Tag Archives: london

Heathrow From a While Back

When we first lived in Chicago, I was working for a UK based company.  I used to make regular trips to London to check in with the mother ship.  For the return journey, I would usually take the morning flight back to O’Hare from Heathrow.  In those days, BA operated from Terminal 4 and there was a Hilton hotel attached to the terminal.  This made the whole process very easy.  Get up, walk across the bridge to the terminal and check in.  It also meant I could get the occasional shots of operations.

There was a fire escape on the side of the hotel that provided a view to the east and to a bit of the airfield itself.  It was a bit restricted as views go but it was not bad.  I could get some shots of the operations if the direction of the flow was right.  I would also get up early sometimes to see the arrivals coming in as the sun was coming up.  Here are some of the shots I got from there.

London from the Air

Digging back in to the archives today.  Back in about 2005, I was heading back to the UK for work.  Our flight arrived in to Heathrow early in the morning and the approach route took us across the center of the city.  I was sitting on the right side of the aircraft so was able to get some good shots of the city.  My favorite shot was as we turned over the top of Waterloo and looking down at the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.

I also got some good views from other areas.  A nice view across the city which shows just how close everything is within the cities of London and Westminster.  We also came south of Kensington which gave a good view of the museum complex and Hyde Park – an area where I lived for three years as a student.  The next shot is of Kew Gardens.  The glass house and the pagoda are both visible.  These have been sitting in the archive for a long time but finally make their way to the blog.

Big Tugs

At the majority of airports I fly out, there are basic tugs used to push the airliners back.  They are hooked on using a towbar and push the jet out.  The tugs at Heathrow are a bit different from the ones I am used to seeing.  They are the type of tug that actually picks up the noseleg to move the aircraft out.  The leg is surrounded by the tug and elevated.  The tug then drives wherever required with the leg coming along.  They are pretty substantial beasts.  Moving a widebody needs a big tug I guess.  They can move a 747 or an A380 but in this case “only” a 787.

Puffs Across the Wing

The day I left London was a bit damp which made for a bit of vapor on departure.  I was sitting almost directly over the wing.  I couldn’t see in to the inlet but I could see vapor puffs in front of the inlet at lower speeds anyway.  As we rotated and climbed out, there was plenty of vapor puffing over the upper surface, aided by climbing through a few patches of cloud.  I had the video running the get a view of the moisture and here is what I got.


Pan Am

Scan 2-1424.jpgSummer of 88 meant I had probably the coolest job someone like me could ever have. My summer break was spent working for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK. I was involved in noise measuring work around airports in London and the vicinity. I spent a few days inside the fence at Heathrow recording all sorts of things taking off.

Scan 2-1460.jpgI did get some photos while there when it didn’t interfere with making recordings of sound levels. In those days, Pan Am 747s were a regular at Heathrow and here are a couple of their planes heading back across the water. They also had 727s at Heathrow supporting routes to Germany. That was a hangover from the post war split of responsibilities and probably seems anachronistic now.

80s Airliners

Scan 2-1427.jpgIn previous posts I have talked about the program I am going through the scan all of my old negatives and transparencies.  It is a far speedier process than I used to use but it is still pretty time consuming and I am about a third of the way through the collection.  It will depend on how many rainy weekend days I get as to how quickly I go through them.  Something I am discovering as I go is that I have a variety of shots I had completely forgotten about.  Over the years I have gone through the sheets of negatives from various aviation events that I wanted shots from.  I was pretty familiar with what was there.  What I hadn’t realized was that my old film days would often include two or three shots of an aviation topic in amongst a bunch of other shots.

Scan 2-1433.jpgI have been coming across all sorts of shots, both civil and military that I had forgotten about.  The majority of them are airliners, some of which are types now out of service and occasionally airlines that don’t exist anymore.  Old 747-100s, some early Airbuses, 727 and 737-200, the occasional Ilyushin and even a Shorts Belfast show up.  Needless to say there are some appearances by Concorde too.

Scan 2-1202.jpgA combination of poor technique, less than ideal conditions and some less than pristine negatives means that these shots are not going to be gracing the walls any time soon.  However, they are an interesting reminder of things that have gone.  I wish I had more comprehensive coverage of the time but I actually didn’t take that many pictures at that time.  A tad disappointing but I can’t change it now.

Boris Bus

C59F0545.jpgMy years living and working in London were spent when the Routemaster was still a regular feature. As we left, the time was coming when the fleet would be retired and subsequent visits involved a more conventional selection of buses to get around the capital. (As an aside, when visiting London, use the bus rather than the tube. You see so much more and feel a lot more part of the city.). The days of jumping on and off moving buses seemed to be over.

C59F0548.jpgOur recent visit gave me my first view of the new buses that Boris Johnson wanted to replace the Routemaster. I am not very swayed by populist nostalgia and, aside from being able to get on and off when you liked, I felt the Routemaster had a lot of shortcomings as a passenger. However, I was curious as to whether the replacement was good or not. Boris’s hatred of the articulated buses struck me as utter bollocks. Sadly, we didn’t take any routes that used them. We did see a lot of them though. Interestingly, the rear platform was often closed off when I saw them. I guess that is only open on certain routes or in certain areas? Maybe someone could fill me in on that. They look a little strange but I imagine you become accustomed to them quickly enough. It will be interesting to see whether they come to dominate or end up as a diversion that ultimately goes away.

Heathrow Departures

C59F3389.jpgTerminal 5 at Heathrow has a massive wall of glass out on to the airport. However, it is not so easy to get any shots of the planes given the amount of space that is given over to retail. However, the piers from which many of the flights depart are a better proposition. Our flight was leaving from 5C so we headed over there a little ahead of time. Apparently, this might not always be a good idea if they change gates because transferring back is not as straightforward. However, we didn’t have any problems.

C59F3375.jpgHead to the north end of the pier and you can sit with a pretty unrestricted view of the departing aircraft from 27R. They tend to rotate quite close to where you are so you have an excellent opportunity to watch the movements. Shooting through the glass is possible but not ideal. Internal reflections are, of course, a big issue but sometimes you can avoid them and other times you hope they are not too noticeable. Not material for publication but certainly useful for getting something that you would not normally see elsewhere.

C59F3281.jpgI spent a happy half hour getting shots of departing jets prior to the time to head to our gate to board. The only disappointing thing was how many US airlines I got.  I can get them at home!  Our plane was actually in front of me while I was taking my pictures. It was connected to the terminal by a very long jet bridge so, when we finally boarded, we had a long walk to actually get to the jet. Not as long as the flight was of course!

A380 Gathering

C59F3350.jpgHeathrow is an airport that was probably at the heart of the thinking of the Airbus team when they conceived of the A380. A busy international airport with tight constraints on movements, it is the sort of place that requires higher capacity aircraft for some routes. Therefore, it is of no surprise to find that plenty of the A380 operators bring their aircraft to London. I wasn’t hanging around at Heathrow on our trip to the UK but we were there waiting to head home. Also, at various times we were around the city and its surroundings so arriving and departing jets passed overhead.

C59F3232.jpgConsequently, I got to see a few different operators’ jets while we were there. I wasn’t always well prepared for them. Wandering along the south bank of the Thames, I was not carrying a long lens and was caught out by one coming over the top turning on to final approach. Other times I was a bit better prepared. These images are some of the jets we saw while we were there.

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Borough Market

C59F0392.jpgWhen we lived in the UK, Borough Market was a favorite destination. It is a covered market near London Bridge and not only did it have a lot of good suppliers of meats, fruits and vegetables, there were other providers of food ready to eat that meant a shopping trip there could result in coming home with a lot of good stuff. There were a number of good food shops in the surrounding area too including Neals Yard Dairy, a supplier of some great cheese. We could take the train direct to London Bridge so it was a relatively easy trip to make.

C59F0395.jpgWe had dinner near the market with my brother on our recent visit and our route back to the hotel took us through the market. At night, it is a very different place. The stalls are all closed up and there is no-on around. There is still lighting (I wouldn’t be walking through if there weren’t) but the place has a very quiet/spooky feel to it. It is quite the contrast to a normal day there. If we had more time, we would have been there when everything was open but there was only so much time in London so we had to skip it this time.