Thursday, November 19, 2009
I will start by saying that OPF is not just a boneyard though - it's a great operational airport that happens to have some interesting airworthy aircraft too. The first one that I managed to shoot is a first for me - my first Russian-made aircraft. This AN12-B was one of 3 on the ramp that Sunday afternoon. From what I have heard, the 3 are still operational operating to the Caribbean and South America.
Gulf Air has their home base as Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. For quite a while, they operated B763's all over Europe, the Middle East and Asia and then started to phase the B763's out and replaced them with Airbus equipment. This ex-Gulf Air B763 has been at OPF for a while now, rumored to be going to a private owner, but the colors still remain for the moment.
One thing that is very evident at OPF are a lot of the old propeller engined aircraft. I saw so many, old DC-3's and this one was one of a few DC-7's that still seem to be airworthy and have been restored to their old glory. Next time I go to OPF, I'm going to try and catch more of these old graceful ladies of the skies and get a lot more information about them. In the meantime, this old lady proudly wears the colors of Eastern Airlines.
When talking to some of the other local photographers about OPF, there was a lot of talk about a new arrival at OPF that had arrived in the last couple of days. A S7 Airbus A310 from Russia. I'm not sure at the moment if this is a maintenance call or if she is here for the boneyard or fitting out for a new owner. I'll try and find out what is with her.
A few weeks ago while I was at Ft Lauderdale for a lunch time, I happened to see a Varig B733 taxing out for departure and wondered where it was going for scrapping knowing that Varig had phased out their B733's. Well, I get to OPF and am driving around looking when lo and behold, there is PP-VOZ right in front of me, along with a sister ship from Varig and another B733 from GOL also from Brazil. A little further around the airport, there were another 2 B733's from GOL - one white and one in full orange colors. The engines were being removed so I am guessing they are destined to be broken up here at OPF.
Look for more pictures and associated stories from OPF in the future....
Now, to start, there are the higher end biz-jets - old commercial airlines that have converted to luxury transports for those that can afford to own and operate one - some that come to mind are Dallas Maverick's owner Mark Cuban and his Boeing 767-200, Russian billionaire Roman Abromovich and his Boeing 767-300 aptly named "The Bandit" for it's color scheme (search any of the regular aviation photography sites for the registration P4-MES) and of course local entrepreneur Donald Trump with his Boeing 727 shown below (which is apparently up for sale - search Craigslist for VP-BDJ).
The rest of the biz-jets are purposefully built for the task. I will say that I have my favorites. The Bombardier Global Express has to be probably my favorite of all. It is one of the largest biz-jets on the market, but from what I have seen of their performance on take-off, it is probably one of the most powerful as well. Every time I see one of these power off a runway either at PBIA or Ft Lauderdale, I always have to go back and try to find a flight plan to see where that one has departed to. I have seen several power off runway 9L at PBIA in just over 3,000' of runway, and it's flying an overnight flight to London Stanstead - they simply are amazing. This one I caught recently at PBIA. If any of my readers is a GLEX pilot - or knows a GLEX pilot - I'd love to talk about this amazing jet.
For the longest time, the Gulfstream seemed to be the best known biz-jet. They were everywhere and so many of them still fly all over the world, from the G-II to the now G-550 and if my memory serves me, the G-650 is the next variant. This G-IV I shot at PBIA last weekend is a visitor from Canada.
Also from the Bombardier stable is the Challenger series - smaller than the Global Express, but still a very sharp looking biz-jet. They come in the -600 and -300 series - this -300 I shot at PBIA the past Saturday as well. It's a plain white color scheme - but I think it makes it all the more sleeker.
One of the first biz-jets I became interest in many years ago was a South African Air Force Falcon 900 registration ZS-NAN. It was the Presidential aircraft at the time, before the BBJ ZA-RSA came along. I had a friend who was the flight engineer on NAN and they were always off taking the South African President all over the world. The Falcon has also come in a lot of variants - the latest one being the 7X which has the blended winglets and an amazing wingspan when you stand in front of or behind it. This one below is a 900EX that passed through PBIA last weekend - going to Customs after landing and then heading off to some other location.
The last one I'll mention in this blog entry has it's roots in England, the land of my birth. When is came out originally, it was known as the Hawker Siddeley HS-125. These I also used to see a lot in South Africa as they were the executive jet of the South African Air Force. Now, they still carry the same design as the original HS-125 and still carry the Hawker name. The one pictured below is a 800 variant.
