Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Big news!

Well, for me at least. I'm standing at the north end of OAK, spotting and waiting to board a flight to MDW (via SAN). It's a last minute trip to babysit my 7 year old cousin in Chicago and I couldn't be more thrilled.

Damn I love the airport.

I hear Little Man could possibly be swayed to take a day trip to O'hare...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A little more from LAX

So Southwest had a 3-day birthday special where flights of fewer than 451 miles were going for $39. I was tempted to go back down south, but opted instead to go visit a friend in Portland, OR who I haven't seen in a while and miss lots. Someday (like when I'm actually employed) I'll get back down there, but for now PDX, a few 737s, and a dear friend outweigh the draw of a repeat visit to LAX.

Since I haven't been to the airport since my last post, and since my narcissistic side rather enjoys this whole blogging thing, here's a video I took at LAX in May. THIS is why I said in a previous post that, depending on what you're looking for, it might be worth to tread down Aviation Blvd. a bit. Talk about adrenaline! Enjoy, and kindly ignore my obnoxious commentary in the background.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Over 500 in 2010!

June 6, 2010

Airport: SFO
Time: 0830
Location: Bayfront Park, Milbrae/Burlingame
Registrations collected: 75
For a total of: 518

After getting back from LAX, I had to have another surgery, which has prevented me from spotting. I'm still on the antibiotic and technically not allowed to be in the sun, but on my last day of vacation before a 7 week summer class, I decided to head to SFO anyway. I got up at 6:30 to check ATIS and it was already visibility 10 and temperature 17. That never happens! So off I went...

I'm not sure if this is typical for an early morning, but the 1s were not in use for departures like usual. At one point, there were 13 planes in line for departure on the 28s! I've never seen that before. I saw a heavy NCA 747 arrive and depart on quick turnaround and logged my first baby bus (which is an A318 and oh so cute!). Other than that, it wasn't too eventful of an outing. I saw the arrival of the Asian red-eyes, which are part of the round of jumbos that I normally watch depart around 11 or 12. This included a Korean 747 instead of their usual 777. I also hear that KLM now serves SFO using a 777 instead of the MD-11 (too bad!), but I missed that arrival.

Oh, and I did get laughed at twice. As in the blatant "haha she's taking notes!" kind of laughter. Another woman called me weird. True statement, but rude nonetheless.

I must say... I am feeling very over United right now and excited for 2011 when we will hopefully start to see the effects of the merger. I am so uninspired by all variations of United livery, so I was so excited to see the planned "Continited" livery (shown here on the new 787, presumably on the recently announced, genius route - Aukland/Houston). Continental's not my favorite livery either (except for the retro Blue Skyway), but at least looks classy and clean. I'm also a big fan of serifs and like the wider spacing of the letters. I don't understand why the merged airline will keep United's name instead of Continental's since at this point Continental's reputation seems so superior, but I guess it doesn't much matter.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


May 14, 2010

Airport: OAK
Time: 1800
Location: San Leandro Marina
Registrations collected: 9
For a total of: 441

I went back to OAK on Friday night to watch the FedEx MD-10s after a crazy long week at school. I still haven't been able to figure out for sure what else the marina is good for besides planespotting, sailing, fishing, and illicit drug use, but something else definitely goes on there. Whatever happens started happening as more and more cars started to pull up, so I decided to get away. I'm making a metal note to avoid that spot from dusk onward, especially on a weekend - probably not the best idea. Still a nice little break from the world (my world), though.

Friday, May 14, 2010


May 3, 2010

Airport: LAX
Registrations collected: 149
For a total of: 433
Airlines: 47

The best day of my life? Yes, quite possibly. I could write essays, talk for hours, share a million photos, about how awesome this trip was... I'll stick to highlights, but there are quite a few.

The flight itself was fantastic. It's been well over 2 years since I've been on a plane, and it was completely exhilarating. Prior to the trip, I had spent many (too many) days looking at maps of LAX and the surrounding areas, trying to figure out transportation, locations to visit and ones to avoid. On approach, I had my face practically glued to the window looking at the real life version of Google's aerial maps. I spent about 3 miles searching for the In-N-Out since I knew we were going to go right over it; I almost died of excitement when we passed over it just seconds before touching down on 24R, finally getting a real idea of how close we were going to be.

On the taxi back to terminal 1 we passed TBIT, where I spotted Qantas's Wunala Dreaming (VH-OEJ) and apparently made quite a scene in the airplane. Dad says I embarrassed him. I say he was not sufficiently excited. This was only the beginning of the excitement, though, and Dad caught on soon enough.

