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The Joys of Taking Aerial Photography from a Helicopter

Helirow

A row of Robinson R-22s at Boeing Field

From my previous articles, I think it’s apparent to both fans and occasional readers that I’m relatively obsessive when it comes to matters of aviation photography.

Helicopter spotting is not new; far from it. Friends of mine are pioneers of helicopter-borne aviation photography, but I had never really considered it to be viable in the Pacific Northwest.

Turns out that I was wrong – very, very, wrong.

Continue reading The Joys of Taking Aerial Photography from a Helicopter

Taking a Special American Airlines 777-300ER Delivery Flight

Employees of American stand around a Boeing 777-300ER in new AA livery.

Employees of American stand around a Boeing 777-300ER in new AA livery.

A while back, I was invited to fly on a 777-300ER (77W) delivery flight for American Airlines. In a previous story, I talked about all of the events leading up to the delivery ceremony and flight and now I will continue with sharing my experience.

I was pulling a very long night after the dinner event, working on photos and the writing up the first part of my story. I was up late when I got a tip about a second American Airlines 77W that arrived at Boeing Field in the cover of darkness from Dallas. This was surely not usual and I began researching and found that the aircraft N719AN was flown up, but why?

Continue reading Taking a Special American Airlines 777-300ER Delivery Flight

Boeing Initiates 787 Dreamliner Test Flights

Boeing fifth 787 test aircraft, ZA005, lifts off from Boeing Field. Image from Boeing.

Boeing fifth 787 test aircraft, ZA005, lifts off from Boeing Field. Image from Boeing.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been grounded around the world since January 16th and many have put in countless hours to try and get the aircraft airborn once again.

Hope was raised when the FAA gave Boeing authorization to fly a 787 Dreamliner from Fortworth, TX back to Paine Field on Feburary 7th. That flight was only a one-time authorization. Today, the FAA had given Boeing authorization to take their fifth test aircraft, ZA005, on a flight over the state of Washington (and looks like a sliver into Oregon).

The aircarft lifted off from Boeing Field (BFI) at 12:32pm local time. ZA005 had no passengers and only 13 Boeing flight pilots and test personnel. After the 2 hour and 19 minute flight, ZA005 landed safetly back at BFI and the crew reported that the, “flight was uneventful.”

Map from FlightAware.com showing ZA005's flight path over Washington State.

Map from FlightAware.com showing ZA005′s flight path over Washington State.

Over the durration of the flight, the crew were closely watching the main and APU batteries, which was in the center of the Dreamliner’s current woes. Boeing stated that the results are a part of an overarching investigation and at this time are not able to share any additional issues.

PHOTO: ZA005 landing back at Boeing Field

Boeing hopes to resume test flights next week to continue finding the issues plaguing their new 787.

ZA005 lifts off from BFI for a test flight. No passengers onboard. Image from Boeing.

ZA005 lifts off from BFI for a test flight. No passengers onboard. Image from Boeing.

On Thursday, All Nippon Airways (ANA) stated that the 787 grounding has affected more than 100,000 of their passengers and resulted in over 1200 cancelled flights.

San Jose Airport (SJC), which saw ANA Boeing 787 service for only a short period, before the fleet was grouned, announced via Twitter that the airline has cancelled service until at least March 30th.

According to the New York Times, Japan Airlines expects the grounding to cost them $7.5million through March and that they plan to seek compinsation from Boeing. Many other airlines have also made similar claims of expecting compisation from Boeing.

Sure, annoyed passengers, lost revenue and additional delays are one thing, but the airline that might be hit the hardest is LOT Polish Airlines where the new 787 Dreamliner means so much for their future. A great article from the Wall Street Journal talks about how the 787 continued issues could spell disaster for LOT.

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.

@AirlineReporter | Flickr | YouTube

Delivering Qatar Airway’s First Boeing 787 Dreamliner – PART 3

The wing is astounding on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

The wing is astounding on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

This is the final installment of a multi-part (PART 1 & PART 2) series was written by AirlineReporter.com correspondent Mal Muir on the Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner delivery flight (note: Qatar Airways covered Malcolm’s trip to Doha to cover this story).

With the flight now well and truly underway, most of the passengers on board were sleeping, but I remained not able to sleep. This is not because of the 787 Dreamliner; I have a history of not being able to sleep on aircraft. This meant that I had plenty of time to explore the plane, get in some work, have a chance to relax, and still fit in a few movies.

Having the on board Wi-Fi meant that I was able handle all of those emails I had been avoiding. For those on a business trip, Wi-Fi allows you to stay connected to the office and remain productive (maybe that is not always a good thing).  It also works out if you are a Twitter fanatic, so  you do not feel disconnected from the Twitterverse.

What is better than being on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner? Being able to tell all your friends via the internet while flying at 30,000 feet. Photo: Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

What is better than being on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner? Being able to tell all your friends via the internet while flying at 30,000 feet. Photo: Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

The extra-large windows were a godsend for those in the back during the flight. As we passed over Iceland they managed to get 2.5 hours of uninterrupted viewing of the Northern Lights.  Unfortunately those of us up the front totally missed out since our windows were blacked out — I guess there are some benefits to flying economy.