I must say, it's been so nice being back behind the camera lens in such lovely fall Florida weather. The shooting season is also getting into it's swing - I saw my first foreign charter of the season a couple of weeks ago - a Thomas Cook Scandinavia A330 at Ft Lauderdale - can't wait to see what the rest of the season holds.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Air Transat brings in their Airbuses - the A310 and the A330-200 and A330-300. What is always nice about their A310 is they get the Christmas treatment
Canjet got a new color scheme a couple of years ago and since then, I always wanted to get the new scheme - finally last year I did. Canjet sometimes also lease a B737-800 from Transavia in Holland for the season and hopefully this year, they will again and I'll be able to catch that one.
Skyservice is one that operates on an irregular basis and so when they can be caught, it's always nice to get them. Last year, they had just received their B757's from Thomas Cook.
Sunwings are regular visitors in the season. They normally have 3 or 4 different color schemes on their B737-800s. This one is the basic XL color scheme that their lease during the season.
Westjet is really not classed as a charter into Ft Lauderdale as they do operate a scheduled service. However, sometimes, it's nice to get their aircraft that don't normally operate to South Florida - in this case, their B737-600 - they are the only commercial operator of this B737 variant in North America.
Air Canada is the only year round regular scheduled commercial airline from Canada. However, in the fall and winter season, they also start to bring in some of the aircraft that are a change from the normal Airbuses. In this case, their B767-300ER.
Now that the fall and winter season is starting, it's going to be interesting to see what graces our runways and taxiways.....who knows.....
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
What makes Miami so different from the other airports in South Florida is the wide range of cargo aircraft, and there are a great deal of the South American carriers that always provide for good shots - there are some very unique color schemes from South America as well. This visit to Miami did not disappoint.
First port of call was the cargo plaza. This affords a great view over one of the cargo ramps. I've been trying to get to catch the new Centurion Cargo MD-11 for quite a while and when we got to the cargo plaza, there is was. Only later when I got home and started to edit the pictures did I realize that this registration (or only partial registration that I could get) wasn't on any of the Centurion Cargo MD-11's that have been caught already. The way a lot of the maintenance doors were open made me think that this is another new MD-11 for Centurion. I'm going back to Miami this weekend - maybe I can get a better shot of it then.
A lot of people ask the question "Where do aircraft go when they leave an airline?". Well, one answer is they go to the graveyard in the desert at a place like Victorville. The other answer is they get sold to a cargo carrier and then go for a cargo conversion. A example of this is the Capital Cargo International Boeing 757-200F. From the registration of this aircraft (N620DL), it's a give away to determine where it was in it's previous passenger-bearing life - Delta.
Something else that I have been wanting to catch for quite a while is a Boeing 767-300ER with winglets. Delta and American are the local carriers that have installed these massive 12' winglets on their variants. And - a big thank you to American, they brought one in right in front of us in very nice light. Have a look at the size of these winglets - compare them to the winglets on the Boeing 757's and Boeing 737's that fly the skies every day.
One of the more exotic South American airlines that is a regular visitor to Miami is Aerosur, the airline of Bolivia. They seem to have some very classic aircraft in their fleet, but have some nice color schemes on them. The last time I was in New York, I had been wanting to catch their classic Boeing 727-200 that was flying charters into JFK on alternate weekends. Of course, the weekend I was in New York was the off weekend for that charter and I missed it. Imagine now my excitement as Andy and I spotted a Boeing 727 on approach. At first we couldn't see the color scheme and thought it might be a DHL or Amerijet aircraft. However, as it got closer and closer, we saw the green and purple color scheme and knew exactly what it was!
If that wasn't enough, a while later, the second Aerosur plane made an appearance, this time it was their Boeing 767-200. This time, it wasn't the colorful scheme of the Boeing 727, just the plain green tail, but, as I'd never caught Aerosur before, to get two on one day, I was VERY happy!
A lot of people might not know, but very quietly it seems, American has retired their Airbus A300-600R fleet that has been flying with the carrier since 1988. They were a workhorse of the Caribbean routes and the high capacity routes in the US like the JFK-MIA and JFK-MCO-MIA routes. The final flight of the type was last Monday, so it was nice to catch one flying on the last weekend of operation. I've never flown on an American A300, but I did fly on the type for Emirates many years ago and found it to be a very comfortable aircraft. They had a huge cargo capacity as well which was one of the reasons American used them on Caribbean routes. Sad to see a type retired from a fleet. RIP the American A300's.
As mentioned above, this Sunday I'll be back in Miami spotting with a visitor from the UK. Hopefully there will be just as good things to catch this weekend as there were last weekend. I know that Andy and I had a great time last weekend.
