Spotting at Minsk National Airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Belarus, Eastern Europe, Spotting Trip Reports | Posted on 29-07-2015

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Minsk Airport Terminal

In May I travelled to Minsk National Airport at the end of an amazing flight on board the last scheduled Tupolev Tu-154 flight in Europe with Belavia (you can read about my trip here).

This was my first time visiting Minsk, so I took the opportunity to check out the spotting situation and make a note of what kind of things you can see.

Minsk National has a single runway, 13/31, with a series of aprons and taxiways along its north eastern side.

To the north is the main passenger terminal, which is in a semi-circular shape with jet bridges off the main building, remote stands at the north end and also opposite to the south.MinskERJ195

Further south is another large apron which was full of Ilyushin IL-76s, Antonov An-12s and a Boeing 747-200 on my visit. All of these were freighter aircraft operating for Ruby Star and TransAviaExport. However, a number of the aircraft on this ramp and parked to the side of it are currently in storage or withdrawn from use.

This made my visit quite interesting, as it’s not often you see 12 IL-76s all parked together these days. In addition, some more Belavia Tu-154s (some retired), including the Government example, were also visible a little further on.

 

 

Airlines and Operators

Naturally the biggest operator at Minsk is Belavia. It currently operates a fleet of Boeing 737-300, -500, -800, CRJ100, 200, and Embraer 175, 195 aircraft.

Other carriers with regular service include Aeroflot, Air China, Austrian Airlines, Etihad Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Turkmenistan Airlines, Ukraine International, and Uzbekistan Airways.

TransAvia and Ruby Star operate most of the cargo flights, but it’s not uncommon to see Turkish Airlines Cargo and other ad-hoc services by other carriers.

Minsk Airport 737s

MinskRubyStarAn12

Spotting at Minsk

Minsk National Airport Map

There are a few places to see aircraft at Minsk, but you should always be discrete as the hobby is not necessarily understood.

From the road leading up to departures level outside the terminal, as well as the open air car park to the north, it’s possible to see aircraft parked on the remote stands (1 on the map)

If you are flying from the airport, once in the departure lounge there are large windows overlooking the apron and the cargo/maintenance area beyond (2 on the map). You’ll also see movements on the runway.

Walking through the departures area, there are a number of gate areas which jut out towards the ramp. Each of these has a slightly different view of the cargo ramps, so it’s useful if a particular aircraft is eluding you.

Because this airport is quite remote (it is literally at the end of the motorway from the city), it is not easy to explore around the airfield without a local guide and car.

There are some withdrawn airliners at the southern end of the airfield, behind the maintenance hangars, including two former Belavia Tu-134s. These are just visible from aircraft taxiing to the runway if you look towards the trees.

MinskIL76s

The mix of active and stored Il-76s at Minsk National, as seen from the departure lounge.

Spotting from the terminal departure lounge at Minsk Airport

Spotting from the terminal departure lounge at Minsk Airport

 

Preserved Airliners

A really nice aspect of Minsk National Airport which was a pleasant surprise is its collection of preserved airliners representing Belarus aviation history. These are lined up alongside the main road just outside the terminal, each with a small information board; you can’t miss them, and it’s easy to wander over and take some pictures. The collection includes:

EW-85581, Tupolev Tu-154B-2, Belavia
EW-76709, Ilyushin IL-76T, TransAvia Export Cargo Airlines
EW-237CD, Antonov An-2R
EW-88202, Yakovlev 40S2, Miskavia
EW-47291, Antonov An-24RV, Gomelavia
CCCP-65036, Tupolev Tu-134A, Aeroflot

Minsk Preserved Tu-154

 

Minsk Preserved Tu-134

Many of these identities are not authentic to the aircraft’s actual history, having been painted as such for the sake of the collection. However, they are all in excellent condition.

 

 

 

Spotting Guide Bookdestin3d

Minsk is just one of over 300 airports to feature in my new World Airports Spotting Guides book. Find out more here: http://www.airportspotting.com/world-airports-spotting-book

The book has detailed spotting locations, maps, spotting hotels, museums and much more.

The New LaGuardia Airport is Unveiled

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, North America, USA | Posted on 28-07-2015

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LaGuardia-New-Terminal

Most travellers will concede that New York’s LaGuardia Airport is no longer fit for purpose. What was once a futuristic and flagship airport is now crowded and bursting at the seams. Vice President Joe Biden even compared it to a “third world country” a year ago.

However, an ambitious plan to completely revitalise and rebuild the airport has been unveiled which will address its key problems and outdated terminals.

