Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Balloons and searchlights in action over London...1940? not really...

An airship (or a barrage balloon?) over London while searchlights are in action...1940? 1916? No! This picture was taken in London tonight. Almost certainly some sort of marketing action connected to the Olympics. I found the image and the setting quite suggestive, particularly after having written about airships on this blog not long ago.

I know the quality of the image is not perfect, it was taken with a small basic camera from a long distance, Hyde Park, and at night. In the next picture even worse quality but you can see the approximate location of the blip, notice the London Eye on the right side of the picture.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Bringing the Olympic spirit to the airline industry

The Olympic Games are a global event and therefore, the link with the airline industry is unavoidable. So I thought it could be a good idea to compile a list of the airline and aviation-related news, stories and images that the 2012 London Olympics are generating.

For a start, the queues at Heathrow and other London airports, a major concern for both the authorities and air travelers that were expecting (even more) chaos...the big news, however, is that...there are no news! All seems to be working, even better than normal!

Whereas one million extra visitors are expected in London during the Olympic period (let me doubt about these figures!), some UK-based airlines seem less than enthusiastic about the extra business they might bring them: Easyjet does not expect the Games to have a positive impact on its bottom line, whereas British Airways expects a drop in business (high-yield) passengers.

Not sure why they complain, since it was BA itself that was encouraging Britons to stay at home and support Team GB. Its "Home Advantage" campaign included a cool game that allows you to direct a one of BA's Boeing 777s to your home address by making it taxi through the London streets.

In any case, British Airways is fully embracing its role as one of the Olympic sponsors and has unveiled a number of original Olympics-themed liveries to be displayed on some of its A319 aircraft in the run up to the Games, starting with the Dove, and continuing with the Firefly, painted on the plane that brough the Olympic flame from Greece to the UK.

But BA is not the only airline that is repainting its aircraft for the occasion, Qantas, JAL, ANA, LOT and South African Airways have also painted their planes in Olympic liveries.

Qantas Olympic livery for London 2012
Image: Gabriel Tam (under Creative Commons License)

More controversial were the news that, on the flight to London, Japan's delegations reserved business class seats for their male footballers, while their female colleagues had to travel in economy.

This won't be a problem for the Jordanian team, since the entire delegation will fly low cost carrier Easyjet to the London Olympics, taking advantage of the orange airline route linking Amman to London.

And, in case, you need to fly during the Olympics and risk missing any of your favourite sports, Gulf Air is going to provide live streaming coverage of the Games.

What seems to be  totally off the programme, despite some speculation, is a comeback of the Concorde during the Games...although you can always try to get this replica of the Concorde in London 2012 Olympic livery!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

If at LCY...should you travel by sea or by air?

A Cityjet/Air France Avro RJ85 at LCY

The Olympics are about to start! and people are flocking to London by land, sea and air...

Here is a picture that my friend Tanja sent me from London City airport, it is not that often that you get to see boats and planes side by side, but this is what is happening now in East London, where large cruise ships are berthed on the Thames, right next to LCY.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Back to 1974: Nicosia's international airport

 An abandoned Cyprus Airways Hawker-Siddeley Trident (Picture: Dickelbers/Wikipedia)

Shortly after I posted this story about Vilnius being, possibly, the EU capital with the least air connections, Alex, a friend of mine from Cyprus, pointed out the existence in Nicosia, Cyprus, of an airport that has not been in use since 1974.

(Note: Nicosia's old airport is not to be mistaken with Cyprus main international airport at Larnaca, about 50km away, on the coast, an airport I had the chance to speak about a few months ago)

This story piqued my curiosity, fortunately a quick online search yielded some interesting results:

Nicosia's abandoned airport is just West of the city center, right in the middle of the UN buffer zone that separates the Greek and Turkish sides of the island. It is precisely this latent conflict that is at root of the current state of abandondment.

The airport itself was at the frontline in the summer of 1974 and was the episode of a botched attempt by Greek airborne troops to provide assistance to Greek cypriots during the fight.

Besides these tragic circumstances, Nicosia's old international airport offers a really fascinating glimpse of the World of air travel as it used to be in the 1970s. As it happens all along the buffer zone, time seems to have stopped in 1974, it is possibly the closest you can get to a time travel experience.

The wikipedia entry has some really stunning pictures (I repost a sample here), Cypriot photographer Andros Efstathiou is also exhibiting his work about the airport.

