Best of the web – Airport Spotting Videos – Funchal, Madeira

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Portugal, Western Europe | Posted on 15-03-2012

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I often come across fantastic videos of airport action on the web. These are often from popular spotting locations at different airports around the world, and in many cases show some extreme landings, takeoffs, weather or unusual aircraft.

This video is from AviationChannel2010′s collection and shows some windy landings at Funchal Airport on Madeira, including light aircraft,  commuters, and big airliners. It even has a go-around.

New Boeing Delivery Centre planned for Everett Paine Field

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in North America, Spotting News, USA | Posted on 13-03-2012

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Boeing has announced its plans to build a new Delivery Centre for aircraft and customer deliveries at its Everett Paine Field, north of Seattle, where currently its 747, 767, 777 and 787′s are built.

I attended a delivery ceremony for British Airways’ latest Boeing 777-336ER G-STBF in February, which was held at the Future of Flight centre on one side of the airfield. The alternative is the dated Everett Delivery Center on the other side.

Boeing has now broken ground on a new state-of-the-art facility that will open in 2013 and give them the flexibility for customer events, big or small, that befit the new aircraft delivery.

This will be a good time to handle the bulk of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliners that will be coming off the line by 2013.

Photo courtesy of Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Qatar Airways Boeing 787 plan

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Heathrow, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting, Qatar, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 10-03-2012

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Qatar Airways‘ first Boeing 787s are in the final assembly stage. I saw them on the production line on my tour of the Boeing Everett factory in February, resplendent with stickers showing the airline’s logo.

The picture here (credit Qatar Airways) is of the aircraft, released by the airline.

Qatar’s Boeing 787′s are due to enter the fleet this summer, and the airline has announced their route plans for the type.

Initially the 787 will fly to short-haul regional destinations in the Gulf from the airline’s Doha base, giving crews the chance to get familiar with the aircraft. It will then enter service on the flagship Doha – London Heathrow route.

For those of you who can’t wait, the aircraft will be part of the static display at this year’s Farnborough Air Show, in July.

British Airways A380 and 787 plans

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Heathrow, North America, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 09-03-2012

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British Airways have said that their Airbus A380 aircraft will be deployed on routes from London Heathrow to New York JFK, and three Asian destinations.

The double-decker aircraft is due to enter the airline’s fleet from 2013, with 12 on order.

Since New York is its busiest international route, it will use the aircraft to provide the capacity it needs on what is pretty much a shuttle service.

Additionally, the high-capacity airliner will be sent on Asian routes to Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore.

When the 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft start entering the fleet, also during 2013, they will be used to open new low-density routes from London to Asia.

Vietnamese low-cost VietJet expands

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Vietnam | Posted on 08-03-2012

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Coming to a few more Vietnamese airports soon is new Asian low-cost carrier VietJet, which is expanding its network.

VietJet launched services in December 2011, and is now expanding on the following routes:

Ho Chi Minh City to Danang from 27th April
Hanoi to Nha Trang from 19th May

The airline already operates its Airbus A320s between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

I’m sure the airline will announce more destinations, possibly international, in the near future.

Mandala Airlines returns as Tiger Airways Indonesia

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Indonesia, Singapore | Posted on 08-03-2012

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Tiger Airways are cropping up all over the place. The latest announcement is that they’ve helped to restart struggling Mandala Airlines, who will now be known as Tiger Airways Indonesia.

Mandala operated a range of domestic routes throughout Indonesia, with a varied fleet of aircraft, but sadly ceased flying after its Air Operators Certificate (AOC) was revoked.

But now it will return with two Tiger Airways branded Airbus A320s in April, and is set to expand, taking on national carrier Garuda Indonesia’s low-cost Citilink airline, and Lion Air.

Tiger Airways is 33% owned by Singapore Airlines, so this is a neat way into the Indonesian domestic sector for the carrier, making them more dominant in the region.

British Airways Maintenance Cardiff – BAMC

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting Trip Reports, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 04-03-2012

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On arrival back in the UK from my trip to pick up a brand new British Airways Boeing 777-300ER from Seattle, we landed at Cardiff Airport. This may seem an odd choice, but the reason was that British Airways do all maintenance work on their B747-400, B767-300 and B777-200/300 fleets at this dedicated facility, known at British Airways Maintenance Cardiff (BAMC for short).

I was surprised to learn that BAMC had opened as long ago as 1993 – making next year its 20th anniversary! When you arrive, you wouldn’t think it, as the building is modern and airy.

