New 787 Dreamliner page

Check out my new Dreamliner page under the ‘Aircraft Photos’ section with photos of the 787’s I’ve seen so far. This page will be updated as I see ones . . .

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Bye-bye VC10

As I write these words in Perth, Australia, the very last flight of the last flying VC10 is coming to an end in England. RAF VC10, ZA147, will make its last landing at Bruntingthorpe and so bring to an end the flying career of arguably the most beautiful jetliner built (with the possible exception of Concorde).

I will always remember seeing the BOAC VC10’s parked at the gates at Heathrow in the 1970’s, their sleek lines making a contrast to the more angular Boeing 707’s. The BOAC livery with its dark blue cheatline and gold speedbird emblem always looked spectacular on the VC10 and always made an impression.

Over the years I saw BOAC, East African Airways, Gulf Air and Ghana Airways VC10’s as well as the occasional RAF model. I will always remember seeing a VC10 in British Airways colours flying on airways from Manchester to Heathrow going over at 10,000 feet, much lower than the normal airways altitude of around 22,000 for aircraft heading to Heathrow over the West Midlands. Fantastic!

I saw my last VC10, ZA149 tail code ‘H’, at Birmingham International Airport on January 10, 2009.

So, thanks VC10 for all the memories, the great sights and the unforgettable sounds, spanning the decades and coming to an end today, long may people enjoy seeing you at the various museums around the UK.

Bye-bye VC10 . . .

Pearce Airshow 2012

Finally, after no less than a seven-year wait, the ADF organised another airshow at RAAF Pearce. The event took place on the weekend of 19 and 20 May and was hugely popular, partly due to the attraction of a major air display and partly due to amazing weather. Having an airshow in May is a bit of a risk in the Perth area, but the weather gods smiled and the RAAF didn’t disappoint.

RAAF Pearce is north-east of Perth on the busy Great Northern Highway and is home to an RAAF flying school as well as a detachment of the Republic of Singapore Air Force flying school. British Aerospace Hawks and Pilatus PC-9’s and PC-21’s are based here making for a busy airfield. In addition to the based aircraft, other RAAF and foreign air force aircraft are regular visitors, with C-17 Globemasters, C-130 Hercules and Lockheed Orions fairly regular visitors as well as the occasional KC-135 Stratotanker, Hornets, 737 VIP transports and even, in this past week, US Navy P-8A Poseidons.

RAAF F-18 Hornet

The last airshow at Pearce, in 2005, was just a little disappointing, mainly due to the fact that the actual flying display seemed a bit sparse and disjointed with long breaks between individual displays. Also, there wasn’t a huge selection of aircraft. In fairness, what was there made for some good photos, and once I found a good spot for taking pictures, I managed to get some great shots of aircraft taxiing past me at close range.

That airshow was held in November which, in Perth, normally means warm, and the temperatures on both days were around 30C. It was so warm I had a few problems with my camera – the autofocus played up and I had to remove and replace the battery to get it working again. May, on the other hand, can be wet and quite cool, so when I found out the show was set for May 19 and 20 I was hoping we weren’t going to get washed out. The week leading up to the show weekend was very showery, but as it turned out, the weather on Friday 18 cleared up and the Saturday and Sunday were clear and sunny with very light winds, just perfect for flying.

So, with expectations high, my son Scott and I set off for a big day out. Getting onto the base was fairly straightforward and heading for the carpark area we were greeted by an RAAF C-17, Orion and Hercules parked on one of the hardstands. Then it was a case of park the car and head for the action. There was already a large number of people there, making clear shots of aircraft in the static aircraft impossible, but some decent shots were possible with a bit of patience.
RAAF Roulettes Display Team line-up
The RAAF’s display team, The Roulettes, had their PC-9’s nicely lined up next to one of the taxiways, a USAF KC-135 and RAAF C-17 made an impressive sight, and a very new RAAF Wedgetail was a must see. Nestled in between the Wedgetail and C-17 was a wonderful Grumman Albatross, N42MY, the last of this model to be built. The aircraft is in superb condition and is apparently going to be based in Broome where it will operate tourist scenic flights.
9109 Republic of Singapore Air Force Pilatus PC-21


A Republic of Singapore Air Force Hercules, serial 730, from 122 Squadron was another interesting static display aircraft, as well as one of their PC-21 trainers, 9109.
A39-003 RAAF KC-30 MRTT





On the other side of the static area was another new Royal Australian Air Force aircraft, A39-003, an Airbus KC-30. Based on the civilian Airbus A330-200, the KC-30 is a Multi-Role Tanker Transport, able to provide air-to-air refuelling as well as troop transport. It is by far the largest aircraft in the RAAF inventory and is an impressive aircraft.

