Transaero Airlines new livery appears

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Eastern Europe, Russia | Posted on 22-05-2015

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Transaero Airlines new livery

Transaero Airlines has taken delivery of a new Boeing 737-800, seen here, which is in the airline’s new livery.

The aircraft, registered EI-RUR, features high speed internet and mobile phone connectivity.

The airline plans to use this new livery and corporate identity for all new aircraft joining the airline’s fleet.  This will be the first step in enhancing Transaero’s corporate identity that has remained unchanged for more than two decades and has received wide recognition both in Russia and abroad following the active development of Transaero Airlines and strengthening of its position in the international transportation market.

 

Virgin plans Boeing 747 retirement

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Heathrow, North America, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 18-05-2015

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Virgin 747

Virgin Atlantic has penciled in the retirement of its Boeing 747 fleet.

Unless further changes occur, the final flight will be VS006 from Miami to London Heathrow on 17 April, 2016, arriving on 18 April at 1130am.

This will be a significant moment for the airline, which began services using a Boeing 747-200B in 1984 and has never been without the jumbo ever since. However, today the airline has a growing number of modern types such as the Airbus A330 and Boeing 787, and is still due to receive Airbus A380 superjumbos at some point (they have been deferred by the airline).

So now’s the chance to get a Virgin 747 flight booked if you haven’t yet!

Tehran after the 707

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Iran, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 16-05-2015

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For years spotters and classic airliner enthusiasts congregated in Tehran to fly on the last commercial passenger examples of the Boeing 707 still in operation.

The airline Saha Air offered the rare chance to take short trips around the country on the iconic aircraft. However, in 2013 it retired the type from active service in favour of ‘newer’ types such as the Airbus A300.

Since then spotting reports from Iran have quietened. No longer were so many people making the pilgrimage every year.

So what is there to draw you to Tehran today?

Tehran-Mehrabad_International_Airport

By Shahram Sharifi (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There are two airports in Tehran – Mehrabad is the domestic airport, which is the more interesting one. Imam Khomeini is the international airport, which handles most flights from other countries.

Despite the outside perception, Iran is still a friendly place and welcoming to visitors and tourists. However, like much of the Middle East the hobby of spotting, photographing and logging aircraft remains misunderstood and suspicious to authorities. So discretion is needed whenever spending time near airports in Iran.

 

Airlines

The main domestic airlines in Iran at present include Ata Airline, Atrak Air, Caspian Airlines, Iran Air, Iran Air Tours, Iran Aseman Airlines, Iranian Naft Airlines, Kish Air, Mahan Air, Meraj Airlines, Qeshm Airlines, Taban Air and Zagros Airlines.

All of these carriers serve Mehrabad Airport on the incredibly busy trunk routes to the main cities in the country.

The largest airline by aircraft fleet and passengers flown is Mahan Air, which recently took delivery of nine second-hand Airbus aircraft to renew its fleet. These included the A340-300 and -600 models. I believe these were formerly flown by Virgin Atlantic.

Iran Air is the national carrier, which splits its flying between both airports. It has ‘modernised’ its fleet with the addition of second-hand Airbus A320s in 2009, and also flies many A300s, A310s and Fokker 100s.

 

Rare Aircraft

With the Boeing 707 gone, which carriers are operating other rare aircraft? Well, unfortunately there aren’t many of note.

The most numerous aircraft types are the Fokker 100, Airbus A300-600, Airbus A320, Airbus A340-300 and ATR 72. However, rarer types in abundance include the McDonnell Douglas MD-82/83 and Airbus A310-300, which are of interest.

The most noteworthy types still in passenger operation here are the Boeing 727, which features in the fleet of Iran Aseman Airlines, the Boeing 747-200 flown by Iran Air, and the Boeing 747-300 which is flown by Mahan Air.

Iran Aseman 727

Mahan_Air_Boeing_747-400_KvW

By Konstantin von Wedelstaedt [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Iran Air recently announced the retirement of its Boeing 747SP fleet (it was the last operator of scheduled services with the type), which it operated on international flights from Imam Khomeini Airport. However it is still flying occasionally on the Kuala Lumpur route and to fill in for other aircraft.

But if you are a spotter looking for rarer aircraft, the military and government in Iran still operate a few classic types from Mehrabad Airport, including the Boeing 707, 747-100 and 747-200. These can usually be seen on the southern and extreme western sides of the airport.

