The Air France A380s have gone away. Their retirement had already been identified prior to the COVID-19 outbreak but it accelerated their departure. I had shot them on a few occasions with SFO and LAX being regular destinations. Since I won’t be seeing them again, here is a farewell tribute to the Air France A380. Hope one or two of the airframes find a second life.
In recent years, LAX underwent a reconfiguration of the norther runways. I understand this was partly to accommodate the A380 operations which, when initially introduced, created some restrictions on other operations as a result of the runway spacing. They respaced the runways. I wondered whether any of the aerial photos I had taken at LAX showed the differences that had been made.
My first flight was during the reconfiguration process. The change to one of the runways had already been made and could be seen in the spare surface were the original northerly edge had been. Other work was underway around the thresholds and in the underrun. The photos from later show the finished configuration. The threshold of the inner runway has been moved from its original location and the underrun work is now complete. Things like runways feel like they should be so permanent but, as with any man made construction, they can be taken apart and rebuilt if that is what is needed.
When you first think of Los Angeles, you think of sun and warm weather. It is true that a lot of the time, this will be what you get in Southern California, but it is not always the case. On the first day of my trip down to LA, I had intended to get some flying in. The weather had other ideas. The cloud base was low and waves of rain were coming through the area. Just when the sun came out and you thought it was okay, another bunch of clouds would roll in and, if you didn’t get under cover quickly, you would get drenched by some torrential rain. This does, of course, provide for a shot of LAX that you don’t normally get!
When Boeing developed its updates to the base versions of the 777, it came up with the higher capacity long range 300ER and a lower capacity but ultra long range version, the 200LR. The 300ER sold very well but the 200LR was more of a niche product and, while it sold, it never went in the same numbers as its larger sibling. Etihad was one of the customers but they have now decided they have no further use for the type and it is being retired. I was glad to catch one at LAX in the days running up to their retirement.
An Aeroflot Airbus A330 landed at LAX while I was shooting there. On plenty of occasions, I have seen ice on the underside of the wings of landing aircraft where the cold fuel remaining in the tanks has caused condensation and freezing in the warmer damp air lower down. However, I haven’t ever noticed it on the fuselage structure. On this jet, though, I could see ice on the surface and the patterns of ice reflected the underlying fuselage structure. Maybe this is there more often and it was just the paint finish that made it show up this time.
Touchdown of an airliner almost always results in a big cloud of smoke as the rubber burns off the tires when they spin up to speed after first contacting the runway. Lots of tires can mean even more smoke and the 20 main tires on an A380 should mean a lot of smoke. Less often noticed is that the same thing happens when the nose gear touches down. As I shot this A380 landing at LAX, I happened to catch the smoke from the nose gear as it hit the ground.
Engine nacelles are optimized for cruise performance. At high angles of attack, their shape results in some rather awkward flow properties which can influence the wing performance above and behind them. In order to control things, you will see small vanes attached to one or both sides of the nacelle that generate a vortex that stabilizes the flow somewhat. As an aircraft rotates at takeoff, the strength of this vortex increases and it will often become visible as moisture in the air condenses within in. This vortex will stream back up and over the leading edge of the wing.
When you are inside the aircraft, this is pretty easy to see provided the conditions are right. From head on or aft they are also quite conspicuous. It isn’t often that you get a good view from above. When I was flying over LAX in the helicopter, the aircraft departing from the north complex had better light on them. However, the runways are offset so the rotation point is further west and beyond the area in which we are allowed to fly. However, you can get a view from above and behind as the jets get airborne. An El Al 777 took off while I was up and I managed to get some shots of it as it rotated and climbed away and the vortices were clear to see as the angle of attack increased.
Getting the airliners coming in to LAX was what I was aiming for but I was pleased to get a bizjet bonus. A Gulfstream made an approach to the northerly runway complex. This was a surprise to me as the facilities for corporate aviation are on the south side of the airport so an approach over there would seem to have made more sense. As with some other arrivals, I wasn’t complaining. An aerial shot of a Gulfstream was very welcome.
Heading back to Hawthorne after my flight over LAX, another plane was coming in to the southern complex. I had forgotten it was due and, after moving to the south of the field, we could have got a good shot of it landing. Never mind. This Lufthansa A340-600 beat me but I was able to get a shot of him from a distance as we headed in and, since there was a parallel approach on the northside, I got his little cousin in the shot too.
The A320neo (and more recently the A321neo) has been a big seller for Airbus. However, introduction has not been smooth with both of the engine suppliers struggling to meet their commitments for powerplants (Pratt and Whitney definitely having the worse time of it). Despite this, the neos are turning up in service in a lot of places but I had not seen a lot of them. My trip to LAX changed that a bit.
Here I got to see a few operators with the neos in service. The far larger fan diameter of the new generation engines makes the neos reasonably easy to spot and I like a big high bypass engine so I appreciate the change. It won’t be too long before they are around in huge numbers and won’t be worthy of comment but, on this trip, I was pleased to see so many.