VH-XKI Skippers Aviation DHC Dash-8



Also in attendance at this end of the show was an immaculate Embraer Phenom 100, VH-FJP, belonging to the China Southern West Australian Flying College, along with a Skippers Aviation DHC-Dash 8 and two Cessna Caravans belonging to Ad-Astral Aviation Services.

RAAF F-18 Hornets break at the end of their display




Having had a quick scoot around the static display, we headed for the flying display. The 2005 display left a bit to be desired, but this year’s was extremely good. Excellent displays by an RAAF C-17, King Air and Orion were followed by the Roulettes, a four ship formation of RAAF Hornets, four Hawks as well as solo displays by a Hawk and Hornet.


However, it was the US Air Force B-52 flypasts that most people had probably come to see. Flying on a non-stop round tip from Guam in the Pacific Ocean to Pearce via the Northern Territory on each day, the 17.5 hour sortie was officially a navigation and bombing training mission but gave most present their first view of a plane that is famous the world over. Entering into service with the USAF in 1955, a total of 744 were built, remarkably, the last ones in 1960. Current estimates are that the venerable ‘Buff’ could keep flying until 2040 or even by some estimates, 2045 – that would make it a 90 year career!

US Air Force B-52H
Capping off the official flying display each day was a flypast of the ‘Thunderbird’ formation, 21 Pilatus PC-9’s from Pearce’s based 2 Flight Training School, quite a sight to see. Not only was the formation flypast impressive, but seeing so many aircraft in the circuit to land was entertainment in itself.

All in all, a great flying display with lots of noise and smoke, just what you want from a military airshow!

VH-LVD RAAF Hot Air BalloonHeading back to the car there was one more treat – the RAAF hot air balloon. We initially thought it was going to fly, but after inflation it was tethered. Still, I’d never seen a balloon being inflated and it was a great to see, a very genteel and quite affair after the noise and drama of the day’s flying displays.

Having done it once on the Saturday I just had to do it all again on the Sunday! Perfect weather was again the order of the day, and, as luck would I have it, I found a fantastic spot to take photos from in the car park on the north side of the base, with the flying display aircraft taxiing right in front of me.

So, after two full days of watching and photographing planes, when too much aviation action was barely enough, all that’s left is to hope we don’t have to wait another 7 years until the next one! Well done to the ADF and RAAF for a superb show!

The photos in this post are just a small selection of what’s available on my ‘Pearce Airshow 2012’ page under the ‘AIRCRAFT PHOTOS’ section, so have a look.

Updated Aircraft Photos section

Have a look at my latest additions, Best of Winter 2011, in the Aircraft Photos section. Some great shots of Singapore Airlines A330, a Skippers Aviation Dash 8 on it’s delivery flight, ‘Golden Hour’ QANTAS A330, South African Airways A340-200, QANTAS 747-400ER and a Malaysian 777 caught with the Moon.

And, coming soon, photos from the 2012 Pearce Air Show . . .

Christmas time action!

The holiday season at Perth Airport this year seems to be like no other! We have 4 x daily Singapore Airlines flights, additional services from Air Asia X, Emirates and Air New Zealand, plus Antonov 124’s and Atlas 747’s.

Plus, the new observation area opened on 16 December adding a fantastic facility for anyone interested in planes.

For the past couple of weeks, Air Asia X have operated supplemental flights 3 days per week, on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The flights arrive at 3.20pm, a great time for good light.
Air Asia X A330 9M-XXC

Since then Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines have started additional flights, taking SIA to 4 flights daily and ANZ to 2 daily.

Air New Zealand’s additional flight arrives around 9.00am and has been operated by their winglet fitted 767-300’s. A special treat, however, arrived on Saturday 17 December in the form of a 777-200ER, ZK-OKC.

‘Buy one get one free’ is always a good deal, and so seeing -OKC on a day when I was just expecting to see the Air Asia X was definitely something to remember.

Air New Zealand B777 ZK-OKC

Singapore Airlines has given the local spotters a Christmas treat with one of their extra flights being operated by the Boeing 777. For some time now SIA flights have been primarily operated by A330’s, so having the Triple 7 make a reappearance is a welcome addition to the Perth scene.

Boeing 777-212(ER) 9V-SQM, made its first visit to Perth on the morning of Sunday, 18 December. Local time was 6.00am . . . very early by anyone’s standards, especially mine!

Singapore Airlines B777 9V-SQM

Not to be outdone, Emirates operated an additional flight through Perth on the evening of 18 December when a Triple 7-300 made a refuelling stop en route Dubai from Sydney due to having a full load!

The 18th was a very busy day. In the early evening an Antonov 124, RA-82075 of Polet Airlines, arrived from Colombo, Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get to the airport to see it, but hey, next time.

