United bids farewell to the Boeing 747

After a long innings spanning 47 years, United Airlines is set to retire the iconic Boeing 747 from its fleet. The final regular passenger flight operated by the Boeing 747-400 will be on October 29th 2017, from Seoul to San Francisco. It will be the end of an era for United, in which its much loved “Queen of the skies” ruled the skies across the world.

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United Airlines had taken delivery of its first ever Boeing 747 on June 26th 1970, with its first commercial flight from San Francisco to Honolulu a few weeks later on July 23rd 1970. The Jumbo jet served as the workhorse of the airline’s long haul fleet for over four decades, and was adored by passengers and crew equally.

United operated multiple versions of the Boeing 747, starting with the original 747-100, 747-200, 747-SP (taken over from PanAm) and finally the 747-400. It allowed the airline to carry over 300 passengers comfortably to popular destinations in Europe, Asia and Australia.

To commemorate the retirement of this iconic aircraft, United will be operating a one-off farewell flight on the 747-400 from San Francisco to Honolulu on November 7th 2017. This flight will recreate the first 747 flight operated by United in 1970. From a 1970s-inspired menu to retro uniforms for flight attendants to inflight entertainment befitting of that first flight, passengers will help send the Queen of the Skies off in true style. Tickets for this farewell flight were sold out within two hours of going on sale.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) was the de-facto hub for United’s Boeing 747s, and it is only fair for the airport to operate the farewell flight.

I had the opportunity to spot the United 747-400s in action at SFO a few years ago. Here’s my tribute to the Queen of the Skies…

 

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United 747 in the classic “Tulip” livery about to touch down on Runway 28L at SFO

 

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Trip Report: BOM-KUL – Business Class on Malaysia Airlines Retro Boeing 737

BOM-KUL – Business Class on Malaysia Airlines Retro Boeing 737

Malaysia Airlines logo

 

INTRODUCTION

I was heading back to Kuala Lumpur after a short visit to my hometown, Mumbai for the Chinese New Year holiday. At the time, there were only two airline options between BOM & KUL – Malaysia Airlines (which operated two flights daily) and Malindo Air (one flight daily) Both airlines operate the narrow-body Boeing 737 on this route.

Since then, Indonesia AirAsia X has started a flight to BOM, deploying an Airbus A330-300 on the DPS-KUL-BOM route.

Anyway, I had booked my travel to BOM and back on MH. This report describes my journey back to KUL on Malaysia Airlines Business Class on their Boeing 737-800.

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I was booked on MH 195, the traditional late night departure out of BOM for Malaysia Airlines. This flight used to be operated by MH’s B777-200ERs before the type was phased out in late 2015/early 2016. To overcome this downgrade in capacity, MH has added a second daily flight, which departs BOM at 0225 in the morning.

The late evening traffic on the way to the airport was not too bad, and I arrived at the CSIA Terminal 2 drop-off area nearly 3 hours before departure.

View of the BOM Terminal 2 departures area

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CHECK-IN

The Malaysia Airlines check-in counters are located in Row J, and there was a sizeable queue there.

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The Business Class counter had 4-5 people ahead of me, and it took nearly 7-8 minutes for my turn.

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The check-in process was fast, and took less than five minutes, and I was handed my boarding pass, lounge invitation and the immigration departure card. I was on seat 1F – a bulkhead window seat.

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The aircraft flying me back to KUL was 9M-MXA, wearing the “40 Years of MH” retro colours. Woohoo! A quick check on FR24 revealed that the incoming aircraft was over an hour away.

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Security check was next, and took no more than five minutes. There was a long queue for immigration however, and the process took nearly 15 minutes, before I was released into the Duty Free area.

A view of the BOM Duty Free

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My favourite section 🙂

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The FIDS showing International Departures out of BOM

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Love that ceiling!

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Looking towards the food court area. Plenty of options to eat and drink

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It was now time to head to the lounge to relax for a bit.

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BOM Terminal 2 has a common use lounge called “GVK Lounge” for premium passengers. The lounge is massive, and is divided into two levels – one for First Class and the other for Business Class passengers. At the outset, I was not sure whether having a common lounge was a good idea for an airport the size of BOM. It was possible that the lounge would get overcrowded, especially during the peak international departure times.

