Stories by Francis Zera

EDITOR-AT-LARGE / DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY - SEATTLE, WA Francis Zera is a Seattle-based architectural, aerial, aviation, and commercial photographer, a freelance photojournalist, and a confirmed AvGeek.
The DEA's Bell 407.

The traveling American Heroes Air Show visited Seattle’s Museum of Flight on May 21 for the first time since 2012. The helicopters-only show, which was held in Austin earlier in May and is scheduled for Los Angeles in June, does not feature traveling aircraft. Rather, it gathers local rotorcraft from military bases, police, fire, EMS services, federal agencies, and private firms for what amounts to a public one-day fly-in. Agencies are encouraged to set up informational/recruiting tables at the events, which are free and open to the public.

The 2012 Seattle event featured several military craft, including a Chinook transport and an Apache attack helicopter. The military aircraft were withdrawn from this year’s event not long before the show, leaving just a handful of helicopters on display: the DEA’s Bell 407, a Schweitzer two-seater, a Robinson R44 on inflatable floats, an R22, and Airlift Northwest’s Agustawestland A-109-E.

Iron Maiden's 747-400 tour plane lands at KSEA.

Bands customizing big transport jets for tours is nothing new. For instance, Alice Cooper, the Allman Brothers Band, Deep Purple, Elton John, Olivia Newton-John, and Peter Frampton all made use of The Starship (a Boeing 720) back in the 1970s. Legendary metal band Iron Maiden has turned the volume up to 11 with their custom-liveried “Ed Force One” — named after their evil mascot, Eddie.

What makes Iron Maiden’s tour planes even more unusual is that they’ve been piloted by lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who holds a transport pilot license. Iron Maiden’s last tour made use of a customized 757-200.

After the band’s April 11 show in Tacoma, WA, they made the short hop up to Paine Field in Everett, WA on April 12 for a VIP tour of their bird’s birthplace, the Boeing assembly plant, before leaving the same day for their next tour stop in Denver (Editor’s note: I got to see the beautiful #EdForceOne fly over my Denver office on departure!). Before they left Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I was able to be there, on the ground, and get some up-close photos of the plane.

The former American Airlines B727-223, N874AA, at Boeing Field in Seattle, now owned by the National Airline History Museum, Kansas City, Mo.

In early 2015, in preparation for the construction of its giant new Aviation Pavilion, Seattle”s Museum of Flight moved its Boeing 727 (former American Airlines N874AA) from the parking lot on the west wide of East Marginal Way where it had been displayed along with other large aircraft. Instead of being towed to the museum”s air park with the other planes, it was towed all the way across King County International Airport (also known as Boeing Field) to a parking stall.

A model of a Boeing 747-8 with a Skydeck installed sits in the offices of Windspeed Technologies in Everett. Wash.

By now, some of your might have seen some bit of news concerning Everett, WA-based Windspeed Technologies” new SkyDeck modification for large passenger aircraft. If you”ve managed to miss it, imagine adding a big fighter-jet cockpit canopy to the top of a jetliner, with a couple of first class seats inside, and you”ve got the idea.

”I travel a lot,” Windspeed Technologies President and CEO Shakil Hussain explained to AirlineReporter. ”I was trying to find ways to reduce the boredom of long fights and realized over the years that the offerings of in-flight entertainment have not changed much you”re watching a movie on a screen or something else while being confined to a relatively tight space. I was once invited into the cockpit of a 747 in flight the view was unbelievable. I thought that if I could design something to allow the public to access such an amazing view, that this could be even better than what the pilots could see.”