Plus, the Tehran Aerospace Exhibition Centre has an aviation museum a short distance from the airport with preserved 727, 737s, Fokker F-28, FH-227, Douglas C-47, Lockheed TriStar. Sometimes stored airliners can be seen on the taxiways linking the airport to the museum.

 

By Reza2475 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Reza2475 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Resurgence of the MD-80

As Western airlines retire the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series aircraft, airlines in Iran have snapped up a number of examples – no fewer than six of the domestic airlines currently fly variants of the aircraft. I suspect that this will become one of the last strongholds for the type as it fades from existence, so could become a future place for fans of the type (and the DC-9 for that matter) to come and experience it before it’s too late.

 

By Danial Haghgoo [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Danial Haghgoo [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

What happened to Saha Air’s 707s?

Although you can’t fly them any more, Saha Air’s Boeing 707s are still in existence at Mehrabad Airport.

One, EP-SHE, crash landed at the airport in 2005. The remains of the aircraft still sits at the western end of the airport.

Another, EP-SHV is now preserved and used as a cabin trainer at the airline’s headquarters.

The rest are currently stored at the airport or in use for military and government flying.

 

Mehrad Watson - Persian Spotters

Mehrad Watson – Persian Spotters

Spotting at Tehran

Both airports have some opportunities for spotting, but this should be done very discretely without showing cameras, binoculars or poles openly.

Fath Square and the Sa’idi Expressway pass the end of runways 29L/R and is good for photographing aircraft approaching the runways.

Also, if you fly out of the airport you can expect views from the terminal building departure areas.

A good tip is to visit the Mehrabad Airport website (http://mehrabad.airport.ir/) as it shows a timetable of flights and aircraft types for each. This helps in gaining an understanding of the movements of different airlines.

First TAM A350XWB taking shape

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Brazil, Miscellaneous Spotting, South America | Posted on 14-05-2015

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A350_XWB_TAM_02

Airbus has posted this picture of the first A350-900 aircraft destined for TAM in Brasil taking shape on the assembly line in Toulouse.

TAM will be the fourth airline to take delivery of the type, after Qatar Airways, Finnair and Vietnam Airlines.

TAM will be the first airline in the Americas to fly the A350 XWB. Delivery of their first A350 XWB is scheduled for the end of this year. TAM has a total of 27 A350 XWB on order.

 

You can see our list of Airbus A350 routes at this page: http://www.airportspotting.com/airbus-a350-routes-page/

SkyWest retires the Embraer 120

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, North America, USA | Posted on 07-05-2015

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"Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW" by Taurus Photographix on Flickr - Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Embraer_EMB-120ER_Skywest_Airlines_N217SW.jpg#/media/File:Embraer_EMB-120ER_Skywest_Airlines_N217SW.jpg

“Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW” by Taurus Photographix on Flickr – Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

SkyWest Airlines has retired its last Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia aircraft after 28 years of flying the type.

The last flight was UA5165 on 5th May, from Santa Maria to Los Angeles LAX with N567SW on behalf of United Express.

This turboprop type was used extensively in the USA – particularly out of the big hubs with feeder airlines, from its introduction in 1985. However, in recent years its numbers have dwindled, with SkyWest as the last major operator. At the time of writing, only Great Lakes operate it in the USA for passenger services. Others fly cargo conversions still.

Very few other airlines still fly passengers in the Brasilia elsewhere around the world. Interestingly, however, the Wikipedia page for the type states that it’s still possible to order an EMB-120 as a one-off!

Top 10 airports to number crunch at

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, China, Dubai, Eastern Europe, Frankfurt, Germany, Heathrow, Japan, Middle East, North America, Turkey, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 30-04-2015

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If you’re the kind of spotter who likes to number crunch… that is, collect aircraft registration (or tail) numbers… then there are certain airports and spotting locations that are made for you. At these locations you’re likely to see lots of aircraft in a short period of time, and make the most numbers in your book possible.

Whilst everyone reading this will live in a different location and probably already have seen the aircraft of certain airlines, hopefully at least some of the airports will be an inspiration of how to make more inroads into filling your logbooks on future spotting trips.

If you have a particular favourite, or would like to suggest another airport, leave a comment below!

 

1. Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International

 

Atlanta Airport

Atlanta has been for many years the busiest airport in the world. Last year it handled almost 900,000 aircraft movements and, as home to Delta Air Lines, most of them were flown by its aircraft and those of its feeder partners. Southwest Airlines is also a major carrier here, along with a number of interesting international airlines.

