Fly in a Spitfire!

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 11-12-2014

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This is not the usual topic I cover on here, but I love featuring chances to fly on rare planes and this is certainly one of them!

A company in the UK called Into the Blue, which specialises in flying experiences, is now offering the chance to fly in a two-seat Spitfire aircraft on a 30 minute flight.

Following a change in the CAA rules, you can now fly in this aircraft – which actually saw combat in World War 2, including downing enemy aircraft. It was later converted into a two-seat aircraft, allowing these experience flights to take place. Two-seater Spitfires are incredibly rare. Supermarine did come up with the design for a two-seater version of the Spitfire, but none were ever ordered and only one was ever built. However, following several ‘unofficial’ conversions, Supermarine converted a handful of Mark IX Spitfires into two-seaters, called TR9s after the Second World War.

The aircraft is operated by Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, operating from Biggin Hill airfield to the south of London – the heart of ‘Battle of Britain Country’. You’ll be given a full pre-flight briefing, tour of the heritage hangar, Q&A session with the team, in-flight video recording, debrief, and time to hang around at the venue.

If you’re interested in finding out more, check out Into the Blue’s website here www.intotheblue.co.uk

I’m going to start saving up for this!

Iberia to launch 13 new routes in 2015

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Eastern Europe, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 11-12-2014

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Iberia A321

Iberia and its partner Iberia Express will launch 13 new routes in the summer 2015 season.

The airlines will operate non-stop flights from Madrid to Florence, Naples, Palermo, Catania and Verona in Italy, Manchester and Edinburgh in the UK, Hamburg in Germany, Funchal in Madeira, Portugal, and Budapest in Hungary.

They will also launch non-stop flights from Asturias to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, from Madrid to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and from Madrid to London Gatwick.

In addition the airlines will add 65 weekly flights to 24 existing Spanish, European and long-haul routes

Luis Gallego, Iberia’s Chairman and CEO, commented that “The introduction of additional routes and frequencies in such a competitive short- and medium-haul market is an indication of the effectiveness of our cost-cutting measures, and also of the quality of the new product and services that we offer our customers.”

The new routes and additional frequencies follow the eight destinations launched by Iberia in 2014 (Montevideo, Santo Domingo, Amsterdam, Athens, Hanover, Istanbul, Stockholm and Stuttgart), the capacity increase to Panama City and Santiago in Chile, as well as the summer destinations operated by the airline (St. Petersburg, Ibiza, Dubrovnik and Zagreb)

VLM bringing Superjet to Europe

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 30-10-2014

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VLM Superjet

VLM Airlines is undergoing restructuring following a management buyout, and will be the first airline in Europe to introduce the Sukhoi Superjet.

The airline, based in Antwerp, currently operates a fleet of Fokker 50 aircraft on contract and charter work, and also flies on behalf of Cityjet on a number of business routes.

“We received an offer from the management of VLM Airlines that we felt we could not refuse.” said Peter Oncken, Managing Director at Intro Aviation. “We are happy to see VLM now to develop as a wholly independent airline in the ownership of a management which is dedicated to VLM”.

The airline has agreed a lease with Ilyushin Finance for two Sukhoi Superjet 100s, with options on a further two, and purchase rights on an additional ten examples.

The aircraft will be used to help VLM return to its independent scheduled service roots, beginning a network of short-haul services from Antwerp from April 2015. The Fokker 50 fleet will also be used on the scheduled services, and the Cityjet deal will continue.

“We looked at a number of aircraft types in the 100-seat range to see which would give the best passenger experience, flexibility in short-to-medium range destinations and low operating costs – the SSJ100 LR won hands down. It has been great working with IFC and Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company and I am looking forward to a mutually profitable long-term relationship.”

Monarch retiring Boeing 757 in November

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 23-10-2014

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Monarch 757

Monarch will retire its Boeing 757 fleet in November according to the airline’s latest plans.

Unlike its Airbus A300 retirement earlier this year, which saw a specially laid-on enthusiast flight to celebrate the event, the 757 will go quietly after performing its final flights on 2nd November.

