Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Biman Bangladesh to fly to Birmingham and on to New York!

Birmingham airport has had a few new long haul routes recently with Air India and AirBlue. The latest announcement is possibly the most significant: Biman Bangladesh, the Banglasdeshi flag carrier, will commence flights to New York from Dhaka via Birmingham next spring, using Boeing 777-300ER's. This is similar to the old Air India arrangement (which continued on to Toronto).

Significantly, Biman have selected BHX over Manchester as the stopover point, so it seems as though improvements at the airport over the last few years are paying off!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

C-Series first flight

I somehow missed this at the time, but the Bombardier C-Series had it's first flight back on the 16th September! Bombardier's newest aircraft, the CS100 and CS300, are designed to fill the gap between the largest regional jets and the smaller A320/737 variants, competing at both ends. They will seat a maximum of 125 and 150 respectively. They also represent a leap forward in technology: the C-Series is the first narrowbody airliner to be made primarily from CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic), and the first large airliner to use GTF engines (Geared TurboFan).

These feature gears between the fan and the compressor turbines, allowing them to run at different speeds. The front fan is more efficient at slower speeds, the compressors are better at high rpms, so the GTF increases overall efficiency significantly. The drawback is that the gears make it more expensive to produce and more moving parts means reliability is potentially affected. It seems that the GTF is the future though, with the A320neo using GTF's, along with Embraer's E2 and Mitsibushi's MRJ.

Back to the C-Series, it has 177 orders currently, the largest customers being Swiss, Republic Airways, Malmo Aviation, Gulf Air, Odyessey Airlines, Atlasjet, Porter, Korean Air, Air Baltic and Privatair. It's nice to see a new competitor in the Airbus/Boeing narrowbody duopoly!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Regional A330 launched

Airbus have launched a regional version of the A330, aimed at high density, short haul Asian routes. Current widebody aircraft flying the route have the range to fly nearly 10 times as far, so this new variant will be much better suited. It will also have upgrades such as a new cockpit amongst other things.

Also this is a cool video, the future of airbus widebodies:

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

bmi to drop the 'regional'

Interesting that bmi regional are dropping the 'regional' from their name. I personally doubt it will help with awareness of the brand. One of the biggest problems faced by bmi when it was operating was that while in the UK everyone knew it was British Midland International, abroad people didn't know what it stood for. Re-branding back to British Midland would be a better bet I think, because then at least people know where you fly! How this fits in with bmi's expansion in Europe however remains to be seen.

Trip to Holland! [Part 2]

Part 1 here

 Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS/EHAM)  to London Luton (LTN/EGGW) to EZY2162
EasyJet Airbus A319 G-EZEV

This part of the trip report is best told in pictures, since everything went as planned basically!

Engine in the Terminal

Air China A340-300



Classic airport shot of a mighty KLM 747-400

Various skyteam birds, including one of KLM's few remaining MD-11's

Our ride home, G-EVEZ

Sistership heading off
Unfortunately I couldn't film the flight back, I'd been given an aisle seat and the couple next to me wanted the window! The flight back was turbulent enough for the cabin crew not to serve hot drinks, and it lasted for the majority of the flight. All in all, EasyJet have again proven to be, well, easy, and they seem to be consistently cheap unlike other carriers whose fares fluctuate wildly. I'd definitely fly them again, and I suppose this year, I've been part of their 'Generation EasyJet', those people who have travelled only because EasyJet made it available and affordable!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Trip to Holland! [Part 1]

I recently travelled to the Netherlands with my cousin to see some motor racing at Circuit Park Zandvoort - and of course that meant more flying!

We booked fairly late on and many of the airlines had become extortionately expensive (cough - klm - cough) but after an extensive search, the cheapest route viable for us was EasyJet from Luton.

London Luton (LTN/EGGW) to Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS/EHAM) EZY2155
EasyJet Airbus A319 G-EZBO

The 7:20am flight meant an early start but everything went smoothly, including using airparks. We flew out on a Sunday when the number of flights was limited and as a result, the flight was packed. We hadn't pre booked seats (saved £6, why not) and I was assigned an aisle seat but still ended up by the window, most people don't care anyway!

