Flying around Christmastime can be Dangerous

On 16/12/2011, in The lighter side, by steve

This must be the ultimate Christmas yard decoration…

The site is near the Oak Creek Bridge on St. Michael’s Road [MD 33]. The folks who

own the property always have eye-catching displays celebrating various ‘holidays’ through

the year… this year they have certainly outdone themselves!


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A Classic with Winglets

On 02/12/2011, in The lighter side, by heading370

Brussels Airlines, Belgium’s main carrier operates an interesting mixed fleet out of Europe’s capital. It is one of the few European companies that fly a winglet version of the Boeing 737 Classic, the 300 series. Airliner World has been invited to see how they fly.

Brussels Airlines rose from the ashes of Sabena after its bankruptcy in 2001. The new company was first set up with the trading name SN Brussels Airlines (SNBA), based on the former Sabena subsidiary Delta Air Transport (DAT). SNBA later merged with Virgin Express and the name was changed to Brussels Airlines. Brussels Airlines is currently part owned by Lufthansa and a member of the Star Alliance. Today the airline operates 32 Avro Jets (a mix of BAe 146-s, AVRO RJ85-s and 100-s), 4 Airbus A319-s, 5 Airbus 330-300-s serving the African destinations and 5 Boeing 737-300-s and 4 400 series, inherited from Virgin Express.

Our contributor joined a flight from Brussels to Naples that was operated by OO-LTM one of the Aviation Partners winglet equipped Boeing 737-300. This interesting project started in 2005 when Virgin Express was contacted by Aviation Partners – Boeing to propose the winglets for the company’s B737-300 Classics. Virgin Express made a historical decision since up to then no other operators retrofitted the type, only New Generation B737-s were equipped. Time has proven that the decision was right as the winglets bring remarkable benefits in daily operations. Using winglets result in an average 5 % fuel saving but also enhance aircraft performance: because of the reduced drag, less thrust is needed for the same take-off performance. This is particularly useful at very noise-sensitive airports like Brussels. In practice this meant that the company could de-rate the CFM56 engines at 20 kN, making take-off-s much quieter and also extending the lifespan of the engines.

Today all but one of the B737-300-s are equipped. (The exception, OO-VEN is modified with 2° drooped flaps as are all the 400-s because the winglet modification was not possible on this 300 and not available yet for the 400 series.)

Our aircraft OO-LTM (c/n 25070) was delivered in 1991 to another Belgian company, TEA Trans European Airlines then it was taken over later by EuroBelgian Airlines. From 1996 it has been flying in Virgin Express colours and finally from 2007 – following the merger with SNBA – adopted Brussels Airlines’ logo.


I met the crew of the flight Captain Frank De Paepe and First Officer Gregory Claes at Zaventem National airport in Brussels. The cockpit crew was supplemented by three cabin crew, Ms Brigitte Favaretto, Ms Agnes Mier and Mr Constantinos Triantafyllos. On this Saturday, the aircraft which is able to carry 142 passengers was about half full.

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Island hopping with Travel Service

On 18/11/2011, in The lighter side, by heading370

Summer months are of crucial importance for all airlines but they are even more so for those in the charter business. Airliner World was happy to accept the invitation of one of those charter companies, Travel Service Hungary – an affiliate of its owner Travel Service A.S. – to check how their operations are conducted from their Budapest base.

The Czech company was founded in 1997 and became one of the fastest growing Central European charter operators. In 2008 the company transported 2.8 million passengers using a fleet of 18 aircraft. The company has 2 Boeing B737-500, 12 B737-800 (of which OK-TVJ and OK-TVK were delivered brand new), 2 Airbus A320 and two B737-800 on wet lease. They have been present in Hungary since 2001 and operate about 32 medium and long haul flights a week from Hungary while employing 21 full time pilots at that base.

On a beautiful Sunday morning in July at Budapest-Ferihegy (ICAO:LHBP, IATA: BUD) Terminal 2B I met one of the airline’s young captains Peter Buliczka and his crew getting ready for an interesting trip. The flight’s first stop will be at Heraklion, Nikos Kazantzakis airport (ICAO: LGIR, IATA: HER) Crete then we will fly on to Rhodes (Rodos) Diagoras (ICAO: LGRP IATA: RHO) before heading back to Budapest. Some time ago the airline would have operated two separate flights to these two destinations, but because of the falling demand this summer travel agencies struggled to fill these flights every week.