However, after using this lounge on a few occasions, I have never seen it being crowded.

Here are a few photos of the lounge.

The ornate entrance! Looks more like the entrance to a fancy hotel!

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The seating area

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The bar

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The quiet zone featuring leather recliners

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The food spread

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I was feeling quite hungry, as it was way past dinnertime.

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The GVK lounge offers its patrons a complimentary 15-minute neck & back massage or a 15-minute foot massage. I opted for a foot massage and after finishing my dinner, headed to the in-house spa. It was pretty relaxing, and I was charged up for the upcoming flight.

As the boarding time approached, I headed out towards the departure gates. We were to depart from Gate 69 that night.

A view of the walkway to the departures area.

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The seating area at Gate 69. Look at those chandeliers!

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BOARDING

Sector: BOM-KUL

Airline: Malaysia Airlines

Flight: MH 195

Aircraft: Boeing 737-800

Registration: 9M-MXA “40 Years of MH” retro livery

Seat: 1F

As I sat down at the departure gate, our aircraft had just landed and was taxiing towards the terminal.

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Here she is, about to dock at the gate.

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We had to wait for another 30 odd minutes before boarding was announced. As is the ritual, families with infants and children were invited to board first, followed by Oneworld premium members. Business Class passengers were asked to board at their convenience.

A view of our aircraft from the aerobridge.

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I was greeted by a couple of MH cabin crew at the aircraft door and ushered to my seat.

The Business Class seats on board Malaysia Airlines 737-800. Pretty standard stuff.

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My seat – 1F

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The legroom on this first row of Business Class

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A welcome drink was offered. There was a choice of apple juice, orange juice or water. I opted for the orange juice.

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Here’s the menu for our flight tonight

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Three main course options on this five-hour flight is not bad at all! The highlight is the appetizer consisting of Malaysian satay. Yummy!

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The beverage selection on the menu. There were no alcoholic beverages listed on the menu although MH does serve them on the flight.

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Boarding was soon complete, and doors were closed. After a wait of another 10 minutes we got our pushback clearance, and we began our taxi towards Runway 27.

THE FLIGHT

The cabin lights were dimmed for take-off and the safety video was played on the IFE screens. Since the IFE screen for the bulkhead seats is in the armrest, a nice little drop-down screen did the job instead.

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Holding short of Runway 27

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After waiting for a couple of arrivals, we lined up on the runway and were airborne after a longish take-off roll.

There were no clouds in the vicinity, and the seat belt signs were soon turned off.

My seat at the full-reclined position.

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The cabin crew then handed out a pair of headphones. These active noise cancellation headphones were a bit on the heavier side but did a decent job of blocking out the noise of the engines and the surroundings. The sound quality of course was average.

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Although this aircraft wears the retro MH livery on the outside, it is anything but retro on the inside. The cabin is equipped with the Boeing Sky Interior and looks quite up to date. Here is a view of the Business Class cabin on our aircraft featuring a total of 16 seats.

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The drinks trolley made an appearance soon and I asked for a beer.

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An appetizer consisting of some delicious Malaysian satay with a lovely peanut dip was served. The satay is a trademark MH offering, and I am glad that the airline continues to serve it.

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The piping hot satay was a perfect accompaniment to the chilled Carlsberg. Just the right environment to pull out the IFE screen and do a bit of TV watching.

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We were flying on a roughly south-easterly heading on our way to KUL.

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Over 4 hours to go.

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Another view of the front row. Two seats vacant tonight.

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I had finished my beer and the lovely satay, and the crew asked me if I was ready for the main meal. A tablecloth was laid out and the crew brought out the meal in a nice little tray.

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“Supper” consisting of a chicken gravy along with dried fruits rice and sautéed vegetables. This was accompanied by a bowl of yoghurt; cut fruits, an assortment of bread along with some “dahi-samosa chaat”.

The portion served was sufficient for this flight.

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The taste was good, nothing really spectacular.

