A free Sunday, an excellent forecast (and there haven’t been too many of them this winter!) and a good friend going flying all combined to prompt a visit to London’s Heathrow Airport.
As anyone who’s kept more than a passing eye on the UK weather this winter will know, it’s been filthy with many parts battered by incessant rainfall and gale force winds. The forecast for Sunday, 16 February could not have been much more different, with clear skies predicated all day and light south-westerly winds.
Departures would be from Heathrow’s Runway 27L until the scheduled runway change at 1500, so the venue for the first part of the day was the Esso garage on the Southern Perimeter Road – not the best place for dynamic angles, but a good opportunity to take some pictures with blue backdrops and nicely illuminated subject matter.
With Heathrow now getting daily Boeing 787 Dreamliner services from British Airways, Qatar Airways, Air India, Royal Brunei, Ethiopian Airlines and China Southern, it was a bit disappointing that only one passed in front of my lens during the day (the Air India) – but at least with airports they have the decency to at least tell you the schedule in advance!
I don’t get to Heathrow as much as I’d like, and the dual runway operation means you’re never going to get everything. That being the case, this actually presented my first opportunity to photograph a Malaysian A380, and very nice it looked too – albeit I still think the tail logo looks unfinished.
British Airways and Virgin examples aside, the Jumbo is becoming a rather scarce creature at ‘the Row’. Thai Airways provided the only other one seen during the day.
Without doubt, the big winner at the moment is the Boeing 77W, and I was amazed just how many American Airlines examples were knocking around. Etihad, Jet Airways, Saudia, Cathay Pacific, Singapore and Korean Air Lines were amongst the other carriers represented by the Triple Stretch – the last three named would have been 747-400 services in the not-too-distant past.
The runway change looked for a long time to be coming after the expected arrival time of the British Airways A380 from Los Angeles, but with about an hour to run the time on the website was updated to reflect a Runway 27L arrival.
A leisurely drive around to Myrtle Avenue saw us pull up – ahead of the scheduled switch time – as a couple of aircraft landed on 27L. Whilst we’d walked back to the car we’d seen three arrivals ‘go-around’ from 27R, and we discovered the next day that the cause had been a Lufthansa 737-500 reporting that it had a port undercarriage fire.
The thing that struck me instantly was the amount of standing water in the field. This was a great opportunity to get some rather different Heathrow imagery, and I filled my metaphorical boots (in truth an actual pair of wellies would have come in very handy and would have stopped me from getting wet feet! Still, this is the price we pay for getting ‘different’ shots!).
The sun which had been almost omnipresent up to this point disappointingly disappeared momentarily as the BA A380 arrived. To be honest, I’d not found ‘the sweet spot’ of the puddle by that point anyway and rather than a perfect reflection, there was rather more grass in it than I cared for.
It soon became clear that heavies looked great when mirrored in the water, whilst smaller types just lacked the necessary presence.
Aside from being able to look at the schedule before you leave the house, the other great thing about airport photography is that, for the price of a couple of quid, if you’ve got a smart phone and an appropriate data package, you can see precisely what’s heading your way! It really helps to plan your next move!
There were a couple of aircraft due that I really wanted to shoot ‘conventionally’ before the sun was due to set. The first of those was the AeroMexico 767-200ER and the other was the Azerbaijan Airlines 767-300ER.
My only previous encounter with an AeroMexico 762 came back in August ’13, and on that occasion the aircraft operating was in the SkyTeam colours. This, therefore, was one I wanted to bag.
I’d shot an Azerbaijan Airlines 763 before, too – on that occasion bringing the president to London-Stansted for the Olympic Games 2012 opening ceremony – but that was in the nice but far-less impressive ‘old’ scheme. The new colours, I think, are just lovely.
The sun was on the wane before the second Malaysian A380 of the day appeared on approach, so rather than get a badly lit side-on shot of that, I returned to the pond for some token reflection pictures. It wasn’t great, but I didn’t feel I’d lost out on much by doing it.
It did reappear briefly to cast some golden hues away in the distance, but for arriving traffic, there just wasn’t enough strength left in it, so we called it a day.
As ever, I’ve come back from a day out at Heathrow relishing the prospect of getting back. For variety, it really is impossible to beat. I’m itching to get back out for a day shooting 09R departures, but alas those days do not come along too often….