KLM MD-11 retirement flights announced

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Miscellaneous Spotting, Netherlands, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 15-09-2014

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KLM MD-11

KLM has announced a group of farewell flights for enthusiasts on its McDonnell Douglas MD-11 aircraft.

The airline is the last to operate the tri-holer on passenger flights and will retire it by the end of the year. The fleet has been slowly reduced over the past year, with aircraft being sent to desert storage locations for part-out.

Many enthusiasts have been calling on the airline to offer a farewell flight as a way of saying goodbye to the MD-11; for many it will be the last chance to get a flight on board it.

KLM will fly three one-hour enthusiast flights from Amsterdam Schiphol on 11 November 2014, with all passengers receiving a commemorative book as part of their ticket cost.

Tickets go on sale from 16 September, at 11:11am, priced at 111 Euros. I will post the link for buying tickets when it is available.

 

To find out about more rare passenger aircraft types and who is still flying them, see our ebook Last Chance to Fly.

Ryanair pushes the 737MAX as 200 launch customer

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Ireland, Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, Spotting News, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 08-09-2014

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Ryanair 737-MAX 8 200

Boeing’s new 737 MAX family of aircraft launched an extra variant today with the announcement that Ryanair would become the launch customer for the 200 model.

This is essentially a 737 MAX 8 with 200 seats.

Ryanair has placed an initial order for 100 examples, which will replace its older 737-800s and allow further expansion of its widespread route network. In addition to the commitment, valued at $11 billion at current list prices, Ryanair has options to purchase another 100 737 MAX 200s.

“Ryanair is proud and honored to become the lead operator of Boeing’s ‘gamechanger’ 737 MAX 200, which will expand our fleet to 520 aircraft by 2024 and create another 3,000 new jobs for pilots, cabin crew and engineers in Europe, while allowing us to grow traffic from 82 million last year to over 150 million annually by 2024,” said Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary.

“These new “gamechanger” aircraft will allow Ryanair to lower our costs and airfares, while improving our customer experience with more leg room and the Boeing Sky Interior, as we roll out new offers, particularly for our Business Plus and Family Extra customers. As many of Europe’s flag carriers cut capacity on short haul routes, Ryanair looks forward to using these new Boeing 737 MAX 200s to grow at many more of Europe’s primary airports,” said O’Leary

Boeing developed the 737 MAX 200 in response to the needs of the fast growing low-cost sector, which is forecasted to account for 35 percent of single-aisle airline capacity by 2033. While the heart of the single-aisle market will remain at 160 seats, the 737 MAX 200 will provide carriers like Ryanair with up to 11 more seats of potential revenue and up to 5 percent lower operating costs than the 737 MAX 8, driving economic growth and increasing access to air travel.

 

Spotting at the Comfort Hotel RunWay at Oslo Airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Norway, Spotting Hotels, Spotting Trip Reports, Western Europe | Posted on 06-09-2014

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Comfort Hotel Runway
This is a guest report from Mark Williams, who recently stayed at one of Norway’s best spotting hotels…I have recently returned from a one night stay at the Comfort Hotel RunWay at Oslo Airport.

The hotel is nicely situated next to the perimeter fence overlooking Runway 01L/19R. To get there from the airport you have a couple of options – the more expensive dedicated S44 hotel shuttle bus at 70NOK or the cheaper normal service bus 855 which involves a short 2 minute walk from the stop to the hotel.

I had emailed the hotel beforehand requesting a high floor room overlooking the airport and they replied very promptly saying a suitable room had been allocated. True to their word, they had reserved me such a room and with the minimal of fuss from an efficient front desk I was ready to spot. The fourth floor room (which is the top floor) contained a number of suitable rooms – 4015, 4017, 4019, 4021, 4023 and 4025 all being noted as among those suitable for our needs.

Runway 01L/19R is right in front of you and everything can be easily read off with binoculars. The hotel grounds actually end at the perimeter fence. There is an issue with trees in these grounds, and this will be to a greater or lesser extent from each individual room. However, there should be sufficient gaps from all to ensure nothing on this runway would be missed. Views over to the terminal are again affected by the trees, although the gaps will allow at least some sections of the piers to be seen. Where they are, reading the registrations off was no problem.

Oslo Spotting Hotel

Cargo was parked opposite the hotel, and being tail-on could not be read off. Runway 01L/19R seemed to handle the majority of the domestic or short regional traffic, and while this is probably favoured at first, the repeats start after about 5 or 6 hours After about 24 hours, little lands that hasn’t already been seen. However, much of the long haul traffic seemed to depart (not land) from this runway – including Norwegian B787s, Thai B777s and a SAS A330. While this can’t of course be guaranteed (the Qatar B787 for instance went off Runway 01R on one day and 01L on the other), from your perch at the Comfort Hotel RunWay most of the wide-body movements were read off.

