Transaero Tiger 747 logojet revealed

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Eastern Europe, Russia | Posted on 23-06-2015

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Transaero Airlines has painted one of its Boeing 747-400s in a striking tiger motif to promote the Amur Tiger Centre and promote the environmental and conservation issues surrounding rare species.

The Amur tiger has been chosen to symbolize the project as these subspecies rank among the biggest living cats and the most endangered big cats in the world. According to the surveys of 2015, the population of Amur tigers in Russia has stabilized to reach 510-540 individuals, and started to  increase sustainably. In the coming decade, the fate of Amur tigers and the wildlife in general will depend in significant part upon concerted actions by the international community.

The aircraft which has been painted is EI-XLN, which can be found on high density domestic and international routes from Moscow.

Belavia Tu-154 flight video

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Belarus, Eastern Europe, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting Trip Reports, Spotting Videos, Switzerland, Western Europe | Posted on 16-06-2015

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At the end of May I was on board Belavia’s Tupolev Tu-154 EW-85748 on what was billed as the final regular scheduled service of the type in western Europe. The flight was from Geneva to Minsk, and you can read the report here.

I’ve put together this video of the flight. I hope you enjoy the sound of those engines!

The final Tupolev TU-154 scheduled flight in Europe – trip report

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Belarus, Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS, Spotting Trip Reports, Switzerland, Western Europe | Posted on 01-06-2015

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TU154 last scheduled flight

A few days ago I made the journey to Geneva in Switzerland to join a special flight which would be a first for me, but evidently a last for Europe.

Belavia, the national airline of Belarus, are the last European carrier to operate the Tupolev TU-154 in scheduled service and had made a decision to cease flying the type on such services in favour of its modern equipment, such as the Boeing 737 and Embraer 175/195 which are much more suited to modern travelers, unlike the Russian relics that were so dominant until the early 2000s.

Whilst Belavia doesn’t usually operate its TU-154s to Geneva, or on many scheduled services for that matter, Friday 29th May had been chosen as the symbolic last flight where it would substitute the smoking tri-jet in place of the usual CRJ or EMB-175 equipment.

I checked in at 9am, with most of the passengers clearly there for the event, having booked (like me) through the specialist tour agency Merlintour, which has organised three previous trips to Belarus for oldjet fans to experience flights on old Russian equipment. Arriving at the gate in one of Geneva’s satellites, around 90% of the crowd around me waiting for boarding to be called had cameras around their necks and were chatting excitedly about the upcoming flight; a few regular passengers, clearly not expecting this, looked on bemused.

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Eventually boarding was initiated. Our aircraft was parked at a remote stand and we were taken in two buses. Once there, passengers were allowed off ten at a time in order to give an opportunity to take some photos without crowding the ramp. The captain was stood underneath the nose, looking smart (and hot; it was 28 degrees out) in his full uniform, posing for selfies with anyone who asked.

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This was a first for me. I’d never flown a TU-154, or any Russian jet, before. Our aircraft was EW-85748. It sat glistening in the sun with mountains as a backdrop. Although we all think of this classic jet as old, it was in fact built in 1994 and was younger than the Lufthansa Boeing 737-500 that taxied past as we took photos. But the technology, design and style was definitely old and, clambering aboard, the cabin felt like something from a bygone age. It was split into two sections, with old-fashioned designs on the walls, seats that didn’t look like they could withstand much, and the smell of a museum piece.

TU-154 cabin

Because it took so long to board, we missed our departure slot. We sat for over an hour, with no air conditioning and a general hum from the APU that was louder than most modern jets at full thrust. Most agreed that this was not a problem, and any extra time on board was welcome.

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We eventually taxied off under a water cannon salute by the fire service, and performed a sprightly, yet shallow, takeoff towards France. The noise was immense and the aircraft seemed to scream as she took flight. Soon we commenced a wide turn back over Lake Geneva, with those on the starboard side treated to fantastic views over Mont Blanc and the Alps. From my port-side window seat I had a classic view over the wing, which seemed more flexible in flight than it looked when on the ground.

