What is plane spotting?

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Heathrow, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 19-05-2012


Airbus A380 at Heathrow's Myrtle Avenue Spotting Location

Airbus A380 approaching Heathrow's Myrtle Avenue Spotting Location

That is a question I was asked recently for a feature on BBC Radio 4 in the UK.

I met interviewer John McCarthy at London Heathrow’s Myrtle Avenue – arguably the best spot to spot planes at the airport if the aircraft are landing on 27L – to discuss the topic.

If you’re into plane spotting yourself, I’m sure you’ll agree that it is not particularly understood by many. So I tried to get across in the interview that it is interesting to those who do it. It isn’t related to terrorism. To many it uncovers worldwide travel pursuing the hobby. They also gave a plug about my latest book.

I’m not suggesting for one second that people should take it up if they’re not interested in aircraft, airports or airlines. But this goes for every hobby.

The radio piece also features an interview with Lesley and Paul Coppin – two of the plane spotters arrested in Greece in 2001 on espionage charges. Naturally they talk about the frustrating side of the hobby, that is avoiding the natural assumption that you’re up to no good, and what makes it interesting for them.

Please have a listen to the interview at this link (9m 35s into the show): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b01hw3z7

Let me know what you think by commenting below. How do you feel about the hobby? Why do you do it? What problems does it raise?

Berlin Brandenburg Airport delayed till 2013

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Germany, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 17-05-2012


The opening of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport is to be delayed till possibly April 2013 following delays in preparing the facility for its original 3rd June 2012 opening date.

Principal issues have come following tests with passengers which show that the throughput is only half of what is expected, and the number of check-in desks is vastly lacking.

The airport is also without sufficient fire cover, and facilities such as lounges, restaurants and retail are also not ready yet.

This has all come only three weeks before the main carriers at the airport – Lufthansa, Air Berlin and easyJet – were expected to begin their increased schedules from the new facility, having already started moving signage and equipment across from Tegel and Schonefeld airports, where they currently operate.

Lufthansa, who traditionally focus their hubs on Frankfurt and Munich, had announced a 40% increase in operations from Berlin with the opening of the new airport, and the basing of six Airbus A320 aircraft. The airline is now suggesting the airport doesn’t open until after the Easter holidays in April 2013. In the meantime, it will need to cram in the extra aircraft and routes from the existing Tegel Airport, which is vastly overcrowded, since it does not want to cancel the new routes (which have been selling well).
This is disappointing news from a country which prides itself on efficiency. I’ll do my best to keep you informed of developments and new opening dates when announced.Air Berlin, who will also increase the number of services from Berlin, has suggested that the new airport not open until the winter timetable begins at the end of October this year, to give the airport time to complete, and to then test it on the quieter timetable.

Air Pacific to become Fiji Airways

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Australasia, Pacific | Posted on 16-05-2012


Air Pacific, the national carrier of Fiji, has decided to revert to its original name of Fiji Airways.

The name change will take place with the delivery of its new Airbus A330-200’s in 2013.

Fiji Airways was last used in 1970, and following losses the airline has decided to undertake a restructuring programme to try to improve the business and attract more passengers. Part of that is adding the ‘Fiji’ name to the airline, to hopefully increase awareness from passengers wanting to travel to the Pacific island nation.

David Pflieger, Air Pacific’s Managing Director and CEO, said “Globally there is high consumer awareness of Fiji as a holiday destination. We want to strengthen that association and also promote Fiji in every country we fly to. Returning to ‘Fiji Airways’ will better reflect our role as Fiji’s national carrier, and also assist Fiji by growing tourism and interest in the nation.”

Credit to World Airline News

St Maarten – an alternative hotel for spotting

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Caribbean, Sint Maarten, Spotting Hotels | Posted on 14-05-2012


The Sonesta Hotel at Maho Beach has become known as one of the great plane spotting destinations in the world, due mainly to the dramatic low arrivals of huge airliners only inches above peoples’ heads.

The hotel itself has great views, with balconies overlooking these final few seconds of the approach, and also of aircraft lining up for takeoff.

However, the place can be quite expensive. Therefore, you may be surprised to know that there is an alternative for spotting at Sint Maarten.
It is a smallish hotel, with 40 rooms. It includes free internet in guests’ rooms, and on-site restaurants, as well as other nearby shops and restaurants.This is the Travel Inn Hotel at Simpson Bay. It is around 2 miles from the airport terminal

Views from even-numbered rooms on the 2nd floor are the best options as they face east, towards aircraft traffic. You will be able to see aircraft departing the runway and turning right, away from the mountains.

