The first Boeing 747-400 flew in February 1989 – that’s almost 26 years ago!
Although it remained in production until 2009, the early airframes in this penultimate model in the ‘jumbo jet’ line are now starting to look a little long in the tooth. Many have already been retired, scrapped, put in long-term storage, or converted to freighters as passenger carriers look to modern twin-engine long haul replacements.
Today I heard of two Boeing 747-400 examples that are earmarked for preservation in museums. This is incredible news for aircraft enthusiasts, but very scary when I remember watching footage of the first flight and it doesn’t seem that long ago!
Photo: Paul Spijkers
First off, Qantas is to donate VH-OJA – their first 747-400, and the record-holder for the world’s longest ever commercial non-stop flight. Named the City of Canberra, the aircraft flew non-stop from London to Sydney in August 1989 in 20 hours and 9 minutes.
VH-OJA is to be donated to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Illawara Regional Airport, only ten minutes flying time from Sydney for public display – something that will be a sight to behold at the small regional airport. The official handover will take place on 15th March, although the positioning flight may take place earlier.
Secondly, Delta Air Lines is rumoured to have earmarked the first ever Boeing 747-400, N661US, to be preserved at the Delta Flight Museum at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport later this year once its current flying commitments are finished.
Photo: Paul Spijkers
This particular aircraft undertook the initial flight testing during certification for the new type in 1989, prior to entering service with Northwest Airlines. It has flown in Delta colours since the airlines merged in 2008.
The Delta Flight Museum is already home to a number of retired types flown by the airline and Northwest, including a Boeing 757-200, 767-200, Douglas DC-9, part of a L1011 TriStar, and a Douglas DC-3.
Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore” by U.S. Air Force File Photo
The US Government has chosen the Boeing 747-8 for its Air Force One replacement.
The aircraft, which transports the US President and other government staff on trips all over the world, is one of the most famous aircraft in the world. In the past the fleet has consisted of various Boeing 707 variants, some of which are now preserved at different museums.
Presently, two Boeing 747 VC-25s, based on the 747-200B, operate for the president in the instantly recognisable blue, white and grey scheme.
On choosing to keep with the 747 line, Air Force Secretary Deborah James said in a statement: “The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States (that) when fully missionized meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission.”
The exact number of 747-8 aircraft which makes up the Air Force order is not yet known, but some are speculating that it could signal the end of the line for the classic ‘jumbo jet’. Production has been reduced recently to 1.3 aircraft per month as orders have slowed and few airlines are opting for the type over rival twin-jets.
It would be incredibly significant if the new presidential aircraft is the final Boeing 747 built, but we’ll have to wait and see whether this happens.
Presumably the existing Air Force One VC-25s will be retired to museums in due course.
One of the busiest and most diverse airports in America, New York John F Kennedy is not known as one of the easiest to spot at. This is partly down to its complexity and the lack of official locations. But it can be one of the most rewarding airports if you have a good view.
Do you know JFK well? What’s your tip for getting the most out of a spotting visit?
The best tips will make it into a new guide to spotting at JFK to be posted on AirportSpotting.com. We’ll also publish any of your pictures from JFK, be it of a spotting location or of aircraft action.
SATA International will be rebranded as Azores Airlines this year as it begins taking steps to secure its business as the aviation scene in the island chain heats up.
We reported last month that Ryanair is to set up a base in Ponta Delgada from April 1st, bringing low-cost flights to the Portuguese mainland and further afield for the first time. easyJet is also set to enter the Azores market.
SATA, which offers intra-island services as well as links to Portugal, Europe and North America, will begin a five year scheme to reduce its fleet size and refocus its core business to ensure it remains profitable in the face of increasing competition. Part of this will see the airline focus more on flights to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde islands, Madeira through its SATA Air Acores subsidiary, and to North America.
In 2016 the airline will also establish SATA Serviços, a ground handling company, to be based at the islands’ airports and make money from the new low-cost airlines’ flights.
Part of the airline’s woes have also come from the US Air Force’s decision to remove 500 troops from the joint civil-military airport at Lajes in the Azores. The airline relied upon the presence of the air base here and it will be felt in the local economy once they have gone.
Los Angeles is among the largest and most populous cities and metropolitan areas in the United States, as well as a major tourist draw and transport hub.
Its huge 469 square miles and extended Los Angeles Basin is home to a great number of airports and airfields, making its skies one of the most complex and busy air traffic regions in the world.
