Category Archives: Aerospace & Defence

Flight excursion to the North Cape (Norway)

Two weeks ago, Jérémie and I took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes (the 160hp F-GUYA) to make a flight excursion from Toulouse to the North Cape (Nordkapp, in Norway) as part of a “Fly out” organized by the Aviation Society of the Airbus Staff Council, together with 2 other aircraft, the F-BERB (with Norbert and Dominique, who organized the trip) and the F-PANI (with Anne and Nicolas).

At the beginning of the post I will focus on the different flights and share some pictures (taken either by me or Jérémie and Dominique, the ones with more quality) and at the bottom of the post I will leave some more technical details helpful for the preparation of such a trip.

Day 1 (July 17th) – Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) – Verdun (LFGW)

We departed one day before the other airplanes to ensure that the engine hours of our airplane would not be consumed during a Saturday with good weather in Toulouse. However, North of Aurillac the weather was not so good so we waited until early in the afternoon to fly to Verdun. Even if not necessary we filed a flight plan and climbed to FL075 for most of the trip, to fly VFR on top of the clouds around the Massif Central and we just descended under the clouds some miles before the destination.

Once at Verdun we refueled the airplane, parked it for the night and booked a room at the Ibis budget hotel, which is however 5km from the aerodrome. A kind member of the local aeroclub gave us a lift to the hotel.

Day 2 (July 18th) – Verdun (LFGW) – Doncourt (LFGR) – Tønder (EKTD)

The morning after we did not have a transport to the aerodrome as apparently there were no taxis in the surroundings, so we had to walk to the airport; a hike that took us well over an hour with the bags and by some wheat fields.

We then made a short (~40′) flight to Doncourt, not without flying over some of the fields and memorial monuments of the WWI battle of Verdun. We then arrived to Doncourt, which has as A/A frenquency 123.500 and that was confusing as there are other aerodromes not too far using the same frequency, causing you to hear messages unrelated to the aerodrome you are about to land.

At Doncourt we refueled again and had a chat with a member of the local club. I went to pick some snacks from a local backery (less than 1km away) while we waited for the F-BERB. We then had a picnic at the aerodrome before departing for Tønder.

For the flight to Denmark we had to file a flight plan. We used a simple route based on the location of some VOR (DIK NOR BOT NDO). We were going to overfly Luxembourg and the whole of Germany. We climbed again to FL075 and were cleared (after the F-BERB) by the ATC (Langen radar) to fly through class C spaces around Cologne and Düsseldorf. Later, we listened in the radio that the F-BERB was descending to 3,000ft and below somewhere North of Bremen so we followed suit. From there and until nearly the border with Denmark the ceiling was at around 2,000ft, but since the ground is almost at sea level the flight was still comfortable. The West coastline of Schleswig-Holstein was wonderful.

When we arrived at Tønder the F-PANI was already on ground and the F-BERB landed shortly after. Our flight plan had not been properly communicated and we were not expected, nor could refuel as we did not have local currency (DKK). We booked rooms in hotels in the village which was at walking distance. We then gathered at the Cafe Arthur and enjoyed our first dinner together as members of the fly out. There Dominique offered us a bottle of Saumur red wine that he had brought to celebrate that first night.

Day 3 (July 19th) – Tønder (EKTD) – Bergen (ENBR) – Trondheim Værnes (ENVA)

We woke up early as we wanted to be ready at the aerodrome at 7am to refuel the airplanes and had a 25-minute walk before to get to the aerodrome. The person in charge of the fuel station arrived a bit later but we were ready for departure at around 8am. We had filed another flight plan to fly to Bergen in Norway.

Flying over Denmark, despite its flatness, was nice, with the coast to the West, small crop fields and villages, including the coastal city of Esbjerg where my brother spent 2 weeks of the summer of 2002. We flew by the coast up until the village of Hanstholm (close to Thisted aerodrome) and then took a North West heading towards Norway with a transit of just above 30 minutes over the North Sea.

Once in Norway we continued flying along the Southern coast, overflying the airports of Farsund Lista, Stavanger Sola and Karmøy until we reached Bergen. During that flight of over 4 hours we enjoyed the good weather and the views.

At the tarmac in Bergen we spent some time between refueling and then waiting for the police to check our EU Covid-19 passport so that we were cleared to enter the country. We then purchased online the week pass covering the landing fees in all Norwegian airports, filed another flight plan and off we went for our next destination: Trondheim.

