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.

5 more Beluga’s coming to Airbus

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 19-11-2014

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MSN 6101 First NEO fuselage loading into Beluga from HAM to TLS

Airbus has taken action to address its large-scale delivery abilities with the approval to construct five new Beluga aircraft.

The manufacturer already operates five Belugas, which are based on their A300-600 aircraft. However, the new examples will be based upon the A330 and are specifically designed to aid in the new A350XWB production line, delivering parts between Airbus plants across Europe.

The first of the five new Belugas will enter in service in mid-2019. The existing Beluga fleet will operate in parallel, and will be progressively retired through to 2025.

 

McDonnell Douglas MD-11 farewell

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Netherlands, Western Europe | Posted on 10-11-2014

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(c) KLM

(c) KLM

The final commercial passenger flight of the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 took place on 26th October when KLM flew PH-KCE from Montreal to Amsterdam Schiphol.

On 11th November the airline will formally retire the type by performing three special flights for enthusiasts to get a last chance to experience the aircraft before its retirement. KLMs aircraft are all destined to be parted out and scrapped, with a number of the fleet already falling to this fate.

 

History of the MD-11

The MD-11 came about as McDonnell Douglas sought to develop a replacement for its iconic DC-10 wide-body airliner.

First flown in 1970, the DC-10 had a chequered start with a number of high-profile crashes. However, it would go on to become a major player in the long-haul and high-density short-haul routes of many of the world’s major airlines. Key operators included American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines.

As early as 1976 a replacement had been discussed. The DC-10 flew in three different variants (the -10, -30 and -40), but the MD-11 would become a completely revised aircraft aimed at recapturing the long-haul market with its low operating costs and attractive range.

Seeing the opportunity, Alitalia, British Caledonian, Dragonair, FedEx Express, Finnair, Korean Air, SAS, Swissair, Thai Airways International, and VARIG all made early commitments for the aircraft and it was formally launched in December 1986.

The first flight of the MD-11 took place on 10th January 1990 at Long Beach, CA, after a number of delays. Following a period of testing and certification, the first aircraft was delivered to launch customer Finnair on 7th December 1990. The first commercial flight of the MD-11 took place on 20th December from Helsinki to Tenerife South.

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines were early customers for the MD-11 in the United States. Delta was the first in the country to operate the type.

The MD-11, like the DC-10, is a three-engined, wide-body aircraft. Engines are located one under each wing, with a third mounted at the base of the tail. It offered a modern glass cockpit, eliminating the Flight Engineer position from the DC-10. Passenger capacity was typically 270 in a mixed-class layout, or over 300 in all-Economy seating. One identifying difference from the DC-10 is the addition of winglets on each wingtip.

 

Disappointing Performance

Fairly early in its operational career it became apparent that the MD-11 was not living up to the promised performance statistics – particularly in terms of its range. At full payloads, the aircraft was only managing a range of around 6,500 miles, instead of the promised 7,000. This caused a number of airlines to complain or cancel orders, including Singapore Airlines.

Although modifications were completed by 1995 to restore the range of the aircraft, it had already suffered irreparable negative publicity and a lack of confidence from airlines who were starting to look at new offerings from Airbus and Boeing.

 

By Montague Smith [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Freighter Renaissance

Despite Boeing purchasing McDonnell Douglas in 1997, it was decided to keep the MD-11 in production but only as freighter as by this time it had no interest from airlines for the passenger variant (it wanted to focus on its 767 and 777 models anyway).

The MD-11 was proving to be quite a success as a freighter aircraft. FedEx Express had started the ball rolling by ordering a number of aircraft as a natural continuation of its sizeable DC-10 fleet. Now, a programme of modifying passenger versions into freighters was taking place.

American Airlines, who were unhappy with their aircraft, eventually sold all of them to FedEx for conversion into freighters. It was a similar story for a number of other airlines, including Alitalia, Finnair and Delta who all retired their MD-11s relatively early and saw them turned into cargo-carrying aircraft. UPS Airlines would also become a significant operator of the MD-11.

The final aircraft of the 200 MD-11s to be built were destined for Lufthansa Cargo as dedicated freighter variants. The last MD-11 was delivered in February 2001.

 

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

By Leviescobar [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Operators

The following airline operated the MD-11

  • Aer Lingus (leased)
  • Aeroflot Cargo
  • Air Namibia
  • Alitalia
  • American Airlines
  • AV Cargo Airlines
  • Avianca (leased)
  • Avient
  • Cargoitalia
  • Centurion Air Cargo
  • China Airlines
  • China Cargo Airlines
  • China Eastern Airline
  • Cielos Airlines
  • City Bird
  • Delta Air Lines
  • El Al (leased)
  • Ethiopian Airlines Cargo
  • Etihad Airways (leased)
  • EVA Air
  • FedEx Express
  • Finnair
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Gemini Air Cargo
  • Ghana Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • LTU International
  • Lufthansa Cargo
  • MASkargo
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Martinair
  • Mid East Jet
  • Monarch Airlines
  • Nordic Global Airlines
  • Philippine Airlines
  • SABENA
  • Saudia
  • Shanghai Airlines Cargo
  • Star Airlines
  • Swissair / Swiss International Airlines
  • TAM
  • Tradewinds / SkyLease Cargo
  • Thai Airways International
  • Trans Aer
  • Transmile Air Services
  • UPS Airlines
  • USAfrica Airways (leased)
  • VARIG
  • VASP
  • Western Global Airlines
  • World Airways

Of those operators, only those highlighted in bold are still operating the aircraft today.

