The first Boeing 747-400 flew in February 1989 – that’s almost 26 years ago!
Although it remained in production until 2009, the early airframes in this penultimate model in the ‘jumbo jet’ line are now starting to look a little long in the tooth. Many have already been retired, scrapped, put in long-term storage, or converted to freighters as passenger carriers look to modern twin-engine long haul replacements.
Today I heard of two Boeing 747-400 examples that are earmarked for preservation in museums. This is incredible news for aircraft enthusiasts, but very scary when I remember watching footage of the first flight and it doesn’t seem that long ago!
Photo: Paul Spijkers
First off, Qantas is to donate VH-OJA – their first 747-400, and the record-holder for the world’s longest ever commercial non-stop flight. Named the City of Canberra, the aircraft flew non-stop from London to Sydney in August 1989 in 20 hours and 9 minutes.
VH-OJA is to be donated to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Illawara Regional Airport, only ten minutes flying time from Sydney for public display – something that will be a sight to behold at the small regional airport. The official handover will take place on 15th March, although the positioning flight may take place earlier.
Secondly, Delta Air Lines is rumoured to have earmarked the first ever Boeing 747-400, N661US, to be preserved at the Delta Flight Museum at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport later this year once its current flying commitments are finished.
Photo: Paul Spijkers
This particular aircraft undertook the initial flight testing during certification for the new type in 1989, prior to entering service with Northwest Airlines. It has flown in Delta colours since the airlines merged in 2008.
The Delta Flight Museum is already home to a number of retired types flown by the airline and Northwest, including a Boeing 757-200, 767-200, Douglas DC-9, part of a L1011 TriStar, and a Douglas DC-3.
Transavia Airlines and Transavia France have introduced a new branding and colour scheme across the company, including its aircraft livery.
It only seems a shot time since their last rebrand, but apparently it’s been ten years!
The first aircraft to wear the new, brighter look is Boeing 737-700 PH-XRX and is already flying.
The new branding was completed by Studio Dumbar, and you can see more examples of the new look on their website. Most notably, the airline is no longer called transavia.com. It’s apparently old news to do that now.
What do you think of the new scheme? Have you see it in real life yet?
Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore” by U.S. Air Force File Photo
The US Government has chosen the Boeing 747-8 for its Air Force One replacement.
The aircraft, which transports the US President and other government staff on trips all over the world, is one of the most famous aircraft in the world. In the past the fleet has consisted of various Boeing 707 variants, some of which are now preserved at different museums.
Presently, two Boeing 747 VC-25s, based on the 747-200B, operate for the president in the instantly recognisable blue, white and grey scheme.
On choosing to keep with the 747 line, Air Force Secretary Deborah James said in a statement: “The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States (that) when fully missionized meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission.”
The exact number of 747-8 aircraft which makes up the Air Force order is not yet known, but some are speculating that it could signal the end of the line for the classic ‘jumbo jet’. Production has been reduced recently to 1.3 aircraft per month as orders have slowed and few airlines are opting for the type over rival twin-jets.
It would be incredibly significant if the new presidential aircraft is the final Boeing 747 built, but we’ll have to wait and see whether this happens.
Presumably the existing Air Force One VC-25s will be retired to museums in due course.
One of the busiest and most diverse airports in America, New York John F Kennedy is not known as one of the easiest to spot at. This is partly down to its complexity and the lack of official locations. But it can be one of the most rewarding airports if you have a good view.
Do you know JFK well? What’s your tip for getting the most out of a spotting visit?
The best tips will make it into a new guide to spotting at JFK to be posted on AirportSpotting.com. We’ll also publish any of your pictures from JFK, be it of a spotting location or of aircraft action.
A new resource we’ve recently added to the site is a list of planned Airbus A350 XWB routes that will be operated by the many different airlines who have ordered it.
The type is now in service with Qatar Airways, and will soon start flying with airlines such as Finnair and Vietnam Airlines.
Like our extremely popular Boeing 787 routes page, our new page will constantly evolve as we hear about new planned routes, training routes, and new airlines taking delivery of the type. It will hopefully be a really useful resource for those planning to see this new aircraft in service, or even to plan a route and fly on it!
SATA International will be rebranded as Azores Airlines this year as it begins taking steps to secure its business as the aviation scene in the island chain heats up.
We reported last month that Ryanair is to set up a base in Ponta Delgada from April 1st, bringing low-cost flights to the Portuguese mainland and further afield for the first time. easyJet is also set to enter the Azores market.