In that second flight, the sky was covered with clouds but the ceiling was not very low so it allowed for a relatively comfortable flight enjoying the views of the different islands. Once arrived at Trondheim we refueled, parked the plane, were taken in a small bus to the general aviation exit of the airport and walked to our hotel (Radisson Blu at the airport). We had dinner at the hotel restaurant and studied the weather which started to degrade.

Day 4 (July 20th) – Trondheim Værnes (ENVA) – Brønnøy (ENBN) – Bodø (ENBO) – Alta (ENAT)

In the first flight of the day we tried to reach Brønnøy overflying some fjords in the interior and flying over Namsos but before reaching that point there was no visibility and the F-PANI and us had to take a U-turn back to the fjord of Trondheim and get to the coastline overflying Orland airport. In flight we learnt that a NOTAM had been published informing that there was no Avgas that day at Brønnøy. Despite of that we landed there, which wasn’t easy as just when arriving there were some showers, so we had to hold first at the South and then changed our plan and approached the airport from the North West. At the airport we studied again the weather to the next airport where we could refuel, Bodø, a flight of just over an hour.

During the flight to Bodø we had a lower ceiling (at around 1,200ft, flying at below 1,000ft) and showers here and there. Though just at the airport the weather was clear. We landed, refueled, quickly ate some bananas and got ready for the next flight to Alta.

For the flight to Alta we would have liked to enjoy the view of the Lofoten islands, but seeing the weather and winds, we rather flew towards Leknes and then by the Western coastline of those islands. We passed by the West of Andenes. At that point the weather conditions were not very good, the flying was not easy. We counted with the help of the ATC and the messages exchanged between our 3 airplanes. Once we passed the latitude 70°, North of Tromsø, we got encouraging messages from the F-PANI, but as we were approaching Alta the weather was still not getting better, with very strong winds entering the Stjernsundet fjord to get to Alta. The airport in Alta was at the end of another fjord and at that point the wind was calmer and we landed.

The airport was closing so we just had time to get some help to get a taxi, book a room at the Scandic hotel and had dinner at Du Verden. The study of the weather during that dinner was not very positive, but we still gave us until the next morning to decide what to do the following day.

Day 5 (July 21st) – Alta

Before breakfast at 7am we looked at the weather and decided not to attempt to reach the North Cape that day, as the conditions were not very good with winds, rain and clouds. We booked another night at the hotel and the group split in two: Dominique and Norbert went to the airport to refuel the 3 planes, while the rest of us went to the museum of Alta to visit the Rock carvings (see related post). On the way there there was some rain but later on the sky became clear and we continued walking around for a total of more than 12km that day.

Back at the centre of the village we got some food for the plane (so we could have something to eat in the stops), we took a closer look at the iconic Northern Lights Cathedral and later met the group for dinner at a pizza restaurant, where again we studied the weather for the following morning, when we would attempt to fly by the North Cape followed by a flight to Tromsø.

Day 6 (July 22nd) – Alta (ENAT) – Alta (ENAT) – Bodø (ENBO)

We woke up early again, took breakfast together at 7am and got ready to go to the airport and wait for the weather to become more favorable. After about an hour, the F-BERB departed first by the fjord and then flying over the terrain to reach Porsangerfjord at the East and reach the North Cape from the South. A bit later the F-PANI and us left following the fjords (flying by Hammerfest) and reaching the North Cape from the West, took some pictures of it and then took heading for the South West.

The F-PANI flies much faster and at some point they reached a situation without visibility so they took a U-turn and so we did and both airplanes flew back to Alta, where we refueled again and stayed for some more time waiting for a front of clouds and rain to pass.

We then departed again, this time reaching the coast directly through the fjords to then follow the Western coast of the Lofoten islands on the way to Brønnøy. That flight was a very complex one. Already getting out of the fjords was difficult with very low ceiling, flying at 500ft, some showers, low visibility… flying with the help of the GPS to ascertain where the other side of the fjord or the next island would appear.

After 1h30′ the sky became somewhat clearer and just when we were going to fly West of Andenes airport we received a message from the F-BERB informing that the weather by the interior of the Lofoten islands was better and we could see some light from afar at that point so we changed plans and took heading for Evenes airport. We then enjoyed an hour of very pleasant flight over the islands and turquoise waters.