Take off was on time and spectacular with the early morning clear skies:

After a fairly uneventful flight, we arrived slightly early in Schiphol:

The taxi was very long, as expected, but leaving the airport was straightforward. The trains weren't all running so a bus service had been put in place to cover it, and everything went as planned - by 11am we were at Zandvoort!

Part 2 coming soon.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Holiday to La Belle France! [Part 2]

Toulouse-Blagnac (TLS/LFBO)  to Birmingham (BHX/EGBB) BM1422

bmi regional Embraer 145 G-RJXD

After 2 weeks in France it was time to head back to Toulouse. The 10:20 scheduled departure meant we had to get up at 05:15, and arriving at the airport 2 hours before departure, first impressions were not great. The roads around the airport are confusing to say the least, and once inside departures the signage isn't great. It took us a while to realise departures was upstairs (probably obvious in hindsight) and then, the check in desks were all generic and did not have airline logos on them - you had to check a seperate board which told you which number desk to go to. 

Anyway, check in was fast as was security, and we spent an hour or so in the departure lounge watching the movements on the airfield- this time, including the A350 protoype F-WXWB! In one part of the departure lounge, there were only 2 adverts, some for Rolls-Royce and their Trent XWB engine for the A350, and some for Pratt & Whitney and their GTF engine (powering the Airbus A320neo amongst others). There was even part of a shop dedicated to airbus souvenirs! Some pics:

2 Belugas departed while we were there

Well before departure we were told to go to gate 55, which happened to be one of the most northernly gates in the terminal, yet once the bus arrived, it took us to the same remote stand we had used 2 weeks earlier, which is south of the terminal building?! C'est la vie. Pics from the bus:

G-RJXD was the waiting machine, the same aircraft that brought us to France! Take off was delayed due to the late delivery of the load sheet to the pilots by about 30 minutes. Eventually though, the engines were started, and chocks away! We sat in row 10, the seats infront of where we sat outbound. Legrooms was less but still 31". After a long taxi, take off was on 14L (open now, following works):

A right hand 180 degree turn after departure gave stunning views of both the city of Toulouse and Blagnac airport:

Looking down on a Volotea 717 taking off
A350 F-WXWB and an A380, along with various factory-fresh A330's on the left
Skies were overcast for the entirety of the flight back. We were offered the choice of free snacks this time, rather than just being given them (sensible I suppose). Despite the 30 minute late take off, landing was only 15 minutes later than scheduled. The approach was a straight in ILS to rwy33 - with some great views through the cloud:
Leamington (Warwick was on the left)
Kenilworth Castle
 And the landing:

So that concludes another 2 flights, 56 and 57 in my log! I may just have a new favourite airline, too. bmi regional are definitely recommended - although it seems  you have to book well in advance for cheap fares.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Holiday to La Belle France! [Part 1]

Bonjour, mes amis!

It’s the summer holidays and so it was time for us to head south, to the Languedoc region of southern France. In previous years, Ryanair have been the preferred airline, entirely because they were cheapest (with the exception of Flybe to Perpignan one year). Last February however, bmi regional, the last remnant of the once mighty bmi group (including bmibaby and bmi – British Midland International), announced they were opening new bases and routes around the country, including Bristol and Birmingham. When one of the BHX routes was revealed as Toulouse, it was a must!
We booked the flights within a week of them going on sale, and we must have got an introductory offer as the fare for 3 people return (including 3 bags up to 20Kg) was less than every other competitor to the south of France… better than Flybe, EasyJet and Ryanair! However, these fares only lasted for a few weeks, before rising to the thousands where they then stayed (which is more like what I expected from a full service, non-low cost carrier like bmi). 

