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! 🙂

 

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Dream comes true – The An-225 visits Kuala Lumpur

Dream comes true – The An-225 visits Kuala Lumpur

I had a dream – to see the “dream”. Goofy wordplay aside, the dream was to see the Antonov An-225 “Mriya” (meaning dream or inspiration in Ukranian) at least once. This dream came true, as the big bird landed in Kuala Lumpur yesterday – May 14th 2016.

Powered by six Progress D-18 turbofan engines, the mammoth An-225 was on a trip from Prague, Czech Republic to Perth, Australia, carrying a 117 tonne electrical generator. The trip involved stopovers in Turkmenbashi (KRW), Hyderabad (HYD), and Kuala Lumpur (KUL) before reaching its destination in Australia.

The stopover at KUL was lucky, as the original itinerary involved the big beast stopping over at Jakarta. This was changed later to KUL due to unavailability of slots at Jakarta. The schedule was published by Flightradar 24 a couple of weeks prior to the flight, and we waited with bated breath for the arrival.

The scheduled arrival at KUL was 0800 local time, and I left home early with my seven year old son in order to secure a vantage point to witness the arrival of the Mriya. As I was reaching the spotting location, I saw hundreds of people gathering to see the giant six-engined aircraft that was due to arrive soon. The excitement was palpable, as the spotting community in KUL came together, and waited patiently.

The aircraft could not be seen on Flightradar 24 – our trusted companion for tracking aircraft and their arrival/departure times. We had found out from friends back in Hyderabad that the aircraft had departed at 0140 local time, which meant that it would be arriving approximately at half past eight.

Just before 0800, the Mriya became visible on Flightradar 24, and the atmosphere amongst the waiting spotters became electrified. Folks readied their equipment – double-checking to make sure that the memory cards were inserted and batteries were charged.

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Soon, the familiar shape of the An-225, with its six engines became visible in the distance. The aircraft was approaching rapidly, and appeared to become larger by the second.

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It glided smoothly over the threshold of Runway 32L, and touched down right in front of us, producing a fair bit of smoke from its massive 28 wheel main landing gear.

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A loud cheer went up in the spotting community as the aircraft rolled down the runway, and slowly made its way to its designated parking bay.

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It felt amazing to see the massive six-engined aircraft with its distinctive twin tail. The wings and the horizontal stabilizers are humongous!

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So there it is – the dream to see the one-of-a-kind Antonov An-225 “Mriya” finally came true. Don’t know if I will get an opportunity to see it again…

The Malaysian Queen flies again!

Malaysia Airlines recently decided to bring a Boeing 747-400 back into active service. The 747-400s were retired a couple of years ago when the A380s joined the fleet. The 747 will provide interim heavy lift to the airline while the A380s go through maintenance. The Jumbo is supposed to operate its long haul service to London on two days of the week.

The aircraft that was re-commissioned is registered as 9M-MPP (formerly named as “Putrajaya”) Malaysia Airlines has painted this aircraft in the retro 1970s livery. Many aviation enthusiasts including me were pretty excited when this piece of news broke, and we have been waiting patiently for the Queen to take to the skies.

The big day finally arrived!  The 747-400 was supposed to roll out and get airborne for a test flight at 10AM local time on April 26th 2016. All the local plane spotters and aviation enthusiasts flocked to the Subang airport (where the aircraft was parked) and waited for the aircraft to show up. 10AM came and went, and there was no sign of the Queen. Then we got to know that there was a technical issue with the aircraft, and it was taken back to the hangar. The test flight would have to wait for another day!

The new date for the test flight was two days later – on April 28th at 2PM local time. Again, the enthusiast community came out in full force to view the Queen. This time we hoped that she would show up! At around 2PM, the aircraft showed up on Flightradar24, which meant that the transponders were active.

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The aircraft had been given a callsign – MH5109 for the test flight.

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We were getting impatient, as the aircraft showed no movement. We were hoping that the technical issues had been sorted, and the Queen would finally take to the skies.

Just before 3PM, the 747 finally started taxiing out. We got ready with our cameras to capture this event. Dark rain clouds had gathered over the Subang area, and the light had faded quite a bit. As she made her way to the active runway, we could see streaks of lightning with accompanying thunder all around. It was as if the weather gods were announcing the arrival of the Queen! 🙂

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As she lined up on Runway 15, the heavens opened up! What started off as a slight drizzle, turned into a torrential downpour. We were caught in between – sheltering our cameras from the rain, and craning our necks to catch sight of the Queen. We soon heard the four Pratt & Whitney PW4056 powerplants spool up to take-off power, and a loud cheer went up amongst the waiting plane-spotters. And in the next few seconds, the four engines spooled down, bringing a look of worry on all our faces. The engines spooled up and spooled down once again, before spooling up once more and the aircraft finally started to roll. As soon as the Queen came into view, our cameras went into overdrive, capturing her spraying water all around.

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What a sight it was!

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After a shortish take-off roll, the Queen took to the skies with a grace typical of the 747.

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That’s it – the Malaysian Queen was finally back in the air!

