We were in the Cotswolds for a wedding earlier this year and the morning of the wedding found my with little to do while everyone was getting ready. I was only 30 minutes or so from the old RAF airfield of Kemble, now Cotswolds Airport. Surely it would be churlish to not take a look since I was killing time? Kemble has quite a lot of interest and will mean there are several posts to come. The first will focus on one of the largest residents.
British Airways painted three of its 747s in retro liveries. The jets had different interior configurations which meant they were used on specific routes. I got to shoot the BOAC jet and the Landor jet when they came to Seattle but I never saw the Negus jet. When BA retired the 747 fleet during the pandemic, the Negus jet apparently made its way to Kemble to become a venue rather than get reduced to parts and scrap metal. However, I didn’t know this.
Consequently, I was rather surprised to find the jet sitting there as I drove up to the airport main buildings. There are other 747s stored on the field at Kemble but this one is very accessible. It was early in the day when I arrived so I could wander around unfettered but there were already crews showing up to bring in fixtures for an event that they were going to be hosting. Renting out a 747 for an event sound like just the sort of thing I would do! I was very pleasantly surprised to see the third of the retro jets and to see it in such good condition. (Sure, they have a few nacelle panels that have been switched around but it still seems in good shape.)
If you were to ask people what characteristic Seattle would be known for, I suspect a fair few people would tell you it is rain. It is true that we have damp winters here but summers (while a little late in starting) are actually rather dry. However, we can still have some humid conditions which can be good for forming vapor and, if you watch the jets heading in to SEA, you will often see vortices streaming off the flaps and the occasional puffs of moisture above the wings.
Occasionally, the conditions are just right and you get a lot more vapor. Better still, if this happens in sunny conditions and the planes are slightly backlit, you can get some lovely rainbow effects showing up. I got lucky with one such day. Asiana had an A350 coming in at this time so I was treated to some interesting effects. A Lufthansa 747 and CargoLogic 777F also arrived but I decided to go with video on those to show off the fleeting nature of the vapor is it formed and dissipated.
I was running back through some older shots while experimenting with some processing techniques and was looking at some British Airways 747-400 shots. With them now retired from BA service, it was a moment of reflection to see the shots again. It was also a departure sequence which meant there was a good view of the way in which the QOTS main gear tucked away. A cool looking sequence but a lot less common these days. Thank goodness for the freighters and the remaining passenger jets.
One of the things I was interested to see at Moses Lake was the new testbed being fitted out for Rolls Royce. Rolls currently has a Boeing 747-200 that they use for airborne testing of their engines. I shot it at Tucson and posted about it here. They recently acquired a 747-400 from Qantas to use as a testbed and it was moved to Moses Lake for conversion by Aerotec. I don’t know the timescales for the conversion process but it will be interesting to see it when ready in house colors and hopefully with a big engine installed on one of the inboard pylons.
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.
The massive reductions in air service as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has put airlines in a tough spot. One of the first things they have done is ground a significant portion of their fleets. For some airlines with types that were due to go out of service before too long anyway, this just accelerated the plans. The KLM 747s were due to last until 2021 but they have been grounded and are not expected to return. As I have done with the end of 747 operations for other airlines in the past, this is a small tribute to the KLM 747 fleet. An interesting livery amongst a world of white jets.
I was out one evening awaiting the arrival of something that currently escapes my memory. In the meantime, I was in position to get the arrival of a few widebodies. Since SeaTac tends to put the widebodies on the inner runway, they are the ones you can get from this park location while almost everything else (plus the occasional wide body!) goes to the outer runway behind you and through the trees.
On this evening, we had four widebodies come in. Condor brought their regular 767 flight. This were joined by an Air China Cargo Boeing 747-400F, a FedEx 777F and last but by no means least, a British Airways 747-400. The evening light was very favorable and this location is both easily accessible and pretty good for this approach.
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.
The passenger 747 fleet is something that is shrinking fast. US operators have retired theirs but other operators still have fleets in use, some of which (like British Airways) are still fairly large. However, they are definitely not as common a sight as they used to be and seeing one from a different operator is a nice surprise. At Haneda I saw a couple of operators. A Qantas jet was parked on the far side of the field and, while visible, wasn’t much of a shot. However, a Thai Airways jet was on the gate when I arrived so it seemed like there was a fair chance it would move before I overheated and gave up.
It took a while but eventually it did push back and taxi for the runway I was watching. It then sat at the hold for what seemed like a ridiculously long time. It probably wasn’t that long but I was wilting in the heat and begging it to move. Finally it did line up and got off the ground pretty quickly. I guess the run to Thailand is not a long one so it wouldn’t have been very heavy. I wonder whether I shall ever see one of these again?
The BOAC retro jet that BA has painted up was a nice treat to get. There are two other retro jets in other colors but, based on their interior configuration, they should not normally be used on the Seattle route. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting a chance to get them any time soon. Then, I saw that the Landor scheme aircraft was coming to SeaTac. It must have been a substitution. Now I was interested. However, it pushed off the gate at Heathrow and then went back on with some engine start issue. Was it going to scrub?
Apparently not. The issue was resolved and they pushed again. While the passengers were, no doubt, unimpressed by this, I was delighted. It now meant the arrival was at nearly 7pm. No problem to get to SeaTac after work and the light might be really nice. The weather was better than forecast although the chance of Mt Rainier making a second appearance was low. Again, plenty were out for the arrival. She showed up on the approach and the light played ball. This jet would have been delivered to BA with these colors so it was a case of reverting to how she had appeared many years before.