A Condor 767-300ER departing Anchorage Airport – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter
Back in May I was desperate to fly somewhere — anywhere. By that time, I had not flown a single mile. Yep that’s right, an AvGeek who flew over 60,000 miles last year alone was sitting at 0 miles until May. I was having major withdrawals and then I saw a fare sale to Alaska.
Last year, during my $100 Challenge, I decided on Kansas City over Alaska. I was determined to tick that missing state off my list, and $200 round trip fares to Anchorage were a steal! So I booked my trip and decided on a weekend of pure plane spotting.
I had heard, read, and seen how good spotting at Anchorage can be and I wanted to check it out myself. The airport sits in view of a massive mountain range providing a great back drop to the aircraft taking off and landing. Adding to the scenic nature of the airport is the fact that it is the crossroads of freight aircraft going between Asia and the Americas. What AvGeek wouldn’t want to spot there?
Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q400 on proving flight in Juneau, Alaska – Photo: AirlineReporter.com
Alaska Airlines (AS), through their wholly-owned subsidiary Horizon Air, recently announced that they would deploy some of their Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 aircraft to the State of Alaska. While Dash-8’s have long been a fixture in Alaska Airlines’ pacific northwest network via Horizon (I was flying them within Washington as a child), this marks their first major deployment up north.
Why would AS begin flying Q400s in Alaska? For the same reasons other carriers have moved towards regional jets and turbo props – operating costs, frequency, and flexibility. On the operating cost side, Q400s are extremely efficient, particularly compared to the Boeing 737-400s that are a mainstay of the AS fleet in Alaska. Bombardier estimates savings in examples like this to approach 40%. From a frequency and flexibility standpoint, more flights on a smaller plane can meet passenger demands, maximizing load factor while increasing service frequency, to the benefit of passengers.
Dreamlifter N780BA in Everett. Photo by Brandon Farris.
This past week I have traveled all over the place from Anchorage to Miami and even in Seattle a little bit. Something that was awesome while traveling to all of these places was the fact that I got to see three different Boeing Dreamlifters. It all started on Sunday when I got treated to N780BA coming into Everett.
Dreamlifter N718BA in Anchorage. Photo by Brandon Farris.
The next day I was taking a day trip up to Anchorage for some spotting and was treated to N718BA making a fuel stop on its way to Paine Field.
Dreamlifter N249BA in Miami. Photo by Brandon Farris.
And finally on Friday, while on the ramp tour in Miami I got to see N249BA being towed around the airport making it the third different Dreamlifter I had seen in a mere week!
The Dreamlifter is a transport aircraft that flies Boeing 787 parts around the world to Paine Field and Charleston, similar to the Airbus Beluga. Some might not see it as the most eye pleasing aircraft but it gets the job done one day at a time!
CHECK OUT MY OTHER AIRLINE SPOTTING PHOTOGRAPHY
||This story written by…Brandon Farris, Correspondent.
Brandon is an avid aviation geek based in Seattle. He got started in Photography and Reporting back in 2010. He loves to travel where ever he has to to cover the story and try to get the best darn shot possible.
@BrandonsBlog | RightStuffPhotography | Flickr
Spotters on the back of a Ford F150 taking photos of a Korean Air Cargo Boeing 747-8F.
For me, the photo above is the essence of what it means to be an AvGeek. Not many people could understand why I would be willing to get up at 3:30am in the morning, hop on a flight from Seattle to Anchorage to take photos of airplanes for the day in below zero temperatures before getting back home at about 10:30pm. If the thought of that excites you — then you are surely an AvGeek.
Nippon Cargo Air Boeing 747-400F in special green livery. JA04KZ.
I can admit that I am not die-hard plane spotter. I think I am probably too weak. Sitting outside waiting all day for the perfect shot normally doesn’t appeal to me. But then again, Anchorage is different. It is a main hub for large Boeing 747 aircraft to make a technical stop from Asia before continuing on their journey. So when given the chance to spot for the day (I have never done it before at ANC), I jumped at the chance. Well… I wasn’t so excited when my alarm went off at 3:30am, but it was all well worth it.
I woke up just in time to catch some of the sweet views into Anchorage.
Our flight out of Seattle went well… I think. I remember boarding. I think I remember taxiing, but I surely do not remember take off — I was asleep. After picking up our rental truck (thought we needed 4-wheel drive, but the roads were actually okay), we were off to look at airplanes.
It is a bird. Nope, it is a plane. Wait, wrong again. It is a moose.
One of the first great spots that we had was not a plane; but a pair of moose (mooses? meese?). Yes, I know I looked like a total tourist pulling over to take photos of the local wildlife, but I didn’t care, I hadn’t seen one in the wild before. The moose above was interested in a bicyclist (and omg, I saw like half a dozen people riding their bikes in this freezing weather — wow) and I watched at the guy got off his bike and climbed a nice embankment to avoid the moose. I was using a long lens and stayed close to the truck — I heard that they can be quite aggressive.
I haven’t seen a Boeing 737-200 take off in a while. Check out that smoke out of the engines.
I came prepared: long underwear, hat, gloves, multiple jackets and more. But I was still freezing. The whole -1deg F temperature wasn’t too bad, it was the 10-15mph wind that was a killer. I could only stay outside for a few minutes before having to retreat back to the warm truck (yea, I am a wuss).
Two Korean Air Cargo Boeing 747-400F’s welcome the new 747-8F.
But I have to say that I loved spotting in Anchorage. Where else can you get a collection of small aircraft and big aircraft with almost no medium sized aircraft like this? The small ones are used to shuttle people around the region, while the large ones are mostly making technical stops to fuel up before continuing their long journeys.
Eva Cargo Boeing 747-400F and MD-11F. Photo taken from inside the airport.
The day was long, but it went quick. We knew it would be a quick process to get through security at ANC, so we waited until the last minute to head back over to the terminal. Turns out that not only was gas pretty far away for the truck, but someone (okay it was me) missed the exit for the car rental return, so we ended up missing our flight. Luckily there was another flight to Seattle only two hours later that we were able to make.
Not everyone can understand making a day trip up to Anchorage, but that is what us AvGeeks do — I am sure most of you understand.
SEE ALL THE OTHER ANCHORAGE SPOTTING PHOTOS ON FLICKR
||This story written by…David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder.
David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
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