We flew past Bodø and exchanged some messages with the other airplanes about plans in Trondheim after refueling at Brønnøy only to find that some 40nm South of Bodø visibility was very bad and the ceiling very low. The difference now was that the area is full of small rocky islands, so at that point we made another U-turn and flew back to Bodø. The visibility at the airport was very low as well so we waited holding flying in circles at some 600ft for a few minutes about 20nm South of the airport until the controller offered to guide us to the airport under Special VFR.

We landed, refueled, called the tower by phone to thank the ATC for his help, booked a hotel by the harbor (Radisson Blu) and had dinner at Bjørk. Back at the hotel we studied the weather again and decided to go early to the airport to see if we could depart the following morning.

Day 7 (July 23rd) – Bodø

We reached the airport earlier than 7am to see if we could leave, but hesitated as the weather conditions were still quite degraded and were not getting better. After a couple of hours at the airport we gave up, called our colleagues at Trondheim (who then pursued their trip) and went back to book another hotel (Zefyr) and took the opportunity to visit the Norwegian Aviation Museum (see related post).

In the afternoon I went to rest at the hotel, while Jérémie went visiting around the city. For dinner we went to Burgasm (with a very comprehensive variety and customization of burgers).

Day 8 (July 24th) – Bodø

This day the weather was still pretty bad, as another low pressure front was coming from the South West and expected to hit the coast. We went to visit the Salmon centre by the harbor and then to the airport to move the airplane and align it with the strong winds that would blow later in the evening (and hopefully clear the local weather so that we could depart the following morning). That evening we had dinner at En Kopp, with very good fish dishes.

Day 9 (July 25th) – Bodø (ENBO) – Kjeller (ENKJ) – Tønder (EKTD)

We left the hotel at 6am to try to be ready to fly at 7am and so we did. That day the weather was finally good, with just some clouds at 3,000ft around Bodø but clearing further South. We continued flying along the coast down to Brønnøy while climbing first to 4,500ft and then to 6,500ft in order to fly to the interior of the country, East of Trondheim, flying over Røros and approaching the TMA of Oslo Gardermoen from the North, flying by the East of the CTR and finally landing at Kjeller aerodrome (the first aerodrome built in Norway in 1912), where the weather was completely different, blue sky and hot temperatures.

Funnily enough, at the fuel station of Kjeller we met a local who had been in Toulouse learning to fly aerobatics and knew some members of one of the aeroclubs in Toulouse Lasbordes. We had lunch there, studied the weather again ahead of the crossing of the sea and the flight over Denmark, where storms were announced.

Shortly after we took off again from Kjeller, overflew Rygge and continued our flight to the South very close to the separation between the Norwegian and the Swedish FIR, while having the Swedish coast in sight for most of the time until we could see from afar the thin peninsula of Skagen in Denmark. This time we flew closer to the East of Jutland to avoid the storms that seemed to be more to the West. We left Aalborg to the West, then Billund and the ATC of Skrydstrup helped us in flying through some local cumulonimbus and showers, until we were finally in sight of Tønder.

At Tønder we met some of the members of the local club and later came the person in charge of the refueling station (as Norbert had called him to make sure they were aware of our arrival). This time we were able to pay in euros, so we refueled that same afternoon, before we were offered a lift to the Motel at the centre. We then went again to Cafe Arthur.

The following day would be a long one and the weather forecast wasn’t very good for Denmark or Luxembourg, but seemed OK to cross Germany. Following the example of the F-BERB we decided to go very early to the aerodrome to take off as soon as we could.

Day 10 (July 26th) – Tønder (EKTD) – Doncourt (LFGR) – Alès Cévennes (LFMS) – Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL)

We woke up at 4:30am and left at 5:10 for the aerodrome. While walking the sky was clear, but when the aircraft was ready mist was taking over. When we were about to align on the runway we could not see further than half of it, so we went back to the parking, switched off the engine and waited a few minutes.

A bit later, when the mist seemed to have cleared a little bit and we had good visibility of the whole runway we tried again to take off and this time we went to the air leaving the low level mist below us and we continued our flight on top to the South, immediately crossing to Germany.

We flew at 4,500ft until Nordholz and then climbed to FL065 to have better visibility of the cities ahead of us. Later, ahead of reaching the class C spaces around Düsseldorf and Cologne the ATC gave us clearance and asked us to climb to FL070 to stay in VMC conditions, as around Cologne the clouds became more numerous and were quite abundant by the time we overflew Luxembourg.

