Free Saturday afternoons and evenings come around once in a blue moon in my world, but 3 August 2013 was one such occasion, and I really fancied an outing to London-Heathrow Airport (LHR).
Able to get away at 1300, all was going well until the “M1 J12-11 INCIDENT – LONG DELAYS” message appeared on the electronic signs before me… Great. As always seems to be the case in these instances, there wasn’t actually an ‘incident’ on the southbound carriageway at all. There was, however, an accident on the northbound stretch. Quite how that could result in 30 minutes added to MY journey time perplexed me somewhat, but that’s exactly what it did.
Similar messages were displayed for large stretches of the M25, but, thankfully, they proved to be inaccurate, and despite the M1’s best efforts, I still arrived at Myrtle Avenue a handful of minutes before Runway 27L took over as the designated landing runway.
My most recent visits to the ‘Row had been quite short in nature, and there were a few things I was looking forward to shooting for the first time – some of which I’d be successful with, while others not.
The weather, as the forecast had suggested, was pretty good, with a few clouds providing some depth to the backdrops, albeit they did occasionally mean aircraft I wanted to shoot arrived without the desired illumination falling on the sides of the fuselage.
The Royal Jordanian A332 was one such disappointment, as was the Biman Bangladesh 77W – both of which were firsts for me…
I fared rather better with the Virgin Atlantic “Little Red” A320s, operating services between Heathrow and Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. While fully marked in the very smart Virgin Atlantic colour scheme, all four aircraft are wet leased from Aer Lingus.
Other highlights included my first JAL 77W in the revised scheme, my first sunny arrival of an SIA A380, my first Aeromexico 767 (albeit in SkyTeam colours), and a DHL A300F (D-AEAR), still carrying JAL’s old basic colours, which it bore while operating as a passenger aircraft in Japan.
I had hoped to catch the arrival of the Malaysian A380, but that was running quite a bit late and my plan had always been to head northside for Runway 27R line-up shots in the evening.
After parking up at the Heathrow Academy, it suddenly struck me that there was no sun! A fairly narrow band of cloud was sat in exactly the wrong place. To the south it was completely clear and to the north it was relatively clear. Typical!
I could see the Emirates A380 making its way out, so I headed across the road and attempted to make the best of it. It wasn’t pretty!
I was joined by Phil Broad and Darryl Morrell, both of whom I’ve been friends with on Facebook for quite a while – and admired their Heathrow photography – but this was the first time we’d actually met.
The Air Astana 757, PIA 772 and Turkish 77W all departed in cloudy conditions, but, thankfully, as a Virgin Red A320, the Royal Jordanian A332 and a new-schemed American Airlines 77W made their respective journeys to the threshold, the clouds slowly started to part.
Somewhere in between, BA’s first 787, G-ZBJB, landed. Apparently it had been up to Scotland on a test flight. For a brief moment we thought it was going to depart again, but alas it was not to be….
Another patchy spell coincided with some of the nicer movements, including the first 767 I’d seen in the new American colours, a very smart Chinese registered Global Express (B-LRW), China Southern A332, Royal Brunei 772, Cathay Pacific 77W and the Aeromexico 767….
Thereafter we were treated to almost a solid hour of glorious light. The Iberia A333 was a first, I was very grateful to get the Biman 77W departing in lovely conditions after the disappointment of the arrival, and it was nice to get an American 772 in the old colours – something of which I have very few shots on the ground.
The final burst of sunlight for the day came as the Korean 77W and Kenyan 772 got away, meaning the Air China 77W, second PIA 772 and second Cathay 77W all departed in the gloom….
It had been a very enjoyable few hours with Phil and Darryl and provided a number of nice photographic opportunities.
One thing that really struck me was just how few 744s you now see. Take out the BA examples and the only others I saw were the two Thai examples (one of which was unserviceable and in need of an engine change)…. 77Ws really are taking over the show!
The other thing it made me realise was that I’m badly in need of a full day there again soon. Daily 787 services from Air India, Qatar and United and countless A380s are all, by and large, absent from my collection…. I need to put that right…!