St. Helena Airport Takes Shape

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

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StHelenaAirportRunway

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

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

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

Following this, calibration work will be carried out.

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

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

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

 

New Let L-410NG aircraft rolled out

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

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Let410NG

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

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

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

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

Let410NG2

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

The best aviation podcasts to listen to

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

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AviationPodcasts

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

3. Airline Pilot Guy
Link: airlinepilotguy.com

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

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

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

5. Airspeed
Link: airspeedonline.com

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

 

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

It’s Heathrow! UK Airports Commission publishes recommendation

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Heathrow, Miscellaneous Spotting, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 01-07-2015

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Heathrow R3 south west option

The UK Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, has given its recommendation that Heathrow be the London airport that gets an extra runway, it has been announced.

The Commission was given the task in 2012 of settling the decades-long argument over where extra capacity should be considered in the south east of England. The two primary airports in the region – Gatwick and Heathrow – are both close to capacity, with Gatwick being the busiest single-runway airport in the world.

However, Heathrow is the busiest hub in the country and has the most need for a new runway (its third), according to the report. It said that, whilst Gatwick’s proposal was plausible, not expanding Heathrow would put the UK at risk of losing out to continental Europe.

Airports at Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle are already way ahead in runway capacity and are attracting growth from airlines.

Whilst this is only the recommendation, the government will make a decision in 2016 on any expansion.

Davies said: “Heathrow … provides the greatest benefits for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy,” adding “Further delay will be increasingly costly and will be seen nationally and internationally as a sign that the UK is unwilling or unable to take the steps needed to maintain its position as a well-connected, open trading economy,”

Heathrow has estimated that building could start in 2020 and the new runway would be ready in 2025, but that could be held up by the government’s decision and tough planning laws.

Paris Air Show Aircraft Orders Summary 2015

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 23-06-2015

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Paris Air Show 2015

This year’s 2015 Paris Air Show was a great success for the various aircraft manufacturers, and was well attended.

Here’s a summary of the airliner orders each of the main manufacturers received this year.

Airbus

Air Lease Corporation 1x A350-900
1x A321ceo
3x A320ceo
Alpha Star 1x ACJ319neo
Asian Airline 60x A320neo family
Eva Air 4x A330-300
Garuda Indonesia 30x A350XWB (LOI)
GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) 60x A320neo family
Korean Air 50x A321neo (30 + 20 options)
Peach Aviation 3x A320ceo
Saudia 20x A330-300 regional
30x A320ceo
Synergy Aerospace 62x A320neo family
VietJetAir 6x A321ceo
Wizz Air 110x A321neo

ATR

Air Madagascar 3x ATR 72-600
Air New Zealand 1x ATR 72-600
Bahamasair 3x ATR 42-600
2x ATR 72-600
Binter Canarias 6x ATR 72-600
Braathens Aviation 15x ATR 72-600 (5 + 10 options)
Cebu Pacific 26x ATR 72-600 (16 + 10 options)
Japan Air Commuter 23x ATR 42-600 (8 +15 options)

Boeing

AerCap 100x 737 MAX 8,
Air Lease Corporation 8x 787-10 (for Vietnam Airlines, converted from 787-9)
Ethiopian Airlines 10x 787-8 (terrible teens)
Enter Air 2x 737-800
2x 737 MAX 8
Eva Air 5x 777 freighter
Garuda Indonesia 30x 737 MAX 8
30x 787-9
Korean Air 50x 737 MAX (30 +20 options)
2x 777-300ER
Minsheng Financial Leasing 30x 737/737 MAX
Qatar Airways 10x 777-8X
4x 777 freighter
Ruili Airlines 30x 737 MAX 8
SMBC Aviation Capital 10x 737 MAX 8
Sriwijaya Air 2x 737-900ER
Undisclosed 1x 737BBJ MAX 9
Volga-Dnepr Group 20x 747-8F (MoU)

Bombardier

Swiss 10x CS100 converted to CS300
Westjet Encore 6x Q400

Embraer

Air Castle 15x E190-E2 (+15 purchase right)
10x E195-E2 (+10 purchase rights)
Guizhou 17x E190 (7 + 10 options)
Skywest 8x E175 (confirmed options)
United Airlines 28x E175 (10 + 18 options)

Others

Yakutia 3x Sukhoi SSJ100
Ping An Leasing 50x Comac C919
Puren Airlines 7x Comac C919
7x ARJ21
Reignwood Aviation Group 50 Viking DHC-6-400 Twin Otter

Korean Air Airbus Order

3D imagery, 737 MAX, MAX, 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX8, 737 MAX 9; Enter Air; K66407

3D imagery, 737 MAX, MAX, 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX8, 737 MAX 9; Enter Air; K66407

 

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!

First Swiss CSeries painted

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News | Posted on 10-06-2015

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CSeries Swiss

Ahead of its appearance at the Paris Air Salon, the first Bombardier CSeries aircraft has been painted in the colours of a customer airline.

The aircraft, CS100 C-GWXZ, now wears the full colours of Swiss European Airlines.

CSeries Swiss2

 

Alitalia unveils its new livery

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Italy, Miscellaneous Spotting, Western Europe | Posted on 04-06-2015

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AlitaliaNewLivery2

It doesn’t seem long since Alitalia started painting its aircraft in the new livery we see today, but at a ceremony in Rome today, Airbus A330-200 I-EJGA was unveiled in a brand new corporate scheme.

The new scheme is clearly based on the Alitalia livery we all know well from the 1980s and 90s, but goes for a much more conservative look without the cheatline.

James Hogan, vice chairman of Alitalia and president and CEO of Etihad Airways, said: “The old Alitalia was a great brand but a challenged business. Now we are well on the way to seeing the rebirth of this iconic airline, in a new era of commercial success.

“The steps taken by Alitalia’s senior management team over the last five months are to be applauded. What we see here today is a business growing in confidence. The future is bright for the new Alitalia.”

“The new livery presented today marks a major milestone in the history of one of the most iconic Italian brands in the world,” added Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, chairman of Alitalia.

Some may consider this to be too much towards the ‘eurowhite’ which has plagued so many other European carriers, where the fuselage is devoid of any interesting scheme and simply painted white. But Alitalia may have been smart here, after so many criticised the placing of the cheatline below the windows on the previous livery.

Alitalia New Livery

What do you think?

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.

First TAM A350XWB taking shape

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Brazil, Miscellaneous Spotting, South America | Posted on 14-05-2015

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A350_XWB_TAM_02

Airbus has posted this picture of the first A350-900 aircraft destined for TAM in Brasil taking shape on the assembly line in Toulouse.

TAM will be the fourth airline to take delivery of the type, after Qatar Airways, Finnair and Vietnam Airlines.

TAM will be the first airline in the Americas to fly the A350 XWB. Delivery of their first A350 XWB is scheduled for the end of this year. TAM has a total of 27 A350 XWB on order.

 

You can see our list of Airbus A350 routes at this page: http://www.airportspotting.com/airbus-a350-routes-page/