October brings the end of MD-11 operations for Lufthansa. When the MD-11 rapidly fell out of favor with the passenger operations, it became a bit of a favorite for freight operations. New build MD-11Fs were joined by conversions of displaced passenger jets. Lufthansa had bought some new jets and added more to their fleet. In recent years, the introduction of Boeing 777Fs had gradually displaced the MD-11s from operations. Now the last one is being retired. FedEx is still using a ton of them so no likelihood of the type going away soon. I only saw them a few times in Lufthansa colors and won’t any more!
P-8 production is really moving along at the moment. Aside from the US Navy aircraft, there are planes destined for the Royal Air Force, the Indian Navy and the Royal Norwegian Air Force in production and on test. One afternoon I got both an Indian and an RAF jet arriving in close succession. The nice thing about arrivals from the south when they are military jets is that they then taxi back past you as they head to the military ramp.
The shot you didn’t get. How many of those do we have. It’s easy to get blasé about something and decide not to bother. Of course, many times, this will be just fine, otherwise we wouldn’t be blasé in the first place. A couple of UPS jets had arrived. One was an MD-11 and one was a 767. A second 767 was on approach and I figured why bother. As it touched down abreast my location, something looked decidedly odd about the radome.
I talked to Nick, who had been next to me and had photographed it and asked him to take a look at his shots. Sure enough, the radome was a complete mess. Presumably a bird strike had smashed it during the flight although whether it was early on or during the approach we couldn’t know. It was quite the scene of destruction and I didn’t get a photo of it. 99 times out of a 100, it wouldn’t have been anything but this time… Oh well.
I might be sneaking some planes in to a post that would normally be a non-aviation day but I am going to claim that this is a post about trains rather than planes. If you don’t agree, I shall refund your subscription fee! The BNSF main line runs alongside Boeing Field and I saw a train run past the north end of the field heading south with three 737 fuselages on their railcars. I figured I wouldn’t be able to get around in time to see them up close but then the train seemed to slow.
I figured it was worth a shot and drove around. The train has stopped but it was also behind another stopped train so I couldn’t see it easily. Instead, I head further along the track to a location where you could look up towards the train and where you would have an angle on it as it moved again – assuming it did of course. There was quite a wait for some passing commuter trains before it finally got going. The three fuselages will probably have been switched out at the yard just south of where I was and then moved to the Boeing factory at Renton.
It must be a sign of aging how surprising it is to find something that was previously so common as to be boring suddenly is a rarity and has novelty value. Sierra Pacific is an odd operator anyway but they have some 737-500s. These were not the most popular of that generation of 737 but they sold reasonably well. United had a bunch of them that I have shot and Southwest had a fair few, some of which I have flown on. The follow up with the 737-600 and that was a poor seller.
Sierra Pacific was bringing their example in to BFI and I was able to get some time off to see it arrive. It was scheduled to be a brief stop so the chances were good of getting it arriving and departing. The -500 was a short jet – similar in length to the -200 and the last version to come of that generation that started with the -300 and then got stretched to the -400. They were both more popular with the airlines. It now looks like a toy compared to the current crop.
The skies had been a bit overcast but a bit of sunlight showed itself as the jet was on final approach. Not fantastic light but certainly an improvement on a little while before it appeared. It touched down and headed for Modern’s ramp. It wasn’t long before a bunch of people were around the plane and then a fuel truck showed up so it looked promising for a speedy departure. Sure enough, it was soon taxiing. Bigger jets have to cross to taxi to the threshold but you always worry that they will instead take an intersection departure. This day was a good day, though, and they crossed and taxied right by me. They were heading to Omaha so we’re pretty heavy so it wasn’t an early rotation but, since it was later in the day, the heat haze was not so bad.
Sun Country changed their livery design a while back going with an orange based scheme known as the pumpkin livery. I hadn’t shot one before – I’ve got their older colors and also the Transavia hybrid on leased jets – but it was due in shortly before the National A330 I had gone out for so I was happy to get the bonus. It’s a garish livery, for sure, but it makes a change from the steady stream of stuff we see normally.
Of the four 777X test aircraft, one had eluded me. I had shot the third jet on the ground but never in motion. Supposedly it is the performance test aircraft so the suggestion was that it was being preserved until a lot of configuration work had been done to make sure the engines were in peak shape prior to measuring fuel consumption. Recently I heard that it had been making a bunch of flights. The good news was that these flights – lots of straight line flying out over the Pacific – were quite long and they usually landed in the early evening. A trip after work was on the cards.
The problem with this timing is that is clashes with dinner. Fortunately, I have a wife that is tolerant of my interest (although I think it would be wrong to say she understands my obsession!). Nancy was willing to delay dinner until it came back (and I could then get home). With test flying, there are no guarantees about timing so I would watch the jet head back up the coast only to turn around and go for another run south.
Fortunately, it finally turned back towards Seattle and it was pretty certain it was coming back. The benefit of this waiting is that the light is getting better and better. The downside of shooting the 777X is the size means the long lens is too much for the touchdown area. The wide lens doesn’t do well for the rest of the approach though. Two cameras was the answer. I thought I had one set up right but it turns out I had messed up something with the result that the shots were rather overexposed. Fortunately, RAW came to the rescue and I was able to get the shots back to what I wanted. Now I have them all in flight.
Being close to the 737 production line means you see all sorts of airline markings on jets. That includes seeing an airline you didn’t know anything about. Caribbean Airlines had an upcoming delivery of a 737 Max 8 and it was out on test the day I took off. Not the most dramatic livery but still not too bad. The predecessors, Air Jamaica and BWIA were more colorful, though. It taxied passed me as it headed out so I got shots of it taking off. Later in the day it returned just as I was thinking it would be time to head home. It arrived and then I left. Quite a good end to the day.
I saw an article in Flight about the first P-8 for the Royal Norwegian Air Force having rolled out at Renton. It showed an airframe with a large saint emblem on the fin. I figured this would be worth a look when I could next get to Renton. My day off to chase planes provided that opportunity. Sure enough, there on the flight line was the new P-8. It was sitting next to an RAF P-8 – their eighth example. The RAF jet flew that day but I imagine it won’t be too long before the Norwegian example follows it in to the air so I shall have to keep an eye out for that.
Stopping by Boeing Field en route to somewhere else and finding that a Boeing T-38 chase jet is about to arrive is a lucky coincidence. Turned out even better as I saw a car parked in my normal spot and realized it was my friend David. A chance to chat and catch up while the T-38 made its approach was a lot of fun. Good to see both him and the T-38!