Plain Aviation

the life of a planespotter and true avgeek

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Singapore Airlines 777 Engine Fire?

Early in the morning of Monday June 27, a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER (registration 9V-SWB, 9 years old) operating flight SQ368 from Singapore Changi International Airport (SIN) to Milan-Malpensa International Airport (MXP) suffered an engine fire after an emergency landing back at Singapore that was warranted by an engine oil warning that the crew received shortly after takeoff.

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Extent of damage to the right wing – Photo from Channel New Asia

How Cargo is Saving the Boeing 747

A topic that can get any planespotter or aviation enthusiast to tear up on the spot is the retirement of the Boeing 747. Seriously, movie studios should consider getting planespotters to act in roles where crying is needed. It’ll be much more genuine that some of the crappy fake crying that we see in movies. What was once comparable to a queen on her throne is now more or less a prisoner of war. The Boeing 747 has reached the end of its lifespan as airlines are switching over to more efficient twinjets or perhaps the Airbus A380. The 747-8 remains an overall failure, while earlier versions such as the 747-400 are being phased out due to their age.

Orient Thai penalized for flying with missing wheel

Recently, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) laid out a series of punishments directed towards Bangkok-based Low Cost Carrier (LCC) Orient Thai for operating a flight into Nanning Wuxu airport with a wheel missing from the nose landing gear.

Canon EOS 80D release

80d

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.

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.

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.

Spotting Location 2 – GFS Headquarters

The name of this location is quite misleading as you’re not actually supposed to be spotting from outside the GFS headquarters. You’re welcome to try doing so, but most of the time you’ll be catching the butt of planes departing from 25L. I mean the APU exhaust and rear fuselage are quite sexy, but I’d rather catch the front. To get the right angle, you should be approximately halfway between the threshold of 07R and the GFS headquarters. This spot is really only good for 25L departures and 07R arrivals (which come at best once every hour). 07R departures are visible, however you won’t be able to get any shots due to the fence.

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