Online Magazine

Recent Posts


More Places to Go


Inaugural Flight of the B787

NOTE: This article was originally written for the maiden flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in December 2009. I’ve republished it here since the Dreamliner has been become one of the mainstream aircraft for long haul passenger flights.

Original date: December 2009

A few short years ago, the Airbus A380 was the object of an extraordinary amount of excitement. During its years of development the A380 was the talk of the industry. I recall my first sighting of the whale-like A380. It appeared to float in the sky as it made its first landing at Chicago O’Hare. A few short months afterwards, I watched as the A380 landed in Sydney, Australia after completing the first commercial flight from Singapore. Here’s a short story about the first A380 commercial flight. In both cases, I was a lucky camper to be able to capture these moments on digital film.

Fast forward a few years and the object of excitement is changed. On Monday December 14th (2009) I arrive at the office in Grand Rapids about 7AM and open an email message telling me that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is about to make its first flight the next day from Paine Field near Seattle, Washington. During preceding months I had been planning to witness this event, but its date was postponed several times. To put it mildly, I am totally unprepared for Tuesday’s event and start to panic.

Using the computer, I check for flights from Grand Rapids to Seattle for later in the day. I spot a $520 fare on United Airlines. However, without additional verbal confirmation of the first 787 flight I decide to wait to book the United flight. Owing to the three hour time zone difference between GRR and SEA, I have to wait until noon to confirm that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is indeed scheduled to fly on Tuesday at 10AM, weather permitting.

Back to airline reservations. Wouldn’t you know that the earlier $520 fare is long gone leaving me with a much more expensive $950 flight. Oh well, that’s the cost of procrastination. Next I make hotel and car reservations and a call to my wife to let her know of my sudden excursion to Seattle. By 1PM I head home to pack my bags and photo equipment to arrive at the airport by 3PM.

Travel from Grand Rapids to Seattle by way of Denver is uneventful and I arrive about 8PM. The one hour drive from Seatac Airport in Seattle to the hotel near Paine Field is in heavy rain. Owing to my late arrival, I have to settle for some elegant fast food for dinner. Back at the hotel as I set my alarm for 7AM, I am wondering if the rain will interfere with tomorrow’s flight.

Bzzzzzzzz! Time to awaken. I draw back the window shades and see that it’s dark, cloudy and drizzly ourdoors. I quickly dress, prepare my cameras and drive to the nearby Future of Flight Museum that sits at the north end of Paine Field. There Mary Brueggeman hurriedly prepares me a parking pass and entry ticket to rooftop viewing area that overlooks the airport. Inside of the museum things are setup for this special “787 First Flight Event“, complete with champagne, continental breakfast and informative Boeing 787 Dreamliner displays.

I take a quick trip up to the rooftop to determine the best spot from which to photograph the takeoff. Once outdoors, I can feel the cold drizzle and strong breeze. I’m still wondering if the flight will take place. Although it’s still quite dark, the 787 is sitting next to a lighted building across the field about a half mile away. At 7:45 there are only a handful of others outdoors, mostly from local television stations doing their broadcasts of the event. Satisfied that I’ll have a good shooting location on the roof, I head back inside to grab some hot coffee and breakfast pastry.

By 8:30, the museum is a beehive of activity with about two hundred guests. You can hear the excitement in their voices. I bundle my coat and head outside again, this time to stake out my shooting position. By now three dozen others have already done the same. Across the field, we can see hundreds of Boeing employees streaming along the tarmac parallel the the taxiway. They too are here to see their new “baby” make its first flight.

After standing outside where it’s a damp 40-degrees for almost an hour, my feet and hands are cold. As the clock draws closer to 10AM, the rooftop viewing area is now jammed with about 400 onlookers with cameras staring at the motionless Dreamliner across the field. The strobe lights atop the aircraft have been flashing, but the aircraft shows no movement at all. Although it’s a half-mile away, I can hear its engines spool up. The 787 is finally moving and the crowd lets out a collective cheer. The sleek blue and silver aircraft follows a pilot card to runway 14R and then slowly parades 6000 feet along the taxiway as if it strutting its stuff for the Boeing employees and executives. Next it taxis to the far end of the airport just off of runway 34L. It sits there for a few minutes and then taxis into position on the runway. Everyone is now anxiously anticipating the takeoff.

Approaching from the south I see two small, low flying jet aircraft heading directly for runway 34L. These are the chase planes. Everyone knows that it’s now show time. Like a perfectly co-ordinated dance, the 787 engines spool up and the aircraft is finally rushing down the runway with the chase planes appearing to hang just overhead. The timing of the chase planes is exacting. The guests are now cheering loudly as the 787 races forward. At about the 5000 foot marker, the nose wheel comes off the ground. A few seconds go by and finally it’s airborne. The cheers are even louder now with lots of applause.

