2 July 2015, ©. Leeham Co: Having aircraft as your interest exposes you to thousands of photos of your favorite subject. In general I find exterior photos of airliners a bit dull; there is no variation in their configuration or physics except for the livery of the operator. Some photos are a bit extra though.
Most of these are from photographers that have the luxury of a private photo aircraft to get nice angle aerial shots, such as the official photographers of Boeing and Airbus. There are some really good photos of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner against the very special nature of Washington State. The aircraft’s majestic wingflex makes for really nice shots such as this one.
To take such a photo requires quite some preparation and gear. The aircraft to be photographed has to fly in formation with the photographer aircraft and the photographer has to organize a tail or a side shot somehow. To take the photo while on a crossing heading would be too dangerous unless there is ample altitude separation and I doubt you get such an angle then. I guess they used their Canadair T33 Shooting Star chase aircraft for the photo, a nice platform as the pilot can really maneuver hard to give the photographer the angles. He must have done a hard side change to give the angle for this one.
Airbus use an Aerospatiale (the name for one of the companies that became Airbus) Corvette business jet chase aircraft for most of their aerial photos. Their photos of the A350 usually use the Pyrenees as backdrop, once again the natural scenery of their location. They were out documenting the delivery of the first A350 to their second customer the other day, Vietnam Airlines. One of the shots had a special cut; it focused the bandit mask of the A350.
The reason for the bandit mask has intrigued airline enthusiasts for years (me included). Is it a marketing thing? Does the A350 look funny without it and Airbus decided a makeup was needed?
I got a plausible explanation the other day. The mask is there to facilitate change of cockpit windows. The windows go in from the outside and one has to detach the window surrounds to do it. To avoid having to paint with delicate airline livery colors the window surrounds come in “any color you want as long as it is black.”
A350 vs. 787 or the box that should not be.
The first passenger reviews are now on the net and YouTube for flights with Qatar’s A350. This enables customer experience comparison between Qatar’s 787-8 and their A350-900. In business class the reviews are similar; they use the same seats (B/E Aerospace Diamond in reverse herringbone) and service. In economy they should be similar as well; Qatar uses the same seat, Recaro CL3620, and IFE, Thales TopSeries Avant, for both aircraft. The Dreamliner seat is one inch narrower which gives a bit less comfort but not markedly so.
Yet the reviews are like day and night. Praise for the A350 experience and “avoid if possible” for the 787. This is not because of the missing inch; it is because of an IFE box that should not have been there. At the announcement by Thales of the Avant award by Qatar for 787 and A350 they bragged about the Android based “integrated” IFE with dual core processor, Gigabytes of RAM and a solid state hard disk “totally integrated in each seatback”, i.e. with no IFE box.
Somehow it did not work out for the 787-8. The box is there and occupies about a third of the foot-space on aisle seats, which makes it hard to keep the legs straight. The result is complains about the seat, the pitch (some sources say 31 inch, others 32 as on the A350) and the width of the seat. I have flown four times six hours to Singapore and back in 17 inch economy seats recently (the dreaded 10 abreast Emirates 777 couch) and it was OK. A bit cozy laterally but combine it with a good seat and good pitch and things are fine.
Somehow Qatar got is terribly wrong on the 787 and right on the A350. What difference a box makes.