KLM were the last to fly passengers on the MD-11. However, World Airways flew passengers on their aircraft until the airline went out of business in early 2014.

At the end of this article you can download a free list of all active MD-11s, including those stored but still in one piece.

MD-11 Saudia

By Biggerben [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Where to see MD-11s today

As already mentioned, the only airlines still flying MD-11s are cargo operators now that KLM have retired their passenger examples.

The principal operators today are FedEx Express and UPS Airlines.

FedEx’s main base, and the main hub of MD-11 operations, is Memphis Airport in Tennessee. Other bases which its MD-11s stage through include Paris Charle de Gaulle, Toronto Pearson, Guangzhou, and Osaka Kansai.

UPS’s principal hub is Louisville International Airport in Kentucky. It also has significant bases such as Cologne/Bonn, Hong Kong and Shanghai Pudong.

Lufthansa Cargo flies its MD-11s from its Frankfurt Main hub, with most passing through over a 2-3 day period.

Martinair’s cargo operation keeps Amsterdam Schiphol alive as a MD-11 base, whilst Nordic Global Airlines has also meant Helsinki retains regular flights after Finnair retired its aircraft.

Other airports you’ll see regular MD-11s at include Addis Ababa, Anchorage Ted StevensBogota, Liege, Ostend and Miami International.

 

Incidents

Despite only 200 airframes being built, the MD-11 has suffered a disproportionate number of accidents in its short life.

Pilots often commented on the unusual landing characteristics of the MD-11, particularly during crosswind conditions, and a number of examples have been involved in landing accidents resulting in hull losses and, in some cases, loss of life. The following accidents have occurred:

  • 31st July 1997, FedEx N611FE crashed on landing at New York Newark airport
  • 2nd September 1998, Swissair HB-IWF crashed into sea near Halifax, Nova Scotia, following in-flight fire.
  • 15th April 1999, Korean Air Cargo HL7373 crashed after takeoff from Shanghai Hongqiao airport.
  • 22nd August 1999, Mandarin Airlines B-150 crashed on landing at Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok during a typhoon.
  • 17th October 1999, FedEx N581FE crashed on landing at Subic Bay airport in the Philippines.
  • 23rd March 2009, FedEx N526FE crashed on landing at Tokyo Narita during windy conditions.
  • 28th November 2009, Avient Z-BAV crashed on takeoff from Shanghai Pudong airport.
  • 27th July 2010, Lufthansa Cargo D-ALCQ crashed on landing at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
By Lasse Fuss [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Lasse Fuss [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Preservation

The MD-11 is now in its twilight years, but as yet there has been no serious moves to preserve any examples in a museum or aircraft collection. Some would say it is too early to propose this, given the type is still fairly active with many cargo airlines and has a number of years’ active service left in it; it is also only 24 years old and hardly a strong candidate for a historical item. Maybe you disagree (leave a comment below).

However, given the type’s passing from commercial passenger services and the strong feeling amongst the aviation enthusiast community for this aircraft (often in combination with its DC-10 and Douglas heritage), a number of people have been asking for one of KLM’s examples to be preserved. A Facebook group was formed to campaign for the move, and it was hoped an example would be sent to the Aviodrome museum at Lelystad, near Amsterdam (which also holds former KLM Boeing 747, Fokker 100, F27, DC-2, DC-3 and Lockheed Constellation). However, costs and the potential income from spare parts have prohibited this from becoming a reality.

 

For me, the MD-11 was one of those underdog airliners, like the Trident and BAe ATP, which set out to make a difference and had all the right credentials to make it big. In the case of the MD-11 it was set to take what the DC-10 did well and do it better, which should have appealed to the many customers who had flown the predecessor. But early problems in performance and the increasing number of twin-engine long-haul airliners emerging at the same time meant it was no longer as attractive when it became essential for airlines to save money wherever possible.

I personally only flew the MD-11 twice: once with American Airlines from New York JFK to Heathrow in 1995, and once with KLM from San Francisco to Amsterdam in 2007. I found it to be a great aircraft, which felt modern but still harked back to the classic days when planes looked like planes. For me, it will be sadly missed but I’m glad it will live on for a few years yet as a cargo workhorse.

To accompany this article I’ve produced a list of the MD-11s that are still flying. To get hold of a free download copy, all you have to do is sign up to receive updates from this blog by e-mail (you’ll get all the latest news and articles!). Plus, every time I update the active MD-11 list I’ll send you an update for free!

 

New York Airports travel guide

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, USA | Posted on 04-11-2014

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The guys at Momondo have put together this interesting and useful infographic on travel to and from the different New York airports.

