Air Malta Retro A320 flies

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Malta, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 16-04-2014

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Air Malta Retro

Air Malta has painted its Airbus A320 9H-AEI in a retro livery, showing the airline’s 1970s and 80s colours.

It made its debut in a flypast at Malta Airport, with many spotters ready to take pictures.

Picture (c) Air Malta

Ryanair expands with more bases

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Eastern Europe, Germany, Poland, Western Europe | Posted on 11-04-2014

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Ryanair 737

Ryanair has announced it is to open new bases in Cologne/Bonn, Gdansk, and Warsaw-Modlin from Winter 2014.

The new bases will each see aircraft being based at the airports, and new routes being opened to a variety of destinations.

“Ryanair is delighted to announce that we will be opening a new base at Cologne this winter, offering 8 exciting routes, including 5 new routes to Dublin, London Stansted, Madrid, Riga and Rome Ciampino, which will deliver over 700,000 passengers annually”

“Ryanair is[also] delighted to announce that we will be opening a new base at Gdansk this winter, offering 10 exciting routes, including 3 new winter routes to Birmingham, Leeds Bradford and Warsaw Modlin”

And finally: “Ryanair is delighted to announce that we will be opening a new base at Warsaw Modlin this winter, offering 20 exciting routes, including 4 new winter routes to Gdansk, Madrid, Shannon and Wroclaw, which will deliver some 1.9m passengers annually”

Belavia announces Embraer 195 routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Belarus, Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, Netherlands, Russia, Western Europe | Posted on 02-04-2014

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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Belavia EMB175, (c) Magic Aviation.

Belavia will introduce the Embraer 195 aircraft in May, alongside its existing EMB 175, CRJ, and Boeing 737 aircraft.

The airline has announced that the 195 will operate on the following routes from 6 May:

Minsk – Amsterdam (from 16 May)
Minsk – Batumi (from July)
Minsk – Moscow Domodedovo
Minsk – Prague
Minsk – St Petersburg

 

Norwegian 787s to Gatwick

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Spotting News, Sweden, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 01-04-2014

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Norwegian Air takeoffNorwegian will again fly its Boeing 787 aircraft into Gatwick this summer.

The aircraft will operate daily from Stockholm Arlanda to London Gatwick, with two flights per day on weekdays.

The flights will operate from 6th May to 24th July 2014.

 

 

 

Credit AirlineRoute.net

TAAG Angola aims to develop Luanda into large hub

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airline News, Airport News, Belgium, Brazil, China, Dubai, France, Heathrow, Italy, Middle East, Portugal, South America, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 01-04-2014

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TAAG_777-3M2ERTAAG Angola Airlines is planning to turn its Luanda Airport base into a hub to link Central Africa with worldwide destinations in association with Emirates Airline.

TAAG is currently on the EU banned airline list, but it is hoped it will emerge soon and begin expanding its connections to Europe, including Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon, London Heathrow, Paris CDG, and Rome Fiumicino.

Luanda will also be linked through Dubai via Emirates, who will also take on TAAG’s links to Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo.

A new airport is being built at Luanda which will be able to handle this increased traffic, and match modern standards expected at airports.

Asiana A380 emerges from paint shop

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Germany, South Korea, Western Europe | Posted on 31-03-2014

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Asiana A380 rolls out of paintshopAsiana’s first Airbus A380 has emerged from the paint shop in Hamburg in full colours of the South Korean airline.

Asiana Airlines has firm orders for six A380s and will operate the aircraft from Seoul initially on regional services in Asia followed by long-haul routes to the US.

Click to see a larger image.

Stobart Air and Flybe to launch London Southend partnership

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 31-03-2014

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Flybe Q400Stobart Air is the new name for Aer Arann, keeping it in line with its parent company Stobart Group.

The carrier operates franchise flights on behalf of Aer Lingus, but has now also announced a five year partnership with Flybe to operate services from London Southend Airport.

The five year agreement will initially see two 72 seat ATR 500/600 aircraft based at Stobart’s London Southend Airport, with options to extend the franchise further in the future.  The two planes, flying in Flybe livery, will serve six routes to Northern Europe and Benelux countries from 5 June 2014.  The franchise is aiming to carry over 200,000 passengers to and from London Southend Airport annually in 2015. Tickets will go on sale from 3 April via Flybe.com.

Saad Hammad (above left), Chief Executive Officer of Flybe said: “We are delighted to be extending the Flybe brand further into the South East.  Today’s news is also further evidence of our commitment to providing true regional connectivity across the UK and we look forward to unveiling a major programme of new base and route development over the coming months.”

Southend is owned by the Stobart Group and has seen impressive growth in recent years following the development of its passenger terminal, a runway extension, and the arrival of an easyJet base.

Lockheed TriStar last day of RAF operations

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting Trip Reports, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 25-03-2014

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Boarding ZD950Monday 24th March saw the final sortie of the Royal Air Force 216 squadron and its Lockheed L1011 TriStar aircraft.

Many of you will know that these aircraft have a civilian heritage. The TriStar was a widebody tri-jet from the 1970s which competed head-to-head with the Douglas DC-10. Although some TriStars remain in operation as VIP transports and on ad-hoc charter flying, the RAF’s fleet, which came from British Airways and Pan Am in the 1980s, were the last in regular service and I got the opportunity to join the last sortie from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

216 squadron was originally formed 96 years ago in 1917. It found itself operating de Havilland Comets from RAF Lyneham until it was disbanded in 1975. In 1979 it reformed to operate Buccaneer aircraft for less than a year. Then in 1983 it was reformed again as a result of the Falklands War. This time it was to operate the new fleet of Lockheed TriStars as both a troop and civilian transport to the islands, and also as a refuelling platform to help other aircraft on the long journey to the South Atlantic. It was ideally suited to this role, and continued until March 2014 when the new Voyager aircraft took over.