The airport site, which is crammed between the busy Grand Central Parkway and the East River, will not change or grow. Nor will its two runways, 04/22 and 13/31, which will continue to operate during the changes.

The plan will see the systematic demolition of LaGuardia’s existing three terminals, B, C and D, and a new single structure built in stages to replace them. This will stretch closer to the Parkway, allowing more space to be created for aircraft to maneuver around their gates, and the addition of new taxiways. Passengers will access some gates via aerial walkways over the aprons and taxiways (and aircraft) below, similar to that at London Gatwick.

Construction on the first phase of the project would begin next year, pending final approval by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the airport. A second phase would be overseen by Delta Air Lines, which has agreed to the plans for rebuilding the terminals as LaGuardia’s dominant operator.

This video shows an interesting view of what the redeveloped airport will look like:

LaGuardia’s terminals were voted the worst in the country by Travel and Leisure magazine in most categories, including check-in, security and cleanliness. However, the new single terminal will feature wide open, bright spaces, new concessions and improvements in all aspects of the passenger experience.

“This is what New Yorkers deserve and have deserved for a long time. And now we’re going to get it,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. He added “It’s slow, it’s dated, it has a terrible front-door entrance way to New York.”

The first remade portions of the airport would open to passengers in 2019. The existing Marine Terminal – a historic monument – will be retained and developed into a high-speed water taxi hub.

At present LaGuardia has some opportunities for spotters on the roads around the airport, and this is likely to still be the case (see my new World Airports Spotting Guides book for tips on spotting at LaGuardia Airport). However, what the new terminal will offer remains to be seen. The old Central Terminal Building was a great place for watching aircraft movements, but is sadly no more.

 

Two new airport bases for Allegiant Air, at Asheville and Cincinnati

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, North America, USA | Posted on 27-07-2015

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Allegiant A320

Allegiant Air will establish two new aircraft bases as it continues to expand its offering across the United States.

The airline will open bases as Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina, and Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Asheville will commence on September 1, 2015, with a single aircraft based. It will initially offer better connections for existing routes to Orlando Sanford, Punta Gorda, and St. Petersburg-Clearwater.

Three Airbus A319s will be based at Cincinnatie from 2016, allowing the airline to grow from its current 11 destinations and offer more frequencies.

“The Greater Cincinnati area has quickly become one of our strongest markets with a demonstrated demand for low-cost vacation travel,” said Jude Bricker, senior vice president of planning, Allegiant Travel Company. “The establishment of an aircraft base at Northern Kentucky International Airport will further increase the efficiency of our operations, while continuing our drive to be Cincinnati’s leading low-fare carrier.”

Allegiant is also expanding elsewhere, with new routes from Memphis to Austin-Bergstrom and St. Petersburg-Clearwater from October.

At present, a mix of Airbus A319/20, Boeing 757 and McDonnell Douglas MD-83/88 equipment is used, mainly from regional airports, but with an increasing focus on primary airports.

St. Helena Airport Takes Shape

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airport News, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 24-07-2015

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StHelenaAirportRunway

The brand new international airport on the island of St. Helena in the south Atlantic Ocean is finally taking shape almost four years since the contract was signed to herald its development.

The British Overseas Territory – one of the most remote islands on earth – has always relied on the sea for communication and transport to the outside world. But with the regular passenger-carrying vessel, the RMS St. Helena, due to be retired next year, the need for an airport became a priority.

St. Helena Airport is now taking shape, with the final concrete poured onto the runway and work now beginning on lighting, navaids and other infrastructure.

Following this, calibration work will be carried out.

It is expected that St. Helena Airport will see its first scheduled flights in Easter 2016. Carriers confirmed so far are Comair, with a Boeing 737 link to Johannesburg, and Atlantic Star Airlines, which is a new carrier planning to operate a Boeing 757 to the island from the UK.StHelenaAirport

Recently the airport unveiled its new logo, and announced that its official IATA identification code would be HLE, and ICAO code FHSH.

The single runway is 1,950m long and has necessitated the infill of a gorge in order to provide enough flat space for its construction. This length will allow Airbus A320 and Boeing 737/757 aircraft, plus the military C-130 Hercules to fly in. But it would preclude any Category D aircraft, such as the Boeing 767.

 

FedEx Keeping the 767 Alive

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, North America, USA | Posted on 22-07-2015

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FedEx 767-300

FedEx Express and Boeing have announced a significant order for 50 767-300F aircraft.

The airline has also taken 50 further options of the type.

Deliveries of these aircraft will begin in 2018 and complete in 2023.

This is a major boost for the type which has all but disappeared from order books, particularly in its passenger configuration. Lately, only cargo deliveries have been taking place, along with development of military variants. The 767 is built at Boeing’s Everett Paine Field production facility.

