The new international arrivals facility at SEA includes a long walkway that overlooks the ramp between the A concourse and the South Satellite. I was able to get a few shots as I wandered through there. A Delta A220-100 was taxiing by when I got there and there was another shortly afterwards. They are pretty common here these days. Since A Concourse is heavily used by Delta, no surprise that a lot of their jets were present. A few Southwest jets were over on B with some widebodies on the satellite.
Anyone that has arrived in Seattle on an international flight will know that the arrivals facility was a bit cramped and unwelcoming. The airport has been building a new arrivals facility for a while now. It was supposed to open a while back but got delayed by a variety of things, not least COVID. The new building has been built alongside the A concourse in the main terminal with a bridge connecting the South Satellite to bring arriving passengers across.
The whole thing is due to have a soft open in April 2022 and be fully open by May. The airport requested volunteers to come and help test the systems to see how they handle a volume of people. You can do a variety of tests but the true test is when a load of people show up. This is still not going to be as much load as it will get when multiple international flights arrive at the same time but it is part of the process.
I volunteered to take part. Yes, I was happy to help out but I was also keen to have a nose around the new facility. I was hoping to get to see the new bridge and the view it provides of the ramp area but was to be disappointed. Everything we were testing was on the A concourse side of things. We did have a good view of the new bridge though.
We were given assignments for our run through the arrivals procedure. We had various elements that we needed to engage with and evaluate. I was arriving on a flight with Emirates and had to connect to a Delta flight. I needed to collect one piece of luggage and then clear immigration and recheck my luggage. At two locations, we had to complete surveys based on what we had experienced. We started at a gate waiting area and then entered the gate to turn on to the route an arriving passenger would take. The route is alongside the ramp area so you get a great view of the airport as you walk through. The new buildings are quite airy and spacious and very white!
Most things worked well enough. A few things could do with tweaking and it will be interesting to see whether the areas that got backed up for us will cope when the real passengers show up and staffing is increased. Hopefully it will be a lot nicer way to arrive in SEA than was previously the case. I would avoid it in the first few days since I imagine there will be some teething issues but, after that, it should be a welcome change.
Airlines seem to be consolidating their fleets these days with less and less types showing up. I am sure that this is true for Air France too but, recent experience at SEA feels like the opposite. We seem to have been the destination for a lot of the Air France long haul fleet. We have had 777s coming in here for a while. I imagine that they will be the ones we won’t see much of again but you should never bet on that. The 777-300ERs are likely to be around for a while, even if the -200ERs go away.
Then we have had the A330s and the A350s. I like the look of the A350 so was pleased to see them bringing that on this route. I had wrongly assumed that, with the A350 being deployed here, that was going to be a regular feature. Instead, we have now got 787s coming in. I was north of the airport when I got to shoot a 787-9 lining up for approach. When I have looked more recently, that is the jet showing on the schedule. Who knows what we will get next? I am pretty certain it won’t be the A380!
For a while, I had been thinking about trying to do some night photography of airliners. I had seen some good shots people had got but SeaTac does not have a lot of ambient light to illuminate aircraft flying overhead. It would be better if there was a large public space under the approach that would provide so brightness to work with. I was down at SeaTac to pick up a colleague and knew I would be there as the sun went down so I decided to have a go at some shots.
I used the 70-200 f/2.8 to get as much light as possible. The sun was going down so I was going through quite the transition of lighting conditions. Some were just twilight while other were when things were getting quite dark. The autofocus was also struggling since the center point was being used and the underside of the jet lacked much contrast in the dark. I still got a few usable images. The lack of light means they aren’t too great but it was fun to try something different. Now to find a better location!
I posted about some night photography I tried on jets approaching SeaTac. After finishing that up I was heading to the terminal to pick up my colleague and I decided to go for a shot of touchdown in the dark. This was not going to be an easy one to get since it is really pretty dark at the north end of the airport so little ambient light. I was relying on the lights of the jet and pushing the ISO to a really high level. It is true that the noise gets really tough in those conditions but when looking at the image at a normal size, it really is not a big deal. Besides, it is a shot we would never have done in pre-digital days.
Some of the best shots are taken when you have access to the airfield. Sadly, that is not a simple thing to arrange. However, if the flight you arrive on has to hold prior to crossing the runway, you have a better chance of getting some shots of aircraft departing off the runway you are waiting to cross. This does involve shooting through the windows of the aircraft which are not great at the best of times and on the recent Alaska flights I have taken, have been pretty crappy. Still, it was fun to try and get some shots, even with the limitations of my older M6.
Delta was the official airline of the US Olympic team during the Winter Olympics in China. They painted one of their A330s with Team USA colors. I knew it had been in and out of Seattle a few times but I had either not had a chance to go and see it or it was in crummy conditions. Finally it was due in early one weekend morning so I headed down to SeaTac to catch it. The forecast was not great but I had a feeling that the early sun might hang around and, for once, I wasn’t wrong. The light was generous and the plane came in on the right runway to get a good shot.
The A330 has been a huge seller for Airbus. The A330neo has not sold as well. As an upgrade of the basic jet, it didn’t get a huge amount of interest from customers. It has started to seek a bit better and it is basically a good jet. It comes in two version and the A330-900 is the larger of the two and by far the more popular. The A330-800 has not sold well at all with a few going to operators, one of which is Uganda Airlines.
For some reason, they brought one of their jets to Seattle. It arrived on a cloudy day and didn’t leave for quite a while. It’s departure was late at night and I didn’t even bother trying to be there but I did catch it arriving. It certainly got a lot of attention from local photographers. It has a bit of nice color in the livery but isn’t the most distinctive of planes. However, I don’t know when I shall next catch an 800 so this could be it for a while for me!
Regular readers will know I am quite a fan of the Airbus A350. Getting a new operator of the jet in Seattle is nice for me and the Air France service has swapped from the 777 to the A350. It started a while ago but the conditions have been so bad for a while, I didn’t even bother trying to get out and shoot it. I was coming through the area when it was due in so made a diversion to get a few shots. Not too nice a sky but still okay and I will hopefully get better conditions at some point before too long. They arrive at lunchtime so the light is not ideal anyway at that time.
The A340s are hard to find these days but Lufthansa is still using some A340-300s. This is my favorite of the type and, having had them all in Star Alliance colors for a while, it is nice to see them in Lufthansa colors again. With one coming to Seattle on a weekend as a substitute for the normal A330, I figured I should go out. The day was a dull one but you just don’t know when you might get another chance so I figured it was worth a trip.