SATA, which offers intra-island services as well as links to Portugal, Europe and North America, will begin a five year scheme to reduce its fleet size and refocus its core business to ensure it remains profitable in the face of increasing competition. Part of this will see the airline focus more on flights to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde islands, Madeira through its SATA Air Acores subsidiary, and to North America.
In 2016 the airline will also establish SATA Serviços, a ground handling company, to be based at the islands’ airports and make money from the new low-cost airlines’ flights.
Part of the airline’s woes have also come from the US Air Force’s decision to remove 500 troops from the joint civil-military airport at Lajes in the Azores. The airline relied upon the presence of the air base here and it will be felt in the local economy once they have gone.
London Heathrow’s long-held crown is about to be passed to a new airport as the old order of things starts to get left behind.
Dubai International Airport is expected to be named the world’s busiest international airport once 2014s statistics are published at the end of January. This is the airport which handles the most passenger traffic from international destinations.
Heathrow has had this title for many years, but has been stagnating as it operates at near 100% capacity, unable to grow any further until more runways and slots are made available.
Yet for Dubai, it can only look up. The existing airport has grown massively alongside hometown Emirates Airline, and has seen a number of expansion projects adding concourses and upgrades to its terminal and runways over recent years. The draw of the region for tourism, commerce and employment has meant many airlines from around the world adding flights to Dubai.
Meanwhile Heathrow has been struggling to cope with demand, with some airlines trading rare landing slots for millions of dollars. Passenger figures have settled with no room to grow, and few chances of adding a new runway in the immediate future as the UK government looks at options.
Although Heathrow will relinquish its ‘busiest international’ title, it is still expected to remain marginally busier than Dubai in total passengers handled.
Dubai is planning much greater growth. The new Dubai World Central (Al Maktoum) airport will eventually take over as the main international airport, with a planned five runways. In addition, Emirates Airlines’ growth continues with many more Airbus A380s and other widebody aircraft scheduled to join the fleet in the near future.
Airbus has successfully flown the first A330 aircraft with the increased 242 tonne maximum take-off weight (MTOW) at Toulouse Blagnac.
Didier Evrard, Airbus Executive Vice President Head of Programmes said: “I congratulate the whole team in charge of the A330 242 tonnes weight variant for making this day happen ahead of schedule. We are on track to deliver this new higher weight variant in 2015 to launch customer Delta Air Lines, who will also be the launch customer for the A330neo.”
The A330 242 tonne MTOW is the platform for the future A330neo and is concrete example of Airbus’ incremental innovation strategy. The newest enhancement offers more capability at lower operating cost with a range extended by up to 500 nautical miles and up to two percent reduced fuel consumption while also benefiting from operational reliability of above 99 percent. The 242 tonne MTOW is capable of flying missions up to 15 hours.
Los Angeles is among the largest and most populous cities and metropolitan areas in the United States, as well as a major tourist draw and transport hub.
Its huge 469 square miles and extended Los Angeles Basin is home to a great number of airports and airfields, making its skies one of the most complex and busy air traffic regions in the world.
A spotting trip to Los Angeles can be hugely rewarding for aviation enthusiasts and, whilst Los Angeles International itself is a great draw, spending time exploring the other airports is very much recommended.
This report covers the basics and essentials of spotting in Los Angeles, plus some ideas for trips further afield.
Airports with airline service
The main airports in Los Angeles are:
Burbank Bob Hope
Los Angeles International
Santa Ana John Wayne
Los Angeles International (LAX)
By Alan Wilson (Flickr: LAX International Line-up #2) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Most travellers, especially from overseas, will arrive at Los Angeles International (commonly known as LAX). Situated at the western side of the city, bordered on one side by the Pacific Ocean, it is an airport with four runways, nine terminals, and handling well over 60 million passengers per year.
LAX is a hub for many airlines. In terms of movements, the most prominent are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Qantas, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin America.
Many of the world’s large airlines fly to this airport, arriving in waves from Europe or Asia. Most international airlines use the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which has recently been extended, although some share the other terminals.
Cargo is also important for LAX, with many daily freighter flights. These use facilities and aprons on the southern side of the airfield.
Where to spot at Los Angeles LAX
There are a few of spotting locations at Los Angeles International:
Imperial Hill Jim Clutter Park
Situated on the south side of the airport off Imperial Highway, this hill overlooks LAX from a height which offers unobstructed photography of aircraft, and the ability to log all movements on the south side with good binoculars. Movements on the northern runways can be read with a pole. The park features benches and the shade of trees, and a number of food concessions are located close by.