Once we had crossed to the French air space we looked for a hole among the clouds so we could get below by flying down in circles making a downward spiral, and so we did, until we were below the ceiling at just around 1,000ft above ground level. We then informed the ATC of Strasbourg that we diverted to Doncourt instead of flying to Verdun, in order to land sooner instead of flying longer at that low altitude.

We then called the BRIA of Bordeaux to close the flight plan, refueled the plane, ate a little and studied the weather in France, which didn’t seem very good around the Massif Central nor West of it. After some careful study we guessed that the safest approach would be to make a small detour and fly South towards Toulouse by Dijon, Lyon, Nîmes, Montpellier and Carcassonne, and so we did.

We only encountered some showers before reaching Dijon, but further South the weather was good and we only had to watch out for some glider activity at some points around Lyon. We made a refueling stop at Alès Cévennes before getting ready for the last flight of the excursion.

Flying to Toulouse through the corridor of Montpellier – Carcassonne is something I had done a few times, so we just focused on staying alert as the day was getting long and we were becoming tired.

We finally landed at Toulouse Lasbordes, where Dominique and Norbert (who had arrived two days earlier) were waiting for us. They brought a bottle of champagne which we drank by the airplane still on the tarmac. They then helped us getting the airplane in the hangar, we said good-bye, continued cleaning the plane, filled in the papers… and savored the moment of what we had just accomplished: flying VFR all the way to the North Cape and back.

Trip preparation and tips

  • We flew for over 46 hours, the other plane departing from Toulouse did 43 hours. On flying days the average flying time was almost 7 hours per day, with a maximum over 9 hours the last day. We completed 15 flights.
  • We were stranded 3 days without flying, the other airplanes only 1, but the F-BERB in a similar excursion years ago also lost some 3 days. We also had to delay our departure by 4-5 days due to heavy rain in the North of France, Belgium and South of Germany around the targeted departure date. Thus, it would be prudent to budget in your calendar at least 10 days for the trip.
  • The excursion was mainly about flying, preparing flights, refueling, studying the weather (at dinners, breakfasts and refueling pauses). We only had time to visit the places when we were stranded. Thus, it is trip for dedicated aviation enthusiasts.
  • We opened an account at the Norwegian Avinor site. It’s free of charge and it contains all the aerodrome charts, AIP, weather information and a tool to file flight plans. In that site you’ll be able to get a week pass to cover all the landing fees for about 94€ (in July 2021).
  • For the preparation of the flights and the navigation we relied on SkyDemon (I took 1 month subscription for 14€) from an iPad Mini (however I used an external GPS connected to the iPad, this proved tricky for the battery management in the flights over 4 hours). The good resolution of SkyDemon was very valuable to fly along the coast when visibility was low.
  • Special attention needs to be paid to where you can refuel. About half of the airports in Norway do not have Avgas 100LL. Most of the ones that do have Avgas do not accept cash or credit card payment, but are divided into those which accept the Air BP card (which we had) and the ones accepting the Shell card (which we didn’t have, those part of the AFSN network – there was an AIP from just a few months before informing about that). Therefore we were effectively restricted to about one fourth of the airports (that is an element when thinking about flight planning and potential diversions, whether they may occur at the end or beginning of a flight). The best would be to depart with both the BP and the Shell cards.
  • All of the airports we landed were of moderate size with long runways.
  • The Norwegian ATC was quite helpful all along the trip and accommodated to many of our requests. When flying low sometimes we did not appear in their radar and sometimes the radio reception was poor, but those instances did not last long.
  • There was not much VFR traffic in the North, most of the other aircraft in the frequency were commercial aircraft from mostly Widerøe, Norwegian and SAS.
  • We did not make any hotel reservation in advance, only when landing at each airport in the afternoon, as we were not sure of whether we would be able to make it to the intended destination (a couple of times we didn’t). Once landed we made the reservations via booking.com.
  • The overall budget (including the cost of the flight hours including fuel (the largest cost by far), landing fees, hotels, meals, etc) for our plane has been around 9,500€ (less than 5,000€ per person).

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Norwegian Aviation Museum

During our flight excursion to Norway we had to stop for a couple of days in Bodø and this gave us the opportunity to visit the Norwegian Aviation Museum (Norsk luftfartsmuseum) built on the site of the airport built by the Germans during World War II.

The museum is divided mainly in two sections, military and civil aviation, which are separated by a hall which leads to a control tower that enjoys a good view over the airport of the city. We spent over 2 hours visiting the museum (entry price was 175 NOK, around 17 euros) and found it quite interesting.