RAF 216 squadron

The TriStar was also a significant force in the first Gulf War, as well as the conflict in Afghanistan. Again, it was vital as a troop transport and tanker, and also played a significant role in training pilots in air-to-air refuelling. Over 1,600 round trips were made by TriStars between the UK and bases in Bastion, Kabul and Kandahar.

Originally planned for retirement in 2017, the end date was recently brought forward to the end of this month as a cost-saving measure, and also because of the new Voyager aircraft coming on line.

On the trip today, our flight was to take us from Brize Norton out over the North Sea for the last refuelling exercise. Two TriStars were taking part – ZD950, which I was on, and ZD948 which was to refuel four fighter aircraft. The two aircraft flew in close formation to allow the best vantage point for those with cameras, and as you can see from the pictures here it was a spectacular view.

TriStar wing

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L1011 TriStar formation

I had missed the chance of flying a TriStar when they were more numerous in airline service, so this was a real last chance to fly the type and experience another classic airliner sadly in its final days. The aircraft still had a number of reminders of its time in airline service, from the curved bank of toilets at the rear to the rows of passenger seating down one half of the cabin. The remainder is an open space for fuel tanks and cargo, with a large cargo door having been installed during the conversion process.

L1011 cockpit

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Up in the cockpit the crew made meticulous adjustments to the controls to keep in close formation as we flew a racetrack pattern alongside the other TriStar and fighters. The Flight Engineer was tasked with monitoring both the aircraft instruments, and the green TV screen showing the aircraft flying alongside. Sadly this role will disappear in favour of a Mission Operator on the new Voyager aircraft.

L1011 tanker

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After each fighter had finished topping up its tanks, it passed underneath our aircraft and up the other side for another fantastic photo opportunity.

L1011 and Typhoon

Back at Brize Norton, passing over the crowds assembled at the end of the runway to witness the final landings, we settled onto the runway with a rattle (the loose cargo runners and largely empty cabin do nothing to muffle the noise) and taxied to our parking position, perhaps significantly alongside one of the new Voyagers, which are a variant of the Airbus A330-200.

Voyager TriStar Replacement

To top the day off, we were treated to a tour of the Air Tanker Ltd facility, which will now take over air-to-air refuelling operations and training, and also the air bridges to the Falklands and conflicts in the Middle East. ZZ337 was the aircraft in the purpose built docking bay. Having been delivered only four weeks ago, the new car smell and cleanliness was a stark contrast to the L1011. In the cockpit – essentially that of an A330 but with extra space for the Mission Operator and his camera/refuelling controls – it was explained how much of a joy it is to fly… not that any of the guys relish seeing the TriStar (and previously the VC-10) disappear when there are so many fond memories of these classics.

ZZ337

Voyager Cockpit

A330 Voyager interior

By the time this article is live, the four remaining RAF TriStars will have joined their stable mates at Bruntingthorpe Airfield near Leicester. It is deemed too costly to fund making any of them a museum piece, and so it seems likely all will be scrapped in the very near future. Of the fleet, two remain at Cambridge, one at Kemble, and now six at Bruntingthorpe.

I’d like to thank the Royal Air Force for the invitation to join this special final mission, and especially Flight Lieutenant Rachel McCulloch for running the day so smoothly.

Last operational sortie of the 216 Squadron RAF Tristar aircraft

First A320neo in final assembly

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in France, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 18-03-2014

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First A320neo assemblyAirbus has started final assembly of the first A320neo at its Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Toulouse (France), with the join-up of the forward and aft fuselage sections which recently arrived from St. Nazaire in France and Hamburg in Germany respectively.

Once this phase is completed, the next stage is the wing to fuselage join-up. Overall it takes about one month to complete the final assembly of an A320 Family aircraft.

The A320neo first flight will take place in Q4 2014 and first delivery in Q4 2015.

See the new Qatar A380 first class interior

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Heathrow, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting, Qatar, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 06-03-2014

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Qatar A380 First ClassQatar Airways have revealed the interior of their soon to be delivered Airbus A380s. Their first aircraft has recently been seen in testing.

With a customised interior meeting the high demand specifications of Qatar Airways, the airline´s new A380s will undoubtedly be the talk of aviation enthusiasts and passengers alike when the first aircraft enters service this year, the first of 13 such aircraft on order.

The new First Class A380 seat, revealed by Mr. Al Baker at a ceremony attended by the Mayor of Berlin, Mr Klaus Wowereit as Guest of Honour, features a 90-inch seat pitch, transforming into a fully flat bed, together with an expansive choice of entertainment options displayed on individual 26-inch television screens.

A380 Qatar maiden flight

Mr. Akbar Al Baker said: “It is a landmark moment to see this fantastic new First Class A380 seat displayed here at ITB Berlin, the perfect event at which to announce such important innovations to our global audience. Operating on the Doha to London Heathrow route, this cabin will offer a new level of comfort for passengers travelling to the United Kingdom, who will also benefit from our Premium Terminal in Doha and the new Qatar Airways Premium Lounge in London Heathrow Terminal 4.

The arrival this year of the airline´s first A380 marks a significant milestone for the airline, whose future home, Hamad International Airport (HIA), has been specially designed to cater to the aircraft, with six contact gates designed with specifications required for the superjumbo. In addition, the maintenance hangar at HIA – which will be the largest in the world – is able to accommodate two A380s simultaneously.

In addition to the 13 A380 aircraft the airline currently has on order, Qatar Airways is also set this year to welcome the first of 80 A350 aircraft, the world’s newest aircraft, as Airbus’s launch customer.

The A380 will enter service between Doha and London Heathrow this summer.