When we were in the UK, I had hoped to see the Virgin Atlantic A350-1000s in use. I did see them in the distance but never got anything of them moving. I was a touch disappointed because the Seattle route is served by the 787 fleet and we don’t get anything as large as the A350 coming here – normally! However, Virgin is apparently involved in supporting the NFL games in Europe and the Seattle Seahawks had a game scheduled in Munich. Virgin sent an A350 to Seattle to collect them. It operated the normal inbound flight and then took the team direct to Munich.
It arrived in good conditions and from the south which allowed me to get some reasonable shots of it. Lighting was a little overhead but it wasn’t too bad and could definitely have been worse. I wasn’t able to see them depart but, once the game was over, the return trip was made. I didn’t get the arrival but I was able to see the final departure of the jet as it headed back to London. Maybe Virgin’s traffic will grow enough to justify the A350 on the route more often? I would certainly like more opportunities to see the jet.
Air Canada brings a pair of A220-300s in to SEA each evening – one from Toronto and one from Montreal. They leave the following morning with the Toronto flight heading out early and the Montreal flight following a couple of hours later. The Toronto flight one weekend was the TCA special aircraft so I decided to head out and catch it departing.
The day started very overcast and gloomy but there was a sign that things were going to get better. This did happen but things were still not great when the jet departed. The light had improved a bit but the cloud was still there. When looking at the shots, I figured it was time to make use of the masking options that Lightroom offers. The latest update has improved their usability somewhat. First I drop the exposure of the shot overall to get the sky looking roughly how I want it. Then I select the aircraft suing the Subject option. It does a pretty reasonable job but I do then refine it with an addition brush to bring in the bits it has missed and a subtract brush to take out the detail areas where the mask has overlapped.
The new option is the click on this mask and choose the Duplicate and Invert option. This gives me a sky selection that matches what I have got for the aircraft. For the sky, I can work on the white balance to bring it back to something more cool which suits the overall look of the shot. I can similarly work on the white balance for the jet to make the reds pop more in the livery. The exposure can be brought up a bit with the shadows helping a little while bringing the blacks down while improve the contrast.
All of this is pretty straightforward. One nice feature of the latest update is that you can actually apply the same settings to multiple images. The brush adjustments are not going to work well for this so it is best to do the overall selections and sync to the various images and then, if a shot is worthy of further work, the refining of the mask can be done afterwards. If you know which shot is the best, you can just focus on that one.
Aviation enthusiasts are an odd bunch. They love aviation but they can really hate certain types. The emotions can really run high and no type exemplifies this more than the A380. The project hasn’t been a success by modern standards and production has now ended. This provides much glee for some people for some reason. I’m not sure why they feel the lack of success for a plane makes their life better but whatever.
I have flown on the A380 a couple of times and it was a great experience. I always like seeing them. Variety is sadly lacking in modern aviation and anything different is welcome as far as I am concerned. The onset of the pandemic resulted in many airlines parking all sorts of types and the A380s were clearly a target. If there are no passengers, the largest capacity jet is not going to be helpful. The death of the A380 was widely proclaimed. However, it turns out that this was a bit premature.
A few airlines have been reinstating their fleets and more are coming back out of storage. British Airways has their fleet back in action. Emirates is using theirs heavily. At Heathrow, I also saw Qatar and Qantas using theirs again. (Qatar might be more related to their spat with Airbus over A350s and the need for any capacity they can get.) It is good news that they are still around. We shall see what the future brings for some of the other jets that are still stored.
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.
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.
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing at Heathrow was A350s in new liveries. I have seen a lot of A350s but I have never seen the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic A350-1000s and, since they are based at Heathrow, I figured I would get a chance. As we landed and taxied in, I saw both operators’ aircraft but, because of where I was sitting, I wasn’t able to get any shots. The end of the journey and the return to Heathrow allowed me to address that.
I got to shoot an arriving BA jet while outside the airport and there were some parked up on the gates when we were getting ready to board our flights. Virgin was a bit more elusive. I could see one parked up behind a Cathay 777 but that was it. Other operators were also helping out though. Amongst the arriving jets were examples from Malaysian Airlines, Finnair and Iberia. All nice additions to the A350 collection for me.
Alaska Airlines likes to advertise that it is “Proudly All Boeing”. It isn’t of course. The Q400s and E175s are definitely not Boeing jets. When they bought Virgin America, they acquired a large fleet of Airbus jets too. These are not going to be part of the fleet for long, though. Alaska has made it clear that they are going away. The A319s are apparently too small so are the first in line for replacement. Go to Paine Field and you will come across a bunch of Alaska painted A319s bagged up and awaiting their future. A319s are generally smaller than airlines want these days – it is not that long ago that the A319 was more popular than the A320 but that is no longer the case. I wonder where these will go next.
My buddy, Mark, sent me a message about a plane that he had spotted coming inbound from the Pacific which he had hoped would stop in Vancouver. It was a Royal Thai Air Force Airbus A340-500. Instead it was coming further south but it was still at cruising altitude so there was no way it was coming my way either. However, it did end up flying directly overhead, albeit at 34,000’. It was a lovely clear day and the four contrails from the jet showed up nicely as they ran back and then rolled up together. I grabbed the camera from the trunk and got a few shots as it passed overhead. It was heading for DC so we didn’t have a chance that day or for the return journey.
Airlines seem to be consolidating their fleets these days with less and less types showing up. I am sure that this is true for Air France too but, recent experience at SEA feels like the opposite. We seem to have been the destination for a lot of the Air France long haul fleet. We have had 777s coming in here for a while. I imagine that they will be the ones we won’t see much of again but you should never bet on that. The 777-300ERs are likely to be around for a while, even if the -200ERs go away.
Then we have had the A330s and the A350s. I like the look of the A350 so was pleased to see them bringing that on this route. I had wrongly assumed that, with the A350 being deployed here, that was going to be a regular feature. Instead, we have now got 787s coming in. I was north of the airport when I got to shoot a 787-9 lining up for approach. When I have looked more recently, that is the jet showing on the schedule. Who knows what we will get next? I am pretty certain it won’t be the A380!