Birmingham (BHX/EGBB) to Toulouse-Blagnac (TLS/LFBO) BM1421

bmi regional Embraer 145 G-RJXD

On the day of the flight, we arrived fairly early at about 10. BHX is pretty quiet mid morning, in fact it was the quietest I've ever seen it. Since bmi regional’s aircraft depart from terminal 1, I assumed that check-in should be in that part of the building – but it was in terminal 2 instead. Bit odd! Having old style check-in was nice actually. We swiftly dropped our bags, collected our boarding passes and headed for departures, when it was noticed we were allocated seats scattered over the plane, not together. So we went back to see if this could be changed. I really wasn’t expecting it to be possible, but the check-in lady apologised and changed them, seating us together in row 11! 
We sped through security (It was practically empty) and on through duty free, and despite the distraction of free spirit samples, we were in the departure lounge an hour before departure. To the end of the  international pier, for photos:

A pair of flag carrying 737's on the international pier
Welcome to Frankf- er, Birmingham
G-RJXA, after arrival from Toulouse

We headed to the gate at 11:15 (half an hour before scheduled departure). Unfortunately, it was gate 60, which from gate 40 is quite a walk! We had to walk past several empty gates to get there too, but they were all large gates reserved for medium to heavy aircraft. 

XA was the arrival from Toulouse but for some reason they switched aircraft (why not I suppose, both were sitting there!) so we flew on XD, which had previously flown BHX-Billund-BHX that morning. Up the 3 or 4 steps, and onto the cramped ERJ, to be welcomed by the sole,cheery flight attendant. I say cramped - the entrance is a bit tight due to the galley, the actual cabin felt surprisingly open and large despite the 2-1 seating. For some reason it didn't feel small. Perhaps it was because our allocated row, 11, is the emergency exit row and we had masses of legroom, you can literally stretch your legs in this row! Or perhaps it was the large windows (which I noted were the same as those on its big cousin, the E-Jets).

Pushback was a few minutes ahead of schedule and it was off to rwy15 for a Compton departure. Bang on time, we were on our way. I would have a video of the take off except the camera auto focused on the rain on the window rather than what was outside...

The captain came on 3 times during the flight and it was all quite informal and friendly. With only a few bits of light turbulence, it was overall a calm flight, cruising at 37,000ft. bmi regional is a full service airline and we recieved a free drink and snacks as such (tea/coffee or soft drinks, a bag of mixed savoury nibbles and some shortbread - not quite lunch but good enough for free!). The aircraft wasn't particulary clean, and the interior was worn, you could tell the plane was nearly 14 years old. But that didn't stop it being the most pleasant flight I've ever had! I think it was a combination of the friendly crew, vast leg room, and quiet cabin/big windows that made it. 
Cruising over central France at FL370

During descent I noticed that you could feel the acceleration/deceleration of the aircraft according to the thrust inputs, much more so than other aircraft I've flown on. I suppose this is because the ERJ doesn't have autothrottle and the human pilots up front aren't as smooth changing the thrust as a computer! We positioned about 4/5 miles out on a left base for rwy14R at Toulouse (you could see the airport out the left side of the plane). I'm guessing it was a visual approach, since we were too close in for it to have been an ILS at this point. The weather was certainly clear enough! I love the ERJ, you had sense, especially on the final approach, that it was being flown, by real people. Some larger jets sometimes feel as though they're gliding down on rails. Landing video here:

Touchdown was 15 minutes ahead of schedule, as was expected from the UK's most punctual airline, and without the irritating fanfare that a certain other airline uses! Of course we were treated to veiws on either side of airbus heavies being readied for delivery to customers worldwide (sadly no A350 though). It turns out rwy14L was being worked on, hence the landing on the westerly runway. We were parked on a remote stand, but a bus arrived promptly. Upon disembarking, once we were all on the bus, the flight attendant waved us all off from the aircraft steps. Says it all really! 

Overall, this flight at least was pretty much faultless. Providing they're cheap enough... it's a 10/10 from me!  

Part 2, the return trip, coming soon!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Air Blue to start flights from Birmingham!

Air Blue, the Pakistani airline, are beginning flights from the 28th September to Lahore and Islamabad from Birmingham, using Airbus A340-300's:

Flights will operate twice a week. With this annoucement, BHX will have the following airlines offering connections to the middle east/sub continent:
  • Emirates
  • Air India
  • PIA
  • Air Blue
  • Turkmenistan 
  • Turkish Airlines
Turkish and Emirates do offer other onward connections (eg the far east and Australia) but I imagine the main focus of all of these is India and Pakistan traffic: is there too much capacity now? On a Saturday night, BHX will now have on the ground simultaneously 2 777's, a 787 and an A340! I hope arrivals can cope...