New York Airports

 

You can download a PDF version of this guide. Click here.

Mitsubishi Regional Jet rolled out

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Asia, Japan, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 21-10-2014

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MRJ Rollout

The first new Japanese-built airliner in many years has been rolled out in a ceremony at the Komaki Minami Plant of MHI’s Nagoya Aerospace Systems Works in Aichi Prefecture.

The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) is a 92-seat regional jet which hopes to prove popular in this competitive market around the world.

Five prototype aircraft will go on to perform testing before deliveries. A first flight of the type, which is Japan’s first ever jet airliner, is expected between April and June 2015.

This particular aircraft is the MRJ90. A smaller, 75-seat MRJ70, will also be produced at a later date.

The MRJ family currently has 191 firm orders, with another 184 options. Key carriers to introduce the type include Japan Airlines, Eastern Air Lines and Air Mandalay.

Blackpool Airport closes today

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 15-10-2014

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Blackpool Airport

Blackpool Airport will close today after it was announced that owners Balfour Beatty could not find a buyer to take over.

The airport has been loss-making for a number of years, despite having a number of based operators and regular scheduled flights with Jet2, Aer Lingus and Citywing.

The final commercial flight will leave Blackpool at 6pm on 15th October, ending over 100 years of aviation use on the site at Squire’s Gate, close to the heart of the seaside resort in northern England.

Balfour Beatty bought the airport in 2008. In recent years it has pushed for approval to use various parts of the site to generate capital for the business, but has been blocked. Blackpool handled 262,000 passengers in 2013.

The final flight will operate to the Isle of Man, with the airport closing an hour later. Based light aircraft are likely to be removed over coming weeks.

This is a sad fate for another regional airport fighting to make ends meet in the increasingly difficult passenger market. Other airports, such as Biggin Hill and Durham Tees Valley are making strides to change their business plans to rely less on aircraft income and more from other aviation activities and spare land on the site.

Do you have any memories of Blackpool Airport, either as a passenger or a spotter?

Garuda large Boeing 737 MAX order

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Indonesia, Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, USA | Posted on 14-10-2014

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Garuda 737 MAX 8

Garuda Indonesia has placed a large order for Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

The flag carrier of Indonesia will purchase 46 737 MAX 8s and will convert existing orders for four Next-Generation 737-800s to 737 MAX 8s.

Garuda recently announced it was halting progress on its international expansion in order to deal with the decline in its domestic and regional fleet, namely the classic and older NG Boeing 737s that it operates. This order is thought to be a response to this need to improve the quality and safety of its fleet.

Today’s order from Garuda Indonesia continues the momentum of the 737 MAX in the marketplace. The total number of 737 MAX orders to date is 2,295 airplanes from 47 customers worldwide.

Airbus A350-900 receives type certification

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in France, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 30-09-2014

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Airbus-A350XWB-Formation-Flight-02

Airbus flew five of its A350-900 aircraft in formation over France yesterday for some unique photographs.

The display was to celebrate the new aircraft receiving its EASA type certification.

The EASA A350-900 Type Certificate was signed by EASA’s Executive Director, Patrick Ky. The document was handed over to Airbus’ Executive Vice President Engineering, Charles Champion and Airbus’ A350 XWB Chief Engineer, Gordon McConnell.

“Receiving the A350-900 Type Certification from EASA is a great achievement for Airbus and for all our partners who have contributed to designing, building and certificating this fantastic, new generation aircraft. The A350-900 is now ready to fly from the nest and be enjoyed by airlines and passengers,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO. “The A350 XWB embodies many extra innovative technologies which make all the difference in passenger comfort and airline efficiency.”

Airbus A320neo first flight on Thursday

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in France, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 23-09-2014

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A320_NEO_REVEAL-

Airbus is planning the first flight of its new A320neo (New Engine Option) aircraft on Thursday 25 September.

Subject to weather and no last minute problems, the state-of-the-art replacement to the current A320 model will fly from Toulouse Airport in southern France on a two-hour flight.

 

 

***UPDATE

Here’s a picture of it in flight

A320neo Flight

Iran Air retiring 747SP. Enthusiast flight planned

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Iran, Malaysia, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 21-09-2014

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"Iran Air Boeing 747SP Wedelstaedt" by Konstantin von Wedelstaedt - Website: http://www.airliners.net/photo/Iran-Air/Boeing-747SP-86/1569423/&sid=e6125fd7d37ff9970f760ad67faed7bd. Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iran_Air_Boeing_747SP_Wedelstaedt.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Iran_Air_Boeing_747SP_Wedelstaedt.jpg

(c) Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

Iran Air is the last commercial operator of the stumpy Boeing 747SP (Special Performance) model. It has announced it will retire the type in November or December

The final day of operations will be in late November or early December, however on November 23rd and a special flight for enthusiasts is available aboard the aircraft (EP-IAC), departing from and returning to Tehran’s Mehrabad airport. The flight will include a fly past at Isfahan.

Booking can be done through Airevents.de at this link. In the meantime, the aircraft still flies between Tehran and Kuala Lumpur.