Super Moon Plane Spotting….from GRR

Super Moon Plane Spotting….from GRR

I finally get to add ‘Moon Shots’ to my gallery……

With the Super Moon taking place on November 13 and 14, I decided to head to the observation area at Grand Rapids / Gerald Ford Airport to see what might happen when you combine a wide open view of the horizon, a moonrise, and the potential for aircraft to get into the mix.

Traffic was light, as is normal for ‘GRR’ on a Sunday evening but 2 aircraft did show up to provide decent scenes.   In the first shot, a Southwest 737 thankfully was 15 minutes early and cut in front of the Moon perfectly as the bird turned to its final approach.

The second opportunity came when a Delta Regional Jet arrived from the east and made a perfect pass ‘beneath’ the moon.  Unfortunately that was the only traffic that came in while the moon transited through flight path into GRR.

Tomorrow looks more promising since the moon will rise later, which coincides with a few more GRR arrivals and departures.


Southwests 737 turns to final into GRR



A Delta regional jet sneaks in beneath the Moon.

Plane Spottting Luxury In SWISS’ First Class Lounge In Zurich

Plane Spottting Luxury In SWISS’ First Class Lounge In Zurich

A few weeks ago while enroute back to the States from our Safari trip to Africa, we flew with SWISS and because of our seats, we were able to visit the First Class Lounge in Zurich between flights.    You can see what that fabulous Lounge is like in this trip report.   To see what a First Class flight aboard SWISS is like when you have the cabin to yourself, read this trip report.

Aside from all the fantastic amenities that you’ll find in the Lounge, my favorite was outside the Lounge.   When SWISS designed and built the new Business, SENator, and First Class Lounges inside ZRH’s Terminal E, they took advantage of the real-estate they had to work with and included outdoor terraces for all 3 lounges.    In fact, for the hardcore plane spotter, the Senator and Business Class Lounges are actually better for plane spotting since it puts you closer to the runway used for ‘Heavy’ arrivals in the morning.   The First Class Lounge however does have an advantage for ‘Heavy’ departures in the late morning and afternoon.

The photos should give you a pretty good idea as far as just how great the vantage point is from these Lounges.    Unfortunately the timing of my visit wasn’t ideal for photography.   We were in the Lounge from about 6:30a to 9a which meant that most of my shots were taken with the sun still not above the horizon.   The fact that it was extremely overcast didn’t help matters much.   Fortunately my camera did a stellar job with high ‘ISO’ settings so I was at least able to see what I was shooting!

If for some reason you don’t travel with a suitcase full of camera equipment, you’ll appreciate the high quality Leica binoculars and telescope that is available to guests so they can get up close looks at the birds.   There are a few pair of binoculars installed in kiosks found on the terrace (First Class terrace only for the binoculars).

Next year’s trip is going to include outbound SWISS flights so that I can spend 8-10 hours at this new Plane Spotting Mecca……
















A 20-year old Single Malt Scotch just adds to the wonderful experience! 🙂




Plane Spotter Paradise Begins Construction Of 3rd Runway

Plane Spotter Paradise Begins Construction Of 3rd Runway

One of my favorite airports is getting a facelift…..

Earlier this month, an 18-year long project kicked off that will add a much needed runway to Hong Kong Int’l Airport (HKG).   The construction began after years of regulatory process and public protest, going back to 2008.

The plans call for a parallel runway to compliment the 2 existing East-West runways.  The new expansion will include the reclamation of land to the north of the airport that will take at least 4 years.   At that point, the existing northern most runway will be modified to act as a center runway and the construction of a 3rd runway will begin.    Up to 3 new passenger concourses will also be built that will link by rail to the existing concourses.


A new northern runway complex goes online in 2024


It looks like the southern runway will become a dedicated Cargo runway since it is adjacent to Hong Kong’s Cargo ‘city’ thus freeing up the existing north runway and the planned new runway to handle passenger traffic.

For planespotters, it means the favorite spot by the fire-boat dock by the maintenance facilities won’t be as good when the 3rd runway opens since it will take traffic at least 1/2 mile further away from the vantage point, but I suspect the new concourses will make up for the lack of views from the docks.


The new look of HKG….rendering courtesy of Hong Kong Airport Authority

The construction will last until 2024 and financing for the HK$142 billion ($18.3  billion USD) project is comprised of funds from the Government, Airport revenue and a series of new surcharges that passengers are already being assessed if they travel to OR through the airport.  First Class and Business Class passengers on long haul flights will pay HK$180 ($23.00 USD) while long haul Economy passengers will pay $HK160 ($20.50 USD).   Short haul Economy Class passengers will pay HK$90 ($12.00 USD) while transiting passengers regardless of class will pay HK$70 ($9.00 USD).

