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.

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.

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.

Doha Airport Spotting Hotel – Oryx Rotana

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Middle East, Qatar, Spotting Hotels | Posted on 08-04-2015

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Oryx Rotana Hotel

Although the new Hamad International Airport at Doha, Qatar, is now in full operation, a hotel alongside the old Doha Airport is still a good option for spotting at both airports.

For the time being, the old Doha Airport still has a few private and GA operators using the runway, and there is at least one stored biz jet here. The new airport is only two miles further away.

The Oryx Rotana hotel is situated alongside the terminal at the old Doha Airport, but according to a recent report if you get a room above the entrance on the top floors, you can see movements at BOTH airports.

Oryx Rotana Doha Map

Admittedly, the view of the new airport is pretty distant. But with good binoculars and flight tracking equipment or websites, you should see all movements easily, as well as anything still using the old airport.

The Oryx Rotana is part of the Rotana chain of hotels, and is of a good standard as you would expect in the region. You can book rooms through their website, here.

Emirates bolsters US network with Orlando and Seattle additions

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Dubai, Middle East, North America, USA | Posted on 25-03-2015

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Emirates 777

Emirates is to increase its coverage of the United States with two new daily flights from Dubai.

For the first time, a direct link from the Middle East to Orlando International will be established when Emirates begins a daily Boeing 777-200LR service from 1st September 2015.

“This is a landmark new route for Orlando that for the first time offers our customers non-stop service to the high-growth Middle East region with convenient connections to India, China, Africa, and Southeast Asia,” said Phil Brown, Executive Director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

Meanwhile, from 1st July Emirates will provide a second daily flight from Dubai to Seattle/Tacoma, again operated by Boeing 777-200LR aircraft and adding significant long-haul passenger and cargo capacity to the airport.

Last Airbus A300B2 retired from passenger service

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Iran, Japan, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 27-02-2015

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A300B2 MahanAir (c) Mohammad Razzazan

The final example of the first model Airbus A300B2 has been retired from passenger service by Iranian carrier Mahain Air after a career spanning 34 years.

Originally delivered to Japanese airline TOA Domestic Airlines in 1981 and later joining Japan Air System, EP-MHA (c/n 160) started flying for Mahan Air in 2006 on routes around Iran and the Middle East.

Now the aircraft has been ferried to Kerman, according to ch-aviation, to join two other stablemates which were retired recently. It is expected that the aircraft will be scrapped rather than going on to serve with another airline.

It is expected that Mahan Air will also retire its ageing A300B4 fleet this year, too.

KLM’s Boeing 787 routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Abu Dhabi, Africa, Airline News, Asia, Bahrain, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Middle East, Netherlands, South America, Western Europe | Posted on 12-02-2015

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KLM 787-9

KLM has added some more route details for its upcoming Boeing 787 fleet, with six initial destinations.

The airline will take the stretched 787-9 model, with the first flights due to commence in October.

The routes KLM will initially fly with its Boeing 787s are:

  • Amsterdam – Abu Dhabi – Bahrain – Starts 25th October
  • Amsterdam – Cairo – Starts 30th November
  • Amsterdam – Quito – Guayaquil – Amsterdam – Starts 2nd December
  • Amsterdam – Xiamen – Starts 3rd December

 

I’m looking forward to seeing the plane in the smart blue colour scheme of KLM, and it will be delivered in the updated scheme which is currently being rolled out across the existing fleet.

Keep up to date with KLM and all other airlines’ Boeing 787 routes on our dedicated page here.

Dubai to become busiest international airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Dubai, Heathrow, Middle East, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 16-01-2015

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Dubai Airport © Dubai Airports

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.

9 top spotting airports to reach by budget airline

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Asia, Caribbean, Dubai, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting, Netherlands, North America, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Spain, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 21-11-2014

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Spotting isn’t the cheapest hobby, especially if you want to do a lot of it. So I thought I’d look at a few of the best spotting airports that are easily accessible by budget airlines. Hopefully it’ll give you some inspiration for your next trips!

