Monday, November 12, 2018

I get by with a little help from my friends

On occasion I'll come up to the tower cab and someone will tell me "Oh check your camera - I took some pictures for you yesterday!" Today's post is courtesy of UR and TT, who took these shots last week.

When I first looked at the opening shot, I didn't catch on. Then I took a look at the next one:

There are just four Boeing Dreamlifters in the world, and LAX is not one of their usual stops. As far as I know, this is the first time we've had one drop in. The late afternoon sun and haze made lousy conditions for photography, but I'm glad UR took one more. How often do you get to see these two types together?

California has been in the news lately thanks to another round of wildfires. As I write this, some two dozen fatalities have been reported. The one small benefit is that we're having some amazing sunsets; TT took these shots:

Thanks again to UR and TT! 

Here in US, we're observing Veterans Day; in some other parts of the world it's known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Thank you to all of the men and women who have served or are serving in our armed forces!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Photo Friday

I'll start this edition of Photo Friday with this morning's view to the west from the control tower. Hidden between the two parking garages is another construction site, this one in preparation for the people mover that will run down the center of the terminal complex. Beyond the roof of the TBIT, you can see the MSC project coming along. Better shots of that below:

And here's an update on the Terminal One construction. The concrete is coming in for Gate 12B; the jetway is already in place. The Terminal One point Five project is still a hole in the ground, but work is underway for the connection to Terminal One:

This week's bonus shots come to you courtesy of an anonymous coworker. I usually leave my camera at the tower in case somebody sees something interesting and has a chance to get a shot. When I uploaded the memory card this afternoon, I saw this shot:

I didn't see any thing really noteworthy at first, but then I looked at the next one:

This one looks worthy of a snappy caption, so please send in your suggestions via the comment form and I'll share them with you next week!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Photo Friday: Emirates A380s

Emirates operates the world's largest fleet of Airbus 380s, and we get to see one everyday at LAX. With a fleet of over 100 A380s, there are bound to be some with special liveries - and here are a few of them. The opening shot is the standard Emirates paint scheme on an A380 arriving on Runway 24 Right. 

This shot is special in two ways: Besides the special Year of Zayed 2018 livery, it also shows an A380 departing from Runway 25 Left. Of the various A380 operators at LAX, Emirates is the most likely to require Runway 25 Left for departure.

Dubai will be hosting Expo 2020, and there are several A380s with special markings to mark the occasion. This particular aircraft wears green; I have also seen one with similar markings in blue, and I've been told that there are also some in orange.

This one is my favorite. United for Wildlife is a global collaboration of seven of the world's leading wildlife charities and the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Bonus shot:

No, it's not Emirates, but it is another A380 arriving on Runway 24 Right. Unlike the opening shot, with its dramatic tire smoke from the touchdown of the main landing gear, this shot caught the rare tire smoke from the touchdown of the nose gear - quite possibly a personal first.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Photo Friday: New Qantas Dreamliner

Qantas has been replacing their B747s at LAX with new B787-9 Dreamliners. Just last month we saw the last Qantas B747 flight between LAX and JFK; that route is now covered with the Dreamliner. There will still be Qantas B747s at LAX for a couple more months, but they are expected to disappear from the LAX scene by the end of this year.

This new Dreamliner has been on the LAX-JFK route several times recently. It's named Emily Kame Kngwarreye, in honor of the artist.


Qantas unveils special Boeing 787 Dreamliner livery

Qantas switches New York flights from 747 to Dreamliner

Qantas retires legendary Boeing 747 from iconic New York to Los Angeles route

Qantas retires another 747 to California desert

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Eagle eye challenge revealed

It's been over a month since I posted the Eagle Eye Challenge. Many of you responded, but for some unknown reason I didn't get any of your comments until the first week of September. During that time, I supposed that nobody was really all that interested, which is believable considering how infrequently I post updates nowadays. But now that that's been resolved, it's time to show you what you were looking for!

