When I visited Sapporo Chitose airport for winter spotting for the first time in February 2014, I knew I had to return. In fact, I was planning to do “snowy Sapporo spotting” every year. Due to one reason or another, that did not happen, but last week, I finally returned there.
I spent four days – from January 29 until February 1 – there together with a couple of other spotters from Japan, the US, Singapore, and Hong Kong. While we got quite a bit of clouds and snow, there was also plenty of sunny moments providing great photo opportunities.
This post covers the first two days of the trip.
Day 1: January 29, 2017
NH55 from HND to CTS: Overflying Snowy Japan
To get to Sapporo, I took ANA flight 55 from Tokyo Haneda at 9AM. Service-wise, the flight was an ordinary Japanese domestic flight.
The views that could be had, however, were extraordinary. Shortly after take-off, great views of Mount Fuji sticking out of the clouds could be had.
Later on, amazing views of snow-covered northern Honshu got me looking out of the window.
Finally, shortly before landing, we were offered a great view of Chitose airport.
Spotting Begins: 19R Approaches
My aircraft parked on time at 10:40AM, and together with three more spotters that were taking the same flight, we met up in the arrivals lobby with the rest of the group. We picked up our rental cars, and headed for a quick sushi lunch before starting spotting.
With the sun shining and runway 19R in use for landings, we headed to a location where approach shots can be taken. Among other aircraft, we were able to catch a China Airlines 747-400 and Hong Kong Airlines A330-200 here. With bellies lit up by the snow reflections, of course!
After about thirty minutes, just as we were waiting for Eva Air 747 to arrive, the runway direction changed.
Quick Transfer to A10
Following a little discussion, we decided to try to make it to “A10″ spot in time for the Eva Air arrival. Short ride, and a 15 minute walk through snow later, we arrived at the fence…
…just as the Eva Air 747 was approaching runway 01R. Luckily, we made it!
Generally, when 01s are in use, 01R is used for landings and 01L for take-offs. From the “A10″ spot you can capture photos not only of aircraft landing on 01R like Eva Air above, but also of aircraft lining up on 01L and taxiing to 01L on taxiway A.
With the sun starting to hide behind clouds, we left the spotting location around 3PM. We went to our hotel to check-in and take a quick rest before heading out for a “yakiniku” dinner and calling it a day.
Day 2: January 30, 2017
Catching the JASDF 747
Besides being a civil airport, Chitose airport is also a Japan Air Self Defense force airbase. While there are some trainer aircraft based there, to most spotters, the pair of JASDF 747-400s will be the biggest draw.
With the retirement of the Jumbos getting closer, we decided to see if the aircraft would depart for a morning training session. Luckily, it did, and while I normally resist taking photos in cloudy weather, this time I had to press the shutter.
A Slow Rest of the Day
As it was cloudy, and the forecast for the rest of the day was not looking any better, we decided to not do any more spotting.
One of the group members went to Otaru, a nice little town close to Sapporo, while the remainder of the group went to Sapporo city. Having visited both of them recently, and being tired, I decided to stay in and around the hotel for the remainder of the day to rest and catch up on some work.
During the remaining two days of the trip, we had some luck with the weather and were able to capture some interesting movements. More about that in the next instalment, though!