Karl Drage's 2012 blogGAR Entries

JAN 06 2012
blogGAR: Stansted - British Airways (BA) World Cargo 747-8F and Friends

Happy New Year to one and all! I hope everyone had an excellent Christmas and New Year period?

With things calming down following the publication of Issue 4 of Global Aviation Magazine, I've once again got time to catch up with my aviation intake of the previous month.

If you'd have told me at the end of October that all four of my next outings with the camera would have been to Stansted I would have looked at you like you were from a different planet, but that's exactly how things have panned out!

I've already covered my first visit in my last blogGAR entry, but the second came a fortnight later. My plan initially had been to head to Luton to take advantage of the full moon rising, but with cloud forecast to roll in right around the time that would be happening, I decided to guarantee I got something worthwhile out of the day and so planned to head to Stansted first, where the first of three 747-8Fs delivered to British Airways World Cargo and operated by Global Supply Systems was due to depart around 1030. Joining me on this mini-adventure was GAR's newest recruit, Thomas Pitts.

Once again the initial plan of action was to head to Hatfield Forest to get some climb-out shots. The weather was just as pleasant as it had been for my earlier visit, and we didn't have to wait long for our target aircraft to depart.

A Martinair Cargo MD-11F, that had been the second reason for going back, was running late and so the remainder of the afternoon was spent on the approach, where we would have headed anyway for the third item on the wanted list - one of the two remaining Global Supply Systems (GSS) 747-400Fs, which the 747-8Fs are replacing. We also got a bonus FedEx MD-11F, one of the few FedEx movements that arrives in daylight at Stansted at this time of the year.

The plan had been to stay there until sunset and then, if the skies looked favourable, head to Luton for moon-rise. By 1430 the cloud started to appear on the horizon, and, given that Luton is due west from Stansted, which was also the direction the weather was coming from, it was fairly obvious that the latter part of the day would not be working out as we'd hoped. Not only that, the weather's somewhat earlier than anticipated arrival also scuppered any hope of shooting the GSS 744F in decent light - just five minutes earlier and we'd have been fine…. I wouldn't have minded so much but I'd still never shot one, and, as detailed above, their time was running out fast.

In lieu of heading to Luton, we hung around a little longer at Stansted, waiting first for the approach lights to come on and second for it to get dark to attempt some light trail shots, though the latter didn't really work out as I'd hoped. The aircraft were still quite high in the frame, and the lie of the land makes it quite difficult to position yourself further back.

I wasn't overly surprised when the airport police paid a visit, but after a quick check of my details there was no issue.

Despite the day having not gone to plan, it had still been a most enjoyable one. Stansted's definitely not an easy place to get a huge variety of different shots, but it was definitely growing on me; where else in these parts can you shoot Martinairs, 747-8s and GSS 744Fs?!?

I resolved, pretty much there and then, to have one more crack at the last GSS 744F, having heard it was due to depart Stansted for the final time on Boxing Day. The only opportunity that fitted for me was presented on Christmas Eve. Despite having had it on good authority that the schedule had been cancelled for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, flights still showed on FlightAware and FlightStats, and with an Atlas Air 744F and another Martinair MD-11F due, the family Drage headed that way on the off chance.

As it turned out, it wasn't a good decision! The blue skies that the Stansted online BBC forecast had predicted were never really present to begin with, but by the time anything of interest had arrived, it was properly grim - and stayed that way!

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