After having my fill, I decided to watch a movie as I find it difficult to sleep on a flight.

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Malaysia Airlines doesn’t hand out full-fledged amenity kits in Business Class on their regional routes operated by the Boeing 737s. Instead, the crew distributed eyeshades and slippers. This is one big improvement area for MH, as SQ hands out mini-kits even in Premium Economy Class on their BOM-SIN flights.

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I finished watching the movie, and tried to fall asleep. I was successful, and only woke up as we were passing over the Malacca Straits.

I freshened up and was listening to some music when our first officer announced that we would soon start our descent into KUL.

The cabin crew appeared with a tray of drinks as people began to wake up. I downed another glass of orange juice.

ARRIVAL

The cabin crew did their ritual of preparing the cabin for arrival as we began our descent. The descent was relatively smooth with only one layer of clouds to plough through.

The sun was just rising over the district of Sepang as we made a 180-degree turn to line up on our final approach to KUL Runway 32L.

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We touched down with a nice, positive thud and a brief application of the twin reversers slowed us down to taxi speed.

We taxied towards the KLIA Satellite Terminal and finally docked at our gate some 20 minutes behind schedule. Not too shabby at all!

It took another 5-7 minutes for the door to be opened, and I thanked the crew and walked out of the aircraft.

A view of the KUL Satellite Terminal. Love that design!

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The terminal was nicely lit up for the Chinese New Year holiday.

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After a quick Aerotrain ride to the main terminal, I made my way towards Immigration. There was no queue at all at the dedicated First/Business Immigration counters, and my passport was stamped within a minute.

A brisk walk later, I was at our designated baggage belt to be greeted by this sight!

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It took nearly 10 more minutes for the bags to start arriving, and thankfully mine was amongst the first lot to arrive.

SUMMARY

It was a typical narrow-body regional flight experience on board Malaysia Airlines Business Class. The seats are your average 737 style recliner seats. The extra width as compared to Economy Class is welcome though.

The onboard service on Malaysia Airlines leaves a lot to be desired. The lack of a comprehensive menu listing all the beverage options is one callout. The service from the cabin crew is average with no personalisation at all. A bit of a letdown here.

The food options are good, and the serving portions are sufficient. The signature MH satay is a big plus!

The lack of amenity kits in Business Class is another big letdown. Other airlines offer mini amenity kits even in Economy/Premium Economy Class on overnight flights.

Even Malindo Air – which is a semi-LCC and is a direct competitor to MH offers an amenity kit in Business Class! Hope MH looks into this aspect soon.

Hope you enjoyed this report on the Business Class experience onboard Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800.

Thank you all for reading!

Air India’s Star Alliance fleet

Air India joined Star Alliance – the world’s largest global airline alliance on July 11, 2014 as its 27th member. As is the custom, the alliance members paint a few of their aircraft in a special Star Alliance livery. This livery usually consists of a white fuselage with the words “Star Alliance” across it and a black tail fin with the alliance logo.

At the time of joining the alliance, Air India painted one of its Airbus A320s, VT-ESF in the Star Alliance livery. This was rolled out on July 11, 2014.

Here is VT-ESF painted in the Star Alliance livery, touching down on Runway 09 at BOM.

One interesting aspect about this aircraft is that it belongs to the pre-merger Indian Airlines, and is equipped with a double bogie main landing gear. Indian Airlines’ first set of Airbus A320s delivered in the early 1990s all sported double bogie main landing gears, designed to handle the “not so perfect” airfield conditions in India at the time.

A few months later, Air India painted one of its Boeing 777-300ERs, VT-ALJ titled “Bihar” in the alliance’s colours. VT-ALJ was Air India’s first Boeing 777-300ER, delivered to the airline in 2007. Also, this was Air India’s first wide-body aircraft to be painted in the Star Alliance livery.

“Bihar” seen here on short final to Runway 27 at BOM on a dull, rainy day.

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Air India Boeing 777-300ER VT-ALJ “Bihar” in Star Alliance colours

Again in April 2015, Air India took delivery of a brand new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, VT-ANU factory-painted in the Star Alliance colours. This was the world’s first 787 Dreamliner to be painted in an alliance special livery.