Some more time behind the camera lens over..
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Can't wait for the next ones to come out and start flying - great job Continental!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
So, for this blog entry, I thought I'd move the focus away from the aircraft, and concentrate a little on where the take off from and land at. One my second trip to the New York area, I flew into LGA instead of JFK and it was on the way back home that I got my first shot of an overview of an airport. Thanks to runway in use, winds, and the shooting gods all aligning perfectly, after take off, we turned back over Rikers Island and looking out from my seat, I saw the whole of La Guardia airport below me. Quickly unpacking the camera, I started to shoot down, hoping that there was no dirt on the windows - and editing later - I was very happy with the result.
After seeing this, every time I have flown out of or into an airport where these types of shots can be taken, I've tried to get a decent shot.
The next one to get was after departing my home airport, Palm Beach International on the way to Houston. I'd tried several times to get a Palm Beach overview and was always stumped by bad light, clouds or just plain bad weather. This time, I thought the same was going to be true when I saw the clouds in my view finder. It was a week before I was able to get home and look at the shots, and, out of the 10 that I did shoot, one finally I was able to get the airport in. Clouds nearly took over again, but, I was happy with the shot.
Houston was one that I had been trying to get for a long time as well. Travelling from Florida to the north west of Texas where we have family, we always try to get through Houston on our favorite domestic airline (no hints of course :) ). Again, it took quite a few visits at different times of the day before I finally got a shot I liked. It seemed like the runway in use, winds, etc also finally aligned to get this one.
One shot that I have been trying to get for the longest time was a decent shot of a ramp or the whole airport at New York's JFK. Again, it takes the winds and runway in use to be able to get some decent shots of the airport at JFK. On my last trip to New York, I got lucky again. A departure off runway 13R, a seat on the left hand side of the plane and a fairly short take off roll lined up one of my favorite shots in my collection - the international ramp and jetBlue ramp at JFK.
One thing that the Fall tends to bring to Florida as well is the ability to get some night shots. I'm not too experienced at this, only having a couple of attempts, but, one of my to-do list items this fall is to try to start shooting the airports a little more at night - not too sure how well it's going to do - but - watch this space.
Some more time behind the camera lens over....
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
“What has been the hottest shot you have always wanted to get, actually got and why?”
My answer was a very easy answer. Ever since Delta (and it's sometime subsidiary, Song) rolled out the Breast Cancer Awareness aircraft, I always wanted it in my collection. Because of some scares with that exact issue in my family, it made it all the more important. I was always stalking the flight tracking sites searching for that single registration N610DL. When she was in her Song colors, I saw her from a distance while I was driving - cursing for missing her. Finally, one day, I happened to be working from home. By this time, ACARS searches had become a reality and it was easier to track where the registration was flying. I happened to go onto one ACARS search engine, typed in the registration, and there was a flight plan for that day. I did a real double take when I saw KPBI in the listing - finally, she was back in my area, and it would be over lunch time. I got to the airport spotting area with plenty of time to spare and with camera eye-piece glued to my eye, started shooting as she was on her take off role and took to the air. After getting home and looking at the results, I finally had that one perfect shot for myself - "Pinky" in all her glory.
Phil Derner, founder of NYCAviation.com, my favorite website wrote the following.
Before I got my first DSLR, I've been watching the skies for a several years, planning my shots before I knew if/when I'd ever even get a camera. In the Spring of '04, I got a Canon 10D and went to work.
One of those hopeful shots was an LGA sunset shot with a Delta 767.I knew a spot that I could perch myself up on to line myself up with La Guardia's runway 13/31, and I waited until the end of June/early July so that the sun was setting as far up north on the horizon as it would to be behind planes departing toward me on rwy 13.
My variables were the weather, runway usage and Delta 767 schedule, as they were the only airline that operated the larger 767 at LGA, and I needed a sizable aircraft as I'd be pushing the limited of my 100-400mm lens. I spent two weeks monitoring cloud coverage and LGA ATIS until July 8, and I made sure I was ready. The sun was fading fast and the 767 to ATL was taxiing out slowly. It finally turned onto the active and came towards me. I fired off a few shots and only one came out properly exposed because of the varying sunset light intensities. I knew I had the shot I wanted and I had a big grin on my face the whole way home.
Looking back, the quality isn't the greatest on the shot. I wish the shadows were darker, that there was less grain and that it was a tad more crisp. Regardless, I can still feel the warm air from that day and how excited I was, and I'm still proud of the shot.
