Tom’s first visit to Heathrow took place in 1971, armed with a bag of sandwiches, a Zenith B SLR, 200mm lens and two rolls of Agfa slide film that his father told him “must last the day”. Fast forward a number to 2013 and he was paying his first visit for over a year, armed with two Canon DSLRs, an armoury of lenses, and no sandwiches, how times have changed!

© Tom Gibbons - Global Aviation Resource

With a decent weather forecast, plans for the day included catching up with mates from Manchester (to bring myself up to date with the Heathrow scene) and some of the newer kids on the block, followed by an evening visit to the RAF Northolt Nightshoot later in the day. Arriving at Heathrow around 8am, departures were taking place from runway 27L so it was off to the Esso garage, my first time at this location, and there were already a few hardy souls present on the grass. The high perimeter fence across the Southern Perimeter Road doesn’t come into play for the vast majority of departures, but does sometimes intrude when shooting some of the A380s as they head off. The Singapore Airlines, Malaysian and one of the Emirates were low enough to ensure lots of fence in the frame, and in hindsight a location farther west would have been much better. Lesson learned for next time!

© Tom Gibbons - Global Aviation Resource

With Boeing’s Dreamliner still subject to an enforced grounding, the only example to be seen was Qatar Airways’ A7-BCK which was sat forlornly on the south side. Elsewhere, Boeing’s 767 and 777 were prolific, with the home team, American Airlines, United, Delta, Etihad, Royal Brunei, Air India, Jet Airways, PIA, Cathay and Singapore providing plenty subject matter and some lovely colour schemes for the camera. The jury is still out on the new American Airlines scheme though. The Airbus 330 appears to be favoured over its bigger brother the 340; Virgin’s ‘new’ 330s were aplenty, along with examples from Qatar Airways, MEA, Egyptair, Gulf Air and China Airlines, whilst a smattering of 340s added to the mix with examples from the Qatari Royal Flight, Thai International and Virgin, the latter pair of operators represented in series 600 guise.

© Tom Gibbons - Global Aviation Resource

Despite the assault from the big twins, the mighty 747 continues to strut its stuff, albeit in smaller numbers; BA, Virgin and United were the only players to be seen, although a number of Lufthansa series 400s and a couple of 800s were noted trailing overhead en-route to and from the USA.

© Tom Gibbons - Global Aviation Resource

On the shorter routes, Airbus and Boeing have it sewn up; A318s, 319s, 320s and 321s are prolific, as are most variants of the evergreen 737 and the odd 757, with examples to be seen from nigh on every European nation. Sadly the days of Ilyushins and Tupolevs are, in the main, over and done, although the previous week had seen a welcome visit from a Russian Government Tu-154 and Tu-204. The sight of an Aeroflot IL-62 roaring down the approach is but a memory and the sight of an A320 or 321 carrying the Aeroflot name just doesn’t have the same impact!

© Tom Gibbons - Global Aviation Resource

Before heading off to Northolt for a much needed McDonald’s and the nightshoot, we relocated to the Myrtle Avenue area for an hour or so of shooting arrivals. Needless to say the sun disappeared for the arrival of the Mexicana 767 but duly popped out a couple of minutes later for the Pakistan 777, there’s just no justice! Cameras were nearly packed away when a familiar shape appeared on the approach, ‘T’ tail, tri-jet ………. a lovely old Boeing 727 series 200 of the Bahraini Royal Flight, beautiful! Not a new airframe for me as I’d noted it a good few years back at Muharraq, Bahrain, but still fantastic to see her ‘paying her way’.

© Tom Gibbons - Global Aviation Resource

So, there we go. A good day out with good mates and banter flowing all day long; some new airframes, some new airlines and plenty new colour schemes. Maybe next time I’ll do Heathrow on a bike and see what opportunities that presents. Until then ……