Plain Aviation

the life of a planespotter and true avgeek

Month: February 2016

Sharper images: 5 tips for improving sharpness

An issue a lot of beginning aviation photographers face is coming home after a day of spotting to find that their images from the day are alarmingly soft and perhaps low in contrast. What can you do to save them? The answer is not much really; the Smart Sharpen tool in Photoshop can only do so much before it starts to ruin the image with noise. Sometimes images that are shot too poorly simply cannot be saved, as poor quality going into Photoshop means poor quality coming out. The only solution is to start shooting better, and my quick tips

MH370: My review of Goodnight Malaysian 370

Perhaps what’s so special about the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is that never before has an aviation incident (for lack of a better word) grappled the world’s attention with such intensity for so long a time. The initial disappearance was a major new story in itself, and people were kept on the edge of their seats for months as the investigation and search operations went along. Two years later, it seems like the investigations and search operations have stopped, and everyone has to some degree forgotten about MH370. Those who still remember will probably be

Canon EOS 80D release

80d

My thoughts on the Airbus A340 family

To be blatantly honest I’m quite fond of the A340 as it’s the only four-engined single decker aircraft that is in widespread use, unlike the Ilyushin Il-96, which is currently operated for passenger service only by Cubana. Despite being an Airbus aircraft, the A340 has a surprising amount of character. I’ll probably receive criticism for this but to me it just seems as though Airbus planes are more down-to-business and have less finesse and stylishness than Boeing aircraft. The A340, like the A330, does feel somewhat lacking in elegance, but it makes up with its unique as a four-engined single deck aircraft. The A340 comes in four different variants: -200, -300, -500, and -600. As any plane spotter worth his salt should know, each variant is aesthetically very different from the others, especially when it comes down to proportions.

Lasers and aviation safety – what’s the deal?

In light of what happened the other day with Virgin Atlantic flight VS25, I’d like to talk about lasers and the special relationship they seem to have with aviation. On February the 14th 2016, Virgin Atlantic flight VS25, an A340-600 carrying 267 from London to New York, was forced to declare a pan-pan and return to LHR as the co-pilot felt sick after being hit by a laser during take-off. Now if you’ve been following aviation news it would appear as though incidents involving pilots and lasers are curiously commonplace. Often times pilots are hit by lasers shone through the cockpit window from a source on the ground. This seriously endangers the safety of the aircraft as studies done by the FAA have shown pilots can be temporarily blinded or distracted by such lasers. Permanent damage to the eye is also possible. Most incidents involving pilots and lasers take place during the crucial takeoff and landing phases of the flight, where smaller mistakes have larger consequences and aircraft are at their most vulnerable stage. It begs the question, of all things that can distract pilots or hinder the safety of a flight, why do laser strikes seem to be the most common? Most of the time, laser strikes such as the one that was likely experienced by the crew of Vs25 are the result of people on the ground with little concern for aviation safety or a crude and irresponsible sense of entertainment pointing basic non-military-grade lasers at departing or arriving aircraft. It seems as though there are quite a handful of such people around the world, as lasers have become a serious danger to aviation safety. Of course other sources of lasers such as weather observatories, buildings, and temporary shows/concerts pose an equal threat, however these sources are usually marked in aeronautical charts or posted in NOTAMS so that pilots are aware of their presence. Most of the issue still lies in irresponsible people on the ground shining lasers on aircraft. Aerial police units are sometimes used to locate the source of these lasers, however until serious action is taken against offenders, it is unlikely that police will be able to deter future incidents. Although it may sound cliché, the only way to do so is to educate people on the effects that lasers can have on aviation safety.

How to determine spotting conditions at the airport before leaving home

Before leaving my home to go out spotting, I will always check to make sure that conditions are suitable for spotting. As you may know, “suitable” conditions for spotting is much more than just the absence of rain. The light coming from the sun must be bright and coming from the right direction. The visibility must be good, and it would be most preferable if the sky is blue.

Cathay announces first flight of A350 XWB

Every cloud has a silver lining, and the passing of something old is always complemented by the arrival of something new. With the retirement of Cathay’s passenger 747-400’s comes the launch of their A350’s. While I do not think this is a fair trade-off, at least 2016 won’t be a year of only sadness as Cathay retires their 744’s and 343’s. Cathay’s first A350, a -900 variant, will be delivered late April 2016. I believe the original date was set for February, however the delivery was delayed due to issues with the seat manufacturing. As is common whenever an airline takes delivery of a new aircraft type, Cathay plans to operate their first few A350’s on short-haul intra-Asia flights for crew familiarization before setting them off to fly the long-haul routes to Europe and the Middle East that they were meant for.  The first Cathay A350 revenue flight is set for May 1st 2016 and will be the morning flight CX900 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Manila (MNL). The aircraft will return to Hong Kong around noon as CX901 and later in the day fly to Taipei (TPE) and back as CX400/401. CX900/901 to MNL is a daily flight and CX400/401 to TPE will be operated 5-6 times a week. Afterwards, from July 1st 2016, the A350 will be deployed on several flights to and from Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, and weekly flights to Singapore will begin to be operated by the A350 two days later. Cathay will continue flying the A359 on this routes until it is ready for deployment on long-haul routes. The exact flight schedule is shown below (taken from AHKGAP.net).

Last flight of Cathay’s passenger 747 scheduled

After operating several variants of the 747 on passenger flights for more than three decades, Cathay has tentatively scheduled a last revenue flight for the type. The flight will be CX543 from Tokyo Haneda (HND) back to Hong Kong (HKG) and will take place on the 1st of October 2016. The flight is scheduled to depart HND at 10:45 JST (9:45 HKT) and arrive at HKG around 15:05HKT. The HKG-HND-HKG route is currently operated by Cathay’s two remaining passenger 744’s, which have been retired from long-haul service. It is unknown if Cathay will ever operate the 747-8 on passenger flights, however it sadly seems very unlikely as Boeing has been slowing down 747-8 production in the past year due to low demand. While I may find some comfort in knowing that Cathay will still fly freighter 747’s for years to come, it’s truly saddening to see the retirement of my favorite aircraft.

First flight of the Boeing 737 Max

Back in 2011, Boeing initiated the 737 Max program, intended on providing a more fuel-efficient successor to the 737NG (-600, -700, -800, -900) family and competing with the Airbus A320neo (new engine option), which was announced a year before in 2010. After a rather quick development program, the first 737 Max prototype rolled out in December of 2015. Just yesterday, on January 29 2016, the 737 Max made its maiden flight from Boeing’s production plant at Everett, Washington to Boeing field in Seattle. The 737 Max will be offered in three variants: -7, -8, and -9 based on the -700, -800, and -900 variants of the 737NG family respectively. The prototype aircraft that made the maiden flight of the 737 Max was a -8, will be delivered to launch customer Southwest Airlines in 2017. The 737 Max supposedly incorporates many of the technologies found on the 787, including Boeing Sky Interior’s updated overhead bins and LED cabin lighting, as well as Rockwell Collins enhanced LCD screens for the flight deck and additional fly-by-wire control systems. The main improvement on the 737 Max are the CFM Leap-1B engines, designed to increase fuel efficiency by 10-12% in comparison to the 737NG.

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