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

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:

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.

A closer look at the 787 in BA’s expanded Heathrow hangar

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Heathrow, Spotting Trip Reports, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 01-05-2012


Boeing 787 Dreamliner World TourIt seems like now the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has entered service and got past its delays, it’s got plenty of momentum and we’re going to hear something about it every week for quite a while yet.

As the Asian carriers start carrying passengers around on their new 787s, the Dreamliner World Tour is still underway, with N787BX – the third prototype aircraft – visiting many customers in airports around the world ahead of them taking delivery.

This past week the aircraft has been in the UK, visiting Thomson Airways at Manchester, Virgin Atlantic at Gatwick, and British Airways at Heathrow. I was lucky enough to be invited by the latter to come and have a look around the state-of-the-art plane as it took part in the re-opening ceremony of the airline’s Grade II listed hangar, which has recently undergone modifications to accommodate the 787s and A380s that will be entering the fleet from 2013.

Once the ceremony, tea/coffee and sampling of the new Club World tuckbox menu had been enjoyed, my allotted time of 10.20am for a tour of the aircraft arrived.

After entering through the door, it was now Boeing’s job to entertain. A number of employees were on hand to show us around the aircraft interior, explaining the fantastic features. A bunch of flowers on a pedestal framed the spacious, cathedral-style entrance area whilst mood lighting flickered overhead.

Up front, wide seating had been installed to demonstrate First Class, whilst in the rear Dreamliner-themed Economy class seating still looked a cut above the rest.

In the cockpit, one of the pilots who has been taking the aircraft on its tour explained the unique layout which aids flight crew workloads and revolutionises aircraft operation, whilst still maintaining a conversion time of only 5 days for existing Boeing 777 pilots.

In the rear, a rare glimpse into the world of the crew rest area was offered. Climbing a narrow, steep staircase behind an unassuming door led to the loft space with six beds and more mood lighting.

And how can we leave out the toilets. The doors are positioned to allow wheelchair users to pull right up, and the space age seat lids glide up and down.

It should also be mentioned that alongside the Dreamliner, British Airways had pulled in their new A319 ‘Dove’ Olympics logojet G-EUOH, and members of the marketing team were keen to stress how much effort BA employees are putting in to this year’s London Olympics – both at Heathrow and as part of the bigger picture of being a sponsor partner.

Whilst the hangar has had millions spent on it, removing office space, creating a gap above the door to fit the A380 tail, and creating rigs that can extend around aircraft receiving maintenance, it is nice to see the original arch across the ceiling which exists from the BOAC days and gains the building its listed status. The neighbouring hangar will be worked on next to bring it up to the same standard.

My thanks to British Airways for the invite.

Jetstar Japan about to start flying

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Japan, Spotting News | Posted on 28-04-2012


(c) YSSYguy at the English language WikipediaTravellers in Japan are about to gain the low-cost powerhouse of Jetstar as it launches its new subsidiary there.

Jetstar Japan will begin flying from Tokyo Narita to Kansai, Fukuoka, Sapporo, and Okinawa from July this year.

It will initially use a fleet of three Airbus A320 aircraft – the first of which has just been delivered from the Toulouse factory.

The airline hopes to become the biggest low-cost carrier in Japan, and is backed by owners/backers such as Qantas, Japan Airlines, and Mitsubishi. These initial A320 deliveries come from a massive order made by Qantas for 110 examples.


OLT Express. Where did that come from?!

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Eastern Europe, Miscellaneous Spotting, Poland | Posted on 26-04-2012


Photo (c) OLT ExpressMaybe only the most savvy experts on European aviation will have heard of an airline called OLT Express, but following big announcements this week, it seems they’re about to become a big part of life for many airports across Europe soon.

The airline is based in Warsaw, but is a restarted version of an airline which previously closed its doors in May 2011.

Today it operates a fleet of Airbus A319, A320, ATR 42 and ATR 72 aircraft.

Its announcements this week seem to be aimed at shaking up the Polish aviation scene by adding routes from five airports to destinations across Europe. This is clearly a bid to take market share from LOT Polish Airlines and Wizz Air – currently the two largest carriers in the country. It will also challenge services by Ryanair, who have a large presence in Poland.