 

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Palma-Vueling

By Peter Bakema [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Palma is one of the busiest holiday airports in Europe, particularly during the summer months. Airlines ferry holidaymakers in droves from all over northern Europe, so you’ll see charter and low-cost airlines as well as Spanish regional aircraft. Palma is a big base for Air Berlin, and plenty of other budget airlines also fly there year-round, including easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling.

 

Amsterdam Schiphol, Netherlands

Amsterdam easyJet

By Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Although it is one of Europe’s busiest and largest airports, and is also a stronghold of national airline KLM, Schiphol is surprisingly easy to get to by budget airline. easyJet links many destinations across Europe, whilst Flybe and Jet2 link a number of additional points in the UK.

 

Singapore Changi

Photo by Calvin Teo

Photo by Calvin Teo

A major Asian powerhouse and the hub of the large Singapore Airlines. Changi is also on the route map of many low cost and budget airlines, including home-based Jetstar Asia, Tigerair and Valuair, plus regional carriers Air Asia and Lion Air. Long haul low-cost flights are provided by Jetstar and Scoot to destinations across Asia and Australia.

 

Dubai International, UAE

Flydubai fleet

You may think of Emirates when you think of Dubai, but the second largest carrier at the Middle East hub is Flydubai, a budget airline serving destinations across Africa, the Middle East, Indian subcontinent They even fly into Europe. It makes a more affordable way to reach the airport for some spotting.

 

Atlanta Hartsfield International, GA

Southwest Airlines Heart Livery

Atlanta was known as the busiest airport in the world for many years, largely because of the huge presence of Delta Air Lines reaching across the globe and to many points across the United States. However, the airport’s second largest carrier is Southwest Airlines following its acquisition of Airtran. This means you can get to Atlanta from destinations across America at great prices.

 

Dallas Ft Worth, TX

Spirit Airlines

Another US airport which is dominated by a home based legacy carrier – in this case American Airlines – you may be surprised to find that you have good budget options that don’t require a trip to nearby Love Field. Spirit Airlines recently announced a number of new routes from Dallas to regional and leisure destinations to add to its existing network from the airport.

 

Warsaw Chopin, Poland

Wizz Air

The capital of Poland is a major hub for budget carrier Wizz Air which fights bitterly with full service national carrier LOT. You can also reach Warsaw via carriers Norwegian, Air Berlin, Germanwings and Vueling.

 

Moscow Domodedovo, Russia

By Milad A380 (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Milad A380 (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For years it was only possible to reach Moscow via traditional full service airlines, or one of Aeroflot’s classic Soviet airliners. However, recent agreements have led to a number of low cost airlines from outside Russia offering flights to Domodedovo. Most significant perhaps is easyJet, which flies from two points in the UK. Other budget airlines flying to Moscow include Air Berlin, Germania, Niki, Meridiana fly, Vueling and Air Arabia.

 

St Maarten, Caribbean

St Maarten Jetblue

A spotters paradise which is on the bucket list of many who like to photograph airliners at close quarters. But it’s not necessary to spend mega bucks getting there with big airlines, particularly from North America, since budget airlines such as Jetblue, Sun Country and Westjet fly regularly to the island.

Two big wide-body aircraft orders

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Kuwait, Middle East, North America, USA | Posted on 21-11-2014

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Both Airbus and Boeing are celebrating after landing wide-body aircraft orders from two airlines.

A350-900_Delta_RR

First, Airbus announced that Delta Air Lines has placed a firm order for 50 new Airbus widebody aircraft, 25 A350-900 and 25 A330-900neo aircraft.

Delta Air Lines currently flies both Airbus single-aisle and widebody aircraft, including 57 A319ceo and 69 A320ceo aircraft, plus 11 A330-200s and 21 A330-300s. In addition to the order announced today, Delta has an order backlog of 10 A330-300s and 45 A321ceo aircraft, bringing its total Airbus backlog to 105 aircraft.

 

Kuwait-772

Secondly, although not yet a firm order, Kuwait Airways has announced its intention to purchase 10 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

“We appreciate the start of a new partnership with Kuwait Airways,” said Marty Bentrott, vice president of Sales for Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Boeing looks forward to an enduring relationship with Kuwait Airways and we are excited to see that the 777-300ER airplane, which is the preferred long-haul carrier for so many airlines around the world, will now play an important role in the airline’s fleet strategy and expansion.”