Control Tower

Military aviation

The exhibition is organized chronologically, starting with the use of balloons to gather intelligence over the enemy lines in battles, the first pioneers in aviation and military aviation in between the world wars, the aircraft acquired for the armed forces in Norway at the time, the first military aerodrome in Norway (Kjeller) which was also the site where military aircraft would be produced under license, exhibits about operations during the second world war (such as the first paradropping operation over Stavanger Sola), the training of the Norwegian armed forces in Canada in a camp called “Little Norway“, and then ending with more modern aircraft.

Some of the relevant aircraft they have in display are: Avro 504K DYAK (used during WWI), Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina (amphibian aircraft mainly used for reconnaissance patrol of German U-boats), De Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth (which was one of the aircraft licensed to be built at Kjeller between the wars and then was stationed at military bases in Kjeller, Værnes and Bardufoss), De Havilland DH 98 Mosquito (these were imported from Britain and several were lost during WWII missions mainly armed reconnaissance along the Norwegian coast and attacks on German U-boats), Supermarine Spitfire (the most important British fighter during WWII equipped as well two Norwegian squadrons which operated over 500 Spitfires between 1942 and 1945), etc.

Avro 504K
De Havilland DH 98 Mosquito
Supermarine Spitfire

Civil aviation

The civil aviation exhibition as well is organized chronologically, starting with the early pioneers who acquired some of the early models and studied aeronautical engineering in France, followed by the early development of aviation in Norway with emphasis on the role played by the former Norwegian Air Lines (DNL), Widerøe (regional airline connecting every corner of Norway and based in Bodø), Braathens and SAS.

The exhibition showcases as well some of the contributions of Norway to international aviation such as the development of navigational aids that enabled commercial traffic over polar regions (gyro compass, grid north and sky compass – read this interesting article on flying polar routes) thanks to the works of the navigator Einar Sverre Pedersen. The first polar route was operated by SAS in 1952 with a DC-6B, and then commercially from 1954 with Copenhagen to Los Angeles as the first route.

Another Norwegian breakthrough in commercial aviation consisted on Turi Widerøe (daughter of one of the founders of Widerøe airline) becoming the first female pilot in a major airline in the Western world in 1967, when she received her license; then she first operated seaplanes for Widerøe and later moved to SAS to fly Caravelles and DC-9s until her retirement in 1978.

Turi Widerøe
Junkers Ju-52

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Flight excursion to Biscarrosse, Dune du Pilat and Cap Ferret

This weekend, with my work colleague Thomas and other 7 airplanes of our Aviation Society, we made a day-long flight excursion to Biscarrosse (~60km South West of Bordeaux), in order to visit its Seaplane museum (Musée de l’Hydraviation).

We took the opportunity of the excursion to overfly other interesting landmarks such as the water slope of Montech, the pont-canal of Moissac, the Dune of Pilat and Cap Ferret by the bay of Arcachon.

I will be short in words in this post, thus I will first show here below some of the beautiful pictures of the flight (most taken by Thomas), and at the bottom I will include a few paragraphs with the technical information of the flight in case anyone is interested in planning a similar trip, and then I will briefly comment the museum.

Cap Ferret
Dune of Pilat
Dune of Pilat
Cap Ferret and Arcachon bay
Atlantic ocean
Lakes of Biscarrosse and Cazaux
Water slope at Montech
Aviation Society airplanes parked at Biscarrosse
Thomas and me

We made two flights. The first one from Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) to Biscarrosse Parentis (LFBS) lasted 2h05′ including the excursion to the seaside to overfly the Dune of Pilat and Cap Ferret, a detour of ~20′. The return trip took us 1h48′. Both trips could take somewhat less time if the routes were a bit more direct. We started both flights with the fuel tank full (in theory up to 109l of usable fuel) and after each flight we did refills of ~55 and 43 litres; that would mean a fuel consumption per trip of ~26.4l per hour and 23.9l per hour.

For the first flight we filed a flight plan (calling the BRIA of Bordeaux) even if not required in France (when not flying to the islands or abroad), but that eased the flying through different flight spaces, getting flight information service, traffic information, etc.

Flying around the Dune of Pilat and Arcachon bay was quite busy. We flew in the area at an altitude of ~2,500ft and below us, at around 1,000ft, we saw quite a few airplanes flying by, not all in the same radio frequency. Thus, in days of good weather that is something to watch out.