Then today, Monday 19th December, an Atlas 747 freighter arrived on charter to QANTAS. N492MC arrived at just before 7.30pm.

Meanwhile, the most significant event to happen in the world of Perth Airport spotting occurred on the 16th December when the new observation area opened to the public. The facility is the first dedicated, open air, public observation area in Australia and is similar to the facility at Munich in Germany, albeit on a smaller scale.

The facility has been eagerly awaited by local spotters and is the culmination of a project started at least four years ago. Locally resident aviation journalist Geoff Thomas has been instrumental in working with WAC (Westralian Airports Corporation) to bring this facility about and it is a tremendous bonus to those of us who enjoy seeing the action up close.

When runway 03 is active, great views of arriving and departing aircraft are possible with no obstructing trees or buildings. Plus, the facility is on the western side of the runway, so from around 11.30 in the morning aircraft will be in full sun. It doesn’t get much better than that! Combined with Perth’s famously blue skies you have a formula for some great photo opportunities.

So, a big thanks to Geoff and WAC for having the determination and foresight to make it happen!

Finally, an update on new aircraft, services and airlines.

QANTAS recently started operations with Bombardier Dash 8 Q-400’s. Flights are operating initially to Geraldton and Exmouth with additional destinations coming. QANTAS is the first operator to use the 400 version of the popular Dash 8 at Perth and makes for another welcome addition to the airport.

China Southern commenced scheduled operations on November 9th using Airbus A330’s. The airline links Perth to Guangzhou on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays arriving at 6.00am, which although very early, offers great early morning light. Check the photo’s taken on 18 December on my ‘Perth International Airport’ page under ‘Aircraft Photos’.

Another piece of great news came recently when Qatar Airways announced fights to Perth starting in July 2012. Arrival time is expected to be around 6.30pm, which in July will mean it’s dark, but as we move into spring and summer they will be a fantastic sight in the evening sun. I can’t wait!

Initial services will be operated by Airbus A330’s three days per week then switching to a daily Triple 7 at some point in October. I just hope we get some A330’s in daylight before the switch to 777’s takes place!

As much as Qatar’s announcement was great news, bad news came from Brunei Airlines when they announced the end of flights to Perth as of 27 October. Their final flight was made by an Airbus A320 and marks the end of a long association with Perth.

I flew Royal Brunei to London in 1994 on a 757 and 767, so have first hand experience of flying with the airline. At the time they offered great fares, the only drawback being the routing: Perth – Bandar Seri Begawan – Singapore – Abu Dhabi – Heathrow. Great for all the take-offs and landings, but a bit testing on the patience, even for a plane spotter like me!

Regardless, Royal Brunei will be missed and I wish them good luck with their operations.

Another new aircraft type recently in Perth and due to become a resident type is the ATR-72. Skywest will be operating a number of the type in conjunction with Virgin Australia serving regional centres in WA starting some time in 2012. The aircraft will be painted in Virgin Australia colours and will add another dimension to Perth’s operations.

Lastly, Strategic Airlines rebranded as Air Australia in November, complete with a great new livery. Keep an eye on my ‘Aircraft Photos’ page for pics.

So, a lot of things happening at Perth and an indication of the rising number of passengers and flights through Western Australia’s primary airport, due in no small part to the booming mining industry – long may it continue!

Pain in the Ash

Living in Perth it’s tempting to think we are so far from anywhere that nothing really affects us from the outside world. Sure, we felt some effect from the GFC and petrol gets more expensive when the price of oil goes up, but when it comes to things of a more natural origin, there’s really not much that comes our way.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, while relatively close by in Indonesia, had no impact on the Western Australian coast, the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand are distant images on our TV’s, and even when most of Europe’s airspace was closed in 2010 due to the Icelandic volcano eruption, down here in sunny Perth life went on as normal.

And so it was on June 4, when once again another volcano erupted in a distant land. Spectacular images showed the huge plume of smoke and ash rising into the Chilean sky from Puyehue, around 7,400 miles away on the other side of the world – literally.

According to Google Maps, the longitude of Puyehue is -72.6 degrees west while Perth Airport is 115.9 degrees east. Adding 72.6 to 115.9 gives a separation of 188.5 degrees, so just 8.5 degrees off being exactly opposite each other on the globe. But here’s the interesting bit – the latitude of Puyehue is -40.6 while the latitude of Perth Airport is -31.9, which is a difference of only 8.7 degrees.

So while Puyehue is almost exactly on the opposite side of the world to Perth, it’s on a very similar latitude. And guess what? When you look at the southern hemisphere on a globe, you’ll see that there’s huge expanses of ocean circling the world with Antarctica to the south and South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand extending down from the north. And if you draw a straight line directly west on latitude 32 from Perth you end up not in South Africa, but Argentina, which is smack bang next door to Chile.