I opened above with the original shot of the Hawaiian A330. This was a shot of opportunity, and as such the photo had to be taken through the tower window shade, which both reduces the clarity and distorts the color. Imagine holding the dirty lens from a cheap pair of sunglasses in front of your camera lens to take a photo - that's the effect that I get when I have to shoot through the shades. The solution photo, taken a few moments later, was also shot through the shades, but I've tried to clean it up a little for you:

What's missing from this picture?
From this angle, it's clear that the Hawaiian Airbus is missing its left winglet. Apparently this aircraft had been involved in a ground incident with an American aircraft and the winglet was damaged in the process. At least one of you alluded to this in your comments. I wasn't there at the time, so I can't say of my own knowledge. In any case, Hawaiian operated the aircraft this way for a couple of weeks. I wonder how the flight crew explained it to the passengers?

This was the opening photo of the Eagle Eye post. This one attracted a wider range of responses, which I'll address shortly. But first, here's a highlighted version of this photo:

Now, a tighter shot that has less clutter:

And now, that shot with big arrows:

By now, it should be clear that what's happening here is something that, as a controller, you normally don't want to see: Two aircraft on the same runway, at the same time. What is taking place here is that an aircraft is holding in position part-way down the runway for an intersection departure while another aircraft is holding in position behind it. On the left side of the photo is a B747 holding in position on Ry25R; on the right side of the photo is a Gulfstream G-IV (I think) also in position on Ry25R at an intersection downfield. 

Here's a shot of the airport diagram with the intersections involved marked. I've deliberately printed it upside down (north bottom) because this is the same orientation as the above photos and is more representative of how the south side of the airport appears from the control tower: 

This edition of the chart will be obsolete by the time this blog post gets published. Not for navigation!

There are a number of limitations on this sort of operation at LAX, which is what makes it noteworthy. Without getting too geeky, I'll try to describe them:
  • The G-IV is at Taxiway G, which is only allowed to be used for an intersection departure if the runway is not available for arrivals, there is nobody cleared to land on it, AND the Local Assist position is staffed.
  • A jet aircraft is not normally allowed to depart from an intersection in front of another aircraft holding in position due to jet blast concerns. However, Taxiway G is far enough down the runway that it is allowed in this case.
  • The tower controller must be able to see both intersections clearly and must tell each aircraft about the other.
  • If you look closely, you can see that the B747 is also an intersection departure from Taxiway F. If the B747 was at the full length of the runway and the G-IV was at F, we would not be able to do this. However, if the B747 was at the full length of the runway and there was a propeller aircraft at F, the operation would be allowed. We do occasionally run that operation with a Cessna Caravan, Beech 1900, or E120 Brasilia (and others).
  • While we can perform this operation during the day, at night it would not be allowed because we are not able to put aircraft in position at an intersection after sunset.

Now I'll address a few of the other comments:

  • Several comments mentioned United aircraft at Terminal 7. The widebody at Gate 72 is actually a B787 (the wingtips give it away); B777s have also been known to utilize this gate. In order for the aircraft to fit, it has to be parked at that angle so as not to block the rest of the alley. This results in the loss of a gate; when only narrowbody aircraft are involved, there are two gates in that space: 72A & 72B. 
  • On the west side of Terminal 7 can be seen a United B757-300 at Gate 71B. We get B757-300s in both United and Delta colors, but they are not as ubiquitous as the shorter B757-200, which both airlines (and others) also operate at LAX. As was mentioned in the comments, the B753 also has to be parked at an angle to clear the alley. As a side note, each gate at LAX has a list of aircraft that can be accommodated at that gate. The tower controllers are aware of some of these, mainly the ones that involve restrictions on adjacent gates. This can occasionally be the cause for an aircraft being unable to go to the gate after landing: While the assigned gate might be open, the gate next door has a conflicting aircraft that will have to clear first.
  • There were a couple of comments about the cargo ramp. This photo was taken on a Monday, which is FedEx's layover day. Not many FedEx flights occur on Sundays, so their ramp tends to be full on Mondays. All of those aircraft will leave later in the day and evening. We don't normally get Prime Air at LAX, but we do have a couple of other operators with similar paint schemes.
  • Virgin America and Hawaiian both used to operate out of terminals on the north side of the airport. They were displaced to the south side when Delta moved all of its operations to the north side. Virgin America is now part of Alaska, and both of them are now at Terminal 6, which they share with Air Canada. Hawaiian is now at Terminal 5, which also has Allegiant, Frontier, Jet Blue, Spirit, and some American flights. Despite being parked on the south side, Virgin America/Alaska and Hawaiian will still sometimes be sent to the north side for departure, depending upon what their route of flight will be after takeoff. The same applies to the other carriers that park on the south side, while operators on the north side will sometimes be sent to the south side for departure for the same reason.
As I noted earlier, the airport diagram will not be current by the time this blog post gets published. Do not use it for navigation. You can get a current edition for free from the LAX airport page on AirNav:

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Construction update

Time for another batch of construction photos. I'll start with the newest (and most obvious) change: the crane that has been erected at the bottom of the D-8 alley for the Terminal 1.5 project. When it's not in use, it is normally parked in this position. Because the construction zone has encroached so far up into the D-8 alley, aircraft that push back in that alley must pull up to the top (where the Southwest B737 is) before starting engines to reduce jet blast.

Meanwhile, looking to the west, the north end of the Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC) is progressing, with most of the glass installed. 

The southern end of the MSC is steadily nibbling into the American maintenance ramp and narrowing our view of Taxiway R. 

Look ma! No heliport!
The redesign of the Terminal 4 parking garage has taken away the emergency heliport. I think this was done in preparation for removing the bridge that currently connects the Terminal 3 and Terminal 4 parking garages in order to make room for the new "people mover" project.

I caught a few shots of the crane going up at Terminal 1.5:


This is an airport, so here's an airplane photo:

There's a bit of a story behind this shot. Lufthansa has introduced a new logo that replaces the yellow with a white logo on a blue background. So far, the only aircraft that I've seen with the new logo at LAX have been some of the Lufthansa Cargo MD11s, and I have yet to get a photo of one. These flights usually arrive and depart on the south side of the airport, and the control tower doesn't offer an ideal vantage point for shooting that side. This particular flight, however, arrived from the north and ended up on the north complex. Hoping to finally get a shot of the new logo, I had the camera out and ready. When I saw the airplane I was disappointed that it didn't have the new logo, but opted to shoot it anyway since I already had the camera out. It wasn't until later that I actually was able to take a good look at the photos and see that this plane was worth the effort.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Time Lapse project

Apologies to all of you who have posted comments over the last month or so. For some reason, they were not appearing to me to moderate until a few days ago. I still have some catching up to do, but in the meantime I'll share this project with you. It's my first attempt at this and I wasn't planning to put it out, but I figure you deserve something after seemingly having your comments ignored for a good chunk of the summer. As always, your comments (and critiques) are welcome. Enjoy!

Something I've wanted to try for a while is making a time lapse video of the aircraft movements at LAX. Using the control tower as a vantage point, I found some limitations because of the camera's field of view -- to see the entire terminal area will require a wider lens than what it has. So for this attempt I set the camera up overlooking the arrival end of the 24s, which is to say the east end of the north complex. We're looking straight out over Terminal 2, with the D-9 alley on the left side of the shot and the D-8 alley to the right. You'll see aircraft lining up on Taxiway E, departing on Runway 24 Left, and arriving on Runway 24 Right.

This was shot on Saturday morning between around 8 am and 10 am. It was a holiday weekend here in the states, so traffic was a bit lower than usual. Also, Saturday is the slowest day of the week at LAX -- we generally run a couple of hundred operations a day less on Saturdays than any of the other days of the week. To top if off, as you can see we had an overcast layer that kept things moving a bit slower than usual because we weren't able to use visual separation between aircraft. All of that to say that this is more relaxed than most mornings at LAX.

For this project I'm using a different camera -- a Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80. Its lens can go down to 20mm, and it has the ability to shoot time lapse sequences. I set it to shoot at one frame per second, and the video plays back at ten frames per second, so this will be two hours of activity condensed into about twelve minutes of video. Because it's a time lapse video, there is no ATC audio, but I did add a music soundtrack. The video will play in the window above, but it's too small to see clearly, so I suggest letting it play full screen by clicking the little square at the bottom right.

