Since I haven’t been out photographing aircraft as much as I would normally like to do, the blog has got me looking through older outings. I was discussing with Nancy what things I might look back on and, since some balloons were flying overhead at the time, we got on to the topic of our visit to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. The blog has been going for nearly ten years so I tend to think that most of what I have done is on here but there are things that predate the blog and have yet to appear. A search through the archives suggests this is one.
We went to the fiesta because it was something I had long wanted to see but also because I was going to cover it for GAR and had arranged press access. This meant several days of being onsite early in the morning and later in the day. Having not been to a balloon event before other than a fleeting visit to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta in the UK, I didn’t appreciate the timing until I was there. Everything starts really early and is pretty much done by just after breakfast. The evening might be the second wave of activity but, since the winds were getting up in the evening, that didn’t prove to be much good and, besides, Nancy wasn’t wishing to give up all her time to this so we could do other things during the day and the evening.
I made sure to be there well before sun up each day. The crews would be getting their balloons out at their respective launch locations across the large grass area. The sound of fans filling the envelopes would then be followed by burners bringing them up to temperature. We had a glow one morning to watch which was pretty impressive and then, as the light came up, the launches would start. These had to be well coordinated given the number of balloons there. Marshals, dressed in zebra outfits, moved around the site keeping everything under control.
The variety of balloon shapes and colors was fantastic. To see the skies filled with balloons was amazing and the specials that were shapes of interest or for advertising would get particular attention. There were three balloons that were bees which carried a single person beneath them and flew around together which looked great. Since there were so many interesting balloons, there are a bunch of shots below of some of the cooler ones. I would like to go back one day to see this again.
When a new Star Wars movie is released, it seems to be the thing to arrange a tie in with an airline and have them paint jets in special Star Wars themed liveries. ANA was a part of this and I have shot a variety of their special paint scheme jets which you can see here and here. For the most recent movie, The Rise of Skywalker, United got in on the game and painted a 737 in a black livery with special marking including one side with a blue lightsaber and one with a red. I had not seen the jet before. It has been to SeaTac a few times but never when I could get there (or when it was daylight). Finally it showed up one evening when the weather was great so nice light. Only one side to see of course but here it is!
Japan Air Lines has been taking delivery of a bunch of Airbus A350s recently. I was interested to see them at Haneda where they seem to be based as opposed to Narita. Interestingly, for a plane with substantial range, they are being used from a lot of short sectors at the moment. On the station platforms, they had some posters about a special A350 that was celebrating the 20th anniversary of a Japanese boyband, Arashi.
Fortunately, this jet was being used on internal flights and it was due back in to Haneda when I was there. With the crummy weather, the JAL terminal roof top viewing deck was fine for photos in the afternoon since, with no sun, there was no backlighting. The A350 came in to view and stopped in a cloud of spray from reverse thrust and then taxied back and parked right under me. Plenty of opportunities to get some shots of it.
I spent a little time at Haneda on a recent trip to Tokyo. It was not an ideal day for photography but it had its possibilities. One thing that really surprised me was that I seemed to see a bunch of planes with special paint schemes. I don’t know whether Japanese airlines just have a lot of specials or whether Haneda is the place that they all come but I saw a lot. One of them was from China too. Here are some shots of the specials from that day excluding one that will have its own post.
I once got to shoot the United retro
colors on the A320 while I was at SFO up the tower but I had not got a decent
shot of it actually flying. When it
showed up on approach to SFO, I was pretty pleased. Sadly, the cloud cover was not cooperating
terribly well. Only when it had got past
me did it pop into better conditions. It
was okay when further out on final but neither of these were too helpful. One day!
Boeing has marked up a 787-9 is a special color scheme to reflect their internal charity organization. It is a jet that was supposed to go to Hainan Airlines but the financial issues with the airline means that they have not taken delivery of a number of jets. This is not a paint scheme but is a giant vinyl wrap. It looks very impressive. The jet has been used for flyovers at events Boeing has sponsored and it is also going to Dubai for the air show (which will be in the past by the time this post goes live).
Alaska Airlines has a 737 flying in a special scheme as a Salute to Veterans. I have shot that in the past and it appeared on the blog in this post. I wasn’t aware until recently that they had painted a second jet in a similar scheme – this time from their regional fleet. This is an Embraer E175-E1. Here it is departing SeaTac one morning while I was awaiting my flight out.
RIAT is known for special formations and British Airways has been part of them in the past. Concorde with the Red Arrows and an A380 with the Red Arrows spring to mind. For 2019 and BA’s 100th anniversary, they wanted to do something special. The focal point was to be the BOAC liveried 747-400. I shot this jet at SeaTac and covered it in this post. To see it in formation with the Red Arrows sounded pretty good. They put together two passes.
The first was from the right and involved a gentle turn in the direction of the crowd to give a slightly topside view of things. This was nice but the distance involved did mean there was a bit of heat haze to combat. The second pass in the other direction was a more straight pass along the display axis. The sun was popping in and out during this time so the colors popped sometimes and not others. It made for some tricky shooting but it still looked pretty good and it was nice to just watch when not shooting.
American Airlines has painted a number of its jets in liveries of the airlines that went into it over the years. It happens that, as I write this on a plane, I just saw an A320 in American West colors as we taxied out. They painted up three 737s in special schemes and I had a poor record of seeing them. Two of these, the TWA scheme and the Reno Air scheme, both showed up at DFW while I was there waiting for a flight home. The TWA scheme landed just after I got there so I saw it while riding the inter-terminal shuttle. I then had it taxi out past me a little while later. Sadly it took off from the other side of the field. The Reno jet followed later and it did take off from our side so I felt like I had finally checked out something that had evaded me for too long.
When I was very young, BOAC still existed but it was soon merged in to British Airways. I remember model kits being for BOAC jets and I have seen some preserved aircraft in BOAC colors. As part of British Airways’ 100th year celebrations, they have painted up four airframes in legacy colors. The first to appear was a 747-400 in the BOAC scheme. I saw a bunch of shots of it online and was keen to see it for myself. It appeared on the schedule for an evening arrival at SeaTac so I made sure to be down there.
They were making a southerly flow that day and the evening is not a good time for that approach path as there are few locations to get good shots. However, I was “lucky” in that it was a crummy day for weather. The water tower location would normally have been horribly backlit but, since there was no sun, it might just do. I did get the shots and, by virtue of shooting quite heavily overexposed and then pulling back in post, I was able to get something I was reasonably pleased with.
I did really want the sun though and, not two weeks later, the jet was back on the SeaTac run. Again the evening arrival but this time it was sunny and the flow was northerly. This provides some opportunities for getting the iconic SeaTac arrival shot with Mt Rainier in the background. I was certainly not alone as she came down the approach nicely illuminated by the evening light. Thank goodness for time changes and being done with work by then!