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DFW Airport is one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. It’s bigger, even, than the island of Manhattan! DFW has seven runways, a litany of taxiways, five terminals, and probably many partridges and pear trees. One of the busiest runways in the world sits at DFW, runway 17C/35C (17C if landing to the south, or 170 degrees heading, and 35C if landing to the north, or 350 degrees heading).
DFW Airport announced it would be closing its busiest runway, 17C/35C, for repairs in 2018. It would be a $160 million renovation of the runway surface and assorted taxiways. Of note, the new runway would be topped with high-performance asphalt instead of the typical concrete seen almost everywhere else. Today was a big day for DFW Airport as the NOTAM for 17C/35C was lifted and the runway was once again open for departures (landings will happen in the near future). I was on-site with some DFW personnel to capture some great images of the first departure, American 2386 to Miami, a 777-200.
I had a few different cameras with me, my crop-sensor Sony a6500 with a 70-200 f2.8 G Master attached for maximum zoom, my full-frame Sony a7rIII with the 24-70 f2.8 G Master attached for versatility, and my medium format Fuji GFX 50s with the Canon 24mm tilt-shift lens attached for some scene-setting shots.
We wanted to be close to where the jet would actually rotate and take off, which was kind of a guessing game. We saw where the narrowbody jets (A320s, 737s, etc.) were actually rotating off the ground and positioned ourselves roughly in that area near one of the runway crossing points.
We were listening to the chatter between aircraft and DFW Tower when finally (after a brief delay to lift the NOTAM from ATC) we heard “American 2386 heavy cleared for takeoff 35 center”. We had to be prepared for really anything, and what actually happened was completely different than we expected!
We all expected a mid-field takeoff for the huge 777 since they’re heavier than the narrowbodies taking off from the same place. I used the a6500 and 70-200mm at full zoom to capture the Boeing 777-200 jet lined up and preparing for takeoff.
We heard the dull roar of the mighty engines of the 777 as it started to creep down the runway.
But then it started rotating, way down the runway from us!
Our hopes for a shot of the jet taking off just over the runway sign were dashed as the 777 inconsiderately (said in jest, before anyone comments) took off.
I dropped the a6500, ignored the Fuji, grabbed my a7rIII, and got down on a knee to try and salvage a shot. I zoomed out to a super wide composition at 24mm and got close to the runway sign, trying to stay out of the way of the DFW social media staffmember upfield a bit taking video.
Whether it was blind stupid luck or me actually becoming a pretty good photographer, I got the shot. It ended up different than I expected but had an epic feel all the same.
As the jet passed, I grabbed my a6500 again as the 777 continued its climb before an east turn towards Miami. I zoomed in tight and ended up with one of my favorite jet shots ever, I love the mix of the clouds and the reflections bouncing off the jet!
So, to the average airline passenger nothing really changed today. In fact, the passengers aboard AA2386 experienced a delay. Little did they know, however, that they were a small part of history this morning!
Hope you enjoyed this brief look at the craziness and hilarity of airport runway photography!