In praise of winter spotting

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 16-12-2014

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Spotting in the sun or on the beach is a bit obvious and easy, don’t you think? One of the greatest challenges for spotters is making the most of winter conditions at airports, such as low light and poor weather.

One of the main reasons people venture out in the winter is a lack of choice – the need to be out around airports and aircraft is greater than the drawbacks of the weather. So how do you make the most of winter conditions when you’re spotting aircraft?

1. Spotting in the winter is an opportunity to photograph and video some spectacular flying. Think crosswinds, go-arounds, aircraft positioned at unusual angles in relation to the runway. Use the opportunity of windy conditions to find a good spot for pointing your camera at aircraft just before touchdown.

By Andreas Hoppe [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andreas Hoppe [GFDL or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Winter means snow! Use a snowy backdrop to add something unsual to your aircraft photographs. It doesn’t happen all that often, so it makes a change to frame airliners with a bit of the white stuff. It’s particularly nice when you have a crisp clear day with bright blue skies, low sun, and lots of fresh snow.

A picture I took from the Holiday Inn Ariel at Heathrow in winter

A picture I took from the Holiday Inn Ariel at Heathrow in winter

3. Spotting hotels come into their own. You don’t have to be outdoors braving the weather. Pick one of the many spotting hotels, position yourself by the window with fresh coffee and room service on order, and watch the action in warmth and safety.

Duxford

4. Make the most of museums! Winter down time is a great chance to catch up with some aviation museums. Most countries have a few great collections, big and small, and lots of historical material to absorb yourself in. Admittedly lots of museums also have aircraft outdoors, but many also have indoor collections to enjoy.

By Advanstra (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Advanstra (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

5. If all else fails, remember that winter in one hemisphere is summer in another. Take advantage of low airfares to make an off-season trip to somewhere warm for a few days spotting in the sun as a nice break from the cold and darkness at home.

Do you venture out in the dark months? What are your winter spotting tips? Leave a comment below.

Fly in a Spitfire!

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 11-12-2014

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VS_Spitfire_T9_G-BMSB_MJ627_9G-P_(6623115903)

This is not the usual topic I cover on here, but I love featuring chances to fly on rare planes and this is certainly one of them!

A company in the UK called Into the Blue, which specialises in flying experiences, is now offering the chance to fly in a two-seat Spitfire aircraft on a 30 minute flight.

Following a change in the CAA rules, you can now fly in this aircraft – which actually saw combat in World War 2, including downing enemy aircraft. It was later converted into a two-seat aircraft, allowing these experience flights to take place. Two-seater Spitfires are incredibly rare. Supermarine did come up with the design for a two-seater version of the Spitfire, but none were ever ordered and only one was ever built. However, following several ‘unofficial’ conversions, Supermarine converted a handful of Mark IX Spitfires into two-seaters, called TR9s after the Second World War.

The aircraft is operated by Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, operating from Biggin Hill airfield to the south of London – the heart of ‘Battle of Britain Country’. You’ll be given a full pre-flight briefing, tour of the heritage hangar, Q&A session with the team, in-flight video recording, debrief, and time to hang around at the venue.

If you’re interested in finding out more, check out Into the Blue’s website here www.intotheblue.co.uk

I’m going to start saving up for this!

Iberia to launch 13 new routes in 2015

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Eastern Europe, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 11-12-2014

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Iberia A321

Iberia and its partner Iberia Express will launch 13 new routes in the summer 2015 season.

The airlines will operate non-stop flights from Madrid to Florence, Naples, Palermo, Catania and Verona in Italy, Manchester and Edinburgh in the UK, Hamburg in Germany, Funchal in Madeira, Portugal, and Budapest in Hungary.

They will also launch non-stop flights from Asturias to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, from Madrid to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and from Madrid to London Gatwick.

In addition the airlines will add 65 weekly flights to 24 existing Spanish, European and long-haul routes

Luis Gallego, Iberia’s Chairman and CEO, commented that “The introduction of additional routes and frequencies in such a competitive short- and medium-haul market is an indication of the effectiveness of our cost-cutting measures, and also of the quality of the new product and services that we offer our customers.”

The new routes and additional frequencies follow the eight destinations launched by Iberia in 2014 (Montevideo, Santo Domingo, Amsterdam, Athens, Hanover, Istanbul, Stockholm and Stuttgart), the capacity increase to Panama City and Santiago in Chile, as well as the summer destinations operated by the airline (St. Petersburg, Ibiza, Dubrovnik and Zagreb)

Ryanair adding Azores base

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Portugal, Western Europe | Posted on 09-12-2014

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Ryanair Marrakech

Ryanair is stretching out into the Atlantic with the announcement of a new base at Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

The base will open on 1 April 2015 (no fool!), with one Boeing  737-800 based initially.

