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

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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

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(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

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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.

Edinburgh Airport has been sold

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 26-04-2012

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(c) Paul McIlroyAnother of BAA’s airports has been sold on, this time Edinburgh.

The UK Competition Commission ordered the company to sell London Gatwick, Stansted and either Edinburg or Glasgow airports. The sale of Gatwick has already happened, and now it has been announced that Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) will buy Edinburgh for a whopping £807 million.

Interestingly, GIP are the new owners of Gatwick, and also have a 75% share in London City Airport. Does this mean they’re forming their own monopoly which will one day need to be sold off too?

Either way, this will be good news for Edinburgh which is likely to see a lot of growth and investment in the near future. GIP have already turned around the fortunes of Gatwick, so expect them to do the same.

The deal is expected to be done in May, so whether this will mean new discussions with Ryanair after they decided to pull a bunch of routes out of Edinburgh last week over fees is yet to be seen.

Photo (c) Paul McIlroy

Thomson’s 787 revealed

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Mexico, Miscellaneous Spotting, North America, Spotting News, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 25-04-2012

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Here’s a picture of what colour scheme Thomson Airways‘ new Boeing 787 Dreamliners will wear.

The leisure airline which flies holidaymakers to Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East, will be the first UK airline to take delivery of the Dreamliner. It has 13 on order, with the first due for delivery in April 2013.

The airline announced the airport their 787s will serve as the following:

Cancun, Mexico
East Midlands, UK
Glasgow, UK
London Gatwick, UK
Manchester, UK
Orlando, Florida

 

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)