All of that uninterrupted ocean makes for extremely reliable winds, otherwise known to sailors as the Roaring Forties due to their notorious strength and the fact that they blow through the 40 latitudes. In the northern hemisphere, the land masses of Canada, Alaska, Europe and northern Asia alter the flow of air so that its circulation around the North Pole is nowhere near as steady and reliable as that around the South Pole with its Roaring Forties.

So, a volcano erupts on the 40th latitude and all of that ash and smoke starts to get blown eastwards, is picked up by the Roaring Forties and heads straight towards Australia and New Zealand. Now ordinarily in summer, when large high pressure systems tend to sit in the Great Australian Bight, all of that ash might have skirted to the south of Australia and just hit New Zealand, but in winter, those high pressure anticyclones tend to sit further north, allowing low pressure systems to sweep up from the south, bringing cold air from a long way down.

Which brings us to yesterday, 14 June, when a strong cold front brought heavy rain and showers across WA and, in its wake, air that’s been sucked up from those Roaring Forties latitudes way down south. Only today, 15 June, cold air and something else has been moving north – volcanic ash.

What on June 4 was an event on the other side of the world 7,400 miles away in Chile has now pretty much grounded all flights to and from Perth International Airport in Australia. Flights started to be cancelled from around 13.00 local time with Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tiger Airways suspending all flights. Some international flights were still operating, but any flight taking a southerly route to places like Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and the South African Airways flight to Johannesburg were cancelled.

The list below shows the arrivals information for this evening, Wednesday 15 June.

Arrivals Date Airline Flight Origin Terminal STA ETA Status
15/06 SA 280 Johannesburg T1 13:25 13:25 Cancelled
15/06 QF 303 Johannesburg T1 13:25 13:25 Cancelled
15/06 XR 216 West Angelas T3 14:25 15:30 Landed
15/06 SQ 223 Singapore T1 14:40 14:16 Landed
15/06 MH 125 Kuala Lumpur T1 15:00 14:57 Landed
15/06 QR 5322 Kuala Lumpur T1 15:00 14:57 Landed
15/06 AZ 3078 Kuala Lumpur T1 15:00 14:57 Landed
15/06 KL 4107 Kuala Lumpur T1 15:00 14:57 Landed
15/06 TG 481 Bangkok T1 15:35 16:09 Landed
15/06 GA 726 Denpasar T1 16:00 18:10 Landed
15/06 XR 054 Exmouth T3 16:10 16:09 Landed
15/06 XR 250 Cloud Break T3 16:40 13:23 Landed
15/06 XR 146 Esperance T3 16:45 16:35 Landed
15/06 DJ 1486 Broome T3 16:50 16:50 Cancelled
15/06 XR 116 Geraldton T3 17:05 17:19 Landed
15/06 DJ 5116 Geraldton T3 17:05 17:19 Landed
15/06 XR 126 Albany T3 17:20 17:27 Landed
15/06 DJ 5126 Albany T3 17:20 17:27 Landed
15/06 EK 420 Dubai T1 17:25 17:39 Landed
15/06 XR 244 Cloud Break T3 18:00 17:15 Landed
15/06 NZ 175 Auckland T1 18:10 19:25 Landed
15/06 UA 9552 Auckland T1 18:10 19:25 Landed
15/06 US 5338 Auckland T1 18:10 19:25 Landed
15/06 DJ 4160 Denpasar T1 18:25 18:25 Cancelled
15/06 QQ 879 Telfer T3 19:10 19:10 Cancelled
15/06 XR 218 West Angelas T3 19:10 15:15 Landed
15/06 TT 6272 Avalon T3 19:15 19:15 Cancelled
15/06 XR 208 Argyle T3 19:15 17:35 Landed
15/06 XR 222 Barimunya T3 19:20 15:13 Landed
15/06 DJ 1730 Karratha T3 19:30 19:30 Cancelled
15/06 QQ 738 Karratha T3 19:30 19:30 Cancelled
15/06 QZ 8626 Denpasar T1 19:30 19:04 Landed
15/06 QQ 805 Leinster T3 19:50 19:50 Cancelled
15/06 QQ 795 Mount Keith T3 20:00 20:00 Cancelled
15/06 DJ 1846 Port Hedland T3 20:10 20:10 Cancelled
15/06 XR 118 Geraldton T3 20:10 20:10 Cancelled
15/06 DJ 5118 Geraldton T3 20:10 20:10 Cancelled
15/06 XR 238 The Granites T3 20:30 20:30 Cancelled
15/06 DJ 565 Sydney T3 20:45 20:45 Cancelled
15/06 DJ 1882 Newman T3 20:50 20:50 Cancelled
15/06 XR 128 Albany T3 21:05 21:05 Cancelled
15/06 TR 2716 Singapore T1 21:05 21:05 Cancelled
15/06 DJ 5128 Albany T3 21:05 21:05 Cancelled
15/06 XR 148 Esperance T3 21:30 21:30 Cancelled
15/06 DJ 5148 Esperance T3 21:30 21:30 Cancelled
15/06 DJ 1488 Broome T3 22:00 22:00 Cancelled
15/06 DJ 4158 Denpasar T1 22:30 22:30
15/06 CX 171 Hong Kong T1 22:35 22:25
15/06 DJ 697 Melbourne T3 22:45 22:45 Cancelled
15/06 3K 111 Singapore T1 23:10 23:10 Cancelled
15/06 XR 020 Kununurra T3 23:20 23:20 Cancelled
15/06 DJ 5020 Kununurra T3 23:20 23:20 Cancelled
15/06 DJ 571 Sydney T3 23:50 23:50 Cancelled
15/06 SQ 215 Singapore T1 23:55 23:55
15/06 VS 7226 Singapore T1 23:55 23:55
15/06 LH 9785 Singapore T1 23:55 23:55
16/06 DJ 474 Brisbane T3 00:10 00:10 Cancelled
16/06 QF 078 Singapore T1 00:30 10:10 Delayed
16/06 TT 5598 Melbourne T3 00:50 00:50 Cancelled

