Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The last Qantas flight

Saturday, 9:31 am LAX time: Qantas 11 touches down on Runway 24 Left

As you have no doubt heard, Qantas has followed in the footsteps of the NBA and "locked out" its employees in response to disagreements with their unions. There are at least six stranded Qantas aircraft on the ground at LAX; so many that the airport was scrambling to find places to put them all. At least one ended up on one of the air freight ramps. The tally includes one A380, two A330s, and three B747s - and possibly more, as these are just the ones I could personally see from the tower.

Related news articles:

NPR: Australian Airline Qantas Grounds Entire Fleet

NY Times: Qantas Fleet Grounded for Second Day

Late Sunday night update: Qantas has resumed operations, and I got a tally of aircraft on the ground at LAX: A total of nine, including the previously-mentioned A380 and pair of A330s, along with six B747s.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sequence of the day

I know I've already shown you something similar, but I think it looks neat, and so today you get a sequence of these shots.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

More A380s at LAX

Last week, Korean Air became the third airline to operate the A380 on scheduled flights at LAX, flying between Los Angeles and Seoul three times a week. I missed the inaugural flight thanks to a plumbing emergency at the theater, and since then the weather has not been ideal for photos. But here they are anyway, showing a recent arrival on Runway 25 Left on a very hazy morning:

Like Qantas and Singapore, the Korean A380 will usually be parked at either gate 101 or 123; in this case the former:

Seen here with an American B777-200;

And here with an American Eagle E140 and a SkyWest E120

Conditions were somewhat better by departure time. Due to taxiway construction on the north side of the airport, Runway 25 Left was the preferred runway for Korean's midday departure:

Korean A380 on Taxiway Alpha, All Nippon B773 on Bravo, SkyWest E120 on Charlie

Take off roll, with a newly-painted United B772 in the foreground

Still rolling, with a Fedex DC-10 in the background

A little further down the runway, with a Polar B744 in the background

That's an Eva Air MD-11 tail-on to the camera

For those planespotters among you, here is the schedule for A380s at LAX:

According to this schedule, which we received from the airport, Thursday is the best day for seeing an A380 at LAX: That's the one day that you can see A380s from all three carriers.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

LAX aircraft spotters' guide: Airbus 320-series, Part 1: A318

It was over a year ago that the spotters' guide series looked at the Boeing B737, so it's about time that we took on the Airbus A320. The Airbus A320-series is, according to Airbus Industries, "the undisputed best-selling aircraft product line of all time." As of August, 2011, nearly 5,000 A320 family aircraft have been built, and another 3,000 are on order. The various A320 models (A318/A319/A320/A321) compete with similar models in the Boeing B737 family. We'll start with the A318 (my personal favorite of the A320 family) and work our way through the series.

The A318 is the newest and, with a seating capacity of 107 to 132, smallest member of the A320 family; it competes with the Boeing B737-600 and the Embraer E-195. Other competitors for the A318 include the Boeing B717 (formerly MD-95), the BAe 146, and the Fokker 100 (all three now out of production); and the Bombardier CRJ1000 and still-in-development CSeries. Just like its primary competitor, the B737-600, the A318 is not a big seller. While the B736 and the A318 have sold less than a hundred units apiece, each of the other members of the A320 family have over a thousand orders.

As an aside, I'll note that stretching an existing aircraft design seems to work out better than shrinking it. Successful stretched models go back at least as far as the DC-8; most of the DC-8s still flying are the long-bodied 60-series. The DC-9 was also developed into longer versions, as was the B737. Besides the A318 and B736, other examples of this "smaller plane = smaller sales" phenomenon could include the MD-87 (a shortened member of the MD-80 series), the B747SP, and the A340-200. Even in little airplanes, bigger seems to be better: the Beechcraft 36 Bonanza continues in production to this day, while the shorter 33 and 35 models are long-discontinued. I admit that this isn't quite an apples-to-apples comparison, since the 35 and 33 preceded the 36; whereas each of the airliner models mentioned was a follow-on development from a longer existing model. Nevertheless, it illustrates my point that the bigger version sells better than the smaller one.

As of this writing, the only airline operating A318s in the United States is Frontier Airlines, who was the launch customer for the A318 and who currently has four in its fleet. We see them occasionally at LAX, usually operated on the Denver route, a flight of less than two hours. Frontier's A318s accommodate 120 passengers in a single-class configuration.

A318 with a SkyWest (Delta Connection) CRJ9 . . .

. . . and with a Delta (formerly Northwest) B757-300

The other regular A318 operator at LAX used to be Mexicana, who had ten in their fleet. Mexicana's were in a two-class configuration that seated 100 passengers. At one time, Mexicana had the largest presence of any foreign airline at LAX, with over a hundred flights a day. Their A318s flew to Puerto Vallarta, San Jose del Cabo, Mexia, and Guadalajara, all flights of two to two and a half hours; and even, on occasion, to Morelia and Mexico City, which are three-hour flights. Sadly, it appears that the efforts to revive Mexicana have come to naught, so we'll have to make do with pictures:

Like Boeing, Airbus has found a market for airliners as business jets. Here's a corporate A318 that appears at LAX occasionally:

For the spotter, the most distinguishing characteristic of the A318 has got to be its proportions; while it's the shortest member of the A320 family, it has the tallest tail. This seems to be easiest to see from a distance; take another look at the lonesome Mexicana shot above. Another thing to look for: Because the A318's tail is taller than on the other A320-series aircraft, it has a narrower (front-to-back) tip. In each of the following two shots, you can compare the A318's tail to that of an A320, which may make it easier to see the difference:

Frontier A318 and a JetBlue A320, with an American B767

A pair of Mexicanas: The A318 in the foreground had to wait for the A320 to pass through the intersection. An interesting detail is that not only do we no longer have Mexicana at LAX, we no longer have the taxiways that you see them on in this photo; the A318 is on the now-decommissioned Taxiway Quebec; the A320 on the old Taxiway Sierra, which is in the process of being relocated to about where the building with the yellow truck is seen in the background.

From the archives: A Northwest B744 taxis in as a Mexicana A318 departs

Mexicana A318 with Southwest B733

Mexicana A318 with a Southwest B737-700

Not only do we not have Mexicana A318s at LAX anymore, we don't get Delta MD-90s either.

An interesting note: While the A318 seems to be best-suited for short- to medium-length flights, I discovered that British Airways uses a pair of special A318s for flights between New York and London. They operate as British Airways flights 1 through 4; flight numbers formerly carried by the Concorde.


Airbus Industries: A318

Frontier fleet: A318

Wikipedia: A318

Wikipedia: A320 family

Wikipedia: Mexicana