Karl Drage's 2011 blogGAR Entries

NOV 01 2011
blogGAR: Runway 09R Departures at London-Heathrow Airport

As I write this we're just waiting on a few external pieces of content to wrap up Issue 2 of Global Aviation Magazine, which will go live tomorrow. It contains articles on flying the Lancaster, 20 years of the Airbus A340, RAF Northolt's SAR Symposium, futuristic airliners, Castle Air Museum, an awesome photo-spread from Lindsay Peacock's archives on the William Tell series of exercises held at Tyndall AFB, FL, and something slightly different relating to Gulf War 1. Brilliantly, the guys at Just Flight have very kindly offered to extend the use of the 20% discount code for the whole of November too!

Anyway, that's all I'll say about Issue 2 for now. There'll be more 'making of' pictures to follow at a later date.

Last Monday threw up what seems like an increasingly rare opportunity to get out with the camera and, having not been to Heathrow for exactly 12 months, that's where Michael Hind (fresh from the New Zealand leg of his Commercial Pilots License course), Sammy and I headed. Incredibly it was Hind's first ever photographic visit to the venue!

The forecast was for crystal clear skies and winds from the east, so it boded well for topside banking shots of some of the aircraft departing Runway 09R, and that was our target.

The great thing about airport photography is that you can usually have a pretty good idea about when things are going to be happening, or at the very least know what time things aren't going to be happening before! Content that there was very little of interest departing before 0930, we left my place at 0700 for the 90 mile journey to "The 'Row". Some two hours and forty minutes later we finally arrived. The combination of M1, with its seemingly endless '50' limit through roadworks, and the sheer weight of traffic on the M25 makes what should be a relatively easy journey into a real ball ache.

Anyway, as it turned out, it didn't really matter as the sky was pretty yucky when we did get there; certainly nothing like the wall-to-wall blue that had been suggested. We took up position close to Feltham Park and had fortunately remembered to take a football to kick about. You see, while Heathrow is extremely busy, it's only really the 'heavies' that are of interest from this spot. The A320 family and 737s are all way too high and distant to be of use, even at 400mm on a 1.6x crop factor body. On top of that, not everything banks right, indeed some go straight on (though they might offer a very brief glimpse of the top surface in doing so), and some go left, in which case all you will see is a side-on profile before the less appealing underside comes into view.

It was probably 1100 before the cloud started to give any real hope of parting, and, while it certainly never broke fully, the hour or so leading up to lunchtime (which fortunately coincides with the Singapore and Qantas A380 departures!) did witness a marked improvement.

By 1500 an almost solid bank of cloud had rolled in, and we elected to head to the approach end in the vain hope that it might break once more and provide some sunsets. It did break briefly, but as the sun dropped in the sky another curtain was drawn across any hope that we had and we called it a day.

I do really enjoy days out at Heathrow and I just wish it wasn't such a pain to get to!

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