To close out my almost six-week vacation (it may sound nice to some of you, but honestly it is terrible) I have been able to spend some time in the Seattle area which is just about the best place any Avgeek can be. It was awesome to see the SeaFair Airshow over the weekend that I will share more about later, as well as seeing all of the planes on final to SeaTac during my time downtown.
However, today was the best location of all as I got to spend most of the day at Paine Field, which is essentially Disneyland for us Avgeeks. If you are into planes at all then you really need to get there and take in all of the aviation amazingness. Ideally you should attend Aviation Geek Fest next spring, but really any time can be absolutely amazing.
All of these pictures were taken from the StratoDeck at Future of Flight, which is one of the best spotting locations ever. I will share pictures of some of the amazing planes I saw later on, but in honor of my Twitter friend Jennifer, this post is all about support equipment.
It is amazing how many people and equipment it takes to run an airport, and Paine Field actually has a few things unique to their special operations.
Every airport has a fire department on the field or close by, but few departments probably get as much work as these guys. They are actually operated by Boeing, which makes sense with the demands they put on this group. They come out for what seems like every single engine run, takeoff, and landing. It is actually a good indication that engines are about to turn on a plane when you see the fire trucks roll at Paine Field. Fortunately, the vast majority of their work is strictly precautionary, but they are incredibly important to overall safe operations.
Not the sexiest piece of equipment on the ramp, but still very important for safe operations. This street sweeper was working constantly for the five hours I was there ensuring that taxiways and ramps were clean and free of debris, or FOD as it is referred to at airports.
As one might expect at a factory for manufacturing aircraft, there is a need for some special equipment, and these lifts are not just unique to the Boeing Factory, but to the building of a specific aircraft. Much has been written about the production of the 787 Dreamliner, and specifically how much of it is assembled in other locations and thought brought to Everett for final assembly.
So how do you take aircraft fuselages and get them from one side of the world to the other? You take a 747 and “put it in the microwave” so it blows up like a marshmallow so those fuselages will fit inside. That is why Boeing uses the Dreamlifter to bring all of these pieces together. Fun Fact: The 787-10s will all be built in Charleston where the main body sections are manufactured because they are too long to fit inside the Dreamlifter.
However, you can’t just unload sections like that with a forklift so Boeing had to build these lifts specifically for unloading the Dreamlifters. As you can see they have quite a few of them to handle the rapid pace of production that they are currently experiencing.
No post for Jennifer would be complete without a mention of her absolute favorite piece of equipment, the air stairs. While once again, not the sexiest piece of equipment, they do serve a valuable purpose in operations. My apologies that I couldn’t get a more up close picture, but I made up for it in quantity. There are probably more stairs on the ramp at Paine Field than probably most ramps in the world. Heaven help us if she ever gets loose on that ramp.
If you are looking for a fresh and entertaining view of the aviation world, make sure that you take a look at Jennifer’s Blog, Tales From the Terminal.