewing up, departing, arriving and shutting everything down. They are happy to give you a wave too which is nice.
It is possible to spend a lot of time watching a heron hunting without seeing anything happen. Their ability to stay still for extended periods of time awaiting prey is impressive. You hope you will get some catch at some point and that it won’t happen behind something that stops you getting a shot. One of the herons in Juanita Bay was having some good luck catching sticklebacks. The only problem was that it would often get other debris at the same time.
After the strike, the bill would have a fish wriggling around in it and some leaves or twigs alongside. The trick was how to release the surplus material to allow the fish to be eaten without giving the fish a chance to head for freedom. Clearly this is a regular feature of a heron’s life and the technique has been practiced but I watched with anticipation as it got rid of what it didn’t need and allowed the fish to be swallowed. The stills don’t give you much idea of how much wriggling was still going on as the fish went down the throat!
The weather at Nellis was definitely not playing ball for the majority of my time at Red Flag 22-2. However, as the recoveries from the afternoon exercise were completing, some of the regular base traffic was getting ready to launch. Nellis is a bit like Seattle (hear me out) in that, even when the weather is a bit crappy in the afternoon, there is a good chance the light improves later on. This proved to be the case on my first full day there.
As the later jets were launching, the clouds had cleared up a bit and there was some nice low angle sun to be had on the aircraft as they headed out. I had gone up past Gate 6 at the Speedway to be in place for any Flex departures and this proved to be a good spot. Some of the jets turned a little beyond me but gave a better top side view while other turned a bit earlier and were almost heading overhead where I was. The light was better than anything I had got earlier in the day so it worked for me.
Downtown Chelan is not a big area but it has been around for a while and so has its movie theater. This theater has a look that is exactly what you would imagine for an oldie time movie theater. Having lots of cars parked up in front of it kind of ruins the ambience a bit and, if I had been around another time, I might have tried to find a way to get a cleaner shot of it at an odd time of day but this was just a brief opportunity to stroll around the town so it is what it is.
I stopped at Boeing Field to make a couple of calls and I was pleasantly surprised to see that a Boeing T-38 chase jet was not far out. I was able to get the camera out in good time for it to arrive and, even better, while there was plenty of cloud around, the sun popped out to allow me to get a reasonable shot. I then went back to dealing with my calls. I had noticed a USAF T-38 further east in the state but had assumed it was not coming my way. However, I was wrong. A short while later, it called up on approach. The sun was less cooperative which was a shame for a gloom black painted jet but it was still good to shoot. From expecting nothing to getting two T-38s in short order was a nice surprise.
Photographing herons is kind of a fun thing to do since they are such a large bird and so distinctive. Having got so close to some recently, I have got a lot more photos of them from different angles and this has included some head on shots of them. I had not appreciated the shape of the head of the heron until getting this view. The head is narrow, as I had know, but it is tapered. While I thought the eyes were on the sides of the head, the shaping means that they have more of a forward view than I had realized which is obviously important for hunting for fish and perceiving depth when preparing to strike. Head on it looks like a very different bird!