The following video provides a simulated look at what the expansion will look like once complete:


Heavies At O’Hare

Heavies At O’Hare

A few weeks ago I was transiting Chicago enroute to Europe for the Austrian GP and had a 5-hour layover that gave me the chance to watch a few birds come and go.   With my flight being on LOT, I had no choice but to go to Terminal 5 to catch my flight which in turn gave me a great angle of the Southern East-West runways that most international arriving and departing flights use due to the proximity to the terminal.

For those of you inclined, the best vantage point tends to between Gates M13 and M15 due to their angle to the runway which gives you a wide perspective for arrivals and departures.     I spent the bulk of the 5 hours there (with visits to the SWISS, Air France/KLM, and SAS lounges along the way).  Yes AF/KLM because LOT contracts with KLM for their Business Class passengers.    But take my word for it, you can skip the AF/KLM lounge.   SWISS is much better primarily because of their  food offerings (Oreos!).

Anyway, here are a few favorites from Terminal 5……


Bound for Delhi, Air India's 777

Bound for Delhi, Air India’s 777

A 787 wears the AA livery beautifully....

A 787 wears the AA livery beautifully….

Another nice 787 moment....

Another nice 787 moment….

Sporting the refreshed Austrian livery, their 777 arrives from Vienna

Sporting the refreshed Austrian livery, their 777 arrives from Vienna

Next stop, Hong Kong

Next stop, Hong Kong

China Eastern 777 arriving from Shanghai

China Eastern 777 arriving from Shanghai

Korean 777 climbs towards Seoul

Korean 777 climbs towards Seoul

My ride to WAW

My ride to WAW

LH's 747-8i has a way to sniff me out every time I'm in ORD......

LH’s 747-8i has a way to sniff me out every time I’m in ORD……

Qatari arrival from Doha

Qatari arrival from Doha

Speedbird photobombed by Air India.

Speedbird photobombed by Air India.

Though not a heavy, when's the last time that you've seen a TWA livery?

Though not a heavy, when’s the last time that you’ve seen a TWA livery?

Plane Spotting (Mostly) Foreign ‘Heavies’ At O’Hare

Plane Spotting (Mostly) Foreign ‘Heavies’ At O’Hare

I finally had the time to sort through my photos from a trip a month ago to Germany, Austria and Slovakia.    As part of the trip I had an 8-hour layover in O’Hare which was spent mostly in Terminal 5 which provided a great view of the arrivals and departures taking place on runways 28R and 28C.   In my opinion, I believe that Terminal 5 offers the best vantage point for plane spotting at the airport.    The only knock on it is the fact that most of the aircraft, most of the time, will be back lit thanks to the sun’s path and orientation of the runway.  You’ll see that play out in the photos.

For this post, I focused on unique carriers that visit O’Hare.  I figure most of you have seen American or United Airlines short and medium haul aircraft so I’ll spare you photos of their A320s, 737s and regional jets.



Russia’s AirBridgeCargo 747-8F VQ-BRH entered service for the carrier in September 2013.



American’s 3rd oldest 787, N802N,  delivered in May 2015.



ANA’s 777-300, JA735A, entered service in June 2006.



Speedbird’s 744, G-CIVF, entered service in April 1995.



Cargolux’s 747-400F, LX-VCV, entered service in December 2005.



Cathay’s 777, B-KPW, was delivered in August 2011.



Etihad’s 777-300, A6-ETQ entered service in September 2013.



Eva Cargo’s 747-400F entered service in July 2012.



Not a heavy, but Frontier’s tails always makes for a nice photo. N229FR (Airbus A320) was delivered in April 2015.



Iberia’s A330, EC-MAA, was delivered in April 2014.



JAL’s 777, JA731J, was delivered in June 2004.



Korean’s 777-300, HL8006, was delivered in July 2015.



Lufthansa’s 747-8i, D-ABYI, entered service in June 2013. Seen here in her ‘Siegerflieger’ livery.



‘YI’ arriving at her gate in Terminal 5.



NCA’s 747-8F, JA12KZ, entered service in January 2013.



Qatar Cargo’s 777, A7-BFE, was delivered in June 2013.



TNT’s 777, OO-TSB, was delivered in April 2012.



United’s 747-400, N127UA, was delivered in August 1999.