The other runway (01R/19L) is just out of range for reading with binoculars (particularly of course as it is through glass and at an angle). However, seeing everything land on Runway 01R was no problem, so identification with SBS would ensure nothing is missed. They landed on 01R/01L during my entire stay – I imagine trees would mean if they were landing on 19L it wouldn’t have been so easy to even see them, so runway use could affect your logging considerably.

One thing I must mention. While the rooms are more than adequate, they only have a long thin window, which is set quite low. Not only does this mean the room is quite dark, but at 6ft, I had to bend down to actually see out (if you are 5ft it would be about perfect). However, if you settle down for a long spotting session, you will no doubt be seated, and I could see out of the window from a chair.

The room was priced at 849NOK (roughly £84 / $135) which included a half-decent breakfast – not bad for this location. There is a restaurant and a small snack area, and although there are other hotels nearby and a large conference centre, there appeared to be no other local places to get provisions.

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Apart from the excellent view of the near runway that the hotel affords, it is also well placed to reach the SAS museum, which contains a small spotter’s terrace that is permanently open.

The museum itself is only open on Tuesday and Sunday. It is around a 15 minute walk away. Head out of the hotel and turn right on Hans Gaarders Veg. Keep heading along this road (running virtually parallel with the perimeter fence) and you will come to the museum and the raised spotting terrace. A quick look at Google Maps will show the way.

The terrace is a wooden structure, accessed via a few stairs, and gives a good panoramic view of the airport. The parked West Air ATPs (out of sight from the hotel) are right in front of you, and I could also read off the inhabitants of the cargo area (as well as a couple of biz jets in the GA area). The view of runway 01L/19R is restricted to about half the runway at one end but is very close with an excellent view of traffic departing off 01L. I imagine the views of traffic landing on 19R would be equally as impressive.
When I was departing I met an extremely helpful lady from NSSF – The Norwegian Plane Spotter Association who kindly gave me a copy of their viewing guide and offered advice as to the best spots. Check them out and show your support – they clearly do some good work to ensure that such facilities exist for us all. It appears that the majority of spotting locations for Runway 01R/19L require a car. All the long-haul traffic landed on this runway during my stay (but, as previously mentioned, the majority departed off the near 01L/19R runway). Most of the international traffic from Europe (if not all) seemed to land on 01R/19L and much went out that way too, so, for a registration reader, expect to miss some frames. While my success rate out in the open air and side on from the viewing terrace of departing traffic from 01R improved, it is still quite a long way away so success is by no means guaranteed. However, if the weather is good (there is no shelter here), this would be an extremely nice place to spend a few hours and is highly recommended.

Movements wise, Oslo was actually busier than I had expected. Norwegian and SAS dominate as you would expect with their B737s, although there was a healthy number of Wideroe Dash 8s in action. Three different Norwegian Dreamliners were seen in the 24 hours, plus a daily Thai B777, Qatar B787, a SAS A330, Primera B737 and Novair A321. Cargo offered a UPS B767, Jet Time B737 and Air Contractors ATR42.

Overall, an extremely enjoyable 24 hours in Oslo which, like the hotel and spotting terrace, comes highly recommended.

You can book a room at the Comfort Hotel RunWay Oslo here: http://www.comfortinn.com/hotel-gardermoen-norway-NO113

 

 

Brussels Spotting Guide added

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Belgium, Spotting Hotels, Spotting Trip Reports, Spotting Videos, Western Europe | Posted on 29-08-2014

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View from Wingtips Restaurant

View from Wingtips Restaurant

A new guide to spotting at Brussels Airport has been added, which is up-to-date from a recent trip (and will be kept up-to-date if anything changes). You can view the spotting guide at the top of the page under ‘Spotting Guides’, or by clicking this link: www.airportspotting.com/spotting-guides-2/brussels-airport-spotting-guide/

Brussels is the largest and busiest airport in Belgium, handling a large amount of passenger and cargo traffic.

Cargo and low-cost mix at Brussels

Cargo and low-cost mix at Brussels

It is also home to Melsbroek Air Base, which handles the Belgian Air Force transport aircraft and any visiting foreign governments etc.

The airport has three runways – 25L/07R, 25R/07L, and 01/19.
It has a single large terminal building, with two long piers and various remote stands.

On the northern and western portions of the airport are a number of aprons for cargo aircraft. DHL have a base here.

Passenger movements are dominated by Brussels Airlines, Jetairfly, Jet Airways, and Vueling.
Other airlines of note include Ethiopian Airlines (787), Etihad (A330), Qatar Airways (787), Thai (777-300), Tailwind (737-400), MEA (A320), Air Arabia Maroc (A320).