Captain Buliczka introduced me to the entire crew: the captain will be assisted by First Officer Attila Lanc in the cockpit, while in the cabin the usual crew of four will be supplemented by two young trainee flight assistant colleagues under the supervision of Purser Zoltan Koltai.

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There are more planes in the ocean than submarines in the sky…

On 21/04/2011, in The lighter side, by steve

We have all seen pictures of witty sentences painted on aircraft fuselages or bombs and rockets but more often than not, we quickly forget them and when we too could insert a witty remark, they prove impossible to dig up from our memories. Krisztian, one of our contributors, has now provided a nice collection of such witty sentences coming mainly from the military. But they are true and applicable also in a non-military context.

“AIM TOWARDS ENEMY.” – Instructions printed on US Rocket Launcher
“When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend.” – U.S. Marine Corps
“Cluster bombing from B-52s are very, very accurate. The bombs are guaranteed to always hit the ground.” – USAF Ammo Troop
“If the enemy is in range, so are you.” – Infantry Journal
“Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.” – General MacArthur
“You, you, and you panic. The rest of you, come with me.” – U.S. Marine Corp Gunnery Sgt.
“Tracers work both ways.” – U.S. Army Ordnance

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Spreading my wings

On 15/04/2011, in The lighter side, by gabesz77

Airport Blagnac (LFBO), Toulouse, France. A historic place. This is where the first Concorde took off on 2 March 1969 commanded by Andre Turcat. The biggest passenger plane, the Airbus A380 flew for the first time also from here on 27 April 2005. These days, Blagnac is Airbus’ main base, all new-born aircraft built in Toulouse take to the air for the first time from here.

This time, there is an A320 rolling on taxiway Sierra. On board is a very enthusiastic little troop whose hard work over the previous six days is about to bear fruit. In the left seat is our Technical Captain, in the right seat your’s truly! I am being honored by being part of a “delivery flight”, the taking home of a freshly produced Wingair airplane.

For most of the team the story started already on Wednesday. The technical acceptance (requiring 8-10 hours of work per day) and delivery test flight as well as the official certification of the aircraft have been completed. I joined the others only on Monday, arriving late in the evening from London on an EasyJet flight. I dropped my gear at the hotel, went to our favorite restaurant to grab a bite and afterwards took a nostalgic walk around the inner city. I sought out the places I discovered and came to like a year earlier when we were there for the type conversion course. Toulouse is a livable town. It is characterized by little streets, nice red brick buildings, special micro-climate, the nearness of the River Garonne, a navigable network of channels and extremely friendly people.

Around nine this morning we are going out to the aircraft plant. The Delivery Center is housed in a dedicated group of buildings about the size of Terminal 2 at Budapest Ferihegy airport. At the reception a three dimensional computer generated graphic shows the facility on a big TV screen, complete with the aircraft waiting to be handed over. There are 3 round satellite buildings around the main concourse enabling the simultaneous hand-over of 11 aircraft. Of the A320 alone 470 units are produced per year which means that on average 1.3 aircraft will be in hand-over every day.

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Freight dogging with TNT Airways

On 26/01/2011, in The lighter side, by heading370

Sure they can…!

A large majority of Air Traffic Controllers are usually busier during the day than during a nightshift. There are however a few radiotelephony callsigns which are always associated with night operations. One such call sigh is “Quality”, the official ICAO callsign of TNT Airways which sounds familiar to all ATCO-s on night duties. Our contributor Heading370 travelled to Liege Airport in Belgium to join the crew of TAY47R to find out how a typical short haul cargo flight is operated by the company.

TNT opened their European hub at Liege Airport in Belgium in 1998. They had several reasons to choose this airport. The company was looking for a location in the vicinity of the Paris-Amsterdam-Frankfurt-London area with excellent road connectivity and the future opportunities for expansion combined with unlimited number of night flights at an uncongested airport. That’s exactly what Liege was able to offer and made it a number one choice for the company. TNT Airways, the airline of the group has been created in 2000 and now operates a fleet of 42 aircraft. Every night an average of 40 aircraft serve 63 airports in 26 European countries from the Liege hub. The company also operates flights to New York JFK 5 times a week and flies to Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong three times a week. TNT Airways employs about 500 people in Liege including 250 pilots.