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Inaugral Air India 787 flight to Birmingham!

The first Boeing 787 to visit BHX landed today at 18:06 operating the AI113 from Delhi! The flight also marks the return of Air India to BHX, after a few years of absence. The flight to Amritsar via Delhi operates 4 times a week.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Air India return to Birmingham! [Update]

Air India have announced they are restarting their Delhi-Birmingham service from the 1st August 2013 using Boeing 787s. The route was last flown directly in 2008, when Air India flew Amritsar-Delhi-Birmingham-Toronto with 777s. However the route was cancelled and extra rotations were flown into Heathrow instead.

With the new 787 Dreamliner, the aircraft is right sized for the route. This follows years of airlines taking advantage of the strong demand for flights to India from the Midlands - most passengers at moment make connections with airlines such as Emirates, Turkmenistan Airlines and Turkish Airlines via their respective hubs. Other airlines have tried and subsequently failed: Mahan Air, Slovakian, Armavia and Comtel to name a few.

The new 787 service (the first 787 flights to BHX and the first scheduled 787 flights into the UK outside of Heathrow) will operate 4 times weekly on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at the following times:
AI113 Arv BHX 19:00
AI114 Dep BHX 21:30

This is a good example of what the 787 was designed to do, to make thinner long haul routes possible.

From BHX's website:

Flights can now be booked on Air India's website

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Update: A350, Paris Airshow

The first flight of the Airbus A350 happened last week. Their latest aircraft, the A350 is designed to compete with the 777 and larger 787 variants, aswell as replacing Airbus's own A330 and A340 lines. Like Boeing's 787, the A350 has a high percentage of CFRP parts (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic). This material is stronger than steel but significantly lighter, making it perfect for building aircraft. The maiden flight from Toulouse lasted around 4 hours in which time the handling of the aircraft was tested at different speeds, altitudes and flaps settings:

The A350 then performed a fly-by at the Paris Airshow 2013 on Thursday. The biennial Paris airshow (at Le Bourget, a private airfield near to Paris CDG) is where the majority of big airline orders are placed. Significant developments include:
  •  Boeing have launched the 787-10, a 787 variant to replace their own 777-200 and rival the A350. Launch customers include British Airways and United.
  • Odyssey Airlines have ordered 10 Bombardier CS100 aircraft, they are thought to be planning operations from London City. The CS100 is expected to make its first flight this month.
  • Both EasyJet and Ryanair have placed big orders: EasyJet for 135 A320 series (a mix of A320 and A320neo) while Ryanair have committed to 175 737-800 (with the possibility of a 737-8MAX order this year). Both of the these orders are primarily to replace existing aircraft as they get older. 
  •  Embraer have launched the second generation of their E-Jets: the E2-Jet family, including the E2-175, E2-190 and E2-195.  These will include aerodynamic tweaks and all new P&W geared turbofan engines. Launch customer is America's Skywest with 100 E2-175's. 

Meanwhile, closer to home, there are rumours circulating that Air India are going to restart Delhi-Birmingham.... with 787's!

Friday, 31 May 2013

First British 787 delivered!

The first Boeing 787 for a British airline was delivered today (31/05/13), G-TUIA for Thomson Airways.
Thomson will use the 787 to replace their 767's, with them flying from East Midlands, Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow initially:

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A350 rollout

The first Airbus A350-900 has been rolled out at Toulouse today:

Airbus's newest aircraft, the A350 is to compete with larger 787 variants, the 777 series, and to replace airbus's own A330 and A340 lines. 3 variants are being offered, the -800,-900 and -1000. 617 A350's are on order at the moment.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Trip to (a windy!) BHX

Birmingham is one of the few airports in the country to have its runway north-south orientated, most have an east-west heading since the prevailing winds in the UK are westerly. This means BHX has crosswinds more often than most airports - as we saw on a recent trip to Sheldon country park, at the 15 threshold end of the runway:
A Ryanair 737-800 on final 
A Lufthansa 737-300 caught by gusts of up to 30kts
An Emirates 777-300ER making a smoky touchdown on rwy15