We hit all of the locations that are most highly recommended, starting at In-N-Out around 10, Imperial Hill at 12:30, then to Aviation Boulevard (near The Proud Bird) at around 2:30, and then back to In-N-Out around 4. I'll break this down by spotting location, both for my own memory and so I don't have to type it again if I want to share the information. (I had some trouble getting my questions answered online, especially about public transportation, so I'll include that here.)

In-N-Out Burger
Getting there: Just walk. We wanted to try the shuttle (letter "C") so that we could ask the driver a few other questions, but since we were in terminal 1 it took forever. The route takes you through the terminals in numerical order, then to the parking lots, then through the parking lots, and then finally to the bus depot - and after that you still need to walk to the restaurant. The walk to the restaurant from terminal 1 should take 15 minutes at a comfortable pace, probably less. I should also say that In-N-Out had the only public restrooms we were able to use - so plan ahead!

Things were slow in the morning and I felt quite disappointed. The skies were clear for about 5 minutes; a small string of Alaska and Southwest 737s came in and then it was dead again. Finally the traffic sped up, and included a lot of 737s and A320s, but also some 777s, 767s, and a 747. In the morning ATIS reported variable, gusting winds, which made for some interesting landings. We stuck around here for a while - long enough to enjoy an early lunch - before heading to Imperial Hill.

We ended up coming back to In-N-Out for dinner and to relax for an hour or so before our flight home. This was great! Next time, I'd plan to come here in the late afternoon and early evening to watch the arrivals. It was much busier, and some of the heavier traffic - especially cargo - was being directed to 24R, which made for good spotting. Here's a shot of a Hawaiian 763 that gives a pretty accurate feel of what it's actually like to be at this spot. Those are short little trees and the camera is at its widest angle lens:

No binoculars needed here for registration numbers! After spending so much time at Bay Area airports, I don't think I can put words to how awesome it was here. In addition to the evening cargo arrivals (including a Yangtze River Express 747 - one of 3 in the world), we saw a Qantas A380 (my first A380!), some new airlines, a Piaggio push-prop that was Dad's favorite of the entire day, and a number of fun liveries including Lone Star One, another Spirit of Disney (only 1 left to see now to complete the set), and Alaska's salmon 738. But really, the most memorable thing from this spot was just how close we were to the aircraft. So incredible!

Imperial Hill
Getting there: We took Beach Cities Transit bus 109 from the main bus depot, which runs every 45 minutes. The stop is at the east side of the station's roundabout, almost at the end. The route starts here and goes around the east and south sides of the airport (Aviation Blvd. and E. Imperial) before turning south and going into the suburbs. It was the nicest bus I've ever been on by a long shot! And only $1! I told the driver where we were going and she was kind enough to remind us when the stop was coming up. The ride took 15 minutes or so. The bus stops every few blocks or so, but if you hop out at Sheldon you'll be just a couple paces from the benches of Imperial Hill.

It was nice here. Pretty busy, pretty social, pretty pretty. It was actually exactly how I pictured it - a mix lots of hardcore spotters from around the world with their intimidating cameras and thick accents and then the casual spotters who wanted to chat with us or with each other. I let Dad do the talking since I had a job to do... He spent most of the time chatting with a guy who couldn't seem to believe that I enjoyed airplanes so much, but I decided to stay out of it and prove him right - I love airplanes enough to ignore everything else around me. We headed over here because the Asian departure rush started around 12:30, but there were some European arrivals coming in then, too. At one point I counted 13 747s at one time. Here there are 5 (you can see Asiana's rudder behind the Korean Air):

No action shots for me over on this side of the airport, given my pocket sized Canon. This spot was much less thrilling for me, but also much busier than anywhere else we visited. There was enough going on that I could have taken down registrations the entire time and still not gotten them all. I actually chose to put my binder down and watch a bit, though. I noticed myself getting a little desensitized. Like, "What's the big deal? Just another 747?" That's not the attitude I want! Maybe it was too good?

Some highlights - John Travolta's 707 (Qantas Cargo livery), a Kalitta 742 (my first variant of 747 other than the 400), lots of first time airlines, and the United Star Alliance 747. There was a sense of hurry to the traffic that was quite fun to observe. We only stayed for an hour and a half, since the buses run only every 45 minutes and we wanted to check out The Proud Bird. I would definitely come back here, but probably in the morning to stay for at least a few hours. When we were on the In-N-Out side, I saw a lot of bigger arrivals coming through here in the late morning that I would have liked to have seen up close.

Aviation Boulevard (Proud Bird)
Getting there: You can get to the green line metro station on BCT 109 or from the terminals via one of the free shuttles. The station is about a 10 minute ride away from both Imperial Hill and the bus depot near In-N-Out. Once you're at the metro station, you're about 1000 feet south of The Proud Bird restaurant and maybe 2000 from the threshold of runway 25L (where the arrivals are directed).

Dad and I skipped The Proud Bird. I'd read mediocre reviews and the place looked less than inviting. Plus, if you had to choose between In-N-Out and a $10 grilled cheese, what would you do? I will say that the view of the airport seems like it would be great if you took a patio seat at the restaurant, and there are restrooms here if you're a customer. But we walked right on by, down the (busy, loud, uninviting) street to stand under the flight path. Lots of action to watch, but the highlight from this spot (and possibly of the entire trip) was standing under a BA 744 on approach. Deafening, heart pounding, incredible! This was probably the most thrilling place we visited, but not one to stay at for long, considering it's just a packed dirt "sidewalk" along a busy road in the hot sun. Very cool, though, and very close:

Lincoln Boulevard
I wandered down Lincoln almost to the golf course so that I could get the tail number from the Qantas A380 getting repaired. This did get me about a third of the way down 24R (being the shorter of the 24s), and give a parallel view of flares and departures, though this did require scaling a hill covered in sharp shrubs and sticking out like a sore thumb above the highway. Not a place to stay for long, and not a destination you want to include on an itinerary, but kinda cool if you're already at In-N-Out.

Heading Home...
Dad and I walked back to the airport after eating some more In-N-Out. We got through security in under 10 minutes and had some time to kill in the airport. I went down to the end of terminal 1 (which is US Airways and Southwest only) and was able to watch aircraft touch down on the 24s and ones on the taxiways waiting for departure. I also got to see a Virgin Atlantic A340-600 from the terminal which was exciting on its own, but even cooler because I was able to compare it to the A321s and 737s. It is huge! Really huge! They actually had to push it back twice so that it could maneuver safely. "The world's longest" only means so much until you see it up close (I realize it's no longer the longest since the 748, but still). We missed getting to see it take off because it was time to board.

So there's the trip in as small a nutshell as I can manage. All in all, incredible. It's been about 10 days and I still feel high from it. I can't wait to go back. Next time: an earlier flight, Imperial Hill until mid-afternoon, then In-N-Out, and a flight late enough to check in after dark.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In anticipation of...

May 3, 2010

Airport: OAK
Location: Terminals
Equipment: None!

Excited for our LAX trip, Dad and I got to OAK super early and had time to wander. We headed over to terminal 1 to see the Hawaiian 763, which took off half an hour after us and arrived half an hour before us on our return flight (we said hello again when we landed!). Dad and I had some time to chat, mostly focusing on our shared opinion that the 737 is one of the most beautiful planes ever built.

I hadn't been ON an airplane in about 2.5 years, and was very excited. I got to note WN's Spirit One from the boarding line, and grabbed a window seat once on board, heart thumping. With an 8 a.m. flight, we were part of that morning rush that I often watch from the marina and had to wait for a bit in line for departure. The captain announced we were waiting for 2 arrivals and luckily I had time to pull my camera out. Here's why:

That's Maryland One (N214WN), one of my favorite - and quite possibly one of the oddest looking - Southwest liveries. Moments later we were soaring off the ground...

Monday, April 26, 2010

On gratitude, widebodies, and my new buddy Archie

Airport: OAK
Location: San Leandro Marina
Time: 0830-0930
Registrations collected: 15
For a total of: 272
Airlines: 6

A beautiful morning! I went to OAK to see the Hawaiian 763 that leaves every morning at 8:40, but ended up staying for quite some time and watching a number of the morning rush jets move in and out. I broke my Oakland records (15 registrations and 6 airlines), saw another wide body on 29, and added Hawaiian to my growing list of airlines spotted. Not bad. Oh, and I also met a new "friend," Archie. Archie parked his motorcycle a few spots down from my car (never mind the fact that there were hundreds of empty spots in the lot) and immediately struck up a conversation, asking about my car, giving the details of his motorcycle engine, asking me what a 737 was - and then it started getting weird...

"Sophia what's the name of that propeller plane, the kind that takes you from places like Cheyenne to places like Oklahoma City?" "It was Southwest, I'm positive." "You don't know?"

"Sophia do you smoke pot or drink or anything?" "Nothing?" "Not even a little?"

"You know, Sophia, when I got picked up in San Jose last year, the jail's exercise yard was on the 8th floor roof and we could watch all the planes at the airport down there." "You ever been down there Sophia?" "Oh I bet you'd'a liked that roof."

Aside from Archie, I had a very peaceful morning. I still don't understand what it is, but everything just feels right with the world when I'm at the airport. All the chaos and unmanageability fades to the back and I suddenly love my life more than I ever thought possible.