Atlanta doesn’t offer any official viewing areas, but for most spotters here the only place to go is the Renaissance Concourse Hotel on the southern perimeter. A room (which will have a balcony) facing the airport on a higher floor will be paradise for plane spotters. It is a bit distant to photograph airliners on anything but the nearest runway, but with good binoculars and the help of flight tracking software you will log hundreds of aircraft registrations each day.

 

2. Dallas Fort Worth

 

Dallas Ft Worth

A huge airport in Texas, with seven runways and a complex of five terminals in the central area. Dallas Fort Worth is the home base of American Airlines, whose fleet of aircraft numbers almost 1,000 including that of regional partner Envoy and the former US Airways fleet. So if you need to add these aircraft to your log books, this airport is a good place to begin as movements are non-stop all day long.

The best place to watch aircraft at Dallas Fort Worth is the official Founders Plaza observation area off Highway 114. You’ll see a lot of aircraft movements from here, but with so many runways it’s hard to catch everything!

You can also do a loop on the Skylink Train monorail which passes all terminals with elevated views over many gate areas.

 

3. Oshkosh Wittman Regional

 

Oshkosh

Oshkosh for most of the year is a quiet regional airport with various general aviation and executive aircraft movements, along with historic aircraft from the interesting EAA Museum on site. However, come here for a week at the end of July each year and you’ll encounter the world’s busiest airport as it plays host to the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Air Show. In recent years up to 15,000 aircraft have flown into the airport over the course of the air show week, with number crunchers filling multiple notebooks and all available time trying to catch everything! One pro tip is to photograph rows of aircraft and note them down later when you have more time, as logging everything simply becomes too demanding.

Most aircraft visiting Oshkosh during the air show are light aircraft, however you will also see many interesting experimental, historic, military and airliner aircraft in attendance to sweeten the log.

 

4. London Heathrow

 

Airbus A380 at Heathrow's Myrtle Avenue Spotting Location

Airbus A380 approaching Heathrow’s Myrtle Avenue Spotting Location

The busiest airport in the United Kingdom, and one of the busiest airports for international flights. Heathrow is great for its mix of airlines arriving from all over the world. Although there are a lot of European and North American carriers, plus British Airways and Virgin Atlantic aircraft, interesting carriers more than make up for it. The airport is also one of the busiest for Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft.

There are a number of places to spot around the perimeter, plus the Renaissance Hotel has great views and even does spotter packages! One of the favourite spotting locations when arrivals are from the east is Myrtle Avenue.

 

5. Dubai International

 

Dubai Airport © Dubai Airports

Having newly taken the crown of the busiest international airport in the world from Heathrow (see above), Dubai continues to offer a mouthwatering mix of aircraft from around the world. True, most movements are by the impressive Emirates Airline, with its huge fleet of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s, but other types from around the Middle East and Asia are fascinating to see and often very rare to the log book.

Spotting can be tricky (and misunderstood) here, so it’s best to find a hotel with a view, such as the excellent Sheraton Deira or the Nojoum Apartments.

 

6. Istanbul Ataturk International

 

Istanbul Spotting

Turkish Airlines’ phenomenal growth over recent years has thrust Istanbul’s two airports into the major leagues. Almost 57 million passengers used the larger Ataturk airport last year, mainly on Turkish Airlines’ flights, but also on a variety of other interesting carriers from around the world. It’s also a great airport for interesting cargo movements, often using some older airliners.

There is a shopping mall alongside one of the runways at Ataturk, with a seating area as part of the food court that overlooks the runway and is close enough to see all movements. Spotters are rarely bothered as long as they buy food and drink. Then, on an evening you can retire to a room at the Radisson Blu hotel, which has rooms overlooking the runway and taxiways.

 

7. Beijing Capital

 

Beijing

With almost 90 million passengers flying through last year, Beijing Capital is teetering on the verge of becoming the busiest in the world. It is certainly the busiest in Asia and China, and an obvious place to make dents into logging aircraft, particularly from the many domestic and regional airlines in China, and the airlines from around the Far East.

Although Capital is due to be superseded by a new airport in the coming years, for the time being it will keep on going, bursting at the seams.

The best place to spot is at the southern end of the airport, where there are a variety of locations just under the approach path to two of the runways. These can be walked to from the terminal, or ask a taxi driver to take you.