When there was no outside light-show,  I was able to check out the economy section during flight and tested out the Recaro seats.  The Seats in the Economy Cabin were comfortable enough and would be fine for the medium length flights this Aircraft was fitted out for.  With a leather cover on the neck rest, they felt luxurious while not being to hard or uncomfortable, as some leather cushions can be.  I was also able to see the Social Media Command center set up as Qatar Airways was live tweeting their way across the globe.

The business cabin is prepared to start our way into Doha after a long journey. Photo: Mal Muri / AirlineReporter.com.

The business cabin is prepared to start our way into Doha after a long journey. Photo: Mal Muri / AirlineReporter.com.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any face time with the CEO, Akbar Al Baker, who was on board our flight. He was able to take advantage of the comfy seats and slept most of his way to Doha. I have it say it was surreal seeing  the CEO of the airline in the Business Class PJ’s.

As we crossed over Eastern Europe, heading towards Turkey and the Middle East, passengers started to wake up and the cabin crew started serving breakfast with freshly made espresso (not that I hadn’t stopped eating — I had a midnight snack as well).

Flying over Doha -- about to land. Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

Flying over Doha — about to land. Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

As we approached Doha, we prepared for our arrival. The flight was long, but many of us did not want the flight to end. Even though I got no sleep on the 14 hour flight, I felt oddly ready to go. It could have been the adrenaline and excitement, but could also have to do with the Dreamliner itself. The 787 has a new climate control system on board where the cabin is pressurized and humidified at a lower altitude, which allows you to feel more refreshed. I wasn’t fully able to appreciate the difference until my Boeing 777 flight home a few days later (I will be sharing a 787 vs 777 story later).

We started our descent into Doha and as the airport came into view, it was truly a sight to behold.  The blue waters of the Gulf, the yellow of the desert and just the small buildings and everything dotting the landscape.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen before — and I have seen quite a bit.

Welcome to Doha. Image: Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

Welcome to Doha. Image: Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

After we touched down at Doha International Airport we taxied towards the ministerial lounge (currently used for heads of state when they depart and the Amir of Qatar). The taxi ways and other areas of the airport were just full of Qatar Airways and other airport staff, all wanting to welcome the Dreamliner.

Even though we did not get a traditional water cannon salute on arrival, this was still a big deal with over 2 busloads of media waiting for us on arrival with big TV screens to show the aircraft landing.  As we disembarked and headed into the lounge area another press conference was underway by the CEO of the airline and the local representative for Boeing.

It was a long, yet fun journey to get to Doha. Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

It was a long, yet fun journey to get to Doha. Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

Once the press conference was over, the local media were given access to the aircraft while those of us on the flight, were bussed over to the arrivals terminal so that we could clear immigration, customs and get over to our hotel for the evening to get some sleep (at least for those of us who can not sleep well on planes).

The 787 flight was a once in a lifetime experience. It showcased that you can merge cutting edge technologies both in the on board experience and in the hardware of the aircraft itself to bring a truly magnificent piece of aircraft into the sky. I had a few days to explore Doha before my flight home and I look forward to share the rest of my adventures with Qatar Airways in the upcoming weeks.

ALL THE QATAR AIRWAYS BOEING 787 DELIVERY PHOTOS:

This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.

@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos

Delivering Qatar Airway’s First Boeing 787 Dreamliner – PART 2

It was not surprising that it was raining in Seattle as Qatar's first 787 left Boeing Field. Photo by Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

It was not surprising that it was raining in Seattle as Qatar’s first 787 left Boeing Field. Photo by Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

This multi-part (PART 1) series was written by AirlineReporter.com correspondent Mal Muir (note: Qatar Airways covered Malcolm’s trip to Doha to cover this story).

It’s grey outside, rain clouds threaten and there is a chill in the air (substantial for this Aussie implant to the USA) to warrant a scarf.  I don my properly-themed Boeing scarf and head out into the morning air of this Seattle fall day.  The weather cannot dampen my mood, nothing (apart from an inherent lack of coffee) can do that right now. I am about to hitch a ride on a 787 Dreamliner.

Tuesday the 13th of November 2012 is the day that Qatar Airways made their first 787 delivery flight.  As we departed downtown for Boeing Field (BFI) we were all excited and restless. Our departure was delayed and this was making some people antsy, but our arrival time to Doha, Qatar had not changed.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Business Class seat. Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Business Class seat. Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

The flight ,QR3787, was to happen on-board A7-BCB, the first Qatar Airways 787. We were set to fly the approximately 7500 miles direct to Doha with only about 90 people on-board, including a mixture of Qatar Airways staff, Boeing staff, contractors (such as Thales, Recaro, OnAir and BE Aerospace) and invited guests & media (the category I fell under).

I was lucky enough to be assigned a Business Class seat (4K), but with only 22 premium seats up front, the remainder of the passengers had to sit in economy. Do not feel too bad for them, each got a full row to themselves and received Business Class level of service.

