When Horizon was still flying the Q400s, they painted a bunch of them in the colors of Pacific Northwest universities. The Q400s have gone and the Embraer E175-E1s are now the only aircraft flown by Horizon. Thankfully, they have decided to continue the practice. While we were away, I saw that a jet had been painted in Washington State colors with “Go Cougs” written in the fuselage. I was disappointed to have missed its arrival but it wasn’t long before it was scheduled for an evening arrivals in to Paine Field.
It was a Sunday and we had been up in Skagit County and I didn’t know whether our return would be in time (or if I was going to have to suggest a diversion on our way home to Nancy). As it was, we got home in good time and I had a while before I headed back out. With the seasons turning in the direction of autumn, the light is getting nicer and it was ideal conditions when the jet came down the approach. I could have waited for the departure but I had what I wanted and there was still dinner to think about so I headed home again.
When Alaska bought Virgin America, they got an order for A321neos as part of the deal. When the merger was completed, Alaska painted some jets in their More To Love scheme to sell everyone on what the bigger airline had to offer. Two of the neos were painted in this livery. I have shot them both. Recently I caught one of them and it seems to have had a need for a replacement radome as the nose doesn’t go with the rest of the paint. Sadly, while there may have been more to love, Alaska doesn’t love these jets and they will be gone in October 2023, ending the use of Airbus jets in their fleet. They will then be “Proudly All Boeing” (and Embraer!).
The end of the Q400 operations at Horizon meant the departure of their special paint scheme with a retro livery. However, it wasn’t long before a new Embraer E175-E1 was delivered in the same scheme. I ended up coming across it a few times quite quickly after it was introduced and have seen it a bunch of times since. I think it looks pretty good in the old colors and we’ll have it looking like that for quite some time. I did catch it in some murkier conditions as it departed Paine Field one evening but it turned out to suit the livery quite well and I was pleased with the way that the shots turned out.
Alaska Airlines never wanted the Airbus fleet that it inherited when it bought Virgin America. They did operate them for a long time and they did get repainted in Alaska colors but first the A319s were withdrawn and now the A320s are gone. The A321neos will follow before long but here is a sample of the A320s that are now consigned to history.
The repainting of the Salmon Thirty Salmon jet caught a lot of attention and was the subject of a previous post. The jet was not destined to be in standard Alaska Airliners colors, though. Instead, it went to be painted in a special livery that has a salmon connection. This time it is adopting a native theme to the painting. The name is Xáat Kwáani which means Salmon People. It was unveiled in an event in Anchorage and made a couple of flights within Alaska before coming home to Seattle. It arrived on a Friday evening so plenty of people were out after work to catch it landing. I’m sure I’ll see it again plenty of times but it was nice to get it on a lovely evening.
The Alaska Airlines fleet is undergoing a transformation. Part of that was the removal of the Q400 from Horizon’s fleet with the Embraers becoming their only platform. Suddenly getting shots of the aircraft seemed a lot more interesting. I did manage to get the retro livery special one more time as it took off one evening. As it headed into the sunset, it seemed far too on the nose for their retirement. A few weeks later, they were gone.
At the time of writing, the end is nigh for the second of Alaska Airlines’ Salmon Thirty Salmon paint jobs. These are a result of a sponsorship program with Alaskan fisheries and, from what I have heard, this deal has come to an end and the jet is due for a repaint. I came across the first of the Salmon Thirty Salmon jets many years ago at LAX. The original jet was a 737-400 and I shot it on Sepulveda Boulevard resulting in a shot I was rather surprised and happy with.
The -400s have gone from the Alaska fleet and the livery was added to a 737-800. I have seen it a few times over the years but never in good conditions or too close so, once I heard it was heading for repaint soon, I decided to try and get some parting shots. These shots required a combination of decent conditions, the right time of day, not being at work etc. I was lucky that the jet was departing SEA early one Saturday morning so I would get it with low early sun as it climbed out. That worked out pretty well.
The second shot I wanted was inspired by my original shot. I wanted to get a low shot from underneath. Fortunately, I got an evening when the jet was due in and would be approaching from the north which gave me a good location to get the shot. Mission accomplished so, now when the jet gets painted, I will be fine. If they paint a Max9 in the livery, that would be cool but no sign of that so far.
One of the things that photographers that have only used digital cameras can’t appreciate is ability to shoot in low light conditions. When I was shooting film, you were already struggling with image quality with ISO 400 film. Early digital cameras got very noisy as the ISO got ramped up but, these days, the capabilities of shooting in very low light are truly amazing for those of us that are old enough to remember what it was like. ISO1000 black and white film was adventurous!
Now I feel quite comfortable trying all sorts of silly things. I had gone down to SEA one evening to try and get a departure that was possibly going out just before sunset. Sadly, it didn’t play ball and the sun was gone by the time it headed out. However, I was there and the camera can do silly ISO numbers so why not. It still needs to drop the shutter speed down quite low but, with a fast burst rate, the chances of getting a reasonable shot are not bad.
I figured I would play around with shooting departure shots as the last of the light was fading away. It was more about trying something different rather than aiming for the perfect shot. I did have some interesting planes to play with but also plenty of Alaska 737s. The light was pretty dim and ISO51200 is quite something to work with but the image quality is really very impressive considering what conditions you are shooting in.
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.
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.