Virgin plans Boeing 747 retirement

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Heathrow, North America, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 18-05-2015

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Virgin 747

Virgin Atlantic has penciled in the retirement of its Boeing 747 fleet.

Unless further changes occur, the final flight will be VS006 from Miami to London Heathrow on 17 April, 2016, arriving on 18 April at 1130am.

This will be a significant moment for the airline, which began services using a Boeing 747-200B in 1984 and has never been without the jumbo ever since. However, today the airline has a growing number of modern types such as the Airbus A330 and Boeing 787, and is still due to receive Airbus A380 superjumbos at some point (they have been deferred by the airline).

So now’s the chance to get a Virgin 747 flight booked if you haven’t yet!

SkyWest retires the Embraer 120

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, North America, USA | Posted on 07-05-2015

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"Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW" by Taurus Photographix on Flickr - Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Embraer_EMB-120ER_Skywest_Airlines_N217SW.jpg#/media/File:Embraer_EMB-120ER_Skywest_Airlines_N217SW.jpg

“Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW” by Taurus Photographix on Flickr – Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

SkyWest Airlines has retired its last Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia aircraft after 28 years of flying the type.

The last flight was UA5165 on 5th May, from Santa Maria to Los Angeles LAX with N567SW on behalf of United Express.

This turboprop type was used extensively in the USA – particularly out of the big hubs with feeder airlines, from its introduction in 1985. However, in recent years its numbers have dwindled, with SkyWest as the last major operator. At the time of writing, only Great Lakes operate it in the USA for passenger services. Others fly cargo conversions still.

Very few other airlines still fly passengers in the Brasilia elsewhere around the world. Interestingly, however, the Wikipedia page for the type states that it’s still possible to order an EMB-120 as a one-off!

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.

Dreamliner Arrives at Pima Air and Space Museum

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, Spotting News, USA | Posted on 12-04-2015

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N787EX Pima Air and Space Museum

The Pima Air and Space Museum at Tucson, AZ, has become the second to take a Boeing 787 Dreamliner for display.

This aircraft was the second Dreamliner built, and is registered N787EX (also known as ZA002).

“This is an extremely exciting and monumental time for the museum, the Tucson community and Arizona in general,” said Scott Marchand, Executive Director of the Pima Air & Space Museum. “We are honored to be selected by The Boeing Company to be the custodian of such a significant historic next generation aircraft and to be able to display it to the public from the USA and from around the world.”

This particular 787, ZA002, is the second Boeing 787-8 to be produced. The airplane flew for the first time on December 22, 2009, joining what would become a six-airplane flight test and certification program for the 787- 8. The primary focus of ZA002 was testing systems performance. It is currently wearing ANA All Nippon Airways colours, but has never flown for the airline.

In November we reported that ZA003, N787BX, was delivered to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

The Pima Air & Space Museum is located at 6000 E. Valencia Road, Tucson, Exit 267 off Interstate 10. The museum is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas, from 9 am to 5 pm with last admission at 4 pm. Admission is $15.50 ($12.25 for Pima County Residents) for adults, $12.75 for seniors 62 and older and active military, $9.00 for youth 7-12, and free for children under 6. For general museum information, please call 520- 574-0462 or visit www.pimaair.org.

Marana Pinal Airpark opens to visitors

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Airport Spotting Guide, North America, Spotting News, USA | Posted on 29-03-2015

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Marana Pinal Airpark

There are a number of storage airports in the western United States known to aviation enthusiasts, with row upon row of retired and stored airliners parked up awaiting their fate. Largest among these are Mojave, Victorville, and Marana Pinal Airpark.

The latter, located to the north of Tucson in Arizona, is notoriously difficult to get close to for the enthusiast, with guards manning the entrance, which in itself is a long way from any views of aircraft.

In fact, the standard way for an enthusiast to see airliners parked at Marana is to hire a private aircraft and pilot to fly them from Tucson to Marana, performing a number of low approaches, or a landing and slow taxi for takeoff, snapping photographs frantically in the hope of catching everything parked there, and preferably the registrations. Then a period of research would begin to work out exactly what was seen.

However, times are hard for Marana. It urgently needs to repair its runway, and to find new income streams to keep it in business. As a result it is looking at ways to attract more people to the site, and one of the first changes has been the removal of the guard posts blocking the entrance to the former military airport.

Jim Petty is the airport’s economic development director and knows exactly the draw that Marana has on enthusiasts and the curious public who have a fascination with the huge hulks of metal glinting in the sun, some sporting airline liveries of yesteryear, whilst others appear to be factory fresh. For most enthusiasts, storage airports have been a place to catch up with missed aircraft, sometimes classic old jets rarely seen in active service anymore. However, places like Marana offer a good mix, with some aircraft temporarily stored straight from the factory as airlines face economic problems or leasing companies find it difficult to place them.

