Mojave Plane Crazy Days 16 August

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in North America, Spotting News, USA | Posted on 06-08-2014

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This was news to me, so I thought I’d report it. Mojave Air and Space Port in California is hosting regular ‘Plane Crazy’ days where visitors get to enjoy talks by guest speakers, and displays by pilots and unusual aircraft.

Mojave Plane Crazy August

Mojave is well known as one of the desert storage airports in the western United States, and in recent years as a developing centre for space travel and testing.

The next Plane Crazy Saturday will be held on 16th August and will include the following:

  • Stargazer Lockheed L1011 on display
  • Joseph Weichmann speaking on ‘California and the Commercial Spaceflight Industry’
  • Local pilots displaying unique and one-of-a-kind aircraft

The Voyager Restaurant and other local businesses will also be open. It seems that visitors will also get access to the flightline to see aircraft close up, so this is a great opportunity to take along a camera!

 

Find out more at this link.

New Calgary Airport spotting hotel being built

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Canada, North America, Spotting Hotels, Spotting News | Posted on 04-08-2014

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Delta Hotel Calgary

A new four star hotel is being constructed at Calgary International Airport which promises excellent views of the action.

The 318-bedroom Delta Hotel is close to completion and is linked directly to the airport’s terminal. Rooms will face either the aircraft ramp or the curbside – no prizes for guessing which you readers will be interested in!

The hotel was conceived by the airport as an extra source of revenue, and a part of its $1.4 billion terminal expansion. However, it will be operated by Delta Hotels and Resorts. It is the first such example for Delta, who operate 41 other hotel properties.

Calgary Airport recently opened a second runway. It handled just over 14 million passengers in 2013, with Air Canada, Air Transat and WestJet as the principal operators.

Calgary Terminal Expansion

The new Calgary Airport Hotel will open in conjunction with the new terminal development in 2015.

 

Thai Airways – A300 retires and 787 arrives

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Spotting News, Thailand | Posted on 01-08-2014

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It’s been an important couple of weeks for Thai Airways’ fleet.

First of all, on 18th July their first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner arrived. Royally bestowed the name “ONGKHARAK”, with aircraft registration No. HS-TQA, it flew non-stop from Everett to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport.

Thai 787

This first 787-8 aircraft operated its first commercial flight on 25th July 2014 from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. With the delivery of the second 787-8 aircraft, THAI will operate to and from Bangkok to Perth, Australia and Bangkok to Haneda, Japan sometime in September (see our 787 Routes Page).  THAI expects delivery of its third 787-8 in October and operate Bangkok-Narita, Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok-Hanoi routes.  The fourth 787-8 aircraft delivery is planned for December 2014 and will operate the Bangkok-Nagoya route.  The remaining two 787-8 Dreamliner deliveries are expected in the middle of 2015.

Meanwhile, Thai has this week retired its Airbus A300-600R fleet after many years’ service with the airline.

The final three aircraft, HS-TAT, HS-TAX and HS-TAZ performed the final flights on 31st July and bowed out under water-cannon salute.

Thai A300 Retirement

Thai A300

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.

ANA set to debut 787-9 on 4 August

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Australasia, Japan, New Zealand, North America, USA | Posted on 25-07-2014

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787 ANA

ANA All Nippon Airways will take delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 aircraft on 28th July direct from Everett.

The airline will be the first to operate the stretched model of the Dreamliner when it operates a special flight from Tokyo Haneda airport over Mount Fuji carrying Japanese and American elementary school children living in Japan. These, the airline says, are the “next generation of air passengers.”

ANA will initially operate the 787-9 on domestic routes within Japan.

International flights will follow from April 2015.

In addition to this new, fellow launch customer Air New Zealand plans to start commercial flights between Auckland and Sydney with their new 787-9s from August.

Find out all the Boeing 787 Routes here.

New Georgian airline Flyvista set for August launch

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Eastern Europe, Georgia | Posted on 22-07-2014

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Flyvista 4L-AJC

Flyvista is a new airline based in Tbilisi, Georgia.

It is set to launch low-cost flights in August, flying to destinations in Europe and the Middle East (Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Turkey, Iran, Russia etc), although no definite schedules have been released.

The airline has taken delivery of its first aircraft, Boeing 737-300 4L-AJC,  and has also been operating two 737-500s from Khartoum on wet-leases to Badr Airlines.

 

Farnborough Air Show Orders Summary

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 18-07-2014

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The Farnborough Air Show is now over for another two years. But it has been a really significant show in terms of aircraft announcements and orders, breaking all previous records for the show. Here’s a summary of the proceedings…

 

A330-900neo_RR_Transaero

Airbus

  • Announced the A330neo aircraft at the show
  • AerCap ordered 50 A320neo family aircraft
  • AirAsia X ordered 50 A330neo
  • Air Lease Corporation ordered 25 A330neo and 60 A321neo
  • Air Mauritius ordered six A350XWB
  • Avolon ordered 15 A330neo – launch customer
  • BOC Aviation ordered 43 A320 family aircraft
  • CIT ordered 15 A330neo and five A321ceo
  • Hong Kong Aviation Capital ordered 70 A320neo family aircraft
  • IAG (British Airways, Iberia, Vueling) ordered 20 A320neo
  • SMBC Aviation Capital ordered 115 A320 family aircraft
  • Transaero ordered 20 A330neo

ATR Aircraft

  • Air Lease Corporation ordered seven ATR 72-600
  • Myanma Airways ordered up to 12 ATR 72-600
  • Nordic Aviation Capital ordered 75 ATR 42-600

Qatar_777X and 777F

Boeing

  • Air Algerie ordered two 737-700C
  • Air Lease Corporation ordered six 777-300ER and 20 737 MAX 8
  • Avolon ordered five 737 MAX 9 and six 787-9
  • CIT Group ordered ten 787-9
  • Hainan Airlines ordered 50 737 MAX 8
  • Intrepid Aviation ordered six 777-300ER
  • MG Aviation ordered two 787-9
  • Monarch Airlines ordered 30 737-MAX 8
  • Okay Airways ordered six 737 MAX 8 and four 737-800
  • Qatar Airways ordered 50 777X

Bombardier

  • “Existing Customer” ordered seven CS300 with rights for six more
  • “Existing African Customer” signed LOI for five CSeries aircraft
  • Nok Air converts options on two Q400 aircraft into firm order

ICBCEmbraer

Embraer

  • AZAL ordered two E190
  • Azul signs LOI for 50 E195-E2 – launch customer
  • Fuji Dream Airlines ordered up to six E175
    HNA Group ordered 20 E190 and 20 E190-E2
  • Royal Air Maroc ordered four E190
  • Trans States Airlines ordered up to 100 E175-E2

US Airways farewell 737-400 flight

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, North America, USA | Posted on 16-07-2014

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737-400US_livery

US Airways will retire its Boeing 737-400 fleet on 19th August 2014.

To mark the occasion the airline is putting on a special flight that will call at three cities on the final day of operation.

US flight number 0737 will leave Charlotte on a flight to Dallas Fort Worth. It will then fly to Philadelphia before returning to Charlotte. The flight times are expected to be:

Charlotte 0830 – Dallas Ft Worth 1016
Dallas Ft Worth 1245 – Philadelphia 1703
Philadelphia 2000 – Charlotte 2140

At each destination there will be a special farewell for the aircraft with staff and press.

The public are able to book on this flight, but it is expected to have sold out very quickly.

If you witness the final day of operation, why not send us your pictures!

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.”

Airbus announces A330neo

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News | Posted on 14-07-2014

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A330-900neo

Airbus has announced the anticipated A330neo (new engine option) variant of its popular twin-engined, widebody airliner at the Farnborough Air Show.

The European manufacturer is showing off its new A350XWB at the event, but has chosen the moment to also build on the popularity of its existing model with this announcement.

The A330-800neo and -900neo will offer greater fuel savings (around 14%), quieter engines (the latest Rolls-Royce Trent 7000) with larger fan blades, as well as more seats and improved cabin features. Much of the construction will be of composite material, based on the A350XWB.

A330neo cabin

As well as having operational commonality with other members of the Airbus Family – including the same pilot type rating as the A330, common type rating with the A350 XWB and the same “Code-E” gate category as the A330-200 and -300 – the NEO will also retain 95% airframe spares commonality with A330 and inherit its marketing-leading reliability.

The first deliveries of the newest A330 members are scheduled to start in Q4 2017.