Once Russia went to war with Ukraine, the ability of Russian cargo operators to continue their US business went away. Volga Dnepr had been providing a bunch of service for Boeing operations at Everett bringing in outsize airframe parts. With them out of the picture, Boeing had to find an alternative. Antonov Design Bureau designed the AN-124 originally and it has an in house airline, Antonov Airlines. They seem to have picked up a bunch of work that Volga Dnepr previously had. Despite the enthusiasm for various people calling them Russians, they are definitely Ukrainian!
They have been in and out of Paine Field pretty frequently over the last few months. I have got shots of them at different times with the aircraft carrying various messages about cities in Ukraine. Having got shots at different times, I also started shooting some video. Here are some of the shots along with a video of one of the departures.
I posted about the visit of Western Global and their 747-400F a little while back. They did not wait long for their next return and, this time, they went for a rarer type by bringing in the MD-11F. I know FedEx and UPS still have loads of these (although they are starting to retire them) but other operators are thin on the ground. This was worth catching. (I have since heard that Western Global is in liquidity difficulties so who knows if they will still be around soon.)
It arrived at Paine Field when I wasn’t able to be there, but it did depart in the morning when I was able to get to see it. The weather was not ideal, and I would have appreciated a little sun on it but I’ll take it in any conditions given that I don’t know when I might get another opportunity. What a cool looking jet the MD-11 is from the front quarters. When they are gone, we shall have lost something special.
The large exercise that was taking place in Alaska attracted a lot of unusual types and I have posted about the Hunters and the Northrop Grumman testbed heading up there already. They weren’t the only ones, though. Paine Field had a couple of transients too with a pair of Sabreliner jets heading north. This vintage bizjet is a pretty agile type and Clay Lacy used to display one on the air show circuit. These two had an interesting pod mounted under the front fuselage – presumably for some sort of electronic warfare role. I was able to head up to Paine Field that weekend to get them as they arrived. I didn’t have the time to get them departing although they weren’t around for long – just getting some fuel and then heading onwards.
They did route back through Paine Field when the exercise was done so I was able to get a second go at shooting them then but the conditions were much as before, so the shots are not too different. I did take a bit of a chance with my shots by dropping the shutter speed down pretty low to try and get some good motion blur – always a risk when shooting something new!
The last 747 to be built was conducting test flights from Everett in advance of being delivered to Atlas. It was due to get back from a test flight one evening and the timing looked good for a landing just before sunset. Along with plenty of other photographers, I headed up to Paine Field to await its return. As we tracked the flight, it was looking more and more like they would not get back before sunset. A few people decided that this wasn’t worth the wait and headed off. I figured I had made the effort so I was going to get a shot, even if the conditions weren’t any good. I was there, after all.
Sure enough, the sun went down while we waited and a little while later, the familiar shape of the 747 appeared in the distance. However, luck was going to be on my side this time around. While the sun had now set, the higher-level clouds off to the west were now being illuminated from below turning them a warm red color. The light from these clouds was now what was landing where we were and, as the 747 came down the approach, it had a warm and soft glow to it from the remnants of the day’s light. Far from being a disappointment, this was actually really attractive. What a lucky break for me and those that remained.
The Janet 737s go to ATS on Paine Field for maintenance when required. I should, therefore, see them more often but I usually don’t know anything about it until they are gone. Consequently, when I caught one this time, it was purely by chance. Luck is to be embraced, of course. Another Janet might seem a little repetitive, but I don’t care.
Air Tanzania Cargo placed an order for a 767-300F and it recently came off the line at Everett. I saw various shots of it from local photographers, but it never flew when I was able to shoot it – i.e., when I wasn’t at work. When I did get up to Paine Field, it had been parked off at the back of the ramp and didn’t look like it was going anywhere soon. Then, I saw that it had become active again. I figured that meant it would be delivered soon. Fortunately, one of the flights was during an afternoon and it was due back late in the day – after work! I was able to get up to Paine Field after leaving the office and be there for the return. Just as well I did as it got delivered shortly afterwards.
I had been disappointed by a Kalitta 727 that had come into Boeing Field during the day when I was unable to see it. I was heading home from meetings south of the city and stopped by to see if it was leaving that evening and they almost did and then had a technical issue. I had to get home so missed it. I was, therefore, rather pleased when I saw it was coming to Paine Field a little while later. It was due to arrive early in the evening.
The 727s are rare beasts these days but Kalitta has been picking up more and more 737s so you have to wonder how long the 727s will be around. My enthusiasm was tempered a bit when I saw that the previous leg had been a few hours late so the planned arrival time was not realistic. Instead, once it got airborne, it was due in around 9pm. Sunset was 9:12 so this would be tight for time and would require the weather to cooperate.
I had dinner with Nancy, and we hung out for a while at which point I had to make the call. Would I go up to Everett or not. The weather looked okay where we are, but you never know what it will be like further up towards the coast. At that time of the evening, it is a quick run so I figured I would just see how things looked. As it turned out, the weather was pretty clear, and they made good time and a pretty direct approach. As the three-holed beast came down the approach, there was low sun illuminating it.
I then headed around to the terminal to see if I could get a shot of them unloading. The sun was now setting so the sky was glowing behind the jet as the crew worked to offload the cargo. The fuselage was in deep shadow, but I used some HDR bracketing to give me options to work with. Overall, it couldn’t have gone better. They were looking for a quick turnaround and return to Michigan, but I knew it would be dark by then so headed home. I actually heard it climb out over us just after I had got into bed!
Not long ago I posted about the variety of operators of 747s that I have photographed over the years. The number of operators is gradually declining so, the likelihood of a new one showing up near me is reducing. However, I did get a new opportunity one weekend. Skylease Cargo had made a few trips to Paine Field for Boeing but these had all been when I was at work. This time, one was due in on a weekend.
I headed up first thing in the morning to catch it coming in from Miami. The weather was not good at home and it was worse at Everett. There was a low cloud base. Things were rather gloomy but you take the opportunities when they come along. At least, since the weather was bad, I wasn’t going to have to worry about being backlit this early in the morning.
No doubt about it, the conditions did not result in shots that I am going to treasure. A white jet on a cloudy day is never going to provide a competition winner. Never mind. It was a new operator of a favorite jet and what else was I doing on a dull weekend morning anyway?
We had a brief phase a few months ago when Western Global was bringing in jets to Paine Field. The first one I encountered was a 747 freighter. It arrived in okay conditions but was flight planned for a departure that afternoon. The weather was getting better and better and, when they missed their original slot, I wasn’t complaining since the light was only going to improve. However, there was absolutely no sign of them moving. The crew appeared at one point and then left again. Eventually it became clear that they weren’t going.
The jet was parked in a position that meant the tail was slightly obscured. That meant the shot was not quite what I would have liked but it was going to have to do. They didn’t end up leaving until the next day but that was no longer the weekend, so I didn’t see it go. A touch frustrating but such is life!
By the time this post goes live, the last production 747 will have been delivered long ago and will be in service. As the countdown to the last jet was underway, the interest in the remaining jets off the line went up significantly. The penultimate jet to be built was also for Atlas Air and was branded for their contract supporting Kuehne + Nagel. I saw a few shots of it appear online as people got it arriving in some gorgeous lighting. Sadly, I couldn’t be there for that but I did manage to get it arriving from a test flight one afternoon. The light wasn’t fantastic, but it was okay. After this one, there was only one more to go.