Friday, 28 December 2012

Boeing 314 California Clipper

Boeing model 314, California Clipper NC 18602, pictured in 1939 or 1940
This is a bit special - the 747's distant ancestor the beautiful Boeing model 314 seaplane. This particular 314, named California Clipper was delivered to Pan American Airlines in 1939 and was used by the United States Army during WWII. It eventually retired in 1946, after logging more than a million flight miles.

Although undoubtedly lovely to look at, big seaplanes like this weren't always popular with passengers (since they tended to induce both seasickness and airsickness at various points of the journey) they were very hard to fly, and required much more experience and training on the part of their pilots and crew than more conventional land-based aircraft. In the 1930s these giant aeroplanes were the only way of getting passengers across the Atlantic, but after the war, with jet-powered airliners a mere decade away they were obsolete. 

No Model 314s survive. Of the 12 built, three were lost to accidents and the rest were scrapped.

This is a scan from an 8x10in print, which was in pretty terrible condition when I found it in a junk shop recently. The surface of the print was fine, but the entire image was covered in fine vertical lines, probably scratches in the film emulsion caused by careless handling of the negative during development or drying, all those years ago. 

To remove these lines I used a technique I've never used before. I selected the areas where the lines were most noticeable (the water and the sky), copied these to a new layer and with the opacity of this layer set to 50% I shifted it horizontally by a few pixels. This gives the effect of 'canceling out' the lines, but it inevitably lead to some odd artefacts and a general muddling of the treated areas. Judicious use of the patch tool and content-aware fill mostly sorted this out. I'm not completely happy with the final result but it's significantly better than the original. 

Two Firsts, over Seattle

The first ever 747, and the first of a new breed - the 747-400, fly in formation over Seattle in September 1988.
We've seen the first flight of the 747, and here's that same airframe, still flying almost 20 years later, but this time it's got company. The conspicuously shiny aeroplane in the foreground is N661US (test registration N401PW - as shown here), which was ultimately delivered to Northwest Airlines in December 1989 and later, in December 2008 to Delta, with whom she still flies, as far as I know. 

Still awake? Very well. Then you might be interested to know that 
N661US was the first of a new breed of 747 - the 747-400, which these days is by far the most common passenger variant. The most noticeable external difference compared to the prototype is the stretched upper cabin, but from a distance you're more likely to notice the upturned winglets on the end of the wings of 400 models. These increased the range of the 400 variant by ~3% and also allowed for higher cruising altitudes. How exciting. 

Two jumbos in the same picture is pretty special, but this shot is special for another reason, and that's the scenery. This is Seattle! In the foreground you can see our shudderingly unlovely waterfront, dominated by the Alaska viaduct, and the downtown towers just behind that. To the mid-left is South Lake Union, now home to's vast campus, and snaking noisily through the middle of the picture is I-5. Just beyond that, Capitol Hill, where I currently live. In September of 1988, however, I was six years old, and 5000 miles to the right. Good times. 

This picture was part of a collection of several 8x10in prints I found in a junk shop near Seattle, and I haven't done much to it. After scanning, adjustments were limited to dust and scratches removal (pretty standard) and minor brightness tweaks to bring out the planes, which in the original print were slightly silhouetted against the bright sky. I also increased the contrast of the buildings in the background, and boosted the saturation of the blue sky at the top of the image.

Looking through various published pictures,
 I have found an image similar to this (same flight, different framing) credited to Boeing photographer Ken Dejarlais. Whether this particular image was taken by Dejarlais I don't know.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Is this Tex Johnson, famous Boeing test pilot? In the cockpit of N7470, the first 747, probably some time in 1968
Ever wondered what the cockpit of one of the world's biggest planes looks like? Well it looks a bit like this, but hopefully not exactly. I think this is the cockpit of the very first 747, and judging by the state of some of the instrumentation (unsheathed wires, a temporary G-meter on the dashboard and is that scotch tape on the control column?) this was probably taken some time in 1968, after rollout but prior to its first flight. This is how the same cockpit looks now.

I don't know for certain who the man holding the column is, but he bears a resemblance to 'Tex' Johnson, famous Boeing test pilot who flew many earlier aeroplanes including the B 52 bomber and the 707 (more on the 707 in the near future). Is this Tex? I like to think so, but when I found the picture in an antique shop in northern Washington, it was uncaptioned. Johnson left Boeing in 1968 and never flew the 747 (as far as I know). He died in 1998.

And first... the first! 747, that is.

The first ever 747, taking off on its first ever flight, Feb 9th 1969. Photographer unknown
I've got a thing about the Boeing 747, and I'm not completely sure why. It was the first aeroplane I ever flew on, but I don't remember being all that impressed at the time (although my 10 year-old self was amazed by how the wings flexed in turbulence). It's also the plane that takes me back home to England from my adopted city, Seattle WA, on a flight path that goes directly over my apartment, so I see it at pretty close quarters pretty frequently.

But I think the reason I like it so much is just that unlike all other really really large planes, it's a great-looking aircraft. The 747 has been in production for more than 40 years, and every major variant (with the arguable exception of the short and fat SP) looks equally elegant.

But for my money, the first was the best-looking. This is the very first 747, factory fresh, pictured (I'm pretty sure) moments after its very first takeoff from Boeing Field, Seattle on February 9th, 1969. I don't know that this is the first flight with certainty, but the people in the foreground (and buses in the background) match up with published images of the inaugural flight.

I found this print with several others in a junk shop north of Seattle. I'll be adding the rest to this blog soon.

Welcome to Old Plane Pictures!

Hello! And welcome to Old Plane Pictures. This blog is pretty much what it sounds like - pictures of old planes that I've found in junk shops around Seattle, Washington, scanned and retouched. I'll also be adding descriptions based on my own research. Maybe I'll even throw a few jokes in there. Within a year, this blog will be bigger than George Takai's Twitter feed, you mark my words.

Anyway, welcome. I'll be updating this page semi-regularly, as I find more Old Plane Pictures and get better at Photoshop.