A couple of ad-hoc charter flights are planned for the type following that date, after which it will be disposed of as the airline focuses on its modern fleet of Airbus A320s, A321s and A330s

Monarch is currently undergoing a change of ownership as the Mantegazza family sells the longstanding airline to Greybull Capital. Already announced this week is the departure of strategy director Stuart Jackson, among hundreds of job layoffs planned for the restructuring of the airline, which will only focus on scheduled services in the future.

Whilst visiting Gatwick recently I took this time lapse sequence of a Monarch Boeing 757 during preparation for departure, which is a nice tribute to the type.

Monarch was one of the first airlines in the world to operate the Boeing 757 when it took delivery in 1983, alongside other UK operators Air Europe and British Airways. The fleet could be seen on charters across Europe, Africa and North America, but the natural life of the airframes is coming to an end and the airline must look forward to a brand new fleet. It recently ordered 30 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, and has taken a number of second hand A321s recently to bolster its capacity.

 

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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?

British Airways’ second hand A320 fleet details

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Brazil, Eastern Europe, Hungary, South America, Spotting News, Turkey, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 08-10-2014

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British Airways A320

British Airways is taking on ten second-hand Airbus A320 aircraft to be based at London Gatwick airport.

The aircraft are all due for delivery between October 2014 and June 2015. Here’s a lowdown on the aircraft details.

G-GATH, c/n 1482, ex TC-OBH (Onur Air) – due November 2014
G-GATJ, c/n 1509, ex TC-OBI (Onur Air) – due October 2014
G-GATK, c/n 1902, ex HA-LPD (Wizz Air) – due January 2015
G-GATL, c/n 1834, ex HA-LPF (Wizz Air) – due January 2015
G-GATM, c/n 1892, ex HA-LPE (Wizz Air) – due March 2015
G-GATN, c/n 1613, ex PT-MZX (TAM) – due February 2015
G-GATO, c/n 1663, ex PR-MAB (TAM) – due March 2015
G-GATP, c/n 1804, ex PR-MAE (TAM) – due April 2015
G-GATR, c/n 1771, ex PR-MAD (TAM) – due May 2015
G-GATS, c/n 1672, ex PR-MAC (TAM) – due June 2015

These aircraft will operate the European schedules from Gatwick, mostly replacing the Boeing 737-400 and Airbus A319s based there currently.

Virgin Atlantic Little Red to close next year

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Heathrow, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 07-10-2014

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By Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Virgin Atlantic will close its Little Red domestic division early next year.

The airline flies Airbus A320s leased from Aer Lingus on routes out of London Heathrow to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester, which link in to its long haul flights out of the London hub.

Little Red was set up in March 2013 following IAG’s purchase of bmi British Midland when certain bmi slots at Heathrow were awarded to Virgin to ensure fair competition.

Loads on Little Red flights have been less than enthusiastic, and there have been fewer connecting passengers than Virgin had hoped.

Services to Manchester will end in March 2015, and to Aberdeen and Edinburgh in September 2015.

Three-way Embraer deal with Republic and Flybe

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Brazil, Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, South America, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 18-09-2014

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Embraer 175

Republic Holdings and the UK’s Flybe have come to an agreement regarding orders for more Embraer aircraft to meet their fleet development needs.

Flybe has arranged to transfer 20 of its 24 outstanding Embraer 175 orders to Republic, which will use them as part of United Express. In addition to this, Republic has ordered another 30 E-175s, boosting its fleet by 50 in total.

As a reciprocal deal, Flybe will take on 24 of Republic’s fleet of Q400 turboprops on lease to allow it to replace similar examples coming to the end of lease in its current fleet.

Flybe Q400

The remaining four Flybe  E-175 orders will be deferred until 2018, with the Republic Q400s arriving from March 2015.

Republic, which still holds options on another 32 E-175s, will receive the new E-Jets from the third quarter of 2015, with the final delivery slated for 2017.

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

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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