The A340 is a plane that keeps on going despite repeated claims it was done. The 300 series jet is actually not as inefficient as it is popular to suggest (the 600 series is far less competitive) and it is still working for a few airlines including Lufthansa. This winter the jet is back on the run to Seattle which has pleased me. Most of the jets have been repainted in the new livery which is not that thrilling. There are also Star Alliance liveried jets but there are one or two of them still in the older Lufthansa colors. This is a better look from my point of view.
I did have one of them come in one weekend when the light was good and the wind was favorable for the shots I was after. The landing shots were more of a struggle because the plane landed at noon and the lighting angles were not helpful. Departure was mid afternoon and so this was slightly better. They have been back occasionally since but not on days with a) good weather and b) me being available to be there. I hope I get more chances before they finally head to the desert.
Who knows how long the A340s will last. I thought I had probably seen the last of them but Lufthansa was kind enough to make them a feature of their winter schedule to Seattle. Of course, not running every day combined with the great winter weather that Seattle is known for meant the chances of getting good shots were limited. Even when the conditions were favorable, they departed in the middle of the day which meant high sun angles and more glare. However, when the conditions were as good as could be expected, I took the chances that were available. Here are some shots from probably the last season.
The A340s are hard to find these days but Lufthansa is still using some A340-300s. This is my favorite of the type and, having had them all in Star Alliance colors for a while, it is nice to see them in Lufthansa colors again. With one coming to Seattle on a weekend as a substitute for the normal A330, I figured I should go out. The day was a dull one but you just don’t know when you might get another chance so I figured it was worth a trip.
The huge reduction in air travel – particularly long haul – has resulted in airlines taking a hatchet to their fleets. Lufthansa has been no exception with many jets parked permanently and others in long term storage with a significant question mark hanging over them. The A340-600 fleet is one such fleet. However, while a few of the A340-300s have been put out to grass, a good chunk of the fleet is still in use.
The 300 Series is an underrated airliner. The 600 has longer range and higher payload but it is optimized for the longer range missions and is too much for shorter flights. The 300 is a more versatile type as long as you are not pushing the bounds of payload/range. Consequently, it has hung around a lot longer than might have been expected. With reduced load factors, it is continuing to show its value despite it having been seen as on the way out for many years now.
Lufthansa has started using them on the Seattle run. They are coming in three days a week. The jet arrives around noon and two of the trips are Wednesday and Friday so work means they are hard to get. Sunday is the other day so I decided to give it a go. However, when I got up, flights were on a northerly flow which means no good locations to shoot from and a high and tail on light set up. Not ideal. However, by mid-morning, despite the forecast northerly winds, they had switched to a southerly flow. That meant a water tower shooting location was on the cards so off I went.
I got to the water tower in plenty of time only to notice a lack of arriving jets. Sure enough, they had switched back to a northerly flow. I now had to try and find a new location to shoot from and quickly. I had an idea for somewhere I hadn’t used before so decided to give it a go. I had time to try out on a preceding arrival and my post on that Asiana jet is here. Since things seemed to work okay, I stayed were I was and waited for the jet to arrive. Lufthansa had painted a bunch of their jets in Star Alliance colors but they are now reverting to the mainline livery and happily, that is what I was expecting. No idea how long they shall be around but I shall try again while they are coming here because they will be gone before too long I imagine.
Someone recently was after a picture of a Philippines Airlines Boeing 747. When I looked up my shots of this airline, I came across a picture of one of their A340s landing at SFO. It had an anniversary marking on the fuselage. Just below it in the catalog was a 777-300ER which also had the same marking and was also landing at SFO. The similarity of the aircraft in these shots amused me so here they both are in case something like this is of interest to you too.
I was looking to get some midsummer shooting in at Vancouver. The day was a lovely one but the evening promised so overcast rolling in and that proved to be the case. However, I thought I would give things a go. The lack of the strong evening light was disappointing but it did actually make for some softer lighting conditions and things weren’t all bad. The evening culminated (at least for me) with three quick arrivals. An Edelweiss A340-300, a BA A380 and a China Airlines A350-900. I quite liked the conditions as they provided something slightly different. Clouds shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent from an evening out shooting.
The A340s are disappearing from the
fleets of major airlines pretty quickly as the 787s and A350s come in to
service. Lufthansa is one airline that
still has not only the A340-600 in service but the A340-300 too. I shot a 600 on approach to SFO last year and
it got me wondering just how long they have remaining in service. While fuel prices are relatively low, they
may hang on but higher fuel prices could accelerate their demise. We shall see.
In the meantime, here are some of their fleet in service across the
Sorry for the corny pun but I just
couldn’t resist. One of my favorite
airliners to shoot has been the Air Tahiti Nui A340-300. I have seen them at LAX on a number of
visits. Shooting them taking off on the
south complex has been possible on a few occasions and I was super lucky to get
one of them landing on the north complex when I was overhead in the
helicopter. The A340s are getting a bit
old at this point, though, so their replacement has been ordered and it is
going to be the Boeing 787-9.
One of the jets was in flight test at
Everett so, with nice weather on a weekend and flying underway, I couldn’t
resist a trip up to get the return. I
was too late for a takeoff shot. The
conditions were great. A cold snap meant
that the air was clear and the sun, while it disappeared for a while shortly
after I arrived, was back in plenty of time for the return. Consequently, as the plane came across the
Cascades, I could see it easily prior to it turning north to come in on the
approach. Mt Baker was clear in the
background as they made the turn to final approach.
The dark colors of the livery make it
necessary to use a bit of shadow slider when processing the shots. It was just after midday so the light was a
bit on the nose of the jet but you could still get something good for the
fuselage sides. The touchdown was a bit
firm providing a smoky cloud of tire rubber.
I wonder how much tread the airline expects to have at delivery? Often the jets will come back for a rejected
takeoff run but this time they went straight back to the ramp.
My afternoon of shooting at SFO with Hayman was a lot of fun. However, we were a little thwarted by the weather at times. Banks of clouds would roll in from the hills beyond the airport at odd times. Sometimes, there would just be a thin layer of cloud that was over the water but it would, of course, be just behind the flightpath of the jets. The sun might be on them but, with the cloud behind, a white airliner can be a lot less interesting to shoot.
Shooting at SFO is often about waiting for the international traffic. Endless Untied jets is not really that special but the widebodies from overseas are the ones you want. Of course, the weather can choose exactly those times to bring in more cloud. If the sun disappears for a moment, you can bet it will be when the Cathay A350 shows up or something similar. You just have to work with what you get and keep looking through the viewfinder for that brief instant when the plane pops into the sun through a small gap in the clouds.
A favorite airline of mine is Air Tahiti Nui. I have never flown with them but they have a colorful livery and they still fly Airbus A340-300s so they get points from me on two fronts. The only place I ever get to see them is at LAX. Normally they operate off the southern runway complex and I saw a couple on the ground while I was there on a recent trip. While I was doing my flight over the airport to photograph operations, I knew the timing was right for one of their flights to come in. However, things were pretty busy that day and we were reluctant to move over to the southside to get them arriving as we feared we might not get back into the center area to shoot arrivals on the northside again.
I was resigned to not getting them when my lucked took a very positive turn. For some reason, and I don’t know what it was, the controllers brought them in to the north runways. They came to me! I didn’t have to do anything to reposition and I hadn’t even been aware at first that they were coming that side. Needless to say, when they appeared on final, I was pretty stoked. I imagine these jets will be replaced before too long so I was delighted to get these shots of them airborne.