One of the highlights of the Blue Angels’ display is the sneak passes. The display is good but the sneak pass gets the jets as fast as you are going to get in their routine and there is a chance of vapor cones forming around the shocks and expansion fans. A display over water enhances the chance of the vapor. The distance of the display line on Lake Washington was a little disappointing as the jets were quite far away but the advantage of this location was that Mercer Island provided a backdrop.
The benefit of this backdrop was that, the rapid changes in density of the air in the shocks and expansions makes the refractive index change and this will distort the view of the background. With a clear sky, this is usually not visible but, with a background, you can see the shocks around the airframe. This is a rare opportunity. Fortunately, while there was little vapor, there were plenty of shocks. I was quite happy when I got home and studied the shots of the display to find I had some good results. It would have been great to have been on the media boat but let’s not complain.
Seafair provided me with my first opportunity to shoot the Blue Angels during a display since they transitioned to the Super Hornet. I was interested to see whether the display seemed any different with the new jets. Seafair is a nice location over Lake Washington but the alignment of the display box relative to the shore of the lake is not ideal and this does result in the planes being further away than for most venues. The increased size of the Super Hornet is probably a benefit in this situation.
I was interested whether the larger jets would make things seem a bit slower somehow but I didn’t notice anything in practice to support that idea. The normal tight flying that the Blues are famous for was there and, if anything, the bigger jets look closer as a result of the changed perspective. It is not that big a deal, though, so I suspect some of this was in my imagination. I would like to see them at a different location where the display axis is closer in order to get another view of the display, though.
Aside from watching the display at Lake Washington, I did also Watch them depart and return from Boeing Field. They always departed to the north and returned from the north even if everything else had been landing from the south. I spent one arrival down at the south end and watched then run the length of the runway and break for landing. It was a good spot to watch this from. Overall, I was happy with the new look for the team. I hope the jets hold up well. The Blues have a reputation of having to live with some of the oldest jets in the fleet and reliability will be something to watch.
I was at Boeing Field for the arrival of the Blue Angels for Seafair. It was a work day so I was sitting in the car and actually presenting to some colleagues via a Teams call. My presentation was underway as they were getting close but it was almost done. I was hoping that it would all wrap up before they got there. Sadly, I was wrong. I was on the final section of the presentation when they flew overhead in Delta formation. I was shut in the car but still had to explain why it had suddenly got so loud at my end.
Fortunately, that was the end of the meeting and I was able to get out of the car in time for the arrival of the individual jets for landing. I did get to see the Delta arrival again later in the weekend but I am not sure whether it is my imagination or not but it seemed lower and closer on that first occasion when I was sitting in the car with no camera.
Stopping for lunch at BFI, I was happy to be informed by someone already there that there were a couple of Super Hornets from the US Navy that had departed earlier and were due back shortly. I was able to munch on my sandwiches and do a little work while I waited but it wasn’t too long before they arrived. Initially, they appeared to be making a section approach but, as they got closer to the field, the separated and came in with about a 30 second spacing. One of the jets had some squadron colors which is always welcome these days. Not a dynamic approach but still a nice surprise.
Bremerton’s naval yard has been cleared out a bit in the last few years. It used to be the resting place of a bunch of decommissioned aircraft carriers. Most have now gone to the breaker’s yard. If you drove into Bremerton, it was quite something to come along the shore and see all of those carriers in front of you. Many years ago, I was on a trip that included a flight from Seattle. We climbed out over the top of Bremerton, and I was able to grab a quick couple of shots through the window of the airliner. I do wish I had got some better shots of the carriers lined up before they all went away.
I was actually out looking for a work project which (I promise this is legit) was right next to Boeing Field. While I was waiting for my project – which ended up being scrubbed due to a serviceability issue – a P-8 took off from Boeing Field. I was basically aligned with the end of the runway so I could see it climbing out and it came right over my location. It turned out to be a good thing since I wouldn’t normally get this angle on a shot so I am glad to have something different. This view really emphasizes the different wing planform of the P-8 compared to the base 737. No winglets and the raked tips really changes the appearance of the jet from below.
A dark afternoon with a band of sunlight on the ships moored up at Naval Station Everett caught my eye. The snow on the mountains behind was in shade, sadly, but the bright glow of the foreground warships still made for an interesting shot.
I stopped for lunch and to take some calls at Boeing Field. While I was eating my sandwich, a US Navy P-8 rolled out of the Boeing military ramp to head off on test. With Seattle on a southerly flow, the P-8 needed to taxi the length of the field for departure. It came past me so the sandwich had to take a pause while I got a couple of shots.
Prior to take off, they carried out a rejected takeoff and backtracked for the real departure. One a sunny day like this, the heat haze looking that far up the field is pretty bad so not real chance to get a good shot. The departure itself was a lot better. By the time it rotated, it was close enough to mean the haze, while still present, was a lot less troublesome. As soon as it climbed out, the problem went away. Its interesting that the low light angles of the winter are already being replaced with a transition to the harsher high sun but it is still worth being out.
The first decent sized arrival I got on my BFI visit was a US Navy P-8 Poseidon returning from a test flight. It gave me a chance to get the hang of picking the arriving planes up against the background and working out their positions as the are on final. Things are pretty cluttered in the background which doesn’t help make a photo look interesting but, once they are over the airfield itself, the background is a lot cleaner and the plane stands out more.
Once over the runway, everything is unobstructed so you get a good view of the touchdown and roll out. The runway wasn’t too damp so not much in the way of spray from reverse thrust but a good amount of tire smoke as the mains hit the ground. Heat haze was not too much of a problem as the conditions were not too sunny but you still had to be pretty close in before the shots were sharp enough to look at closely.
NOLF Coupeville was scheduled for FCLP training and strong winds from the Southeast were forecast which suggested the right runway would be in use. I also had a day off scheduled. While the rest of the weather was potentially not ideal, I figured I would make the trip. Why. Not? They were due to be flying from late morning but, as seems to be usual, it was just after noon by the time things started to look active.
I was worried about the low cloud base but it was actually not a problem. The wind was really strong gusting 20-30 kts. This was giving them some interesting flying. Early on, there was a hint of sun sometimes which really helped the photos. As they climbed out after each touchdown, the skies behind made from interesting backgrounds and showed off the heat haze from the exhausts as well as the streaming tip vortices courtesy of the damp conditions.
After a while, I got a visit from the Navy Police. The young lad informed me I wasn’t allowed to photograph the jets. I pointed out I could be he was most insistent that I couldn’t. Rather than have trouble I decided the stop shooting. As it happened, the conditions got a bit worse anyway so I had got the best of what was on offer. I just watched the rest of the flying which included quite a few bolsters and some sketchy touchdowns as the wind got stronger.