Volotea bringing growth to Europe’s mid-size cities

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 22-04-2012

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(c) Volotea Airlines

Volotea Airlines seems to have sprung up from nowhere, in no time at all. But if its ambitious growth plans are realised, it will quickly become one of Europe’s main low-cost airlines.

Flying a fleet of seven Boeing 717 aircraft, sourced second-hand from the manufacturer, Volotea is positioning itself to serve small- and mid-sized cities across Europe initially from bases in Venice Marco Polo (Italy), Nantes (France), and Ibiza (Spain).

The airline is run by former founding members of Vueling Airlines, and has its corporate headquarters in Barcelona.

Volotea’s first flight took off on 5th April from Venice, bound for Palermo – one of the 76 routes announced by the airline, and one of a number of domestic routes within Italy – set to challenge the dominance of Alitalia and Ryanair in this much sought-after market.

In fact, Venice Marco Polo will clearly be the bigger base initially, with 24 routes planned.

The airline will not initially venture as far north as the UK, Ireland or Scandinavia, choosing to focus on Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Poland.

The choice of Boeing 717 is interesting for a low-cost airline, but is likely due to the cheap prices of sourcing them, and the regard with which they’ve been held in Spain over the past ten years. Nevertheless, for the enthusiast, this offers another chance to fly on the relatively rare type in Boeing’s stable (Blue1 is currently the only other European operator of the type).

All going well, the airline is likely to expand into other territories fairly soon, but I also suspect some routes will be non-starters, and others will see frequency changes. For a full list of planned routes, see Volotea’s homepage http://www.volotea.com/en/destinations/

Bangkok Don Mueang Reopened – What to See

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, Spotting News, Thailand | Posted on 20-04-2012

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You may have seen the incredible pictures of Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport as it recently languished under water following floods at the end of last year.

You can see some pictures of the flooding and submerged airliners at this link

Don Mueang used to be Bangkok’s main airport, until the new on at Suvanabhumi opened in 2006. For a short while it didn’t have any commercial services, but was soon back in operation with low cost domestic airlines.

Today it is served by Nok Air, Siam General Aviation and Solar Air. It is also used by Thai Airways for maintenance and storage.

It can be fairly quiet – especially compared to Suvarnabhumi – but nevertheless the airport was still achieving over 2 million passengers per year prior to the floods, and looks likely to return to that.

To get views of aircraft, the best place to head is the top floor of the car park. From here you can see aircraft parked at the terminal, and stored airliners across the field. Try not to draw attention to yourself by standing too close to the edge.

Bangkok Don Muang (and Suvarnabhumi) are covered in my book Airport Spotting Guides Far East and Australasia.

Paris Charles de Gaulle loses its Mound

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, France, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 19-04-2012

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It seems that the most useful spot for photographing and logging aircraft at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is no more.

The famous ‘Mound’, situated in a prime spot between all three terminals had a raised area good enough for photography, and was in a position whereby all four runways, three terminals and link taxiways could be monitored easily. It was always popular with spotters, both visiting and local, and seemed to be the accepted place to the authorities.

But recent logs by spotters this week has revealed the sad news that the lower area has been taken over by a car park extension, and the main mound area is now a building site as some unknown construction work takes place; workers even asked spotters to move on because of safety concerns.

So where to go now? If this is indeed the end, then CDG offers few other options – certainly for photographers. Read on…

It’s time for bmi British Midland to bow out

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Heathrow, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 18-04-2012

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bmi British Midland A319I’ve got fond memories of British Midland. As a young aviation enthusiast growing up in North East England, it was the Viscounts and DC-9’s of the airline flying in and out of Teesside Airport that I would watch on a weekend, and from the playground of my school.

As I travelled on holidays around the world, it was often the DC-9’s, 737s and A320s of the airline that would whisk me off to London Heathrow for onward connections.

But British Midland seemed to go into self-destruct mode by the 2000’s. They gave up the domestic empire they were known for and tried many different European, long-haul and low-cost variations. Their fleet, name and colour scheme changed, and it seemed this former powerhouse faded into insignificance.

