King County International Airport held a public event in the guise of a FOD walk. You could sign up for free for the opportunity to take a stroll along their main 10,000’ runway one Saturday morning. Since I wasn’t planning on anything else, this seemed like a good chance to be somewhere that I normally wouldn’t get to be. I showed up just before 8am on the Saturday to see how it was. Weather was overcast but it was not raining which was a relief.
We had a briefing from the airport team and the fire chief prior to heading out. They made it clear that they do take care of the runway so we were hopefully not expecting to find much but we would see. They last did a runway walk ten years ago and that was for staff so this was a new thing to try with anyone from the community taking part. We could take cameras with us but they limited what we could have. Also, photographing the Boeing military ramp was not allowed.
They split the group into two with two buses taking us out. The buses went to opposite thresholds with the intent that we walk to the middle where we would meet up and take some photos. Fortunately, I was in the bus going to the north end which is the one I wanted. Driving past the Boeing civil ramp with its 737s, KC-46s and 777Xs was pretty interesting. They set up the illuminated X at the threshold prior to us starting (which was a relief). We then spread out across the runway and walked down. The smaller runway remained in use while we were walking but there had been a bit of a mad dash of planes getting out before we started.
The runway was clean as you’d expect. For those that were walking along the edge and in to the grass a bit, there was more to find including some quite large items. I guess the session did have a practical benefit. We made it to the mid point of the runway where everyone gathered in front of the fire trucks and we had some group photos. Then it was back on the bus and a close out with some prize drawings. It’s not often you get to stand in the middle of a runway that serves everything up to wide body jets so I am glad I took the time to go out. I hope that they do it again.
Shortly after my A220-300 landed, another Delta jet was due in. (Actually, quite a few were but they weren’t terribly interesting.). It was an A330-900, the NEO version of the A330. I have shot a few of them but have really struggled to get them in good conditions or nice lighting. Since the weather was crummy on this Sunday morning, that luck wasn’t changing. However, it was there so why not get a few shots. At some point I will get one in good light.
During the winter, I shot a British Airways 787 as it approached landing at Seattle Tacoma International. There was some low cloud base and it was just skirting the bottom of the clouds as it passed me by. It was appearing and disappearing from view within the clouds and, even when clear, was pulling a bit of vapor along with it! An all-white jet against a cloudy backdrop does not make for a contrasty shot but the elusive nature of the plane with such a background made the shots interesting to process.
The gradual relaxation of travel restrictions means that there are more long haul jets showing up in Seattle. Some are still just taking freight but passenger ops have expanded. The reduced number of passengers does mean that smaller capacity jets will suffice for some routes. Qatar has restarted operations to Seattle. They are using their 777-200LRs for the time being. I caught one as it was passing overhead on final approach.
The afternoon lighting was looking good and, when I saw a P-8 was up, I was tempted to get some shots. When I saw the Dornier was also coming in, it helped make up my mind. Even better, it spared me from a fruitless trip. The P-8 was out of Boeing Field and was scheduled to make approaches at Everett before returning to base. I would have been tempted to shoot it up there but, with the 328Jet in the mix, I figured Boeing Field was it.
As it turned out, the flight plan for Everett was a distraction. I watched the jet heading back up from Oregon and it looked like it was coming direct to Boeing Field. That was indeed the case. No approach to Everett. If I had been up there, I would have been pretty annoyed. As it was, I got the arrival, even if the conditions were nowhere near as nice as they had been when I first headed out. This one was a US Navy example.
In this previous post, I mentioned the good light I was hoping would be available for a Dornier 328Jet. While that didn’t work out, I did get a NetJets Latitude arriving at that time. NetJets colors are certainly not very exciting so they are a bland subject normally (and a Latitude is hardly the most exciting looking bizjet either. However, with the right lighting, even this can look pretty dramatic!
There is no shortage of DHC Beavers in the PNW, even of the turbine variety. Plenty of them are on floats, too, so even that doesn’t make it particularly special. However, when you haven’t been able to shoot much aviation for a long time, one is a welcome sight. Even better when it switches to the closer runway when on approach.
Boeing has been building and testing 737 Max jets throughout the grounding so having them flying is not a great surprise. However, with the grounding order lifted by the FAA, things are moving into a higher gear. United took delivery of a jet and American Airlines has indicated it will start service before the end of the year. Two jets were up on the same day which leads me to think that they have already undergone the mod programs and are being tested prior to delivery to the airline.
Late in the day in the PNW, you can get lucky with good lighting. It is not unusual to have a crappy day end with the sun, low on the horizon, cutting under the clouds and providing some briefly great conditions. With a Dornier 328Jet due in, I was hoping that the conditions might be just what I wanted. However, the plane was delayed from its planned time. At the scheduled arrival time, conditions were, in fact, rather good. I got something arriving then that looked pretty cool and will get its own post.
However, my 328Jet was running late. I kept my eye on the horizon, hoping the sun would make an appearance but the thick cloud layer hanging on the horizon told me that things were not going to work out. Sure enough, when the 328Jet showed up, the sky was decidedly dull. This was all the more annoying given that it had a really nice color scheme. They aren’t exactly rare but they are not common enough to ignore the chance to get one so this still counts as a plus for me.
Winter in the PNW does not mean reliable conditions for photographing planes. If the weather is bad, you might decide it isn’t worth going out. If it is raining and threatening to rain harder, there is a strong possibility you would skip a shot opportunity. However, 727s are getting pretty rare these days so that seems worthy of a trip out.
The weather was unpleasant when it made its approach but not as bad as it got a short while later. I went with my normal approach for shooting in really bad conditions by pushing the overexposure pretty high. I include a couple of edits. For the main image, I actually blended two different process versions in Photoshop to get the combination that most reflects how the shot looked through the view finder. The other edit is a straightforward Lightroom edit where the angle and the light suited it.