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During the flight the aisle became crowded. Passengers wanted to mingle and chat, and to have a look at the toilets and the view from the last window, which looked out on the engines. There were also TV crews from Belarussian stations interviewing the crew and passengers. The crew performed their duties as well as can be expected considering passengers were rarely seated, but as it came to the meal and drinks service we were told fairly sternly to sit down and shut up (I paraphrase), after which everyone had the choice of chicken or beef with rice, along with some sliced cucumber and a dry bun. Hardly nouvelle cuisine, but I was famished.

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Drinks came afterwards – some kind of Russian Champagne knock-off, and brown water masquerading as coffee. We didn’t mind.

The flight took around 2 hours and 40 minutes, passing over Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Belarus. The engines whined down around 20 minutes before landing, and we made our way around the south of Minsk. The gear was deployed quite a way out, evidently to help slow the beast down. Landing was on runway 31, and was as smooth as can be, but again the engines went into a screaming frenzy as reverse thrust was deployed.

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A slow taxi past the modern terminal took us to a remote stand where, again, fire tenders were waiting to create an arch in salute to the last flight. My first and second water cannon salutes in one day! Outside, more TV crews were on the ramp to capture the moment.

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Following a brief ramp tour, Belavia’s Commercial Director, Technical Director, and the pilot from our flight, took the opportunity to present the airline’s history, and future vision, and talk about today’s flight. It was confirmed that as more new aircraft join the fleet, the three remaining TU-154s would be retired, likely by September 2016. Between now and then, they will operate only charters, such as taking mining groups to Siberia, or holidaymakers to Bulgaria.

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The flight was definitely over too quick, but a real experience. The atmosphere on board was fun and both the crews and organisers from Merlintour were completely understanding of, and prepared for, what a bunch of aviation enthusiasts would want – namely lots of opportunities for taking pictures, videos, and clambering about all over the aircraft. I think it’s great that a carrier like Belavia would embrace such an opportunity when they could simply want to talk about their new aircraft and quietly put away their old ones.

 

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.

 

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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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.

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.

Maribor Airport flying passengers again

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Eastern Europe, Slovenia, Spotting News | Posted on 26-03-2015

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Maribor Airport is to gain passenger services again.

The small Slovenian airport in the east of the country has a single runway and small, modern terminal, and is mainly used as a pilot training airfield.

In the past the airport was briefly served by Ryanair for a few months, and even further back (before the break up of Yugoslavia), it was on the network of Jat Airways.

Now, Maribor is to gain a new scheduled service to London Southend from national carrier Adria Airways, operated by a mixture of CRJ and Airbus A319 aircraft.

The airport will also see some charter flights this summer to Greece and Turkey, operated by Aegean Airlines and Freebird respectively.

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Interestingly the airport now boasts a ‘Bar and Observation Deck’ within its terminal, which presumably offers views across the ramp and runway. If you’ve visited, please leave a comment below telling us what the views are like!

For those who hunt stored and preserved airliners, Maribor has a McDonnell Douglas MD-82, S5-ACC, preserved on the opposite side of the runway to the terminal. It is occasionally open for visits by school groups.

CSA to open Stuttgart focus city

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 26-02-2015

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CSA A320

CSA Czech Airlines is slowly emerging from its self-imposed retreat by announcing more expansion and route updates.

Earlier this month the airline announced its return to the UK with a new twice-weekly link to Liverpool from Prague starting on 4th June.

Now, it has announced the inauguration of a focus city at Stuttgart Airport which will commence in May.

A 3x weekly ATR42-500 route from Prague to Stuttgart had already been announced, starting 26th May. But now, on the same day, the airline has said it will start flights from Stuttgart to Bologna, Geneva and Marseilles (via Geneva). All routes will use the ATR42 aircraft.

Ilyushin IL-96 to continue, and other common Russian types

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Eastern Europe, Russia, Spotting News | Posted on 23-02-2015

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By Dmitriy Pichugin [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 Dmitriy Pichugin [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

The Russian government has thrown a lifeline to the Ilyushin IL-96 – a type that has all but disappeared since Aeroflot retired its fleet in favour of western wide-body types recently.

