Aviation Travel

Ode to a Queen

A few days ago, Boeing rolled out the last production model of its 747 line of wide body aircraft. Wikipedia noted:

The first flight took place on February 9, 1969, and the 747 was certified in December of that year. It entered service with Pan Am on January 22, 1970. … The final 747 was delivered in January 2023 after a 54-year production run, with 1,574 aircraft built.

I have many fond memories of this great airplane – from seeing it for the very first time flying in to land at San Francisco International Airport (which must have been in 1970) to my first flight which – best of my recollection – was on TWA flying from San Francisco to New York. My last 747 flight was on a Lufthansa 747-8 flying out of Bangalore to Frankfurt in 2016. 

I had a few flights in a seat on the 747’s upper deck – a special treat! The upper deck was also where the cockpit was located – it always seemed to be so high up off the runway that landing a 747 seemed to require some special skill and depth perception! On the other hand, the airplane’s landing gear really smoothed out landings as it had this swing mechanism where the rear wheels on the main landing great touched down first and then pivoted to smoothly bring down the front wheels. The early models of the 747 had a circular staircase to the upper deck where there was a lounge instead of seating. This upper deck cockpit design also facilitated adding a nose door which pivoting upward in the freighter version of the 747. In fact, the last 747 delivered was a freighter to Atlas Air.

Speaking of Atlas Air and that last 747, after delivery it flew from Seattle to Cincinnati as it was put into service. The pilots on the first flight of that last 747 has some fun on their flight – trading a lovely tribute to the “Queen of the Skies” on their radar track.

NASA used a special version of the 747 as the transporter for the space shuttle. In 2012, NASA flew a final flight of its 747 carrying the shuttle Endeavor to its new home in a museum in Los Angeles. Along the way, the NASA 747 toured the San Francisco Bay Area and I was fortunate to be able to make a few images of that flight:

While the last 747 has been delivered by Boeing, it will continue to be flown for many years ahead. Most airlines have removed 747s from their fleets but a few (including Lufthansa) continue flying them. I’d enjoy taking another trip on one of these beautiful aircraft. In the meantime, I’ve got lots of good memories about trips and sightings of the 747.

Update: February 03, 2023 – a few additional thoughts on the 747.

  • For many years, two 747’s have provided air transport for the US presidents – and the current 747’s are soon (?) to be replaced by two new models that have been undergoing customization for some time.
  • Wired added an article about the negatives of the 747 – saying it should have been retired “many years ago”. The article also adds more interesting details about the history of the 747. Fuel economy is the biggest detractor: “A Boeing 747-400, which was manufactured between 1989 and 2009, costs around $26,635 an hour to run. A Boeing 787-8, which is still produced today, costs $14,465 an hour to operate—45 percent cheaper.”

Update: February 04, 2023 – The New Yorker also has an new article about the 747 titled “The World the 747 Didn’t Predict“.

Because the 747 could now seat more travellers on a single flight, airlines were able to sell more tickets at lower prices. Suddenly, travel, particularly intercontinental travel, was accessible to people who had rarely, if ever, been in the air. The 747, in a sense, taught the world to fly.

Aviation iPhone 11 Pro Max Photography San Francisco/California

SkyTerrace at SFO

San Francisco International Airport has just opened SkyTerrace – an outdoor viewing platform above Terminal 2 – and which can be accessed from outside of the security screening area which means anyone can visit.

Yesterday I took advantage of the free weekend parking at BART’s Millbrae and caught the BART train for a quick trip over to SFO. BART arrives at SFO inside the G area of the International Terminal. One flight up from the BART platform is AirTrain – the inter-terminal shuttle trains that make it easy to move between terminals. Terminal 2 is two stops away on the Red Line (which runs clockwise around the airport) and the free AirTrains run every four minutes or so.

Exiting the AirTrain platform upon arriving at Terminal 2, I took the elevator down to the Departures level and then looked for the signs to SkyTerrace which is located to the left of the security screening area. There’s an elevator which goes up to Level 4 where SkyTerrace is located and you enter immediately into that area upon exiting the elevator. There’s a quick security screening and then you can head outside to the window-enclosed but roofless patio area where you have a great view of the airport – particularly for departures on Runways 28.