Whilst this is not as close or dramatic as Maho Beach, it is a more affordable option. Plus, it is only a 10 minute drive to the beach, or the Sunset Bar which pipes in ATC over its speakers, and is the spot that most great photographs are taken from.

Book the Travel Inn Hotel at http://www.travelinnhotel.com/

Have you stayed in any other good hotels at St Maarten with views of aircraft movements?


Best of the Web – Aviation Spotting Videos – Overtaking a MD-11

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting Videos | Posted on 12-05-2012


Here’s a video for you this week. It was taken from the flight deck of a Global Supply Systems 747-8 and shows the aircraft overtaking a Lufthansa Cargo MD-11F only 1,000ft above. It’s so close that you can see the registration!

Hope you enjoy.

Everett Paine Field Aviation Day – 19th May

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, Spotting News, USA | Posted on 11-05-2012


If you’re in the Seattle area on 19th May, why not head along to the Paine Field Aviation Day, being held at the great airport where big Boeing jets are made?

This is run by the airport, and by the Washington Pilots Association – Paine Field Chapter. It is also in conjunction with the Flying Heritage Collection, and Historic Flight Foundation.

It will be a great aviation day, with static displays of GA aircraft and the historic warbirds that are worked on here. There will reportedly be five B-25 aircraft on display and flying!

From midday, there will also be a flying display of a number of the historic aircraft. And if you’re feeling flush, why not splash out on a biplane or helicopter ride?

In addition to all this, there will be food, stalls, entertainment running. The event is open from 9am-5pm, with $5 entry ($10 for a family).

Read more about it here: http://www.wpaflys.org/Chapters/Paine/ga_day.htm

Watch out for more CRJ’s at Exeter

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Canada, Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 07-05-2012


Flybe’s maintenance division at Exeter Airport in the south-west UK has been approved as an Authorised Service Facility for Bombardier CRJ aircraft.

The facility already services Dash 8 and Q400 aircraft, but now the commuter jet will also be handled here.

Flybe is based at Exeter, and also flies the Q400 aircraft, so it makes sense that their Aviation Services division handles their maintenance. However, over recent years a number of operators have sent their aircraft to Exeter to be serviced by them. This has resulted in a number of exotic aircraft visiting.

Now it looks set to get better, with CRJ aircraft also coming in.

The deal was signed at the recent All Series Bombardier Operators Conference, and Exeter has now become the only facility aside from Bombardier to be approved to do this work on both aircraft types.

So watch out for some interesting movements heading Exeter’s way in the future.

Best of the Web – Airport Spotting Videos – Oslo 787 Arrival

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Norway, Western Europe | Posted on 06-05-2012


Here’s a video for you this week. After I visited the Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Heathrow, it flew the next day to Oslo Gardermoen Airport for demonstration to Norwegian. It arrived in glorious sunshine and there were naturally a lot of spotters waiting by the runway to capture the arrival. And here it is – what a smooth landing!

Changes at East Midlands – bye bye baby, hello Flybe

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 04-05-2012


bmibaby may disappear in 2012The scene at East Midlands Airport is set to change again, with one airline pulling out and another setting up a hub.

Following the sale of bmi to IAG recently, the future of bmibaby has been hanging in the air. But yesterday they finally made their position clear with announcements of routes being cancelled from June and September across their network. Unless the airline is sold soon, I’d say they will be gone by the Winter timetable.

The current plan is to pull out of routes from East Midlands to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Geneva, Glasgow, Newquay, Nice and Paris from 11 June.

Then, from 10 September, all remaining routes (mainly Mediterranean destinations) will be pulled.

But on the flip side, Flybe has announced that it will be stepping in to set up a hub at East Midlands from the Winter 2012/13 season (starts end of October), and introducing flights to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jersey and Paris CDG (in addition to Belfast, which is already operated).

So a bittersweet change of scenery for the airport, with the sad loss of a based airline but welcome replacement on some routes by another.

Other airports on bmibaby’s route network will also lose flights, including Belfast City and Birmingham.

British Airways heading back to Seoul

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Heathrow, South Korea, UK | Posted on 03-05-2012


British Airways 777

British Airways have announced that they’re going to restart their route between London Heathrow and Seoul Incheon in South Korea.

This is the first announcement to come since the IAG deal to buy bmi was completed, after which the airline promised to increase service to Asia.

The new route will commence on 2 December 2012, and is on sale now. It will utilise a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, operating six times weekly.

The route was last operated in 1998. However, Dave Crawley, BA’s Commercial Director, says “We have seen significant growth in customers wanting to travel to Seoul for both business and pleasure.”

Seoul Incheon is one of the biggest airport hubs in Asia – very interesting for the spotter, and situated fairly close to the domestic Gimpo Airport where you can see the domestic Korean Air and Asiana Airlines fleets.