Other aircraft still have a lot of life in them, but come to Marana to await a new customer.

Whilst enthusiasts will not be given free reign of the airport under its new relaxed rules, Petty has begun offering tours of Pinal Airpark in an SUV, stopping off to take in the different areas of parked airliners, and to watch a variety of different aircraft that still use the active airport.

Marana Map

Marana’s former locked-down security stance came from its long-standing involvement with the CIA, acting as a staging post for secret operations which were closely guarded from the public eye. It was also a military training post. However, Marana is officially listed as a general aviation airfield, and as such should be accessible to the general public. And so it now is.

Jim Petty may live to regret news of this opening of Marana for tours becoming public, as enthusiasts are sure to be planning trips already. But nevertheless, this is great news and I’m sure will be very much appreciated. I will certainly be taking the opportunity if I am in the area!

Free tours are by appointment only and subject to availability. Call Jim Petty, 520-866-6545.

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.

Plane Spotting at Washington Reagan National Airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in North America, Spotting Videos, USA | Posted on 21-03-2015

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If you want to get an idea of what it’s like spotting at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, here’s a selection of four videos for you to enjoy showing the aircraft coming and going.

Almost 30 minutes of video is presented here!

 

Boeing finding homes for ‘terrible teen’ 787s

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airline News, Asia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, North America, USA | Posted on 03-03-2015

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Ethiopian 787 (c) Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

Boeing is making progress on finding homes for the early Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft which have been sat in storage at its Everett Paine Field manufacturing site since the early days of the aircraft.

These particular aircraft were built shortly after the prototypes began flying, with Boeing seeking to catch up on the delays it had incurred. The aircraft were completed, and most had the basic liveries of the airlines who had ordered them applied. But then they didn’t go anywhere.

When I visited Paine Field in early 2012 there were a number of these aircraft scattered around, painted in the colours of Royal Air Maroc, ANA All Nippon Airways, Air India and others.

Since these aircraft were among the first 20 built (hence the nickname ‘terrible teens’) they also incurred vital modifications which were necessary as a result of testing on the prototypes and first delivery aircraft. Notably, there were problems with electrical fires and the strength of the wing assemblies.

All future Dreamliners were built with fixes for these problems, but for the terrible teens a process of modifications took place to make them airworthy; this in turn added extra weight to the airframe and they incurred a range penalty of around 1,000 miles.

Naturally the planned operators of these aircraft demanded newer airframes, leaving the early examples looking for a new home.

Terrible Teen 787s at Paine Field

Terrible Teen 787s at Paine Field

But now Boeing seems set to announce where they’ll be heading. Since the backlog for orders is so great, taking a terrible teen will be a way to jump the queue for any airline – especially those who don’t mind the range restrictions so much, and would prefer to pay a reduced price tag, which presumably is the case for the unwanted aircraft.

Last week it was confirmed that Air Austral would be taking two of the aircraft, to operate from Reunion Island.

Now it looks like Ethiopian Airlines will take up to eight examples.

Garuda Indonesia and Malaysia Airlines have been approached to take some of the jets, according to ch-aviation, and it seems likely Rwandair will take two of the Royal Air Maroc candidates.

 

WOW Air adding two A321s

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Iceland, North America, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 24-02-2015

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Wow A321

WOW Air will add two Airbus A321s with sharklets in the coming month.

The aircraft, which will feature sharklets, will be introduced on the airline’s new flights from Reykjavik (Keflavik) to Boston Logan (from March 27th) and Baltimore-Washington (from May 8th).

“We’re very proud to be adding these new A321 aircraft to our growing fleet of aircraft,” said WOW air founder and CEO Skúli Mogensen. “We are now ready to continue our rapid growth as the first true low-cost carrier offering flights across the Atlantic via Iceland.”

American Airlines Boeing 787 Routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Argentina, Asia, China, North America, South America, USA | Posted on 11-02-2015

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Bradley Basin Employee Shoot Patrick Summers rms275910 cns2014nef

American Airlines is the latest US airline to take delivery of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It has now announced the initial routes which the type will operate on.

Like most airlines, American will operate its 787s initially on domestic sectors to gain crew familiarity on the type before it embarks on long haul flying. The aircraft will be based at Dallas Ft Worth Airport and fly on the following routes:

  • Dallas Ft Worth – Chicago O’Hare – Starts 7th May
  • Dallas Ft Worth – Beijing Capital – Starts 2nd June
  • Dallas Ft Worth – Buenos Aires – Starts 4th June

AA 787 interior

Customers can start booking 787 flights beginning 14th February. American will deploy the 787 to additional markets in 2015 as it takes delivery of new aircraft.

American has placed firm orders for 42 Boeing 787 aircraft, with the right to acquire an additional 58.

You can keep track of American Airlines and all other airlines’ Boeing 787 routes on our dedicated page here.