Alaska Air Cargo operates some 737-700s that have been converted to freighters. For some reason, I feel like I have struggled to get any good shots of them. I have either been too distant or the weather was crummy or I just made a bad job of the shots. They operate in and out of SEA daily so you would think that, after six years up here, I would have got something of them that I liked. Finally I got a bit more lucky. Some afternoon departures to the north on days when I could be there and the light was cooperating meant I was able to get something better. The -700 is not a big jet so, even with the 500mm, I was stretching things a bit but winter light makes everything better. If only the Cargo logo wasn’t hidden behind the wing for a good chunk of the time. The low light does make the texture of the door conversion on the front of the fuselage show up, though.
Tag Archives: freighter
FedEx Skycourier Arrival in the PNW
Late in 2022, an interesting arrival came to SEA in the form of a Textron Cessna 408 Skycourier. I had seen my first example of this plane at Boeing Field as it transited from Alaska back to Wichita. That had been a crappy weather day and this was no improvement. This was the first example to show up in the region in the colors of FedEx. I am not sure whether it was delivered or just coming for familiarization with the local operations but it was using an Empire call sign and Empire is the local operator of FedEx feeder services.
It was due in later in the day and the weather was already looking bad with low cloud and the possibility of snow. It was also a little behind schedule which didn’t help. The light disappears early in December and it is a lot worse when the weather is bad. I was waiting watching the ISO levels creeping upwards. Meanwhile the cloud was creeping down. A couple of planes came in and then a few jets started making missed approaches including the British Airways Heathrow arrival. I then saw the Skycourier change course. I thought it was heading to the inner runway instead. I made a quick move down the street to that location and checked again and now it had switched back left. I had a frantic return to where I had been and it transpired that they were actually going for the middle runway. I hadn’t even considered that. This meant they were a bit far away but not as bad as it could have been. Light was terrible so ISO was cranked up high. Was it worth it? They will be very common here before too long but that’s not the way my brain works apparently.
Strange Cargo Door On This 747-400F
I caught this 747-400F departing from SEA one weekend while waiting for something else. It is an original freighter rather than a converted passenger jet so it has the small hump and the nose door. However, when I was editing the shots, I noticed that the rear fuselage cargo door has blocked windows on it. This had me curious. Is this a door that has been swapped on from a converted passenger aircraft or did the doors all have windows for some reason? That seems unlikely so I am leaning to the former solution but anyone that is an expert on these things, please let me know.
Not Often You Get To See A 747 These Days
Passenger 747s are few and far between these days but the freighter world still has plenty of them. Even so, seeing a 747 is coming in is a nice addition to an afternoon. Heathrow’s arrivals included a Cathay Pacific Cargo 747-8F which was a nice bonus. I haven’t had much luck with the Cathay 747-8Fs over the years so was looking forward to it showing up. I had positioned a lot closer to the approach path when it came in and I wondered whether I might have too much lens since the 8F is the longest variant. Fortunately, it all worked out just fine and the sun played ball too.
Fill Of FedEx Freighters
Portland is a big base for FedEx it seems. (I think, at this point, I should called it FedEx Express but, since I am old enough to remember when they were called Federal Express, having Federal Express Express seems a bit redundant. I know, I am grumpy old git! Back on topic…) They had a ton of movements when Mark and I were there. On our first day, it was the afternoon and the southern runway was not ideal for photography given the light angles. Still, it was not terrible and the freighters provide a fair bit of variety.
The following morning, the light was move favorable for a while so we were able to get plenty of shots. The freighter traffic is usually busy at the beginning and end of the day for the express parcel business so we had enough to shoot. The big jets were operating with plenty of 767s on the move. They also had the feeder services with a steady stream of Super Cargomasters (Grand Caravans) and ATR72s to handle the local distribution. Good to take advantage of them before the replacement for the Cargomasters arrives.
A Singaporean DHL 777F
The only 777s coming out of Everett at the moment are freighters. This can mean unusual airlines but not usually and I don’t head up there terribly often at the moment. However, one of the jets on test recently was destined for DHL’s operations in Singapore. Consequently, it is a hybrid of the DHL and Singapore markings. It seemed worth a look and it helped that they had taken off mid afternoon and were due back after work.
A few photographers had showed up for this arrival as was expected. At this time of year, even early evening is not the best of the light, but it was pretty good. They could be seen out as they set up for approach with Mount Rainier in the background. They touched down with the sound of the RAT buzzing in the background. I was ready to go and headed for the car, but I heard a shout from Royal and Nick that it was coming back. Sure enough, they had taxied back to do one further acceleration and abort on the runway, so we got a second chance at some shots.
Is This Airline Really British?
I got another new freighter while at LAX although not a great shot of it. Cargologic has a pair of 747-400Fs in service. The threshold for the south runways is a long way east of Imperial Hill so it is easy for freighters to stop and turn off before they get past all of he buildings that are in the way. Consequently, I didn’t get a clear shot of this jet. At the time I took this, a bunch of restrictions had been imposed on Russian operators as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. Cargologic is a British registered airline so was not restricted. Its ownership traces back to Volga Dnepr which is restricted. Not sure the distinction is a real one but, at the time, it was enough to allow them to keep operating. I suspect the UK government is not going to look too hard.
Spot the Shed
Sometimes, when in Nevada for Red Flag, I will head down to McCarran in the morning to shoot some of the airliners prior to heading back to Nellis. This time, I barely went down that way. However, I did see a movement that caught my attention. There is a daily rotation of a Shorts 360 freighter from Phoenix up to Las Vegas. I haven’t shot a Shed for a while and figured this was worth a look.
There is a viewing area along the south runway at McCarran but it was closed for COVID and hasn’t been reopened yet. Short staffing means it is low on the airport’s priorities which kind of makes sense. Consequently, I ended up scoping out a parking lot that would give me an alternative. It was pretty hot and heat haze is always a concern plus I didn’t know whether to use the long lens or the zoom. I used a couple of jets coming in before to decide what to do and also stuck the polarizer on to cut the light down to get better shutter speeds for the props. Then the box on wings came on to the approach and I grabbed some shots. If you had told me 30 years ago I would make an excursion to photograph a 360, I would have laughed. Now they are rare enough that is exactly what I do!
Everts MD-80 Freighter
Everts has based its operations on older airframes. They have recently added some MD-80s to their fleet which, I guess, is indicative of the fact that the MD-80 is rapidly disappearing from service. It is now available for freighter conversion. I shot one on the ramp at BFI quite a while back in nice light but one was due in to Paine Field just before the end of the day. There was always the question about whether the light would play ball or not but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance.
FedEx Has A New Base
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.