In recent years, LAX underwent a reconfiguration of the norther runways. I understand this was partly to accommodate the A380 operations which, when initially introduced, created some restrictions on other operations as a result of the runway spacing. They respaced the runways. I wondered whether any of the aerial photos I had taken at LAX showed the differences that had been made.
My first flight was during the reconfiguration process. The change to one of the runways had already been made and could be seen in the spare surface were the original northerly edge had been. Other work was underway around the thresholds and in the underrun. The photos from later show the finished configuration. The threshold of the inner runway has been moved from its original location and the underrun work is now complete. Things like runways feel like they should be so permanent but, as with any man made construction, they can be taken apart and rebuilt if that is what is needed.
Over the last few years I have flown in and out of Oakland more times than I can recall. It has been my transit point for the majority of my travels. A recent return brought me a new experience there though. The airport is in two halves. There is a main runway alongside the bay which is used by the airliners and is often the departure runway for the bizjets. Then there are two further runways that are over near the old airport infrastructure. These are used by light aircraft and for the arrival of bizjets. (There is another intersecting runway but that doesn’t factor in this story.)
The normal approach brings you across the shoreline and over the water on the approach. The other runways are on a different alignment and the approach comes over the local towns. I was looking out of the window and filming a hyperlapse. I was a bit confused as I was seeing bits of San Leandro that I don’t normally see and we didn’t pass Hayward Airport. We continued to descend over land and it was pretty clear we were not heading for the normal runway. Sure enough we touched down on the old part of the airport prior to taxiing back and all the way across through the freight area back to the terminal. I watched jets depart from the runway we had just landed on as well as from the normal runway so I have no idea what was going on. I doubt I will experience this again anytime soon.
While the world’s 747 fleet is progressively running down, United is still a big operator of the type and SFO is a focus of their operations of the type. Consequently, during the surge of departures to Asia in late morning, you will have a pretty steady stream of Jumbos taxiing out and taking off. While Roger and I were out, a couple of them taxied out at the same time. We had one holding short of 28L and the other was in the gap between 28L and 28R as incoming aircraft approached. I joked with Roger that the two of them should line up on parallel runways and depart in formation.
When the inbound jets had landed, both aircraft moved forward again and, sure enough, they lined up on both runways. We couldn’t help but laugh at this since they seemed to be following our instructions. You will regularly see parallel departures on the 01 runways but we couldn’t believe that we would have the same thing here. Sadly, we were right. The closer jet departed first and was then followed a short while later by the second. It would have been very cool to see them climb out side by side but that was a bit too much to ask.
SFO controllers are known to make some late runway changes for the arriving aircraft. The two runways are very close together to the sidestep maneuver required is not too drastic but it is still not necessarily something the crews want to deal with. A Southwest 737 was on approach and passing near us on the shore when it apparently got the change instructions. We got a sudden topside view as it turned towards us followed by a reversal of bank as it straightened up on the new runway. Compared to the average arrival, this was quite a bit of excitement! Also, if you look closely, you can see another Southwest jet in the background that had just departed.
Getting an unusual perspective is one of those goals we set ourselves when out shooting. It is not tricky to get similar looking shots on a regular basis and this blog is often populated with such stuff. However, finding a new angle on something is cool. The view down the runway is one I like. It gives some context to what is going on when planes are operating. Usually a good viewing location is hard to find but a bit of elevation can be helpful.
In Rosemont, there is a road that goes over a bridge crossing some railroad tracks. It just happens to be pretty much in line with runway 22L. As the rebuilding of O’Hare’s runways continues, 22L will eventually disappear. However, it is currently used primarily for departures. While it is a bit far away, you do tend to get the chance to have one aircraft taxiing into position for departure while another is getting airborne at the far end. This emphasis on the busy nature of O’Hare is part of the strength of this location.
One of the things I have been contemplating for a while is getting some shots at SFO from straight down the runway. I have been to other locations and blogged about them here and here. However, I wanted to try a view that included the runway itself. With a day free to play, I decided to explore the options.
I ended up with a spot that was reasonable. It isn’t perfect with fences and lights in the way to some extent. A parking lot between me and the runway has the double effect of being visually intrusive and also providing lots of heat haze. In truth, heat haze was a big problem while I was there. This was something I had anticipated being an issue. However, I was more interested in understanding the possibilities there so I could come back at a different time of year when heat haze is less of an issue.
Even so, as the sun got lower, the problem did reduce a lot and, of course, the lighting got a lot nicer. I am thinking a visit when the timing of the departure peak combines with the lighting is going to be in order.
One other thing that will change is that my visit occurred during the time in the summer when SFO was working on two runways and all operations were on the 28 runways. That meant I had a lot more departures coming my way than will be the case when the 01 runways are taking the majority of the departure traffic.