I don't consider myself a planespotter, at least not to the degree where I concern myself with tracking tail numbers and such, but I do enjoy sitting at the end of a runway snapping photos of airliners on approach. However, I have found myself a little obsessed with a certain aircraft, which made a recent appearance here in Seattle.I have seen glimpses of this aircraft at various times through the years, usually seeing it sitting down on the tarmac of Boeing field while I drive by on I-5 at 65mph up above. I have even managed to see it in flight, from the window of my office, for the 3 seconds it was visible between buildings.
What plane is this? Its the 2nd largest aircraft flying today, the Antonov An-124. (Personally, I consider it the largest, its big brother, the An-225 is really in a class by itself).
These brief glimpses are not enough. I had to capture this bird for myself and preserve its imprint on my camera. Why? Well, not sure, really. It does not serve any real purpose to have done so, its not going to be any sort of marketable photo. But I had to do it.
A few months ago I stumbled upon a great flight tracking web site, FlightAware.com which had a lot of the resourced I needed to find out when the An-124 would be back to Boeing Field (KBFI).
One lacking feature of FlightAware.com was the ability to send notifications about a specific type of aircraft arriving at an airfield, so I cobbled up a cron job shell script that scraped the Antonov Ruslan (quad-jet) (A124) Aircraft status page for any that were enroute to KBFI. I had this script send me an email to my PC and my cell phone.
However, this was sort of reactive. I wanted to be a little more proactive in my hunt. I found out that because the Antonovs are all owned by foreign companies (Volga-Dnepr or Antonov Design Bureau), they had to file paperwork with the United States Department of Transportation. (Foreign carriers are commiting 'cabotage' if they fly cargo between two points in another country). They have to file for excemptions, and these filings are public record at the DOT Docket Management System. I found that Volga-Dnepr had filed for an excemption for February 2007.
My cron script worked flawlessly in February when an An-124 flight was inbound from Columbus, OH to deliver fully-assembled 777 engines. Unfortunately, I was in Tambor, Costa Rica!.
When I got back stateside I found out that another flight was slated for March. So I waited. And waited some more. Until Thursday night, at 6:00pm, I got the email I was hoping for: "ANTONOV EN ROUTE TO KBFI".
I convinced Jenn that this was something worth seeing, even getting her to agree that even though it was a 9:45pm arrival, I could take Cohen with me.
We arrived at Ruby Chow park at the north end of Boeing Field and waited. Another father/son pair arrived because, they, too, had used FlightAware.com to get notified of its arrival. Minutes later it appeared. WOW. Just WOW.
After it landed, I drove along the siding road to the hanger nearest to where it parked, popped open the tailgate and snapped some photos from the bed of the pickup.
|Panorama (2 photos stitched) cropped to 1780x640)|