Spotting is quite easy at Brussels, with a number of locations in and around the terminal, and a few good spots for photography around the perimeter for those using a car or public transport.

Here’s a video showing the various spotting locations and airline operators from my recent visit.

Nearby attractions include the Royal Army Museum in Brussels, with a large collection of preserved aircraft, and Brussels South Charleroi Airport, which is a base for Ryanair and Jetairfly.

Check out the spotting guide to Brussels and keep it handy when planning your trip. It includes spotting hotels at Brussels too!

Bristol Airport Aviation Fair planned for September

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 25-08-2014

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The Bristol Airport Spotting site has been in touch to let us know about an Aviation Fair that will be taking place at Bristol Airport on Sunday 21st September 2014.

When is the event taking place?

The event is being held on Sunday 21st September 2014 between 10.30am and 4.30pm.

Where is the event taking place?

The event is being held in the Bristol Room within the administration building at the airport, this is the first building on the left when you enter the airport site.

Will car parking be available?

Yes free car parking will be available in front of the admin building, the barrier will be removed for the day so there will be no restrictions on cars and duration at the event. Car parking is clearly signposted.

How do I find the admin building?

All visitors to the event should enter the Bristol Airport site from the main roundabout on the A38, then take the first left at the next mini roundabout and then head into the car park which will be in front of you, at this point the admin building is on your right hand side, you will see the entrance clearly marked. Us the map below to help you, follow the black arrows below to enter the car park marked in red, the admin building is marked in green.

How much is the event?

The event is free for children and £1.00 for adults, all money raised is being donated to the airport charity of the year which this year is Macmillan Cancer Support.

What can I see and do?

The Bristol Room has great views across the apron and will provide views of aircraft taking off, landing and taxiing past the window, exhibitors from Bristol Airport Police, Bristol Aero Collection, Bristol Airport Spotting and T7 Models will be available to view and purchase items from. A display from local model club IPMS Avon will also be on display. Refreshments will be available to purchase from the new cafe, choose from tea and coffee, sandwiches, crisps and bacon rolls. No food is to be taken into the Bristol Room.

How do I show my support for this event?

If you are coming along to the event please Join the Facebook event below so we have a rough idea of numbers – https://www.facebook.com/events/526622907439662/ or if you arent on Facebook just turn up on the day, bring a friend, family or colleagues. If you would like to advertise the event on your website you can download the event poster below.

aviation-fair-poster

Finnair A350 routes announced

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, China, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Western Europe | Posted on 16-08-2014

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A350XWB Finnair

Finnair has announced an initial batch of routes that it will fly with its Airbus A350 aircraft.

The airline has opted for the A350-900 model, and will take delivery of the first of 11 aircraft on order in the middle of 2015. It has eight options for additional aircraft.

The first routes to be operated by the A350 will be from Helsinki to Bangkok, Beijing, and Shanghai. They are likely to commence in the second half of 2015.

Additionally, Hong Kong and Singapore will be added in 2016.

For Finnair, the A350 will be its flagship long haul aircraft, and these are the airline’s flagship international routes, as it has a significant presence on the Europe – Asia network.

Finnair CEO Pekka Vauramo said: “Since Finnair’s founding in 1923, we have had a long history of operations using the most advanced aircraft available,” he added “As the first European operator of the A350, we are proud to carry forward this tradition on behalf of our passengers, whose safety and comfort remain our first priority.”

7 Embraer E-Jets in Europe

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Eastern Europe, Miscellaneous Spotting, Western Europe | Posted on 13-08-2014

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Embraer’s E-jet series is a really versatile aircraft, as evident by the number of airlines operating it – from mainline national carriers to regional and charter companies.

Here are seven Embraer aircraft seen in Europe recently.

Finnair Embraer 190 OH-LKG at Manchester

Finnair Embraer 190 OH-LKG at Manchester

 

Flybe's Embraer 175 G-FBJD at Durham Tees Valley

Flybe’s Embraer 175 G-FBJD at Durham Tees Valley

BA CityFlyer Embraer 190 G-LCYK

BA CityFlyer Embraer 190 G-LCYK

 

LOT Embraer 175 SP-LIK at Stockholm Arlanda

LOT Embraer 175 SP-LIK at Stockholm Arlanda

Jetairfly Embraer 195 OO-JEB at Brussels

Jetairfly Embraer 195 OO-JEB at Brussels

 

Ukraine International UR-EMA

Ukraine International UR-EMA

Air Europa Embraer 195 EC-LIN

Air Europa Embraer 195 EC-LIN

 

Frankfurt Terminal 2 terrace temporary closure

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Airport Spotting Guide, Frankfurt, Germany, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 06-08-2014

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Frankfurt Terminal 2 Terrace

(c) Frankfurt Airport

Frankfurt Airport’s main viewing terrace, in Terminal 2, is to close temporarily whilst construction works take place in the building.