They left Teesside in 2009 to much disgust (it was their longest running route), and Lufthansa took over in a bid to return bmi to profitability. bmi had also purchased BMed from British Airways and re-focussed its attentions on niche Middle East and Africa routes.
By the end of April bmi British Midland will become fully owned by IAG. British Airways are already code-sharing on their flights, and there’s talk of the Diamond Club frequent flier programme being incorporated into BA’s Avios scheme. And then the speculation came that Lufthansa wanted to offload the airline, along with bmibaby and bmi Regional. IAG Group (owners of British Airways and Iberia) swooped with a greedy glint in its eye – those Heathrow slots were worth a LOT of money. Virgin complained, but in March 2012 the deal was approved.

 

bmi will also leave Star Alliance by late April.

To enthusiasts in the UK, it will be sad to lose the blue colour scheme from our skies. It has changed a lot since its Derby Airways foundation, and was once a great British aviation success story.

We will still see its colours for the foreseeable future, as it continues operating the planned summer schedule. But one-by-one the fleet will be repainted or removed depending on British Airways’ requirements. Make sure you get some photographs before it’s too late!

What are your memories of British Midland?

Delta is expanding La Guardia

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in North America, USA | Posted on 16-04-2012

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Delta Airlines has begun work on expanding the facilities at its terminals at New York La Guardia airport in a bid to improve passenger facilities and capacity.

A new footbridge will be built airside, to allow easy transfer between terminals C and D which are both operated by the airline.

The expansions and renovations will cost around $160 million and create hundreds of new jobs.

In addition to this, Delta is increasing the number of daily flights it operates out of the airport by 100, taking the total to 260, and operating to 60 destinations. Last month, Delta added service from LaGuardia to new business markets, including Dallas/Ft. Worth; Miami; Washington-Dulles; Syracuse, N.Y.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Rochester, N.Y.; Richmond, Va.; Norfolk, Va.; Manchester, N.H.; Burlington, Vt.; Greensboro, N.C., and Louisville, Ky.

It will also be using larger aircraft on some routes, allowing increased capacity and bumping up the numbers at La Guardia.

(Thanks to World Airline News)

Best of the Web – Airport Spotting Videos – Los Angeles LAX

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, USA | Posted on 13-04-2012

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Here’s another best of the web video of airport spotting action. This video is from Contrailsphotography.com, and shows the action at Los Angeles LAX Airport, with lots of  landing and takeoff action from the end of the runway.

Los Angeles LAX is covered in Airport Spotting Guides USA

 

Spotting at Seattle Everett Paine Field (Boeing)

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, North America, USA | Posted on 13-04-2012

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Paine Field is a single-runway airport in Everett, to the north of Seattle. It is one of the three airports in the Seattle area involved in the production and testing of Boeing’s commercial airplanes.

It’s great to visit the places where aircraft are born. As a spotter and logger, it gives you chance to catch up on new aircraft destined to live in far flung corners of the globe before they disappear off. Let’s face it, most of us can’t afford to dash off to another continent every few months to catch up on new airframes.

Therefore, if you’re in the Seattle area, a trip to Paine Field is a must. This is where Boeing builds its 747-8, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The flightline is often full of examples that are undergoing testing and pre-delivery work.

The huge assembly building at the north of the field has four production lines in operation, whilst opposite is the paint hangar. Most aircraft are built with rudders already painted, so you can get an idea of which customer the unpainted airframes are destined for.

Future of Flight / Boeing Tours
Also at the northern end of the field, on the opposite side of the runway to the production building, is the Future of Flight. This offers a museum of Boeing, various aircraft exhibits, and a fantastic Boeing store selling all sorts of goodies.

The Future of Flight is the place where tours of the Boeing Production Facility take place. You can book and find out more from this link.


Observation Deck
On the top floor of the Future of Flight building (accessed inside) is the Observation Deck – an outdoor terrace with views over the whole airfield and runway. You can fairly easily log and photograph most aircraft from here, but you’ll need a strong pair of binoculars for the distant stuff.

Stored and Historic Aircraft
A number of aircraft are in storage at any one time at Paine Field. Most recently many early 787 Dreamliner aircraft have been stored prior to modifications. These are usually kept

on the K apron (opposite Future of Flight), and on the old cross runway near the control tower.

There are also a number of historic aircraft stored and under preservation at Paine Field. From the access road (or the Observation Deck with binoculars) you might see the first Boeing 727-100, a de Havilland Comet 4B, a Learjet, and a B-52.

