The Air France A380s have gone away. Their retirement had already been identified prior to the COVID-19 outbreak but it accelerated their departure. I had shot them on a few occasions with SFO and LAX being regular destinations. Since I won’t be seeing them again, here is a farewell tribute to the Air France A380. Hope one or two of the airframes find a second life.
During my weekend in Texas, I headed to Founders’ Plaza to shoot some arrivals. I timed my time there to start around the time when the Qantas A380 was due to arrive. I got there with a few minutes to spare and struggled to find a parking spot. The place was packed. I found a space in the overflow area and got the camera out just in time to get a shot of the arriving jet.
As soon as it landed, everyone started to go. A short while later, there was a backup of traffic as the cars filed out of the parking lot and away. Within ten minutes, it wasn’t deserted but it was significantly quieter. The thing is, shooting in the middle of the day was not great from a light perspective and things got progressively better as the afternoon wore on. However, most people were interested in the A380 and after that they were done.
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 day I was at YVR, the BA A380 was a bit late against schedule. Since the light improves significantly later in the evening – nice soft light, warmth and more to the north side – this was considered a win rather than something to complain about. If all of the heavy arrivals could have been a bit delayed and shown up in the best light, that would have been perfect! There wasn’t any significant heat haze which made shots further up the approach surprisingly sharp which was nice. Then touchdown in front of you with all of those tires smoking in sequence rounds things out well.
The spot Mark introduced to me at Vancouver was good for touchdown shots. British Airways brings an A380 in each day so I was keen to get that landing. The landing shots included a lot of tire smoke as the wheels spun up but having something like an A380 means you have a few extra wheels and a lot more smoke, even if it is progressively given the configuration of the gear.
The size of the A380 makes it good at longer range if the conditions will allow. The background is getting busy as more buildings are added but you could get a clearer view further out with only the bridge for the Canada Line showing up. Swapping to the wider lens was necessary given the size of the jet. I know it is one that polarizes opinion but I quite like it and I definitely enjoyed flying on it.
Touchdown of an airliner almost always results in a big cloud of smoke as the rubber burns off the tires when they spin up to speed after first contacting the runway. Lots of tires can mean even more smoke and the 20 main tires on an A380 should mean a lot of smoke. Less often noticed is that the same thing happens when the nose gear touches down. As I shot this A380 landing at LAX, I happened to catch the smoke from the nose gear as it hit the ground.
The Airbus A380 may be a lot more common now than it was a few years ago but they are still comparatively rare. LAX is a place that gets a lot of them so the chance of catching one airborne was high, particularly given the time we were flying. Korean Air were the operator that obliged. We picked up the aircraft as it was on its downwind leg. Knowing it was out there made it easier to keep track of it – particularly knowing which runway it was coming in on.
We spotted it when it was still well out on the approach. As it came across the buildings surrounding the airport were were able to choose how we wanted to have it line up with the background. Finally it was coming across the parking lots, passing the In’n’Out Burger and then coming over the threshold. A little float and then the tires smoked on touchdown. The angles and light were pretty much ideal and Paul, our pilot, had us ideally placed. We could also keep an eye on it as it taxied in including getting on the gate.