As it flies passes us, the Dreamliner is only a two hundred feet off the ground. The myriad of camera shutters are still snapping away and heads are turning to follow its path. As it slowly departs to the north, you can clearly see the distinctive bow of its wings as if they’re flexing. What a great looking aircraft.

Congratulations to all of the Boeing employees and subcontractors who have made it happen.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge

Boeing workers lined up on the tarmac

following the pilot car

a head on shot of the 787

crossing over runway 16R

first the nose wheel is off the runway

now all three wheels are off ground – it’s flying

the 787 is now airborne

ready for the climb

The Dreamliner passes by at 200ft

You can see wings bow on the Dreamliner

Boeing gave me this momento for attending the first flight.

The back of the memorial coin.



Written by Arnie Lee


Time Travel

05th August 2022

Time Travel
Photos that jog my memory

As long as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in planes. I recall being excited about going to the airport to pick up relatives when they flew to New York to visit us. We’d usually arrive at the airport a few minutes early so we would run up to the airport’s rooftop viewing area to watch the planes takeoff and land. It was thrilling to see the flying machines.
Those who know me are also aware that I’ve been a longtime camera buff. Here’s an early photo of an aircraft that I snapped way back in the 1960s.
Aircraft such as this Boeing 707 Astrojet helped usher in the jet age. This plane was taxiing at Idewild Airport which is now called John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK). JFK is one of three major airports serving the New York City area, other two being Newark (EWR, about 25 miles away in New Jersey) and LaGuardia (LGA, about 15 miles from JFK).

I grew up in New Rochelle, a suburban city not far from New York City. Some of the older readers may remember the George M Cohan song 45 Minutes From Broadway which was a reference to New Rochelle. Others may remember this town as the home of television character Dick Van Dyke. New Rochelle is only a few miles from the New York City border.

In 2007 I traveled back to New Rochelle to attend my 40th high school reunion.

For me, this was truly time travel. I couldn’t help but feel that I was turning the clock back 40 years to the year 1967. I was anxious to renew friendships with former high school classmates with whom I graduated from New Rochelle High School.

I hadn’t flown into LaGuardia Airport for a few years and was surprised by my flight’s arrival approach. The pilot navigated our plane over some landmarks that were very familiar to me from my youth. With my camera joined to myself I was able to capture some of these landmarks.

Follow along and I’ll take you on this short time travel photo tour in the aircraft that took me over my youthful romping area.

Photo Tour of New York area

The aircraft chart for the New York City area shows the path of our arrival at LaGuardia Airport. Our plane traveled on a long downwind leg northeastward, past LaGuardia and over Long Island Sound about 16 miles. The base leg was short and the extended final leg brought us directly to Runway 22. The numbers on the chart roughly correspond to the photos below.

Excuse the quality of these following photos taken on an overcast day.


This mini tour begins as the 737 flies past LaGuardia Airport as we begin a long extended downwind leg. You can see that Runway 22 extends into Flushing Bay.

We’ll be flying northeast over Long Island Sound.


This photo shows City Island, a picturesque and vibrant neighborhood located in the eastern Bronx.

The restaurants in City Island are noted for fresh and tasty seafood.


Here we are passing by New Rochelle, my childhood home.

We’re now flying over Long Island Sound, an extension of the Atlantic Ocean.

The island to the left was known as Fort Slocum. It used to be an army base.

In the background, you can see another body of water. This is the Hudson River and is about 7 miles from the New Rochelle shoreline.


On the aircraft chart, this location is referred to as “amusement park”.

Its name is Playland. As a youth, we spent many evenings there.

Enlarge the photo and you’ll see the ferris wheel, roller coaster and mini-railroad (my favorite).


Playland is also known as Rye Beach.

With its large white sand beach and adjacent boating area, it is a popular recreation area.

It is located just to the west of the Connecticut state line.


Here’s a view of City Island again as we continue the approach southwestward toward LaGuardia.

It is a small island.

In my younger days, I dined often at the seafood restaurants that line the narrow streets.


New York City is composed of five boroughs: Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens.

This is the Throggs Neck Bridge which connects the two boroughs of the Bronx and Queens.


The Whitestone Bridge also connects the Bronx with Queens.

LaGuardia Airport is situated on the northeastern shore of Queens along Flushing Bay. The Whitestone Bridge is very near the entrance to LaGuardia.


After landing at LaGuardia, we’re greeted by a familiar sign.

The Reunion and Time Travel

Here is another place that I used to hang around when I was younger. You can see its location in Photo # 3.

