Everyone has dreamed with a getaway to Amsterdam to have a glorious journey of spotting, some others prefer Heathrow, the stronger spotters choose Axalp or The Mach Loop and the exotic ones choose Saint Marteen. But these getaways are overshadowed by the pilgrimage performed by four of our spotters around the West Coast of the USA. The route starts in L.A., continues through Victorville, Las Vegas, Nellis, Luke, Fallon and finishes in Rainbow Canyon, the Mach Loop for the Marines, the Navy and the USAF. More than a trip, this is a real pilgrimage that took ten days and would overshadow the most ambitious plans. The lucky guys were Daniel Guerra, Francisco Matos (cofounders of airspotters.org), Borja Ruiz, Richard Sánchez from Spain and Joe Ciliberti from Malta.
It is impossible to fit such trip in just one article, not for the lack of words, but because we would have needed to make a very strict selection of pictures and leave a lot of them out. That’s why we are going to divide this in parts, starting from the beginning, Volume 1: KLAX from the air
In KLAX, they show us again how things get done. You photograph airplanes sideways from the header? No. You better hire a helicopter and take your pictures from above, like a king, as if you were using a “drone” with a dude inside. L.A. airport is one of the few airports in the world that allow spotters wandering around airplanes while they are approaching to land, running on the runway or taking off.
The company that offers this service is named Stars Helicopter, headquartered in Hawthorne Municipal Airport. They provide to the spotters a fleet of choppers Raven at a very reasonable price: around $600 an hour with a seating capacity of 3 spotters. Also, the time of service can be divided any way you want. That means that you could contract 2 hours and divide them in several flights because at 10:00 there is a 747 arriving from Cathay and at 12:45 a 340 Formula 1 is arriving from Etihad, for instance. Besides, the trip from the base to the airport takes only 10 minutes.
Once at L.A. airport, there is a specific controller for these types of flights, authorizing the different positions with a great normality, unthinkable in our country. It makes me really jealous to realize that you can do anything if you really want to. I don’t know if we could do the same in Spain, but I do know that we would drown in the bureaucratic tide. Once you are up there, at maximum power, since these three guys (Dani, Fran y Borja) certainly are a little plump, the feeling must leave you speechless. Actually, Dani, who normally brings up all kinds of details when talking about spotting, texted just one Word to the whatsapp group: Amazing!
This chopper with no doors allows a great ease of movements. At an altitude of 1,500 feet, the 100-400 of the Canon or Fran’s fixed Pentax 300 are more than enough. As a matter of fact some of Fran´s pictures came out cut off. About the photos taken, there isn’t much to say. They are completely different from what we are used to, absolutely original. Planes look like scale models looking for a spot in the middle of the devices that surround them on the ground. They almost look like patients connected in the ICU.
Besides, from these pictures I love:
– The huge contrast between the plane and the tarmac. The bleached white of the plane against the asphalt/concrete that goes from neutral and clean to the oil-stained tarmac.
– The amount of information written on the ground of the airports, where planes move like over rails. If you think that flying seems difficult, driving in LAX must be a feat. Just listen to the ATC conversations about all the troubles that pilots can get into (especially non English speakers).
– The photographers’ skills to catch those unique moments, playing with the background. In the first pic we can see how the asphalt changes its color like if it was the trail of the plane (very original Dani!). The second picture shows the small scale of a car rolling along the 380 while taxiing off, so tiny that even the car yells OPS!! In the third one the lines lead and converge to the aircrafts, like magnetic fields. There are many more details that we must thank to the know-how and expertise of the photographers.
Now It is time to enjoy these amazing pictures, a small selection, just about 1% of the shots taken. Most of them are Dani’s. I am still waiting for Fran’s, because choosing a new hard drive to store these photos could take months of analysis, but who cares. There will be a special article just dedicated to him with a very special photo that he took. And, finally, Borja, already used to the American Way of Life, complete this selection.
Gracias a Maria José & Manuel Pascual por la fantástica traducción.
Keep calm and shoot.