 

8. Tokyo Haneda

 

800px-Haneda_Airport_Terminal2_ObservationDeck

Haneda is the busiest airport in Japan, and home to most of the domestic aircraft fleets in the country – namely the ones you are unlikely to see anywhere else in the world… and there are lot of them! In addition to this, the airport is regaining international flights at a good rate after years of living in the shadow of nearby Narita.

The airport has three official observation decks – one on each terminal. These are the best, and easiest, places to spot from to log aircraft. However, the problem with them is that you can’t see all movements from just one deck. So you’ll have to move around a bit. The decks on Terminal 1 and 2 are probably the best.

 

9. Frankfurt Main

 

Frankfurt Terminal 2 Visitors Terrace

Frankfurt is another of Europe’s more interesting airports, and one of the busiest. Like Heathrow it has a really nice mix of international airlines flying in, as well as the fleet of Lufthansa and its partners, plus a variety of charter and low cost airlines.

Spotting at Frankfurt is possible from a few locations, but these are spread out and none is perfect for catching all movements. The observation area on Terminal 2 is good for seeing aircraft on the ground and the main runways. There is also a small viewing area alongside the departure-only runway 18, but you’ll need a taxi or car to get there.

 

10. Van Nuys

 

LosAngeles-VanNuys

Van Nuys Airport is in the north of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley. It doesn’t handle any airline services at present, however it is on of the world’s busiest general aviation airports. It has two parallel runways, and last year handled over 260,000 aircraft movements. General aviation doesn’t just mean light aircraft… Van Nuys also handles a great number of executive movements, with all manner of biz jets.

The best place to spot aircraft at Van Nuys is the dedicated viewing area off Woodley Avenue at the end of Waterman Drive on the eastern side of the airport. You’ll see all runway movements from here.

Kenya Airways phasing out Boeing 777s

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airline News, Kenya | Posted on 28-04-2015

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By Andre Wadman [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andre Wadman [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Kenya Airways will phase out its Boeing 777 fleet by the end of the year, according to this link.

The airline’s 777-200ERs will be retired next month, following the return Nairobi-Dubai-Nairobi flight on 18 May.

Then, on 26 September the 777-300ER fleet will be retired following the Nairobi-London Heathrow-Nairobi flight that day.

Kenya Airways has been increasing its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet, which are increasingly taking over routes formerly flown by he 767s and 777s operated by the airline.

Wizz Air A321 routes revealed

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Belgium, Eastern Europe, Hungary, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 28-04-2015

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Wizz Air

Wizz Air will shortly take delivery of its second aircraft type, the larger Airbus A321, which will complement its large fleet of A320s.

From November 2015, the type will enter service from its Budapest base on the following routes:

  • Budapest – London Luton – Starts 20 November 2015
  • Budapest – Eindhoven – Starts 16 December 2015
  • Budapest – Brussels Charleroi – Starts 16 December 2015
  • Budapest – Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen – Starts 16 December 2015
  • Budapest – Stockholm Skavsta – Starts 26 February 2016
  • Budapest – Tel Aviv – Starts 26 February 2016
  • Budapest – Alicante – Starts 27 February 2016
  • Budapest – Maastricht – Starts 27 February 2016

The airline has 26 Airbus A321s on order.

In other news, Wizz Air has announced its first flights to Iceland, with a twice-weekly link from Gdansk to Reykjavik starting in July.

Vietnam Airlines first Boeing 787 rolled out

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Vietnam | Posted on 22-04-2015

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Vietnam787a

Vietnam787b

The first Boeing 787-9 for Vietnam Airlines has been rolled out of the factory at Everett Paine Field near Seattle.

The airline is due to take delivery of this, the first of 19 of the aircraft on order, in May. It will initially be used on flights between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for crew familiarisation, before commencing international flights to Frankfurt and London Heathrow later in the year (see our Boeing 787 Routes Page)

Vietnam Airlines will also soon take delivery of its first Airbus A350XWB, which was seen at Toulouse in March.

Air New Zealand retiring Boeing 737 in September

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Australasia, New Zealand | Posted on 22-04-2015

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Air New Zealand 737

Air New Zealand is planning to retire the Boeing 737 from its fleet in September 2015.

The airline has a long history of operating the type, with the introduction of the first 737-200 in 1968. Since then it has operated a sizable fleet of 737-300s on domestic and international flights.

Now, according to WorldAirlineNews, the type is to be retired on 6th September, with the final service being NZ557 from Auckland to Christchurch.

This is subject to change, but not change by much as Air New Zealand focuses on its Airbus A320 fleet.