The All-Star baseball game was in Seattle this year. Baseball is not my thing so I wasn’t paying too much attention although I did have a meeting near the stadium and discovered just how much a parking garage will charge on the day of the All-Star game! However, they did have some USAF F-35As in town for the flyover proceedings. I was south of the city later in the day and started to head north close to the time when the game was due to start. I had been hoping that I might get up to Boeing Field for their launch but, as I drove north, I could see the jets pulling off their run over the stadium.
I figured they would recover quickly but headed for the approach end of Boeing Field just in case. Fortunately, they had taken the scenic route and had been touring around Puget Sound. I was there in plenty of time for their landings. One thing that I had not really noticed before about the F-35A is the approach angle of attack that the jet adopts. The planes seem to have quite a nose high attitude when on approach. The radome is short so the field of view is probably not a problem, but I was surprised I had not spotted this previously.
I got the jets all landing but they were really a series of repetitive shots of similar looking jets. Nothing too special but still nice to have a different jet here for a while.
The Antelope Valley Airshow at Edwards AFB last year gave access to some very unusual airframes including some unique types. In the 90s, an F-16D airframe was converted into a variable stability testbed. It was used for test pilot training but also became a testbed for other technologies. Known as VISTA, it also tested a thrust vectoring nozzle on the engine as MATV, performing some amazing maneuvers. I know one of the test pilots that flew it including when it misbehaved!
The aircraft continues to be used for new developments and, relatively recently, it was re-designated to be an X-plane. It is now known as the X-62 while continuing to perform some of its original test pilot training roles. It was on display in one of the hangars at Edwards. It was a bit hard to get good shots of it since everything was rather crowded, but I was able to get a few that I was happy with.
It is a feature of getting old that so many things that seem recent really aren’t. The introduction of the C-130J to service took place in the late 1990s. One of the earliest operators was the Royal Air Force. That means that their aircraft are coming up on 25 years old. That is not that old for a Hercules but they have been used pretty intensively. Combine that with the cost of supporting multiple transport fleets and it might not be so surprising that they are now being retired.
I figured I would roll through my collection of shots to see how often I had photographed the RAF J models. The answer is not that often. The fact that I left the UK not long after they came in to service is part of the reason. I have seen them at various locations though so I am not without shots. It is funny to hear the stories now about whether the A400M is ready to take on the role and whether the Hercs should be retained.
When the Js came along, there were loads of stories of how they couldn’t do the things that the old K models could. Of course, they gradually ironed out the bugs and became a solid workhorse. The same will probably happen for the A400M and in a couple of decades, someone will be complaining that whatever replaces them is unsuited to the task and that they should be retained. Such is life…
I have subscribed to Flight International for a very long time. I used to have it ordered with my local newsagent in Cowes when I was in high school, I got it ordered by Smiths in Kensington High Street when I was a student and, when I had a job after graduation, I finally got a proper subscription set up. That has continued ever since but, these days, Flight has become a digital only subscription for me. Still, I have continued it all these years despite having left the industry long ago. It does provide me with information on unusual test programs and that includes the Lockheed Martin X-55 Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA).
This was a demonstrator program for a new composite fuselage construction. The baseline aircraft was a Dornier 328Jet but it had its fuselage replaced by a composite one that LM built using advanced techniques and with a far shorter lead time. As a demonstrator, things did not go quite as smoothly as they might have but that is why you do programs such as this. It was never intended to be a production jet. It was to show what could be done with the technology if required. The jet was flown for a number of tests but I think building it was the bigger part of the program.
Once testing was complete, the airframe became part of the collection at the Joe Davies Airpark in Palmdale. When I saw it was there, I was very interested to see it. I suspect, for a lot of the visitors to the Airpark, it is one of the less interesting aircraft on display. The signs explain what it is all about but that is probably of little interest to many visitors. For a geek like me, though, it was probably one of the most interesting aircraft in the collection. Sure, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft is special but there are two of those. This aircraft is unique. Having read about it long ago, seeing it in person is special. (If I ever get to see the Boeing 360 helicopter demonstrator, this will be the same thing.)