                                                         Airport fittings, 1970s-style (Picture: Dickelbers/Wikipedia)

For obvious reasons Nicosia's airport is currently off-limits to everyone but the UN troops that patrol de buffer zone, however, I think that, whenever the Cypriot conflict is resolved, if the airport is preserved and open to the public it will make a must-visit attraction for aviation enthusiasts from all over the World!

PS: If you like aviation history, you might check this other story about Belgrade's aviation museum!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

UPDATE on my Georgian air travel market post: British Airways sees the potential too

Updates on stories I have written recentlykeep coming today....!

On my post of 30th June, I noted I wrote how the Republic of Georgia is seeing a notable increase in tourist numbers and airlines are taking note.

British Airways somehow seem to agree with this positive outlook, since one of the decisions it has taken regarding BMIs old network has been to upgrade the London Heathrow-Tbilisi link to nonstop daily, operated by an A321.

Certainly good news for the Georgian tourism industry and those that fly this route regularly, not so good for Turkish Airlines: it's daily service via Istanbul was one of the most competitive offerings on this route, less so from the moment British Airways starts to fly direct.

UPDATE: more on aircraft storage

UPDATE: following my recent post about Spanair and Malev aircraft paying up to €2,500 for temporary storage at Irish airport, I got a message from Pablo, a reader of this blog, letting me know that it is cheaper to park aircraft at Palma de Mallorca airport (PMI).

So, all airlines expecting to go bankrupt in the coming months, please take note!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Is Vilnius still the worst-connected capital in the EU?

In 2009 Bloomberg published a story bringing attention to the fact that, after the collapse of Lithuanian carreir FlyLaL, Vilnius, Lithuania, had become the capital city in the EU with the least air connections.

Is this still true? possibly....but, despite the fact that it has proven really hard for a national airline sector to take-off in Lithuania (FlyLal's bankruptcy was followed by that of Star1 Airlines and the closure of AirBaltic's, Air Estonia's and Skyway's Vilnius mini-bases), traffic numbers are back on the rise (getting close to pre-2009 levels). The explanation is very simple and it is the same that is happening all over Europe when a flag carrier has gone bust (for example, Malev), low cost airlines step in.

 Wizz Air, to the rescue

In the case of Vilnius it has been mainly Wizz Air, that opened a base in 2010, and Ryanair, that offers flights to 9 destinations from the Lithuanian capital.

Having low cost carriers fill the vacuum left by collapsing network carriers might not be a solution everyone likes, as low cost carriers are far from fulfiling the flag-carrying role that was usually reserved to national network carriers, premium passengers might also ressent the lack of a full-service airline on most routes...but, hey! this is the reality of the market and this is a substitution process that I would expect to see in more places in the near future, as msot European network airlines are a legacy of an era that is not coming back!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Emirates two newest London!

If you are flying to London for the Olympics, Emirates can take you via its Dubai hub to either Heathrow (now a four-daily A380 service!) or Gatwick...and now also across the Thames.

Dubai's carrier is launching London's first cable car that runs over the river Thames from the conveniently renamed Emirates Greenwich Peninsula, next to the O2 arena to the Emirates Royal Docks, on the North bank.

Not sure how many Skywards miles you get though...!

Monday, 16 July 2012

What happened to all those Spanair and Malev aircraft?

 When it comes to financial stability, the airline industry has a terrible reputation (and track record!). We had a reminder early this year with the disappearance of Spanair and Malev.

But, have you wondered where do all these aircraft go when an airline goes bust?

I did, and The Sun (I know! not my top source of aviation knowledge though..) has provided part of the answer. At least 24 ex-Spanair and ex-Malev planes made their way to Ireland to be stored at Dublin and Sannon airports (while they await their final destination, that in most cases will very likely be the Arizona desert).

In the meantime, Dublin Airport Authority benefits nicely from providin this sort of long-term parking facility (€2,500 per aircraft per day). Other to benefit have been airlines loking to expand their fleet, since this glut in aircraft supply might have lowered leasing costs up to 25%.

The Sun's article was written in March though, it would be interesting to learn where all these planes, except the 9 Spanair A320s that went to Vueling, have finally ended up...any clues?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Aviation news of the week (15-7-12)

As you might imagine, the Farnborough air show generated most of the top aviation news this week. Part of the routine of each major air show is the stream of aircraft order announcements, and this time it was no exception:

Boeing announced a  150-strong order for its Boeing 737 (100 737 Max and 50 737 NG) from United Airlines. By the way, with this order Boeing passes the 10,000th aircraft mark in the history of its Boeing 737 family. A truly remarkable achievement!

