The time that the NASA DC-8 spent up in the Pacific Northwest was a ton of fun for the aviation enthusiasts. Since I did get to shoot the jet a few times, I got some closer shots of the airframe to show the various sensors that cover the jet and are used for the sampling work that has been its specialization. There are plenty of them on the top, sides and bottom of the airframe. Here are some shots. I wonder what will replace the jet and whether it will have a similar array of probes?
As some previous posts may have indicated, I have not had the best of luck with Ameristar DC-9s in the past. They never seem to move when I am around. I heard that some were coming in to Paine Field and, again, I wasn’t going to be around when they got there. However, I was up there a little while afterwards and, after getting the shots I came for, the evening light was looking nice so I figured I would head around to see if there was a good shot of them on the ramp.
When I got there, I was disappointed to see some vehicles parked up inside the fence and in the way of any shots of the jets. Rather than give up, I headed in to the FBO to see if they would let us outside and they were very helpful. Turns out one of their team is a keen photographer himself and he was happy to escort us out. The two DC-9s were sitting on the ramp in lovely light. What more could you ask for? There was a medical helicopter crew getting ready to depart and we had to stay well out of their way but this did not impact what we were after. A great opportunity to get the jets in nice conditions.
A few days later, one of the jets was heading out. It was a northerly flow and, given the ability of the original short body DC-9s to get out of shorter fields, it was going to be pretty high when it came by me. That wasn’t going to stop me getting a shot, though. Got to make the most of it when the opportunity presents itself. When DC-9s were everywhere with operators like Northwest, it was easy to ignore them. Now they have rarity value, it is a different story!
There was an evening when the weather was awful and the NASA DC-8 was out on a mission. The forecast suggested things might get a bit clearer late in the afternoon and so, while the light was awful, I thought I might take a chance and head to Paine Field after work. The sky was dark and ominous but I was there so I might as well wait. As the Max 10 was first on approach, it was the one I would try out first. There was a hint of the sun starting to punch through the cloud and it did look okay.
Then, when the DC-8 showed up, the clouds parted. The backdrop was still and evil looking sky but the sun was on the plane as it came down the approach. I had thought of shooting video but, when I saw the light, I couldn’t resist shooting stills. The joy of modern cameras is the ability to switch rapidly from one to the other. I got video down the initial approach and then stills as it was close in. Then back to video once it was by me. This actually didn’t make for a bad video edit.
I have not done well in my previous efforts to photograph NASA’s DC-8 environmental sampling aircraft. I had taken some distant overhead images when I was down at Star Wars Canyon and had hoped to see it fly at the air show at Edwards AFB last year. Sadly, that didn’t happen as it was down for some maintenance issues. With it due for retirement soon, I figured that might have been it. However, I was chatting to some friends a while back and they informed me that it was due to come up to Everett for about ten days of flying in November.
This proved to be the case. A program with Boeing as part of their EcoDemonstrator program had a new 737-10 that is ultimately destined for United (if the Max 10 ever gets certificated) flying with sustainable aviation fuel and the DC-8 flying behind it to sample the air, identify the emissions particles and measure the types of contrails formed but the different elements of the fuels. The Max 10 was painted in a special livery which included the EcoDemonstrator Explorer program name.
The DC-8 was operating from Paine Field for the trials. I was not able to get it arriving, but it was there long enough that I didn’t miss out. These shots are from the first time I was able to see it getting ready to fly and heading out. Over the course of the time it was here, I had further encounters and some of those are worthy of their own posts. Consequently, there will be more to share of this fantastic relic of a bygone era in passenger aviation.
The NASA high speed research program was underway in parallel with the USAF’s X Plane program. While NASA was less focused on record setting, they did have one blast of glory when they were the first to hit Mach 2. The aircraft that they used was the D558-II Skyrocket. Three of the airframes were built and they all still survive. Originally designed to have a jet engine for take off and landing and a rocket for high speed flight, the later aircraft did not have the jet and were air dropped for their missions.