This new order will keep the type alive for another eight years at least, adding to the existing fleet of 767s FedEx has in service and on order. They will be used to replace older Airbus A300, A310 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft being retired.

Sneak Peak: Airport Spotting Guides World Airports book

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in About The Site, Book Reviews | Posted on 20-07-2015

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World Airports Book

Whilst writing about airports, airlines and spotting on this blog I come across a lot of great information that would help spotters. I have heaps of saved up information which often finds itself into blog posts, or part-completed manuscripts for books. I also do a lot of research when out visiting airports myself.

In the past I’ve published a number of Airport Spotting Guides books, including Europe, Far East & Australasia, and USA.

But recently I’ve been working towards a complete rework and update, figuring it was time to have something new in print for spotters in 2015.

 

What Spotters Are Looking For

I’m a spotter myself, so I have the insider knowledge of what is useful for planning spotting trips and getting out and about at airports. I know what makes certain airports interesting, and what kind of place makes a good spotting location or hotel.

And like everyone else, I prefer to have all of the information available in handy reference format instead of sifting through lots of website and printouts.

But undertaking this kind of project is pretty complex given the hundreds of thousands of airports out there – especially the many new ones built or expanded since my last books were published. Without thousands of pages available for the book, it takes a bit of work to cram in as much useful information about as many interesting airports as possible.

It also means reviewing what was and was not popular about the last books. Some information dates too quickly, or takes up too much space. Some is simply nice but not necessary. Whilst others are essential. Spotters need to know the best places to spot, the best spotting hotels, information on what they’re likely to see and what’s nearby, and any indications on whether they’re going to be welcome or thrown into a police van!

 

What’s In The Book

I’ll be publishing Airport Spotting Guides World Airports in August 2015, and it will be available in both printed and Kindle ebook versions.

Here’s what you’ll find inside, and why I think it will be the most useful spotting guide book yet:

The book is broken up into countries and covers the whole world, rather than just one region like the previous books. The main parts are:

1. Detailed spotting guides

2. Guides to all major airports in each country

3. Spotting hotels and museums

Then within each part I go into more detail and set up all of the information useful for spotting at the airports listed.

  • Detailed spotting guides to the most popular spotting airports, including extended information about spotting at each airport, and a map in many cases.
  • Overviews of all other important commercial airports in each country, with brief description of what you’ll see and where to spot from.
  • Overviews of additional aviation attractions worth visiting, such as storage airports, executive airports and museums.

I can’t wait to get this book into people’s hands. It’s got over 300 airports included and I really believe it’s a concise guide that no plane spotter should be without.

I hope that by reading this blog and reading my previous books you’ll know that the information I collate and research is genuinely useful and up-to-date. Airport Spotting Guides World Airports could end up being the ultimate resource for plane spotting. And it’s only £14.99.

 

How You Can Help

I love being a part of the aviation enthusiast community of spotters, photographers, historians and industry workers who read this blog. It’s a real joy to be able to supply high-quality content and inspiration to help you in your hobby and understanding of the topic.

Now I’d like to ask for your help.

Please spread the word about this new book. It’s going to be a great resource for people like you and hopefully inspire people to take more time for their hobby this year.

I’d love to start off with a bunch of pre-orders for the book, which would really boost it from day one. And I’d love it if you could let other people know about it.

It’s got so much useful information and references for so many great airports out there that you really won’t want to be without it when you’re travelling or planning trips.

Watch out for my post on publication day with all the details, links to retailers. I’ll also be offering an something extra as a reward for helping me out, and the chance to win a special prize. I’ll also share some snippets of the amazing content in the book.

I promise you won’t be disappointed.

So help me out. Go make a preorder now. Here’s the link: Airport Spotting Guides World Airports. Do it today!

(And as a hint, make sure you save the receipt or order confirmation. You’re going to need it!)

Please note, the website below allows you to order using Paypal. But if you’d prefer to order over the phone or pay by another means, please call +44 7980 660446

 

WorldAirports-Ad2

New Let L-410NG aircraft rolled out

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 17-07-2015

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Let410NG

It’s the most successful aircraft to have been developed in the Czech Republic, and it’s still going strong. The Let L-410 first flew in 1969 and since then over 1,100 have been produced.

Now, a completely upgraded version has been produced and is about to start the certification process before an anticipated first delivery in 2017.

The L-410 NG model, which is a substantially upgraded turboprop commuter, inheriting the best of L-410UVP-E20 aircraft, and offering significantly improved characteristics. The aircraft is equipped with advanced avionics and build by modern production technologies.

