Paul Dunn's 2011 blogGAR Entries

JAN 14 2011
Narita International

My first visit to Japan for some time promised slightly better weather than on the previous couple of occasions I had been, when I had experienced heavy rain, low cloud and poor visibility. Japan can be a great place for photography in the winter, when skies are clear and the sun is low in the sky.

Landing at Narita International, I was pleased to see that I had arrived on a crisp, clear (and bitterly cold) winter’s day, with the ATIS giving the visibility as being 40 km, almost unheard of in this part of Japan. This being a public holiday (Coming of Age Day), there was unlikely to be any activity at the military bases in the area, so I decided to spend the day at Narita Airport, with the plan being to head further afield the next day.

First stop on the agenda was Hatake Point, at the end of runway 34L. This runway is almost exclusively used for departures, and the first aircraft to take off after I arrived was an Air France A380 – the first time I’ve had the chance to shoot one.

Several more aircraft departed while I was there, but the airfield was fairly quiet in the early afternoon – I could however see a lot of distant traffic arriving on 34R.

On previous visits I had been unable to find a suitable location to shoot 34R arrivals from, so I was reluctant to make the move to the other runway initially. However, with departures well and truly drying up, I decided to give it a go.

After driving over to the other runway, I managed to find somewhere to leave the car, and found a place to shoot from, although the angle was slightly more “underside” than I would have liked. The first arrival I shot was an ANA 767 in their “Panda” colours, which made for a cool sight.

With impeccable timing, it seemed I had decided to switch runways just as there was a lull in arrivals and departure traffic started to pick up! The lull didn’t last too long fortunately, and soon the airport got busy again.

The majority of the traffic was made up of JAL and ANA airliners, mainly 777s and 767s, with some lighter types thrown in too. In the past, it was unusual to see anything smaller than a 767 at Narita; this seems to have changed over the last couple of years with more domestic services being operated now. One type which was conspicuous by its absence in JAL or ANA colours was the 747, which was once the mainstay of both companies’ longhaul operations. Boeing’s Queen of the Skies is now being replaced by the 777 and will soon leave the passenger fleets of both airlines.

Other Asian carriers included China Eastern and China Southern.

An unfamiliar operator for me was Jeju Air, based in Korea. The arrival of their smart 737 seemed to cause something of a stir with the local photographers too, so it may be that this is not a regular visitor.

American heavies made up a large part of the rest of the movements, again the 777 dominated with examples from Continental, Delta, United and American Airlines.

There was an opportunity to see three versions of the United colour scheme, including a 777 painted in the newest scheme, something of a hybrid with merger partner Continental.

With the light now fading I made a trip around to the other side of the approach to 34R, intending to try to shoot some sunset shots, but with only limited success due to the low ground and obstructions.

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