Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Weather, NFL Owners, weather, weather and weather...

Well, the Memorial Day weekend with the trip to St Louis is over - what a wonderful weekend and like all wonderful weekends, they have to come to an end. I will say that the hospitality on Southwest, albeit timing a little off because of weather (see below), was great! Everyone was very friendly, the seats comfortable, and, the most important of all, we got to our destinations with our luggage!!

Before the weekend weather saga though, last week, for those that follow the National Football League, the owners held a two day meeting in Ft Lauderdale. Whenever the owners are in any town, there is always a very nice parade of expensive metal in town. This meeting was no different. While I was able to capture 5 of them in the camera lens, I did see about 4 others. The five that I was able to catch were:

Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys)

Dan Snyder (Washington Redskins)

Jim Irsay (Indianapolis Colts)

The Wilf family (Minnesota Vikings)

Alex Spanos (San Diego Chargers)

The weekend trip to St Louis started off on Thursday evening with an hour delayed flight due to weather. I will say that Southwest did keep us well informed of the delay, when boarding would start, etc. The flight itself was a very comfortable 2 1/2 hour flight and getting in later wasn't too much of an issue except for a 5 year old that fell asleep 1/2 hour before landing and was very difficult to wake up! After an amazing weekend, we ended up back at Lambert St Louis International airport for the return trip home on Tuesday. Again, the plane was late - this time 45 minutes because of bad weather when the flight left Houston, but the interesting part was after we took off. Two comfortable hours down to Florida and then the captain announced that we were going into a holding pattern over Fort Myers as weather (big storms!) had closed both Miami and Ft Lauderdale. We would have been happy to divert to West Palm Beach and get off and go home from there but no luck. After 30 minutes of the holding pattern, the captain announced we were going to land at Fort Myers for fuel as he was getting a little low and not knowing when Ft Lauderdale would open up again. So, a smooth landing onto runway 24 at Fort Myers and of course, you can imagine the volume of talking on the plane as everyone took out cell phones to let family, friends, offices know we were going to be late. After about 30 minutes on the ground at Fort Myers, the captain announced that we were cleared to go to Ft Lauderdale and off we went, followed by a US Airways A319 that had obviously suffered the same kind of delay as they landed behind us at Ft Lauderdale. So, finally, 3 hours late to the minute, we were heading off the plane, to the car and the wet road home to West Palm Beach.

One thing about both flights reinforced to me how much people totally ignore signs, warnings, verbal commands, etc, and I'm sure that all flight crew (cockpit and attendants) will agree! No matter when the seat belt sign was on, no matter how many times people were asked not to form a line at the front of the plane when the front lavatory was in use, no matter how many repeated announcements over the intercom, it is truly amazing how many people think it does not apply to them. You only have to look out of the window to see how threatening the weather is or how close we are to landing and there goes Joe or Sally Public traipsing up the aisle because they are more important than any safety sign/warning/announcement and are going to burst. There is already one case under investigation by the NTSB of warning signs and the outcome of them, yet most people do not think further than 2 seconds ahead. I really take my hats off to flight attendants who have to deal with these people - I can only imagine the comments/abuse/threats they get because someones bladder is about to burst - such a silly thing that can have such a potentially life changing outcome. Okay - I'm off my soap box now.

The weather in the south of Florida continues with rain, rain and more rain - I can only wonder the next time my camera lens will be pointed at aircraft. In the meantime, another week behind the camera lens over.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Florida rainy season has started, ATC, and some information...

Well, according to the National Weather Service, the rainy season in Florida has started - it started last Monday. And, what has been evident is that it has decided to show itself at the most inopportune moments - like my lunch times that I get to go spotting at Ft Lauderdale!!

This week however, I was able to get out for a couple of days and it made for some interesting times. On one day, Tuesday, a rain storm formed to the west of the airport and aircraft were starting to fly through the storm. It led to one interesting conversion on the scanner:

FLL Lady Controller: Cactus 1995 (US Airways for those that don't know the calls signs - A 737-400 on approach), how was the rain storm?
Cactus 1995: Wet.
FLL Lady Controller: (Laughing) I guess I deserved that.
Cactus 1995: If you wanted to know the conditions, it was moderate rain and no speed variation and no turbulence

After the flight landed,

FLL Lady Controller: Cactus 1995, exit at Bravo 4, dry off, turn on Bravo and contact ramp control.

The storm was very evident as it grew in intesity a little, as shown behind this Air Canada A320 that was landing.

Which brings me to an interesting topic - the subject of air traffic controllers. I happen to know one who works at Newark and is one of my New York photography friends. Having a scanner makes it more intersting for spotting as I get to hear all the conversations, and there are funny ones, frustrated ones, angry ones and the normal run of the mill conversations which are by far in the majority. However, there are always controllers that seem to go the extra mile for crews - wishing them good flights, safe flights, thanking them for help, etc. At Ft Lauderdale, I have come to recognize two voices in particular, the lady from the conversation above and one gentleman who is always friendly. If anyone knows any of the people in the tower at Ft Lauderdale, I'd love to get a chance to meet these folks sometime - maybe even an interview for the blog - please contact me. Another case in point this past week, with the same lady controller, a US Airways A320 was on approach and a Southwest B737 took a little longer to role and take off, so she was forced to call a go-around for the US Airways flight.

