Monday 31 August 2020

Happy 20th Birthday Virgin Australia



After the year Virgin has had with Corona virus, going into liquidation and now the buy out by the Bain Group I don't think they would be in the mood to celebrate, but Virgin Australia (ex Virgin Blue) is having a birthday today. Virgin Australia Airlines Pty Ltd, commonly referred to as Virgin, was one of Australia's largest airlines, (behind Qantas) and it was the largest airline by fleet size to use the Virgin brand. It commenced services here in Australia on the 31st August 2000 as Virgin Blue, with just two aircraft on a single route. 


It suddenly found itself as a major airline in Australia's domestic market after the collapse of Ansett Australia in September 2001. Before Covid the airline had grown to directly serve 52 cities both domestically and internationally. Virgin Blue also owned airlines like Pacific Blue; Polynesian Blue and V Australia but now they all operate under the name Virgin Australia.
The airline's head office is based here in Brisbane at Bowen Hills, Queensland but will soon be moving a few suburbs away to the Flight Centre building in Southbank. It was co-founded by British businessman Richard Branson (the founder of Virgin Group), and former CEO Brett Godfrey. In 2011, the airline went through a massive transformation, changing of their brand to Virgin Australia. This included the introduction of a new aircraft livery, new uniforms, and new on board menu options. New wide-body aircraft were acquired for use to compete with Qantas, and the roll-out of business class across all the Virgin Australia network. On 4 May 2011, the former Virgin Blue revealed its new name, Virgin Australia, as well as its new livery. 


On  the 18th March 2020, Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah announced the grounding of the equivalent of 53 planes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, effective 30th March. On the 21st April 2020, Virgin Australia confirmed it had gone into voluntary administration, citing its inability to continue operations without a Federal Government bailout. On the 26th June 2020, it was announced that Bain Capital had entered into a sale and implementation deed with administrator Deloitte to acquire Virgin Australia. Fast forward to today and more than half their fleet are parked up all over Australia and the Bain group have announced Virgin Australia will no longer be doing long haul flights so their A330's and B777's will be sold off and with around 20 B737's. In August 2020, Bain Capital announced the plan for a new 'Virgin Australia 2.0', signally that the move was more focused towards streamlining and refocusing Virgin Australia, rather than a complete overhaul. The announcement included the immediate retirement of their 8 ATR's, 6 Airbus A330 and 5  B777 fleet, in addition to the full shut down of the Tigerair brand.

Happy Birthday Virgin Australia I really hope you are around for another 20 yrs

Sunday 30 August 2020

REX to start with three Boeing 737s at launch

REX SAAB 340B VH-EKX (CN 257)      File Photo

Regional airline Rex is pressing ahead with plans to launch Boeing 737 flights between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in direct competition with Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar on the country’s most popular domestic routes. Sources inside Rex tell Executive Traveller that the airline intends to begin a recruitment drive in September this year to crew the new jets. As previously reported, the aircraft themselves will come from Virgin Australia’s leased fleet and are being sourced through a former Virgin lessor which now finds itself on the long list of creditors owned almost $7 billion by the collapsed airline. Many of Virgin’s Boeing 737 pilots, flight attendants and engineers who face redundancy in the downsized airline are believed to be on Rex’s call sheet, including those previously attached to Virgin’s now-closed New Zealand base. Virgin's pre-pandemic Boeing 737 fleet numbered 85 (including the jets assigned to its now-axed budget arm Tigerair), but it's understood that only around 40 of those are owned by the airline, leaving as many again of the workhorse single-aisle jets under lease – and they won't all be needed for the downsized Virgin Australia 2.0. "How many we are taking through and how many we will need in the future is still a work in progress," Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah has said. "At the end of this pandemic, once we get back to pre-Covid FY19 levels, we see a market that could sustain us having 60-80 Boeing 737s in our fleet," Scurrah added, implying that the short-term 'reboot' fleet will be substantially lower. 

REX SAAB 340B VH-REX (CN 384)        File Photo

Three Boeing 737s at launch
Rex, who has an all SAAB 340B fleet (57 in total) intends to start small, with as few as three Boeing 737s plying the 90-minute Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane corridors.
You can understand why Rex wants to jump on board with this as Australia claims two of the world’s busiest flight routes. Before Covid, Melbourne to Sydney was the second busiest domestic route in the world, with almost 150 flights each day - or an annual total of 54,000 flights each year.
Sydney to Brisbane claimed the twelfth spot, with 92 flights each day - or an annual total of 33,443 flights each year.

Story sourced from here with additions

Saturday 29 August 2020

Omni Air International wheel collapse on touchdown

An Omni Air 767 operating a flight from Kabul-Hamid Karzai International Airport (KBL/OAKB) to Washington DC USA with a refueling stop at Bucharest Baneasa Aurel Vlaicu International Airport (BBU/LRBS) has crashed on landing at Bucharest. Shortly after touchdown on runway 07, the left main landing gear collapsed, causing the No.1 engine to skid across the runway. The aircraft came to a full stop on the runway. All 80 passengers on board were evacuated. The passengers on board the plane were disembarked using slides from emergency exits on the right side. The runway of Baneasa airport was closed until 16:00 Saturday at the latest and the planes due to land there were rerouted to Otopeni airport.
The aircraft was ordered by Continental Air Lines but was never taken up. It started its life with our very own Ansett Australia on the 25th April 1996 as VH-BZF. When Ansett collapsed on the 11th September 2001 the aircraft was then taken up by North American Airlines before joining Omni in 2014. Its first flight was on the 12th January 1996, making it 24 yrs old.
This is the very first incident for this aircraft.

Registrations this aircraft has had are
Registration Delivery      Airline 
N6055X      29/01/1996     GECAS
VH-BZF     25/04/1996     Ansett Australia
N569NB     09/07/2002     GECAS To North American
N767NA     01/08/2002     North American Airlines GECAS
N767NA     09/06/2014     Omni Air International
N423AX     16/04/2015     Omni Air International

Aircraft Information.
Airline: Omni Air International
Code: OY/OAE 
Aircraft: B767-324ER
Registration: N423AX
Serial Number: 27596

Monday 24 August 2020

South West Aviation loses its sole Antonov 26 in crash!

On Saturday, the 22nd August, South West Aviation lost its sole Antonov 26 after it impacted a farm near Hai Referendum, shortly after take-off from Juba Airport, South Sudan. The freighter, which was on a charter flight from Juba Airport (JUB/HSSJ) South Sudan, to Wau Airport (WUU/HSWW) South Sudan with 5 passengers and 3 crew, lost height shortly after departure from Juba at 08:30L (05:30Z) and impacted a farm near Hai Referendum about 3nm southwest of the airport. One passenger survived and is in a critical condition, all three crew and 4 passengers died in the crash. The South Sudan Minister of Transport states the aircraft was chartered by the World Food Program to transport supplies and wages for personnel at Wau and Aweil. According to the website of South West Aviation, the airline operates one AN-26 with registration YI-AZR. That tail number however is unknown in databases. According to databases the aircraft involved in the accident was registered as EX-126. The aircraft was however last seen operating using a fake Iraqi registration: YI-AZR. This is something the unfolding air accident investigation will no doubt look at. The MSN 11508 also confirms that the aircraft first entered service in 1981, making it more than 39 years old. Additional information received says that out of 8 on board the stricken aircraft only one person survived but Juba news reports suggest more people may have been killed as a provisional body count tallied at 17. It could not be established if there were additional undocumented persons on board or if people were killed on the ground when the aircraft impacted. Information search suggests, the aircraft with MSN 11508 were previously registered as EX-126, UN-26075, CCCP-26075.

Aircraft Information
Airline: South West Aviation
Aircraft: Antonov An-26B
Registration: EX-126
Serial Number: 11508
Age: 39 Yrs
Engines: 2 Progress AI-24VT

Sunday 23 August 2020

BA sends the first of its final 747s for scrapping

BRITISH AIRWAYS B747-436 G-CIVD (CN 27349)  File Photo

The first of 31 British Airways Boeing 747s has been sent to Castellon, Spain for scrapping, according to the airline. British Airways has announced the official retirement of the first of its 31 remaining Boeing 747s, after announcing immediate retirement plans for its jumbo jet fleet last month. The Boeing 747-436, registration G-CIVD (CN 27349), with the callsign BA9170 took off from Heathrow (LHR / EGLL) for the last time at 10:30am local time and headed to Castellon-Costa Azahar Airport (CED / LECH).  G-CIVD entered into service in 1994, and conducted its final passenger flight in April 2020, when it flew British citizens back from Lagos, Nigeria, as a part of the UK’s COVID-19 repatriation efforts. Commenting on the announcement, Al Bridger, British Airways’ director of flight operations, said, “All of us at British Airways and so many of our customers will have fond memories and special moments from our travels on the iconic jumbo jet.  “As a pilot who was lucky enough to fly the aircraft, the sheer scale of it was unforgettable, you literally looked down on other aircraft.  “It changed aviation forever when it arrived in the skies and I know I speak for our customers and the global aviation community when I say, despite rightly moving to more sustainable ways of flying, we will still miss the 747 dearly.”  Last month, British Airways, currently the world’s largest operator of Boeing 747 aircraft, announced that its 31 remaining jumbo jets would unfortunately never transport passengers again, as the airline rushed the plane’s retirement amid devastating financial pressure. The planes were initially planned to be retired by the carrier in 2024, however this date has been brought forward in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent global aviation downturn.

Luckily I saw this aircraft in L A in February this year as the plane will be scrapped upon arrival in Spain. 

Story sourced from here with additions

Friday 21 August 2020

Central Australian Aviation Museum

Last weekend while I was out in Alice Springs I had heard about this aircraft museum and was told it was a must. So around 3.15 pm I called into this museum only to find they close at 4 pm and they had already closed one of the hangers. So unfortunately I didn't get to have a thorough look through, but I what I saw was pretty impressive.

The current Museum Building was erected in 1940/41 and served as the main base of operations for Connellan Airways (later Connair) from 1939 to 1968. Due to the limitations of this Townsite Aerodrome for larger aircraft operations and the expansion of Alice Springs, the move to the present airport was eventually forced upon Connellan Airways. The larger Bellman Hangar, which occupied the site next to the present hangar was moved to the present airport and all operations ceased at Townsite by June 1968.



The Townsite Hangar was left derelict and the air strips disappeared under the rapid expansion of Alice Springs. The houses and road fronting the Museum are on the old main runway. By 1977 little trace could be found of the runways, and the Townsite Hangar was in a sad state of repair, having had no maintenance for 9 years. It has become a haven for those without ready accommodation and its interior and exterior had been a target for vandals.

The founding of the Central Australian Aviation Museum in 1977 soon changed this situation.
A very active voluntary committee was formed following the suicide flight at Alice Springs Airport in January 1977. It was not long before the Hangar was reclaimed and work commenced on its renovation. This early start could not have been made without the support of many people previously associated with Townsite. Many of these people joined the new Museum and willingly paid $50 membership without question or guarantee. This immediate response allowed the Museum to rapidly find its feet and open its doors in May, 1979. Financial assistance from the Northern Territory Government was crucial in establishing the Museum.  Since 1979 many more exhibits have been acquired, such as aircraft, engines, components, historical photographs, papers, and videos. 


In March 1984 the collection was officially handed over to the Northern Territory Museums and Arts Galleries Board who have accepted responsibility for its preservation, presentation and administration. It is now possible for people to visit the Museum free of charge and find out for themselves the story of ‘Townsite Alice Springs’ and the role it played in the development of Central Australia.

If you are ever in Alice make sure you pop for a look 
6 Memorial Ave, Gillen NT 0870
(08) 8953 8554

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Remembering Saudia Flight 163

SAUDI MD 11 HZ-HM7 (CN 48532)

Saudia Flight 163 was a scheduled Saudia passenger flight that caught fire after takeoff from Riyadh International Airport (RUH/OERY), Saudi Arabia (now known as the Riyadh Air Base) en route to Jeddah International Airport (JED/OEJD) Saudi Arabia on the 19th August 1980. All 287 passengers and 14 crew on board the Lockheed L-1011-200 TriStar died from smoke inhalation after the aircraft made a successful emergency landing at Riyadh. Flight SV163 landed at Riyadh at 16:06 GMT for a scheduled intermediate stop after a flight from Karachi. At 18:08 the aircraft took off for the final leg to Jeddah. Six minutes and 54 seconds after takeoff, while climbing to FL350, visual and aural warnings indicated smoke in the aft cargo compartment C-3. Climbing through FL220 (at 18:20), a return to Riyadh was initiated. About two minutes later smoke was noted in the aft of the cabin, and passengers were panicking. At 18:25:26 the no. 2 engine throttle was stuck. The fire had by then entered the cabin of the TriStar. Because passengers where fighting in the aisles, aft of doors L2 and R2, the captain asked everybody to remain seated (18:27:40). On final approach engine no. 2 was shut down, and the captain told the cabin crew not to evacuate. Flight SV163 landed back at Riyadh runway 01 at 18:36:24 The crew continued to a taxiway and told the tower that they were going to shut the engines down and evacuate. The engines were shut down at 18:42:18. Because no evacuation had been initiated by then, crash, fire and rescue personnel tried to open the doors. At about 19:05 they succeeded in opening door 2R. About three minutes later, the interior was seen to be engulfed in flames. None of the occupants survived the fire.

Probable Cause:
"The initiation of a fire in the C-3 cargo compartment. The source of the ignition of the fire is undetermined. Factors contributing to the fatal results of this accident were 1) the failure of the captain to prepare the cabin crew for immediate evacuation upon landing and his failure in not making a maximum stop landing on the runway, with immediate evacuation, 2) the failure of the captain to properly utilize his flight crew throughout the emergency 3) the failure of C/F/R headquarters management personnel to ensure that its personnel had adequate equipment and training to function as required during an emergency."

The accident is the deadliest involving a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, as well as the deadliest aviation disaster to occur in Saudi Arabia to date.

The aircraft involved was a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar (Registered in Saudi Arabia as HZ-AHK). It made its first flight on the 13th July 1979, and was delivered to Saudia on the 21st August 1979.

Aircraft Information
Airline: Saudi Arabian Airlines
Code: SV/SVA
Aircraft: Lockheed L-1011 TriStar 200
Registration: HZ-AHK
Serial Number: 1169
Engines: 3 x RB211-524B402
First Flew: 13/07/1979
Age: 11 Months 

Monday 17 August 2020

Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage fly over

With airlines crippled all over the world and airlines storing aircraft for months on end, many Asian airlines have been sending their idle aircraft to the APAS facility in Alice Springs. APAS (Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage) provides an aircraft storage facility that caters for short, medium and long term storage needs for the airline industry. The formation of the APAS facility is an extremely exciting step for the Australian aviation sector, representing the first Asia-Pacific based alternative for customers with aircraft based, or operating through the region. Their objective is to establish APAS as the leading storage facility in Asia Pacific, and in the process, offer a local alternative for Asia Pacific based airlines which have to date, had no other option than to ferry their aircraft at significant expense to the other side of the globe. Located in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia, the facility is based in a dry arid environment ideally suited for the storage and preservation of aircraft. Operating from a 100Ha site within the Alice Springs Airport complex, which occupies 3,550 hectares, the facility has almost unlimited expansion capabilities.  With growth forecasts for the Oceania region outpacing the rest of the world, the APAS facility is ideally situated to cater for the demands of rapidly changing fleet requirements. 

Aircraft Storage – Facility Features
  • The first purpose built aircraft storage and recycling facility for Asia Pacific
  • Dry, arid, low humidity environment ideal for the preservation of aircraft
  • Proximity to Asia delivers flexibility for customers operating aircraft throughout the Asia Pacific region
  • Same time zone for Asia Pacific based customers
  • Effectively no sovereign risk
  • Autonomous site access
  • 24/7 operations with no flight restrictions
  • Full support of Alice Springs Airport

So this weekend just gone I flew out to Alice Springs for the night especially to view the aircraft parked at the APAS. I had organised a 20 minute helicopter flight over the site and below are some of the 120 photos I took. I had organised my helicopter flight through Alice Spring Helicopters for 2pm. On arrival I meet a lovely young lady called Katrin who was my pilot for the photo shoot. The aircraft for today was a Robinson R44. This was my first time in a helicopter and not having a door put me on edge for the first few minutes. Kat took me through all the safety procedures and explained in detail what each instrument and control did. Once airborne we climbed up to 500 feet and then with each full circuit we dropped 100 feet.


Special thanks goes to Kat for being an amazing pilot and being patient with me, 

Also thanks to my beautiful amazing wife for letting me follow my passion and for her continued support and encouragement.