I posted here about KLM retiring their 747s early as a result of the COVID-19 related pummeling that the airlines have taken. It wasn’t long before another airline made the same announcement – this time it was Qantas. Qantas has operated the 747s since the beginning and it is quite a shame to see that they are no more. Here are some of my Qantas 747s from over the years. I should note that there is a rumor that they may not be gone for good and could return. That would be great but I suspect it will not be the case given that they didn’t have long left anyway and things are going to be rough for a while for the airlines in all probability.
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.
Qantas has decorated previous aircraft with liveries that encompass aborigine art. Their Wunala Dreaming aircraft was well known around the world and, in an age when airline liveries tend to be rather bland, these colorful jets are a welcome change. They have taken a similar route with one of their new Boeing 787-9s and I saw it at Paine Field during test flying. It came in from the south and executed a go around from relatively low level.
Then they caught me out by heading north to turn and make an approach from the opposite direction. This required some rather swift repositioning by me. In fact, I got to the parking lot as they were on final approach and, rather than park, I just pulled to the side, ran up the bank, grabbed the shot and then got back in the car to park properly. It was tight but it worked out okay.
Delivery flights from Paine Field are good news because the jets are going to be a bit heavier and will use more of the runway. This brings them closer to where you can be to photograph them. Qantas were taking their second Dreamliner and it was delivering early in the afternoon of a winter Saturday. The winter light is just so good when the clouds have parted. No harsh shadows and a low sun angle are great conditions to be shooting in. I hope the crew had a good flight. It was long enough!
Qantas comes into SFO most days. They bring a 747-400ER in and, while most of the, are on the standard colors, I happened to see one that has special colors. I assume it is related to some sporting association but I don’t know what team it is. However, they have Team Australia markings on the side along with some graphics of a boxing kangaroo. It arrived early so the light was harsh but it was cool to see. Interestingly, when it was further out on the approach, the sun was reflecting off the graphics so they were impossible to see.
Qantas started flying to SFO again this year. They used to have a regularly scheduled flight but dropped it for a while. Obviously the demand had increased enough to justify starting it again. I did a post when they started up. However, I hadn’t had much luck getting any reasonable shots of the arrival. When they are running to schedule, they are due in before 9am. This is not great timing for shooting at SFO in the winter but in the summer the plane will be backlit.
Fortunately, Qantas have a habit of running late on this service. I don’t know whether this is accidental or whether they will slip this flight deliberately if they have an issue. The plane has a long layover in SFO and doesn’t depart until near midnight so any delay is not going to have a knock on effect. Either way, later arrivals are not unknown. One of them coincided with one of my visits so I was able to get some better light on the jet. It was summer though. The middle of the day means high and harsh lighting. It seems like it is hard to win. Maybe in the winter I will get a day when they are late and the sun is lower and finally get a good shot.
The scheduling of flights from Australia and New Zealand to the west coast of the US is not ideal for getting maximum utilization from your aircraft. There is a long time between the arrivals and the most desirable time for departing on the return journey. Consequently, there are a lot of jets that spend a good portion of the day sitting at LAX. Rather than waste valuable gate space, these jets are disembarked and then towed to remote stands to await the time when the evening flights will be readied.
There is a large parking area to the west end of LAX where these jets are kept. You will see Qantas, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand aircraft all parked up here in the middle of the day. We were able to make a short detour from our normal operating area to the west end of the airport when ATC was able which meant we could get a good view of the jets parked up here. One of the Qantas jets was carrying special markings for the Wallabies rugby team. Later in the day they will have started the return trek across the Pacific.
If you shoot a few times at the same place, you get familiar with what to expect. Consequently, the arrival of a new operator is something of interest. In this case, it is the return of an operator. Qantas used to operate to SFO but pulled out a number of years ago. Now they have returned with a 747-400 coming in several times a week. I got my first view of one of the jets when I was at the airport to pick some people up. The scheduling of their flights means that they land in the morning but don’t leave again until late the following night. In the mean time, the plane is parked up near the parking structure for the international terminal and it was from there that I saw it.
I thought I ought to get an airborne shot so headed our one morning to see the arrival. The weather forecast was for a nice start followed by cloud moving in. The forecast was almost spot on but was a little optimistic about when the clouds would show up. They arrived a little early. Having had some really nice morning light on earlier movements, the conditions got a lot more overcast and dull by the time that the jet showed up. I guess this means I will have to try again at some point.
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!