The first routes will be to Lisbon and Porto in mainland Portgual, along with a 1x weekly flight to London Stansted.

It remains to be seen whether this is some stepping stone across the Atlantic or into Africa.

Spotting at Kuala Lumpur KLIA2

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, Malaysia, Spotting Hotels, Spotting Trip Reports | Posted on 06-12-2014

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KLIA 2 gates

Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s dedicated low-cost terminal, KLIA2, was opened in May 2014 and is the world’s largest dedicated low-cost terminal. It can handle up to 45 million passengers per year.

All of the airport’s low-cost airline movements were moved to the terminal, leaving the original buildings to handle full service airlines and the mainline flights of Malaysia Airlines.

Paul Moiser recently visited the airport and got the low down on spotting at KLIA2.

klia2-on-google-map-large

 

Getting to KLIA2

There’s an excellent train service which connects KLIA to KLIA2, and the journey time is only 3 minutes. It costs RM2 which is less than $1 / 50p.

 

Where to spot

KLIA2 has an official spotting area, just like KLIA1. Once you arrive at the KLIA2 train station take the elevator to level 3 departures and follow the signs for the smoking area and food courts. You will come across the outside viewing area next to McDonald’s.

KLIA2 terminal spotting location

There are two sides to the viewing area. Both sides only overlook nine parking gates, so you need visit each side of this level to see all of the aircraft. The larger parking area is the central bay, and aircraft parked here can’t be seen from either end of the viewing areas. Only movements taxiing in and out of this central bay can be seen from the right hand side of this level. As you enter past McDonald’s the viewing area to your right offers the best overall view as you can see movements over at KLIA, however you may need to use SBS or FlightRadar24 to identify these; although any departing traffic off the central runway (32R/14L) are readable.

The viewing area to your left as you enter only gives views of the new third runway and nine parking gates. This runway was quite active while I was there, so that’s why you have to spend time at each end.

It is possible to just stay at the main KLIA’s observation hall as you can see all movements moving about over at KLIA2, but closeup photography will not be possible.

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KLIA 2 spotting hotel

Kuala Lumpur KLIA2 has its own hotel which is reached via a covered ground-level walkway. The hotel is a Tune Hotel and I had a walk over there to check out the rooms to see what the views were like.

Tune Hotel KLIA

As the hotel was busy the only room I could be shown was room 601. From the room you can see all departures off the new runway. No parking gates could be seen and I couldn’t see anything over at KLIA. I could only see movements taxiing in/out to one side of the parking bays, so although the hotel is very cheap at £35 a night, compared to excellent Sama Sama spotting hotel you need (if it’s important to you!) to factor this point in regarding views. Going off the location I really don’t think any other rooms would offer much better than the one I was shown.

The Tune hotel was very nice and modern, and they offer free wifi in all areas. The room I was shown was a double, but they do have twins. Rooms are very small but all have a flat screen TV with air-con, but no tea/coffee making facilities etc.

 

The aircraft photos on this page are from Paul Moiser’s visit. You can find out more about KLIA2 at the official website: www.klia2.info

Lufthansa launching low-cost long-haul subsidiary

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airline News, Asia, Germany, North America, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 05-12-2014

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A350-Lufthansa_2

A new subsidiary will be launched by Lufthansa which will operate long-haul flights at low-cost prices.

The carrier will operate seven of Airbus A330-300s from its base at Cologne/Bonn Airport.

A name has not yet been announced for the carrier, nor a final list of routes. However, it is anticipated that it will fly to destinations in Florida, southern Africa and around the Indian Ocean.

The operation is part of Lufthansa’s plans for a “new Eurowings”, which is being reorganised. The Air Operator’s Certificate of SunExpress will be used for the long-haul carrier, along with crews trained by the Turkish operator (which is jointly owned by Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines).

 

Airbus A350 – already a design classic?

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 03-12-2014

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A350_XWB_-_formation_flight_3

The new Airbus A350XWB was recently certified by both the European and American authorities, marking a major milestone in a type that will certainly come to challenge – or even dominate – the long haul market.

The A350 was first conceived ten years ago, in 2004. Because of its similarities with the A330, which was in its prime at the time, many customers dismissed it as unnecessary. But one key early aspect of the design was in the three letters after its name – XWB – which stood for Extra Wide Body.

This would give it the widest fuselage of any twin long-haul jet, giving airlines the opportunity to add more seating – up to 10 abreast – or to offer passengers more space in the premium cabins. It was naturally a winner with the airlines that consider on-board service and comfort a high priority, with Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways ordering as early as 2006.