After taking off from Subang, the aircraft turned north and headed out to the Malacca Strait for its tests. The aircraft made multiple circuits at varying altitudes around Penang and the Malacca Strait for nearly three hours before heading back south to Kuala Lumpur. The aircraft was supposed to land at KLIA (KUL) at around 6PM local time.

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We reached there well in time for the arrival, and hoped that the rain gods would keep away this time. At exactly 6PM, the familiar shape of a 747 on approach became visible on the horizon. The Queen touched down with a puff of smoke on Runway 32L and deployed her reversers briefly.

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As she rolled out, we got another view of the beautiful curves of the Queen of the skies…

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Test flight complete, the aircraft was parked at the cargo apron, next to her cargo cousins. We hoped all had gone as per plan, and the 747 was fit to fly once again.

Some not so good news emerged one day later, as the website Airlineroute.net reported that Malaysia Airlines had shelved plans to operate the 747-400 on the Kuala Lumpur – London route for the month of June. As of now, the reasons for this change are not known.

We only hope that all issues are sorted out, and the Queen takes to the skies soon!

Cathay Pacific’s new livery

Cathay Pacific Airlines has recently revised its livery that had been in existence since the early/mid 1990s. The existing livery featuring the distinctive “brushwing” design on the tail and aft of the flight deck windows has been an icon.

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The new livery is a refreshed, simplified version of the existing livery that has served the airline well. The darker green patch situated aft of the flight deck windows has given way to a uniform light green band that stretches across the fuselage. The tail is now painted entirely in a dark green colour with a larger “brushwing” design painted in white.

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B-LIB is the second Cathay Pacific Cargo aircraft to be painted in the new livery.

 

End of the road for Malaysia Airlines 777s

Malaysia Airlines (MH) have finally phased out the Boeing 777-200ERs from their fleet. The last flights operated by the Boeing 777s took place on January 26/27th 2016.

Amsterdam and Paris were the final destinations operated by these long-haul birds before they were grounded.

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The Boeing 777-200ERs formed the backbone of the MH long haul fleet along with the Boeing 747s and even after the retirement of the Jumbos.

The twin tragedies that struck Malaysia Airlines in 2014 – MH370 and MH17 involved the 777s, partly prompting the decision to retire the type. There was nothing wrong with the aircraft, but the passenger numbers for MH dwindled after the two tragedies, making it difficult for them to fill these aircraft on the long-haul routes they operated.

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MH have deployed their narrow-body 737-800s on quite a few regional routes e.g. Hong Kong, Mumbai, Guangzhou, etc. which were operated by the 777s earlier. However long-haul routes like Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, etc. that were perfectly suited for the 777s were simply axed!

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A de-registered Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER with titles removed holds short of Rwy 32L as another company 777 begins its take-off roll.

 The Malaysian 777s are powered by Rolls Royce Trent 892 engines and wear the classic 1990s livery. They were never painted in the revised colours sported by the airline’s 737-800s and A330-300s. As these aircraft are over 15 years old, it remains to be seen if another airline will pick them up. If not, they will surely head for the scrapyard.

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It is sad to see the 777s go away from the Malaysia Airlines fleet. I have had the opportunity to fly on these birds on a couple of occasions and absolutely loved the experience!

These long-haul workhorses have served Malaysia Airlines well, and will be sorely missed.

GOODBYE Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ERs!

Lufthansa to discontinue Kuala Lumpur service from March 2016

Lufthansa will be discontinuing its Frankfurt – Kuala Lumpur service w.e.f. March 2016. The German carrier currently operates the Frankfurt-Kuala Lumpur-Frankfurt service five times a week using an Airbus A340-300 aircraft. This service will be further reduced to three times a week w.e.f. 26th December 2015.

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As per the Lufthansa website, the final flight from Frankfurt to Kuala Lumpur is scheduled on 27th February 2016 and the final flight from Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt is scheduled on 28th February 2016.

Lufthansa had been operating on the Frankfurt – Kuala Lumpur sector with an additional hop to Jakarta, Indonesia since March 2014. The Kuala Lumpur – Jakarta leg was discontinued in October 2015.

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One can still book flights from Frankfurt to Kuala Lumpur on the Lufthansa website, using the Lufthansa code-shares with Singapore Airlines via Singapore or Thai Airways via Bangkok.

I had the opportunity to fly on the Lufthansa A340-300 on the Kuala Lumpur – Jakarta – Kuala Lumpur sector in May this year.

Economy Class cabin on the Lufthansa A340-300

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Business Class cabin on the Lufthansa A340-300

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Source: Lufthansa website, Airlineroute.net

 

British Prime Minister arrives in Kuala Lumpur

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Kuala Lumpur as part of his five nation South East Asian tour.

David Cameron flew in on this all-white Titan Airways Boeing 757-200 that bore no special markings except for a small Union Jack aft of the L2 door.

British PM David Cameron arriving in KUL on this all-white Titan Airways Boeing 757-200 G-POWH | KUL | Jul 30 2015

British PM David Cameron arriving in KUL on this all-white Titan Airways Boeing 757-200 G-POWH | KUL | Jul 30 2015