The end of 787 production at Everett has also meant that Boeing doesn’t have a need for the Dreamlifter operations center that they had built there, next to the Future of Flight visitor location. I assume the space was leased from the airport but that might not be right. Whatever the case, a new use has been found for it. FedEx has set up a small operation there. SeaTac is their main base in the area and they have a steady stream of wide body freighters heading through there. Everett is a single 757 each day. I assume this is the beginning of things and that there will be more to come. I can’t imagine that they will make that investment for one freighter a day. We get a bunch of FedEx 767s on test prior to delivery but the 757 is a nice addition.
I wasn’t close to the FedEx 767 as it came in and shot a missed approach but the low sun angle on the underside of the jet looked quite nice. The crew flew a tight pattern back to make their approach and landing. They did run reasonably long so I got to see them as they turned off the head back to the ramp. They were going to take an earlier exit but something was in the way so I got a bit lucky.
No great story with this one. I was at SeaTac for a different arrival on the outer runway. A FedEx MD-11F was making an approach to the inner runway while I was waiting. It provides a good alignment with Mt Rainier in the background so I figured it was a shot worth taking and I was pleased with how it turned out. Given how little I have photographed recently, a shot like this from before everything got locked down suddenly seemed like something to share!
The FedEx freighter fleet is extensive and includes a variety of jets. However, the feed of packages to those big jets is partly the role of a bunch of less glamorous types, a significant one of which is the Cessna Caravan. These planes shuttle cargo from out stations to the larger airports and then distribute packages back out to those same stations. It’s not the most exciting flying in the world but it is a valuable job. Here are a few Caravans from FedEx’s fleet that I have seen (relatively) recently. The Cessna Skycourier made its first flight recently and it is intended to replace these guys in the coming years.
I was out one evening awaiting the arrival of something that currently escapes my memory. In the meantime, I was in position to get the arrival of a few widebodies. Since SeaTac tends to put the widebodies on the inner runway, they are the ones you can get from this park location while almost everything else (plus the occasional wide body!) goes to the outer runway behind you and through the trees.
On this evening, we had four widebodies come in. Condor brought their regular 767 flight. This were joined by an Air China Cargo Boeing 747-400F, a FedEx 777F and last but by no means least, a British Airways 747-400. The evening light was very favorable and this location is both easily accessible and pretty good for this approach.
Summer evenings can be a good time to visit Paine Field as flying seems to be busy and the light is often quite nice. On two separate visits, I saw this FedEx 777F flying. The first time it was on some acceptance flights and it flew an approach followed by a low go around. The gear doors had been blown down prior to this approach and the RAT was deployed. It then flew a pattern and landed.
Next time I saw it, it was heading off to Memphis on its delivery flight. They seemed to have a few issues with the transponder prior to departure which was fine for me as it delayed them until the light was a bit nicer. Not sure I would be so happy to take my new plane with a snag though! Memphis when empty is a piece of cake for a 777F so it made it off the ground pretty speedily.
The only civilian 767s being built at the moment are for FedEx. I posted one of them on test at Paine Field in this post. I caught another one recently. I got the departure early on as it disappeared into the clouds that were pretty low. The return later had slightly better light. The approach was terminated with a go-around resulting in some vortices streaming from the wing as they climbed out. Dark skies make for an interesting background!
Our visit to the Boeing Factory Tour at Everett with our visitors not only included the escapees from the hurricane that I covered here but also included the ongoing production test flying activities. The 767 line is only producing freighters and tankers these days and the majority of the freighters have been going to FedEx. This one undertook a test flight while we were there. We saw it head out and, when it returned, it flew a missed approach before landing.
Clouds are not a rarity in the Seattle area but we do actually have lots of nice weather in the summer. You will still get plenty of clouds though and these can be nice to see with the arriving jets. A FedEx MD-11 was turning on to its approach over Kenmore when I was down at the lake and I looked up to see it popping in and out of the clouds above. It was pulling a little vapor of its own but the way it seemed to be peeping through the clouds caught my eye so I grabbed a few shots.
Aside from the USAF, FedEx is the main recipient of aircraft coming off the 767 line these days. They have just placed another order too so they will continue to take new 767 freighters for years to come. One of the jets was planning to have a first flight at Paine Field. Prior to first flight, Boeing tends to run a high speed taxi and braking profile. If this goes well, they will then take off for the first flight. Judging by the radio traffic this time, things were not going well. They did one run, braked and vacated. They taxied down to my end and repeated in the opposite direction. Then they called the tower to confirm that they were heading back to the ramp. I imagine they fixed the issue before too long but no first flight on this occasion.