Spotters were thrilled at the prospect of rare 01R arrivals
San Francisco International Airport is a spotters paradise. On most days, the wind blows from the northeast. Due to the runway configuration, jets arrive in close parallel on the ’28s’–both runway 28L and 28R while aircraft depart on a mix of the 28’s and runway 01L and 01R. Even on a typical day, the configuration makes for some exciting spotting and beautiful photos from Bayfront Park.
Occasionally when a weather system passes through the area, the flow is reversed where aircraft arrive on the 10’s with some departures from runway 19L and 19R. This means that large aircraft depart directly towards the hills just to the west of the airport. Departures on 19L and 19R only happen a few times a year. It is a rare treat. If you look on YouTube, you’ll see some exciting departure videos from the ’19’s’ including this one by WColby below.
The Holy Grail of Spotting at SFO Happened Today
One of the more rare events in all of aviation spotting happened again on Feb 9, 2020. Due to a strong storm that passed through the Bay area, winds were gusting out of the north (010 heading) at 30 knots gusting to 36 knots around 10am Pacific time today. With no ceiling and great visibility, that meant that the airport switched to arrivals on 01R.
For a period of about two hours, all arrivals took place on the rarely used arrival runway. Later aircraft used a mix of 01R and the 28’s for arrival as the winds shifted slightly and slowly subsided. Arrivals to this runway are challenging. Aircraft on approach align for a visual with the terrain from the hills sloping downward towards the runway. While it makes for great spotting, it is a pain for travelers. Since only a single arrival runway was in use for arrivals, it meant that the FAA implemented a flow control program that led to delays. Delays this afternoon were averaging over an hour on average. While we haven’t seen any videos posted yet from today’s arrivals (we’ll update this story when we do), here are a couple of videos from the last time that a significant number of aircraft arrived on 01R, way back in late 2014.
Night spotting of arrivals on 01R, thanks to our friend HorizontalRain
Awesome 30 minute compilation from 2014 by bayViation yay
Bonus: Low Swiss A340 evening arrival back in 2014 by bayViation yay