Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Night shots

I left the camera in the tower one night, and apparently someone got bored while he was on break.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Heavy Arrival

It's been a solid month since last I posted, so apologies for keeping you waiting. I caught this sequence of an arriving C-17 last month. The C-17 is an aircraft of some local interest, since the factory that built it is here in Long Beach. Not for much longer, though: the last C-17 (of a total of 279 built) rolled off the line earlier this year. Boeing has already begun dismantling the tooling, so it's unlikely that there will ever be any more. The C-17 plant was the last aircraft factory in Long Beach, which used to be the home of the Douglas, and later McDonnell Douglas, airliner production facilities. Thousands of DC and MD jets were built in Long Beach, and thousands of piston airliners and military aircraft before them. It's the end of an era; Boeing has announced no plans to produce other aircraft in the Long Beach facility.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Stormy weather

Last week we had some unseasonably rainy weather in southern California. While it wasn't enough to make a dent in the on-going drought, it was sufficient to snarl air traffic for a few days. A number of our controllers wanted you to see these shots. While they don't tell the whole story, you can certainly get the idea.

Monday, July 13, 2015

How'd that happen?!? - expanded

This follow-on to Friday's shot gives a better view of what was happening to create the shot I showed you before the weekend. Essentially, each airplane is waiting on the one in front of it, and the key player to the whole mess is the American heavy seen at the far left. It's pulling onto gate 48B, or at least is supposed to be. The fact that somebody had time to go grab my camera and take these shots tells us that the tug has most likely stopped partway onto the gate -- probably because some piece of ground service equipment is in the way, the jetway is not in the correct position, or the ground crew isn't in place to receive the aircraft. Everything else is a domino effect: the American Eagle CRJ is waiting for the B777 tail to clear the intersection; the Alaska is waiting for the Eagle; the US Air coming off the runway is waiting on United who is waiting for Alaska; the Delta E-jet on the left is waiting for US Air while the Delta E-jet on the right is waiting for everybody.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Shot of the day: How'd that happen?!?

I discovered this shot while poking through the archives in search of something entirely different. I don't recall taking this one, so credit goes to one of my cohort - who may very well want to remain anonymous.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Really not just another RJ

As many of you have noted, one of the aircraft in last time's shot is not a regional jet. Let's see that shot again:

There is a hint in the photo: one of the airplanes is marked "Delta Connection" and the other is not. Many of you caught that the airplane on the runway, which is the one facing to the left in the picture above, is in fact a mainline Delta B717. The Delta Connection airplane really is an RJ, in this case a CRJ9 operated by SkyWest.

To some of you, the B717 may look very familiar -- though you don't remember it as a Boeing product. It takes very little imagination for this to look like the DC9's almost-identical twin. Which, in a manner of speaking, is pretty much what it is. The B717 is essentially a shortened version of the McDonnell Douglas MD-90 (which Delta also flies, although not into LAX right now). This model was to be called the MD-95, but Boeing took over before it went into production. The MD-90 was a revised and improved model developed from the MD-80, and the MD-80 was itself an improved version of the DC-9. So in a real sense, this B717 is the final iteration of the DC-9.

This is not the first aircraft to be labelled a B717; prior to this a shortened version of the B707 wore the name for a short while before becoming what is now known as the B720. Before that, there was another model 717: the aircraft now known as the C-135 or KC-135. Boeing's internal model designation for the C/KC-135 series was the model 717.

This is not the first time we've seen B717s at LAX. It's been years, but we used to have Midwest B717s. Here's one from May of 2008, along with a Delta MD-88:

Before Midwest, AirTran operated B717s at LAX for a short while. The B717 is not a long-range airplane; LAX to Atlanta was too far, so they went into DFW. This was before AirTran added the B737 to their fleet; once those aircraft came online, LAX to Atlanta nonstops became a reality, and the AirTran B717s left LAX.

Except now they're back, flying for Delta. If you look closely, you can see that the Delta B717s all have tail numbers ending in "AT"; these were AirTran airplanes until Southwest took over AirTran. Southwest opted not to add a second aircraft type to its fleet, and so the B717s were sold off. They didn't have to go very far, though: AirTran and Delta both used Atlanta as a home base.

Since early this month at LAX, Delta is using the B717s on regional routes, mostly up and down the coast -- on routes that have often been served (and in most cases, still are) by SkyWest CRJs and/or Compass E175s.  The B717 is bigger than the largest of these, the CRJ9 -- but just barely. I won't go into comparing all the specifications, although I will give you links for them below. The most important (from an airline perspective) number is passenger seating: Delta's B717s are configured for 110 passengers; the CRJ9s that SkyWest flies for Delta are set up for 76 passengers. Going the other direction, the next largest airplane in the mainline Delta fleet are the Boeing B737-700 and the Airbus A319. These seat 124 and 126 passengers, respectively, but neither of these are seen at LAX very much.

Since this has become pretty much an entry about Delta, I'll close with one more photo from the archives -- one that features three Delta aircraft that are no longer seen at LAX:

From the top: B767-400; MD-90; E145 flown by Express Jet as Delta Connection


Delta B717

Delta CRJ9

Delta CRJ7

Delta E175

Delta A319

Delta B737

Delta fleet

Wikipedia B717

Boeing B717

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Not just another RJ

I've been meaning to do a piece on regional jets. We see dozens of them each day at LAX, and some of them aren't so regional anymore. For instance, take a quick glance at the opening photo. Looks like a pair of RJs in Delta colors about to depart off runway 24 Right. Right?