Friday, August 31, 2018

New Horizon

For over a decade, Horizon Airlines has operated at LAX exclusively with the Dash 8. Also known as the Q400, this 76-seat turboprop was originally developed by deHavilland Canada and is now being produced by Bombardier. A couple of years ago, Horizon announced that the Embraer 175 would be added to the fleet, and this week they began to appear at LAX:

The E175 has the same number of seats (76) as the Dash 8, but in a three-class arrangement as opposed to the single-class seating in the Dash 8. The plane spotters among you may have noticed that we already have E175s in Alaska colors at LAX; however until this week those were all operated by SkyWest.

And, for those of you playing the home game: There's something somewhat unusual happening in the shot of the Dash 8; can you spot what it is?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Antonov arrival

Today's post is unusual in that it's rare that I get to show you photos the same day that they were taken. But it's also rare that we have an Antonov 124 arrive on the north complex. However we had one this evening, and here it is.

Under most circumstances, the airport will coordinate with the tower that they are expecting an AN-124 arrival, and the tower will in turn coordinate with the radar arrival sectors to set the aircraft up to land on Runway 25 Left. That's because the Antonov is almost always parked on the Imperial Terminal ramp, adjacent to the Flight Path Museum on the south side of the airport. Runway 25 Left is the nearest runway to that ramp, and getting to that ramp after arriving on Runway 25 Left is about as easy as anything gets at LAX.

Today's Antonov arrival was, as usual, destined to park on the far south side of the airport. But for whatever reason, it showed up on final for Runway 24 Right.

As you can see in these last couple of shots, this was fairly late in the afternoon and the angle of the sun played havoc with the camera shooting through the tower windows. Nonetheless, this seemed worthy of sharing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Odds and ends

Here's something I saw that I thought was kind of interesting in a geeky sort of way. This is a flight plan strip; one of these will print out at the Clearance Delivery position for each aircraft planning to depart LAX. The interesting thing about this particular one is the callsign: AAL1050, and its assigned transponder code: 1050. There's no correlation between an aircraft's registration or callsign and the squawk code assigned to it, so this is a rare coincidence. I probably see this myself once a year or so, and it always causes me to look again at the strip to make sure that I didn't transpose or imagine the numbers. A similar sort of thing will happen occasionally in which a flight crew will input their flight number into the transponder instead of the assigned squawk code. This usually causes minor havoc until we can get it sorted out as it usually means that their transponder target appears as some other flight on the radar until they can input the assigned code.

In other news, Delta has become the third airline (after Hong Kong and Asiana) to bring the Airbus A350 to LAX, operating it between Los Angeles and Shanghai:

Meanwhile, Alaska is planning to phase out some of the Bombardier Dash 8s flown by their regional partner Horizon. In their place will be Embraer 175s. We have already started to see Embraer 175s in Alaska colors at LAX flown by SkyWest, although so far primarily covering routes not currently served by the Dash 8. This particular Dash 8 bears the colors of the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves:

A Horizon Dash 8 and a SkyWest E175 - the airplane that will be its replacement
The Dash 8 and the E175 have similar seating capacities (76 passengers), although the Dash 8 has single-class seating while the E175 offers three classes of seating. The Dash 8 is more fuel efficient, but the E175 is faster.

Time for another construction update photo:

I deliberately took this photo under the cloudy sky because the construction near the American hangar has reached a stage where there is a great deal of exposed shiny sheet metal that glares terribly in the sunlight.

On a personal note, some of you may be aware that I am also a pilot. The CaptainVector airfarce currently consists of a tired Cessna 172. I mention this because I will soon have to bring this airplane into compliance with the FAA requirement for ADS-B. I am currently considering either a Stratus ESG or a Lynx NGT-9000:
Stratus OUT 
Anybody who has experience with either of these units is invited to comment with your thoughts and experiences. These comments will not be published unless you authorize; I merely seek input before spending a large percentage of the aircraft's worth on new tech.

And finally, apropos of nothing relating to aviation, this happened: