Selangor Aviation Show 2021 – Overview

Selangor Aviation Show 2021 – Overview

Selangor Aviation Show 2021 is the first ever airshow brought together by the Malaysian State of Selangor through Invest Selangor Bhd. and its dedicated aerospace division, S-DAICO. It is being held at the Skypark Regional Aviation Centre, Subang between November 25th and 27th, 2021. The Selangor Aviation Show 2021 is an event dedicated to business aviation, general aviation and helicopters.

Malaysia’s premier aviation event – LIMA, held in Langkawi every two years was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Selangor Aviation Show was a much needed boost at least for the business/general aviation sector in Malaysia.

The main exhibitors during this edition are Embraer, Dassault Aviation, Bell Helicopters, Piaggio Aerospace, Turkish Aerospace & Robinson Helicopters.

The star of the show is the Embraer E-195 E2. This aircraft adorned in the “Profit Hunter” colours is an eye-catcher wherever it visits, and it was the same here.

Embraer E195-E2 | PR-ZIQ

Turkish Aerospace is displaying their T625 GÖKBEY multirole helicopter

Turkish Aerospace T625 GÖKBEY

Piaggio Aerospace is displaying their cute little P-180 Avanti EVO

Piaggio P-180 Avanti EVO

Also on display is the Robinson R66 Turbine aptly registered 9M-FLY

Robinson R66 Turbine

Airbus Helicopters AS350 Écureuil

Airbus Helicopters AS350 Écureuil

Diamond Aircraft displaying their DA-42 Twin Star

Diamond DA-42 Twin Star

Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin 2

Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin 2

Apart from the static aircraft display, the Selangor Aviation Show also has the exhibition area, showcasing the latest technologies, products and services in the business/general aviation and related sectors.

Exhibition Area at Selangor Aviation Show 2021
Aerodyne Agras T2 agricultural spraying system

As mentioned earlier, the Selangor Aviation Show 2021 was a great opportunity for the general aviation sector to network and display the latest on offer after nearly two years of disruption caused by the pandemic.

Akasa Air orders 72 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

Akasa Air orders 72 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

DUBAI, Nov 16 2021 – India’s Akasa Air has placed an order for 72 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft at the Dubai Airshow 2021. The order, which was being rumored in aviation circles for the past few weeks has now finally been confirmed.

Akasa Air is a yet to be launched “Ultra Low Cost Airline” and is backed by billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala. The airline expects to start domestic operations by the summer of 2022.

The order for 72 aircraft includes two variants – The 737 MAX 8 and the high density 737- 8-200, which can seat up to 200 passengers in a single class configuration. The order is valued at around 8 billion USD at list prices, although steep discounts are often offered to customers.

This order marks a major win for Boeing in the Indian aviation market which is dominated by Airbus A320 family narrowbody aircraft. The only other airlines currently flying that operate Boeing narrowbody aircraft are SpiceJet, Air India Express and a handful of aircraft by Vistara.

Boeing put out the following tweet and press release announcing the Akasa Air order.

Akasa Air’s order will also mark the debut of the high density Boeing 737- 8-200 in the Indian market. As previously mentioned, this variant can fit up to 200 passengers in a single class configuration. The increased number of seats is made possible by reducing galley space and using slimline seats. The higher passenger number also necessitates the provision of an additional pair of emergency exits aft of the wing. Irish low cost carrier Ryanair was the launch customer of this high density variant.

Post Lockdown Flying | KUL – LGK on AirAsia Airbus A321neo – Video Report

Post Lockdown Flying | KUL – LGK on AirAsia Airbus A321neo – Video Report

I recently flew from KUL to LGK on AirAsia’s Airbus A321neo. This was my first flight in nearly a year because of COVID-19 related lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Here is a video report on the flight:

Flight Details

Airline: AirAsia

Aircraft: Airbus A321neo

Rego: 9M-VAB

Flight No: AK 6304

Route: KUL – LGK

Flight Time: 1hr 10min

Video © 2021 Viman Photography

It certainly feels great to be back in the air once again. Hope everyone is able to take a flight to their favourite destination soon!

Now Boarding – The world’s shortest A380 flight!

The last year and a half has been extremely difficult for all of us, and particularly for the aviation industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen lockdowns being imposed all over the world, causing massive losses to airlines leading to layoffs and in some cases airlines going bankrupt.

As the world starts getting back on its feet, long haul international travel is well poised to making a comeback. Passenger air traffic has seen a steady increase in the past few months and the upcoming end of the year festive season promises to show encouraging numbers.

Singapore Airlines – one of the world’s premier long haul airlines is gearing up for resumption of long haul international passenger flights as well. The airline, which was the world’s first to fly the Airbus A380 had parked these massive birds in the Australian desert to prevent corrosion related damages in the humid tropical weather.

Singapore Airlines is now deploying its flagship Airbus A380 aircraft on a short 1 hour hop to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is to help the flight deck and cabin crew get back up to speed on operating the aircraft. In fact, the actual flying time on this route is just over 30 minutes, earning it the nickname of the world’s shortest scheduled A380 flight.

9V-SKM touching down on Runway 32L at KUL with SQ 106 from SIN | Nov 2021

Even though the flying time is barely enough for a glass of juice or a pack of peanuts to be served, it provides valuable real-world experience to the crew on the nuances of operating this aircraft in preparation for long haul flights.

For passengers as well as aviation enthusiasts, this is a great opportunity to experience the world class Singapore Airlines long haul products on the A380. One would normally have to take a long haul flight with the airline in order to fly on these superjumbos.

Singapore Airlines is operating the A380 on the following flight numbers from 4th November to 3rd December 2021.

SQ 106 SIN D 0830 KUL A 0930 Mon, Tue, Thu

SQ 105 KUL D 1100 SIN A 1210 Mon, Tue, Thu

SQ 126 SIN D 1825 KUL A 1930 Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun

SQ 125 KUL D 2100 SIN A 2200 Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun

Although border restrictions and international travel has not completely opened up yet, if you are one of those that plan to travel between SIN and KUL, this is an option definitely worth considering!

End of the road for the Airbus A380!

Gosh! I never imagined I would be writing an article with this title so soon!

I mean, it just seems like it was yesterday when the Airbus A380 “Superjumbo” took to the skies! It’s been less than 14 years since the A380 first flew and it has been in service for just over 12 years!!!

But it *IS* true. Airbus today (February 14th 2019) announced that it will deliver the last of its largest passenger aircraft in 2021, thus effectively pulling the plug on the iconic double-decker A380. The fact that the Boeing 747 – the original Jumbo jet that first flew in February 1969 is expected to remain in production (as of now), and that the Airbus announcement comes barely 5 days after the Boeing 747 celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first flight just makes the whole thing quite ironic.

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If the Boeing 747 revolutionised and up-sized long haul air travel, the A380 made it grander! The aircraft’s size was unprecedented, with a wingspan that is wider than the length of Airbus’s massively popular narrow-body A320 and a full length twin-aisle upper deck. It also was much quieter and more fuel efficient and flew farther than the Boeing 747. This meant that the Superjumbo often drew comparison to the Jumbo, which it was originally poised to replace.

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However, the sheer size of the aircraft meant that airports needed to invest tons of money to upgrade err… up-size their infrastructure. The cost of maintaining as well as operating these behemoths is colossal too. The development of large wide-body twin engined jets that are capable of flying passengers cheaper, faster and farther was the final nail in the coffin for the A380.

The Airbus announcement came along with the news that Emirates – the largest operator of the A380 has ordered a total of 70 brand new twin-engined Airbus aircraft. The Dubai based carrier announced an order of 40 Airbus A330-900neo and 30 Airbus A350-900 wide-body aircraft. Emirates trimmed its original order of 162 A380s to 123 jets. Even though the airline will still take delivery of 14 more A380s (more than the size of the total A380 fleet in most airlines) between 2019 and 2021, the intent was clear. That Airbus announced its decision to pull the plug on the Superjumbo on the same day should come as no surprise.

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Make no mistake – the A380 will be around for more than a decade at least. Most A380 airframes are less than 10 years old and still have a lot of life left in them. If you’re one of those that have never set foot inside one of these gigantic aircraft, there is more than enough time to fly on them.

Will we ever see an aircraft larger than the A380, or at least as large as it being built in the future? Highly unlikely, but who knows? Only time will tell…

 

 

 

Russian Helicopters conclude South Asian Heli Tour in Malaysia

Russian Helicopters holding company (part of Rostec State Corporation) recently concluded their South Asian Heli Tour with the last stop in Malaysia. The company showcased their latest offerings – the Mi-171A2 medium lift multi-purpose helicopter and the Ansat light multi-purpose helicopter. The South Asian Heli Tour began with participation in the Zhuhai airshow in China, followed by demonstrations of the two helicopters in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.

Malaysia was the final pit-stop in a long tour of South East Asian countries. Russian Helicopters held a demo event showcasing the two above mentioned helicopters at the Sepang Formula One circuit located near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)

The day began with a a session introducing the Russian helicopters company along with an introduction to the Mi-171A2 and the Ansat helicopters.

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A short address by different stakeholders followed, after which the action moved outdoors. It was now time to see the birds in action. As the participants moved to the helipad area, the two helicopters were spooling up for their demo flights.

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The Ansat helicopter (manufactured at the Kazan Helicopter Plant) was the first off the chocks, showing how nimble and agile it was. The Ansat is a light utility helicopter, powered by twin Pratt & Whitney PW207K engines, with a power output of 630hp each.

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The helicopter has an internal cargo capacity of 1272kg, with a MTOW of 3600kg. Its maximum flight range is 520km, with a service ceiling of 4600m (or around 15000ft) In passenger configuration, the Ansat can carry up to 8 pax.

As soon as the Ansat returned, the mighty Mi-171A2 lifted off for its demo flight. The Mi-171A2 is a medium utility helicopter derived from the Mi-8/Mi-17 family. The fuselage shape may seem to be familiar to people, but the helicopter is completely modernised.

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One of its most distinctive features is an X-shaped tail rotor that provides better stability.

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Both the main and tail rotors are made up of composites that reduce the overall weight while increasing reliability and durability. The Mi-171A2 features a full glass cockpit and is powered by two Klimov VK-2500PS-03 engines with a power output of 2000hp each.

It has an internal cargo carrying capacity of 4000kg, and can also carry payload on external slings. The maximum flight range with internal fuel tanks is 800km, with a service ceiling of 6000m (or over 19500ft) It is highly customisable in terms of internal configuration. In pure passenger configuration, the Mi-171A2 can carry up to 24 pax.

After the demo, participants got a chance to get up close with both the helicopters.

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People could be seen interacting with the helicopter crew.

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The Mi-171A with its rear cargo door open

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The interiors of the Mi-171A2. Pretty spacious!

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Post the demo session, it was time to head indoors for some lunch, followed by a press conference addressed by the Russian Helicopters CEO, Andrei Boginsky.

Mr Boginsky began by giving an overview of the successful South Asian Heli tour across China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. The tour resulted in soft and hard contracts totalling up to 70 helicopters.

According to Mr. Boginsky, demand for civilian helicopters in Southeast Asian countries may amount to 420 helicopters in the next ten years. “We are counting on a substantial share of this market, and the results of the demo tour suggest that we have every reason for this,” he said.

Mr. Boginsky gave a positive outlook for the company over the next 3-4 years, with multiple products on offer. The press conference ended with Mr. Boginsky inviting the participants to the MAKS airshow in Russia next year.

Mi171A2-Ansat

 

British Airways retires the Boeing 767

British Airways retired its fleet of Boeing 767-300s from commercial service on November 25, 2018 after operating the type for 28 long years!

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The final 767-300 in service, registered G-BZHA completed its last passenger carrying flight on Nov 25, completing a round trip from London Heathrow to Larnaca, Cyprus.

The Boeing 767 was introduced into commercial service with British Airways in February 1990 with a special short flight from London Heathrow to Paris. Over the years, the 767 operated routes to Europe, Middle East, North America and even to India! The type was BA’s medium capacity, long haul workhorse till the induction of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

Although initially configured for long haul routes, the 767 was later re-configured to operate short haul routes. The aircraft were also retrofitted with winglets to improve their efficiency.

The Boeing 767 heralded the era of long haul twin engined jets that were more fuel efficient as compared to previous generation quad engined aircraft. However, as compared to newer more fuel-efficient jets like the Boeing 777s and especially the Boeing 787s, the 767s were noisy, more expensive to run and lacked the latest passenger friendly features.

They will however continue to be operated around the world for at least the next 5 years if not more. However, for British Airways, it is the end of an era!

Flying on a classic – NAM Air Boeing 737-500

BACKGROUND

The Boeing 737-500 was produced by Boeing as a direct replacement of the Boeing 737-200. It first flew in 1989, and Southwest Airlines was the launch customer. The 737-500 is one of the rarer versions of the Boeing 737 family as only 389 of this variant were produced. It is also hard to get on one of these as only a handful of airlines fly this type today. Southwest Airlines retired their 737-500s in 2016, and so did Lufthansa in the same year.

There are a couple of airlines in Indonesia that still operate this type currently. So, when a trip to Indonesia materialised recently, I felt that this would be a good opportunity to tick this off my bucket list, before they’re gone for good. I booked myself on NAM Air flights from CGK to JOG and back, both operated with the 737-500s.

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I arrived into CGK Terminal 3 on KLM, and after almost an hour long (!) wait for my luggage, I made my way to Terminal 2. I went to the NAM Air check-in counter, where the lady at the desk quickly issued me a boarding pass. As I took the boarding pass in my hand, I casually asked her if the flight was on time. She checked her screen and sheepishly told me that the flight was delayed – this is after I asked her! I then asked her how much was the delay, and she replied coolly – “three hours, sir”  WHAT??? I thought I heard wrong, so I asked her again. Unfortunately her response was the same – three hour delay. For a one hour flight! Incredible!!!

I asked her to put me on an earlier flight if possible, and she asked me to head to the customer service counter. As i approached the customer service counter, I was greeted by this…

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I had to wait for another ten minutes before the agent showed up. I explained my situation to him, and he agreed to put me on to an earlier Sriwijaya Air flight, which incidentally was delayed too! Worse, the flight was on a 737-800!

Opportunity missed! Oh well, I still had the return leg, which I hoped would work out as planned. And, as I landed in JOG, I received an email from NAM Air informing me that my return flight to CGK was rescheduled to 50 minutes earlier!

CHECK-IN

On the day of my return flight, I was nervous as I made my way to the airport. There was no way of tracking the incoming flight, as the 737-500s do not show up on Flightradar24. I reached the airport well within time, and made my way to the NAM Air check-in counter. I asked the check-in agent if the flight was on time, and he replied with, “so far, yes!”. I had more than two hours till departure, which meant that the incoming aircraft had not even departed CGK. There was nothing else to do but wait.

Security check was a breeze and I reached the departure gate area, where I saw this!

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Of course it was not my flight, but the sight of a NAM Air Boeing 737-500 was pleasing to the eyes. Would this be a harbinger or something? Only time would tell!

There’s nothing much to do at the tiny terminal of the Adisutjipto International Airport, except a few cafes and restaurants and a bunch of shops. I wasn’t too hungry but I was lured by the smell of freshly baked bread. I picked up a couple of fresh coffee buns at the “Roti O” outlet along with coffee.

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If you haven’t had coffee buns yet, I highly recommend trying them at “Roti O” in Indonesia or “Rotiboy” in Malaysia.

Our scheduled boarding time of 1935 came and went, but there was no sign of our aircraft. The FIDS screens still showed that the departure was on time, but obviously that would not happen now. Finally at around 2000, I heard the sound of reversers and saw a NAM Air 737-500 slowing down on the sole runway at JOG. Five minutes later, the aircraft arrived at the gate, and I heaved a sigh of relief. Finally!!!

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BOARDING

Boarding was announced within 20 minutes, which I felt was truly remarkable. As I walked towards the aircraft, I couldn’t help but admire her beauty.

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I felt a mix of joy and relief at finally being able to fly on this exotic little aircraft. Its a feeling only aviation enthusiasts will understand!

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The aircraft was registered PK-NAQ and named “Lomasasta”. It was a 23 year old bird, originally delivered to Continental Airlines in June 1995. The winglets were added much later.

The interiors were of 1990s vintage as expected, but were well maintained. The red & blue seat covers, in line with the company colours added a nice bright touch to the cabin.

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As I sat down, I noticed that the legroom was kinda tight.

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The flight was around 80% full, but the boarding was completed quickly.

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THE FLIGHT

We pushed back at 2025, 20 minutes past our STD of 2005. Not bad considering the three hour delay last time!

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After a quick taxi to the runway, we were airborne and on our way to CGK. As soon as the seatbelt signs were switched off, the crew started the snack service. The snack consisted of some cookies and water.

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The square windows on this 737-500

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Safety card on board NAM Air 737-500

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The cabin as seen from the last row. The crew can be seen concluding the snack service.

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The last couple of rows of the NAM Air 737-500. Notice the tight leg room!

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The lavs too were the old fashioned “blue juice” type 😀 Note the old style buttons on the wash basin.

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The sign on the top seems to be a remnant from the Continental/United days.

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ARRIVAL

We landed at around 2145, around 30 minutes behind schedule.

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As soon as we docked, everyone lined up in the aisle waiting to deplane. I was in no hurry of course, as I savoured the final moments on board this classic baby Boeing.

Clicked one last photo of the Business Class seats as I finally made my way to the exit.

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As I bid farewell to the crew, I was smiling, happy to have finally managed to fly on the now rare Boeing 737-500.

So if you haven’t flown on this type yet, get on board a NAM Air 737-500 the next time you visit this part of the world. Do plan with a lot of time in hand though, as delays could mess up your travel plans!

 

Celebrating KLM’s 99th Anniversary – Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur in World Business Class

Celebrating KLM’s 99th Anniversary – Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur in World Business Class

THE BACKGROUND

Dutch flag carrier KLM recently celebrated its 99th anniversary on October 7th 2018. The airline officially named Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V but commonly known  as KLM was established on October 7th 1919. Since its inception, KLM has continued to operate under the same name, making it the oldest airline in the world to do so.

I have flown with KLM multiple times in the past, including on the MD-11 Farewell flight in Amsterdam on November 11th 2014. Every flight has been a memorable experience, with friendly but professional crew and outstanding inflight services. So when I recently discovered that I would be flying with them on their 99th anniversary, I thought of making it special for them – for all the wonderful experiences that I have had. Read on for more details on how we celebrated this milestone…

I was flying from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur on flight KL 810, that continues on to Amsterdam. KLM has fifth freedom traffic rights between KUL & CGK, allowing one to experience their famed hospitality and friendliness without visiting the Netherlands.

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I reached the brand new Terminal 3 at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport with plenty of time to spare. Terminal 3 at CGK is quite modern, spacious and bright. Although the older Terminal 2 has more character with its traditional Javanese architecture, it had become congested given the rapid growth in air traffic.

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CHECK-IN

The KLM check-in counters are located at Row C, and as I walked towards them, I could see the 99th anniversary decorations all over. This was after all a one of a kind milestone!

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KLM first introduced its service to Jakarta in the year 1924, so the airport management is obviously happy to celebrate this milestone with them.

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I was flying in World Business Class today, and headed to the Sky Priority/Business Class check-in counter where I was greeted by a friendly check-in agent. As she was working on my boarding pass, I was approached by another KLM ground staff who asked me if I was willing to star in a short birthday video for them. Who wouldn’t? Haha…

After I had my five seconds of fame, I was given my boarding pass along with a special souvenir to commemorate the occasion. KLM always know how to make things special 🙂

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Check-in done, I waved my goodbyes to the friendly staff who wished me a pleasant flight. The excitement was building up and I couldn’t wait to get on-board. I had another hour and a half to go. Time to head to the lounge.

KLM even has a customised lounge invite for Soekarno-Hatta airport. Most airlines print the lounge invitation on the boarding pass these days.

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I cleared security and immigration – rather quickly due to the special Sky Priority access at CGK, and made my way to the lounge. KLM uses its Skyteam partner Garuda Indonesia’s signature lounge at CGK. This lounge is located at the mezzanine floor post immigration.

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The entrance to the Garuda Indonesia lounge but where’s everybody?

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A long empty passage to???

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A look at Garuda Indonesia’s crew uniform through the years. From the 1940s to the 1990s…

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And from the end of the 20th century to the present…

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Children’s play area… but where are the people???

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I was finally greeted at the reception desk by the lounge staff who ushered me in.

Ah! finally I see people… 🙂

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The lounge itself was quite spacious with decent F&B options and a moderately sized seating area. They had these nice Garuda models on display!

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And this very cool popcorn machine…

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I settled down with a beer and some nice fresh popcorn to while away the next hour or so till boarding began.

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While I was sipping my beer, I saw our aircraft arrive from KUL. It was going to be a Boeing 777-200ER today. A quick check on Flightradar24 told me that the aircraft was named Mount Kilimanjaro (maybe an inspiration for a future trip 😉 ) with the registration PH-BQK.

BOARDING

Soon it was time for boarding, and I made my way down to Gate 8 where our aircraft was docked.

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The CGK ground staff had neatly divided the boarding queues by class of travel and boarding zone, and held up placards along with announcements over a loudspeaker.

There was long queue that had formed at the gate, giving me a good idea of the load tonight.

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Soon it was time to board, and I made my way down the jazzy purple lit aerobridge towards the aircraft.

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About to board…

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As always, I was greeted at the door by friendly KLM cabin crew who ushered me to my seat – 4A in the forward Business Class cabin. KLM 777-200ER’s Business Class is divided into two parts – five rows in the forward section and a single row in the aft section.

A view of my seat.

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The Business Class cabin on KLM’s B777s is in a staggered 2-2-2 layout, with the seats near the window angled away from the aisle.

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The seats are full lie-flat, with plenty of legroom with a nice little storage area beneath the foot rest.

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We had an approximately 50% occupancy in Business Class tonight and boarding was quickly completed.

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The crew offered a choice of welcome drinks, and I chose the champagne of course – to celebrate this special day! 🙂

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THE FLIGHT

We pushed back a few minutes before schedule, and quickly began our taxi towards the runway. The take-off queue seemed shorter than normal for Jakarta and we were airborne in no time at all.

The crew began the dinner service as soon as the seatbelt signs were switched off, and menus were handed out.

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There were two options for the main course

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Plenty of beverage options – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic

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No KLM flight is complete without the Flying Dutchman!

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Noise cancellation headphones were handed out earlier

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Nifty little IFE remote controller

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Dinner was soon served. I had chosen the cheese and spinach cannelloni.

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For drinks, I decided to go with Aberfeldy single malt whisky (one of my favourite single malts), along with the Flying Dutchman

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With not enough time for a complete movie, i decided to watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. instead. Always good fun on a flight!

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After the meal, it was time to surprise the crew 🙂

As mentioned earlier, KLM has ensured that every flight with them was memorable for me, and today was a good opportunity to return the favour. I’ve clicked quite a few photos of KLM aircraft over the past decade, and I had printed out a couple of A4 sized photos of my favourite – the KLM Orange Pride Boeing 777-300ER during my stay in Jakarta. The intent was to gift one to the cabin crew and the other to the flight crew.

I introduced myself to the cabin crew in the galley and told them that I had a surprise for them to celebrate KLM’s 99th anniversary. Their eyes lit up and they said, “We love surprises”. The smiles became wider when I presented them with this little token of appreciation for all the fantastic experiences on KLM through the years.

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I had clicked this photo at KUL a couple of years ago, and it was only apt that I presented this on a flight to KUL. The blue t-shirt was chosen on purpose to suit the occasion 🙂

And since this is KLM, the crew always had one up their sleeves. This was their gesture of appreciation for me – a nice little comfort bag exclusively made for KLM by the Dutch fashion designer Jan Taminiau

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Soon we were close to starting our descent into KUL, and the captain announced an on-time arrival for us.

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Crossing over the Malacca straits towards the Malaysian peninsula, a little under half an hour to go before landing. Love these 3D maps!

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And now as per another KLM tradition – the crew handed out the signature little KLM Delft Blue houses to all the Business Class passengers. And as another gesture of appreciation, I was given the opportunity to pick two 🙂

I picked house numbers 43 & 49 to add to my nascent KLM house collection.

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Could this flight get any better???

We touched down five minutes ahead of schedule and taxied towards the KLIA Satellite terminal.

ARRIVAL

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As my fellow passengers got up to disembark, I remained seated, savouring the final moments of this memorable flight.

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I had to get up eventually as I had one more thing left to do.

As I made my way to the forward galley, a smiling captain greeted me. The crew had obviously told him about me. Warm smiles and handshakes were exchanged as I presented him with my capture of the Orange Pride.

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The captain thanked me for the little gift, and told me that he would keep it for display at the KLM crew centre in Amsterdam. WOW!!!

I bid farewell to the captain and the crew and made my way to the terminal. Thus ended one of my most memorable flights in recent times and that too on this momentous occasion for KLM.

Happy 99th birthday KLM, and look forward to celebrating the century with you next year!

Dank u wel en Tot ziens!

The Boeing 747 turns 50!

The Boeing 747, lovingly called the Jumbo Jet has turned 50! Its hard to imagine that this massive aircraft – once the workhorse of most major airlines globally has been around for half a century! It has been one of the most iconic – if not THE most iconic aircraft of all time.

The Boeing 747 first rolled out of the Boeing factory at Everett, Washington (purpose-built to manufacture the Boeing 747) on September 30th, 1968. Even as it stood there outside the factory, many had doubts that it could actually fly. They had never seen an aircraft this massive! How could it even get off the ground let alone fly, people wondered! But fly it did, and on it flew millions of wonderstruck passengers over the next five decades.

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The rollout of the first Boeing 747 at the Boeing factory, Everett Washington. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Building the Boeing 747 itself was a challenge. Such a massive aircraft had never been built before. It would be roughly twice the size of the then Boeing bestseller – the 707. Joe Sutter – known as the father of the 747 and his team spent countless hours conceptualising, designing and building the Jumbo jet (as it would be called later), and all of this before computer aided design tools became available. The Boeing 747 had a distinctive hump, housing the cockpit and an upper deck passenger cabin that gave it a distinctive look that we all have come to adore.

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Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-100 HZ-AIE (built in 1981) at BOM in January 2008

Pan Am was the launch customer of the Boeing 747, ordering 25 of these giant aircraft in 1966. It took roughly over two years for Boeing to undertake one of the most complex engineering projects – both in size and sophistication. The Boeing 747 was designed to carry larger number of passengers over greater distances than those possible with previous airliners. Additionally, it was also designed to carry a large amount of cargo with loading of oversized cargo possible through a swivelling nose cargo door. Such a large aircraft also required tremendous amount of power, which was made possible with the development of high bypass turbofan engines. The Pratt & Whitney JT9D was chosen to power the Boeing 747. Four of these engines, each producing between 43,500–51,600 lbf thrust would power the Jumbo jet, allowing it to carry between 350-400 passengers over its maximum range of 4620 nm. By the time it was rolled out of the factory, 26 airlines had ordered the Boeing 747 and their logos were pasted on the fuselage of the first prototype.

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Iran Air Boeing 747-200 EP-IAI (built in 1982) at BOM in Oct 2014

The Boeing 747 first flew on February 9th, 1969 with test pilots Jack Waddell and Brien Wygle, along with flight engineer Jess Wallick. The first flight went smoothly, and the aircraft soon entered into service on January 22nd, 1970 when Pan Am operated the first ever Boeing 747 commercial flight – from New York to London. Since then there’s been no looking back as the Boeing 747 quickly became the long haul workhorse of major airlines from around the world, carrying more passengers and cargo over longer distances than ever before.

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Iran Air Boeing 747SP-86 EP-IAB (built in 1976) at BOM in Sep 2010

One of the Boeing 747’s unique and most loved characteristic was its trademark hump. The front of the hump housed the flight deck providing the pilots with a panoramic view of the tarmac as they manoeuvred the aircraft through increasingly crowded airports. The hump also housed lounges or social areas on early build 747s that gave way to premium passenger cabins in the later variants. The upper deck on a 747 was THE place to be – exclusive to only a select few!

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Business Class cabin on the upper deck of Air India Boeing 747-400 VT-EVA (built in 1996)

As of today – 50 years later more than 1500 Jumbo jets have been built spanning multiple variants – passenger, cargo and even mixed (called Combi) The aircraft has made long haul international travel accessible to more and more people, and has opened up routes that were previously thought impossible.

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Air India Boeing 747-300 Combi VT-EPW (built in 1988) at BOM in Nov 2007

Rapid advancements in engine and airframe technology has made the production of  large airliners powered by twin engines possible today. These twin engined wide-body airliners are capable of carrying almost the same number of passengers as early 747s, over longer distances.  Shrinking profits caused by high oil prices and rapidly dropping airfares have led airlines to ditch four-engined very large aircraft (VLA) like the Boeing 747 in favour of large twin-engined jets like the Boeing 777 and the Airbus A330. The two engines mean that they burn less fuel than the quad-engined 747s and are therefore cheaper to operate and maintain. Apart from the Airbus A380 (which could only manage limited sales) there has not been any new large four-engined aircraft developed. All new long haul wide-body aircraft developed will be powered by twin engines.

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Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 9V-SPA (built in 1994) at SIN in Jan 2010

The large twin-engined aircraft although quieter, more efficient and capable of flying longer distances do not quite have the grace and character of the Jumbo. The distinctive nose and hump, high-mounted flight deck and four engines that produce some of the sweetest music on the tarmac provide instant recognition for any aviation enthusiast.

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Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I D-ABYL (built in 2014) at HND in Feb 2018

Despite the preference for newer, more efficient aircraft, the Boeing 747 lives on – finding its place (though in decreasing numbers) in the long haul fleet of airlines around the world. The Jumbo still rules in the cargo world however, ferrying thousands of tons of cargo across the world every single day. The nose cargo door allows unparalleled flexibility for loading oversized cargo inside its cavernous interiors.

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Silkway Cargo Boeing 747-400 Freighter 4K-SW888 (built in 1999) at KUL in Apr 2016

The next few years will see more and more airlines around the world retire the Boeing 747s from their fleet, as newer aircraft get inducted. However, the Jumbo will soldier on – in one form or another for at least a decade and a half, allowing the current generation of aviation enthusiasts a chance to marvel at this amazing feat of engineering.