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.
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.
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.
I wanted to explore some parts of London that I haven’t been too much before so I headed east. Before I started getting my real exploration underway, though, I took a visit to London City Airport. I haven’t been there for years and things have changed a lot including the types that can access the airport. I had seen some photos from the airport but I wasn’t sure about the options for photographing there. I was also not timing it well with things being far busier in the early morning and late afternoon. Still, it was worth a visit.
I headed to the east of the airfield where a road bridge crosses the water. I was hoping that this would give a good view down the runway but the runway lights obscured things a little. An offset helped a bit. It also was a good location for some approach shots.
I then headed back towards the terminal and got some touchdown shots from alongside the runway as well as a few shots of jets taxiing out and departing. It was quite something to see the Embraer E190s climbing out so quickly. They got airborne very swiftly and climbed away like homesick angels. The majority of traffic was British Airways Cityflyer Express so not that much variety but a few bizjets came through too.
Later in the day,when crossing the Thames in the Cable Car, I got a good view down towards the runway. It would have been great if a jet had taken off while I was crossing but one took off just after I got back on the ground. As I walked to the Excel center, I saw a high level footbridge that looked like it might have a good alignment with the runway. I planned to check it out later but, having spent a long time with a friend and needing to get back, I completely forgot until it was too late. If anyone knows whether this spot works, please let me know.
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.