There are a number of storage airports in the western United States known to aviation enthusiasts, with row upon row of retired and stored airliners parked up awaiting their fate. Largest among these are Mojave, Victorville, and Marana Pinal Airpark.
The latter, located to the north of Tucson in Arizona, is notoriously difficult to get close to for the enthusiast, with guards manning the entrance, which in itself is a long way from any views of aircraft.
In fact, the standard way for an enthusiast to see airliners parked at Marana is to hire a private aircraft and pilot to fly them from Tucson to Marana, performing a number of low approaches, or a landing and slow taxi for takeoff, snapping photographs frantically in the hope of catching everything parked there, and preferably the registrations. Then a period of research would begin to work out exactly what was seen.
However, times are hard for Marana. It urgently needs to repair its runway, and to find new income streams to keep it in business. As a result it is looking at ways to attract more people to the site, and one of the first changes has been the removal of the guard posts blocking the entrance to the former military airport.
Jim Petty is the airport’s economic development director and knows exactly the draw that Marana has on enthusiasts and the curious public who have a fascination with the huge hulks of metal glinting in the sun, some sporting airline liveries of yesteryear, whilst others appear to be factory fresh. For most enthusiasts, storage airports have been a place to catch up with missed aircraft, sometimes classic old jets rarely seen in active service anymore. However, places like Marana offer a good mix, with some aircraft temporarily stored straight from the factory as airlines face economic problems or leasing companies find it difficult to place them.
Other aircraft still have a lot of life in them, but come to Marana to await a new customer.
Whilst enthusiasts will not be given free reign of the airport under its new relaxed rules, Petty has begun offering tours of Pinal Airpark in an SUV, stopping off to take in the different areas of parked airliners, and to watch a variety of different aircraft that still use the active airport.
Marana’s former locked-down security stance came from its long-standing involvement with the CIA, acting as a staging post for secret operations which were closely guarded from the public eye. It was also a military training post. However, Marana is officially listed as a general aviation airfield, and as such should be accessible to the general public. And so it now is.
Jim Petty may live to regret news of this opening of Marana for tours becoming public, as enthusiasts are sure to be planning trips already. But nevertheless, this is great news and I’m sure will be very much appreciated. I will certainly be taking the opportunity if I am in the area!
Free tours are by appointment only and subject to availability. Call Jim Petty, 520-866-6545.
Emirates is to increase its coverage of the United States with two new daily flights from Dubai.
For the first time, a direct link from the Middle East to Orlando International will be established when Emirates begins a daily Boeing 777-200LR service from 1st September 2015.
“This is a landmark new route for Orlando that for the first time offers our customers non-stop service to the high-growth Middle East region with convenient connections to India, China, Africa, and Southeast Asia,” said Phil Brown, Executive Director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
Meanwhile, from 1st July Emirates will provide a second daily flight from Dubai to Seattle/Tacoma, again operated by Boeing 777-200LR aircraft and adding significant long-haul passenger and cargo capacity to the airport.
Boeing is making progress on finding homes for the early Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft which have been sat in storage at its Everett Paine Field manufacturing site since the early days of the aircraft.
These particular aircraft were built shortly after the prototypes began flying, with Boeing seeking to catch up on the delays it had incurred. The aircraft were completed, and most had the basic liveries of the airlines who had ordered them applied. But then they didn’t go anywhere.
When I visited Paine Field in early 2012 there were a number of these aircraft scattered around, painted in the colours of Royal Air Maroc, ANA All Nippon Airways, Air India and others.
Since these aircraft were among the first 20 built (hence the nickname ‘terrible teens’) they also incurred vital modifications which were necessary as a result of testing on the prototypes and first delivery aircraft. Notably, there were problems with electrical fires and the strength of the wing assemblies.
All future Dreamliners were built with fixes for these problems, but for the terrible teens a process of modifications took place to make them airworthy; this in turn added extra weight to the airframe and they incurred a range penalty of around 1,000 miles.
Naturally the planned operators of these aircraft demanded newer airframes, leaving the early examples looking for a new home.
Terrible Teen 787s at Paine Field
But now Boeing seems set to announce where they’ll be heading. Since the backlog for orders is so great, taking a terrible teen will be a way to jump the queue for any airline – especially those who don’t mind the range restrictions so much, and would prefer to pay a reduced price tag, which presumably is the case for the unwanted aircraft.
Last week it was confirmed that Air Austral would be taking two of the aircraft, to operate from Reunion Island.
Now it looks like Ethiopian Airlines will take up to eight examples.
Garuda Indonesia and Malaysia Airlines have been approached to take some of the jets, according to ch-aviation, and it seems likely Rwandair will take two of the Royal Air Maroc candidates.
WOW Air will add two Airbus A321s with sharklets in the coming month.
The aircraft, which will feature sharklets, will be introduced on the airline’s new flights from Reykjavik (Keflavik) to Boston Logan (from March 27th) and Baltimore-Washington (from May 8th).
“We’re very proud to be adding these new A321 aircraft to our growing fleet of aircraft,” said WOW air founder and CEO Skúli Mogensen. “We are now ready to continue our rapid growth as the first true low-cost carrier offering flights across the Atlantic via Iceland.”
American Airlines is the latest US airline to take delivery of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It has now announced the initial routes which the type will operate on.
Like most airlines, American will operate its 787s initially on domestic sectors to gain crew familiarity on the type before it embarks on long haul flying. The aircraft will be based at Dallas Ft Worth Airport and fly on the following routes:
Dallas Ft Worth – Chicago O’Hare – Starts 7th May
Dallas Ft Worth – Beijing Capital – Starts 2nd June
Dallas Ft Worth – Buenos Aires – Starts 4th June
Customers can start booking 787 flights beginning 14th February. American will deploy the 787 to additional markets in 2015 as it takes delivery of new aircraft.
American has placed firm orders for 42 Boeing 787 aircraft, with the right to acquire an additional 58.
You can keep track of American Airlines and all other airlines’ Boeing 787 routes on our dedicated page here.
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.
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.