A spotting trip to Los Angeles can be hugely rewarding for aviation enthusiasts and, whilst Los Angeles International itself is a great draw, spending time exploring the other airports is very much recommended.
This report covers the basics and essentials of spotting in Los Angeles, plus some ideas for trips further afield.
Airports with airline service
The main airports in Los Angeles are:
Burbank Bob Hope
Los Angeles International
Santa Ana John Wayne
Los Angeles International (LAX)
By Alan Wilson (Flickr: LAX International Line-up #2) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Most travellers, especially from overseas, will arrive at Los Angeles International (commonly known as LAX). Situated at the western side of the city, bordered on one side by the Pacific Ocean, it is an airport with four runways, nine terminals, and handling well over 60 million passengers per year.
LAX is a hub for many airlines. In terms of movements, the most prominent are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Qantas, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin America.
Many of the world’s large airlines fly to this airport, arriving in waves from Europe or Asia. Most international airlines use the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which has recently been extended, although some share the other terminals.
Cargo is also important for LAX, with many daily freighter flights. These use facilities and aprons on the southern side of the airfield.
Where to spot at Los Angeles LAX
There are a few of spotting locations at Los Angeles International:
Imperial Hill Jim Clutter Park
Situated on the south side of the airport off Imperial Highway, this hill overlooks LAX from a height which offers unobstructed photography of aircraft, and the ability to log all movements on the south side with good binoculars. Movements on the northern runways can be read with a pole. The park features benches and the shade of trees, and a number of food concessions are located close by.
In & Out Burger
This fast food restaurant at Sepulveda Blvd and 92nd Street has gained a reputation amongst spotters due to its position under the approach to runways 24L/R. From the car park, this is a fantastic location for photographs; however, viewing aircraft on the ground is nearly impossible.
Tom Bradley Terminal Parking
The top level of the parking garage has views over much of the action, particularly aircraft on the north side. Departures on the southern runways are also visible.
Formerly the airport at which McDonnell Douglas constructed many of its great airliners, and still a production and maintenance base for C-17 military transports. Long Beach, situated at the south of the Los Angeles area, is a hub for JetBlue Airways and has some other flights.
You can spot at Long Beach from the café and terrace inside the terminal. There’s also a small observation area at the Rainbow Air Academy, just down Kilroy Airport Way from DeVry University. It gives views of the C-17 ramp.
Situated to the north of the city, closer to Hollywood. Burbank has two runways and is a hub for Southwest Airlines, with additional services by Alaska Airlines, Delta Connection, JetBlue Airways, United Express and US Airways Express. The airport is quite hemmed in by the surrounding roads and commercial areas.
Spotting at Burbank is best from the top floor of the car park outside the terminal, from where all movements can be seen.
Ontario Airport is one of the main Los Angeles airports, and handles over 6 million passengers per year, but is quite restricted on growth by its surroundings. Although it has two parallel runways, they are situated very close together.
There are three passenger terminals, with Southwest Airlines being the most prominent airline although other major US carriers all have a presence. UPS also has a strong cargo presence at the airport.
Spotting at Ontario Airport is more difficult as there are no obvious locations. However, the best views can be had on the southern perimeter near the UPS ramp, were views of aircraft approaching the runways can be had from the road.
The closest airport to Disneyland, and named after the famous cowboy actor who lived nearby. Santa Ana is in southern Los Angeles’ Orange County and has two short runways and a cramped terminal. It is also a hub for Southwest Airlines, with nationwide links via other US carriers. Santa Ana is also a very busy general aviation airfield, with hundreds of based aircraft.
Spotting at Santa Ana is quite difficult. The best place is to find Airport Loop Drive, one the western side of the airport behind the many GA hangars, and park up. You can then walk to see aircraft arriving from the north.
In addition to the airports with airline traffic, a number of other airports are worth checking out if you are into executive aircraft and biz jets, and general aviation aircraft. These include:
Santa Monica Municipal
Torrance Zamperini Field
Santa Monica Municipal (SMO)
This historic airfield is hemmed in on all sides by the city. It is here that many Douglas propliners were built. It is very busy with executive and light aircraft movements. However, local residents have been pushing to have the airport closed for many years and the decision is still being considered.