The F-35’s appearance at Seafair has resulted in a few posts of departures and arrivals at Boeing Field on this blog. However, I don’t think I have actually shared any shots of the display itself. I quite enjoyed the demo routine that the USAF had last year. Unfortunately, the display axis for Seafair is a long way from the shore so the shots were a bit distant. I also didn’t know the routine and was caught out when flares were dispensed and so didn’t get shots of those that I am happy with. However, there were a few times when the jet came in close to the shore and I got some closer views. I do want to see the display at a more conventional location at some point.
Over the course of the Seafair weekend, I got to see the demo F-35A arrive and depart a few times. The demo pilot would get airborne and keep the jet on the deck in full burner building up a decent amount of speed. Then, she would pull to a steep climb just as she got to the perimeter of the field. This looked pretty impressive from the side but it was even more impressive from head on.
The return to land after the display was a lot more sedate. It was a pretty standard pattern and approach but there were plenty of people at the south end to enjoy the last moments of the flight. I headed down there a couple of times. You could easily do both departure and approach since you had the whole time that the display was underway to re-position. I did all go to Ruby Chow Park from one departure and shot video rather than stills. Seeing the F-35 come right at us and then pull hard was impressive. The noise was intense and the wake threw dust and debris into the air around us. It made an impression!
Seafair means a lot of aircraft coming to Boeing Field. The Blue Angels are always the feature part of the show and this was going to be my first chance to see their new aircraft. Yes, they have replaced the Hornets with Super Hornets and I shall cover that separately but they have also replaced Fat Albert since last I saw them. The C-130T has been replaced with a C-130J that was sold to them by the Royal Air Force. It has a new paint scheme to complement this change of era.
I was at Boeing Field for the arrival of the Blues and the jets were preceded by the arrival of Albert. The good thing is that it is tractable on ADSB so I knew it was going to arrive and when. Of course, a Herc coming down the approach is not as dramatic as a bunch of Super Bugs blasting over in formation but it is still good. I did manage to catch it again in the coming days as part of the display so had more than one chance to get some shots.
Sentry Eagle 2022 had a couple of F-16s on static display that had been painted up in special color schemes. They were supposed to be throwback schemes but, according to those I know that know more about these sorts of things, there are some issues with the schemes that they chose. I have no idea about such things but I have to say, neither scheme seemed to look that great to me. They felt slightly cartoonish but I can’t come up with a better explanation what it was.
Getting shots of them both was not straightforward. First, there were a ton of people around as they were central to the static displays for the show. Also, the sun was very high and bright and they was a lot of contrast to deal with. One of them was also close to a shadow from a hangar which made for even more contrast issues. Since we weren’t staying on base for the full show, I only had a narrow window to work with. It did improve just before we left, thankfully.
The 173FW at Klamath Falls has flown a variety of types over the year. One of the advantages of the base being open for Sentry Eagle 2022 was the chance to check out the preserved examples that they have. There is a central avenue on base that is the location of an F-4, an F-15 and an F-16. They are mounted on poles and in the colors of the unit. The lighting can be a bit tricky depending on the time of day but there are ways of making the most of what you can get.
Each plane is set up in a dynamic pose as is appropriate for a fighter aircraft. They are well looked after and there aren’t too many items on them that you would want removed, like spikes to deter birds from landing. I was surprised how few of the visitors to the event actually came to check them out as they weren’t far from the main route to the ramp but it certainly made it easier trying to get some shots.
When the arrivals at Nellis on on the 03 runways, it means a trip to Cheyenne. This is not the greatest part of the world to visit but it is a feature of a Nellis trip. The sun angles were still quite low while I was there so I decided to try shooting from further around the road than I have done previously. For the planes coming in on the left runway, I had a reasonable sun angle on them. For planes on the right, they were coming right over my head.
I quite liked shooting like this. The planes have a surprising amount of variety in their line up angles when this far from the threshold so, while they are all coming close to you, it is not a repeat of the same shot every time. Each pilot takes a slightly different line and some variation in elevation too. You get something akin to head on shots and then it is a case of rapidly swiveling around to get a shot from behind.
There is a lot of fencing and trees along that part of the road so getting a clean shot of everything is hard to achieve. However, it is still possible to get something a little different. With the light angles being less than ideal, rather than worry about shots that aren’t going to be very usable due to either glare or shadow, why not get something a little different. It does require some quick adjustments and it can get a touch noisy but it is still fun to try something a little different.