Air Services Australia has been monitoring the situation, with Qantas and Jeststar looking to resume flights at 06:00 tomorrow morning, 16 June. Virgin Australia are waiting to see what happens.

The forecast weather for the next 24 hours looks like it will push the ash back down to the south and away from Perth. Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmania, which have been affected by the ash over the last couple of days, are pretty much back to normal, so flights from Perth to these locations should be able to operate, even if the great circle routing over the Bight has to be dropped in favour of a more northerly path to avoid any areas of ash concentration.

Below is the latest bulletin from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) in Darwin:

Darwin VAAC
IDD60156
VOLCANIC ASH ADVISORIES FROM DARWIN VAAC – LAST 7 DAYS
DARWIN VAAC 13:51 UTC, 15/06/2011
——————————————————————–

Received FVAU0190 at 11:52 UTC, 15/06/11 from ADRM
VA ADVISORY
DTG: 20110615/1151Z
VAAC: Darwin

VOLCANO: Cordon Caulle 1507-141
PSN: S4031 W07212
AREA: Chile C
SUMMIT ELEV: 1798M

ADVISORY NR: 2011/35
INFO SOURCE: MTSAT, MODIS, NOAA, AIREP
AVIATION COLOUR CODE: RED
ERUPTION DETAILS: HIGH LEVEL ERUPTION, ASH MOVING EAST

OBS VA DTG: 15/1200Z
OBS VA CLD:
FL100/FL270 S5410 E07825 – S6630 E07455 – S6600 E15955 –
S4740 E15955 – S5005 E15025 – S5045 E14845 – S5150 E14600 –
S5325 E14105 – S5410 E07825 MOV E 70KT
FL150/FL350 S1845 E08205 – S4040 E08535 – S5410 E07835 –
S5325 E14120 – S4700 E13545 – S3815 E12755 – S3125 E11645 –
S2945 E10455 – S2030 E10000 – S1845 E08205 MOV E 40KT
FL240/FL380 S3250 E16000 – S3455 E15215 – S4050 E14920 –
S4705 E13550 – S5320 E14115 – S4740 E16000 – S3250 E16000 MOV E 40KT

FCST VA CLD +6HR: 15/1800Z
FL100/FL270 S5400 E08045 – S6640 E07455 – S6600 E15955 –
S4755 E15955 – S5000 E15040 – S5045 E14845 – S5150 E14600 –
S5330 E14110 – S5400 E08045
FL150/FL350 S1840 E08200 – S4055 E08850 – S5405 E08100 –
S5330 E14110 – S5145 E14555 – S5010 E14400 – S3920 E13155 –
S3355 E12145 – S3130 E10815 – S2030 E10000 – S1840 E08200
FL240/FL380 S3250 E15955 – S3445 E15255 – S5010 E14415 –
S5150 E14605 – S4745 E16000 – S3250 E15955
FCST VA CLD +12HR: 16/0000Z
FL100/FL270 S5400 E08225 – S6640 E07455 – S6610 E15955 –
S4745 E15955 – S5025 E15035 – S5110 E14845 – S5150 E14605 –
S5340 E14120 – S5400 E08225
FL150/FL350 S1840 E08200 – S4055 E09255 – S5350 E08235 –
S5325 E14110 – S5055 E14845 – S4125 E13635 – S3525 E12430 –
S3355 E11010 – S2030 E10155 – S1840 E08200
FL240/FL380
FCST VA CLD +18HR: 16/0600Z
FL100/FL270 S5410 E08455 – S6630 E07500 – S6610 E15950 –
S4740 E16005 – S5025 E15050 – S5100 E14830 – S5155 E14600 –
S5330 E14110 – S5410 E08455
FL150/FL350 S1845 E08200 – S4055 E09505 – S5405 E08505 –
S5325 E14100 – S5000 E15025 – S4120 E13900 – S3605 E12755 –
S3610 E11300 – S2035 E10500 – S1845 E08200
FL240/FL380

