Airliner World – December Edition Preview


Hello and welcome to the preview of our December edition, on sale NOW!

In this edition we join Virgin Atlantic for a demonstration flight with a difference and take an exclusive look at the innovative ethanol-derived ‘drop-in’ jet fuel being developed in partnership with biotech firm LanzaTech.

Virgin Atlantic cabin crew Simon Cowley and Elle Haigh visit LanzaTech in Georgia, ahead of the carrier’s first ever commercial flight using innovative biofuel. (Doug Peters/PA Wire via Virgin Atlantic)

The use of alternative fuels is nothing new – indeed it’s now more than decade since Virgin made its biofuel debut, operating a Boeing 747-400 from London to Amsterdam in February 2008, partially powered by little more than coconuts (or, more accurately, a biofuel blend derived from coconut and babassu nut). But, while it was a remarkable milestone, it was ultimately little more than a demonstration of the art of the possible. The biomass, though viable and sustainably sourced, was not commercially scalable and herein lies the problem.  With margins under constant scrutiny and mounting competition in the industry, airlines are simply unable – or unwilling – to pay over the odds for alternative fuels. So far, this has hampered efforts to deliver a greener, cleaner aviation industry. But, according to Virgin, this may be about to change.

Sir Richard Branson marshals Virgin Atlantic flight VS16 flight onto stand at Gatwick following its historic flight from Orlando, Florida. (John Nguyen/PA Wire via Virgin Atlantic)

Away from cutting-edge technology to matters a little more mundane, it sometimes feels as if barely a week passes without another major long-haul route being launched. Within this context, it is easy to forget the vast sums of both human and financial capital deployed by airports to capture the interest of prospective new airline partners. Business cards are exchanged, commercial details developed and senior management shuttle back and forth before the mood music reaches a dramatic crescendo.

So spare a thought for Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airport CEO, who has spent the last decade luring the carrier that is near the top of almost every airport’s secret, or not-so-secret wishlist. “It’s been ten years and ten days since I first flew out to Dubai to try to persuade Emirates to come and set up in Edinburgh” he remarks. “I think I’ve visited at least three or four times in the last few years, so it’s a day of great pride to see it getting over the finishing line.”

For Edinburgh, that finishing line was crossed on October 1, with the arrival of flight EK023.


The short runway at Sorkjosen is typical of those across Wideroe’s domestic network. (Wikicommons/Algkalv)

Staying in Europe, Widerøe’s introduction of the Embraer E190-E2 earlier this year has been well documented, but the Norwegian regional carrier has made significant progress with a plethora of other projects.

April 24, 2018 may have been a rather grey day in the Norwegian coastal town of Bergen. But for the country’s leading regional airline, Widerøe, it was one of the brightest in the company’s 84-year history. Not only did the carrier operate its maiden commercial flight with its first turbofan-powered aircraft, but it also became the global launch customer for an entirely new type – the E190-E2.

The aircraft continues to be the major topic of conversation, but while the airline’s CEO Stein Nilsen is understandably proud of this achievement, there are still many other elements across the business that continue to require careful attention.

A Widerøe de Havilland Canada Dash 8-100 blasts off from Brønnøysund Airport in western Norway. (Erlend Karlsen/Avstock)

Every once in a while, the team here at Key Towers hears stories of wannabe aviators taking the plunge and quitting ‘civvy street’ to pursue their lifelong ambition of becoming a professional pilot.

This was the case with Mark Sandford, who’s first post-graduate job was in dentistry. Yet, despite the years of university study required to qualify for the role, Sandford yearned for something more. Deep down he knew his true calling was far from the dentist’s chair, something he was reminded of every time saw an aircraft flying overhead.

This fascination for flight ultimately led Sandford to make a significant career change; leaving dentistry to become a pilot. Following an initial flight training programme, the budding aviator gained valuable fight experience commanding a 1930s Tiger Moth biplane and creating some unforgettable memories in the process.  Today, he’s a captain for Virgin Australia.

(Mark Sandford)

Elsewhere in this issue, we bring you not one but two articles from the CIS. A favourite subject among obscure pub quiz trivia, Tajikistan is one of the lesser known countries of Central Asia. But this relatively undiscovered, landlocked nation has plenty to offer the outside world.

With its rugged mountainous terrain, the main option for international visitors is to arrive into Dushanbe International Airport, a few blocks from the centre of the Tajik capital and home to flag carrier Somon Air, which provides a vital lifeline to this landlocked nation.

Somon Air provides a vital lifeline to Dushanbe, the
capital of landlocked Tajikistan. (Somon Air)

Russia and the wider CIS is becoming an increasingly popular destination for the growing number of aviation enthusiasts heading off the beaten track in the pursuit of rare aircraft or unusual flights. It’s on this basis that Simon De Rudder ventured onto the website of Russian carrier KrasAvia. The Krasnoyarsk-based airline is best known for its inter-Siberian network but, in order to fully utilise its fleet during the summer months, it also operates flights from the popular Black Sea resort of Sochi to several cities east of Moscow. These seasonal connections are served by its colourful fleet of Yakovlev Yak-42 tri-jets, and it’s this unusual type he wanted to sample…

RA-42388 was delivered Aeroflot’s Ural division as СССР-42388 in 1991. (Simon De Rudder)

From East to West, we head out to the Pacific Northwest and Seattle, now the fastest growing city in the United States – and arguably among its most scenic.

Fittingly nicknamed the ‘Emerald City’, it sits amid breathtaking evergreen landscapes, punctuated by the stunning Lake Washington and the awe-inspiring Mount Rainier. At its heart lies Lake Union, a popular recreational spot and an important hub for float planes. In fact, it currently handles an estimated 38,000 movements a year, making it one of the busiest seaplane bases in the world.

We pay a visit to one of the leading operators, Kenmore Air, for a unique perspective of the Emerald City.

Flying from Seattle’s Lake Union, Kenmore Air offers passengers an unusual vantage point over the Emerald City. (Bernd Sturm)

This month’s historic article remains in North America, albeit north of the border, as we shine the spotlight on Canada’s pioneering Comets. There’s little doubt the de Havilland DH.106 revolutionised the aviation industry. As the world’s first pressurised commercial jet-powered airliner, it was the source of enormous national pride when it entered service with BOAC in May 1952. The inaugural flight, from London to Johannesburg via Rome, Beirut, Khartoum and Livingstone, ushered in a new era of passenger travel and led to carriers beating a path to de Havilland’s door eager to join the jet age.

At the head of this queue was Canadian Pacific Air Lines, which ordered a pair of Comet 1As for use on its prestigious Vancouver to Sydney service. Unfortunately, neither example saw service with the carrier…

One of two Comet 1As ordered by Canadian Pacific Airlines, neither of which were actually delivered to the carrier. (Key Collection)

Other features this month include a selection of photos from the stunning Greek island of Corfu, which attracts an interesting array of visitors, while we also put QualityWings’ impressive Ultimate 787 Collection flight simulation package through its paces.

A SmartWings Boeing 737 on final approach to Corfu. (Simon Gregory/Aviation Image Network)

Our packed December edition concludes with our regular comprehensive coverage of worldwide news, including a full report from the ERA General Assembly in Edinburgh, plus Embraer launches its ‘market disruptor’, Air Tahiti Nui receives its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and Gatwick eyes a second runway. We also have all our regular sections covering the latest commercial aircraft acquisitions, up-to-date accident reports and developments from the world of aviation training and MROs, and we give you the chance to WIN one of five limited edition Emirates Airbus A380 prints.

WIN one of five copies of the limited edition ‘Dubai Departure’ print. (Darryl Legg)

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