TTNT Airways’ fleet consists of 4 Boeing B747-400ERF (payload 117 tons), 2 Airbus A300B4-200F (payload 43 tons, operated by Air Atlanta), 5 Boeing 757-200SF (payload 25 tons – operated by Icelandair and Gestair), 12 Boeing B737-300SF including 2 QC (payload 17 tons), and 19 British Aerospace BAE146-200/300 including 2 QC (payload 12 tons).

Using the QC models the company can offer passenger charters as well besides its usual cargo operations.

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Going supersonic

On 19/01/2011, in The lighter side, by gabesz77

While preparing for this afternoon’s Luton flight I noticed on the Significant Weather chart that strong north-easterly winds were blowing at high altitudes almost everywhere over Europe. Added to this, the weathermen were forecasting severe turbulence too. During an extra thorough briefing we went through all the options and even considered flying the complete route at Flight Level 200 where things appeared to be more manageable.

There was some shaking and buffeting after take-off and we encountered a lot of icing too but both disappeared once we reached our cruising level and the flight progressed normally.

Flying over Germany we noted that the wind had picked up considerably, at places it was reaching 130 knots. This was a headwind slightly off the nose and we thought about how big a help this will be on the return trip, assuming of course that it does not change speed or direction significantly. Calculating swiftly we concluded that it should be possible to break both our individual speed records! Our calculations showed that for 1000 km/hour we would need a ground speed of 539 knots and to reach the speed of sound, we would need 575 knots (taking the air temperature into account).

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Night run – impressions from a charter flight

On 12/01/2011, in The lighter side, by gabesz77

It is 8.30 in the evening but the briefing room is not empty. We are getting ready for a long trip. Destination: Palma de Mallorca, the capital city of the Balearic Islands. We are the opening flight of the season for Ecotours, the Polish travel agency. We discuss the weather… convection thunderstorm cells have risen all over Europe but they are collapsing as night sweeps over the continent and will not pose any danger. As we board the crew bus that will take us to the airport, it is raining hard already.

The inbound flight, aircraft Papa-Alpha, arrives on schedule. A few funny remarks are exchanged with the incoming crew as they leave for their well earned rest and the passengers are starting to board already. The tour organizer must have known something, we have a full house. 180 guests are expected on board. I type our route into the flight management system: two thousand two hundred and nineteen kilometres… a long leg by any measure. A bit of confusion arises with the seating in the passenger cabin but the girls master the situation in no time at all and we can close the doors.

We push back and start the engines. As soon as possible we signal with a thumbs up to the ramp engineer that everything is OK. Why should he be soaking out there longer than necessary? I release the brakes and we taxi on the tarmac that is more a collection of repaired potholes than concrete. There are pools of water everywhere… In a little while we reach the taxiway where the pavement conditions are much better. Almost as an afterthought the tower issues our clearance:

“Wingair2010 wind zero-one-zero degrees six knots, line-up runway two-niner, cleared for take-off.”

I set the throttles to Flex and read aloud: “Manual flex fifty-six, SRS, autothrust blue.”

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Christmas greetings from the K9 unit

On 22/12/2010, in The lighter side, by steve

We got this nice picture from Chris, our contributor on security related subjects. These dogs are experts at everything from finding bad guys to rescuing people trapped under collapsed buildings. In this festive season they too will take a break but still stand by for the call for help, whenever it might come.


It is the time of the year…

On 21/12/2010, in The lighter side, by steve

Many years ago by this time of the year most of us will have sent our Christmas cards and some of the addressees will even have received them. For some others, the card would come only after Christmas and in extreme cases, even only in the New Year. The postal services of most countries were simply unable to cope with the mountains of cards being sent during the festive season.

Then the Internet and electronic cards came in and the problem was solved. Not only can we send cards until the last minute, we can also be sure that they will arrive on time. We also have a much larger choice and the animated cards can really be special.

Some say that sending electronic cards is a terrible social faux pas but I do not agree. In the modern age where we re trying to conserve the environment, replacing paper cards with electronic ones is simply the right thing to do.

Click on the stamp below to see your card! Be prepared to do a bit of interactive help!


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