One of the early airframes is now on display in the City of Lancaster on the campus of Antelope Valley college. Since I was staying nearby, I decided to swing by on the Sunday morning to see the plane. The campus was nearly deserted and it felt like I was doing something I shouldn’t but there was no problem walking around the campus. The plane is mounted on a pole in a dynamic pose towards the sky as seems appropriate. I had chosen a good time because the light on the plane was pretty good.
The Skyrocket is a sleek airframe as you would expect for something that first broke Mach 2. Being painted white also helps it look slightly futuristic. I spent a bit of time wandering around and trying different angles on the subject to make it look as cool as possible. I had just about finished when my buddy Chris showed up so I spent more time trying to get in the way of his shots!
Our return trip from Klamath Falls also provided a bunch of opportunities to stop en route and see different aircraft. We had seen some images on Google Maps of A-4 Skyhawks at Albany in Oregon. The airport is right next to I-5 so we decided to take a look. Sure enough, the airframes were on the field but not where they had previously been seen. However, we had missed that a preserved A-4 was on a pole at the entrance to the airport so we got some shots of that first.
The stored airframes were now along a fence line on the east side of the field. This did not seem immediately accessible but, it turned out the the next property was an event center and it had a parking area that was open. We were able to get up to the fence amongst the parked RVs and get some shots of the airframes as they sat on the ground. No idea what the plan is for them but it doesn’t look like much at the moment.
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.
I heard that a DC-3 had arrived at Arlington. It was a plane that had been with Air Atlantique in the UK for many years and was familiar to a friend of mine that had worked there a while back. I am not sure if I had seen it in the UK or not but had definitely seen shots of it. It came in during the week and was parked on the ramp at Arlington over the holiday weekend. Unfortunately, the weather was not great. However, with nothing much else to do, I figured I would head up and see it.
The rain was pouring down as I left home but it was actually drier and even with a hint of light up in Arlington when I arrived. Even so, the conditions were not great. However, the clouds, while plentiful, did seem to provide some interest to the sky. Consequently, I went with HDR to try and make the best of the conditions.
I am not sure what the plans are for the plane and whether it will remain in its old RAF colors as a Dakota rather than a DC-3 or C-47. We shall see. Hopefully it stays in the area and I’ll get to see it flying.
Quite a while back, I saw a shot that someone had composited of a Typhoon display over an airfield where they had the jet throughout its routine to show its route through the sky. I liked the idea and, while it was totally different, it got me thinking when I was up at Heritage Flight Museum. They had the Skyraider on the ramp but not flying. It was ready to go but hadn’t yet been signed off.
However, they did do an engine run for the visitors and unfolded and folded the wings a few times. Having got some basic shots, the idea of the Typhoon display popped in to my head so I shot a sequence of shots of the wings as they folded and unfolded. I took way more than actually was a good idea. I imported them all in to Photoshop as layers and then hid all of them except one and then progressively added some back to get the wings in different positions. If I had used them all it would have just been a blur of wings.
With the ones I wanted selected, I changed the blend mode for all but the base layer to Darken and that meant the dark wing elements overlaid anything brighter behind them. The result was a composite with multiple wing positions all showing at once. I think it came out quite well. I thought I might have issues with hiding things I didn’t want to or having to much movement between shots but that wasn’t a problem in the end.
Making a cross country flight from Wisconsin to Washington is a long enough trip but it is even longer if you are in something that isn’t too speedy. A DC-3 is not something that is going to cover the ground that fast. It will be a bit quicker if it has been re-engined with a turboprop but, even then, it is going to be a long trip. I think it was the best part of eight hours to make the journey and then overnight at Seattle before continuing on to Alaska the next day.
The arrival of the BT-67 certainly got the attention of a few local photographers. Sadly, things got a bit cloudy just as it arrived so the conditions were not ideal. It was still cool to get a shot, of course. Fortunately, they had parked near the Museum of Flight so I was able to get a few shots of them parked up. The crew were just closing up so the gate to the ramp was open for them and a kind security guard allowed me to shoot past him without having to deal with the fence.