RMK: VAA LIMITED TO VAAC DARWIN AREA. FOR W OF E075 SEE TOULOUSE
VAA FVXX01. FOR E OF E160 SEE WELLINGTON VAA FVPS01. VA NEAR
ANTARCTICA LOWERED DUE AIREP Graphic at [lower case]
http://www.bom.gov.au/info/vaac/advisories.shtml
NXT ADVISORY: NO LATER THAN 20110615/1800Z

All of which translates into the map shown here:

http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDD65290.shtml

So, here we are, all the way down here in our out of the way city, being affected by events on the other side of the world . . . quite amazing really.

It’s all go . . . Part 2

Newsflash! It looks like China Southern Airlines will be commencing flights between Guangzhou and Perth later this year. It was reported on the weekend that negotiations between the airline, airport and the WA state government are well advanced and that an official announcement is not too far away.

To me this seems like a perfectly logical development, after all Western Australia exports most of its minerals to China and the state is booming as a result. Cathay Pacific currently flies Perth – Hong Kong, but China Southern will be the first to the mainland. With so much trade between the two regions, it was only a matter of time before a mainland China airline started links.

China Southern Airlines logo

Many in Australia will not have heard of China Southern and will probably be surprised to learn that it is actually a very large airline, operating around 350 aircraft, including 10 Boeing 777-200’s, 18 Airbus A330’s, over 160 Airbus A319/320/321’s, over 100 Boeing 737’s of various types and with 5 Airbus A380’s on order. In 2010 they carried 76.5 million passengers and made a profit of approximately USD 880 million. They are not only the largest airline in China by passengers flown and fleet size, but the largest in Asia. All in all, a force to be reckoned with!

The curious thing though is that Guangzhou is not all that far from Hong Kong, only about 175 Km in fact, so they must believe there is enough demand from that region to warrant direct connections. As a result, I wouldn’t be too surprised if China Eastern (which now includes Shanghai Airlines) were to start links to Shanghai or Air China were to link Beijing. With so much trade, you would have to think there’d be quite a demand for business travel, let alone the tourist market.

All of this leads to a question – how come QANTAS isn’t the one launching services? Surely QANTAS’ local knowledge, the strength of the WA economy and the lack of pre-existing direct links would make someone think ‘Hey, there might be an opportunity there!’ Seemingly not . . .

Maybe QANTAS will wake up and realise there’s more to the world than London and Los Angeles. With a massive population that increasingly is able to afford overseas travel, China promises to become a major market and Western Australia is just the kind of place many might like to come, with its huge open spaces, fantastic beaches and weather, some top class golf courses and all at a price that, globally, is still quite cheap.

Come on QANTAS, let’s see some mainland China routes before they all get snapped up!

In another development, rumour has it that Virgin Blue will unveil their new branding on May 5. VB must be rubbing their hands together in glee at the amount of interest the rebranding is whipping up – just do a Google search for ‘Virgin Blue rebranding’ and the number of results is staggering!

The odds seem to be strengthening too that the airline will be renamed ‘Virgin Australia’, at least in the domestic market. Also tipped is that the airline will adopt the same font on its aircraft as Virgin Atlantic and that dark red and silver will be prominent colours, with the all over red fuselages being dropped.

Time will tell, but it’s shaping up to being one of THE corporate events in Australia this year!

It’s all go . . .

Since my last update a few months back, there’s been all kinds of things happening on the aviation scene, both here in Perth and further a field.

Probably the biggest news of the lot is Airbus’s announcement that it will offer the A320 NEO (New Engine Option). After much speculation, Airbus came out and said they would be offering the NEO with either the PW1000G Geared Turbofan (GTF) from Pratt & Whitney or the LEAP-X from CFM International.

Airbus A320neo

Photo courtesy of Airbus Industrie

Both of these engines promise all sorts of improvements over current offerings, but the PW1000G GTF looks like a real technology winner with a simplified design over current engines leading to an estimated 20% reduction in maintenance costs, a 16% improvement in fuel efficiency and a service entry date of 2013, just putting it in front of the LEAP-X.