Here is VT-ANU turning on to taxiway N1 at BOM for a morning departure.

Two year later, VT-ANU remains the only Boeing 787 Dreamliner to be painted in the colours of an airline alliance.

As of now, these are the only three aircraft in the Air India fleet sporting the Star Alliance colours.

As Air India starts phasing out its classic Indian Airlines era Airbus A320s and inducting brand new Airbus A320 NEOs, it is likely that one of these aircraft would be painted in the Star livery.

 

 

Juneyao Airlines joins Star Alliance as a Connecting Partner

May 23 2017 – Juneyao Airlines today became the first airline to join the Star Alliance network as a “Connecting Partner”. Juneyao Airlines is a major Chinese airline based in Shanghai, and operates to both international and domestic destinations.

Juneyao A320

Connecting Partner is a brand new concept adopted by the world’s largest airline alliance, and this partnership will offer Star Alliance passengers opportunities to transfer through Shanghai’s two airports – Pudong International (PVG/ZSPD) and Hongqiao International (SHA/ZSSS) on the Juneyao Airlines network.

This partnership will also allow passengers travelling on Star Alliance carriers through check-in facility in both directions on Juneyao Airlines flights. Additionally, all qualifying Star Alliance Gold Status passengers will be provided the same privileges on their Juneyao Airlines connecting flights as they currently enjoy on the Star Alliance network.

These include:

• Lounge Access

• Fast Track Security

• Additional Baggage

• Priority Check-in

• Priority Boarding

• Priority Standby

• Priority Baggage Delivery

At present, 17 out of 27 airlines in the Star Alliance group operate more than 1600 weekly flights to various cities in China. Juneyao Airlines now offers Star Alliance passengers the option of connecting to more than 1,700 weekly flights to 69 destinations in eight countries and regions through Shanghai. This partnership is therefore a win-win proposition for both Juneyao Airlines and Star Alliance.

Currently, Air China and Shenzhen Airlines are two Chinese carriers that are full members of Star Alliance.

Juneyao Airlines has a fleet of 62 aircraft consisting of Airbus A320 & A321 narrow-body planes.

 

ATR 72MP – The pint sized Maritime Patrol platform

The ATR 72MP is a maritime patrol, C3I (Command, Control, Communication & Intelligence), ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) and SAR (Search & Rescue) aircraft.

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It has been derived from the popular ATR 72-600 commercial (passenger/cargo) aircraft.

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The ATR 72MP is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127 M turboprop engines mated with six bladed Hamilton Standard propellers. Each engine is rated for a maximum take-off power of 2750SHP.

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Similar to the ATR 72-600, the ATR 72MP is equipped with a full glass cockpit featuring five wide LCD screens.

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The ATR 72MP is equipped with the ATOS (Airborne Tactical Observation & Surveillance) mission system designed by Leonardo Airborne & Space Systems. This manages the wide array of sensors on the aircraft, combines the information received during missions (using Data Fusion) and provides it to the mission system operators in a suitable format.

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The aircraft can effectively communicate with ground stations, satellites and other platforms such as AWACS to provide excellent real-time situational awareness during surveillance missions.

The four main mission stations are equipped with large LCD display screens, which provide high-resolution imagery from the aircraft’s sensors.

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The ATR 72MP has two “bubble” observer stations on either sides, allowing an unhindered view to the observer during Search and Rescue missions.

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The view from the “bubble”

The ATR 72MP can cruise at 465kmph (250 KTAS) at a maximum altitude of 25000ft. The aircraft has an astounding 10 hour endurance (plus 45 min hold time) at 5000 ft, allowing it to loiter longer over an area of interest. The aircraft can take off using only 1170 metres of runway at MTOW, allowing it to operate from small airfields that are not capable of handling larger jets. It can carry additional personnel using re-configurable airline style seating.

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The affordability and versatility of the ATR 72 platform means that one can acquire an effective force multiplier without having to break the bank. This is sweet news for agencies like the Coast Guard that need a robust maritime surveillance platform but have limited budgets for aircraft acquisition. The aircraft occupies a niche spot between maritime surveillance helicopters and larger long-range maritime surveillance aircraft like the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.

