First Swiss CSeries painted

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News | Posted on 10-06-2015

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CSeries Swiss

Ahead of its appearance at the Paris Air Salon, the first Bombardier CSeries aircraft has been painted in the colours of a customer airline.

The aircraft, CS100 C-GWXZ, now wears the full colours of Swiss European Airlines.

CSeries Swiss2

 

Alitalia unveils its new livery

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Italy, Miscellaneous Spotting, Western Europe | Posted on 04-06-2015

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AlitaliaNewLivery2

It doesn’t seem long since Alitalia started painting its aircraft in the new livery we see today, but at a ceremony in Rome today, Airbus A330-200 I-EJGA was unveiled in a brand new corporate scheme.

The new scheme is clearly based on the Alitalia livery we all know well from the 1980s and 90s, but goes for a much more conservative look without the cheatline.

James Hogan, vice chairman of Alitalia and president and CEO of Etihad Airways, said: “The old Alitalia was a great brand but a challenged business. Now we are well on the way to seeing the rebirth of this iconic airline, in a new era of commercial success.

“The steps taken by Alitalia’s senior management team over the last five months are to be applauded. What we see here today is a business growing in confidence. The future is bright for the new Alitalia.”

“The new livery presented today marks a major milestone in the history of one of the most iconic Italian brands in the world,” added Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, chairman of Alitalia.

Some may consider this to be too much towards the ‘eurowhite’ which has plagued so many other European carriers, where the fuselage is devoid of any interesting scheme and simply painted white. But Alitalia may have been smart here, after so many criticised the placing of the cheatline below the windows on the previous livery.

Alitalia New Livery

What do you think?

Two special Singapore Airlines A380 schemes celebrate anniversary

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Singapore | Posted on 03-06-2015

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SingaporeA380

Singapore Airlines is painting two of its Airbus A380 aircraft in special colour schemes to celebrate the nation’s Golden Jubilee.

The first aircraft with the commemorative livery will take to the skies in early June and the second in July. The A380s will be in the livery until the end of 2015, with the aircraft serving Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, New Delhi, Shanghai, Sydney and Zurich routes.

The A380 is the world’s largest aircraft and the special livery features a 10m-tall and 47m-long Singapore flag-themed design on both sides of the fuselage. On the two inboard engines is the official SG50 logo.

The special livery is one of many initiatives by Singapore Airlines to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday.

SingaporeA380b

For customers, Singapore Airlines has launched special promotions to encourage both overseas Singaporeans and visitors to travel to Singapore for the SG50 celebrations.

The final Tupolev TU-154 scheduled flight in Europe – trip report

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Belarus, Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS, Spotting Trip Reports, Switzerland, Western Europe | Posted on 01-06-2015

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TU154 last scheduled flight

A few days ago I made the journey to Geneva in Switzerland to join a special flight which would be a first for me, but evidently a last for Europe.

Belavia, the national airline of Belarus, are the last European carrier to operate the Tupolev TU-154 in scheduled service and had made a decision to cease flying the type on such services in favour of its modern equipment, such as the Boeing 737 and Embraer 175/195 which are much more suited to modern travelers, unlike the Russian relics that were so dominant until the early 2000s.

Whilst Belavia doesn’t usually operate its TU-154s to Geneva, or on many scheduled services for that matter, Friday 29th May had been chosen as the symbolic last flight where it would substitute the smoking tri-jet in place of the usual CRJ or EMB-175 equipment.

I checked in at 9am, with most of the passengers clearly there for the event, having booked (like me) through the specialist tour agency Merlintour, which has organised three previous trips to Belarus for oldjet fans to experience flights on old Russian equipment. Arriving at the gate in one of Geneva’s satellites, around 90% of the crowd around me waiting for boarding to be called had cameras around their necks and were chatting excitedly about the upcoming flight; a few regular passengers, clearly not expecting this, looked on bemused.

IMG_9107

Eventually boarding was initiated. Our aircraft was parked at a remote stand and we were taken in two buses. Once there, passengers were allowed off ten at a time in order to give an opportunity to take some photos without crowding the ramp. The captain was stood underneath the nose, looking smart (and hot; it was 28 degrees out) in his full uniform, posing for selfies with anyone who asked.

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This was a first for me. I’d never flown a TU-154, or any Russian jet, before. Our aircraft was EW-85748. It sat glistening in the sun with mountains as a backdrop. Although we all think of this classic jet as old, it was in fact built in 1994 and was younger than the Lufthansa Boeing 737-500 that taxied past as we took photos. But the technology, design and style was definitely old and, clambering aboard, the cabin felt like something from a bygone age. It was split into two sections, with old-fashioned designs on the walls, seats that didn’t look like they could withstand much, and the smell of a museum piece.