Spotting at Santa Monica is possible from the official viewing deck on the administration building on the south side of the airport, with good all round views and photography. There is a preserved Douglas DC-3 alongside. Clover park on the north side is also good for viewing through the fence.
Be sure to check out the Museum of Flying at Santa Monica Airport.
This is one of the busiest general aviation airports in California. It’s around 10 miles south of LAX. Approximately 500 light aircraft are based here at any time, and the two runways are often busy. The Western Museum of Flight is also based here, albeit quite small. A walk along Airport Drive should yield many of the aircraft parked under the low hangars, and a tour of Robinson Helicopters’ factory is also possible.
A few miles to the west of Burbank Airport in the San Fernando Valley is Van Nuys, a busy executive and general aviation airport. It has two runways, and sees well over a thousand movements per day. It is also quite open to aviation enthusiasts.
Spotting at Van Nuys Airport is best from the official viewing area at Waterman Drive in the north east corner of the airfield. This small car park is nestled next to the runways, taxiways and a helicopter parking ramp. You can get close views of all the action, with photography through the fence. ATC is broadcast here too.
Driving around the perimeter will uncover a number of other vantage points from which aircraft parked at the various ramps and hangars can be logged. You can also spot from the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant on Raymer Street.
A new subsidiary will be launched by Lufthansa which will operate long-haul flights at low-cost prices.
The carrier will operate seven of Airbus A330-300s from its base at Cologne/Bonn Airport.
A name has not yet been announced for the carrier, nor a final list of routes. However, it is anticipated that it will fly to destinations in Florida, southern Africa and around the Indian Ocean.
The operation is part of Lufthansa’s plans for a “new Eurowings”, which is being reorganised. The Air Operator’s Certificate of SunExpress will be used for the long-haul carrier, along with crews trained by the Turkish operator (which is jointly owned by Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines).
Many of the most enjoyable spotting trips are when you can relax in the sun or take photos in a stunning locations. A lot of the world’s airports and runways back onto beaches, which turn out to be great spotting locations.
All of the locations listed here are accessible, public places.
1. Phuket, Thailand
By Andy Mitchell (Flickr: Transaero Airlines B747-300SR VP-BGW) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Thailand’s holiday island is popular with many airlines arriving from near and far, including both domestic and long-haul airliners. Probably the best location to spot at the airport is Nai Yang Beach running along the western side of the airport, which is accessed by walking around 15 minutes from the road.
Any aircraft approaching runway 09 can be easily photographed, and by finding an area of high ground you can also see over the perimeter fence and photograph aircraft on the ground easily.
One of the best spots for photography and plane spotting at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport is The Beach off General Holmes Drive, at the east side of the airport.
You can spot here from both the car park and the beach itself, with aircraft using the runways in view, especially 16R/34L which passes very close to you and can lead to some spectacular photographs.
3. St. Maarten, Caribbean
Air France A340-300 landing at St Maarten. (c) Yasu To
Not much can be written about Maho Beach that hasn’t already been said. Some of the most stunning aviation photography in recent times has been of aircraft passing incredibly low over the heads of people on this beach, on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. This is especially fun since huge widebody airliners use the airport, and tend to land as early as possible, barely missing the perimeter fence.
The bar on the beach is known to list the arrivals due at the airport each day, meaning you can keep an eye on what’s due as you sip cocktails and soak up the sun.
4. Larnaca, Cyprus
Mackenzie Beach lies just off the northern perimeter of Larnaca Airport, with aircraft passing close by before landing or after takeoff. You can reach the beach off Piale Pasa, at the southern end of the city.
5. Lanzarote, Canary Islands
When aircraft are arriving on runway 03, the beach running around the southern portion of the airport is an ideal position to spot and photograph aircraft arriving at Lanzarote Arrecife Airport. Due to the position of the sun, this location is best in the morning for photography, and a fence can obstruct some shots of aircraft on the ground. But if you’re just watching the action it is perfect.
The location is reached along Avenida Playa Honda.
6. Boston Logan, MA
By James Wang from Boston, Mass, USA (British Airways 747 (Oneworld livery)) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There are actually two beaches at Boston Logan Airport which are good for spotting.
Constitution Beach is best for aircraft using runways 22L and 22R, and the taxiways associated with these runways. You can get some good action shots of aircraft arriving and departing. Better in the afternoon and evening for photography. This beach is close to Saratoga Street.
