Old Encounter with an Elephant

In the late 90s, I made a very brief trip to South Africa for work.  I had one day spare while I was there and so took a trip to Pilanesburg National Park, a wildlife reserve.  I spent a day driving around looking at various different wild animals, mostly at a great distance.  Since it was the middle of the day, lots of the interesting stuff was out of sight.  Near the end of my time there, I took a drive down a side road to a watering hole that was supposed to be popular with hippos.  I find hippos fascinating so was hoping to see some.  No such luck.

As I drove back up towards the main road and started contemplating a return to Johannesburg, I saw a bunch of cars on the main road that had stopped.  I slowed down, figuring that they had seen something off to one side so I started looking.  Sure enough, they had.  An elephant was wandering through the trees and coming straight for me.  I sat watching it approach.  It didn’t seem bothered that I was there and came straight for the car.  When I realized that it was going to come right through me, I put the car in reverse and quickly got out of the way – grabbing a close up shot as I did so.  It came on to the road and turned away from me walking towards a camper van.  The van soon came to the same conclusion that I had.  The elephant wasn’t interested in stopping or going around them so they had to reverse up the road as the elephant paced them appropriately.  Finally it turned off and I imagine they breathed a sigh of relief.

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Some A400M Samples

As I was skipping through some images, I saw a few extra shots of the A400M at RIAT.  I figured that I hadn’t seen many examples of the transport in service – just the test aircraft performing in displays.  However, I have seen both Luftwaffe and Armee de l’Air planes at times so thought I would share a few shots of them plus some test planes for good measure.

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Lavenham

We went to a bunch of villages in East Anglia that were picturesque but one was almost too much to be real.  I have been to Lavenham before – I went in the early 90s when visiting a friend who was living in the area at the time – but I have to admit I didn’t recall much about it and when we got there, I wondered how I could have forgotten.  It seems that the entire village is made up of buildings that were constructed by a film set designer.

Half timbered building abound.  They are all really old but well maintained.  Multiple colors are used to decorate the walls which I assume are probably made of some vintage materials.  Building construction in those days used to use a lot of straw mixed with “binding agents” of a less than delightful origin.  You don’t know that once they are done and I assume any more modern repairs make use of more pleasant ingredients.  The age of the buildings also shows in the way that there doesn’t appear to be a right angle in the place.  Everything is at odd angles.  It really is something special.

It is not hard to understand why tourists will visit the place.  It is just what someone from overseas would imagine an English village to be.  I certainly won’t so easily forget it this time.  Not sure how I did before!

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Roll Out and Takeoff of a New Max 8

I’ve seen a few 737s make their first flights at Renton.  This example occurred on weekend morning and it caught me out a bit.  They roll the jets across the bridge from the assembly flight line to the runway flight line.  The bridge crosses the river just south of the park.  Once across, they are ready to start up.  This takes longer than a normal start up since this is the first time the plane is going to fly.

The fast taxi with rejected takeoff is the next step.  This takes place on the runway and, in this case, was heading towards me up near the Lake Washington end of the Renton runway.  All being well with this, it is time to take off.  I had hoped that this would involve a back taxi and then departure over the lake but I was to be disappointed.  They turned at the lake and powered up for a departure to the south.  I had not anticipated this so was badly placed.  The moist morning air resulted in vapor in the inlets as they accelerated past me and then climbed off in the distance.

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San Francisco Waterfront

The waterfront at the Embarcadero is a very attractive place to wander around.  What I have rarely had a good view of, though, is the view from above.  Fortunately, a friend of ours works down there and, when we visited, he took us up to have a look at the view.  We stopped in at the end of the work day so it was still daylight.  The view of the Ferry Building and across the Bay Bridge was very nice.

We did stop in again after dinner since the night view is a great one too.  San Francisco on a sunny evening is a fun place to be with old friends.  It does have its quirks though!

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Rebuilding the Taxiways at LAX

In recent years, LAX underwent a reconfiguration of the norther runways.  I understand this was partly to accommodate the A380 operations which, when initially introduced, created some restrictions on other operations as a result of the runway spacing.  They respaced the runways.  I wondered whether any of the aerial photos I had taken at LAX showed the differences that had been made.

My first flight was during the reconfiguration process.  The change to one of the runways had already been made and could be seen in the spare surface were the original northerly edge had been.  Other work was underway around the thresholds and in the underrun.  The photos from later show the finished configuration.  The threshold of the inner runway has been moved from its original location and the underrun work is now complete.  Things like runways feel like they should be so permanent but, as with any man made construction, they can be taken apart and rebuilt if that is what is needed.

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Looking Back at the HSTs

As a small boy, the new thing in British trains was the Intercity 125.  Known in the industry as the HST, this was a step forward in fast train travel for the UK.  When I started working in the rail industry many years later, the HSTs were a big part of our fleet.  They had been in service a long time by then but were still the backbone of certain corridors and were getting further investment.  Move on another 20 years and now the fleet is finally disappearing.

Some are still being reconfigured for a future on new routes, but the majority of the fleet is being replaced by a new generation of trains and it is a surprise just how long it has taken to find their successors.  The HSTs have been a solid fleet with strong performance, a level of redundancy and a ride quality that was impressive.  I figured I would through in a couple of shots I have of them.  I have very few, sadly.  One is an old one in British Rail colors from the 80s and the others are from the days of GNER.  What a shame I don’t have more.  Given the amount of time I spent traveling on them or inspecting them at depots and overhaul facilities, I should have tons.  Oh to have had had phones in our cameras then!

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JAL’s Special A350

Japan Air Lines has been taking delivery of a bunch of Airbus A350s recently.  I was interested to see them at Haneda where they seem to be based as opposed to Narita.  Interestingly, for a plane with substantial range, they are being used from a lot of short sectors at the moment.  On the station platforms, they had some posters about a special A350 that was celebrating the 20th anniversary of a Japanese boyband, Arashi.

Fortunately, this jet was being used on internal flights and it was due back in to Haneda when I was there.  With the crummy weather, the JAL terminal roof top viewing deck was fine for photos in the afternoon since, with no sun, there was no backlighting.  The A350 came in to view and stopped in a cloud of spray from reverse thrust and then taxied back and parked right under me.  Plenty of opportunities to get some shots of it.

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Salesforce Park

During our visit to San Francisco, some friends told us to check out Salesforce Park.  This is a park that has been built on top of the transit center in the heart of the city.  The transit center is, by demand, a large area so the space on top of it makes for a decent area.  The park was fun to wander around.  It is surrounded by some interesting buildings which will warrant their own posts in due course.

There are seating areas, children’s play areas, an amphitheater, a dome over an atrium for the transit center itself and plenty of plants.  The plant beds are broken down into categories covering different types and plants and different origins for the plants.  There are sculptures around the park including one that is a series of water jets.  These are triggered by sensors in the transit center such that, as a bus drives beneath them, they squirt up.  A bus driving the length of the lane beneath has a sequence of jets that will ripple along the sculpture.  We were there when one bus passed beneath and, having been hoping for some action (aside from the occasional random jet of water), we were almost caught out when the wave of jets came by.

If we hadn’t been told about the park, I would never have known.  Even when we got to the entrance area, it was a little inconspicuous.  It is worth a visit if you are passing by.  There is also a more interesting entrance than the elevators but that will have to wait for another post.

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VC-10 at Duxford

Duxford’s VC-10 has been there for many years.  When I first went there in the 80s, it was on display in the same BOAC colors that it currently wears.  However, I think, judging by the condition it is in now, it has undergone a repaint since I first saw it.  The VC-10 is something I didn’t see much of in civilian service.  The RAF examples where the ones I saw the most.  The Duxford example is a great way to see how they were in their original incarnation.

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