TU-154 cabin

Because it took so long to board, we missed our departure slot. We sat for over an hour, with no air conditioning and a general hum from the APU that was louder than most modern jets at full thrust. Most agreed that this was not a problem, and any extra time on board was welcome.

IMG_9131

We eventually taxied off under a water cannon salute by the fire service, and performed a sprightly, yet shallow, takeoff towards France. The noise was immense and the aircraft seemed to scream as she took flight. Soon we commenced a wide turn back over Lake Geneva, with those on the starboard side treated to fantastic views over Mont Blanc and the Alps. From my port-side window seat I had a classic view over the wing, which seemed more flexible in flight than it looked when on the ground.

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During the flight the aisle became crowded. Passengers wanted to mingle and chat, and to have a look at the toilets and the view from the last window, which looked out on the engines. There were also TV crews from Belarussian stations interviewing the crew and passengers. The crew performed their duties as well as can be expected considering passengers were rarely seated, but as it came to the meal and drinks service we were told fairly sternly to sit down and shut up (I paraphrase), after which everyone had the choice of chicken or beef with rice, along with some sliced cucumber and a dry bun. Hardly nouvelle cuisine, but I was famished.

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Drinks came afterwards – some kind of Russian Champagne knock-off, and brown water masquerading as coffee. We didn’t mind.

The flight took around 2 hours and 40 minutes, passing over Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Belarus. The engines whined down around 20 minutes before landing, and we made our way around the south of Minsk. The gear was deployed quite a way out, evidently to help slow the beast down. Landing was on runway 31, and was as smooth as can be, but again the engines went into a screaming frenzy as reverse thrust was deployed.

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A slow taxi past the modern terminal took us to a remote stand where, again, fire tenders were waiting to create an arch in salute to the last flight. My first and second water cannon salutes in one day! Outside, more TV crews were on the ramp to capture the moment.

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Following a brief ramp tour, Belavia’s Commercial Director, Technical Director, and the pilot from our flight, took the opportunity to present the airline’s history, and future vision, and talk about today’s flight. It was confirmed that as more new aircraft join the fleet, the three remaining TU-154s would be retired, likely by September 2016. Between now and then, they will operate only charters, such as taking mining groups to Siberia, or holidaymakers to Bulgaria.

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The flight was definitely over too quick, but a real experience. The atmosphere on board was fun and both the crews and organisers from Merlintour were completely understanding of, and prepared for, what a bunch of aviation enthusiasts would want – namely lots of opportunities for taking pictures, videos, and clambering about all over the aircraft. I think it’s great that a carrier like Belavia would embrace such an opportunity when they could simply want to talk about their new aircraft and quietly put away their old ones.

 

Where to spot at New York JFK Airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, North America, USA | Posted on 27-05-2015

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Spotting at JFK

A while back we ran a request for tips on the best places to spot at New York JFK airport, and some of you kindly sent in information and photographs to help put together this guide.

Since the airport is such a complex place, it is quite difficult to spot at. But because it is one of the most diverse and interesting of any airport in the USA, it has an attraction to spotters who can find themselves number crunching the fleets of US carriers, catching up on cargo heavies, or admiring the airlines from all corners of the globe which arrive each day.

 

 

Airport Location and Layout

New York City Airports

JFK airport is situated in Queens, on Long Island. It is 12 miles from Lower Manhattan. Jamaica Bay borders the southern side of the airport, whilst urban sprawl borders the north.

The airport is connected to the road and rail network, and the best way to get to Manhattan is via the AirTrain. Otherwise taxis or car hire are good, if more expensive, options.

JFK airport has four runways:

  • 04L/22R
  • 04R/22L
  • 13L/31R
  • 13R/31L

Each runway is used depending on the airline and proximity to its gate, but at least half of all movements use 13R/31L.

JFK has six passenger terminals:

  • Terminal 1 – Asian and European carriers. A380 equipped.
  • Terminal 2 – Delta / Delta Connection
  • Terminal 4 – Delta, plus Middle Eastern, Asian, European and South African carriers. A380 equipped.
  • Terminal 5 – Jetblue, plus Aer Lingus, Hawaiian Airlines
  • Terminal 7 – British Airways, ANA, United Airlines, Qantas, Icelandair, Aerolineas Argentinas and Oneworld partners.
  • Terminal 8 – American Airlines and Oneworld partners

All terminals are located in a central area, surrounded by runways.

JFK terminal layout

Cargo and maintenance areas can be found at the western part of the airport, largely hidden amongst a sea of hangars and service buildings.

 

What you’ll see at JFK

The main carriers at JFK are American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways and United Airlines. Together, these airlines handle nearly 70% of the passengers that fly though the airport each year. If you’re a registration spotter, these are the airlines you’re going to see the most aircraft of.

Spotters may also be interested in the good mix of airlines from elsewhere in the world. In addition to the main carriers of Europe and Asia, JFK is also a hub for South American and Caribbean flights, with Aeromexico, Avianca, Copa Airlines, LAN Airlines (and partners), TAM and Volaris.

Cargo airlines are also very prevalent, with very large freighters to be seen regularly. The main carriers are ABX, China Airlines, FedEx Express, Korean Air Cargo and Lufthansa Cargo. In all, around 100 cargo carriers use JFK.

 

Where to spot at New York JFK Airport

New York JFK spotting locations map

Locations away from the airport property are often the best for spotting at JFK, but require a car or a bit of knowledge of the public transportation system to get to.

Brookville Park Mounds
This position offers an elevated mound to the side of a school football field near Brookville Park where you can see arrivals on runway 22L or departures from 04R. It is good for photography and you won’t usually get any attention from the police by being here. To get to this spot, head for 230th Place and follow it to the end where you’ll see the school and field. This is an example arrival shot from this location.

Photo: Howard Chaloner

Photo: Howard Chaloner

 

Bayswater Park
A good place to monitor and photograph aircraft arrivals and departures on runways 04L, 04R and 31L. To find this spot, head for Mott Avenue in the residential district to the south of the airport. Head as far west as you can go, and you will reach Bayswater Park on the edge of Jamaica Bay. Simply park up, and then walk until you find a spot that suits you. This is a photograph from the location:

Photo: Howard Chaloner

Photo: Howard Chaloner

 

Inwood Park
A good afternoon spot for photography is Inwood Park, where you can watch and photograph runway 31L arrivals. You need to drive to Bayview Avenue and park at the end (it is signposted Inwood Park), then walk along the shore to get closer to the action. This is a photograph of the spot:

Photo: Howard Chaloner

Photo: Howard Chaloner

 

North Woodmere Park
A public park to the north east of the airport which is good for runway 22L and 31R arrivals logging, and photography with a long lens. The park is at the end of Hungry Harbor Road, and has a car park. You can then walk towards the path and find a spot. This is an example photograph from here:

Photo: Howard Chaloner

Photo: Howard Chaloner

 

 

On Airport Spotting

On-airport locations are a bit more restrictive.  Parking lots 2 & 5 offer some nice views, but the security company which looks after them can be a bit difficult with respect to photography (even though the TSA and PANYNJ don’t have a problem with it!).

 

Spotting in the Terminals

Tim Chaloner offered this advice on spotting in Terminal 4:

Since they changed the internal security area layout a few years ago, you can now walk the entire length of both the A & B concourses, once you have passed through security for your flight. These concourses provide excellent views of Terminal 4’s aprons, as well as views of runways 22L/4R and 22R/4L. Views of 31L/13R and 31R/13L are more distant or hidden. Photography is of course through glass windows, and reflections can be a problem in some areas.

In my view, the prime location in Terminal 4 is at the end of the A concourse by gates 9 & 10. It gives a great view of the 4/22 runways and most movements can be monitored. Also, the sun is behind you in the afternoons. Photography is possible from here, but a zoom would be needed for aircraft on the taxiways and runways, and there is a lot of ground clutter and light poles to contend with. Also, the Emirates A380 is parked in front of these windows during the day, so can naturally block some of the view, but it does make for a great photo with the afternoon sun on it!

The above location is obviously only accessible if you are departing on a flight from Terminal 4. That is why I often fly on Virgin Atlantic in order to secure these views. Delta takes up most of the B concourse now, and they also have a Sky Lounge on top of the concourse, about half way down it’s length. This has an open air deck with views of the 4/22 runways and T4 aprons, but only faces in that direction, so anything behind this deck would not be viewable. Photography is through glass, and again, reflections are a problem. But it is open air with no roof, and cocktails can by ordered while lounging on the sofas!  The Delta Sky Club in this terminal also has an outdoor observation area ($50 entrance fee for non First/Business Class fliers), complete with chairs and a bar, and overlooks aircraft activity.

JFK Airport

 

New York JFK Spotting Hotels

A great way to catch as many aircraft registrations as possible, or to base yourself near the airport for daytime spotting, is to use a nearby hotel with views. The best recommended spotting hotel at JFK airport is the Hilton Garden Inn Queens/JFK Airport.

JFK spotting hotel Hilton Garden Inn

Address: 148-18 134th St, Jamaica, NY 11430, United States
Phone:+1 718-322-4448
Website

This hotel is situated at the western side of the airport, and offers one of the few views of aircraft on the cargo aprons at JFK. You need to request an airport facing room on the highest floor to have a decent view. Runway 13L/31R is the nearest to the hotel, but movements on the others can be seen and logged, especially with the aid of SBS or flight tracking websites. The views can be a little distant for photography.

The hotel has a shuttle but linking it to the terminals at JFK, and can also be used to get to LaGuardia Airport.

 

 

I want to offer my thanks to Howard Chaloner for his help in putting this guide together, and for the pictures used.

We also recommend the excellent NYCaviation site for further reading and tips on spotting in the New York area.

Transaero Airlines new livery appears

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Eastern Europe, Russia | Posted on 22-05-2015

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Transaero Airlines new livery

Transaero Airlines has taken delivery of a new Boeing 737-800, seen here, which is in the airline’s new livery.

The aircraft, registered EI-RUR, features high speed internet and mobile phone connectivity.

The airline plans to use this new livery and corporate identity for all new aircraft joining the airline’s fleet.  This will be the first step in enhancing Transaero’s corporate identity that has remained unchanged for more than two decades and has received wide recognition both in Russia and abroad following the active development of Transaero Airlines and strengthening of its position in the international transportation market.

 

Virgin plans Boeing 747 retirement

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Heathrow, North America, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 18-05-2015

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Virgin 747

Virgin Atlantic has penciled in the retirement of its Boeing 747 fleet.

Unless further changes occur, the final flight will be VS006 from Miami to London Heathrow on 17 April, 2016, arriving on 18 April at 1130am.

This will be a significant moment for the airline, which began services using a Boeing 747-200B in 1984 and has never been without the jumbo ever since. However, today the airline has a growing number of modern types such as the Airbus A330 and Boeing 787, and is still due to receive Airbus A380 superjumbos at some point (they have been deferred by the airline).

So now’s the chance to get a Virgin 747 flight booked if you haven’t yet!

Tehran after the 707

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Iran, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 16-05-2015

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For years spotters and classic airliner enthusiasts congregated in Tehran to fly on the last commercial passenger examples of the Boeing 707 still in operation.

The airline Saha Air offered the rare chance to take short trips around the country on the iconic aircraft. However, in 2013 it retired the type from active service in favour of ‘newer’ types such as the Airbus A300.

Since then spotting reports from Iran have quietened. No longer were so many people making the pilgrimage every year.

So what is there to draw you to Tehran today?

Tehran-Mehrabad_International_Airport

By Shahram Sharifi (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There are two airports in Tehran – Mehrabad is the domestic airport, which is the more interesting one. Imam Khomeini is the international airport, which handles most flights from other countries.

Despite the outside perception, Iran is still a friendly place and welcoming to visitors and tourists. However, like much of the Middle East the hobby of spotting, photographing and logging aircraft remains misunderstood and suspicious to authorities. So discretion is needed whenever spending time near airports in Iran.

 

Airlines

The main domestic airlines in Iran at present include Ata Airline, Atrak Air, Caspian Airlines, Iran Air, Iran Air Tours, Iran Aseman Airlines, Iranian Naft Airlines, Kish Air, Mahan Air, Meraj Airlines, Qeshm Airlines, Taban Air and Zagros Airlines.

All of these carriers serve Mehrabad Airport on the incredibly busy trunk routes to the main cities in the country.

The largest airline by aircraft fleet and passengers flown is Mahan Air, which recently took delivery of nine second-hand Airbus aircraft to renew its fleet. These included the A340-300 and -600 models. I believe these were formerly flown by Virgin Atlantic.

Iran Air is the national carrier, which splits its flying between both airports. It has ‘modernised’ its fleet with the addition of second-hand Airbus A320s in 2009, and also flies many A300s, A310s and Fokker 100s.

 

Rare Aircraft

With the Boeing 707 gone, which carriers are operating other rare aircraft? Well, unfortunately there aren’t many of note.

The most numerous aircraft types are the Fokker 100, Airbus A300-600, Airbus A320, Airbus A340-300 and ATR 72. However, rarer types in abundance include the McDonnell Douglas MD-82/83 and Airbus A310-300, which are of interest.

The most noteworthy types still in passenger operation here are the Boeing 727, which features in the fleet of Iran Aseman Airlines, the Boeing 747-200 flown by Iran Air, and the Boeing 747-300 which is flown by Mahan Air.

Iran Aseman 727

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By Konstantin von Wedelstaedt [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Iran Air recently announced the retirement of its Boeing 747SP fleet (it was the last operator of scheduled services with the type), which it operated on international flights from Imam Khomeini Airport. However it is still flying occasionally on the Kuala Lumpur route and to fill in for other aircraft.

But if you are a spotter looking for rarer aircraft, the military and government in Iran still operate a few classic types from Mehrabad Airport, including the Boeing 707, 747-100 and 747-200. These can usually be seen on the southern and extreme western sides of the airport.

Plus, the Tehran Aerospace Exhibition Centre has an aviation museum a short distance from the airport with preserved 727, 737s, Fokker F-28, FH-227, Douglas C-47, Lockheed TriStar. Sometimes stored airliners can be seen on the taxiways linking the airport to the museum.

 

By Reza2475 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Reza2475 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Resurgence of the MD-80

As Western airlines retire the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series aircraft, airlines in Iran have snapped up a number of examples – no fewer than six of the domestic airlines currently fly variants of the aircraft. I suspect that this will become one of the last strongholds for the type as it fades from existence, so could become a future place for fans of the type (and the DC-9 for that matter) to come and experience it before it’s too late.

 

By Danial Haghgoo [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Danial Haghgoo [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

What happened to Saha Air’s 707s?

Although you can’t fly them any more, Saha Air’s Boeing 707s are still in existence at Mehrabad Airport.

One, EP-SHE, crash landed at the airport in 2005. The remains of the aircraft still sits at the western end of the airport.

Another, EP-SHV is now preserved and used as a cabin trainer at the airline’s headquarters.

The rest are currently stored at the airport or in use for military and government flying.

 

Mehrad Watson - Persian Spotters

Mehrad Watson – Persian Spotters

Spotting at Tehran

Both airports have some opportunities for spotting, but this should be done very discretely without showing cameras, binoculars or poles openly.

Fath Square and the Sa’idi Expressway pass the end of runways 29L/R and is good for photographing aircraft approaching the runways.

Also, if you fly out of the airport you can expect views from the terminal building departure areas.

A good tip is to visit the Mehrabad Airport website (http://mehrabad.airport.ir/) as it shows a timetable of flights and aircraft types for each. This helps in gaining an understanding of the movements of different airlines.

First TAM A350XWB taking shape

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Brazil, Miscellaneous Spotting, South America | Posted on 14-05-2015

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A350_XWB_TAM_02

Airbus has posted this picture of the first A350-900 aircraft destined for TAM in Brasil taking shape on the assembly line in Toulouse.

TAM will be the fourth airline to take delivery of the type, after Qatar Airways, Finnair and Vietnam Airlines.

TAM will be the first airline in the Americas to fly the A350 XWB. Delivery of their first A350 XWB is scheduled for the end of this year. TAM has a total of 27 A350 XWB on order.

 

You can see our list of Airbus A350 routes at this page: http://www.airportspotting.com/airbus-a350-routes-page/

SkyWest retires the Embraer 120

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, North America, USA | Posted on 07-05-2015

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"Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW" by Taurus Photographix on Flickr - Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Embraer_EMB-120ER_Skywest_Airlines_N217SW.jpg#/media/File:Embraer_EMB-120ER_Skywest_Airlines_N217SW.jpg

“Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW” by Taurus Photographix on Flickr – Embraer EMB-120ER Skywest Airlines N217SW. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

SkyWest Airlines has retired its last Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia aircraft after 28 years of flying the type.

The last flight was UA5165 on 5th May, from Santa Maria to Los Angeles LAX with N567SW on behalf of United Express.

This turboprop type was used extensively in the USA – particularly out of the big hubs with feeder airlines, from its introduction in 1985. However, in recent years its numbers have dwindled, with SkyWest as the last major operator. At the time of writing, only Great Lakes operate it in the USA for passenger services. Others fly cargo conversions still.

Very few other airlines still fly passengers in the Brasilia elsewhere around the world. Interestingly, however, the Wikipedia page for the type states that it’s still possible to order an EMB-120 as a one-off!