PHXSpotters visit Los Angeles (LAX)

By: Category: Road tripsSpottingUncategorized


The spotting trip started like any other trip. An Idea, someone thought it would be a great idea for the group to head out to Los Angles (LAX) for the weekend. That is how this idea turned out to be the best spotters trip I have been involved with. We started a post in our forums and the next thing I knew there were members already announcing that they wanted to go. So let the planning begin; now it’s not the easiest thing to do. So day one, Jason Bong and Peter Van dyke and Jason Knapfel head down on Thursday morning on the first flight out to LAX. This was kind of special me since this was my first trip on a 757-200. I got to sit up front in 6C. I tried to get bumped to first class but that section was full. While boarding the Aircraft, I got to go up and talk with the flight crew. This would be the last flight for the Captain; he was going to be transiting to the 767.

While taxing to the active runway I looked out the window and noticed that I must have chosen the wrong seat. The window seemed to be dirty and had several scratches which did not provide me with the best viewing for photos. So I had to pass on the In-flight photos. So the Captain make the over head announcement that we are beginning our decent in LAX. I look out the window and it goes from being sunny and clear to a blanket of white clouds. Oh this can’t be good for us. This comment was pertaining from our last visit to LAX. Overcast throughout the trip. We get outside, and the weather is pretty discouraging. The cloud cover was low and thick. We caught the Rental car bus and headed on our way to pick up the car. I needed a car that would fit 5 members for the trip. I am not sure why I and Peter picked the biggest and fastest car they had in the parking lot. A 2011 Dodge charge, this is sure not going to be easy driving in the LAX area. We didn’t care it was cool looking. An inch longer and I am sure we were going to need a permit to drive a boat on the road.

So we head out to Imperial Hill to hang out for a little while. We wanted to catch some vapor shots from the departing aircraft. After about a hour we decided to head to the Flight path museum. We were introduced to a couple of the volunteers there. Unsure of the volunteers name, but she asked if we wanted to go on a FOD walk out on the ramp. Oh course we had to say yes. So she walked us out to the ramp and got an opportunity to catch the departures of some heavies. We got to watch the Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-800. We were hoping it would be the Hong Kong trader. But it was just a regular themed -800. The volunteer was very knowledgeable of her aircraft. She was a retired Flight Attendant for TWA. We got to hang out on the ramp for about 30-40 minutes before she had to head back in. We were happy with the photos that we got and headed back to the Museum. If your ever in the neighborhood of the Flight Museum. You should stop by and say hello. They are a great group of individuals and are very knowledgeable of the LAX departures and arrival schedules.

After that we decided to head to In&Out to try to catch the KLM MD-11. That’s when we caught up with Jason Knapfel. We rolled the dice and decided that we could get a better view of the KLM from Proud Bird Restaurant. So we jump back into the boat and head over there. Peter Van Dyke got lucky; we could see the 3-holer making its approach to 24R.

That’s when the cloud gods open about a 4 minute window when the sun came through the clouds. We met up with Peter Nickerson who just flew in from Canada to meet up with us for this spotting trip. We met at Terminal 3 P3 garage top level. Set up our tri-pods and got some great images of Singapore Airlines being pulled to the gate. So after about 4 hours on parked at the terminal and the last push of the Qantas 380. We decided it was time to get to our hotel. The funny thing is, we are all dead tired, but we have enough time to edit a few photos and get a nice refreshing nightcap.
Early Friday morning our new member coordinator Mr. Patel flew into LAX via Delta. Met up with us at the Hotel, the marine layer is supposed to clear up around 2 pm. So we rescheduled our tour over LAX till 2pm. Hopefully the weather was going to clear up so that we can take our tour over LAX. So we hung out at Imperial hill for a couple hours. We met a father and son team of Tail Spotters. It was real nice to meet a father and son that had the same passion for aviation. You just do not see that anymore. Well at least I have never seen that. Well I am off, Billy Ellison just text and said he is at the gate and needs to be picked up from the Airport. When I met Billy at the terminals, I notice that the weather is clearing up nicely. I believe we are going to be good for our tour with Star Helicopters. We need to head over to Hawthorne Municipal Airport, just five minutes from LAX. When we get there, the crew is standing by for our arrival. We get our safety briefing and then our Tour Guide/Pilot is Vince. Peter Van Dyke, Mr. Patel and I get inside the R-44. We wait about 3 minutes while Vince goes through the checklist. Before we all known it the pilot is calling LAX tower for instructions.
LAX is broken into 5 Zones, Zone 3-4 are the south side of the Airport. This includes runway 25R-25L. Zones 1-2 are the North Side, which are 24L and 24R. Zone 5 is the transition between North and south. The minimal altitude for zone 5 is 1500ft; the other 4 zones are 800ft. Every time we wanted to changes zones, the pilot had to call the tower for permission. After our one hour was over we headed back to the base to refuel and pick up Peter Nickerson. Then we went right back up for another 1.5 hour tour. Vince our pilot was very accommodating to everything we wanted. We asked for certain shots and he did his best; the wind was a huge factor in what shots we could get. He would try and hover and with the wind behind us, it made it difficult to maintain the location we are holding for.
I just want to take a minute and express to the crew of Star Helicopters how happy you made us. Your company is very professional. I cannot express how thankful we are. If you are an Aviation Photographer then this is a must do. Please check out this company:    Be sure to mention their plane spotters tour.
After our tour we headed back to the Airport to pick up Josh Akbar and then head back over to In&Out for some lunch. You can’t go spotting at LAX without eating at In&Out. So after some awesome burgers and animal fries we headed over to Westchester Parkway to get some arrivals shots with sun hitting our back. Then while the group was shooting from the bridge, I headed back to pick up Jared from the airport. He was lucky enough to jump seat with Southwest Airlines. Although he forgot his camera in his back he grabbed a great shot with his camera phone. Back to Westchester, and that’s when the marine layer decided to roll back into town. We lost our light, and felt this was a good time to go check into out ghetto hotel, right next to a churches chicken. After getting out of the car I had a craving from some chicken wings. I believe we heard a couple guns shots in the back ground. With the clouds rolling in and the light was just about an imagination. The guys went in the back alley way behind the hotel and were getting some outstanding vapor trails coming of the American Airlines 737 with winglets. So after our ghetto spotting, we decided to head back to the Airport for some sunset shots. We must have been a minute or two late because the sun had already set and there was not chance for silhouette shots now.

Some of the guys that were hungry wanted to eat since they didn’t eat earlier. We went to Magic Johnson TGIF and had a nice sit down and were able to rest our feet and our shutter buttons. After that we headed back to the parking terminals and grabbed some more outstanding night shots. So after about 2 hours there, there were no push backs till 1-2 am. We all decided to call it a night. Getting back to the hotel everyone decided to hook up their laptops and do some editing. Saturday morning is soon upon us and Josh buys us donuts at the Lucky Donuts at the bottom of the hill. We hung out there for about an hour and then headed to Proud Bird Restaurant. Do to family illness I had to cut my trip short. So thankfully Ken Chung was there to save the day. I am sorry I did not get to meet up with Kory. Looking at the shots they are posting on the forums looks like the weather turned out good for them.






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