Paine Field Observation Deck

Hotel
The Hilton Garden Inn Seattle North/Everett is situated alongside the Future of Flight. Any east-facing room should have views of the runway and part of the flight line.

Other Operations
In addition to new aircraft, Paine Field is often visited by executive jets, light aircraft, freighters, Boeing 747 Dreamlifters, Boeing 737s visiting for work, and all manner of supply companies sending parts in.

Blog
The excellent Paine Field Blog is perfect for keeping up with what’s happening, and tying up aircraft seen after your visit. Have a look at http://kpae.blogspot.com/

Boeing 787 Dreamliner World Tour continues

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Heathrow, Italy, North America, Norway, Spotting News, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 12-04-2012

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The sixth leg of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner World Tour has been announced, covering dates in late April and early May.

This tour is to introduce the aircraft to customers, potential customers, and airport staff who will be working with the aircraft once deliveries begin to the many airlines who have ordered the type. The tour has already taken in many airlines and customers in many countries around the world.

This latest leg sees the aircraft – ZA003 N787BX – leave Seattle on 21 April and visit the following airports:

22 April – London Heathrow, UK
23 April – Manchester, UK
25 April – London Gatwick, UK
27 April – London Heathrow, UK
1 May – Oslo, Norway
4 May – Taranto, Italy
7 May – Washington Ronald Reagan, DC
11 May – Dallas Ft Worth, TX
14 May – St. Louis, MO

Public tours of the aircraft will not be available, but many of these airports will likely have plenty of spotters in attendance for the arrival. I know Manchester’s Aviation Viewing Park will likely be packed for it, just like it was for the first Airbus A380 landing.

You can keep up with the tour at this link: http://www.newairplane.com/787/dreamtour/ 

Titanic’s Belfast has a growing City airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 12-04-2012

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As the world’s attention focuses on Belfast and its role in building the famous Titanic liner, which sank 100 years ago, a lot of tourists are flocking to the city. The new Titanic Quarter on the site that the ship was built is drawing in a lot of visitors, and the nearby George Best Belfast City Airport is thriving with the introduction of some new routes.

Admittedly these routes are more likely to take people away from Belfast, but nevertheless it is all good for the harbour area of the city, and Belfast’s economy.

New routes have started this month to Alicante, Faro, Malaga, and Palma. All are operated by bmibaby using Boeing 737-300 aircraft.

Katy Best, Commercial and Marketing Director Belfast City Airport said:

“2012 looks set to be a very successful year for tourism and I am confident the range of flights on offer at Belfast City Airport, the frequency and the value will be very appealing to tourists keen on joining the celebrations.

“A private investment of £15 million by our shareholders in the last four years has delivered a terminal and facilities that are the envy of many and a gateway that Northern Ireland can be justifiably proud.”

Spotting guide to 5 French regional airports

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, France, Western Europe | Posted on 09-04-2012

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Away from the regular spotter haunts at Paris and Toulouse, what else does France’s regional airports have to offer? Here’s an insight into some of the best…

 

Chateauroux
Although it doesn’t have many scheduled services, this airport in central France is a hub of airliner storage/scrapping, and is also a place to catch French airlines performing line training. The airport is 250km from Paris, and it’s possible to spot from the roads around the terminal area.

Perpignan
Another airport known for storage and maintenance is Perpignan, close to the border with Spain. It has scheduled services from Air France, Aer Lingus, Flybe, Iberia and Ryanair. It’s possible to see aircraft from the access roads leading to the airport.

Bordeaux
Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport  in south-west France is quite sizeable, and handles over 4 million passengers a year. It has a mix of full service, charter and low-cost operators, plus military and experimental aircraft (including the Zero-G Airbus A300).

Spotting is possible from the terminal area and surrounding roads.

Nantes
In the Brest Peninsula, Nantes is an airport which handles over 3 million passengers per year, with a number of regional and commuter services. Spotting is possible from the perimeter of the airport, and around the terminal.

Strasbourg
On the border with Germany, Strasbourg has seen a lot of business traffic related to the city’s role in the European Union. It is a busy little hub, with Air France and Ryanair providing a lot of traffic. To spot, head to Entzheim on the south side of the runway, where you can reach the fence and watch runway action.