The first test engine being bolted to the test rig

Photo courtesy of Pratt & Whitney

Pratt & Whitney is making a concerted return to the narrow body market after having lost substantial market share to the likes of International Aero Engines (IAE) over recent times. Now it’s IAE who are on the back foot by being locked out of the NEO market.

First flight of the new Pratt & Whitney Purepower 1000 engine on the company's Boeing 747-SP

Photo courtesy of Pratt & Whitney

All of this now puts Boeing in a bit of a bind. The 737 has been selling like hot cakes (as has the A320), but has one major disadvantage to its European rival – it has short legs in the undercarriage department. Whereas the A320 can be pretty easily modified to take somewhat larger engines, the 737 can’t do that without a significant redesign, which all costs money – and lots of it.

On the one hand, the 737 is a big seller, so why try to change a something that’s already a success, but now that Airbus has come out of the gates with the NEO, Boeing has to do something or risk a slow death of the 737. Boeing could come out with an all new design but risk it being poorly received by the airlines, leaving the NEO to take all of the loot, and with already well in excess of 300 commitments to date, the NEO is making a run for it.

There’s been recent talk of Boeing coming out with a totally new, 7-abreast, offering, something like a cut down version of the 767. The only snag is it won’t be available until around 2019. So, what to do? In the multi-billion dollar aircraft industry the stakes are high, so Boeing needs to get it right. Right now Airbus seems to have the advantage, but don’t write the Americans off just yet.

PK-GMQ Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737-8U3 5423

A bit closer to home, and Virgin Blue is in the final stages of preparing for its much anticipated entry into the Australian domestic market using widebody A330-200’s. Their first example, VH-XFA, arrived in Perth on Saturday, 9 April, and left on Sunday as flight 9060 back to Sydney.

The aircraft is ex-Emirates and is currently in an all-white scheme awaiting the soon to be unveiled new livery being adopted by Virgin as part of its new service launch. I say ‘Virgin’ as the ‘Blue’ part of the name is supposedly being dropped and, hopefully, they’ll adopt a flash livery like their UK namesake and not copy their American cousins, who have a livery that’s about as exciting as a wet lettuce.

Sydney – Perth services are due to start in May and no doubt there’ll be plenty of fan-fare. It’ll be interesting to see how they do against Qantas in the business market, but already Qantas has announced it’ll be putting internationally configured 747-400’s onto the Perth route, so they are clearly expecting a fight.

Ultimately, it’s the passengers who win, with more choices, more options and better fares.

Another move by Qantas sees them taking over Network Aviation, the Perth-based charter operation that flies to a number of WA mining locations as well as offering charters elsewhere.

Network currently has a fleet of six Embraer Brasilias and two Fokker 100’s and Qantas has indicated that it will be acquiring an additional 10 F-100’s. That’s quite an expansion, but in a resources market where major projects are being announced on a regular basis, there’s certainly plenty of scope for growth.

VH-NHO Network Aviation Fokker F-100 6411A

Big day for QANTAS and Rolls-Royce

Today, 27 November 2010, Qantas will be re-introducing the A380 to flight operations after being grounded since the November 4 incident where VH-OQA suffered an in-flight engine explosion that very nearly ended in tragedy.

In light of the significant damage caused by the uncontained engine failure, Qantas is indeed lucky to have its impeccable safety record intact. Analysis of the incident shows a number of factors that could have brought about an entirely different conclusion, such as a severed fuel pipe, an inability due to system failures to re-distribute fuel to balance the aircraft during fuel dumping, and a reported 54 computer warning messages being activated on the flight deck that the crew had to deal with.

The incident is very reminiscent of the Air France Concorde crash in Paris in July, 2000, however, the outcome on that occasion was very different. As with the Air France Concorde, debris punctured the A380’s wing causing internal damage that created a fuel leak, but, unlike the Concorde, the fuel didn’t have an ignition source and so no fire ensued. Had there been an ignition source, the aircraft would have had virtually no chance of making it back to Changi Airport.

Since the November 4 incident, Qantas has been at pains to assure the world that it views safety as its number one priority and that the A380 would only be returned to service once it was satisfied that it was safe to do so. And so today, the A380 re-enters service with Qantas – let’s hope it goes smoothly.

While Qantas has taken a very clear line on safety in relation to this incident, Rolls-Royce’s image seems to have taken a hit, not so much for how they have responded to the incident, but how they failed to act prior to it. Specifically, Rolls apparently knew of a potential issue that could lead to an oil fire in the engine some time ago but failed to notify Qantas.

