The main target of a spotting trip to Sapporo I took with a couple of friends last month was catching the Japan Air Self-Defense Force 747 on one of its training flights. And, of course, also getting some sunny shots with snow of some of the regular civil traffic.
Day 1: Off to a Good Start with Some Sun and a Thai 747
Since it was sunny when Yukihiro and I arrived in Sapporo onboard a JAL 777-300, we dropped of our bags in Super Lounge, and then walked over to the international terminal from where it’s just a short walk to the “joint spot.”
Here, one can photograph take-offs from runway 18L on the military side of the field, as well as aircraft taxiing between the international terminal and the civil runways.
First, we photographed the take-off of the JASDF 747 which was departing on a training flight. Well, when I say we, I mean Yukihiro. As for myself, I didn’t realize the aircraft was taking off until it was too late, and I forgot to switch my camera on…
After that, we photographed a couple of aircraft taxiing on the taxiways joining the “international terminal side” and the “domestic terminal side.” The highlight of those was a Thai Airways 747 making its way back to Bangkok.
Day 1: Enjoying JASDF 747’s Missed Approaches
With the Thai 747 and so on photographed, we headed back to the terminal where we met up with one more friend who was arriving from Osaka.
By the time we got into the car and finished lunch, the runway direction was changed and the JASDF 747 was back near the airbase to do some missed approaches. And so, we headed to a location near runway 36R end to try to get some photos.
While some of the photos were made useless by clouds passing in front of the sun and other by heat haze caused by the engines of F-15s that were holding short of the runway, we still managed to get some decent photos of the go arounds.
Between those, we were also able to catch some of the aforementioned F-15s, as well as T-4 trainer aircraft. And, even a pair of Japan Coast Guard DHC-8-300s.
Finally, around 2:30PM, “20-1102” appeared on approach to runway 36R one last time, this time performing a full landing. With the 747’s training done for the day, and some nice photos on our memory cards, we moved on to the next spot.
Day 1: Ending the Day at the ‘A10’ Spot
Since the sun was shining bright and there were still some hours of daylight left after the 747 finished training, we decided to move to the “A10 spot” that I also written about in my last year’s report.
The very first aircraft that we photographed there was a Fuji Dream Airlines ERJ-170 in light blue colors.
During the rest of our stay there, there were also some other domestic departures and arrivals including an Air Do 767 (which luckily taxied to the runway end even though it generally makes an intersection departure) and a Peach A320 in special livery.
We also managed to get some international traffic during with sunshine with a Hawaiian Airlines A330 arriving more than an hour early from Honolulu being the last one.
Unfortunately, around 4:15PM, it became completely cloudy, and so we decided to call it a day, walk back to the car, grab sushi for dinner, and head to our hotel for the night.
Day 2: Snowfall That Paralyzed the Airport
Given Chitose airport’s location and the climate in the area, the operations at the airport are not that easily disrupted by snowfall. However, the second day of our trip happened to be one of the days where the heavy snowfall caused almost all domestic flights (as well as the JASDF 747 training flight) to be cancelled.
In spite of that, after having a quick udon noodle lunch at Marugame Seimen, we headed out to “namakon” spot to try to get some action shots.
Unfortunately, the visibility was too low, and so, it wasn’t easy. Still, it was nice to see the Korean Jumbo Jet landing in heavy snow.
After a some time (mostly spent in the car) at the “namakon” spot, we decided to head into the terminal for a dessert and some night spotting.
While the terminal’s great observation deck is closed during in winter, photos can still be taken through the food court windows. With some of the parking spots being right in front of them, the spot is also great for taking photos of de-icing, especially at night.
Besides taking the above photos, I also tried taking a time-lapse video of some of the aircraft. Below, you can see one of the ANA 777.
Day 3: Some More Snow (and a Bit of Sunshine)
We started the last day of the trip at the “namakon” spot that I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, the weather was uncooperative again (although the sun was peeking out a bit every now and then), and so I stayed most of the time in the car.
Still, I got off every now and then to get some photos.
For lunch, we went to the sushi restaurant where we had dinner on the first day. For lunch, they offer the below for less than five dollars – hard to resist!
After lunch, we went back to “namakon.”
Then, since the sun started coming out more and more, we decided to go to the non-backlit side of the airport. While we could have gone to the “A10” spot, we decided to go to the terminal’s food court instead since a friend from Osaka was flying back in the early evening and didn’t have much time left.
After sending our friend off, Yukihiro and I went back to the “namakon” spot to try to get some sunset photos.
Unfortunately, there was no nice sunset, and so, after a couple of minutes at the spot, we decided to call it a day. We drove the car back to the rental company, and went back to the airport to catch our flight back to Tokyo.
With that, the 2018 winter spotting trip to Sapporo was over. As with the previous years, it was very enjoyable, and I cannot wait to be back in Sapporo again – next for the Chitose Air Festival in summer and then next winter!