A view from above is a great perspective. You see things in a very different way. One place you don’t usually get to see from over the top is a major international airport. However, it is possible to charter a helicopter to fly over Los Angeles International Airport or LAX to the regulars. Flying in a helicopter with the doors off means you can shoot almost unobstructed in any direction with a little coordination with your pilot. Paul was our pilot and he knew exactly what he was doing as well as what we wanted from him. It made for a great combination.
The patterns in a major airport are interesting. You get the layout of the gates, the taxiways and runways, the lines guiding the aircraft, the shapes of the terminal buildings and even the coloring of the borders to the hard surfaces. Then you get the buildings themselves. Different generations of building have styles of architecture appropriate to what was expected at the time. LAX is famous for its spaceship like building in the middle of the complex and its more modern tower. Terminals went through a phase of being bland buildings but the recent addition to Tom Bradley International Terminal certainly has had more styling incorporated.
The large number of aircraft scattered around add another element to the view. Combine that with all of the service vehicles on the move and there is a complex compilation of elements. I particularly like the ability to see the tower from above. That is usually the highest point around but we were looking down on them while they were kindly providing control of the space to allow us to get our shots without interrupting the operations.
I was on a flight home that stopped in LAX en route. I hadn’t planned anything for where I was sitting but we happened to land on the south side of the field and, being Southwest, the terminal was on the north side which meant traversing the field. This took us past the Bradley International Terminal. It was quite full as we passed with plenty of heavies. It had taken on a bit of an A380 theme so I grabbed the phone and got a few shots as we came by. Phone pictures through an airplane window may not be the best but it was what was to hand and they were hardly arranged for a great image anyway. If you like to see big planes from around the world, this will be for you. There are a couple of other visitors to LAX that day below. If not, come back in a couple of days and see if I have something better for you.
One of the things I did quite well with while around LAX was getting jets with special color schemes. Plenty of airlines are painting aircraft in something other than the normal house colors. This can be a livery that is part of their alliance, like OneWorld or Skyteam, or it can be something special of their own. It might also be a tie up with another organization.
Whatever the reason, it certainly makes things more interesting to get something that is a little different to break up the monotony of the regular fleets. Here are a selection of some of the different colors that were on display while I was out west. The Alaska scheme is not too apparent since the shot is head on but you can see it if you look. Others are more obvious. Hope they are worth a look.
One of the surprising benefits of the bad weather system that passed through Los Angeles while I was there was that it made for some different operations at LAX. LAX has four runways in two pairs, one north of the terminal complex and one south. The prevailing wind is from the ocean so everything tends to operate with arrivals and departures in a westerly direction.
The airport is pretty much designed to operate this was – more so since the construction of the extension to the international terminal has resulted in the cross taxiway between the north and south areas being closed off. Moving aircraft from the north to the south and vice versa seems to be a bit of a hassle and, for some reason, if the traffic is operating in the opposite direction, it seems to be just that bit harder.
When the weather turned bad, operations started out in the morning with some westerly movements and some easterlies. Some of these were simultaneous with arrivals heading towards departures coming out from the other side of the field – not unsafe but certainly a little disconcerting I imagine. As the wind strengthened, the incoming flights were redirected and the airfield went to a full easterly operation.
While this may have made the ground handling a little more tricky, it was certainly good from my point of view. Relocating to Imperial Hill, I now had a lot of arrivals coming in on the runway closest to me and touching down pretty much directly in front of me. (If it weren’t for the number of power cables around this area blocking the touchdown zones, this would have been perfect.)
This also meant a lot of departing traffic came our way as well so it was a chance to see things in a slightly different way to that which is normally the case at LAX. This combined with a few pleasant surprises. One was the arrival of a Qantas A380 on our runway. From what I understand, they normally operate from the north side only so this was quite a bonus and there is a shot of it in the post here.
Also, we had a DHL DC-8 show up. Not only did it land in front of us but it turned around pretty quickly and soon taxied past us and lined up to depart. Not a bad piece of luck. The light was a little erratic – it was bad weather that caused all of this – but it was still an interesting opportunity.
Aside from chasing a few A380s, LAX has the advantage of a mix of aircraft from all over the place. It also has a good selection of spots from which to take pictures. While I was there (at various times over a few days) I managed to get a few different shots. It is a lot easier to do this today than it was in the past.
Websites that list flight movements combined with a smart phone allow you to be a lot more aware of what is coming and what is due out. No longer do you wonder whether you can move on only to see something amazing arrive just as you drive down the street. The data isn’t always accurate but it does make things a lot easier.
At this time of year, one of the favored spots by the In’n’Out burger joint is not ideal for the sun. However, walking a short distance down the street can overcome this. It also gives you a vantage point from almost directly underneath the aircraft (or right under them if you prefer) from which you can get something a little different. I tried a bunch of these out while I was there.
Nothing much else to say about the location so here are some of the shots to enjoy.
I was recently in LAX and had some time to shoot around LAX. While Chicago is a major international airport, LAX has a more diverse selection of aircraft from different countries showing up and it is certainly easier to shoot at. Whether you are at Imperial Hill, near the In’n’Out Burger on Sepulveda or near the Proud Bird, there are a lot of options.
One of the things I was keen to do was get some shots of the A380s. LAX is one of the airports that attracts A380s from a number of operators with more to come in the not too distant future. Qantas and Singapore were early operators of the aircraft and soon brought them to LAX. Korean has recently introduced the plans and they are now a daily arrival.
I have occasionally seen A380s on the ground at Heathrow and LAX when passing through but the only one I had seen flying was at Oshkosh a couple of years ago. As I wrote in a recent post, we tend to crave what we haven’t seen and my interest in getting A380s on this trip was pretty much in that vein.
The timing of arrivals can easily be tracked online. Unfortunately, the majority of A380 operations are on the northern runways which are a little less convenient for shooting. However, I did get lucky with a Qantas A380 showing up on the southerly runways when easterly approaches were in operation. I got a few, even if the light wasn’t always the best. Soon they will be very common and I will wonder what the fuss was – oh, rubbish. I still like to catch 747s!