Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Scanning Planes

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I got my hands on my flatmate’s scan/copy/fax machine and thought I should try to scan some old photos… but as these things are the scanner is suitable for fax quality – and fax quality only. So I stopped that project after a few scans.

Yet I did scan a few photos. Old photos from 1991 as I easily learned from the dates the camera put on them. We had just been to South Africa and not only did I take photos on Table Mountain:  cute squirrels and photos of the lights in Cape Flats at night – I can still remember being all excited by using the ‘bulb’ setting on the camera and controlling it remotely (via wire of course… the camera I used for that was built in the 1950s).

And on our way back my inner plane geek got the better of me and I took plenty of photos while the planes landed. I just love flying particularly in large jets. A lot of power there, smoothly controlled. And I’m a big fan of the Jumbo jet because it’s just the best looking plane I know. Being a European fanboy otherwise I guess I should like the upcoming A380 better when it’s there – but judging from the pictures it just doesn’t match the 747 in style…

So here you get little Sven’s landing on a flight from Johannesburg to Frankfurt fifteen years ago.

Three photos of the 747 wing while approaching landing

Three more photos of the 747 wing while approaching landing with the flaps fully extended

The airbrakes on the 747 wing coming up after touchdown

Airplane wing porn… great! I just love it and doesn’t it exhibit fantastic technology?

Going through these images is also great from the point of view of reconstructing what happened. To be honest, I didn’t even remember that I was in South Africa in August 1991 at all, but the silly dates that the ‘Data Back’ which my dad got for his Canon T-70 (and which was considered pretty high tech when it was new in the mid 1980s) tell me the date. Seeing on the photos that the sun was just rising and knowing that flights from Jo’burg usually arrived very early in the morning, I guess it’s sometime between 5 and 6 o’clock on those photos.

It is clear – at least to the plane lover’s eye – that this huge wing can only be a Jumbo jet. But obviously it’s not a 747-400 yet (which in 1991 only very few airlines were using anyway). So I guess it’s a 747-300 (although I don’t know how to tell the difference between the 300 and 200 models’ wings). And that makes clear that this photo cannot be from a flight to Cape Town to Jo’burg, say, as it needs to be a long distance flight.

So we got the date, the time and the plane. So what about the location? Tricky one. As I cannot remember that flight and we never consistently used the same airline, but any of Lufthansa, SAA, British Airways, KLM or Sabena, that’s hard to tell. I guess I could have launched Google Earth and studied the surrounding areas of the relevant airports for this, but luckily I found the following two photos as well:

A320 wing during touchdown

Coming after the Jumbo jet, this must be a connection flight back home. Now that’s obviously a plane of the A320 family (the only plane I knew with wingtips at the time). So it couldn’t be KLM or Sabena who usually used smaller planes for their connection flights to Bremen. And I am fairly sure that it isn’t British Airways as their Jo’burg flights depart from Heathrow while those to Bremen depart from Gatwick… which we tried to avoid because of the inconvenience so it could only be SAA or Lufthansa connections via Frankfurt.

Thanks for your attention… on this trip to geeky airplane nostalgia.

November 20, 2006, 0:38

Tagged as photos, travel.


Comment by d.w.: User icon

I’ve definitely become a Boeing fan since starting my current job — I do quite a bit of business travel and my company is actually contributing (in a small way) to the 787 project.

November 21, 2006, 20:11

Comment by ssp: User icon

Don’t get me wrong… generally I’m an Airbus fan. With their planes said to be quieter and using less fuel than the Boeing counterparts (well, that’s what people said 10-15 years ago when I became a fan anyway, things may have changed since). And with that company and its absurd multi-country structure where half planes are flown around Europe all the time actually works (although people start worrying that the A380 doesn’t quite work, it seems).

Yet, I’m also a superficial person. And the Jumbo jet just has the best looks. On the other side of the scale, I think that the 737 is one of the ugliest planes – it looks too small, its jets look too large and they always seem to take too long to take off. Unfortunately the European cheapo airline Ryanair which I like using uses 737s exclusively.

And for some odd reason, I haven’t even used a A340 yet. Somehow the flights to South Africa I took have always been 747s and the flights to the U.S. were yet other planes. But while I love planes, I’m still not the person who’ll pay extra just to fly with a in a ‘more interesting’ plane.

November 21, 2006, 20:47

Comment by d.w.: User icon

Most of my flights are on the rather horrible Northwest Airlines, thanks to them having a hub in Detroit (and, as a result, my frequent flyer miles are tied to them.) They fly 757’s with an impossibly tight seat layout (though that’s no fault of Boeing’s).

November 21, 2006, 21:06

Comment by ssp: User icon

I never gained enough miles with a single airline to actually get anything out of them. But my mum once won loads in some kind of game with KLM – out of which I got a few free flights.

Isn’t Northwest partner airline of KLM? I think they always have those silly double codes on their flights these days.

I find it hard to distinguish the seating quality of different airlines to be honest. None of them is any good, but luckily I’m not old / overweight / tall enough for it to be a problem (yet… fingers crossed!) and I can’t see how a centimetre or two would make a significant difference.

If anything influences my choice, it’s the staff and the airports that are involved. Amsterdam is just the best airport I know, so I prefer going with KLM. Lufthansa stewardesses have a tendency to be unfriendly, so I’m trying to avoid those (which isn’t hard as for some reason using the national airline tends to be the most expensive way to travel).

November 21, 2006, 21:22

Comment by d.w.: User icon

I never paid attention to frequent flyer programs until I started doing enough flying for it to matter. Tammie and I are actually going to “feed the mouse” with the miles I earned this year (the Tokyo trip really helped).

Northwest and KLM (and Alaska Airlines too, helpfully) are part of the same alliance, so flights taken on either airline earn me miles, as long as you can concoct a business reason to get me to Germany :) (not terribly likely, as our staff in Boeblingen are quite capable of handling things on their own.)

I never really had a problem with the seat layout until my trip to Alaska — everyone had parkas/anoraks along with carry-ons, so the cabin really was uncomfortably tight.

November 21, 2006, 22:14

Comment by ssp: User icon

I’ll see what business reasons I can come up with ;) Just had to check where Böblingen is to begin with…

I guess large anoraks don’t help in the cabin. I only had a situation like that once luckily. I was unlucky to get a middle seat in mid-winter ending up between two fat guys reading newspapers. Luckily it was only from Frankfurt to Bremen – which is hardly worth going by plane, we like to call it ballistic flying.

November 21, 2006, 23:49

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