Photographers can take tripods into SkyTerrace – and there were a couple of photographers there when I arrived Saturday afternoon using their tripods and very long lenses to capture some airplane images.

Heading out from SkyTerrace, I took the photo of the SFO Control Tower from the end of the AirTrain platform at Terminal 2. That spot provides a very nice angle for taking that image.

Heading back, I took the Red Line AirTrain again to the Grand Hyatt Hotel exit. This new airport hotel opened a recently and I hadn’t seen what it looked like. The most stunning feature was the beautiful stained glass treatment along the walls as you come down into the hotel lobby from the AirTrain platform.

All of these images were taken with my iPhone 11 Pro Max. I had two of my big cameras along in my camera bag but didn’t bother to take them out – something that’s happening more and more frequently these days given the capabilities of the camera system in the iPhone 11 Pro Max!

Aviation iPhone 5 Monochrome Photography Photography Photography - Black & White Photoshop CC San Francisco/California

Rose of Sharon – The National Flower of South Korea

Rose of Sharon - Menlo Park - 2013

This afternoon brought the horrible news of the crash of Asiana Flight 214 – a Boeing 777-200ER with tail number HL7742 – while landing at San Francisco International Airport. The day couldn’t have been more perfect weather wise – so one has to wonder what the cause might be.

As I was editing some photos earlier today, I wanted to try out a new black and white post-processing technique and had picked a recent image I’d taken here in Menlo Park a few days ago of a Rose of Sharon flower – actually a double-flower which is what had caught my eye and caused me to take the shot while on the go with my iPhone 5.

This new technique for post-processing black and white is all about the tonality of the image – and this seemed to be a good one to practice on. So I loaded the image into Photoshop CC and began my editing.

As I was getting ready to share the image online, I did a quick Wikipedia search and discovered that Rose of Sharon – formally “Hibiscus syriacus” – is the national flower of South Korea. I had also just learned – from Twitter – that there were now two confirmed deaths in the Asiana crash. Not sure what this all means – but somehow this image came together this afternoon around the same time I learned of the tragic result. My heart goes out to all of those affected by today’s unfortunate incident.

Aviation Black and White Lightroom Monochrome Photography Photography Photography - Black & White Photography - Canon 5D Mark II

Heading Home

Heading Home - Endeavour - 2012 (B+W #3)

Here’s a final photo of the space shuttle Endeavour departing Menlo Park and heading for Moffett Field and points south.

This version – the last of the shots I took Friday morning as Endeavour passed overhead – shows a wonderful sun angle complemented by treatment in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 and Adobe’s Lightroom 4 to darken the sky and kick up the contrast just a bit. A friend suggested it needed some clouds in the sky – but I don’t think so!

Seeing Endeavour pass overhead was a special experience for me – an emotional one. Hard to believe that we’ve now retired these amazing orbiters – the ones we came to marvel at when they launched so beautifully in the Florida sky and that we wept for when they didn’t return home again. Endeavour’s now heading home. I hope the spirit of the space shuttle program lives on – it was an amazing time!

Aviation Black and White Menlo Park Monochrome Photography Nik Software Photography Photography - Black & White Photography - Canon 5D Mark II

Endeavour Again

Space Shuttle Endeavour - Menlo Park - 2012

Here’s another view of the space shuttle Endeavour on its tribute flight over Menlo Park – this version in black and white.

This was shot as the shuttle and its 747 carrier aircraft were departing to the south heading toward the flyover at Moffett Field. The sky was darkened with a red filter and adjusted using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2. It’s got such a completely different mood with this treatment!

Once again with this shot, I was lucky that the aircraft were turning in towards me – providing the illusion that I was almost flying alongside!

Aviation Menlo Park Photography Photography - Canon 5D Mark II

The Tribute Flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour

Space Shuttle Endeavour - Menlo Park - 2012

On its final flight, NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour overfly’s Menlo Park onboard the 747-100 shuttle carrier aircraft N105NA. This was the last flight for both the shuttle orbiter and the 747.

This image was shot from one of the hills in Menlo Park’s Bedwell Bayfront Park – with me being among several hundred others who had gathered on the park’s hilltops for this tribute flight.