Biscarrosse-Parentis airport was also rather busy, with airplanes, ULMs, autogyros, helicopters and gliders… and seaplanes, some of them departing from the water but others from the paved runway, making use of small wheels installed in their floats. Luckily all the restricted airspace areas in the immediate surroundings of the airport were not active that day, otherwise it would have been trickier to approach the airport and be forced to fly at lower altitude.

The museum is at the other side of the village, not at walking distance. We were taken there by car by the director of the airport and his partner, thanks to their acquaintance with some of our society pilots; that helped a lot with the logistics, otherwise we would have taken taxis. There is a restaurant by the airport and another one by the museum, though we organized a picnic this time.

Musée de l’Hydraviation

At the beginning of the XX century Pierre-Georges Latécoère chose Biscarrosse to set up a seaplane assembly factory with parts coming from Toulouse. Latécoère seaplanes were among the largest French seaplanes produced (Latécoère 631) and from Biscarrosse Les Hourtiquets flying boat base departed air liners piloted by pioneers like Mermoz, Guillaumet or Saint-Exupery. Those were the days when Biscarrosse was destined to be one of the main hubs in aviation until the second world war came and aviation developed in a different path.

To celebrate those days we have this small museum and a bi-annual encounter of seaplanes that takes place in Biscarrosse.

The museum takes less than 1h30′ to visit and it is mainly composed of models of the seaplanes of the early days (including the first attempts by Fabre and Curtis), the development and growth of Latécoère’s business, Boeing Clippers, the luxury of seaplane travel in those days, the role of seaplanes in the war, the dream that led to the single flight of the Hugues H-4 Hercules Spruce Goose, and today’s use of seaplanes in firefighting operations.

Grumman HU-16 Albatross
Fabre Hydravion model
Fabre Hydravion real scale model from recent years
Capronissimo CA 60
Hugues H-4 Hercules

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Flight excursion to Camargue, Provence, Avignon and Millau

This weekend, with Luca and our children, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 to make a flight excursion from Toulouse (France) to Avignon, in Provence.

The main purpose of the trip was to fly over the flourishing lavender fields in Provence. Other highlights of the flight would be flying over the French Côte dAméthyste, flying over the Camargue region with the wetlands of the Rhône delta, watching the Mont-Ventoux from up close, seeing the Pont d’Avignon (from the plane this time, no dancing), flying over the Hérault Gorges, the Viaduct of Millau, the Viaduct of the Viaur and we attempted as well to see the Pont du Garde, but we missed it (next time!).

I will be short in words in this post, thus I will first show here below all the beautiful pictures of the flight in chronological order and at the very bottom I will include a few paragraphs with the technical information of the flight in case anyone is interested in planning a similar trip.

Family picture before departing from Toulouse Lasbordes
Le Grau du Roi, Port Camargue. Montpellier.
La Camargue.
Saintes Maries de la Mer.
Mont Ventoux.
Mont Ventoux.
Final at runway 35 of Avignon.
Before the return flight.
Avignon. Pont d’Avignon.
Viaduc de Millau.
Viaduc du Viaur.
Sleeping…
Chuck Yeager and Georges Guynemer started as airplane mechanics…
Routes followed.

We made two flights. The first one from Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) to Avignon Caumont (LFMV) lasted 2h25′ including the excursion to the regional park of Luberon to see the lavender fields (a detour of about 30′). The return trip took us 1h59′. Both trips could take somewhat less time if the routes were a bit more direct. We started both flights with the main and supplementary tanks full (in theory up to 110 + 50 litres, thus 160l) and before the second flight we did a refill of nearly 77 litres; that would be the block fuel for the first trip (thus 31.7l per hour just a bit below the 33 indicated in the manual at maximum take off weight (1,000kg for the DR-44)).

For both flights I filed a flight plan (calling the BRIA of Bordeaux) even if not required in France (when not flying to the islands or abroad), but that eases a lot the flying through many different CTRs, class D flight spaces, getting flight information service, traffic information, etc.

In these times of low commercial traffic we requested to overfly the coast at a rather high altitude (3,500ft instead of the mandatory maximum of 1,000ft from Montpellier to Marseille in normal times) which was granted without hesitation by the traffic controllers. That alleviated a bit the buffeting of the plane on the often windy French Mediterranean coast.

