Spotting Review, JFK 3/24/13: The Best of the Rest

I just love it when I can spend a full day down at JFK, and Sunday March 24th was one of those days. I spent a full 10 hours there, so there were a lot of photos on my camera by the time I was done. For the sake of not being too repetitive, I have chosen not to include most of the photos that I have already posted.

I arrived around 8:15 in the morning, a little later than I had planned. The airport was landing on the 22s so I headed to North Woodmere Park to get started. The light was still fantastic at that hour, but the number of arrivals was pretty low. As for the weather, the skies were clear and blue, but the temperatures were a bit cool with a little breeze.  I only stayed for about 30 minutes before I got bored and decided to bail for breakfast and a change of location to shoot departures.

After a quick pitstop, I headed down to Bayswater State Park. Bayswater is one of my favorite places to spot from since it is right on the water with an unobstructed view of JFK from the southeast. I stayed there for a while shooting mostly departures, though I shot a few heavies that were taxiing in and one AA 767 that the controllers snuck in on 31L. I had never shot a 31L arrival from there before, and it proved to be not too bad of a location. After what seemed like a while, though was only a little over half an hour, the anticipated runway change to the 31s for the midday flights came through and I was off again.

Hawaiian A330-200

737 at cruising altitude

I spent most of the remainder of the morning at the Costco location. The arrival traffic was still fairly slow when I arrived, though it soon started to pick up as the mini rush hour of Asian arrivals began, along with the morning flights from destinations such as the Caribbean. In between, I shot a few aircraft flying overhead, including a Hawaiian A330 that had just departed and looped around the airport and a 737 at cruising altitude. Hawaiian is one that I have been trying and failing to shoot either arriving or departing for quite some time now.  While the shot wasn't ideal, it was in good light and gave a unique angle. One thing that I noticed at Costco was that there were wires running between the most of the lightposts in the parking lot that I didn't remember being there in the past. They really got in the way of a lot of the shots until the aircraft was fairly close. I had really only spotted from Costco once before, and this time I noticed that most of the shots I was taking were not at an angle that I really liked.  Too much of a front view and the wires got in the way.  As it became more of a side view, I felt like it was too much of an underneath shot for my tastes. The only shots that I was in love with were the ones from behind of the aircraft floating in for a landing. I spent about 90 minutes there, including 1 quick hop down to Inwood Park for the arriving Korean A380, before I decided to move on.

As noon approached, I decided to move across the street to the Panera location for a change of angle and eventually some lunch. I really like spotting from there, as it gives some very good side view shots as well as a relatively unobstructed view towards the horizon, allowing you to watch the stream of inbound traffic for a fairly good distance.  On a clear day, you can watch aircraft turn on to final approach several miles away from there, often identifying the aircraft type far in advance. I spent most of the afternoon there photographing what had become a fairly steady stream of arrivals. In addition to the normal mix of domestic flights, there was the early batch of European arrivals that leave there in the early morning.

At one point, the manager of the Panera approached me in the parking lot, and I was concerned that I might get chased away. Much to my surprise, he had come over to ask me about a particular aircraft that he had seen a few times the previous week. We chatted for a few minutes and he went on his way. I would find out a little later that he is an avgeek himself and a friend of the group. As he was leaving later, I noticed that his license plate was something that only a true over of aviation could appreciate. I was happy to have chatted with him.

C-17 from McGuire

The highlight of the afternoon for me was probably the arrival of a C-17 from McGuire AFB.  Presumably it was there to collect the support equipment from the Vice President's visit to Long Island earlier in the week.  Eventually, the inevitable change to the 4s or 22s for the evening rush came and I was off again.

With a runway change to arrivals on the 4s, I found myself back at Bayswater.  While it can be a tricky place to shoot from in the evening due to the sun backlighting many shots, I thought I had a fair bit of luck in getting some quality images.  The runway configuration that they were using was a favorite of mine. Arrivals are primarily on 4R (pronounced "four right") with some sent to 4L.  Departures are split between 4L and a shortened length of 31L.  For arrivals, this configuration allows some very close views and the aircraft can be shot virtually all the way down to the moment of touchdown.  For departures, there are great views of the traffic lining up for departure on 4L with the Manhattan skyline in the background.

Fedex MD-11

The evening rush of arrivals into JFK has the potential to provide a fantastic variety of traffic, and this evening didn't disappoint.  First off, was the daily FedEx MD-11 flight.  There is something about an aircraft with three engines (a "three-holer") that has always intrigued me.  Once a very common configuration that formed the backbone of many airlines, nearly all have been relegated to freight duty or sent off to the scrapper.  Advances in technology have allowed more efficient twin-engine aircraft such as the 777 to take over the role formerly filled by the three-holers.

Piaggio P180 Avanti

Next came a Piaggio P180 Avanti, an Italian-built business aircraft with twin turboprops, arranged in a "pusher" configuration where the propellers are mounted to the rear of the wing.  This aircraft has also been called the "plane that flies backwards" given its unique design.  As they fly past, the propellors give off a distinctive buzz instead of the normal hum that one would normally expect from a propellor-driven plane.  This particular aircraft has always been very interesting to me and I was thrilled to finally have the chance to photograph one.


Another arrival that I was happy to see was the Cargolux 747-8F.  While this is not a particularly uncommon aircraft for them to fly in to JFK, there are only a relatively small number of them operating in the world right now.  During a lull in the action, I checked my phone to see what else was coming in that was interesting.  I knew that Qantas was due in, so I located the flight and discovered that the airplane flying it was their special Formula One livery.  As it was starting to get dark, I set that as my stopping point for the evening.  I kept working until Qantas landed and then I was on my way.  As i walked back to my car, I heard the tower clear the C-17 from earlier for takeoff.  It was a 31L departure so I wouldn't have had a good shot anyway.  After a quick bite to eat I headed home.  Listening to as I drove, I heard that they had switched to using the 13s primarily, capping a day in which they used all 4 sets of runways.