With Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic setting up new UK domestic services to challenge British Airways, GAR’s Glenn Beasley headed to Manchester Airport in search of ‘Little Red’ on April Fools’ Day. With the weather forecast looking set reasonably fair and the additional extra daylight on offer now that British Summer Time has arrived, it seemed a fruitful day at ‘Ringway’ was in prospect.
As I’m sure you are all aware, easterly winds have dominated the UK’s weather over recent weeks and on arrival at Manchester on 1 April, the early morning arrivals were on Runway 05R. As I got parked up it began to snow and the Lufthansa MD-11F was on very short finals. I was disappointed not to be in position to be shooting its arrival, but in the conditions it didn’t really matter. The sun was soon trying to peep through the clouds and I anticipated the cloud would continue to break.
My main reason for visiting was to shoot Virgin’s new domestic UK service, nicknamed ‘Little Red’, operating between Manchester and Heathrow four times a day. The service only commenced on 31 March, operating leased Aer Lingus A320-214s, the first of which EI-DEO was already heading to London on its first trip of the day before I’d arrived. Still, there was plenty of time to hopefully catch one of the rotations in the sun later in the day.
Ops on 05R ended at 0930 and so it was time to move on. I enjoy visiting Manchester as it’s possible to walk to so many different locations around the perimeter of the airport. I could have driven to my next spot, but with my intention to shoot aircraft landing on 05R in the late evening, I chose to stretch my legs and head for one of the mounds on approach to Runway 05L to shoot further arrivals which were now in full swing.
Unfortunately the cloud was quite thick at this point and despite numerous hopeful looks up to the heavens it refused to break at all during the morning and into the early afternoon. The Lufthansa MD-11F was taxying for departure just as I got into position and Little Red was back from Heathrow soon after. There were one or two nice movements, including a Blue Islands ATR42-300 and easyJet’s ‘Moscow’ logo jet, G-EZUG. With Little Red due out again just before 1500, I was on the move again to the end of 05L, one of my favourite spots at Ringway.
Sadly the runway’s lights have been upgraded of late and the views are not quite as good as they used to be at this location. Without steps you haven’t got a choice of whether to have the lights in your shot, so it was simply a case of trying to find the highest bit of ground possible. Again, there were a couple of nice movements, including one of Thomson’s new 737-800s in the pseudo Dreamliner scheme, and I was quite taken with the Air Mediterranee A321 scheme, thankfully with a bit of sun on its back at last.
Aircraft landing were really being challenged by the gusty north-easterly crosswind and it was quite a sight to watch them fighting the elements on flaring to land. With the Emirates A380 out to Dubai and the sun really breaking through and moving round sufficiently, it was time to take advantage of dual runway ops again and get some landing shots of the evening traffic.
On finding the spot where everything was touching down on 05R, the next couple of hours were very enjoyable indeed with much clearer skies and some smoky touchdowns to boot. Again I was able to pick up further new-liveried Thomson Airways traffic, with two 757s, meaning I’d been able to shoot 737s, 757s and 767s in the new livery all on the same day. Much easier than chasing a single example at my local Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield!
I’d not shot the new Air Malta scheme before and it looked particularly nice with the sun beginning to lower in the sky. It was pretty standard Manchester traffic, but so nice to have some sun to work with after what has felt like such a long, cold winter! Best of all ‘Little Red’ returned on her final leg of the day which left me content I’d got what I had come for. All that was left was for me to complete my hike around the airfield and return to the car. And what a lovely evening it was for it too!