Alaska Air is going through a re-fleeting process in the near future. They are consolidating types in service with some aircraft disappearing. The Airbus fleet is on the way out which is no great surprise to anyone. The Horizon fleet is also getting some changes with a focus on the Embraers and the Q400 turboprops also going away. The Q400s have been ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest for so long that I didn’t always pay them much attention. Now I need to think about them a bit more.
One of the fleet has been painted in a retro paint scheme for Horizon’s days gone by. Despite it being a plane that should appear at Seattle multiple times a day, I had never seen it before. Therefore, I was very pleasantly surprised to see it at Portland when we were down there. Our photo location was directly above the ramp that the Horizon planes were operating from and the south runway, which was their runway of choice, was convenient too so I was able to get a bunch of shots of it in action. How long before this plane and all of its sisters are gone from the area.
British Airways was an early customer for the 787 when Boeing launched it in the form of the 787-8 and has been growing the fleet ever since. They now operate the -8, the -9 and the -10 versions. Their introduction allowed the retirement of the 767-300 fleet so the 787s are now the smallest of the widebodies (although the 787-10 has similar capacity to a 777-200ER). In Seattle, we tend to get the 787-9 or an occasional 787-10. However, Portland gets the 787-8 so, when I got to shoot one there, it was the first time I had seen a BA -8 in ages. They look quite stubby in comparison to the rest of the family.
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.
I was scanning through some photos from my travels to Oregon with Mark and came across some photos of a United Airlines 737-700 landing at PDX. It was braking and had the reversers deployed. Looking at the shots, there is a dark burn mark on the engine nacelle that is split either side of the join in the reverser. It looks like something has been cooked a little. Anyone with experience that can suggest what has been going on with this engine?
The first stop on our Oregon odyssey was Portland International Airport. Aside from being a commercial airport, PDX is also home to an Air Force Reserve unit of F-15 Eagles. I have visited the base before for their open house but I have loved the F-15 from my childhood so I was hoping to see their jets in action again. They were done for the day when we arrived but the following morning we were optimistic that we would get a launch before we headed off on our further travels.
The aircraft were parked up under the shelters when we arrived but they are quite regular with their launch schedules so we were listening out for the whine of low bypass turbofans kicking in to life. We were also joined by our friend, Bill, who works locally and is familiar with what to expect. As we scanned the flight line, we noticed one of the jets had a sharks mouth painted on the front fuselage.
The airliners and freighters were busy with their operations when we finally heard the noise we had been hoping for. Sure enough, first two jets and then a third taxied out. Even better news was that one of the jets was the shark mouth jet and another was the one with unit colors painted on it. They taxied to the last chance, got checked out and then went to the departure hold.
I decided to be safe with the first jet to make sure I got a shot so I kept the shutter speed high. It was not configured with external tanks so was airborne as it passed us and tucking the gear up as it accelerated. For the second jet, I dropped the shutter speed a little to try for a more dynamic image with a blurred background. For the third, I dropped it even further. I figured it was time to get brave. High frame rates are your friend in this case and I was happy to get some acceptable shots of all three jets as they departed. With them on their way, it was time for us to depart too. Plenty more to do on this trip.
Back in the summer of 2017, we made a trip to Oregon for the solar eclipse. You can read all about that in previous posts here and here. The night before the eclipse, we stayed in Portland and the most convenient place to stay was at a hotel near the airport. The location turned out to be between the two runways at PDX and that evening the approach paths brought the planes in from our direction to the runways.
I figured I could pop out for a few minutes and photograph some of the arrivals. The evening light was coming in and we were a little on the wrong side of the closer runway but this was an impromptu shoot so I didn’t mind. A little biz jet traffic came in on the other runway while I got a selection of Q400s, FedEx freighters and the usual narrowbodies.
Since I was close to the centerline of the approach, it provided a slightly different perspective to that which I would normally go for. Looking up and almost straight down the nose is interesting. Not something to do all the time but certainly some variety (particularly if it only requires you to walk out to the parking lot). It’s good to try different angles on a regular basis and avoid getting repetitive.
The Open House at Portland International that the Redhawks held was not the only thing going on that morning. While we were checking out the F-15s, a bunch of ground crew were at work out on the ramp area. They were setting up spots on the ramp for some incoming planes. As soon as I saw the ladders being carried, I could see that they were not for F-15s. They looked a lot more like F-16 ladders. The crews carried them out in a variety of manners but this person seemed to have a more relaxed way of moving a ladder around.
In this previous post, I mentioned the crews at Portland setting up for the arrival of some F-16s. They were coming in from Texas for a week of DACT training according to the word around the ramp. Sadly, the jets did not arrive prior to the end of the Open House. However, they weren’t the only planes coming in. The ground crews and support equipment arrived ahead of the jets courtesy of a pair of C-17s. These arrived a few minutes apart and taxied in to the adjacent section of the ramp. One jet was already unloading as the second taxied in. They were a nice compensation for the F-16s not arriving in time.
Another shot from the Portland Open House of the Redhawks and a gratuitous reference to Top Gun scripts. In this case it wasn’t really a flyby. Instead, the jets were launching off the near runway. They were all doing a nice job of keeping it low on departure and they ended up pulling up as the passed the ramp and the tower. A nice view as they pulled up with a few of them getting some vapor is they climbed out more steeply than the average departure from the airport!
An Oregon ANG Boeing F-15C Eagle takes off from Portland International Airport OR.
The 142FW of the Oregon ANG has operated a number of different types over the years. It was nice to see that the base has preserved some of the jets. As you come through the main gate, the grass area to your left has an F-15A mounted on a pole looking suitably dynamic and reflecting the current jets used by the unit.
A short distance away is a memorial park with two further jets. Both of these are in great condition (the F-15 looked a bit weathered from a distance). There is an F-4C Phantom which is nice but the one I liked the most is an F-101 Voodoo. The Voodoo is a jet I never saw fly. I have seen various examples on the ground over the years but there is something about the lines of the jet I just like. Oh, to have seen them in action.