Meanwhile, Yirrel Beach at Coughlin Park is great for aircraft approaching runway 27, and to a lesser degree departing runway 09. This location is good all day for photography. The park and beach are off Shirley Street, with parking nearby.
7. Nice, France
Not the best beach for aircraft photography, however the very popular area running the length of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice offers quite interesting views of aircraft departing from the nearby airport. Aircraft need to make an immediate turn to the right following departure, following the sweep of the bay. There are few main airports situated this close to the city they serve.
8. New York JFK
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge off Cross Bay Blvd is a well known spotting location at New York JFK, alongside Howard Beach, which is good for getting distant after-takeoff shots of heavy airliners as they make a turn.
Do you know of any good beach spotting locations? Leave a tip in the comments section below!
The new Eastern Airlines, which recently took delivery of its first Boeing 737-800, is due to start flying on 19 December from its Miami base.
Initially the airline will operate charter flights, however it has just signed a strategic partnership with Surinam Airways.
“Surinam Airways is delighted to be in a partnership with the new Eastern Air Lines. We believe this is an effective way for our airline to extend its reach by cooperating with Eastern at its Miami base of operations. We look forward to our teams working together to find operational synergies between our two airlines.” Said Ewald Henshuijs, CEO of Surinam Airways.
Eastern’s aircraft wear the classic livery of its predecessor, which went out of business in 1991. It was also based at Miami.
Spotting isn’t the cheapest hobby, especially if you want to do a lot of it. So I thought I’d look at a few of the best spotting airports that are easily accessible by budget airlines. Hopefully it’ll give you some inspiration for your next trips!
Palma is one of the busiest holiday airports in Europe, particularly during the summer months. Airlines ferry holidaymakers in droves from all over northern Europe, so you’ll see charter and low-cost airlines as well as Spanish regional aircraft. Palma is a big base for Air Berlin, and plenty of other budget airlines also fly there year-round, including easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling.
Amsterdam Schiphol, Netherlands
By Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Although it is one of Europe’s busiest and largest airports, and is also a stronghold of national airline KLM, Schiphol is surprisingly easy to get to by budget airline. easyJet links many destinations across Europe, whilst Flybe and Jet2 link a number of additional points in the UK.
Photo by Calvin Teo
A major Asian powerhouse and the hub of the large Singapore Airlines. Changi is also on the route map of many low cost and budget airlines, including home-based Jetstar Asia, Tigerair and Valuair, plus regional carriers Air Asia and Lion Air. Long haul low-cost flights are provided by Jetstar and Scoot to destinations across Asia and Australia.
Dubai International, UAE
You may think of Emirates when you think of Dubai, but the second largest carrier at the Middle East hub is Flydubai, a budget airline serving destinations across Africa, the Middle East, Indian subcontinent They even fly into Europe. It makes a more affordable way to reach the airport for some spotting.
Atlanta Hartsfield International, GA
Atlanta was known as the busiest airport in the world for many years, largely because of the huge presence of Delta Air Lines reaching across the globe and to many points across the United States. However, the airport’s second largest carrier is Southwest Airlines following its acquisition of Airtran. This means you can get to Atlanta from destinations across America at great prices.
Dallas Ft Worth, TX
Another US airport which is dominated by a home based legacy carrier – in this case American Airlines – you may be surprised to find that you have good budget options that don’t require a trip to nearby Love Field. Spirit Airlines recently announced a number of new routes from Dallas to regional and leisure destinations to add to its existing network from the airport.
Warsaw Chopin, Poland
The capital of Poland is a major hub for budget carrier Wizz Air which fights bitterly with full service national carrier LOT. You can also reach Warsaw via carriers Norwegian, Air Berlin, Germanwings and Vueling.
Moscow Domodedovo, Russia
By Milad A380 (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
For years it was only possible to reach Moscow via traditional full service airlines, or one of Aeroflot’s classic Soviet airliners. However, recent agreements have led to a number of low cost airlines from outside Russia offering flights to Domodedovo. Most significant perhaps is easyJet, which flies from two points in the UK. Other budget airlines flying to Moscow include Air Berlin, Germania, Niki, Meridiana fly, Vueling and Air Arabia.
St Maarten, Caribbean
A spotters paradise which is on the bucket list of many who like to photograph airliners at close quarters. But it’s not necessary to spend mega bucks getting there with big airlines, particularly from North America, since budget airlines such as Jetblue, Sun Country and Westjet fly regularly to the island.