It’s a freezing morning out there today with a glistening layer of frost on the cars. We have a forecast for snow later moving in from the south west and despite the still dark outside, I can see the veil of high cloud that precedes the weather front gradually hiding the stars as it moves slowly east. All of which is at odds with the current aircraft traffic pattern – aircraft are using the easterly runway at Heathrow. A quick check on the LHR weather reveals that there is an easterly breeze below the advancing clouds. So the cold air from the east is pushing under the warmer air from the south west, forcing it upwards, which will probably result in precipitation at some stage later today.

Although it was dark when I started writing this, it is still possible to record inbound aircraft that pass over my garden, not least because they form an orderly queue! British Airways G-ZBKR was first sighting for today, inbound from Manama, Bahrain. Following closely behind was Virgin’s G-VNYL from Islamabad, Pakistan. It was slightly lighter when the first unusual flight of the day passed over. This was Azur Air’s Boeing 767, VP-BRA. More of a mystery to this one – inbound from Krasnoyarsk in Russia, it appears to be a positioning flight rather than a passenger service. If you want to see images of these aircraft, open up the Jetphotos website and search for the registration.

The wind direction prevents me from seeing any inbound flights from the US and Canada this morning as they will have a straight-in approach to runway 09. The weather affects what I can see from home quite a bit. Ignoring the localised cloud base which can mean that nothing is visible some days, even global weather can have a significant affect on my spotting. The Polar Jet Stream moves in latitude, driven by changes in heating by the Sun and other factors like Ocean temperature. Commonly during the summer months it is further north and transatlantic traffic comes in via Bovingdon and passes over me on the way to intercepting the glideslope for runway 27. In the last few weeks the Jet Stream has been more to the south and this results in those transatlantic flights taking a southern circuit to approach Heathrow’s runway 27, so I haven’t been getting my early morning United, American and Air Canada flights anyway.

In a previous ‘Watcher’ post I mentioned the disappearance of passenger Boeing 747’s from the skies as airlines cut their costs in the face a huge fall in passenger numbers. Most have gone into storage and I doubt that many will return to the skies though some will be converted to freighters. Long haul passenger flights will almost certainly become exclusively twin-jet operations using the likes of Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 aircraft. It’s not just the Boeing 747 that has been disappearing. The Airbus A380 is also going out of service with most of its operators and production is due to cease this year. However, Emirates are still flying their A380’s into London Heathrow, here’s A6-EOT turning from Lambourne to take up a vector to intercept the glideslope for runway 27…

…I estimate it’s overhead Chigwell – that’s over 10 miles from me and gives some idea of the size of these behemoths of the skies. It’s worth looking up the Airbus A380 on Wikipedia to read about the design concept and how changes in the way airlines operate have killed it. Also slowly disappearing is the Airbus A340 – once a very economic option for long haul, it too has been overtaken by the twin-jet revolution. Lufthansa was the largest operator of the type with 62. Their fleet has shrunk to 24 and the airline is upcycling one of its withdrawn aircraft as aluminium luggage tags! I was lucky enough to see D-AIGV pass high overhead just last Friday, inbound to Frankfurt from San Francisco.

Northolt has been relatively quiet recently but I did get to photo French biz-jet F-HBZA, a Cessna 550 Citation II as it passed overhead…

Anyway, it’s now light outside and it’s time to go feed aviators of the feathered variety 🙂