With airlines announcing new service to Paine Field, it will become easier than ever for ‘Avgeeks’ to reach one of the Meccas of Plane Spotting and the home to one of Boeing’s major campuses. It’s only taken 80 years to get us to this point!
In the past few days, United announced that they will begin operating flights to Paine Field in October 2018. Alaska made their announcement about service to the field earlier this year. It also appears that Allegiant will serve ‘PAE’ as well, but no official announcement from them as yet.
United’s announcement stated that they will bring six daily flights from Denver and San Francisco. Alaska thus far has announced 9 daily flights, but did not indicate where they would be coming from.
The Queen Of The Skies With Mt. Rainier In The Background
The re-opening of Paine Field to commercial operations has been a hotly contested topic in the Mukilteo area where the airport is located. Equal amounts of voices were for and against opening PAE to airlines. However, after the debates and legal challenges, the path has been laid to bring passengers to the field.
For us plane spotter types, this means it will be easier than ever to reach the birthplace of Boeing heavies and enjoy the views along the runway. What used to be a flight to Seattle, followed by a drive that is usually mired in heavy traffic from Seattle to Everett can now become a flight to PAE, followed by a 10 minute hotel shuttle bus ride to the Hilton Garden Inn located next to the field.
A routing not seen very often…..
In part one, I focused primarily on the events leading up to the delivery flight of Lufthansa’s D-ABYT, including the Delivery Luncheon and a modest ceremony acknowledging the formal acceptance of the aircraft by Lufthansa. I say modest because this flight was taking place the day following the Germanwings tragedy. Lufthansa and Boeing appropriately toned down the energy around the delivery ceremonies.
Part II will focus on the actual flight which amounted to approximately 9 hours of ‘Avgeek’ bliss. When else can you have most of a 747-8i aircraft available at your disposal to explore? I spent more than a few minutes playing with cabin lighting controls, galley equipment, and the like. Like a kid in the proverbial candy store……
One of the biggest and most obvious differences with this flight is the fact that the Economy Class cabin was void of any seating so it gave us a perspective that most will never have and hopefully my photos capture some of that. The two observations that come to mind is realizing just how big the 2 economy cabins are and the amount of curvature of the fuselage at the back of the aircraft. It is one thing to see the curves from outside the aircraft, its another to see the perspective from within cabin.
As I mentioned in Part I, approximately 70 passengers were aboard the flight and most of them were Boeing and Lufthansa personnel along with a few members from the German media. I believe I may have been the only American aboard the aircraft that represented the US Media (scary thought isn’t it?).
About an hour before the flight, the pilots and cabin crew boarded the aircraft to prepare it for passengers. In speaking with the cabin crew, it was the first time that any of them had been on a delivery flight so they were looking forward to the experience as much as we were. Their biggest concern was making sure that the Lufthansa hospitality would be the same as conventional flights. They would not disappoint…..
D-ABYT’s Log Books and Manuals were brought aboard with the flight crew.
With an open Business Class seating policy on the main deck, it was fairly a quick and efficient boarding process. As I mentioned in part I, the Boeing Delivery Center is considered an airport and we were required to pass security screening just as if we were at a typical airport.
Once passengers were seated, the cabin crew took over and proceeded to treat it like any other flight which included a choice of pre-departure beverages including champagne, water or juice and a small snack. Soon after the beverage service, the IFE played the familiar Lufthansa Safety Video, the aircraft was pushed back from the gate, and we would be underway.
Cabin crew prepares pre-departure beverage service.
Departing from Paine Field is obviously a very unique experience since it is unlike any airport that most people will ever see. Covering the ramp area are essentially billions of dollars of brand new aircraft, many who may have only flown once or twice as part of Boeing’s testing regiment to ensure air worthiness. In addition, there are several aircraft that are dressed in their ‘greens’ and have yet to have their engines started or be painted. It is certainly a one-of-a-kind place and any self-respecting aviation enthusiast should visit at least once.
As we were brought out the threshold of Runway 16, the ground crew did something that I’ve never seen before (obviously…). Most of you are familiar with the red ‘Remove Before Flight’ flags that are usually attached to points that require inspection before the plane can depart. In our case, the ground crew had removed all of these flags from ‘YT’ and had laid them out for the pilot to confirm that all flags were accounted for. These flags were then loaded on the aircraft and this specific set will stay with the plane for as long as it is in service.
D-ABYT’s personal set of “Remove Before Flight” Flags.
Boeing’s Ground Crew sends us off…..
Once we were under our own power, the aircraft entered the runway where we sat for a few minutes allowing the engines to come to temperature. Once cleared, we rolled down the runway towards Frankfurt and since I intentionally picked a window seat, I was able to record the departure.
How many departure videos from Paine Field have you seen from inside the aircraft? In the video clip below pay special at the 1:55 mark of the video…… our pilot executes a ‘Wing Wave’ much to the delight of passengers. Apologies for a few moments where the video blurs, I was paying more attention to the outside than to the view finder.
