The third and final day of my trip to Germany and the Netherlands started with an 0630 alarm call. Behind the curtains the sun was already shining and the sky was relatively free of cloud. FlightStats indicated that two KLM MD-11s were due to arrive back at Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport at 0650 and 0750 respectively. There was no way we would be in position for the first but every chance we’d catch the second.
As I explained in my Schiphol blogs from April, runway usage at the airport is somewhat haphazard, or at least that’s how it seems! For the purposes of identifying shooting locations in the rest of this entry, I shall once again refer to the excellent Scramble viewing guide!
Looking at the website detailing live runway usage, runways 18R and 18C were both being used for arrivals. This created something of a dilemma! We initially set course for 18R, but, while en-route, Woody noted that a lot of the heavies were taking 18C so we back-tracked and made for Spot #12.
No sooner had we turned onto the Hoofdweg, Woody clocked an MD-11 just a few miles out. There was no way we could get there in time, and, at virtually the same time as we drove through the approach lights, the MD-11 passed down our left-hand side…. The only consolation was that the sun was in! Hey ho!
It was Ascension Day – a national holiday in both the Netherlands and Germany – and consequently a large number of enthusiasts were present, taking advantage of a rare weekday away from work. It was busy!
Over the course of the next hour and a half, we shot a few nice bits and pieces: Estonian Air CRJ, Air Astana 757, KLM Cargo 744F, Freebird A320, Garuda Indonesia A332 and Bulgaria Air A320 being among my highlights. The vast majority of North American traffic had been landing on 18R during this period.
Runway 18C then closed for a while and it was suggested by the locals that we move to a spot not featured on the Scramble guide. This location enabled taxying shots to be captured of aircraft shortly after they’d crossed the bridge over the Hoofdweg and when taxying to the terminal, having landed on Runway 18R. It was quite a nice spot, with a tree-lined backdrop. The shots weren’t dynamic by any stretch, but I liked it.
We were then informed that a Cathay Pacific Cargo 747-8F was due in from Frankfurt, but, despite waiting for it for quite some time, it never appeared. A big bank of cloud rolled in and we took that to be our cue to head off to get some breakfast (McDonald’s again, I’m afraid! This time over by Spot #10).
Feeding time complete, we made for another location – Spot #15 on the approach to Runway 18R. This was even busier than Spot #12 had been first thing! Again, the angles were not especially inspiring, but it was something to do while we waited for the sun to become favourable for the Polderbaan.
While we were there, the Cathay Pacific Cargo 747-8F that had been mentioned earlier appeared, as did an ArkeFly 738 in the Dreamliner scheme.
Air France and KLM ‘retros’ also passed by the camera, and I finally shot my first LAN Cargo 777F – such a good-looking scheme, but sadly by then the light was starting to get away from us and it was time to relocate once more.
As we turned on to Vlijfhuizerweg neither Woody nor I could believe just how busy the official viewing area at Spot #16 was. It was heaving and numerous cars had been parked up on an area of ground just to the north of the designated area. The police were present and seemed to have no issues with this, presumably just because of the weight of numbers of people out taking advantage of the weather and their day off.
We’d already planned to walk north along the track that parallels Runway 18R, looking for some smoky touchdown shots. Naturally, we were firing shots off each time something landed as we made our way towards our intended location. Zooming in on the back of the camera showed that the heat-haze was fierce, so the shutter speed was upped to try to ‘freeze’ it, thus reducing the ‘wobble’ along the fuselage cheatlines.
Every time I thought we’d reached a spot that would work, further shots emphasised a need to keep walking to reduce the distance between us and the subject and hopefully the effect of the heat-haze.
Eventually I decided I wasn’t prepared to go any further since that would have meant compromising on the angles possible. Instead, I played around with slow-shutter shots, which, somewhat surprisingly, showed next to no evidence of any ‘wobble’.
For a while we lost the sun altogether, but when the patchy cloud finally departed for good, we were left to enjoy an absolutely superb 90 minutes or so that not only featured amazing light but also some fantastic movements.
Woody had decided to carry on another couple of hundred metres down the track.
MAS Kargo 744F, Martinair Cargo’s ‘Safari Connection’ 744F, a Korean Air A332; while it wasn’t hugely busy, the good stuff just kept coming.
There were two Air Bridge Cargo Jumbos, one a 744F and one a 747-8F. Sadly, the latter had landed just before the sun had properly re-emerged.
The same applied to the first of two Martinair Cargo MD-11Fs as well, but it was glorious for the second.
That would not be our last MD-11 movement either as a Centurion Cargo example also arrived, landing quite a bit longer than most other aircraft.
As with my April visit, one of the aircraft I most hoped to photograph ended up being one of the last that I actually did: OO-THB, a TNT 744F, operating for Emirates Cargo. While the aircraft might benefit from a lick of paint, I do so love the TNT colour-scheme!
Soon after it was time to start the not-inconsiderable walk back to the car, since I’d got to return that before catching my flight home. I felt bad dragging Woody away, but there was no way around that. I felt equally bad that I couldn’t stay longer myself!
My easyJet flight back to Luton was pretty much on schedule. Bizarrely, one of the members of cabin crew who’d been working on my outbound flight was also on the return. Not only that, she’d been on another two of my four most recent flights from Luton; four from six?! How random’s that?!
The weather there was a far cry from that which we’d been experiencing in the Netherlands, and the approach into Luton was a bit bumpy, prompting the young Canadian lady sat next to me to confess that she didn’t like flying. We got talking and it transpired that she was from Vancouver, was of Italian descent, was living in Holland, speaks Japanese, is studying Korean and who wants to become a human rights activitst! It had certainly been a trip full of interesting people.
We landed without incident on a very wet runway and, compared to my last experience of Luton, breezed through immigration; a comparatively painless experience.
While the first day might not have delivered quite as much action as I’d hoped, the second and third days were far better than I dared to wish for; Amsterdam, in particular, had delivered in spades. That said, I still feel as if that airport is a job only half done! I will be back!