AirAsia confirmed it is talks with Bombardier to order up to 100 CS300 aircraft. If this order materializes it is going to be a really important achievement for the CSeries programme, that really needs new orders soon! On another page, AirBaltic announced an order for 15 CS300. So not a bad show for Bombardier after all.

Cathay Pacific confirmed it is going ahead with the A350-1000, a vote of confidence in this aircraft programme after it went througha  redesign last year.

And on non-Farnborough news, the government of Uruguay is going to auction the assets of bankrupt flag carrier Pluna, that has stopped flying. Bidding for the airline's Bombardier CRJ900 Next Generation aircraft will start at $135M.

Finally, I thought you might like this video fro the Farnborough air show, where you will be able to see how an Airbus A380 looks like when maneuvering at low altitude.

Have a great week!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A visual summary of the Farnborough air show

An air show like Farnborough is always a gold mine for planespotters, up to the point that I thought it was worth doing a visual post only, in addition to the one where I explained my experience at this year's air show. So here there are, enjoy!

Airbus demo'ed the capabilities of its A380: really quiet and agile for a plane of its size!

The military jets were too fast and small for me to capture well in camera, but here is one of the figther jets that participated in the flying display: the polyvalent and agile Saab Gripen

And what avgeek is not stunned by the sheer beauty of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner?

Qatar Airways brought its first Dreamliner to the Farnborough air show

Is it just me finding the Dreamliner's nose really cute?

Here is another airliner I also find really cool: the Sukhoi Superjet, seen here in Aeroflot livery

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Highlights of the Farnborough Air Show

Like every other year, the small Farnborough airfield has become the meeting point for aviation professionals and enthusiasts for around the World. This was not my first visit to the Farnborough Air Show, been here in 2006, when I could first admire the majestic (and quiet!) Airbus A380, and the 2008 edition, when the smaller size of the flying and static displays was an unmistakable sign that the economy was already in trouble.

This time, however, I was able to see Farnborough from an entirely new angle, a professional angle, since I had the chance to experience the air show working together with the  colleagues of the Flightglobal team.

Flightglobal’s chalet at the show was in a privileged position, overlooking the runway, and it had a perfect view of the flight display.  As you might imagine, I did not pass the opportunity to do some planespotting. I must say this year, besides the always spectacular to watch, military jets, the highlight for me was the Boeing 787, an aircraft that I “met” for the first time. Qatar Airways brought its newly delivered Dreamliner and  it did not disappoint. It is a beautiful plane, elegant and very quiet...I can’t wait to fly on it!

But the Boeing 787 was not the only “first” at the show, the Superjet was also there, looking good in Aeroflot livery.

And not exactly a new plane, but I also found quite interesting this Embraer 190 in the bright colours of the Ukrainian carrier Aerosvit.

On the business side of the show, most of the attention was focused on the 737 Max vs. Airbus A320 Neo, with Boeing having the upper hand this time, as it secured 225 firm orders, including those for the 737 Max from United Airlines and leasing companies ALC and ALAFCO, whereas arch-rival Airbus managed to secure only 54 firm orders.

But how long is this dupolistic dominance of the narrow-body market going to last? 

One of the things I personally found more interesting of this show is the performance of the "alternative" manufacturers (by alternative I mean those that are neither of the big two).

It is particularly noticeable the apparent consolidation of Bombardier's CSeries programme, that managed to secure several new orders for its CS300 and has attracted the interest also of AirAsia.  Other up-start narrow-body programmes have also generated some interesting news during the show, like Misubishi Aircraft securing 100 additional orders for its MRJ from SkyWest and Comac reaching an agreeement with IAG for the further development of the C-919.

A different story is Irkut's MC-21 programme, that is still generating considerable doubts, not least of them its final branding (for a start, there is not even a consensus among industry observers: should it be pronnounced as “C” or as “S” as it would be if respecting the Russian pronunciation of the cyrillic "C"?). 

These alternative narrow-body programmes face an uphill battle but if they manage to hold their ground we are almost guaranteed to have very interesting air shows in years to come! 

Oh! and almost forgot! future air shows I would expect to see more of these too!