 

 

End of an Era! Indian Navy to retire Tu-142 ASW aircraft

The Indian Navy is set to retire its Tupolev Tu-142 long range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft by the end of this month. Eight of these gigantic turboprop aircraft were acquired by the Indian Navy in 1988 from the Soviet Union and served as the flagship maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare platform in the Indian Ocean region for nearly 30 years. The Tu-142s are based at INS Rajali, situated at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu.

The Tu-142 was derived from the Soviet Tu-95 “Bear” long range strategic bomber designed in the 1950s. It is a large turboprop aircraft powered by four Kuznetsov NK-12 engines with distinctive contra-rotating propellers. It is one of the loudest military aircraft and is also the fastest turboprop aircraft with a maximum speed in excess of 850kmph/460knots. Its long fuselage, wide wingspan and high speed has earned it the nickname, “Albatross”.

The Tu-142 is a true long range reconnaissance aircraft with a combat radius of around 6500km. It can carry out long duration missions of nearly 11 hours with a large payload of around 9000kg. The aircraft is fitted with ASW equipment including sonar, magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), sonobuoys, anti-submarine mines and torpedoes.

However, age has begun to catch up with the Albatross, as newer anti-submarine warfare technologies have emerged in the recent years, thereby rendering the Cold War era Soviet equipment on the aircraft obsolete. The Indian Navy has already found its eventual replacement – the Boeing P-8I “Neptune” multi-mission maritime aircraft (MMA). Eight P-8Is have already been inducted into the service, and are also based at INS Rajali.

Although the P-8I doesn’t quite have the range or the endurance of the Tu-142, it is packed to the gills with state-of-the-art surveillance & ASW equipment, including the deadly Harpoon anti-ship missile.

In addition to the Tu-142 & the P-8I, the Indian Navy also operates the Ilyushin IL-38SD maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The IL-38s were acquired by the Indian Navy starting in 1977, and were recently upgraded in Russia including fitting of a new radar and the Sea Dragon avionic suite, allowing them to soldier on for some more time. These are currently based at INS Hansa situated at Dabolim, Goa.

Newer technologies apart, none of these aircraft have the Cold War style awe and aura of the Tu-142. The retirement of the Albatross is truly the end of an era!

 

Saudi King Salman visits Malaysia

February 26 2017 – The ruler of Saudi Arabia, King Salman kicked off his month long Asian tour with a four day visit to Malaysia today. King Salman is visiting with a huge delegation of around 600 staff, ministers and officials. The King and his delegation arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) in three special aircraft earlier today.

The KUL plane-spotting community was out in force to catch the arrival of these special aircraft.

The King himself along with his close associates arrived first in the Saudi Royal Flight Boeing 747-400 registered HZ-HM1. The callsign was “Saudi One”

Saudi Arabian Royal Flight Boeing 747-400

The second aircraft to arrive was the highlight of the day. Carrying the Saudi delegation was the Saudi Royal Flight Boeing 747SP, registered HZ-HM1B. The callsign was “Saudi One Bravo”

We were lucky to spot this rare 39 year old classic as it touched down on Runway 32L.

Saudi Arabian Royal Flight Boeing 747SP

The final aircraft in the delegation was the Saudi Royal Flight Boeing 757-200, registered HZ-HMED, and callsign “Saudi 11”.

This is an interesting aircraft as it is practically a flying hospital. This aircraft is equipped with facilities and personnel to cater to any medical emergencies that might occur.

Saudi Arabian Royal Flight Boeing 757-200

 

As you can see, this was a great opportunity to spot some rare special aircraft. Enjoy the photos! 🙂

 

Indian Air Force to induct indigenously developed AEW&C aircraft during Aero India 2017

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to induct the first indigenously developed Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft at Aero India 2017, which kicks off on February 14th at the Yelahanka Air Force Station near Bangalore.

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The indigenous AEW&C system has been developed by DRDO’s Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) based in Bangalore and integrated on the Brazilian Embraer ERJ-145 platform.

The hitherto unnamed indigenous AEW&C system consists of multiple antenna arrays mounted on top of the fuselage of the ERJ-145 and provides a 240 degree radar coverage. In addition to this, there are multiple sensors and cameras installed throughout the aircraft fuselage.  The primary radar is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) unit with Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) capabilities.

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The system has been designed to detect and identify threats to IAF fighters and other assets both from the air and from the ground, and act as a flying command and control post to support IAF missions. The aircraft uses secure data links to communicate with IAF aircraft, satellites and ground based stations. It is equipped with a comprehensive self defence suite, to protect itself from threats while on a mission. The AEW&C aircraft also has mid-air refuelling capability, which allows extended operations and loiter time.

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The project began back in 2003, when the IAF & DRDO carried out a joint feasibility study for development of an AEW&C system. After receiving government approvals, the responsibility for design and development of the system was assigned to DRDO’s CABS. The program was originally supposed to deliver three AEW&C aircraft to the IAF by 2013, but this has been delayed by four years, with the first aircraft to be delivered next week. The aircraft has been displayed during the past two Aero India shows starting 2013.

The IAF AEW&C aircraft will complement the more capable and larger Phalcon AWACS systems based on the Ilyushin IL-76 platform that are already in service.

 

 

 

 

Countdown to LIMA ’17

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The LIMA (Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition) 2017 maritime and aerospace exhibition for defence, civil and commercial applications will be held next month in Langkawi, Malaysia.

The biennial event will be held between 21st and 25th March 2017 will be held at The Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre, Langkawi for the Aerospace exhibition and Resorts World, Langkawi for the Maritime exhibition. This year will be the 14th edition of LIMA and it promises to be as spectacular as always. There will be something for everyone – whether you are an aviation geek or a maritime enthusiast.

The highlight of the five day event will of course be the daily aerial displays and boat demonstrations.

The list of confirmed participants for the aerial displays this year is as follows:

  1. SU-30 MKM Royal Malaysian Air Force
  2. F/A-18D Royal Malaysian Air Force
  3. Hawk 108/208 Royal Malaysian Air Force
  4. A400M Royal Malaysian Air Force
  5. PC 7 MKII Royal Malaysian Air Force
  6. KT-1B (Jupiter) Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara
  7. HAL Dhruvs Indian Air Force (Sarang Aerobatic Team)
  8. KAI – T50B Republic of Korea Air Force(Black Eagle)
  9. Gripen Royal Thai Air Force
  10. Rafale France Air Force
  11. B-1B (Fly Pass) United States Air Force
  12. Airbus 380 (Fly Pass) Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB)
  13. Airbus 330 Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB)
  14. Super Lynx Royal Malaysian Navy
  15. Fennec Royal Malaysian Navy
  16. CL-415 Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
  17. Agusta AW 139 Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
  18. Dauphin AS365 Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
  19. AS 355 Royal Malaysian Police

Source:  LIMA Exhibition Official Website

As you can see from the line-up above, it looks like a power-packed display this year. It will be exciting to see the Royal Malaysian Air Force birds in action, as well as the Airbus A330 & A380s from Malaysia Airlines. The USAF B-1B Lancer fly past also promises to be an exciting event.

I am also looking forward to seeing the Indian Air Force Sarang Aerobatic Team in action with their brightly coloured HAL Dhruv helicopters. I last saw them in action two years ago at Aero India 2015 in Bangalore, India.

Look forward to more updates soon!

 

 

 

 

Trip Report: SQ Premium Economy Experience BOM-SIN A380

Singapore Airlines Premium Economy Experience BOM-SIN A380

BACKGROUND

Singapore Airlines had started retrofitting its A380s with its brand new Premium Economy Class (PY) product. During the retrofitting exercise, the usual A380 service to BOM had been temporarily downgraded to a 777-300ER. However, a couple of months later, the A380 was back on the SIN-BOM sector with the new Premium Economy class on offer.

