Lufthansa was a launch customer for the A320neo and took delivery of some of the earliest airframes. They now have an extensive fleet of the jets and they seem to be flying in to Heathrow very frequently. I ended up shooting a bunch of their jets in my brief excursion. I am not a big fan of their newest livery but, while it looks dull on the bigger jets, I actually feel like it suits the A320 a little better.
Shooting at an airport you don’t normally get to shoot at means you have the opportunity to shoot airlines that you wouldn’t see otherwise. What can be even nicer is if you get a special livery on one of these jets. (There is a small element in the back of your head that worries about not having shot the normal livery and that you still won’t have because of the special but that churlish thought needs to be suppressed!) Three of the jets coming in from overseas were in special finishes as was one of the locals. British Airways had an A320neo in a paint finish that was sky blue. I actually watched it depart too when waiting to board my flight home.
Kenya Airways flies their 787s in to London. The jet that came in on this day had a graphic of rhinos on the rear fuselage. Not a totally different livery but a nice addition. Brussels Airlines flies their A320s in to Heathrow and the airframe I saw was in a Tintin scheme that covered the whole airframe. It looked really good. Royal Jordanian was the last of my specials. Its 787 had a graphic advertising the city of Petra which covered the side of the jet. All nice efforts by the respective airlines.
Boeing Field is constantly operating from both runways at the same time. The light aircraft traffic on the short runway can co-exist with whatever is underway on the main, long runway. However, despite the clear ATC instructions, there are occasional when things don’t quite go to plan. We had a Cirrus and a Grand caravan on approach to the parallel runways. I am not certain who was at fault, but from my angle, it appeared that the Cirrus was drifting off towards the wrong runway. It corrected its path but not before the pilot of the Grand Caravan decided that things were not looking good and went around. It didn’t take them long to get back around the pattern and the second approach was incident free. I don’t know whether the controllers ended up talking to either crew or not.
Arriving back in Seattle from our UK vacation, we got to use the new international arrivals facility. This includes the bridge from the South Satellite. This crosses the taxiway between the two terminal buildings. It’s not like you have the time to hang around in the area and I imagine they might discourage you from doing so. However, you can grab a few shots of the aircraft beneath you while crossing. The reflections were a bit of a problem but I am not going to be there very often so make the most of it!
The development of the Vulcan required a lot of concept testing before the full size jets were built. Avro built a series of smaller scale delta winged jets to work out some of the issues under the name Avro 707. One of these lives at Old Sarum in the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection. It is painted a bright orange color and, while tucked in a dark hangar, it still looks striking. It would be great to get some elevation to show off the delta planform of the jet but still happy to have managed to see it. I was rather close to it so needed to shoot a variety of shots to stitch together afterwards which only worked so well.
I was ready to leave Middle Wallop when a look at ADSB told me that a Gazelle was operating in the vicinity. The Gazelles are becoming a rarity these days so this seemed worth waiting for. After a while, it vanished from ADSB and I was beginning to think it had landed elsewhere. Fortunately, it popped up again, very close this time. I was coming straight for me. Unfortunately, it turned south and skirted around the airfield. I could just see it in the distance.
Then it climbed up to the east before turning and conducting an autorotation to the field. It landed away from me and beyond a ridge so out of sight. I moved back to the balcony to see if I could see anything and was rewarded with it taxiing across the field in the distance. It wasn’t long before it was behind the fencing heading to its ramp. Still, while not a close encounter, it might be the last time I see one in UK service.
When Llanbedr was the home for a bunch of drones, it also had some old airframes used to support the drone operations. The Sea Vixen was one of the more famous jets saved from that program but the Boscombe collection has a drone support Meteor. The red and yellow paint scheme is not subtle but it looks good, particularly in the dark hangar at Old Sarum where the collection lives. I can’t claim to love the Meatbox but I do find it an interesting jet and seeing one in such good condition is a treat.
While walking along the Thames, there were plenty of aircraft overhead making their approach to Heathrow. I wasn’t too focused on them and was instead photographing the scenes along the river. I did look up as one jet came over and it looked like it was in a livery I didn’t recognize so I grabbed a shot with the 24-105 fitted. Turns out this was a Rwanda Air A330. That is something I don’t see every day. I wish I had been using the longer lens but this will have to do.
The Embraer E190 is the most common airframe to be seen flying in to LCY these days. British Airways’ Cityflyer operation uses a bunch of them on its services. Anything flying in to LCY needs to be approved for steep approaches. This usually involves a modification to the controls for a steep descent mode. As I watched the E190s descending on the approach, I could see that the spoilers were deployed all the way down. I assume that this is a higher drag configuration that makes the descent angle needed achievable while controlling the speed.
The thing that was more impressive than the descent profile was the departures. The runway at LCY is not long. Watching the jets spool up for departure, I wondered how much of the runway that they would use. As it turned out, they rotated really quickly and the climb out angle was very steep. With the buildings of Canary Wharf ahead, they need to climb quickly but I was quite taken by just how fast they climbed.
Middle Wallop was my first aviation museum of our vacation but there was a second. I didn’t have a lot of time but, with a small gap in the schedule and a very accommodating wife, we headed to Old Sarum, home of the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection. For those not familiar with UK military aviation, Boscombe Down is the center of military test in the UK and has a variety of unusual aircraft that are used for test duties and test pilot training.
The weather was dismal but the vintage hangars meant I could stay dry (although there were a couple of exhibits outside including a Hunter and the nose of a Comet). The collection is full of interesting items. There are whole airframes and cockpit sections from others. The cockpits are all accessible and, if I had been there longer, I would probably have got in to some of them. However, time was tight and hopping in wasn’t that important to me. There were a variety of Canberra front fuselages and a Sea Vixen. Some of the exhibits are special enough to justify their own posts so those will come in due course. The stories of restoration of the airframes were pretty interesting too and a lot of good work had been done to preserve them. (As an aside, the one thing I was a little disappointed in was the painting of the aircraft. The colors and markings seemed inaccurate which seemed at odds with the great efforts made in to earth respects.)
A Sea Harrier was on display as was a Jaguar. One of the highlights for me was Hawk XX154. This is the first Hawk built and one that had a full career in test duties ending up at Boscombe. It was moved to Old Sarum by the RAF with a Chinook lifting it across as a training exercise. It is displayed in its final gloss black finish but I will always think of it in red and white. There is also a front fuselage from one of the ETPS Hawks that was written off in an accident.
So much variety of exhibits and definitely a top place to visit if you like military aviation. The nice thing is that the airframes are unusual in their configuration and history. They tend not to be regular squadron jets so give extra to learn about. I would love to go back again some time.