By Ahmed R. Orgunwall
I switched employers a few months ago, commuting now to San Jose, instead of Mt. View, which means I pass by San Jose (SJC) airport a few times a week. Last week, on a hazy morning, as I was approaching the airport, from the distance I could see an American Airline's 737 approaching and it took me back to the days when I used to drive to SJC to shoot some pictures or just park the car and watch the airplanes land and take off. As always, those were the 'good ole days' when my only worry was getting ready for the next exam and how my next model was going to turn out. Long before the days of being married with children and a mortgage.
That AA 737-800 was approaching and if I squinted my eyes a little bit I could probably make it to be a 767, or even an MD-11, or whatever else my mind could imagine, and be taken back to a different time. It reminded me of the shiny AA planes I used to watch land and takeoff there a long time ago. That night, I decided to go through my photos again, and thus I put together this article to share some of those photos with you.
AA MD-11s were handling the daily flight to Tokyo until getting replaced by the 777-200ER. The MD-11 was beautiful! Shiny with reflections galore, and it had character, unlike the boring twins of today. An engine on the tail, centerline gear, winglets, and huge windows that allowed you to look into the cockpit under the right lighting conditions.The flight from Tokyo would arrive around 9am and head back to Tokyo around 1pm so there was a few hours of downtime. For those few hours, they would tow it to the end of the airport, near the UPS and FedEx cargo facilities. A couple of the photos above show it being towed back to the terminal for the afternoon departure. That flight and a couple to Canada and Mexico were the only international flights out of SJC at that time. There are a lot more international flights now, covering Japan, China, Canada, Mexico, and several European countries.
On the corner of Coleman Ave. and Airport Blvd. was a nice little spot you could walk up to for taking pictures or just watching the action. Reno Air and Southwest had huge operations at SJC at the time. Southwest still does, but Reno Air was bought out by American and most flights were eventually cancelled when they realized they couldn't make any money on those routes. There wasn't too much variety in the number of airlines, but certainly in the number of aircraft types. In addition to all the business jets and private planes, depending on the time and day, you could see some really obscure aircraft. Sadly, many of those types are no longer in operation, but I'm happy to have been able to see them up-close and take a few slides. There's nothing like the sound of jet engines roaring and the smell of kerosene in the air on a clear summer day.
Here are some of my photos from those years. I apoligize for the quality and small size; they are slide scans I had done a few years ago. I'm hoping to someday scan them again at a much higher quality with a modern scanner. I hope you like them and it brings back a few memories.
All photos copyright © Ahmed R. Orgunwall