I was very lucky to get this shot. The 747 had begun a gentle turn to the right, just dropping its right wing – which gave the illusion that I was flying right alongside – instead of standing on a hill in a park! Beautiful!

Shot using a Canon 5D Mark II using a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens with a Canon 1.4x Tele-extender. Shot in Shutter Priority at 1/1000th of a second, ISO 100, f/5.6.

Post processed in Adobe Lightroom 4 where it was cropped to at 16:9 ratio and adjusted using a bit of clarity applied just to the aircraft with the adjustment brush with a bit of post-crop vignette.

Aviation Black and White Monochrome Photography Nik Software Photography Photography - Black & White Photography - Canon 5D Mark II

The Solent Mark III Flying Boat

Short Bros. Solent MkIII - Oakland - 2009

Imagine boarding this flying boat in Southhampton, England for your journey to Johannesburg, South Africa in the late 1940’s! With several stops along the way for overnight rest – as the plane only flew during daylight hours.

According to the museum’s commentary, the flying boat made “overnight stops along the route in such exotic locales as Augusta, Sicily; Luxor, Egypt (landing on the Nile); Lake Victoria and at the head of Victoria Falls in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with the final stop at Vaal Dam outside Johannesburg.” I suspect you got to know your fellow travelers pretty well by the time you arrived in Africa!

This is a Short Brothers Solent Mark III Flying Boat on display at the Oakland Aviation Museum near the Oakland International Airport. The museum offers tours of the flying boat on Saturdays and Sundays – and is also offering a unique dining experience onboard the Solent on the second Saturday of each month.

The image was shot with my Canon 5D Mark II and post-processed using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2. A red filter was used to darken the sky and add contrast – and the image was tightly cropped to emphasize the body of the flying boat. I happened to stop at the museum on July 4, 2009 and captured this image as the foggy skies were beginning to breakup over the airport.

Aviation Photography Photography - Canon 5D Mark II

Gene Soucy and Friend over Salinas

Gene Soucy and Friend by Scott Loftesnes

Among my many weaknesses are air shows. Since I’ve gotten back into photography, I find them even more fun – the sound and the sights just excite me!

This photo was taken at the California International Airshow in Salinas in 2009. I had the big lens (with tele-extender) deployed on my Canon 5D Mark II and caught this great shot of Gene Soucy and his wing walker zooming by the crowd. I just love the colors and attitude in this image – in my mind it’s a classic air show photograph! Hope you enjoy it!

Aviation Photography Photography - Canon PowerShot S95 Portland

Carlton F. Bond at the Pearson Air Museum

Carlton F. Bond - Pearson Air Museum - Fort Vancouver, WashingtonBefore leaving for home last night, I headed across the Columbia River from Portland for a quick visit to the Pearson Air Museum at Fort Vancouver.

The air museum is situated in a lovely spot for an airfield – in fact, there’s still an active general aviation airport just next door.

Inside, the museum has a number of museum quality aircraft on display but perhaps the most interesting exhibit was devoted to flight simulation. In a room with about 25 individual flight simulator computers, there was a very active group of youngsters – boys and girls – piloting their aircraft up into the wild blue yonder. Lots of fun to just observe! Let’s hope some of them become real pilots soon enough!

Screen Shot 2011 08 11 at 7 55 35 AM

This image of Carlton F. Bond comes from a shot I took with my tiny Canon PowerShot S95 of his statue outside as I was leaving the museum. Bond had been commanding officer of Pearson Field back in the 1930’s. I loved how his statue is placed relative to the front of the hanger and the apron out front. I post-processed this image – a single RAW – using Photomatix Pro and Photoshop. I used a series of Nik Software filters in Photoshop to create the antique effect for this image – see the filters on the right.

Aviation Photography

Julie Clark’s T-34A Mentor

From Scott's Portfolio

If you ever have a chance to see Julie Clark fly her T-34A Mentor in an airshow, you have to go! She flies a beautiful and inspiring show!

This image is from a 2008 performance of hers at the California International Airshow in Salinas. Beautiful!

Julie’s appearing this weekend at the Travis AFB Air Power Expo – along with the US Air Force Thunderbirds.