Reports suggest Qantas pays for ‘Power by the Hour’ on it’s A380’s Trent engines whereby maintenance and service of the engines is carried out by Rolls-Royce, and while this may seem like a perfectly logical arrangement, it does have one flaw. The object of the contract for Qantas is to ensure optimum performance and operational reliability at a fixed cost per flight hour of the engine. However, the object of the contract for Rolls-Royce is to provide the service as efficiently as possible so that it maximises its profit margin on the contract. Any additional or unexpected costs incurred by Rolls has a direct impact on the bottom line of the contract.

And therein lies the problem. If Rolls-Royce had immediately acted on information that indicated a possible design flaw in the engine’s operation, it could have cost them a significant amount of money to either modify or even switch the engines on the Qantas aircraft. Clearly Rolls-Royce thought they could allow the engines to continue in service and potentially address the issue down the track, and there’s no way a company like Rolls-Royce would not have done a very careful assessment of the situation once the information became known to them, however, it does highlight the conflict of interest between running a business and doing everything possible for the customer.

A6-EDE Emirates Airbus A380-861. Emirates uses the Engine Alliance GP7200 on its A380'sThe Trent 900 is one of two engine options available on the A380, the other being the Engine Alliance GP7200, currently powering A380’s operated by Emirates Airline and Air France. While the Trent 900 was specifically developed for the A380, it is actually a development within the Trent family of Rolls-Royce engines that has its roots in the RB-211 engine that was developed for the Lockheed TriStar. Current versions of the family power Airbus A330, A340 and Boeing 777 airliners and have a very strong market share that has been won by having a very good operational reliability and efficiency record. According to Rolls-Royce, this event was the first of its kind to occur on one of its engines since 1994 and 142,000,000 hours of RB-211 and Trent operation.

So the pedigree of the engine speaks for itself and, going forward, Rolls-Royce will certainly be keeping a very careful eye on how the Trent 900 performs in service and even the slightest hint of a problem will be under the microscope. That can only be good news for customers as Rolls-Royce will want to ensure it is seen to be doing the right thing in an industry where reputation in the modern day and age hinges safety.

Today then is a big day for both Rolls-Royce and Qantas. Both are very fine companies with a stellar reputation for quality, reliability, service and that all important safety, and both will be doing all they can to ensure there’s at least another 142,000,000 hours of Trent operation before a significant problem occurs again.

VH-OQA Qantas Airbus A380-842. This is the aircraft that suffered the engine failure on 4 November after take-off from Singapore's Changi Airport

Emirates A380 order

News today that Emirates Airline has ordered an additional 32 Airbus A380’s, taking their total commitments for the type to 90. Clearly, they must be impressed with this plane, but you also have to wonder just how much of an incentive Emirates has been given by Airbus to place such a large order, especially with the rival Boeing 747-8 vying for attention. . .

Still who knows, with the euro at four-year lows against the US dollar, the effective cost to Emirates from a currency exchange point of view would have been very attractive. It’s not that long ago that Airbus was suffering from a relatively high euro against the dollar, so the current situation would actually be very good for Airbus.

Good to for the thousands of jobs throughout Europe that are connected with Airbus, and this aircraft in particular. With the current state of the economy, European trade and industry needs a boost, so this order will be particularly celebrated in Berlin, Paris and London. I wonder if there are any Greek companies involved in the A380 project . . .

Emirates say they want to continue the growth of their airline and it’s plans to be a major international player, as well as making Dubai a major international air transport hub. With the new Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai projected to have a capacity of around 140 million passengers per year, Emirates has got plenty of space and capacity to shoot at. This new airport, which is in addition to the current Dubai International Airport and not a replacement for it, will ultimately have six 4,500 metre runways and all of its airbridges are planned to be A380 compatible. In that context, Emirates’ fleet of 90 A380’s doesn’t seem out-of-place.

The major European carriers, such as British Airways, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, must be quaking in their boots. They’ve, to various degrees, been suffering as a result of the GFC, not to mention the Icelandic volcano and various strikes, and to see Emirates adding such huge capacity to an already cut-throat market must have them wondering how on earth they are going to compete. Their own home hubs are capacity constrained, they are short of cash, and are operating in an economic climate that shows very little sign of significant growth.

Emirates, on the other hand, is based in a region that directly connects with the European and Asian markets. It directly connects with the power house Asian economies and is able to insulate itself, to a degree, by not being over dependant on Europe or North America. The UAE economies are in relatively good shape, and key markets in India and China are expanding at a significant pace, bringing people through Dubai. So long as Europe doesn’t go into recession again, you’d have to say that the future for Emirates is looking good.

All the best Emirates!

Talking of the A380, I’ve added some photos today of Qantas’ first A380, VH-OQA, that visited Perh in October 2008. Check them out!