Another shot that I had planned for a while was of an American 737 against a larger NYC skyline. I had grown up playing on the College Point shore overlooking La Guardia and in my photo-planning, I knew that I could get a runway 31 arrival at LGA passing right in front of the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings if I worked it all out properly.
There were several challenges here. First I had to find the specific shoreline spot that offered me the right angle and aircraft height in the glideslope that layered the buildings into the frame just so. Some of the shoreline was at sea level, and some spots were on high cliffs 25 feet above the rocks. The other issue was sun position; I needed a very clear day in the Spring when the sun rose further to the north and crossed the sky slowly, because nothing larger than a regional jet arrived until 9:30-10am, and that was also about the time that aircraft became backlit, potentially ruining my chances.
I chose the 737 because it's a little smaller than the 757, which would allow for a tighter shot against the skyline which was a bit in the distance from my shoreline, allowing it all to fit just right.
May 29 of 2004 was the day for this one. Weather and runway usage working in my favor, I picked my spot and hoped that any AA737s that came in were not too high or too low, and I got one that did just what I'd hoped. I knew I had created what I envisioned.
I have many photos that are of better quality, more crisp, better colors, more "alive", but this is still my flagship photo. American Airlines, my city skyline, taken from my town. Doesn't get much better for me.
I'm not sure this qualifies as "always wanted to get", but the story of how I spent a whole weekend trying to get a usable shot of N106US might be interesting...it's definitely my hottest shot.
Thursday afternoon, about 3:30 PM. I'm at work, and we start hearing rumors that there's a plane in the Hudson. At that point, nobody really knew anything...like what kind of plane it was. My co-workers, who know what I do in my spare time, were all asking why I was still at work instead of running out to take pictures. There was a simple reason why: my camera was at home. After a couple of hours, I found out that the plane had been moored near Battery Park. The chase was on.
On Thursday night, the plane was indeed there, but the entire surrounding area was roped off by the police. I went across the river to try to get a better view.
The next morning, I tried again. The plane hadn't moved, and the surrounded area was still roped off. So, again, I took a trip across the river, and learned a very interesting lesson...heat haze can be a serious problem even when it's 12 degrees outside.
Various emergency authorities spent most of Saturday trying to get the plane out of the water without breaking it. Not an easy thing to do :) They didn't make much progress...they finally got the plane out of the water and on to a barge well after midnight, and well after most of the spotters had given up and gone home. Sunday morning, it was fortunately much warmer outside. The plane was on a barge, and there was a much smaller area roped off, but I still couldn't get a clear shot from the Manhattan side, so one more trip to New Jersey. As it happened, I ran into Moose, who gave me a ride.
Finally, I got my shot.
And finally, Andy - is still searching for the shot...
I would say the shot I will always lust after will be "the one that got away" from me, Wunala Dreaming arriving on 31R at JFK during a perfect sunset. We were spotting at Firestone and were approached by one of the Nassau County PD's least finest officers who became very aggressive and practically ordered us to leave, lest he pursue "further investigation" against us. We left and I drove some fellow spotters back to JFK to catch the airtrain, when who shows up landing on 31R in this gorgeous golden sunset lighting? Yup, Wunala Dreaming. There were hearts breaking in that car, lol, but especially mine because now that I live in Atlanta, I have no hope of getting a shot of Wunala unless I head to LAX. It will be a shot I will long seek again, but will likely never have.
Here is Wunala at JFK - sorry Andy, I had to post a shot (credit for the picture to Eric - another of our website crew).
Thanks to my friends for their input - all are great photographers and even more, great friends. Hopefully, the weather in South Florida is going to improve soon - the lucky guys in New York have been getting tremendous weather. I need to get out shooting again...the shutter finger is itching.....
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
There are two main categories I place the Epic Fail pictures into - man made and nature. To start with the nature, the leader in this category is weather. While we know when the weather is bad and we don't go shooting, there is always the errant cloud or rain storm that can sneak into the picture and just when you think you have that shot....darkness - and all the editing in the world will probably not save the shot.
Just as clouds can be the cause of the Epic Fail, the lack of clouds and heat can be another cause. Heat distortion is the enemy of the photographer. It is really only discovered when you get back to edit the shots. There are the obvious heat distortion shots that you won't take - aircraft on an obviously heat distorted runway. But, those in the sky don't obviously show until editing, and then, when you think that you have the perfect shot....distortion lines everywhere...
