We avgeeks are a funny group of people. We take great pleasure in seeing, or even talking about planes. They don’t have to be rare planes, though that is fun. They just have to have wings, an engine, and a cockpit. Come to think about it, they don’t have to have any of that, they just have to fly in some way shape or form, or at least used to fly, or were intended to fly. According to my wife, it is crazy to sit around for five hours in cold, drizzly, Seattle weather, just to see a plane take off, but that is just the price of admission for an avgeek.
When I was planning my trip to Paine Field I had only two aircraft that I was really dying to see fly, the 787, and the Dreamlifter. Trouble was, when I left home the 787 was grounded, which meant the factory had slowed a little and the Dreamlifters didn’t need to be quite as busy. But even if I didn’t see those, I would be happy just relaxing and checking out some planes.
When I got to the field on my first day I saw a Dreamlifter for the very first time in person, parked on the ramp in all of its hugeness. For those unfamiliar with the Dreamlifter, it is a retrofitted 747 that was designed to carry parts for the 787. It kind of looks like a 747 marshmallow that got put in a microwave and blown up throughout the fuselage. It looks weird and awesome all at the same time.
I kept watching Flight Aware throughout the week hoping to see one actually land or take off, but to no avail. On my last day there I looked at the schedule before leaving home and there was one on the schedule for that afternoon. I didn’t really get my hopes up as there had been many on the schedule, none of which I had actually seen fly. I went anyways, as it was my last day and I just wanted to see planes.
As it turned out there wasn’t much of anything flying that day other than a few little GA aircraft, but it was still nice to be at the airport and just read my book. Right as I was about to leave my new friend from earlier in the week showed up so I decided to stay for a little while and chat with him. While chatting we were joined by another avgeek who can also be found on Twitter: @pilot_ngb. Once again it was awesome to meet someone who loved planes as much as me.
Just as I was about to leave, again, the lights on the Dreamlifter came on. Was I actually going to see it fly right before I was going to leave. Sure enough the tug pushed the plane back and it started to taxi out. Our new friend pulled out his radio and we heard that they would be taxiing down to the other end to take off. Once we saw the plane make the turn South on the taxiway we jumped in our cars and sped off to the windsock to get a better view.
We made it just in time to watch the Dreamlifter taxi by, and then line up on the runway. Then I finally got to see this:
I got to fly on a 747 once about 12 years ago, and it was incredible. However, standing next to the runway about 200 feet away from it taking off was even more incredible. I honestly don’t think I can put into words how much I loved it. It was the perfect ending to my week, and well worth the five-hour wait.
There are a few big things that I took away from my week at Paine Field.
- I need to get a better camera so I can take better pictures.
- It doesn’t matter if planes are old or young, I love them all.
- As awesome as the planes are, and as much as I love the airport, the people are what truly make aviation special. It is a unique bond that you can’t find in many places.
I am so grateful for the people who I met on my trip, and I look forward to having even more such experiences in the years ahead. If we ever happen to be in the same neighborhood, hit me up and I would love to talk planes while watching them, or waiting for them to show up.