So, with RAF Northolt hosting its fifteenth night photoshoot on the evening of Thursday, 17 October, it would have been rude to not have used the opportunity to spend the daytime at Heathrow Airport catching up with some of the more recent arrivals on the scene, most notably British Airways’ Airbus A380s and Boeing 787s. Karl Drage writes.
The day before, the forecast was looking excellent, but come the morning itself, the outlook had deteriorated somewhat. Conscious that it would be a long day, I decided I’d aim to get to Heathrow for mid-morning and, for once, traffic on the M1 and M25 wasn’t actually too bad.
Arrivals up to 1500 were destined for Runway 27L, so Myrtle Avenue was the chosen venue for that first part of the day. Despite there being a surprising lack of other enthusiasts around, parking was at a premium by the time I arrived just after 1000.
Conditions were beautiful at that stage with a lovely deep blue sky and relatively low-angled sun making for some nice pictures. A few whispy clouds started to build in the background, adding some more depth to the images.
The first aircraft on my hit-list was due at 1035 and was a BA 787-8. Before that arrived, though, I bagged a red-nosed company A320, G-EUUK. I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise BA had any at that stage!
I was quite happy to bag a couple of Virgin Atlantic A330-300s and one of the Virgin Red A320s in really lovely light early doors too.
The BA 787, G-ZBJC, arrived from Toronto a few minutes ahead of schedule and looked rather smart in the sun – easily the best light that I’d shoot a Dreamliner in for the rest of the day.
Lufthansa A320-200 D-AIZT was marginally more interesting than the airline’s usual aircraft in that it carried Sharklets – the only example of such I’d see all day.
By now the cloud was starting to build at pace, with the white fluffiness soon giving way to much more menacing looking skies. It made for some dramatic scenes, though it also screwed a few shots up altogether. The Air India 787-8 and British Airways A380-841 suffered particularly badly from a lack of light on the airframe…
I was, however, rather luckier with the Qatar 787-8 A7-BCB, new-schemed United 747-400 N118UA and Iran Air A300B4-605R EP-IBC.
The Aeroflot A330-343X VQ-BQX was the first of that operator/type combination I’ve shot, and, I have to say, the scheme suits it a treat. Okay, so it’s not an Il-96, but it still looks nice…
Alan Kenny briefly joined me having arrived back from Los Angeles on BA 747-436 G-CIVP.
The next big disappointment came when British Airways’ 777-236ER G-YMMH arrived from Dubai with the sun chasing the aircraft all the way down the approach… Literally three seconds later and it would have been beautifully lit. Why the disappointment about a BA 777, I hear you ask?! This aircraft has acquired ‘panda’ artwork to mark the inaugural BA flights between London and Chengdu in China…
Not long after, the heavens finally opened and provided the signal for me to relocate to the Esso garage in anticipation of the 1500 runway switch, with Runway 27L being used for departures.
As I got into position, a friendly face appeared. It was Rob Laker, who, despite having been internet friends for years, I was finally about to meet for the first time.
Light was still a bit patchy as the rain shower moved onwards, but the light we’d be treated to for much of the next two and a half hours or so would more than make up for that.
The main reason for heading to garage, other than it being considerably more convenient than trying to find somewhere to park for 27R landings, was the two scheduled departures of BA A380s – the only two aircraft of the type on the airline’s books at that stage (G-XLEC, the aircraft I shot undergoing rejected take-off trials at Toulouse in March, was finally delivered to Heathrow on the day after my visit).
The first of the two, G-XLEA, was operating a service to Frankfurt as the airline’s operations with the type are ramped up. That, sadly, departed in pretty rubbish light considering the sun was shining, but the second, G-XLEB, really could not have got away in nicer conditions.
Other highlights included the departure of the Qatar 787-8, a particularly beautifully lit Emirates A380 and one of the American 77Ws in the new scheme.
Undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the day came when I noticed an Ethiopian Airlines tail appear in view in the Cargo area. Now, I knew the ‘singed’ 787-8, ET-AOP, had been moved there pending repairs following the fire it suffered while parked in July, but it took a few seconds for it to sink in that the tail had only just become visible because it was being removed from the airframe by a yellow crane!
We waited as long as we could for the Iran Air A300 that we’d seen taxi to get airborne but the clock was against us and, typically, no sooner had we started the walk back to our cars, it appeared…. Oh well!
As ever, Heathrow always delivers something new and this was no exception. It’d been a good day already and, once the nightmarish traffic had been overcome on the journey to RAF Northolt, it got better still!