Although most non-737 delivery flights happen at Paine Field (in Everett), our flight was departing from Boeing Field, just south of downtown Seattle.  I assume this was done since LOT Polish Airlines was taking delivery of their first Dreamliner at Paine on the same day.

A souvenier Qatar Airways Boeing 787 key for invited guests. Image: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

A souvenir Qatar Airways Boeing 787 key for invited guests. Image: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

Before boarding, there was no big TSA-style security; although laptops and liquids could stay in, my belt and shoes could not. It was a quick and visually appealing drive along the Boeing Field ramp past rows of 737s before arriving at the 787.  As we approached the aircraft, the excitement got the better of me and I was stunned that I was about to set foot on-board my first 787 flight (although I had previously been on United’s 787). If my excitement wasn’t high enough already,  I was handed a souvenir key by Boeing staff at the bottom of the stairs, marking the delivery.

On-board was a mix of people taking photos, mingling with the staff and the crew and just starting to relax into what would be a fantastic journey.  I had a quick chat with the Captain in charge of the flight, and learned that the day would also mark the line check of the first Qatar Airways 787 pilot. Qatar and Boeing pilots would take turns at the controls of the plane and I was interested in knowing where the crew was planning to rest between shifts.

Even in a 9-abreast configuration, economy did not look too shaby. Although, I was happy I had a business class seat. Image: Mal Muri / AirlineReporter.com.

Even in a 9-abreast configuration, economy did not look too shabby. Although, I was happy I had a business class seat. Image: Mal Muri / AirlineReporter.com.

Qatar designed this variant of their 787s with mid haul flights in mind (flights of 5-7 hours) so there is no crew rest facilities on-board, which have been seen on other Dreamliners.  We were looking at a 12-14 hour flight ahead of us (ultra long haul), so how would they rest?  The Qatar Captain revealed that a portion of the Economy Cabin was set aside for the cabin crew and 2 business class seats had been set aside for the flight crew.

Soon enough, the door was closed, an announcement was made and we all had to take our seats. As we were about to push back from our parking bay, a United 787 pulled in right next to us as almost to wish us well on our journey.

We taxied to the end of 13R, the two GENx engines spooled up and we were on our way. The engines did not seem to have the force of the GE90, but they were much quieter and were able to easily get us off the ground.  Being airborne in the 787 for the first time was surreal. Seeing just how far that composite wing flexes once airborne was a little bit crazy, at one point it seemed it was higher than the aircraft itself. A true work of engineering art.

We climbed out towards the south before turning to track north and on our polar route towards the middle east. Soon the seat belt sign came off and we were free to roam the cabin.

YAY! The first 787 Dreamliner delivered with Wi-Fi ready to go. Image: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

YAY! The first 787 Dreamliner delivered with Wi-Fi ready to go. Image: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

Qatar selected OnAir to provide on-board Wifi and GSM services on their new 787s.  Although a little slow to start (as I’m sure it was due to everyone hammering it at the same time to connect and be the first to say “I’m on-board”) the service was pretty consistent. One down fall is you couldn’t have more than one device connected to a single account at any time. This was probably more of an issue during a media event than it would be for a normally scheduled flight.

Without even realizing it, we were almost 90 minutes into the flight before the lunch service began, but to be honest, I had not even noticed.  This seemed to be the whole feeling on the flight; time moved quickly.

A successful airline is much more than just a seat and food. It is about the people. Image: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

A successful airline is much more than just a seat and food. It is about the people. Image: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

The CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, previously stated that, “Business Class is the new First Class.” This was definitely true with amenities provided from Salvatore Ferragamo including slippers, an amenity kit (in a stylish pouch) and even pajamas.  This 5 star service (Qatar Airways continues to win many different awards) continued with the menu for lunch being a 5 course, individually plated affair of a mixture of traditional Arabic meals with a mixture of Western and Indian options.

The meal time was also the first chance I got to fully play with the new state of the art Thales IFE system.  Touted as cutting edge, this system had what was described as two screens at each seat.  The main screen in Business Class is a large 15” LCD with the second screen being the remote itself. The system is android based so the remote is a touch panel and allows you to be able to navigate menus and edit playlists, all without interrupting the current selection that you have playing on the main screen.

It even had the ability to display a full moving map display on the remote while the main screen was playing a movie. That’s how I knew we were currently somewhere over Canada as I was watching The Dark Knight Rises while enjoying the 5 course meal… that’s the way to fly right?

Two screens are better than one right? IFE in economy. Image: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

Two screens are better than one right? IFE in economy. Image: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

After the filling meal, most people started changing their seat into sleep mode and the crew blacked out all the cabin windows.  The cabin became very quiet now as it seemed to be a little bit more quieter compared to a 777 or 747, though not upper-deck on an A380 quiet. I was hoping to catch some sleep, but with all the distractions and excitement, I knew that might have been difficult.

Continue reading with PART 3 of this story…

This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.

@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos