I was looking to get some midsummer shooting in at Vancouver. The day was a lovely one but the evening promised so overcast rolling in and that proved to be the case. However, I thought I would give things a go. The lack of the strong evening light was disappointing but it did actually make for some softer lighting conditions and things weren’t all bad. The evening culminated (at least for me) with three quick arrivals. An Edelweiss A340-300, a BA A380 and a China Airlines A350-900. I quite liked the conditions as they provided something slightly different. Clouds shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent from an evening out shooting.
The A340s are disappearing from the fleets of major airlines pretty quickly as the 787s and A350s come in to service. Lufthansa is one airline that still has not only the A340-600 in service but the A340-300 too. I shot a 600 on approach to SFO last year and it got me wondering just how long they have remaining in service. While fuel prices are relatively low, they may hang on but higher fuel prices could accelerate their demise. We shall see. In the meantime, here are some of their fleet in service across the years.
Sorry for the corny pun but I just couldn’t resist. One of my favorite airliners to shoot has been the Air Tahiti Nui A340-300. I have seen them at LAX on a number of visits. Shooting them taking off on the south complex has been possible on a few occasions and I was super lucky to get one of them landing on the north complex when I was overhead in the helicopter. The A340s are getting a bit old at this point, though, so their replacement has been ordered and it is going to be the Boeing 787-9.
One of the jets was in flight test at Everett so, with nice weather on a weekend and flying underway, I couldn’t resist a trip up to get the return. I was too late for a takeoff shot. The conditions were great. A cold snap meant that the air was clear and the sun, while it disappeared for a while shortly after I arrived, was back in plenty of time for the return. Consequently, as the plane came across the Cascades, I could see it easily prior to it turning north to come in on the approach. Mt Baker was clear in the background as they made the turn to final approach.
The dark colors of the livery make it necessary to use a bit of shadow slider when processing the shots. It was just after midday so the light was a bit on the nose of the jet but you could still get something good for the fuselage sides. The touchdown was a bit firm providing a smoky cloud of tire rubber. I wonder how much tread the airline expects to have at delivery? Often the jets will come back for a rejected takeoff run but this time they went straight back to the ramp.
My afternoon of shooting at SFO with Hayman was a lot of fun. However, we were a little thwarted by the weather at times. Banks of clouds would roll in from the hills beyond the airport at odd times. Sometimes, there would just be a thin layer of cloud that was over the water but it would, of course, be just behind the flightpath of the jets. The sun might be on them but, with the cloud behind, a white airliner can be a lot less interesting to shoot.
Shooting at SFO is often about waiting for the international traffic. Endless Untied jets is not really that special but the widebodies from overseas are the ones you want. Of course, the weather can choose exactly those times to bring in more cloud. If the sun disappears for a moment, you can bet it will be when the Cathay A350 shows up or something similar. You just have to work with what you get and keep looking through the viewfinder for that brief instant when the plane pops into the sun through a small gap in the clouds.
A favorite airline of mine is Air Tahiti Nui. I have never flown with them but they have a colorful livery and they still fly Airbus A340-300s so they get points from me on two fronts. The only place I ever get to see them is at LAX. Normally they operate off the southern runway complex and I saw a couple on the ground while I was there on a recent trip. While I was doing my flight over the airport to photograph operations, I knew the timing was right for one of their flights to come in. However, things were pretty busy that day and we were reluctant to move over to the southside to get them arriving as we feared we might not get back into the center area to shoot arrivals on the northside again.
I was resigned to not getting them when my lucked took a very positive turn. For some reason, and I don’t know what it was, the controllers brought them in to the north runways. They came to me! I didn’t have to do anything to reposition and I hadn’t even been aware at first that they were coming that side. Needless to say, when they appeared on final, I was pretty stoked. I imagine these jets will be replaced before too long so I was delighted to get these shots of them airborne.
I have mentioned A340s and their gradual demise a few times in the blog. Sometimes it has been that I have got ahead of myself. However, I recently was genuinely surprised. Apparently, during the summer, an A340 makes a single flight a week into Oakland from the Azores. I had no idea about this until I read something about it online. A direct flight from Oakland to an island in the middle of the Atlantic? Who would have thought it?
I managed to be in place for the arrival one time. The airline is HyFly. I am guessing you have never heard of them. The jet is chartered from another operator but the whole operation is Portuguese controlled. (The Azores are Portuguese if you didn’t know.). The aircraft is totally unbranded. An all white A340-300 sounds really dull. I guess it really is. However, the novelty certainly caught my attention and I am both pleased and annoyed that I had no idea it was a regular visitor so close to home.
I have been figuring that the A340s would soon be gone. The original versions are certainly not young jets anymore and there are plenty of newer options for airlines. Consequently, they have been disappearing from service with many airlines. That does not mean that they have all gone though. Interestingly, the A340-300 is still actually a pretty efficient jet while the 600 series, while able to carry more and go further, are less efficient for many services. Still, I see plenty of routes now using 777s that used to have A340s.
Consequently, I was quite surprised to see the return of the Philippines A340 on the SFO route. The 777 is also on this route but they have a second rotation and the 340 is currently making this trip. I was really glad to see it show up again. It can’t be too long before these jets are on their way to the desert. Since it is a summer trip, it isn’t a great time to shoot it but the later arrival does reduce the heat haze. It will be cool if I get it again in better conditions but I am glad to have shot it already, just in case I don’t get another chance.