It’s been a while since I posted some images of Marine Corps Hornets having issues starting up to depart from Boeing Field after a weekend visiting for training. I didn’t include any images in there of them actually taking off. I got a reasonable spot to try and see them take offs even though the weather was not really great. I was surprised at just how quickly the jets got airborne. They were already quite high by the time that they came by me. I was still able to get some reasonable shots of them. Fast jets are always a nice change to the usual Boeing Field traffic.
The Memorial Day weekend included the visit to Boeing Field of four F/A-18 Hornets from the US Marine Corps. I had heard that they were in the area but wasn’t able to get out to see them until the Monday of the holiday weekend when they were due to head home. Weather was a bit overcast so not great for shooting a grey jet! Still, I wasn’t going to ignore them. When I got there, the crews were just beginning to look like they would be ready to go.
However, things were not going to be smooth. One of the jets was the color jet and I had heard that it had been leaking fuel during the stay. Sure enough, when they fueled it up for departure, it must have leaked again because a bunch of ground crew – presumably from the FBO – were suddenly out with absorbent pads and brooms to clean up whatever had spilled. This took quite a while to get done so the four pilots were hanging around the jets waiting to be clear to go.
Finally, everything was tidied up and they crewed in for departure. The sound of engines starting was a positive one but, as one jet fired up one of the engines, it definitely didn’t sound like it was spooling up at the same rate as the others. Sure enough, one jet shut down and the pilot hopped out of the cockpit, walked back down the fuselage and slid to the ground. I’m not sure what he did to the jet but he then retraced his steps, back up on the jet and strapped back in. This time, the start sequence went okay and they were all ready to taxi.
Edwards AFB might be the home of the USAF flight test center but it is also home for NASA’s Armstrong test center. Consequently, NASA was included in the flying display. They put up a three ship formation that mad a series of passes. The formation was led by a Gulfstream with an F-15 and an F/A-18 on the wing tips. The Eagle is one that has been with NASA for years and is painted in a white scheme. The Hornet was still in Strike Test colors from Pax River but I have no idea how long it has been with NASA.
The two jets also did some demonstrations of sonic booms as they maneuvered high above the crowd with the booms reaching the ground at different times depending on how high they had been created. The sound was also modified by the maneuvering of the jet. Formations like this don’t appear regularly at air shows so this was a welcome addition to the flying program.
My friend, Paul, had advised me that Lancaster CA had a couple of aircraft on poles that were worth a look. One is a retired Air Force test F-4 that sits at a busy intersection next to a rail station. The other is a NASA F/A-18A that is at the entrance to a baseball stadium. I decided to try and photograph both one evening when the light would be most favorable.
The guys hanging out near the F-4 looked a little perplexed as I drove up and started photographing this plane on a pole. I think they didn’t see the interest in it that I did. I think I attracted a few strange glances and I grabbed some shots and then headed back to the car. The Hornet at the baseball stadium was a different story. Not too many people around at that time so I took some shots and then headed off. There was one more target of interest but that would have to wait for a morning visit.
There was an airshow in the Midwest that everyone used to say was a great event. It was held at Janesville and I finally got around to going to it shortly before it ceased to be. I promise it wasn’t my fault that it ended. I was there for the arrivals as well as the show and a pair of Hornets came in from Canada. The nice thing about this arrival was that they seemed to have a little extra fuel. Consequently, there was time for a few approaches and overshoots.
The light was a bit subdued that evening but it still had a slightly warm feel to it. Besides, pick your white balance and you can adjust just how warm things actually looked! I was shooting with the long lens from my location when they arrived so everything was taken at 500mm. Sometimes that was way too much lens for the distance between us but it was just an opportunity for a tight crop – let’s say that was an artistic decision!
The Hornet gear tucks up in a complex way and I got a few shots of them cleaning up as they powered away in to the pattern. A few times they pulled downwind pretty quickly and it felt like you were looking over their shoulder into the cockpit. I can even crop in and see the displays on the panel (later in the day means the ambient light isn’t too much making the cockpit a deep shadow. This was one of the high points of the evening. Shame I never got to see other shows at this venue.
Recently, the Blue Angels made their last formation flight with the F/A-18 Hornet. The team is transitioning to the Super Hornet ahead of 2021 and they have started working up with the new jets. It has been a while since I last saw the Blue Angels demonstration so I thought a few shots with their aging legacy Hornets was in order. They always got the oldest jets in the fleet so I hope they are happy to have some slightly newer airframes to work with.
My Saturday morning trip to Boeing Field was to see the Gulfstream test jet covered in this post. I wasn’t expecting much else other than the usual traffic but I was very happy when I pulled up early to see three F/A-18D Hornets from the Marine Corps training unit, the Sharpshooters. They were parked on the other side of the field but had people around them and one was already strobing. It looked like they were going flying. All three soon powered up and taxied out.
The taxiway on that side of the field has a kink in it which provides an interesting angle on the jets as they taxi up together. I was wondering how the departures would look since the weather was heavily overcast and a gray jet with a gray sky is not ideal. The first jet got airborne and climbed quickly which was disappointing. However, the number two kept things a lot lower as they gained speed which helped a lot.
About an hour later, I heard them call up on approach. No run in and break at this airfield. The traffic over the top for SeaTac makes that more complicated so it was straight in approaches for all three jets. They did run down a decent distance and then turned off to return to their parking spots. That was a bit of a bonus. I don’t know whether they were flying again later as I had other plans but a launch and recovery was welcome.
We made a trip to West Seattle with our guests while they were here. We were looking at the view of the city and also wondering what wildlife might show itself. I got a benefit in that departures from SeaTac and Boeing Field were coming to the north. I got a couple of nice airliner shots as they climbed out over us. They weren’t the only ones though. A KC-46 launched out of Boeing Field and climbed over us as it went off to its test area. I wasn’t paying attention, but my guests spotted something rocketing up behind it. An F/A-18C Hornet from the Strike Test unit was following it, presumably for some test work. It climbed rapidly but then leveled out, I assume to stay below the departure routes from SeaTac. Not a bad bonus for me while showing the sights to my guests.
The never-ending test program for the KC-46 Pegasus involves testing with a variety of receiver aircraft. Recently, the Navy has deployed jets to Boeing Field to work with the tankers. While I was there, it was a Boeing F/A-18D Hornet that was sent across. Operating with the call-sign, Salty Dog, the Hornet blasted out of the field ahead of its tanker. They were scheduled to be up until after dark so I didn’t hang around for their return.
As my day at the canyon continued (you can read about the beginnings here), I got a bit more luck. The Navy came to the rescue with some Hornets and Super Hornets making their way through the canyon. One came in at an odd angle and then pulled out of the canyon over the overlook location. This was fine for me but probably annoyed those further down the canyon.
Then we got something a lot more like what we had anticipated. Jets came in along the angle from the highway starting out a lot lower than those that had come across the ridge. They could drop in a lot more quickly and be deeper into the canyon as they came by. This was what it was all about. They provided a last minute contribution to what I had come for and I was very grateful. A few more would have been good but it was okay.
Once disappointing aspect of this was that, with so few jets coming through, I shot all of them. I didn’t have the opportunity to waste so I never got to keep the camera down and just appreciate the jets transitioning through below me for what it was. On my next trip I will hopefully get to do that as well as get some shots.