From my childhood home, I would walk four blocks to Hudson Park where we would go to the beach.

This is New Rochelle High School.

With its castle-like towers, it is one of the prettiest high schools in the U.S.

I graduated in 1967 and the following year NRHS suffered from the nation’s biggest fire. For the next few years, students attended classes in portable classrooms.

The high school has since been rebuilt to pre-fire condition and as you can see it is very attractive.

This is another photo of New Rochelle High School.

The school entrance is flanked by two lakes making the campus magnificent.

Thanks to classmate Stu Soloway for this photo.

My visit to New Rochelle lasted only two days.

Upon departing New York, I snapped this photos of a squadron of F/A-18s.

These military aircraft were positioned on the tarmac at LaGuardia Airport, most likely to provide for the security of the New York’s air space.

Final Thoughts

My time travel turned out to be very enjoyable.

I reconnected with most everyone that I expected; there were only a few faces from the past that I would have liked to have seen. But the reunion gathering was great. And so was the time afterwards when I was able to spend more time with so many friends.

To the left are some of the happy classmates that attended our 40th high school reunion.

With the advent of email – something that wasn’t available to us in 1967 – I am now staying in contact with many of these friends.

What I have learned is this: time travel really does exist.

Written by: Arnie Lee

Airbus A380
makes first commercial flight

Please note that this is a reprint of an article that was written almost 15 years ago when I was traveling in Australia. Coincidentally, the first commercial flight of Airbus’ new A380 was arriving at the Sydney Airport and I was able to take a few photos of the event.

Original date: October 25, 2007

Today I flew into Sydney. My 14 hour flight from Los Angeles arrived at Kingsford Smith Airport at 6:00 in the morning local time. That’s pretty early if you ask me.

Coincidentally, the first commercial flight of the Airbus A380 will be landing at this same airport in less than 12 hours. As I am anxious to return to the airport to see the A380’s arrival, I first drive to my scheduled meeting, have a quick lunch and finally return to the airport at about 3:30PM, early enough to find a vantage point from which to view the super jumbo’s arrival.

A few days before, the two emails that I sent to the Sydney Airport Media Staff failed to reach the intended recipients leaving me without a press pass. So I’ll have find another way to view the arrival.

I walk around the airport looking for a suitable viewing area and finally settle on the observation deck that overlooks the expansive tarmac. When I climb the stairs to the observation deck, there are only a dozen or so onlookers. But by 5PM, the number has mushroomed to about 150; most clutching cameras to record the A380’s arrival. The crowd is very excited to witness this historic arrival.

SQ Flight 380 left Singapore’s Changi Airport at 8AM with 455 enthusiastic passengers. While this is the first revenue flight for the A380, all of the tickets were sold by auction on eBay to raise money for charity. In all, more than $1.4 million was collected and will be shared by two children’s hospitals in Australia. According to Singapore Airlines sources, the two highest priced tickets were sold to a Englishman for about $50,000 US each.

The A380 just moments after landing

The weather is cloudy and heavily overcast afternoon. We can all see four news helicopters hovering nearby Rwy 34L to record the momentous event.

From out of the clouds the A380 appears. It gently touches down 7-1/2 hours after takeoff at 5:25 PM local time and taxis nearly the full length of the runway, turning directly in front of the Observation Deck, makes a 180 onto the taxiway and then heads a short distance to Gate 55.

on the way to Gate 55

From the Observation Deck, I hurry down to the area inside the terminal that overlooks the Singapore Airlines parking gates. There I find another two hundred interested observers lined up with their nose pressed against the glass windows getting a glimpse of the behemouth!

Hundreds of interested onlookers crowd around the window to see SQ380 dock at Gate 55.

Dozens of service staff are prepared to service the giant A380 after the arrival. Singapore Airlines flies the return flight tomorrow evening at 10PM.

Regular A380 flights between Singapore and Sydney begins Sunday, October 28th, replacing a flight previously operated with a Boeing 747. The price for a round trip ticket between the two cities on the A380 is about $1000 US.

While Airbus has designed the A380 to accommodate up to 800 passengers, Singapore Airlines has outfitted this aircraft for 12 first class suites each with a lie flat bed, 22″ LCD screen, work table and power supply, 60 business class seats that can be transfored to flat beds and 15″ LCD screen and 399 economy seats with 10″ LCD screens.

The A380 is powered by four Rolls Royce engines which can fly the the 1.2 million pound aircraft at Mach .89 about 9,700 miles. Airbus claims that the A380 will deliver a 20% savings in cost of operations compared to older aircraft.


Author: Arnie Lee

Please feel free to leave a comment about this article.

Newer Posts »