The rest of my definitions of Epic Fail fall into the man made variety. This can be anything from an errant road sign to a tree, another aircraft in the way to equipment. Road signs are everywhere. Roads are all around airports - it's how we get to our photography locations. So, oblivious of location, you are panning some shots of an aircraft.....sign blockage...
In the same way that signs are on roads close to an airport, so equipment is all over an airport. This can range from baggage carts, to fuelers, or, and I hated this this week, machinery repairing runways and taxiways. Here I was, shooting the brand new jetBlue logojet, I get back to look at the pictures....and....Epic Fail....machinery.
The same goes for trees, that tend to shoot up around airports as well....
Finally, there are the two Epic Fails that are totally man and photographer made - but Epic Fails still. The cut off....
And the aircraft obstruction.....
The Epic Fail - something we always try to avoid, but sometimes can't.
There is one good bit of news for the photographers around the country - the first Continental retro colors jet is plying the airways of the country - we will all be out trying to get a decent non-Fail shot of her. All we need in South Florida now is the rain to go away....
Another week behind the camera lens over....
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Some airlines honor sports teams like US Airways with their series of NFL teams that are located at their hub airports - Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers (shown below)
Southwest, apart from the Shamu planes, has a great deal of other special schemes, honoring states (as shown below with the Arizona One aircraft), but they take special schemes a lot further. They have Silver One which represents their 25th anniversary and others in totally special paint schemes. However, they also name the standard Canyon Blue and Yellow color schemes with names on the planes - such as the "Nolan Ryan Express" which honors that great baseball pitcher, a decal honoring the Tuskegee airmen, the "Southwest Classic" decal that bears the registration honoring executive Colleen Barrett and things like "Adopt-A-Pilot" decals. That's the one thing about spotting Southwest - you never know what will come in and if it isn't an obvious scheme - only when they get close will you see lettering on the nose and the camera has to come out quickly.
One deviation from the "special" scheme aircraft is Frontier. What makes them so unique is that every tail on all of their aircraft is painted with different animals (as shown below with the Walrus scheme). It makes it very interesting to catch them because of the diversity of the schemes. However, you can make sure you don't go running out for each Frontier flight. A novel innovation on their web site Frontier Airlines is when you track the status of the flight, they will show the tail scheme that is meant to be operating that flight. Very rarely is it wrong - a little spotters trick I found out about!.
There are three other types of special schemes that I want to touch om. The first is one that I think is close to a lot of people's hearts and those are the schemes that honor special causes. Delta, American and Quantaslink (you'll have to go to Australia to get this one) have honored the Susan G. Komen Foundation with different breast cancer awareness schemes. The first to do this was Delta with a pink Song aircraft that with the demise of Song became pink Delta, or as she is known in our family, Pinky. For the longest time, this was the top of my hit list of special schemes until one very special day at Palm Beach International when I caught her.
American have pink sashes on several different aircraft types and they are always a prized catch. American has followed another cause of the soldiers serving overseas with a lone Boeing 757 with yellow ribbon on the tail. Delta also has a single Boeing 767-300 honoring Habitat for Humanity.
Next, there are the alliance schemes - I noted above with the US Airways Boeing 757 in Star Alliance. All the members of the alliance have at least one aircraft in this color scheme and they are always a great catch to get. Next was oneWorld with a single title on the aircraft of members of this alliance. American has gone a little further with this and have a glorious paint scheme for oneWorld on a Boeing 777 (N791AN), although I have heard this scheme is going to go on a few other different aircraft types. The last of the alliances to get scheme planes has been SkyTeam. Delta's first aircraft was a Boeing 767-400 (N844MH). I'm not sure if the scheme is going to go on any of their other types - I can only hope because N844MH only seems to be on international routes and if you can't get to JFK or Atlanta, you won't catch her. Continental is due to join Star Alliance last this year - I only hope they paint different types with a Star Alliance scheme.
The final type of special schemes that I want to note is the retro schemes. Airlines have been absorbed into other airlines, or old schemes seem to be a favorite. A large number of the worlds airlines have started to introduce retro schemes. US Airways have some of the airlines that were absorbed over the years, PSA, Allegheny and Piedmont (shown below).
American also has a Boeing 737 in retro Astrojet colors that is a great catch. It's rumored that Continental is going to paint 4 B737-900's in retro colors - I hope that going to be a reality as I'd love to get those in my collection,
Hopefully that gives a little insight into the special schemes that daily ply the skies - they are rare to catch, and when you do get them, it makes it some much more special.
Weather is still a bit of a downer at the moment - FLL has been mainly cloudy. Hopefully, it will get a little better over the next few weeks. Another week behind the camera lens over....