Thursday, August 27, 2009

Miami (KMIA) - A change of scenery

Every once in a while, I like to head down to Miami on a weekend day to spend some time getting shots that normally are not available at FLL or PBI. Last weekend I had the opportunity to go down there. My friend Andy was down in Florida taking a break from his studies and so we headed down to Miami to give him his first taste of the Miami traffic.

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

A new 2nd favorite special scheme

I caught this yesterday at Ft Lauderdale - and it's now my 2nd favorite special scheme (behind Delta's Breast Cancer Awareness "Pinky"). Continental has embarked on a series of retro schemes from years past. The first one started revenue service a while back - and this is the first time I managed to catch her.

Can't wait for the next ones to come out and start flying - great job Continental!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Photographing.....the airports

Hopefully very soon, the harsh sunlight, alternating with rainy afternoons in South Florida will be a thing of the past and the easier days of Fall will allow the shooting season to begin. The Fall season, along with the arrival of the snowbirds from up north tends to bring the special schemes, rare catches and great photography back to this area of the country - I can't wait!

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....