A well-timed visit to East Midlands Airport (EMA) resulted in Karl catching Airbus Industrie A350-941 F-WZNW flying through the overhead twice en route to and from an appearance at the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby.
A couple of years ago, Geoff Hibbert and I had an evening at East Midlands Airport almost straight after RIAT, and I got the sudden urge to do it again last Wednesday afternoon. I looked at the forecast – stonking, but with the wind swinging around to the east just before sunset. I pinged Geoff a message and was promptly told that EMA is rubbish when they’re on easterlies, but I decided I’d look into it a bit further.
I knew there was a small mound towards the Runway 27 threshold on the south side of the airport. A look on Google Maps revealed just one intersection towards that end of the runway before anything would be forced to go full length, which would bring them back past me. The Photographer’s Ephemeris was my next port of call, which showed the sun setting pretty much in a straight line between the mound and that runway intersection. If nothing else, it was worth a look.
A little later that evening, Geoff forwarded me an email that stated Airbus A350 MSN004 (F-WZNW), which had been performing in the flying display at Farnborough International Airshow, was scheduled to perform a flyby at the Rolls-Royce plant at Derby, just up the road from EMA. I was going anyway, and this would merely be a bonus, albeit a very welcome one.
On waking the next morning, the forecast had shifted forward a good few hours, with the wind set to swing before lunchtime. I was a little disappointed by that as I’d fancied getting some shots of landing traffic in front of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. Oh well.
I had other plans during the morning and didn’t arrive at EMA until about 1415. I parked at the little viewing area just off the A453 (which has had designated parking bays marked since my last visit) and commenced the considerable (with ladders, anyway) hike to the mound. I was the only person there. There was a tad more cloud than had been forecast, but it was hot, hot, hot. It was also considerably busier than I remembered it!
The light was absolutely perfect for side-on shots of aircraft climbing away, and the location would, I suspect, afford the chance of some rotation shots from Runway 09 in winter (there was far too much heat-haze present for that to have been possible on the day I was there).
I’d probably only been there about an hour when the A350 called up, I think as Airbus 359 Alpha. The plan, seemingly, was to fly an ILS approach to Runway 09. Quite what would follow, I had to wait to discover. Sure enough, the crew flew down the ILS, stopping their descent at some predetermined height (I’m not sure what), before wing-waggling in front of the control tower. As they reached me, a tight left-hand turn was executed, putting the top surfaces beautifully in my view – an angle I know plenty of people had been after down at Farnborough this week. The aircraft levelled off after completing maybe a 150-degree turn and headed for Derby, where a few more wing-waggles and the like were performed. Task complete, the aircraft was realigned with Runway 09 and another fly-through ensued, this time with wings remaining level at all times. Passing the 27 threshold, a gentle climb was initiated, and the aircraft was back on its way.
The next excitement was provided by Thomson Boeing 737-800 G-FDZF, which has been fitted with the new Split Scimitar Winglets (I’ll be honest, I only noticed this when reviewing the images at home!) – the first time I’d seen them in the flesh. This aircraft was particularly interesting to me at the time because it failed to make the intersection to my left, forcing it to go full length and presenting me with some nice head-on photo opportunities – something I wasn’t really expecting to get.
I’m not going to lie, at this point I was slightly excited by what might follow the course this aircraft had taken, with a whole raft of cargo movements due during the evening and into the night. Surely something bigger would do that if a 737 had?!
As the hours ticked by, the wind became markedly stronger, and arriving FlyBe Dash-8s suddenly started to vacate at the intersection just beyond half way down the runway – well out of my range. This did not bode well. It got even worse when two Gulfstreams (a NetJets Europe example and JC Bamford’s new 650) did the same, and then consecutive Ryanair 737-800s… Hope had gone, and my doubts were confirmed when the first of two DHL Boeing 767-300Fs easily made the intersection by me. Oh well, I was back to holding out for a sunset…
For the only time during my time there, things were pretty quiet from about 1900 through to 2100, with just the odd movement here and there. The sun was due to set at 2119, but the writing was on the wall well before then thanks to a sizeable bank of cloud sitting low in the sky to the north west. Still, I was there, so I might as well see it through…
All of a sudden, the place became alive with interesting arrivals, starting with the Icelandair Cargo Boeing 757-200F. Over the next 40 minutes or so, there was a Star Air (Maersk) 767-200F, two West Atlantic ATPs (neither of which reached me), two DHL A300s, a DHL 757F, a TNT 737-400 and an Air Contractors 737-400, as well as a couple of airliner movements. Okay, so the light hadn’t played ball, but I was still a little reluctant to leave when I did.
It had been quite an enjoyable day, one where I wasn’t too sure what I’d get, but that’s part of the fun – develop a plan and then hope for the best! In truth, I’m not sure how well sunset shots would work from that position. The trees on the far side of the airport may have a say in the effectiveness of the resultant images, but I’d certainly consider heading back if they’re on easterlies, the forecast is decent and anything properly heavy is due in, such as the regular Antonov An-124 and Formula 1 related Boeing 747 visits. Heck, I might even go back when 27 is in use!