While there we just happened to hear the transition of air traffic control from the old 1939 Elmdon tower to the new tower, with a brief 5 minute swap over period in which inbound traffic was put in the hold! A historic moment since the old tower has been in constant use for 74 years. Change is afoot at Birmingham: new tower, new radar, Monarch's new engineering hangar and of course the runway extension! 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Trip to Geneva Part 2

The landing of the return flight from Geneva, arriving on Gatwick's RWY 26L, aircraft was EasyJet Airbus A320 G-EZUL:
The return flight was delayed due to bad weather (torrential rain) and an emergency, closing Geneva airport briefly. The emergency was actually involving the previous Gatwick-Geneva flight which was eventually cancelled.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Trip to Geneva Part 1

I've just returned from a trip to CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, so here are the videos/pics!

London Gatwick (LGW/EGKK) to Geneva (GVA/LSGG)
Flight EZS8464 leaves from Gatwick's north terminal. Having arrived very early for the 8:15am flight, the inbound flight was delayed due to air traffic control strikes in France. This flight was operated by Easyjet Switzerland, the aircraft is Geneva based and had a Franco-Swiss crew. Waiting at the gate was Airbus A320 HB-JZR, which first flew in September 2009. After nearly an hours delay, we left a rainy Gatwick, so rainy in fact that the take off video was no good! One hour later we were on approach to Geneva's rwy23:

Geneva airport was surprisingly busy I thought. It was interesting to see the amount of bizjets and flag carrier airlines (Alitalia, Lufthansa, Air France, Brussels Airlines, KLM, British Airways, Aer Lingus, Finnair, El Al, Saudi Arabian, Qatar, Etihad, TAP, Iberia and of course Swiss), most of which operating A320 series aircraft - it seems to be a very popular type at Geneva! We then got free train tickets to the city center and after 5 minutes on the train we were there. Part 2 coming soon.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

bmi Regional to Billund

bmi Regional have announced another route from Birmingham, in addition to Toulouse, Lyon and Gothenburg, Billund (Denmark) will be operated 6 time weekly from 3rd June.

Saturday, 23 February 2013


I've started gliding with NUGC (Nottingham University Gliding Club), who fly every weekend from RAF Cranwell (EGYD) in Lincolnshire:

Friday, 25 January 2013

Flybe announce BHX-Lyon

One day after bmi Regional announce they're starting Birmingham-Lyon, Flybe do too! Perhaps too much capacity? This follows Flybes recent announcement to restructure (with no new planes being delivered and 300 job losses - however the route network will be unaffected):


Thursday, 24 January 2013

New Bmi Regional hub at Birmingham!

bmi Regional, originally a  subsidiary of bmi-british midland international (until their take over by British Airways), has announced the opening of a new base at Birmingham (BHX/EGBB). bmi Regional is the only part of bmi to survive the take over by IAG (International Airlines Group, comprising BA and Iberia), with bmi having been incorporated into BA and bmibaby closing down.

3 new routes have been announced from Birmingham:
  • Gothenburg (previously operated by City Airline/Skyways, the airline recently shut down, prompting the new SAS service to Stockholm.)
  • Lyon (previously flown by BritAir, the route was cancelled in 2011.)
  • Toulouse (no scheduled service in recent years, only seasonal ski/peak summer season flights.)
bmi Regional previously flew to Aberdeen from Birmingham. All flights will be with Embraer 135/145 regional jets. Link here:

Good news for an airline that was very close to ceasing operations not long ago, and good news for Birmingham airport! 

Monday, 21 January 2013

787 Grounding

On the 17th Jan, all Boeing 787 'Dreamliners' were grounded due to two separate incidents involving battery fires, one a Japan Airlines 787 in Boston and another an ANA 787 in Tokyo. This follows a string of other (much less serious) incidents including a cracked windshield and false electrical alarm, an oil leak in an engine of an ANA 787, 2 separate fuel leaks on the same aircraft, and other minor electrical glitches.

None of these are serious and could all be considered standard entry into service hiccups - however the battery problems are a fire hazard and that's why the FAA have grounded them.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Spitfire crash closes East Mids!

The undercarriage of a spitfire landing at East Midlands collapsed, blocking the runway and closing the airport for a few hours this afternoon: