SWISS goes for 777-300s to replace A340s

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Germany, Miscellaneous Spotting, Switzerland, Western Europe | Posted on 14-03-2013


Swiss International Boeing 777-300ER (c) Swiss International Air Lines LtdSwiss International Air Lines has announced it will take six Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in a deal worth $1.9bn at list prices.

The airline’s parent, Lufthansa, made the order on behalf of Swiss, who will use the aircraft to replace its Airbus A340-300 fleet.

Harry Hohmeister, Chief Executive Officer of Swiss commented: “The Boeing 777-300ER is the ideal size and range to meet our Swiss market needs.  “We have made a landmark decision to further invest in an advanced aircraft fleet to retain our competitive edge over many of our competitors who are operating aircraft with more than 300 seats on similar routes.”

In addition to this order, Lufthansa has also ordered two additional Airbus A380s, and 100 Airbus A320 family aircraft (split between 30 original and 70 neo variants).

Final Japan Airlines MD-90 flight

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Japan | Posted on 12-03-2013


JAL-MD-90Japan Airlines will fly its last McDonnell Douglas MD-90 flight on 30 March.

The type has been operating with the airline, and the former JAS subsidiary, for 17 years mainly on domestic routes.

The final flight will be from Hiroshima to Tokyo Haneda.

Emirates Cargo transferring to Dubai World Central

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Dubai, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 12-03-2013


Emirates Sky CargoEmirates is to move its cargo division’s flights to the new Dubai World Central airport, freeing space at the Dubai International Airport.

Dubai World Central has been operating as a cargo airport for a couple of years, and will eventually supersede the original airport when it begins accepting passenger flights. Its first passenger terminal is due to open in September this year, and Emirates has hinted that it may move all of its operations to DWC from 2025.

With the move of its cargo division to the new airport, belly cargo carried by its passenger flights will need to be transported between the two airports by road. Great news for truck spotters!

Las Vegas Spotting Hotels

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in North America, Spotting Hotels, USA | Posted on 10-03-2013


Las Vegas Spotting HotelsLas Vegas is a great destination for the spotter – McCarran International Airport is one of the busiest in the USA, with a good mix of international and domestic traffic. Plus, the city is a great holiday destination, and many of the big hotels at the southern end of “The Strip” have rooms overlooking part of the airport.

If you’re planning where to stay on your forthcoming trip, here’s a roundup of the best plane spotting hotels at Las Vegas:


Tropicana Hotel
One of the southernmost hotels on The Strip, The Tropicana is situated alongside the airport close to the business ramps and the EG&G (Area 51) terminal. High rooms overlook most of the action, but you’ll be particularly well suited for movements on runways 19L/R. The mesh covering the hotel windows makes photography and viewing a little limited. Even numbered rooms in the Island Tower are good, according to the Plane Spotting Hotels site.

Address: 3801 Las Vegas Boulevard South


Las Vegas McCarran

La Quinta Inn
Although not one of the big casino resort hotels on The Strip which are great for holidays, La Quinta is probably the best for the spotter. High up rooms facing the airport look out onto the runways 25L/R thresholds. These runways are mainly used for takeoffs, with 25L often a landing runway too. Regular binoculars and a 300mm zoom lens should suffice most spotters’ needs.

During the day, the popular spotting location on the southern perimeter is only a ten minute walk from La Quinta.

Address: 6560 Surrey St


The iconic pyramid hotel at the southern end of The Strip has rooms facing the airport on one side of the building. Request a high room (above the Sphinx outside!) facing the airport. You will have a view of runways 19L/R and some of the biz jet ramps, with distant views of movements at the other terminals and on the southern runways. The hotel is not very good for photography, but if you’re a number cruncher with a SBS or Flightradar on you won’t miss many movements.

Address: 3900 S Las Vegas Blvd


Hampton Inn & Suites
Located very close to the La Quinta Inn & Suites (above), the Hampton Inn is part of the Hilton chain. It offers good views from rooms in the x38 to x44 range on the top two floors over the runways 25L/R thresholds, and is a short walk from the airport perimeter.

Address: 6575 South Eastern Avenue


Hooters Hotel & Casino
A smaller hotel just behind the Tropicana (see above) is another option. Rooms facing the airport are close enough to see all action on runways 19L/R, and most movements at the airport. Photographs are possible, but not ideal. It is a short walk to the perimeter fence near the biz jet ramps.

Address: 115 E Tropicana Ave


The map at the top of the post shows the locations of these hotels around Las Vegas McCarran Airport. Click to enlarge or print it.

The hotel scene in Las Vegas is always changing. If  you have a tip of a good hotel or room to spot aircraft at Las Vegas, please leave a comment below.

Bombardier CSeries Progress

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Canada, Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, Spotting News | Posted on 08-03-2013


CSeries 300Bombardier recently unveiled the almost-complete CSeries 300 aircraft that that will go on to perform test flying.

The manufacturer is aiming for a June 2013 first flight of the aircraft, which will also come in a CS100 variant.

“We are very pleased with the progress being made on theCSeries aircraft program and we are excited to open our facility and publicly show the world the advances and key milestones we have achieved as we get ready for first flight,” said Mike Arcamone, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.

Bombardier also confirmed today that it has introduced an extra capacity seating option that will increase the CS300aircraft seating to up to 160 passengers, providing customers with additional payload and range flexibility.

As of December 31, 2012, Bombardier had booked orders and commitments for 382 CSeriesaircraft that include firm orders for 148 CSeries airliners.

Sycamore Aviation starts scrapping airliners at Durham Tees Valley

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Miscellaneous Spotting, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 06-03-2013


Sycamore Aviation (c) Chris Smith

Sycamore Aviation has turned Durham Tees Valley Airport, in north east England, into one of the newest in a growing number of airports in which scrapping and recycling of old airliners takes place.

The company was founded by a former airline pilot, and he has big plans for the company, with potentially hundreds of aircraft ready to be disposed of over the coming years.

sycamore aviation

The company has already scrapped three Boeing 737 aircraft which had been retired in Russia – one -300 and two -500 models. The process involves removing usable parts for resale, whilst the fuselage is stripped down. One of the 737-500s is to have its cockpit section sent to an aviation academy.

Sycamore occupies Hangar 1 at Durham Tees Valley Airport. Aircraft will often be seen outside the hangar, and the company will potentially take aircraft on long term storage. These are likely to occupy one of the disused runways at the airport.

British Airways A380 flights bookable

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Heathrow, Hong Kong, North America, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 05-03-2013


British Airways A380British Airways have made the first flights on their new Airbus A380 aircraft available to book.

The aircraft are due to enter service in October, and will operate to both Hong Kong and Los Angeles on selective flights from London Heathrow.

The tentative dates of entry to service, which can be booked now (and are subject to change) are:

LHR-Los Angeles-LHR
15 October, BA269, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
18 October, BA283, Monday, Friday
27 October, BA269, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday

LHR-Hong Kong-LHR
15/16 November, BA25, Monday-Sunday

Here’s a video promoting the new aircraft in the fleet:

Morocco Airport Spotting Highlights

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airport Spotting Guide, Morocco | Posted on 04-03-2013


Morocco AircraftMorocco has become a popular and affordable place to visit, especially for Europeans. Most low cost airlines now fly there, and Ryanair recently announced it was starting bases in Fez and Marrakech.

I even travelled to Marrakech last year for an autumn holiday and loved the scenery, history and culture.

Morocco AirportsMorocco has 14 airports with regular airline service, according to Airline Route Mapper. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of these airports:

One of the most famous cities in Morocco, Casablanca is also the main industrial city. Its Mohammed V International Airport is the busiest in Morocco, with flights across Europe, West Africa, the Middle East, and North America. It is the hub airport for national carrier, Royal Air Maroc, which provides the majority of the movements.

Cargo is also represented at the airport, with airlines such as Air France Cargo, UPS, DHL Airways, Turkish Cargo and Med Airlines Maroc flying in regularly.

Casablanca’s former main airport at Anfa Airport has now had its runways and taxiways ripped up, but it is still the headquarters of Royal Air Maroc. There are still a few aircraft at the airline’s training base here, including a Lockheed Constellation, Sud Aviacion Caravelle, and Boeing 727. These are being restored for display in a museum.

Marrakech Terminal

Passengers: ~3 million. Main Airlines: Ryanair, Royal Air Maroc, Jetairfly, easyJet
Marrakech Menara Airport is a busy low-cost and holiday airline hub throughout the year. It is also a military base, and hosts an annual airshow. You can read my spotting guide to Marrakech Airport here.

Main Airlines:
Royal Air Maroc, Ryanair
The capital city of Morocco is served by Rabat-Salé Airport. It has a single terminal, and also a military base on site. Despite being the capital, it is not the busiest airport in Morocco with the only regular services being to Madrid and Paris via Iberia and Air France respectively. Ryanair will add services to the city from April and May 2013, however.

1.5 million Main Airlines: Royal Air Maroc/RAM Express, easyJet, Jetairfly
This major city in the south of Morocco has a  busy airport handling over 1.5 million passengers per year. It is to receive a new terminal building to replace its ageing example, as it expects traffic to grow.

At the moment, it is handling flights mainly from holiday and low cost carriers across Europe, with some links to the nearby Canary Islands too.

The original Inezgane Airport close to the city centre is still in use as a military air base.

650,000 Main Airlines: Air Arabia Maroc, Royal Air Maroc/RAM Express, Ryanair
Ibn Battouta Airport serves the northern port city of Tangier. It has modern facilities, and handles around 700,000 passengers per year. Traffic is a mix of holiday/low cost airlines alongside regional links to Spain and Casablanca. There are also some cargo services by Air Contractors and Med Airlines.

500,000 Main Airlines: Ryanair
This beautiful historic city has a small airport which recently gained attention from Ryanair, who will open up a base there this year, vastly increasing the number of routes. In addition to Ryanair, Fes is also served by Air Arabia Maroc, easyJet, JetairFly, Royal Air Maroc, Transavia, and Vueling.

Main Airlines: Royal Air Maroc, Ryanair, Jetairfly
A growing airport on the northeast border with Algeria, and a former World War II airfield, Oujda Angads Airport follows a similar trend to the rest of Morocco with a growth in low cost and holiday airlines. Royal Air Maroc also links it to Casablanca and a few European destinations.

Other Moroccan airports with airline service are:

Al Hoceima
Melilla (Spanish enclave)

London City article in Airports of the World magazine

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Book Reviews, Miscellaneous Spotting, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 02-03-2013


Airports of the World March 13An article about my visit behind the scenes at London City Airport can be found in the current (March/April 2013) issue of Airports of the World, published in the UK (but available online).

In the article, I looked at how staff prepare the airport to open each day, and keep it running smoothly during the busy morning and evening rush hour periods.

London City is a unique little airport – the only one with a London postcode, and with a steep 5 degree approach angle onto a runway situated on a former dock. It’s busy with airlines such as BA CityFlyer, Lufthansa Regional, Luxair, and Swiss European Air Lines.

Click here for more information.

Best of the Web – Airport Spotting Videos – FedEx 727 Retirement

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, Spotting Videos, USA | Posted on 01-03-2013


FedEx Express this week retired another one of its Boeing 727-200 freighters by donating it to University of Alaska Anchorage’s Aviation Maintenance Program.

FedEx has done this across the country with a number of its retired fleet, and chose to fly this particular one – N492FE – to Anchorage. But that’s where it gets interesting, as the university’s students didn’t want it at the large Ted Stevens International Airport, but the much smaller Merril Field. In this video, you can watch the aircraft make two low-passes before landing on the short 4,000′ runway in spectacular fashion.