Geoff Hibbert's 2012 blogGAR Entries

MAR 27 2012
blogGAR: Beluga Hunting at Hawarden - "Like Looking in the Mirror"

When Karl posted on Facebook that he and I were on location at Hawarden and an Airbus A300 Super Transporter had just started up, I didn’t expect someone to reply to his post by saying “It’s like Geoff looking in the mirror.” Now I do have very little hair, some say none, so he did have a bit of a point and, like the Beluga, I’ve got a fair bit of forehead going on. In this age of social media everyone seems to announce their whereabouts, people off work trawl the news feed just waiting to take the Mickey, wherever possible and Michael Hind was obviously having a well earned day off, bored and trawling Facebook. He must be nearly at the end of his training now and he’ll soon be able to proudly walk the aisles of his passenger jet, giving out the peanuts and checking that everyone has their lap belt fastened. Well, we all need air stewards don’t we, Michael?

It’s not often that a plan comes together, despite what The A Team used to say, but it really did work out well. We arrived at Hawarden just before 9.00am and one of the lovely, freaky aircraft was on the deck having overnighted. Within minutes it started strobing - a great sign. Shortly afterwards the behemoth slowly turned around and started its short journey to the end of the runway. Hawarden is a great little airport for photographers as you can look directly down the length of the runway, which leads to some great photographic opportunities. The only slight fly in the ointment is that one of the ILS masts just gets in the way (well, I think that’s what it is, but I’m no expert!).

We knew that it was going to be a slow day and had set out to be perfectly happy if we saw one Beluga move, but shortly after the rotund aircraft left the tarmac I looked on my trusty iPhone, only to see that another aircraft was over northern France heading our way. We knew that we’d have at least half an hour before it arrived so we repositioned ourselves at the approach end.

As we climbed the gate to cross a field to the approach I noticed dozens of cows. I don’t like cows. Actually I’m quite scared of cows. No, I’m very scared of cows. Oh, and spiders and snakes and dogs and heights and doctors and dentists. Other than that, nothing bothers me, it really doesn’t.

Fortunately for me, they took no notice of us whatsoever (phew!). The local farmer, and presumably landowner, came to have a look at what we were up to but gave us a smile and wave, which was a pleasant change. He did actually have the last laugh though, as whilst we were merrily snapping away at the approaching Beluga, he put up a new electric fence to keep the cows in the field - and us as well! Fortunately, Karl and I are in tip top physical condition and we made light work of getting under that four-foot high single wire, sort of a “spotters' limbo dance” is the only way I could describe it. The only down side of clambering around on the floor was the abundance of “cow excretions”, if you know what I mean? It was like a mine field and my hand detonated a wet one! Nice.

To be honest, the approach was a little disappointing, and, when we saw the landing aircraft roll all the way to the end of the runway, we knew that’s where we should have been.

So, we went back to the 22 end of the runway and that’s where we stayed. We were so lucky as we had three aircraft departures and two arrivals, the aircraft being in three different colour schemes too (that is if you can count all white as a scheme?).

A thoroughly good day was had and we rounded it off with a few hours at Manchester airport. Spot on.

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2013-11-18 - Martin Smith
Great article, how do you track the beluga flights as I am thinking about going down to shoot it. I've had a look on FR24 and couldn't find anything. Thanks

2012-03-28 - Alison Holmes
Great article, something to tempt us non planey people to ask what the hell is that and to read on and find out a little bit more.

2012-03-27 - Frank Noort
Already saw the comments on Karl's facebook page and loved the pictures you guys made. An extraordinary plane and very well captured. Great report as well, liked the part about facebook, I am an addict as well ;)

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