The outdoor terrace overlooks the eastern end of the airport, and is the main viewing area following the closure of the classic Terminal 1 terraces a while ago.

The works will take place from September, and will last until 2015. This includes the food court area, which was an alternative spotting location at the airport when the terrace was closed (or the weather was bad!).

Frankfurt Airport promises “We will celebrate its reopening in a big way in spring 2015.”   Watch this space – I’ll let you know what is happening when I hear about it.

BLOC Hotel Gatwick – Spotting Hotel Review

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Spotting Hotels, Spotting Trip Reports, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 27-07-2014

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BLOC1

I recently had the pleasure of staying in the newly opened BLOC Hotel at London Gatwick Airport.

The hotel occupies part of the South Terminal at the airport, and is accessible pre-departures, making it an excellent place to stay before or after your flight without having to worry about transport to or from a hotel away from the airport itself.

But for enthusiasts the BLOC Hotel offers an even greater draw, and that’s fantastic views of the action at Gatwick itself.

Gatwick Airport has been notoriously difficult to spot from since the viewing terraces closed down in 2002. But for those who remember these terraces, the BLOC Hotel actually offers a similar view from many of its rooms, albeit with a further elevated perspective, meaning even more can be seen.

I was offered room 748 at the hotel, which is one of the best for spotting. It occupies a corner of the top floor of the hotel, with panoramic views from the runway to the left, round to the North Terminal and the South Terminal’s satellite to the right.

BLOC Hotel

The view from the BLOC hotel is similar to that of the old viewing terraces at Gatwick.

No movements can be missed from this room, as everything using the runway is visible, as are most stands. Some South Terminal stands are not visible, however. The maintenance area is also not visible.

BLOC5

The old viewing terraces still exist, but will not be reopened.

BLOC’s concept is modern design, and the furniture and fittings in the room are really unique. In this particular room there was a large bed, TV, bathroom (with equally good views),  and a touch-screen control panel to handle the lights, blinds, temperature etc.

One feature that always goes down well with spotters is Wi-Fi, and at the BLOC hotel it’s free for all guests, regardless of which room you stay in. This is ideal for running Flightradar24 or similar flight tracking websites to tie up distant or night time movements. On my stay I also noticed some Heathrow departures flying overhead, which could be identified on the internet.

BLOC6

Be careful when booking at this hotel as some rooms have no windows. These are clearly labelled on the website, and naturally will not offer any views of movements. It is best to try and get a higher room facing the airport (west or south) to ensure you can see movements easily; the benefit of Gatwick only having one runway is that all aircraft will be in the same place at some point.

BLOC Hotel Gatwick

An example of the photographs possible from the BLOC Hotel at Gatwick

Photography through the windows was easy on my stay. The windows were clean, and with a 200mm lens I could photograph any aircraft within a reasonable distance. I found, however, that as the light started to fade the windows took on a slight tint which stopped the ability to take good photographs.

The room rates at the BLOC Hotel are pretty good, and in most cases less than £100 per night for all but the VIP rooms. The website handily lists the full standard rate, and the actual rate they are charging over a range of dates. So you can plan your trip well.

This is easily one of the best spotting hotels I’ve ever experienced. I had the benefit of probably the best room for views, but many others at the hotel offer a similar panorama of this notoriously difficult-to-spot-at airport where nothing will be missed. Add to that easy access, comfortable facilities, friendly staff, and good prices.

BLOC2

To find out more or book a room, visit the BLOC Hotel Gatwick website.

Monarch close to 737 MAX order

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, North America, Spotting News, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 14-07-2014

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Monarch 737 MAX

Monarch Airlines is close to finalising a deal with Boeing to order 30 737 MAX 8 aircraft as part of its fleet upgrade.

Although it operates a couple of 757-200s, and in the past operated 737-300s, Monarch has been primarily an Airbus operator over recent years. It has a fleet of A320s and A321s, and recently retired its A300-600s. So this move is an interesting development for the UK holiday carrier.

The order is valued at $3.1 billion at current list prices.

“Today’s announcement is an important milestone in an exhaustive three year evaluation process, and a key part of The Monarch Group’s transformation and renewal,” said Iain Rawlinson, Executive Chairman, The Monarch Group. “Boeing truly understood our business and put together a complete package that fits extremely well with our ambitions for the Group.”

“We are delighted that Monarch intends to structure its future fleet around the 737 MAX,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner. “We look forward to finalizing the order and can’t wait to see the Monarch livery on 737s once again. Today is a proud moment for everyone at Boeing, as we welcome back a prestigious U.K. operator. We are confident that the 737 MAX will play a significant role in Monarch’s continued success.”