Once at cruising altitude, the flight really took on a unique flavor. The flight crew was quickly taking care of dinner service so those wanting to rest or work could do so quickly. The catering was provided by Boeing and I must admit it was very good. Considering that the aircraft’s galley equipment was not yet operational, insulated trollies were used to store the meals. We even had the option between Steak (which turned out to be Filet) or Fish along with a favorite local beer. I went with the Filet.
You don’t need bone china to enjoy a meal!
Once dinner was over, I would spend the majority of the flight exploring the aircraft and enjoying the company and conversations with Boeing and Lufthansa personnel. It turned into a valuable opportunity to network and gain insights that are not normally available outside the companies.
As I mentioned earlier being aboard this flight provided perspectives that most passengers will never have especially when it comes to having access to empty cabins and cabin equipment. Hopefully the photos will do their job and give you an idea of just how unique this experience was for me. I’ll end my words here and let the photos tell the story. I’ll come back with Part 3 that will look at various bits of outstanding swag that was given to us, along with what is possibly the best and most complete amenity kit that I’ve ever seen. Stay tuned!
Looking towards the rear of the aircraft in the rear Economy Cabin.
The Rear Economy Cabin. The rope down the center is there to hold on to in the event of turbulence.
Looking towards the front of the aircraft from the rear Economy Cabin. The curve of the fuselage is apparent without seats.
The ‘forward’ Economy cabin….notice the leg room? The front part of this cabin will feature the Premium Economy seats.
The upper deck Business Class cabin.
A pair of Ovens and Coffee Makers. Cost of the coffee makers? $12,000 each.
Having no seats to contend with, I had the opportunity to capture angles and scenes that would normally not be possible had the seats been installed. The following shots of the wing and engines would be difficult to take if seats and passengers were in the way.
I Even had the chance to witness the ‘Northern Lights’.
Capturing sunrise from the cabin. This angle would not be possible with seats in the way.
The engine is as much a piece of art as it is an engineering masterpiece.
Same engine, now at sunrise over the Atlantic.
The substantial curvature of the right wing is impressive.
After having a few hours during my flights home yesterday I finally had a chance to screen through all of my 532 photos of D-ABYT. During this process I found a few more photos that I think you’ll enjoy.
If you haven’t seen my previous posts showing D-ABYT’s first taxi test and test flight, you can get caught up here:
Part 1: Taxi Test and Inaugural Flight
Part 2: D-ABYT Returns From Inaugural Flight
Entering the runway for taxi test.
Applying brakes during taxi test
Full stop – the brakes work!
Into the clouds….
Away for a B1 test flight….
Given the choice, I would always choose to do my plane spotting during day-light hours. For obvious reasons, its easier to see more aircraft and takes a heck of a lot less effort to capture aircraft when the sun is out. However, Plane Spotting at night done at the right location with the proper equipment can yield some great moments as well.
Paine Field is a perfect example of a place where you can see some very interesting things if you are patient and don’t mind standing outside in the middle of the night staring at an airport. ‘PAE’ has activity 24 hours a day/7 days a week. With Boeing’s operation running day and night, there is ample potential to see things here that you won’t see anywhere else. For example, the Dream Lifter fleet operated by Atlas comes and goes at all hours of the day transporting 787 components to and from Boeing’s Plant.
On this trip, I had the pleasant surprise of seeing an Antonov AN124 land at last light bringing 3 777 engines apparently due to an ’emergency’ need by Boeing. In addition to Boeing, Paine Field hosts companies who have contracts with airlines for fleet maintenance. Due to this, it is not unusual to see a variety of Airbus aircraft coming and going at all hours of the night as well.
On my trip, I dedicated 2 evenings to try and capture some of that activity that takes place after all the other plane watchers go home. I came away with some interesting perspectives including seeing 2 new 787s move through the assembly process and something as unique as a Kenya Airways 777 arriving with little notice. Hopefully the photos below will help show how great Paine Field can be at night…..
Anotonov’s AN124 arriving at 9:20p carrying much needed 777 Engines for Boeing.
Speedbird’s newest 787
This was a last minute surprise, a Kenyan 777 arriving in Paine Field at 9:30pm.
One of several LAN 787 at Paine Field.
Qatar’s 787 shortly before being towed from the factory.
Qatar’s 787 being towed out of the factory. The next stop for her is the paint shop.
LAN’s 787 shortly after being towed into the final assembly position on the 787 line.
Here is a brief video showing LAN’s 787 being brought into the final assembly position on the 787 line. As you’ll see, its a very delibrate and slow process. I wish I had my tripod with me at the time, its not easy to hold still for several minutes while standing on bushes! 🙂
This 787 belongs to the Saudi Government. Specifically for use by their Economic Ministry.
This United 787 is parked in front of Boeing’s Paint Hangars.
What the Paine Field flight line looks like at 10:00pm!
Lufthansa’s 747-8i, D-ABYP, at Paine Field during a customer flight.
Paine Field Plane Spotting: Part I