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…..
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! 🙂