Fourteen examples are expected to be taken over the coming decade, with the majority being new-build aircraft from the production factory at Voronezh.

The remaining examples will be converted from existing IL-96-400T freighter aircraft already in service or storage. One example, RA-96104, was recently converted into a IL-96-400VPU used for aerial command and control missions. Two aircraft will also be destined for use as presidential transports. Four older (and smaller) IL-96-300s are already used for this purpose and may be retired as a result.

With this news in mind, here’s a look at some other Russian types which have not yet succumbed to the dominance of western aircraft types:

Tupolev Tu-204/214

By Sergey Riabsev [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 Sergey Riabsev [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Although it made its debut in 1990, the Tu-204 has only seen 76 examples built. It is still officially in production. The Tu-214 was a modernised version which first flew in 1996.

Airlines currently flying the type include Red Wings, Transaero, Cubana, Air Koryo, Cairo Aviation/TNT, and the Russian Government. Transaero and China Cargo have a number of examples on order for the most recent variant ,the Tu-204SM.

Sukhoi Superjet 100

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Despite a slow start, things have been looking up lately for this modern Russian regional jet. Around 90 are in service, with airlines such as Aeroflot, Interjet, Gazpromavia, Yakutia and Lao Central Airlines. Future deliveries will include examples for Red Wings, UT Air, Yamal Airlines, Transaero, Comlux, VLM, and the Thai Government, along with examples placed through a number of leasing companies.

This type is the first Russian airliner for years to truly gain international reach, and potential to challenge the dominance of western airliners.

Ilyushin IL-96

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Despite Aeroflot retiring the type from passenger service in 2014, the type remains in active service with Cubana and can often be seen on routes to Europe.

Of the stored fleet of Aeroflot types, it is expected that some will go to Cubana to supplement its fleet. The remainder may also go to government use, or be used as spare part sources for active aircraft or rebuilds.

2014’s most popular Airport Spotting posts

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airline News, Airport News, Asia, Australasia, Australia, Eastern Europe, Germany, Ghana, Heathrow, India, Indonesia, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, Turkey, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 27-12-2014

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MostPopular2014

With 2014 coming to an end and lots to look forward to next year, I wanted to revisit some of our most popular articles from the past year.

These have all had the most views, shares and comments.

What has been your aviation or spotting highlight of 2014? Leave a comment below!

 

 

Spotting News

Jakarta Airport FM7 Spotting Hotel
This new spotting hotel was a welcome addition to one of the most interesting airports for spotters to visit.

Guide to aviation and spotting in India
Spotting is notoriously difficult and misunderstood in India, so I put together this guide on what to expect and where to spot in this huge country.

Sydney to close observation deck
Sad new for spotters this year when Sydney’s International Terminal observation deck closed. But all was not lost.

Heathrow opens new viewing area
Few saw this coming – Heathrow opening an official viewing area again! But there was a catch…

ex-Ghana DC-10 turned into a restaurant
A former Ghana Airways Douglas DC-10 has been converted into a restaurant next to the main international airport.

BLOC Hotel Gatwick – Spotting Hotel Review
London’s second busiest airport got a new spotting hotel. I visited this summer and reported here on the excellent views and opportunities.

9 top spotting airports to reach by budget airline
This little guide offers some inspiration on the major international airports that are great to spot at, and also easily reached by budget airlines, helping keep the cost down.

 

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Airline and Aircraft News

SunExpress expand with up to 50 Boeing 737 order
A large order for aircraft from the joint German/Turkish leisure airline SunExpress.

Farnborough Air Show Orders Summary
This year’s Farnborough Air Show brought an unprecedented number of aircraft orders from around the world. We put a summary together here.

Brazil World Cup Special Liveries
This year’s Football World Cup in Brazil brought a number of special airline liveries. See them here!

McDonnell Douglas MD-11 Farewell
The final passenger MD-11 flights took place in 2014. In this farewell piece we look at the history or the aircraft and where you can still see them flying today.