1600_1399638164_A350_XWB_water_ingestion_test_Istres___2_

With three different sized variants planned by Airbus, the A350-800, -900 and -1000, there would be a capacity of between 270 and 350 passengers.

Naturally many compare the A350 to the Boeing 787, and I think it’s fair to consider this to be Airbus’ answer to its rival’s latest aircraft. It also incorporates a lot of the techniques and technology of the 787, such as:

  • Composite fuselage and wings (53% of the fuselage)
  • Brand new avionics and cockpit systems unlike most other passenger airliners
  • Improved cabin atmosphere with lower pressurisation altitude to increase comfort for passengers
  • Brand new powerplants
  • Improved aerodynamics to increase range and reduce fuel burn

But there are other aspects which make the A350 a design classic, and unique compared to the 787. First off, its cockpit follows other Airbus models to aid in crew familiarity and the latest technology. It is modelled on that of the A380, with large LCD screens and information systems.

The A350 also features a new undercarriage design to better make use of the new composite wing structure and reduce loading on ground surfaces.

The maximum range of the A350 is another key feature. Like the Boeing, Airbus wanted to offer customers the ability to fly a long distance at affordable costs, due to the lighter structure and improved aerodynamics. The -800 model will fly the furthest, reaching around 8,260 miles, with the -900 and -1000 coming in at just under 8,000 miles. There has even been a -1000LR model touted by Airbus, which would be able to fly non-stop from London to Sydney, but this has not been confirmed yet.

 

Where is the A350 built?

Airbus is building its A350s at its Toulouse Blagnac base. The first flight took place on 14 June 2013, and much of the subsequent testing has taken place from there using five aircraft.

Visitors to Toulouse will be able to see the production line on Airbus Factory Tours, and will soon start seeing a regular stream of new aircraft sat undergoing final modifications and flight testing at the airport.

 

Qatar A350

 

Who will fly the A350?

To date Airbus has received orders for 750 A350s, across all three models. This is already a real success story, with many of the world’s largest carriers opting for the type.

Qatar Airways will be the launch customer for the A350, and one of the test models has already been painted in its colours. It expects to begin flying the type on its Doha – Frankfurt route from January 2015.

A350 XWB AT HONG KONG AIRPORT - ROUTE PROVING TRIP 2

The following airlines have ordered so far:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeroflot
  • Afriqiyah
  • Air Asia X
  • Air Caraibes
  • Air China
  • Air France
  • Asiana
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • China Airlines
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Etihad
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • Iberia
  • Japan Air Lines
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Libyan Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Qatar Airways
  • SAS
  • Singapore Airlines
  • SriLankan
  • TAM
  • TAP Portugal
  • Thai Airways
  • United Airlines
  • US Airways (American Airlines)
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Yemenia
  • + many lease companies

 

1600_1407576872_A350_XWB_sao_paulo

Further reading

Airbus recently put together some extra information on their A350 so that you can find out more about the product and its unique features.

A350 Cabin – Inspired Design – How the aircraft’s cabin differs from other aircraft.

A350 Goes Global – looking at the recent world tour of the third production model.

Bringing the Vision to life – looking back at the first flight and its test pilots.

Top 8 beach spotting locations

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, Australasia, Australia, Caribbean, Cyprus, Eastern Europe, France, North America, Sint Maarten, Spain, Thailand, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 28-11-2014

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Many of the most enjoyable spotting trips are when you can relax in the sun or take photos in a stunning locations. A lot of the world’s airports and runways back onto beaches, which turn out to be great spotting locations.

All of the locations listed here are accessible, public places.

 

1. Phuket, Thailand

By Andy Mitchell (Flickr: Transaero Airlines B747-300SR VP-BGW) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andy Mitchell (Flickr: Transaero Airlines B747-300SR VP-BGW) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Thailand’s holiday island is popular with many airlines arriving from near and far, including both domestic and long-haul airliners. Probably the best location to spot at the airport is Nai Yang Beach running along the western side of the airport, which is accessed by walking around 15 minutes from the road.

Any aircraft approaching runway 09 can be easily photographed, and by finding an area of high ground you can also see over the perimeter fence and photograph aircraft on the ground easily.

 

2. Sydney, Australia

By Advanstra (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Advanstra (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the best spots for photography and plane spotting at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport is The Beach off General Holmes Drive, at the east side of the airport.

You can spot here from both the car park and the beach itself, with aircraft using the runways in view, especially 16R/34L which passes very close to you and can lead to some spectacular photographs.