In & Out Burger
This fast food restaurant at Sepulveda Blvd and 92nd Street has gained a reputation amongst spotters due to its position under the approach to runways 24L/R. From the car park, this is a fantastic location for photographs; however, viewing aircraft on the ground is nearly impossible.
Tom Bradley Terminal Parking
The top level of the parking garage has views over much of the action, particularly aircraft on the north side. Departures on the southern runways are also visible.
Formerly the airport at which McDonnell Douglas constructed many of its great airliners, and still a production and maintenance base for C-17 military transports. Long Beach, situated at the south of the Los Angeles area, is a hub for JetBlue Airways and has some other flights.
You can spot at Long Beach from the café and terrace inside the terminal. There’s also a small observation area at the Rainbow Air Academy, just down Kilroy Airport Way from DeVry University. It gives views of the C-17 ramp.
Situated to the north of the city, closer to Hollywood. Burbank has two runways and is a hub for Southwest Airlines, with additional services by Alaska Airlines, Delta Connection, JetBlue Airways, United Express and US Airways Express. The airport is quite hemmed in by the surrounding roads and commercial areas.
Spotting at Burbank is best from the top floor of the car park outside the terminal, from where all movements can be seen.
Ontario Airport is one of the main Los Angeles airports, and handles over 6 million passengers per year, but is quite restricted on growth by its surroundings. Although it has two parallel runways, they are situated very close together.
There are three passenger terminals, with Southwest Airlines being the most prominent airline although other major US carriers all have a presence. UPS also has a strong cargo presence at the airport.
Spotting at Ontario Airport is more difficult as there are no obvious locations. However, the best views can be had on the southern perimeter near the UPS ramp, were views of aircraft approaching the runways can be had from the road.
The closest airport to Disneyland, and named after the famous cowboy actor who lived nearby. Santa Ana is in southern Los Angeles’ Orange County and has two short runways and a cramped terminal. It is also a hub for Southwest Airlines, with nationwide links via other US carriers. Santa Ana is also a very busy general aviation airfield, with hundreds of based aircraft.
Spotting at Santa Ana is quite difficult. The best place is to find Airport Loop Drive, one the western side of the airport behind the many GA hangars, and park up. You can then walk to see aircraft arriving from the north.
In addition to the airports with airline traffic, a number of other airports are worth checking out if you are into executive aircraft and biz jets, and general aviation aircraft. These include:
Santa Monica Municipal
Torrance Zamperini Field
Santa Monica Municipal (SMO)
This historic airfield is hemmed in on all sides by the city. It is here that many Douglas propliners were built. It is very busy with executive and light aircraft movements. However, local residents have been pushing to have the airport closed for many years and the decision is still being considered.
Spotting at Santa Monica is possible from the official viewing deck on the administration building on the south side of the airport, with good all round views and photography. There is a preserved Douglas DC-3 alongside. Clover park on the north side is also good for viewing through the fence.
Be sure to check out the Museum of Flying at Santa Monica Airport.
This is one of the busiest general aviation airports in California. It’s around 10 miles south of LAX. Approximately 500 light aircraft are based here at any time, and the two runways are often busy. The Western Museum of Flight is also based here, albeit quite small. A walk along Airport Drive should yield many of the aircraft parked under the low hangars, and a tour of Robinson Helicopters’ factory is also possible.
A few miles to the west of Burbank Airport in the San Fernando Valley is Van Nuys, a busy executive and general aviation airport. It has two runways, and sees well over a thousand movements per day. It is also quite open to aviation enthusiasts.
Spotting at Van Nuys Airport is best from the official viewing area at Waterman Drive in the north east corner of the airfield. This small car park is nestled next to the runways, taxiways and a helicopter parking ramp. You can get close views of all the action, with photography through the fence. ATC is broadcast here too.
Driving around the perimeter will uncover a number of other vantage points from which aircraft parked at the various ramps and hangars can be logged. You can also spot from the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant on Raymer Street.
KLM is to begin its first flights to Ireland in May when it commences a new Belfast service.
George Best Belfast City Airport is the only airport in the UK or Ireland included in expansion plans announced today by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines who will commence a daily service to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport from May 2015 providing greater access to global destinations through KLM’s extensive network.
Belfast City Airport’s Commercial and Marketing Director, Katy Best, said: “Attracting an airline such as KLM to Northern Ireland, is a major win for the airport, tourism within the region and local businesses who will benefit from KLM’s worldwide network.”
The airport, situated in Belfast’s docklands, competes against the larger Belfast International Airport 18 miles to the west. Attracting an airline such as KLM is a majour coup and will no doubt attract a lot of business passenger to the city, and a lot of outbound travellers onto KLM’s worldwide network.