Alaska Air is going through a re-fleeting process in the near future. They are consolidating types in service with some aircraft disappearing. The Airbus fleet is on the way out which is no great surprise to anyone. The Horizon fleet is also getting some changes with a focus on the Embraers and the Q400 turboprops also going away. The Q400s have been ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest for so long that I didn’t always pay them much attention. Now I need to think about them a bit more.
One of the fleet has been painted in a retro paint scheme for Horizon’s days gone by. Despite it being a plane that should appear at Seattle multiple times a day, I had never seen it before. Therefore, I was very pleasantly surprised to see it at Portland when we were down there. Our photo location was directly above the ramp that the Horizon planes were operating from and the south runway, which was their runway of choice, was convenient too so I was able to get a bunch of shots of it in action. How long before this plane and all of its sisters are gone from the area.
British Airways was an early customer for the 787 when Boeing launched it in the form of the 787-8 and has been growing the fleet ever since. They now operate the -8, the -9 and the -10 versions. Their introduction allowed the retirement of the 767-300 fleet so the 787s are now the smallest of the widebodies (although the 787-10 has similar capacity to a 777-200ER). In Seattle, we tend to get the 787-9 or an occasional 787-10. However, Portland gets the 787-8 so, when I got to shoot one there, it was the first time I had seen a BA -8 in ages. They look quite stubby in comparison to the rest of the family.
I was up at Paine Field after work one day for the arrival of a DHL/Singapore Airlines 777F. Before it was due in, an Alaska Airlines 737 was due in on one of the scheduled flights. Alaska operations at Paine Field originally were just using the Embraers but, with the success of some of the routes, they have upgraded a number of the services to the 737. I thought this would be a good opportunity to see whether the low shutter speed settings I was planning for the 777F would be okay.
I wasn’t going down to some crazy low shutter speed. I wanted to make sure I got a good shot. However, when you are close to the runway, as is the case at the windsock, you don’t need to be too low to get some blur. I was only using the 24-105 at that range as things are very close. The level of background blur I got was okay. It would be good to get more but it was going to be fine for the 777F. When playing with this approach, you know that a bunch of the shots will not be sharp enough. Unfortunately, you never know whether the key moments will be the sharp ones. Fortunately, one of the better shots was with a healthy dose of tire smoke as they touched down. I was happy with the result.
Portland is a big base for FedEx it seems. (I think, at this point, I should called it FedEx Express but, since I am old enough to remember when they were called Federal Express, having Federal Express Express seems a bit redundant. I know, I am grumpy old git! Back on topic…) They had a ton of movements when Mark and I were there. On our first day, it was the afternoon and the southern runway was not ideal for photography given the light angles. Still, it was not terrible and the freighters provide a fair bit of variety.
The following morning, the light was move favorable for a while so we were able to get plenty of shots. The freighter traffic is usually busy at the beginning and end of the day for the express parcel business so we had enough to shoot. The big jets were operating with plenty of 767s on the move. They also had the feeder services with a steady stream of Super Cargomasters (Grand Caravans) and ATR72s to handle the local distribution. Good to take advantage of them before the replacement for the Cargomasters arrives.
The only 777s coming out of Everett at the moment are freighters. This can mean unusual airlines but not usually and I don’t head up there terribly often at the moment. However, one of the jets on test recently was destined for DHL’s operations in Singapore. Consequently, it is a hybrid of the DHL and Singapore markings. It seemed worth a look and it helped that they had taken off mid afternoon and were due back after work.
A few photographers had showed up for this arrival as was expected. At this time of year, even early evening is not the best of the light, but it was pretty good. They could be seen out as they set up for approach with Mount Rainier in the background. They touched down with the sound of the RAT buzzing in the background. I was ready to go and headed for the car, but I heard a shout from Royal and Nick that it was coming back. Sure enough, they had taxied back to do one further acceleration and abort on the runway, so we got a second chance at some shots.
I was scanning through some photos from my travels to Oregon with Mark and came across some photos of a United Airlines 737-700 landing at PDX. It was braking and had the reversers deployed. Looking at the shots, there is a dark burn mark on the engine nacelle that is split either side of the join in the reverser. It looks like something has been cooked a little. Anyone with experience that can suggest what has been going on with this engine?
Erickson currently flies a bunch of MD-87s are firefighting jets. However, these are a relatively recent addition to the service and they have replaced Douglas DC-7s. The DC-7s were still in service when I first made a visit to Madras in 2015 but they have now been retired. However, three of the airframes are stored on the ramp at Madras and we took a look around to see how they were fairing.
They looked in great condition. The dry atmosphere at Madras is good for storing aircraft. Some engines have been removed but the three jets are in the most recent paint finish and parked in a line. They make for an interesting subject. I have no idea how far from airworthy they are should anyone want to get any of them flying again (aside from the engines that have been removed) but they look like they have been taken care of. I would have loved to have seen one airborne but sadly, that time has passed.
When Boeing launched the 737NG family, the original models were very similar in size to the previous generation of 737s. However, there was pressure for more capacity so they added a new model to the family with the 737-900. A few were sold but it was not a capable enough aircraft and hardly anyone bought any. Instead, Boeing had to redesign the aircraft with some more capacity after redesigning the rear bulkhead and some more range resulting in the 737-900ER. This has sold considerably better. There are still a few -900s around though and Alaska has a few. They are very early jets and they are not worth the investment for adding winglets so they are some of the few NG generation jets to still have wings with the original wingtips. Here is one of them arriving at Paine Field.
G-Force One is a cool 727 that is operated providing zero g experience to people who are willing to pay. It shows up at Seattle periodically, presumably because one of the tech companies is giving rides to some employees (but maybe it is just a rich person chartering it themselves). Zero G is the company although the plane is operated on their behalf by Kalitta Charters. I have had mixed luck shooting this plane but I did okay on this visit. I got it arriving and heading out on a flight. I missed the return and was actually driving along I-5 south alongside Boeing Field as it departed back to Long Beach. Not the perfect combination but at least I got a few good shots of it this time.
Alaska Airlines likes to advertise that it is “Proudly All Boeing”. It isn’t of course. The Q400s and E175s are definitely not Boeing jets. When they bought Virgin America, they acquired a large fleet of Airbus jets too. These are not going to be part of the fleet for long, though. Alaska has made it clear that they are going away. The A319s are apparently too small so are the first in line for replacement. Go to Paine Field and you will come across a bunch of Alaska painted A319s bagged up and awaiting their future. A319s are generally smaller than airlines want these days – it is not that long ago that the A319 was more popular than the A320 but that is no longer the case. I wonder where these will go next.