 

3. St. Maarten, Caribbean

Air France A340-300 landing at St Maarten. (c) Yasu To

Air France A340-300 landing at St Maarten. (c) Yasu To

Not much can be written about Maho Beach that hasn’t already been said. Some of the most stunning aviation photography in recent times has been of aircraft passing incredibly low over the heads of people on this beach, on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. This is especially fun since huge widebody airliners use the airport, and tend to land as early as possible, barely missing the perimeter fence.

The bar on the beach is known to list the arrivals due at the airport each day, meaning you can keep an eye on what’s due as you sip cocktails and soak up the sun.

 

4. Larnaca, Cyprus

Mackenzie Beach lies just off the northern perimeter of Larnaca Airport, with aircraft passing close by before landing or after takeoff. You can reach the beach off Piale Pasa, at the southern end of the city.

 

5. Lanzarote, Canary Islands

When aircraft are arriving on runway 03, the beach running around the southern portion of the airport is an ideal position to spot and photograph aircraft arriving at Lanzarote Arrecife Airport. Due to the position of the sun, this location is best in the morning for photography, and a fence can obstruct some shots of aircraft on the ground. But if you’re just watching the action it is perfect.

The location is reached along Avenida Playa Honda.

 

6. Boston Logan, MA

By James Wang from Boston, Mass, USA (British Airways 747 (Oneworld livery)) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By James Wang from Boston, Mass, USA (British Airways 747 (Oneworld livery)) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There are actually two beaches at Boston Logan Airport which are good for spotting.

Constitution Beach is best for aircraft using runways 22L and 22R, and the taxiways associated with these runways. You can get some good action shots of aircraft arriving and departing. Better in the afternoon and evening for photography. This beach is close to Saratoga Street.

Meanwhile, Yirrel Beach at Coughlin Park is great for aircraft approaching runway 27, and to a lesser degree departing runway 09. This location is good all day for photography. The park and beach are off Shirley Street, with parking nearby.

 

7. Nice, France

Not the best beach for aircraft photography, however the very popular area running the length of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice offers quite interesting views of aircraft departing from the nearby airport. Aircraft need to make an immediate turn to the right following departure, following the sweep of the bay. There are few main airports situated this close to the city they serve.

 

8. New York JFK

 

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge off Cross Bay Blvd is a well known spotting location at New York JFK, alongside Howard Beach, which is good for getting distant after-takeoff shots of heavy airliners as they make a turn.

 

Do you know of any good beach spotting locations? Leave a tip in the comments section below!

Czech Airlines bounces back with new routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eastern Europe, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Spain, Western Europe | Posted on 27-11-2014

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CSA A320

CSA Czech Airlines has announced a bunch of new routes starting next year, following a period of cutting back and introspection over recent years.

The new routes to be opened by the airline are:

  • Prague – Bilbao – A319 (Starts 1 June 2015)
  • Prague – Billund – ATR42 (Starts 29 March 2015)
  • Prague – Bologna – ATR72 (Starts 29 March 2015)
  • Prague – Cork – A319 (Starts 14 May 2015)
  • Prague – Kaliningrad – ATR72 (Starts 29 March 2015)
  • Prague – Kazan – A319 (Starts 29 March 2015)
  • Prague – Oslo – A319 (Starts 30 March 2015)

The airline said:

“After a year of cutbacks, we plan to expand the existing Czech Airlines’ network starting the 2015 summer season. We feel that there is a significant business potential in our new destinations which we would like to use fully. At the same time, we would like to capitalise on Czech Airlines great reputation in the Russian market and, effective April 2015, service a total of nine destinations in Russia,” said Jozef Sinčák, Chairman of Czech Airlines Board of Directors, and added: “We have set the new destinations timetables in a way to best use the market potential and at the same time appeal to both local and transfer passengers as the connections were designed with the customers’ priorities in mind. We will operate all new destinations using the existing free capacity of Czech Airlines and thus improve the fleet use.”

New Eastern Airlines to start flying on 19 December

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, North America, Spotting News, USA | Posted on 26-11-2014

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eastern 737-800

The new Eastern Airlines, which recently took delivery of its first Boeing 737-800, is due to start flying on 19 December from its Miami base.

Initially the airline will operate charter flights, however it has just signed a strategic partnership with Surinam Airways.

“Surinam Airways is delighted to be in a partnership with the new Eastern Air Lines. We believe this is an effective way for our airline to extend its reach by cooperating with Eastern at its Miami base of operations. We look forward to our teams working together to find operational synergies between our two airlines.” Said Ewald Henshuijs, CEO of Surinam Airways.

Eastern’s aircraft wear the classic livery of its predecessor, which went out of business in 1991. It was also based at Miami.