We were given a tour of the facility (following a lovely cooked breakfast in the canteen!) by some of the staff there. They started by introducing themselves and just how much they love working there – the majority are from this part of Wales, so the facility is a fantastic resource for local employment.

Behind the entrance, offices and canteen areas, a huge three-bay hangar complex fronts onto a dedicated apron at the airport. It is big enough to house a Boeing 747-400 in each slot simultaneously, and on our visit we were presented with two examples having D-Checks – G-CIVY and G-BNLE.

Perhaps the nervous flyer would find the sight terrifying, but I was fascinated and really got to grasp just how big and complex a task it is to keep these machines flying for 20+ years. The tour gave us the opportunity to see inside ‘LE, which had been completely stripped of its interior, apart from the overhead lockers and some galley areas. It was an impressive sight, having only flown on a BA 747 a few days earlier and seen the big difference. Upstairs, the cockpit had been completely stripped to allow access to the airframe behind it, whilst outside engineers worked along the length of the wings on small issues that had been flagged with orange labels.

Outside, a new jetbridge has been constructed which allows another aircraft to park up and receive less intrusive attention. Today, the B777-300 we had just arrived on (G-STBF) had been pulled up. Workers were already aboard preparing the front cabins to receive the First and Club World seats before the aircraft enters passenger service in March.

For the spotter, there are various opportunities at Cardiff Airport to see what’s going on at BAMC. The hangar is visible from the car park area outside the terminal, and the roads leading up to BAMC. You may have difficulty seeing what’s inside unless the doors are open, however!

It was a fascinating tour, and a great end to our trip. Thanks to British Airways for arranging, and providing transport back to Heathrow.

Singapore’s Low-Cost terminal to be rebuilt

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Asia, Miscellaneous Spotting, Singapore | Posted on 01-03-2012

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The Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) at Singapore Changi Airport is to be demolished so that a better terminal can be built in its place.

The present LCCT was opened in 2006 and can handle up to 7 million passengers per year. In the immediate future, airlines currently using it will move to Terminal 2 whilst a replacement building is constructed which can handle more passengers and provide a better experience for those passing through.

Terminal 2 is to be adapted to handle these carriers and the demands of their schedules in anticipation of the temporary move.

The Budget Terminal currently serves Berjaya Air, Firefly, SEair, Cebu Pacific and Tiger Airways. It is expected that the new terminal will be ready during 2014.

British Airways Boeing 777-300ER delivery flight – Seattle to Cardiff

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, Spotting Trip Reports, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 27-02-2012

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When the invite came from British Airways to join them in ‘picking up’ their latest Boeing 777-300ER from Seattle and bringing it back to the UK, I couldn’t believe my luck. How often do you get the chance to do something like that?

After travelling across to Seattle with BA, the time came to head to Boeing’s Paine Field at Everett, to the north of Seattle. This is where Boeing builds its 747-8, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The airfield is literally full of new airframes lined up for testing, painting and fitting prior to delivery to their new owners around the world. But as we arrived, there was a small cheer as people caught sight of the reason we were there – British Airways’ new 777-300ER G-STBF (their 6th example, but their 55th 777 model in total) being towed across to the delivery centre.

We had an amazing tour of Boeing’s production lines inside the world’s largest building by area. I’ll post about this later.

Over at the Future of Flight building on the south-east side of the airfield, which doubles as the Delivery Centre, we arrived to be greeted by a fantastic lunch laid on by Boeing and a chance to mingle with the other VIP’s and BA staff on the trip. The centre has a bunch of displays about Boeing aircraft, including a section of Pan Am 707 fuselage, two 727 cockpits, and some experimental aircraft.

There is also a huge Boeing store with all manner of goodies, from pens, t-shirts and stickers, to books, DVDs and scale models of the different aircraft they produce. I’ll gladly admit I spent more than I should in here!

Up on the roof of the Centre is an observation deck with sweeping views over the airfield and production lines. This is perfect for the spotter and aircraft photographer as you’ll see every movement at the airfield at close quarters. It’s free to enter, too!

At 3pm the ceremony began. Andy Lord, the Director of Operations at British Airways, and an executive from Boeing introduced the delivery and just how significant the 777 is to the BA fleet. Then the curtain was pulled back, revealing G-STBF shining in the Seattle drizzle, to much applause.

It had been decided that one of our VIP group would get to cut the ribbon, and that honour fell on Matthew Stibbe of Golf Hotel Whiskey blog. However we all stood alongside him as he cut the ribbon and posed for photographs.

