One of the regular Volga-Dnepr AN124 flights to Everett was departing. The jet was towed out of the Boeing ramp and on to the taxiway for start up and departure. The Antonov is a big jet and its four wheel nose gear needs a special tow bar. When you are one of the largest freighters in the world, why not just take it with you. Once he plane was in place, the crew rolled the tow bar around to the rear cargo ramp. There, they hooked it to two lifting hoists and the tow bard was hoisted into the aircraft and the rear doors closed.
If someone knows whether they leave it on the hoists in flight or whether it is stowed and secured in some other location when inside, please let me know in the comments. I do like the self sufficiency of the whole approach. Given how often they come to Everett, having a tow bar on site would seem plausible but I guess they will need it at any of their other, less frequented, stops so they have to carry it all of the time. You never know where you are going next.
I have shot a lot of Antonov 124s at Everett since they are there on a regular basis. One weekend recently, a Volga-Dnepr flight was scheduled in to SeaTac. Shooting at SeaTac is a bit restricted in what you can achieve given the layout of the airport so I decided I would go for something a little different. The heavy traffic usually comes in on the inside runway and there is a small park that puts you pretty much under the approach. I thought this might be a slightly different position to shoot from.
The timing of the arrival was supposed to be later in the afternoon. However, something about the routing meant the jet ended up getting in a bit later than I had expected. Some lovely afternoon light had disappeared and had been replaced by a dull light which was also fading fast. I was ramping up the ISO settings pretty quickly as the jet turned on the approach as it was disappearing by the minute. Finally, the Ruslan appeared in view and I got some head on shots prior to shifting to a wider lens as the plane flew overhead.
The regular AN124 visitors to Everett continue. This time of year can often bring northerly winds which means a departure up past the Future of Flight building. Having a heavy Ruslan depart that way can mean a nice angle to get on rotation as well as the climb out which, while a bit backlit, makes for a good change. I was happy with the takeoff but, as the jet climbed away to the north, the smoky combustion of the old D-18 engines was clear to see. The further that they climbed out, the less the plane was obvious and the more the smoke trail was. A bit of mixing from the trailing vortices helped as well. A lot of the people around me were commenting on how dirty it was.
There have been quite a few appearances of Antonov AN124s on this blog. They all have something in common. They were operated by Volga Dnepr. There is another operator that I have not had much success seeing. That is Antonov Design Bureau. They never seem to be operating near to me. That was why I was so pleased when one was scheduled in to Everett. I was taking a week off work anyway so no reason not to go.
The weather wasn’t great but how many chances would I get for an ADB AN124? A genuine Antonov Antonov. Time to go. They were arriving from the north and it was morning so the only option was Future of Flight which wouldn’t normally be good for a morning flight. However, with a grotty overcast, sun on the wrong side wasn’t going to be such a problem.
There was a bit of a breeze from our side of the runway so the early approach looked like they were coming straight for us. They floated down the approach and touchdown of all of those wheels resulted in plenty of smoke. Then they taxied back to the Boeing ramp (after some confusion with air traffic) and shut down.
I have shot a lot of AN124 Ruslan movements in recent years whether in the Bay Area or now we are in Seattle. I am still happy to see them, of course, but something a little different is welcome. When I arrived in LA, there was one parked up on the ramp near the museum. I figured it would be gone by the time I was back for my helicopter flight but I was wrong. It was still there. Consequently, I was happy with a few new views on a familiar beast.
My wife is a trooper. We were coming back from a day out in the mountains and I saw an Antonov AN124 was coming in to Everett. It was due to land shortly before sunset and sounded like something I wouldn’t want to miss. We weren’t going to be able to get home in time to drop of Nancy so I could get back up to see it arrive. She agreed to make a diversion to see the plane come in. Not her thing but she was okay with being there.
The timing could not have been much better. The light was nice, low and soft so the plane looked great as it trundled down the approach. When it taxied back up to the north entrance to the Boeing ramp, the texture of the skin, which is normally lost in higher light, was a lot easier to see. In fact, the finish looked pretty rough. I guess the Volga Dnepr planes get a lot of use!
Antonov 124s make a regular appearance at Paine Field. Boeing obviously receives a lot of shipments which I am guessing may be engine deliveries. Plenty of the flights come from Columbus OH which is near a GE plant and the GE90-115 fan is too big for most freighters when installed. However, it could be for something else. Anyway, I got one coming in to Everett recently. Paine Field is a popular field for light aircraft so you get a lot of them flying patterns on the main runway. One called up on final when the Ruslan was turning on to final. They made it in without any trouble but it was quite amusing to see the little plane on final with the unmistakable silhouette of the Antonov not far behind.
Moffett Field is located close to a couple of satellite manufacturing locations. When the time comes to ship the satellites to their launch location, the transport of choice is often the Antonov AN124. Twice, now, I have caught one of these huge aircraft coming in to pick up a payload. The most recent one resulted in getting these shots. The slightly annoying thing is that both times the plane came in in the middle of the day. This is the worst time for shooting at Moffett because the light is almost directly on the tail of the jet. Earlier or later would be fine. Oh well.
Waiting on the ramp at Moffett Field for Solar Impulse, over on the other side of the field we could see another visitor. An Antonov AN124 Ruslan was parked up with its nosed raised in the process of loading a payload. It looked a bit like a satellite container and, given the proximity of two satellite manufacturers, that wouldn’t be improbable. It was a long way off but I had some time to try and get a shot and this was what I got.
A long time holder of the title of world’s largest aircraft (until superseded by the single example of its big brother) was the Antonov AN124 Ruslan. This giant freighter was created in the days of the Soviet Union by the Antonov design bureau in what is now Ukraine. With the thawing of east-west relations, the utility of this aircraft was apparent to many western organizations both civil and military. These days, the operators of the type have a steady business moving outsized freight around the world. There has even been talk of restarting production although that remains just talk for now.
My first experience of the big Antonov came in 1988. It made an appearance at the Farnborough airshow along with a pair of MiG-29s. This was a big deal at the time and I remember being amazed as I stood next to these types that had been something previously unlikely to be seen unless something very bad had happened. The MiGs flew impressive displays and wowed all who were there. The Antonov was not so lucky. On the first day of flying as I stood with everyone waiting for it to take off, it started to roll down the runway before a bang and flash indicated a surge in one of the engines and she stayed firmly on the ground.
That was as close as I got to one for a long time afterwards. I occasionally might see one parked in a quiet corner of an airport and once or twice spotted one flying far off in the distance but I never saw one up close and flying until a short while ago. I have a Flightaware tracker on the movements of these beasts and one of them was due into Moffett Field on a Saturday. I decided this was something I had to do so made the trip across the bay. Everything ran according to schedule and I was there to get a shot as she came in across the fence (a fence that spoiled a nice finishing shot which I include just because it was almost nice.) Not bad after 26 years of waiting!