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.

United to fly 787-9s domestically

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Australasia, Australia, North America, USA | Posted on 28-03-2014

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United Airlines 787-800United Airlines will begin operations with its new Boeing 787-9 aircraft by flying on a number of domestic routes.

The first of the aircraft, which is an extended version of the standard 787-8 model, will arrive in July. Flying shorter routes will help in gaining crew familiarity before the type begins long haul flying.

The aircraft will fly between Denver, Houston IAH and Los Angeles International from August.

Already announced, the first international route will be from Los Angeles International to Melbourne, starting in October.

 

Japan Transocean Air orders 737-800s

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Japan | Posted on 27-03-2014

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Japan Trans Ocean Air 737 NGJapan Transocean Air has placed an order for 12 Boeing 737-800 aircraft, valued at $1.1 billion at list prices, which will mark the start of the airline’s fleet renewal program with the new airplanes scheduled to enter into service from 2016. As part of the agreement, JTA will have the flexibility to switch to the 737 MAX family of aircraft.

A member of the Japan Airlines Group, JTA is based in Naha, Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost island chain. Currently, the airline operates a fleet of 737-400 airplanes on domestic routes linking Okinawa with major Japanese cities as well as other islands within Okinawa.

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

Sydney Airport aviation community weekend – 4-5 April

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Airport Spotting Guide, Australasia, Australia | Posted on 19-03-2014

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Qantas_A380_VH-OQB_SydneySydney Airport will host its second annual Aviation Community Weekend on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th April.

This year Sydney Airport will be offering two exclusive airfield tours.  Both tours will be escorted by an airfield safety vehicle enabling each of you to spend a reasonable amount of time on the airfield to capture aircraft landings and takeoffs.  The airfield tour will also consist of a tour around the inside perimeter fence.

Canon Australia are on board to offer product demonstrations along with a selection of super telephoto lenses available for use during an afternoon plane spotting session from a high vantage point.  This session will occur on the airport’s corporate office rooftop which has an impressive 180 degree runway view.

After Canon’s product demonstrations, Sydney Airport and YSSY Forum will offer light refreshments and finger food. A trivia competition will also be held, with several of stakeholders offering great experiences as prizes.

Pre-registration is open until Friday, 21st March at 9am (SYD time) where names for both airfield tours will be selected at random.

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.

Sydney Rydges Hotel is the new spotting location

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Australasia, Australia, Spotting Hotels, Spotting News | Posted on 17-03-2014

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Rydges Hotel ViewWe recently reported on the closure of Sydney’s Observation Deck on the International Terminal. However, the airport has been working with the Rydges Hotel in providing an alternative place for spotters to congregate.

The hotel has a rooftop area which it is now opening up to plane spotters for a small fee of $10.This fee gets you access to the rooftop, a free beverage from the cafe, and a spotter information sheet to help you get to grips with Sydney Airport. There are also family passes available for $30 for 2 adults and 2 children.

The Rydges Hotel is located within the International Terminal complex, and is Sydney’s only airport terminal hotel.

Views from the roof look across the airfield and runways, with many of the International Terminal gates in view, and the Domestic Terminal visible in the distance. All movements can be seen to some degree, so you’re not going to miss anything from here.

Rydges Hotel Rooftop

Photography is also possible for aircraft at the International Terminal and on the nearest (16R/34L) runway but needs a zoom lens.

Rydges Hotel Room Views

Spotter Hotel Package
If you’re looking to stay in Sydney, the Rydges Hotel has a special Plane Spotter Package which guarantees you a Deluxe King Room with a great view of the airport and surroundings, a pair of binoculars, food & drink voucher, free Wi-Fi and late checkout. The price starts at AUS$229 for non-members, or $206 for members. Check it out here: http://www.rydges.com/accommodation/sydney-nsw/sydney-airport/offers/plane-spotter-package/

 

6 Stunning Pictures of Airbus A340s

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 13-03-2014

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The Airbus A340 is an incredible aircraft. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are six stunning pictures of A340s in flight around the world, by some excellent aviation photographers.

Swissair A340 landing (c) Wanja Meier

Swissair A340 landing (c) Wanja Meier

 

Etihad A340-600 (c) Martin Tietz

Etihad A340-500 (c) Martin Tietz

 

Air France A340-300 landing at St Maarten. (c) Yasu To

Air France A340-300 landing at St Maarten. (c) Yasu To

 

Virgin Atlantic A340-600 at Sydney (c) SimonVanDerBurg

Virgin Atlantic A340-600 at Sydney (c) Simon Van Der Burg

 

Air Tahiti Nui A340-300 (c) Matt Falcus

Air Tahiti Nui A340-300 (c) Matt Falcus

Singapore Airlines A340-500 by Andrew Compolo

Singapore Airlines A340-500 (c) Andrew Compolo

Spicejet orders 42 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, India, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 12-03-2014

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SpiceJet 737 MAX8 ArtworkA large order has come from Spicejet at the India Aviation 2014 event for 42 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

This brings the total umber of Boeing aircraft operated or on order by Spicejet to 90, including the 737-800, -900ER and now the MAX variant.

“SpiceJet greatly values the ties we have built over the years with Boeing. The Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft, the mainstay of the fleet ever since SpiceJet started operations, have vindicated our choice by their endurance, reliability and cost effectiveness,” said S.L. Narayanan, Group CFO for The Sun Group. “The induction of Boeing 737 MAX will further modernize our fleet, improve customer experience, and ensure that we operate the most efficient fleet well into the future.”

First flight of the new MAX is scheduled in 2016 with deliveries to customers beginning in 2017. Already a market success, the 737 MAX has accumulated more than 1,800 orders to date and will have 8 percent lower per-seat operating costs than the future competition.