As soon as the flight came around and landed, she gave them runway exit instructions and then immediately apologized for the go-around - at which point, the reply from the flight crew was "No problem". In a world where a lot of common decency has gone by the wayside, it's so nice to see things like this happen.

Special schemes this past week - only two that I caught, US Airways brought in the Carolina Panthers scheme

And Southwest brought in the Triple Crown plane - this I have shot before, but it has grown a pair of winglets since I last saw it.

Finally, this week, I got a new piece of equipment for my camera - a quick draw strap.

I have an Uncle (related by marriage) that is a professional photographer and adventurer. He sells these straps on his web site Roger Moore Photography and has some very interesting videos about the strap and the technique of hip shots - something I am going to try while we are away in St Louis for Memorial Day weekend. The strap is cheap at the price (I definately think) for $22.95. I urge all photographers who hate the strap around your neck to go right over to Roger's web site and check the strap out.

As noted above, this weekend is a holiday weekend in the US - Memorial Day, and our family will be sampling some Southwest hospitality between Ft Lauderdale and St Louis, so the blog may be a little later next week....

Another week behind the camera lens gone.....

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Introduction to Hollywood/Ft Lauderdale International Airport

It has been a very uneventful week as far as special schemes or events (apart from one at the bottom of this entry), so I thought I would introduce you all to spotting at Hollywood/Ft Lauderdale International Airport (KFLL).

The airport itself is located just south of the city of Ft Lauderdale in the suburb of Hollywood. It is bordered by Interstate95 on the west side, US highway 1 on the east, Interstate 595 on the north and Griffin Road on the south. There really are only two spotting locations at FLL - the viewing park on the south west corner of the airport just off Perimeter Road and the parking garages at the terminals, which are on the south east side of the airport. The viewing park is best for landing shots and departure taxi shots for runway 9L and take off shots from runway 27R while the parking garage is best for take off shots from runway 9L, landing shots on runway 27R and then general taxi and ramp activity.

On the whole, FLL likes to keep activity on the east bound runways (9L and 9R), so the viewing park is the preferred spot. This is the viewing spot.

The park bench that is on the right side of the picture is usual the congregating point for photographers. From this point, you can shoot over the fence (usually with a ladder or standing on the bench) or through the fence for taxi shots. As mentioned before, FLL is bordered by I-95 on the west side, and the approach is right over the Interstate.

Unless the photographer has a very long lens and no heat haze, close up shots over the Interstate are not the best. We usually wait until they are over the threshold of the runway or close to touch down shown here (with the Frontier Hare tail scheme).

Most of the landing shots at FLL will be in the area of this shot. There are two taxiways for departures to taxi to the runway holding point and these afford great close up shots - as seen with this very shiny American B738 (if anyone knows any of the crew of flight 711 FLL-DFW on 5/8/2009 and they would like a larger shot of this - please have them email me!) as it taxies over the holding point to the runway.

The parking garage can allow for some great take off shots, particularly if it's a long take off role and the city of Ft Lauderdale is in the background. The hangars on the north side of the airport also allow a nice backdrop, as shown with this airTran B717 lifting off.

I hope this has given a little introduction to FLL where I tend to spend the majority of my spotting time.

I did mention one special spotting scheme - this week, after having missed it several times recently, I did manage to catch Southwest's 25th anniversary Silver One scheme.

Another week behind the camera lens over.....till next week.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Quiet week after New York..

It's been a very quiet week this week. After coming home from New York last week with so many pictures to edit, I got laid low by the flu as well (not "that" kind thank goodness), but enough to keep at home for a couple of days.

So, I thought I'd post a few more of the pictures from the New York trip. I've shot at quite a few airports around the world (and hope to shoot a lot more over time!) and I have to say that New York's John F Kennedy International is my favorite so far. There are a lot that I have not shot at that I think would top JFK at some point (Innsbruck, London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Dubai are a few that come to mind), but there is such a variety at JFK that always makes it interesting - one of note even this week (although I hear the weather was the worst) was Etihad changing from the A340-500 to the A340-600 and bringing in it's Formula One color scheme (A6-EHJ). I'm sure there are plenty of other world cities with this amount of variety (Heathrow immediately comes to mind).

But, for now, JFK has to be my top airport. If I were to rank other's I've been to, Anchorage (PANC) would be second, Miami (KMIA) 3rd with Johannesburg (FAJS) and London Gatwick (ECGG) rounding off the top 5 of airports I've been to and shot at.

So, the variety at JFK. There is the old

The New

The small

And the huge

Next week, I'm sure I'll be able to get back to FLL for some more of the regular shooting.