The crew also posed for photos, alongside Irene – mother of Capt Rod Mitchell, who was flying us home. The aircraft had been named Irene in honour of her, which was a nice surprise.

After passing through security with our bags, it was time to ascend the steps into the ‘new car smell’ of the cabin. The front sections of the aircraft were devoid of seats, as First and Club World are installed back in Cardiff. For takeoff and landing, all passengers had to sit in Economy in the back of the incredibly long aircraft (for safety reasons).

We departed shortly after 4pm, rocketing into the sky after what seemed like only a few seconds on the runway, due to our light load. Initially the flight was quite bumpy as there was a lot of weather around Seattle, and a strong jetstream blowing across the Pacific. Capt Mitchell informed us that it was clear 50 miles ahead “So we should be settled in approximately 6 minutes and 55 seconds”.

Boeing had provided catering for the flight, so we were invited to move to the World Traveller seating to enjoy either Beef or Seafood. I opted for the latter, which included huge prawns, lobster claws, salad, and a fantastic dessert. But since there were less than 50 people on board and plenty of food, there was enough to have a second helping if you wished.

Beer, wine, coffee and water were available in abundance, and a relaxed, happy atmosphere was evident throughout the flight. Once over northern Canada, the lights in the First cabin were dimmed and we were encouraged to go and see a fantastic display of the Northern Lights on the port side. Amusingly everyone crowded round the windows peering at the flickering green aurora outside.

Later in the flight we enjoyed a quiz by Capt Mitchell which he jokingly claimed to have been preparing whilst our other pilot, Tim, had been filing flight plans and flying the aircraft! The questions were based on our route, Seattle, Boeing, and British Airways. Sadly I didn’t win, but the two top prizes included a tour of Terminal 5 at Heathrow, and a 777 simulator ride.

I spent a couple of hours trying to get some sleep by stretching out over three seats in Economy, but fairly soon our adventure was coming to an end as we began our descent into Cardiff. To aid with the ‘swing’ required on the crosswind landing, we all moved closer to the front of the cabin. But it was an expert and comfortable landing, in what seems to be such a quiet aircraft despite its size.

To be part of this trip was really special, and it was a very fun, celebratory atmosphere on board – both from us VIPs who found the trip very different from any other, and from the BA staff who were very excited at this state-of-the-art new addition to their fleet.

G-STBF will begin carrying passengers after a short stint at BAMC in Cardiff, so watch out for her in the skies near you soon.

My thanks go out to British Airways‘ staff, pilots and crew for the invitation and for looking after us.

For two other excellent insights into this special trip, visit GolfHotelWhisky (or Forbes.com), and Continental Club

 

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Trip Report – Seattle with British Airways, Heathrow T5

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Heathrow, North America, Spotting Trip Reports, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 24-02-2012

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On Sunday I had the pleasure of flying with British Airways from London Heathrow to Seattle Tacoma.

I was looking forward to the Terminal 5 experience (I know, it’s years old now!), and comparing it to the other terminals at Heathrow.

First things first, I had already checked in online so only had to drop my bag off. But nevertheless there were plenty of desks available with no queueing necessary. With that done I wandered around and confirmed that you can still see part of the parking apron and 09L/27R runway from the Cafe Nero at the north end of the check-in hall.

Once through security, you are immediately confronted with a view of the parking apron and one side of the terminal’s Pier B. You can also see part of both runways, and distant aircraft at Terminal 4 and the cargo ramps.
My trip was sponsored by British Airways, so I made my way to the very exquisite Concorde Room. This was a real treat, with various areas of comfortable seating, a bar and dining area. It also has an ‘outside’ area (still indoors) which has similar views over the parked aircraft from the comfort of easy chairs.

Our aircraft was departing from gate B39. We made our way downstairs and on the underground train to Pier B, and then straight to our aircraft which today was Boeing 747-400 G-CIVS. This pier also has plenty of views of the surrounding gates.

Our flight went very well. I can heartily recommend the comfort level and service you get in British Airways Club World on a long haul flight, with both a private area to work/relax and a lie-flat bed (see picture for legroom). We landed 9hrs 35 mins later at Seattle, which was a strange experience as I was in a rearward-facing seat with no direct window views. So touchdown was a complete surprise!

It was getting dark at Seattle, so I had little chance to check SeaTac airport out, but I did get views of aircraft parked at the various piers from my walk to immigration and the baggage hall.

Stay tuned for more Seattle highlights, and our return trip bringing a brand new Boeing 777-300 back to the UK! And I’ll also be running a competition very soon!