Plain Aviation

the life of a planespotter and true avgeek

Month: January 2016 (page 1 of 3)

Cathay Dragon’s livery revealed

As you may know, Cathay Pacific’s regional subsidiary Dragonair will be re-branded as Cathay Dragon to strengthen the corporate identity of Cathay and improve brand recognition. Together with the announcement of the re-branding, Dragonair also revealed its future livery under the name Cathay Dragon.

Cathay Dragon’s new livery. Photo from Cathay Pacific.

Iran Air orders 118 new Airbus aircraft

Iran Air was founded back in the 1940’s, and in the 70’s and 80’s it was a leading airline of the world, comparable to Emirates today. Sadly, as a result of the Iranian Revolution and unrest in the region, Iran Air was forced to cease many of its international routes and could no longer purchase new Airbus or Boeing aircraft for the past several decades due to tension between governments. However, on January 16 2016, sanctions against Iran civil aviation were lifted after Iran implemented the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) regarding its nuclear program. This was a major breakthrough for Iran Air, who were looking to replace their outdated fleet of Airbus A300’s and Boeing 747-200’s (with an average age of around 30 years) but could not due to sanctions. Just in the past week, Airbus accepted an order from Iran Air for a total of 118 aircraft following a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to France. The order consists of 21 A320’s with the current engine option (ceo), 24 A320’s with the new engine option (neo), 27 A330ceo’s, 18 A330neo’s, 16 A350-1000’s, and 12 A380-800’s. The total value of the deal is around 25 billion US dollars. Airbus has also agreed to assist with pilot and maintenance training for the new aircraft. Iran will also receive help upgrading its civil aviation infrastructure, including aerial navigation systems.

A breakdown of Canon’s telephoto lenses

Other than a decent camera body of course, a quality telephoto lens is an aviation photographer’s best friend. While not everyone is able to afford a top-of-the-line Canon L lens, any plane spotter worth his salt should know the importance of glass in determining image quality, as opposed to just the camera body, and be able to pick out a lens suitable for his needs and his budget. In this guide I will be breaking the down characteristics of several telephoto lenses for Canon DSLR’s popular among plane spotters so that you will hopefully be able to make a better decisions as to which one is most suitable for you. Note that I only own some and not all of the lenses mentioned in this review, however I will derive information from reputable sources on all of these lenses so rest assured that what I’m presenting to you is indeed factually correct. Also note that I do not have any affiliation with Canon or any other company that may be mentioned. All opinions seen here are completely unbiased and come from either me or one of the several reputable sources that I have listed. For a more detailed review and image tests of lenses that I do own, please visit the links provided. Enjoy!

Minor collision between two China Eastern aircraft at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport

Earlier today (January 27 2016) at around noon, a China Eastern Airbus A319-115 (registration B-6466) at clipped the winglet of a parked aircraft with its own while taxiing to its gate after completing flight MU2153 from Xi’an. The accident occured at Shanghai Honqiao Airport (SHA, ZSSS), one China Eastern’s two hubs. The parked aircraft that was hit also belonged to China Eastern, and was an Airbus A320-232 (registration B-9975). The A320 was scheduled to depart for Xi’an as MU2154 when the collision occured. No casualties were reported, and the passengers of the A319 were able to deplane shortly after the incident. The current status of the A320 operating MU2154 is still unknown.

Cathay Pacific Cargo 747 rolls out in new livery

One of Cathay Pacific Cargo’s 747-400ERF’s, B-LIA, rolled out of HAECO’s Xiamen plant in the new Cathay livery after completing its D-check. The new livery was introduced on the 1st of November 2015 with one of Cathay’s 777-300ER’s, registration B-KPM. After completing its D-check in Xiamen, B-LIA returned to Hong Kong on the 20th of January 2016. The aircraft was delivered to Cathay Pacific Cargo new in mid-2008, and has an age of around 8 years. It is powered by four Pratt & Whitney PW4062A turbofan engines. The 747 version of the livery did have any significant features that wasn’t seen on B-KPM, however the winglets of B-LIA were painted in the same “Cathay green” as the tail, whereas B-KPM and other 777’s don’t have winglets. All of Cathay’s A350’s on order will be delivered in the new livery, and it is expected that Cathay will progressively repaint their current aircraft with the new livery as they undergo their D-checks. It will likely be years before the entire Cathay fleet is able to transition into the new livery, as aircraft are usually repainted only during their D-checks, which happen around once every 6 years. Sadly, there’s a 99.9% chance that Cathay’s passenger 747-400’s won’t be painted in the new livery, as they are no more than a few years away from retirement. It is also likely that Cathay’s older aircraft such as their 777-200’s, A340-300’s, and early A330-300’s will be retired before their next D-check and won’t see the new livery either. I’m desperately hoping that they’ll hang onto their A343’s for a little longer so we’ll get to see them in the new livery. Only time will tell.

Hong Kong to get 3 new 787 Dreamliner routes.

In the past week, Qatar Airways, All Nippon Airways, and Japan Airlines have announced the deployment of Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s on their routes to Hong Kong. Starting from summer of 2016, JAL replace the current 767-300ER’s currently operating the Sapporo (CTS) to HKG with 787-8’s. Subsequently, in September, ANA will replace the 777-200ER’s on their Tokyo Haneda (HND) to HKG with 787-9’s. Finally, Qatar Airways will replace the Airbus A330-200’s on their Doha (DOH) to HKG route with 787-8’s in October. This is good news for HKG spotters, as we will be able to see 787 Dreamliner’s from three additional carriers. Currently, the only 787’s flying into HKG on a regular basis belong to Scoot, Air India, Kenyan Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Royal Jordanian.

Boeing cuts production of 747-8

Due to a significant decrease in demand for the new and improved 747-8 (which let’s be honest was never that high in the first place) in the last few months, Boeing has decided to cut its production of the type to just 6 per year, as opposed to the original target of 12 in the same span of time. In 2015, Boeing was only able to sell two 747-8’s in what was the first sale of the aircraft type in two years. Demand for the 747 has sadly plummeted, especially in the passenger market as airlines now seem to prefer operating twin-engined wide-bodies such as the 777 or A350 on long-haul routes for increased fuel efficiency and flight frequency. The 747-8 is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s less fuel-efficient compared to the 777, but can’t carry as many passengers as the A380. Therefore, a large majority of 747-8 orders are for the freighter version, which are also on the decline due to the relatively small size of the freight market. In an age where a lot of the glamour in air travel is gone and it’s all about lowering the operating cost per seat, the 747 just doesn’t have an edge anymore. Part of the reason why production of the 747-8 hasn’t completely halted is because it was selected to replace the two aging 747-200’s that are currently serving as Air Force One. The future of the 747 is uncertain. Will sales recover? Will Boeing develop a new 747 variant or scrap the program altogether? As sad as it is, the truth is that once the last 747-400 has retired, the 747 will no longer be the Queen of the Skies.

How do I choose the right spotting location?

With most airports (usually unofficially) offering at least half a dozen different locations for spotting, it’s hard to choose which one to go to. Unless you want to spend valuable spotting moving around between locations, it’s advised that you visit no more than two locations in a day. At least for most of us, it takes long enough already just to get to the airport. To then move between locations is, at least in my opinion, a waste of time. But if something out of our control happens that makes the location unusable, for example rain, change of active runways, or change of lighting, then of course we have to make an exception.

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