Thanks to the new wing structure, with integral fuel tank and increased fuel capacity, the L 410 NG has a significantly longer maximum range (2500 km) and endurance (10 hours). The all-metal, high-wing twin turboprop can transport 19 passengers and thanks to its increased maximum payload (2154 kg/4749 lb) and larger front luggage compartment increasing the total luggage compartments volume to 2,98 m3/105,24 cu.ft, the aircraft  can carry up to 400 kg more luggage/cargo. The L 410 NG aircraft is powered by new more powerful GE H85 engines with maximum take-off power 850 HP  and AV-725 propellers. The new engine gearbox enables significant external and internal noise reduction due to lower maximum propeller speed reduced from 2080 to 1950 RPM. Thanks to engine power increase maximal cruise speed will rise to 417 km/hr TAS. The state of art  Glass Cockpit Technology with  the latest avionics from Garmin (G3000) provides the highest level of flight safety and comfort for the crew. L 410 NG with the most spacious fuselage in its category (passenger cabin volume 17,9m3/632 cu.ft) will also offer completely modernized passenger cabin interior and passenger seats with the highest standard of comfort and providing similarly as the  L 410 UVP-E20 model maximum versatility and opportunity to use the aircraft in number of versions for a number of various types of operation. Service life of the aircraft will be also significantly increased (30 000 FH and/or cycles  as minimum).

Let410NG2

The first flight of the prototype is expected shortly from its Kunovice base.

Gol Linhas Aereas new logo and livery

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Brazil, South America | Posted on 16-07-2015

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Gol New Livery

Gol Linhas Aereas, one of the major carriers in Brazil, unveiled a new look logo and livery on 15th July.

The scheme appeared on Boeing 737-800 PR-GXZ, and will gradually be rolled out across the fleet over coming months.

 

The best aviation podcasts to listen to

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting Equipment Reviews, Websites | Posted on 08-07-2015

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AviationPodcasts

I’ve been getting more into podcasts lately as a way to keep up with what’s happening on different topics of interest, including a number of aviation themed examples.

Podcasts are great for listening to whilst on the go, or whilst working at your desk, and often provide news, interviews and interesting topics of discussion.

Here are the best aviation podcasts to listen to at the moment:

 

1. Airplane Geeks Podcast
Link: www.airplanegeeks.com

One of the original and best. Max and the team record a weekly podcast in the USA which includes discussion on the latest civil and military news stories, and then also involves a guest with an aviation background. The podcast usually includes sections from Pieter Johnson and the Plane Crazy Down Under guys (see below), adding an international perspective to the show.

2. Xtended
Link: aviation-xtended.co.uk

Xtended is run by Pieter Johnson, a UK aviation podcaster who is a regular on the Airplane Geeks Podcast. Xtended is billed as Europe’s premier aerospace internet radio programme, and each episode features a range of guest interviews on a variety of aviation topics, from military to civil, general and classic aviation. You’ll often hear from authors about their new books, and lots of people who work in and have a passion for aviation.

3. Airline Pilot Guy
Link: airlinepilotguy.com

Jeff Nielsen, or Capt. Jeff, who is an airline pilot with lots of experience of flying. He publishes his podcast every week and talks about aviation stories that have caught his attention, or that he can shed some light on. It’s informative and great to hear things from the “other side of the cockpit door.”

4. Plane Crazy Down Under
Link: www.planecrazydownunder.com

This is a very entertaining podcast from, as the name suggests, a bunch of guys in Australia. They usually publish a show every month or so, and their goal is to highlight aviation in the Australasia/Pacific region, talking about airlines, military operators, airports, as well as airshows and other events. Each episode is 60-120 minutes in length, and usually includes an interview.

5. Airspeed
Link: airspeedonline.com

Airspeed is an all-round aviation themed podcast run by Stephen Tupper, a lawyer, private pilot, and Civil Air Patrol major. It usually has guests to talk on a particular topic. and appears at least once per week. Well worth a listen.

 

If you have an aviation podcast or video blog, why not leave a comment below with a link and description!

Ryanair enters Israel market

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Eastern Europe, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Middle East, Poland | Posted on 07-07-2015

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Ryanair Marrakech

Ryanair has announced its first flights from Israel, with three new routes planned.

The airline will serve Eilat Ovda Airport from Budapest, Kaunas and Krakow from 5th November 2015 using Boeing 737-800s.

Ovda Airport is a joint civil-military field at the southern tip of the country, and around 35 miles north of Eilat, and acts as a secondary airport for the city. It mainly handles seasonal charter and holiday flights from across Europe and Russia, as well as some domestic routes.