The SQ PY product looked decent from the ads and publicity material I had seen; although the seats themselves were nowhere close to say the Turkish Airlines Premium Economy seats on their 777-300ERs. I had experienced the Turkish PY some time ago and felt that the seats were pretty close to a regional Business Class product. Nevertheless, I was sure SQ would more than make it up with the onboard service.

I had a trip to Singapore coming up, and was contemplating trying out the PY product on SQ. It meant spending around 150 USD more (one way) as compared to a Y ticket. I was not sure whether it was worth it, but in the end decided to try it out on one leg.

I hoped I had made the right choice and SQ would not let me down.

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I was to fly on SQ 423, the signature overnight departure out of BOM, operated by the A380. This flight has seen a couple of equipment upgrades in the recent years – from a 777-300A to a 777-300ER to the A380 right now.

I left home early anticipating heavy evening traffic on my way to the airport. I wasn’t wrong. What is usually a 20-minute taxi ride in no traffic, turned into an almost 40 minute crawl. Anyway, I reached the airport well in time, and made my way to the SQ check-in counters.

CHECK-IN

There was a longish queue at the Economy counters, but thanks to my Star Gold status, I could use the Business Class check-in counters, which had only 2 people ahead of me.

The check-in process took less than five minutes, and I was handed my boarding pass and the Indian immigration departure card.

Next up was security check, which again took not more than five minutes, and then I joined a long queue for immigration. As it is the start of the peak international departures wave out of BOM, almost all counters were open, and our queue progressed quickly. Post immigration, I made my way to the “Loyalty Lounge” to relax for a bit.

After downing a couple of Kingfishers at the lounge, I made my way to our boarding gate.

Our aircraft was parked at Gate 68 today.

There was a sizeable queue of passengers at our boarding gate, which meant that the flight was quite full.

BOARDING

Sector: BOM-SIN

Airline: Singapore Airlines

Flight: SQ 423

Aircraft: Airbus A380-841

Registration: 9V-SKH

Seat: 31K

Boarding for our flight was announced at 2305, 30 minutes before STD, but ten minutes later than what was printed on the boarding pass. From the massive queue that had formed at the gate, I doubted if we could push back on time.

The boarding was sequential, with Suites and Business Class passengers invited to board first, followed by Star Alliance Gold members. With a quick scan of my boarding pass, I made my way to the aerobridge. SQ Premium Economy Class on the A380 is situated on the lower deck just aft of Door #2, and I boarded through one of the two lower deck aerobridges.

The Premium Economy Class features a comfortable 2-4-2 seating configuration.

I had selected seat 31K, a bulkhead window seat in the first row of the PY section. This meant that I had massive legroom to stretch on this overnight flight. The regular seat pitch in PY is 38 inches.

The seat itself was comfy, wider than the standard Economy seat (up to 19.5 inches wide) and the recline is up to 8 inches. There was a wide double armrest between two adjacent seats. This was good, as I hate people hijacking the entire armrest. The rear portion of the armrest is slightly raised and includes a USB charging port and the headphone port.

Each seat also comes with an adjustable LED reading light, which can be moved to any angle that’s comfortable for you.

Small amenity pouches had been placed on each seat. These were limited edition pouches with SG50 themed motifs and consisted of socks and a toothbrush kit.

The boarding process took around 40 minutes, which meant we were ten minutes past our departure time by the time it was completed. The crew passed around the menus for the supper service on this 5-hour flight.

The menu had a distinctive “Premium Economy Class” branding.

Headphones had already been placed in the seat pocket.

SQ offers bulky active noise cancellation headphones in PY. I was keen on trying them out later on.

The IFE system in PY consists of a 13.3-inch full HD LCD screen. For my row of course, the IFE screen was mounted on the bulkhead wall. The position of the screen means that one has to always look slightly upwards at all times in order to view it. A better arrangement would be to place the screen inside the armrests.

Our captain came online made an announcement that we had closed our doors, and were waiting for our pushback clearance, which would take around 10 more minutes. We finally pushed back at midnight, almost half-an-hour post our scheduled departure time.

THE FLIGHT

One after another, the four RR Trents came alive. The A380 cabin is incredibly quiet, and even with four engines powered on, one could easily talk to fellow travellers without raising one’s voice.

We began taxiing towards Runway 27. There were 3 aircraft ahead of us in the takeoff queue and after nearly 7 minutes of taxiing, we turned in to Taxiway N3 and held short of Runway 27.

Now this was interesting, as heavy aircraft and especially the A380 usually departs using taxiway N1, which allows maximum runway length to be used. However, as N1 was currently shut for maintenance, we would depart from N3 tonight. The cabin lights were dimmed and then turned off for takeoff.

After a couple of minutes of holding for a landing, we turned on to Runway 27 and waited. The four Trents were slowly spooled up to takeoff power, and we began our takeoff roll. The sound of the engines even on the takeoff roll is incredibly low. After a 35 second roll; we lifted off into the night sky in the westerly direction.

After a nice bank to the left, we set course in a southeasterly direction towards Singapore.

The cabin lights were turned back on and the crew began preparation for the meal service. The Premium Economy cabin looked pretty full, so the demand seems to be there.

The drinks trolley appeared first, which is how I like. I enjoy having a drink or two before eating the main meal, and hate airlines that serve drinks during/after the meal.

Singapore Airlines serves champagne in PY, so I decided to try it out. It was served in transparent plastic “flutes”, not real glass ones. Fair enough I think. A pack of roasted almonds and cashews was served alongside. A nice touch!

With champagne in hand, I decided to explore the entertainment on offer. Didn’t feel like watching a movie, so I decided to watch back-to-back episodes of “The Big Bang Theory”. Always a favourite of mine on flights!

The main meal service began soon after. There were three meal options on offer – one international and two Indian.

I opted for the international meal, which consisted of apple coleslaw with toasted almond as an appetizer, “Cayenne Pepper flavoured chicken stew” with sautéed vegetables and potatoes for the main course, and an apricot cheesecake for dessert. It looked quite filling for a five-hour flight.

The meal was served with a bread-roll & butter and a bottle of water.

The crew asked for a second round of drinks, and this time I chose the signature SQ Singapore Sling.

After finishing my meal, I reclined my seat, pulled out the calf rests. I cannot sleep on flights, so it would be helpful to at least catch up on a quick nap.

The cabin crew passed around bottles of water to keep us hydrated through the flight. Another nice touch!

The cabin lights were dimmed and slowly turned off.

ARRIVAL

Roughly an hour before arrival, the captain came online and announced that we would begin our descent into SIN in 20 minutes. The cabin crew did a quick round of drinks, offering water or orange juice.

As we began our descent, the rising sun presented me with this beautiful view out my window.

It became brighter as we approached SIN. The A380 is super quiet on the approach leg, and one can barely hear the engines. Soon we lined up on Runway 02L, and made a smooth touchdown, 10 minutes post our scheduled arrival time.

After a longish taxi, we docked at Terminal 3, which is my favourite terminal at Singapore Changi Airport. The exit from the aircraft was quick, as we were the second group after Suites to leave.

As I made my way to the Arrivals area, I clicked a final departure shot of the superjumbo that brought me to SIN.

I walked towards Immigration, and saw hardly any queues at the counters. This would be a quick SIN immigration for a change at least for me.

SUMMARY

It was a good, positive experience for me in Singapore Airlines Premium Economy on board their flagship Airbus A380. There is a distinct difference in both the hard product and the onboard service as compared to the standard Economy Class. The seats are wider, come with fold out calf and foot rests and recline further. The grey-orange upholstery also adds another level of distinction as compared to Y class.

The F&B service is superior with a wider choice of food including the famed “Book the Cook” available for PY. Champagne (even though it is not the best) is served through the flight along with assorted nuts.

Even though it was worth spending the extra bucks for the PY experience, I feel SQ needs to drive it up a notch or two higher. The seats although good, could be made better – especially in terms of seat width and recline. The Turkish Airlines PY seats on the 777s as quoted earlier are a good example. The amenity kits could be equipped better. Eyeshades and earplugs should definitely be a part of it.

Hope you enjoyed this peek into the Premium Economy experience on Singapore Airlines.

Thank you all for reading!