Not so fast! One of these planes is not an RJ. Care to guess which one? You've got a 50-50 chance, and no cheating with the registration numbers.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Shot of the day: If 4 is good . . .

Continuing the theme from yesterday: If four A380s is good, then five must be better!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Shot of the day: 4 of a kind

There was a time when having four A380s on the ground at LAX was kind of a big thing. Some time later, I can remember the first time I had four A380s moving on my frequency at one time. Now, it's not even that big a deal to have four of them at the runway for departure. This is kind of a bigger thing than it seems, though, because the runway and parallel taxiway are so close together that if we have an A380 departing, any other A380 on the parallel taxiway must be within the first 1,500 feet of the beginning of the runway. As a result, the ground controller either has to meter out the A380 departures one at a time, and hold the other(s) back, or get all of them out there all at once, which is what you see here. This is a normal cluster of A380 departures that usually happens around 4 PM, although we don't normally get all four of them leaving at exactly the same time; however getting three of them together is pretty common. If it had been just a few minutes earlier, there could have been a fifth A380 in the picture, as Emirates has just arrived on runway 24 Right.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Spotter Alert!

A common complaint I hear is that most of the A380 operations at LAX occur on the north side of the airport. For those who like to do their spotting from In-N-Out, this is great. For those who prefer to spot from the hill in El Segundo, it's lousy. Well today is your lucky day! Runway 24 Left is closed most of the day for maintenance, which means that all the early afternoon A380 departures will be from Runway 25 Left. The closure is scheduled to run until 4 PM this afternoon, so it's quite likely that Korean, Singapore, Air France, British Airways, and Asiana will be departing from the south side of the airport today. Emirates often takes 25 Left anyway, but the time frame may force them to use the south side as well. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dreamin' of a Virgin


This week we added another carrier to the list of Dreamliner operators at LAX: Virgin Atlantic has begun using a B787-9 on one of their daily flights from London Heathrow. Unlike the other B787-9 users at LAX (United and LAN, so far), Virgin didn't first show up with a B787-8 before bringing the B787-9. Virgin has had B787s since last October, and was the first European operator of the B787-9. Virgin has also ordered more Dreamliners than any other European carrier so far. With the retirement of their A340-300s, whic had a seating capacity of 240, Virgins' B787-9s are the smallest aircraft in their fleet (by passenger capacity, anyway). Virgin's B787-9s are configured for 264 passengers; the next smallest, their A330-300s, are set up for 266. This appears to be a reduction in capacity at LAX, since the Dreamliner has replaced either an A340-600, which seats 308, or a B747-400, which seats at least 367.


Check out this Virgin Atlantic Dreamliner fact sheet

Virgin Atlantic fleet

Wikipedia: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin B787-9 with an Aeroflot A330-200 touching down

With an Air China B777-300

And another Air China B777-300. If I hadn't told you that was Air China, how long would it have taken you to sort that out? Now do you see why I don't like Star Alliance paint jobs? And SkyTeam is just as bad!

Here's a rare view; how often do you get to see a Dreamliner from this angle?

The windshield is one of the distinctive features of the B787. Unlike all other current airliners, it smoothly follows the sweep of the fuselage; there is no inset or step. Compare to the other airliners shown above; the Aeroflot A330 is a particularly good example.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

So, about that photo . . .

When I first took the shot that started this, what I was looking at (and what most of you spotted right away) was the three-of-a-kind line up that featured the E170. Then I noticed that all three of these airplanes had taxied around from the south side, which highlighted what a number of you also noticed: These three represent the three remaining legacy carriers (American, Delta, and United). Then another thought occurred to me: That while each of them represents a legacy carrier, none of them actually IS that carrier: Each one of these is operated by somebody else. The Delta Connection and American Eagle aircraft are flown by Compass, while the United Express airplane is operated by SkyWest.

To recap:
  1. E170 3-of-a-kind
  2. Three remaining legacy carriers
  3. All taxied around 
  4. None are flown by the legacy carrier 
I think each of these points was called out by one or more of you who sent in comments. For the win, though, was this one, sent in by Anonymous, who is a frequent commenter:  There is a stealth bomber on short final 24R   This comment makes more sense if you go back and look at the original photo; in the opening shot above the stealth bomber bears a striking resemblance to a Southwest B737 - now that's some impressive camouflage!

Technically, each of these is actually an E175; to ATC the E170 and E175 are the same, much as the E135 and E140 are the same for us. The E175 is about five feet longer than the E170, and holds eight passengers more, for a total of 76. E170s are not new at LAX, but they were a rare sight here until the arrival of Compass Airlines a couple of years ago. Prior to Compass, the only E170s to appear at LAX were flown by Republic, either for Midwest Express or Frontier. We also have had the larger E195s in Air Canada and AeroMexico Connect livery. The Air Canada E195s used to be common here, but we don't see them any more. The AeroMexico Connect E195s used to only show up at night, but we do occasionally get one now during daylight hours.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What's special about this picture?

Many of you enjoyed the What's wrong with this picture? series back when I was able to do that, so here's a quasi-related theme. When I first took this shot, I had an idea in mind. Now, taking another look at it, I see at least three possibilities. So, what's special about this picture?