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.
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.
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.
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.
I was out for something else, but I happened to be around when a Lufthansa A330 made approach to SeaTac. The weather was nice, the light was good and an A330 was coming by. I could hardly avoid shooting it, could I? I am no fan of Lufthansa’s current low-key colors but on a good day, even they look alright.
October brings the end of MD-11 operations for Lufthansa. When the MD-11 rapidly fell out of favor with the passenger operations, it became a bit of a favorite for freight operations. New build MD-11Fs were joined by conversions of displaced passenger jets. Lufthansa had bought some new jets and added more to their fleet. In recent years, the introduction of Boeing 777Fs had gradually displaced the MD-11s from operations. Now the last one is being retired. FedEx is still using a ton of them so no likelihood of the type going away soon. I only saw them a few times in Lufthansa colors and won’t any more!
International flights are starting to increase in frequency and, it seems, capacity. Lufthansa has been making the run to Seattle with the A330s for a while now. Recently, they changed from the 300 to the A350. One quiet Saturday, I figured I would head down to grab a shot. Sadly, the old livery example of the previous day was replaced with one in the new livery. I do prefer the old livery but that wasn’t the reason for my disappointment. It will go away before too long so there will be plenty of chances to get the new livery over the years. It was hot and sunny and arrival is noon so about the worst time you could think of for photographing. A polarizer to take out some glare and to deepen the colors was the best I could manage.
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.
Lufthansa A350s are something I seem to struggle to get a good look at. They operate to a number of places where I have been but I either time it wrong or they are on the opposite runway from me so a distant shot is all that results. The closest I have got to them is at Haneda. There an example landed and taxied in to the terminal across from me. The light was at the right angle but the excessive heat meant that haze was a problem and I wasn’t going to get a good shot. It is the closest I have managed so far but I shall continue to wait for the opportunity to get something better. The fleet will grow and the route structure will expand so the time will come at some point.