Wednesday, March 21, 2018

First former Virgin America in Alaska colors

In the first post of the year, I told you of the last day of Virgin America as a separate airline. Since then, with the occasional exception of momentary memory lapses, the Redwood callsign has disappeared from our radio frequencies. The Virgin America paint lives on for now, but as promised, here are shots of the first former Virgin America airplane that I've seen in its new Alaska colors.

I went back into the archive and found a shot of this same airplane in its original livery. It's a little blurry in this shot, but this aircraft wore the name "jefferson airplane"

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Airbus A350 now at LAX

Note: This post was supposed to publish last month, but for reasons unknown it did not. So here it is, just in time for the first day of spring. Better late than never!

We've had the Boeing 787 Dreamliner at LAX for a couple of years now, but until very recently the competing Airbus model A350 could not been seen here. But that changed just a week or two before Christmas, when a new-to-LAX airline brought in the new Airbus. So new, in fact, that each time the flight arrived, the aircraft had to be test-fitted onto the gate, as we've never had an A350 here before Hong Kong Airlines introduced it. For the first week, I think the flight was assigned a different gate each time just to test-fit the different gates.

Hong Kong Airlines (callsign: Bauhinia) flies between Hong Kong and Los Angeles (approximately 15-16 hours) with the A350-900. American and Cathay Pacific also serve this route; both of them currently operate B777-300ERs. Hong Kong's A350-900s are configured for 334 passengers, while the competing B777-300ERs are  set up for 304 at American and 340 at Cathay Pacific.

The callsign Bauhinia comes from the floral symbol of Hong Kong, Bauhinia blakeana, commonly known as the Hong Kong Orchid Tree. A stylized orchid tree flower appears on the flag of Hong Kong.

If you think that you've seen that paint scheme before, you're right. We already have it on the Dreamliners operated by Hainan Airlines:

Hainan Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines are both part of the HNA Group, along with about a dozen others, none of which are present at LAX.

Comparison shots:

The A350 sandwiched between a pair of B737-800s, with a B777-200 in the foreground
A SkyWest CRJ-200 just airborne off Runway 24 Right with the A350-900 on Taxiway E

The Star Alliance B777-300ER is actually EVA Air; their name appears below the windows just aft of the nose gear

A sight that will soon disappear: a Virgin America A320 on the taxiway as the A350 begins its takeoff roll
The A350 with a United B787

The A350's wings don't appear to have as much flex as those on the B787:
A United B787 Dreamliner just after lift-off. Lots of wing flex!

Friday, January 12, 2018

So long, Redwood

It was just over a year ago that Alaska rolled out this B737-900 commemorating the U.S. government's approval of its plan to take over Virgin America. Yesterday was the final day that Virgin America operated as Virgin America. Today, while the aircraft are as yet unchanged, former Virgin America flights operated under the Alaska operating certificate and callsign. The Redwood callsign is no longer in use, and the brand will be completely retired sometime in 2019.

This is the first Virgin America aircraft that marked the upcoming change. I first saw it at LAX a few days after Christmas. It bears no airline name, but it's an A321neo and therefore a Virgin America aircraft, while the markings appear to be in the new Alaska livery colors, as seen on the B737 below:

The acquisition of Virgin American makes Alaska the fifth-largest US airline. At LAX, both airlines are already co-located in Terminal 6, so the change will hopefully be simpler for passengers than some of the previous airline mergers.

So we say goodbye to Redwood, at least on the radio. We'll still see the airplanes for another year or so; stay tuned for the first Airbus in the Alaska scheme when it appears. Meanwhile, I'll leave you a few recent Virgin America shots:

Sunday, December 31, 2017


Just before Christmas, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from the California coast. While I was away, special photo credit goes to CS, who caught a series of shots that are sequenced below:

Here are a few more shots that didn't fit in the animation:

Special thanks to CS for these shots. Happy New Year everyone!