Avignon Caumont airport turned out to be a rather windy one being in the Rhone Delta. Most airports in the whereabouts had windy forecasts. We landed with winds announced by the controller of 15-20kt and on the departure the day after we had 22-32kt, though more or less aligned with the runway, 35 both times. The runway is however long (1,880m) and wide (45m). Had we had to abort the landing we had planned alternative diversion airports nearby, but most probably we would have gone away from the Delta region, all the way to Millau (thus the filling up the tank with more than double the amount of fuel we needed). The landing fees and 24-hour parking altogether cost 29.6 euros. The fuel station operated with the Carte Total.

We stayed over at the Best Western hotel by the airport at Avignon, at walking distance from the terminal (the reservation could be cancelled without charge up to 14:00 of the day we arrived, thus 2 hours later than our estimated landing time, in case we had to divert to somewhere else). We booked a family room with four beds and sofa bed with breakfast for 135 euros which could be paid in cheques vacances. The hotel has a swimming pool which was needed for the kids to relax in the afternoon. At walking distance there was as well a Courtepaille restaurant.

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Aeropuerto de Zaragoza: 2º del país en transporte de mercancías, por delante de Barcelona

El año pasado escribí un artículo en el blog donde hablaba del extraordinario crecimiento del aeropuerto de Zaragoza en transporte de carga desde 2003 (fecha coincidente con la apertura del centro logístico de Inditex).

AENA ha sacado hoy una nota de prensa con los primeros resultados consolidados de 2019 y para los principales aeropuertos españoles. Pues bien, ha ocurrido lo que se preveía: desde 2019 Zaragoza se ha convertido en el segundo aeropuerto de España en transporte de mercancía, por delante del aeropuerto de Barcelona y por detrás de Madrid-Barajas.

“Los cuatro aeropuertos que registraron mayor tráfico de mercancías fueron Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas, con 558.566 toneladas (+7,4%); Zaragoza, con 182.659 toneladas (+9,5); Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat, con 177.271 toneladas (2,5%) […]”

Esos cuatro aeropuertos representan el 92% del volumen nacional de carga. Madrid y Zaragoza crecieron por encima de la media nacional (5,6%) respecto a las cifras de 2018, Barcelona lo hizo por debajo (2,5%) lo que, junto con el crecimiento de Zaragoza, explica el que haya caído al tercer puesto.

Dejo debajo la misma gráfica que realicé el año pasado actualizada con los datos de 2019. En dicha gráfica no se muestran las cifras de Madrid-Barajas porque al ser el volumen el triple que el de Zaragoza, si se incluyese no se apreciaría bien el crecimiento de este último.

AENA_Zaragoza_2003-2019

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Aviation safety evolution (2019 update)

Yesterday, the Aviation Safety Network released the 2019 airliner accident statistics showing a total of 20 fatal airliner accidents, resulting in 283 fatalities.

Aviation Safety Network is a private initiative from the Flight Safety Foundation which curates an extensive database with aviation incidents, hijackings and accidents, from 1946 to nowadays.

The tweet with which they made the announcement is below:

Which includes the graphic below.

ASN_infographic_2019

If we take a quick look at the figures (which report commercial aviation flights (passenger and cargo)):

  • Number of accidents: 20, up from 15 in 2020, though still the 7th safest year in history (in number of accidents).
  • Fatalities: 283, down from 556 in 2018, the 3rd safest year in history (in number of fatalities).
  • There were 5 accidents with over 10 fatalities (details here).

The graphic above from the Aviation Safety Network provides the view of the evolution of accidents. However, in their database they provide some more figures with which I produced the graphics below.

Evolution of accidents per million flights

The database provides figures of the evolution of the number of world air departures since 1970, together with the evolution of accidents (above). The database includes a ratio: fatal accidents per million flights, which I have plotted below together with the evolution of flight departures. You can see that the ratio has decreased 12 fold since 1970, from 6.35 to 0.51 last year.

2019_safety_accidents_per_flights

 

Global air traffic vs fatalities

The database provides no ratio with the figures of fatalities, but they can be related to the amount of passengers carried. In aviation there is the concept of revenue passenger kilometre (RPK) transported, which is compiled year by year and can be found in publications from ICAOIATA or aircraft manufacturers. I have plotted below both the evolution of traffic growth and fatalities since 1970, together with a 5-year moving average for the fatalities.

2019_safety_RPK_vs_fatalities

Within the evolution of traffic there are two variables that have grown over the years: the number of passengers carried per flight departure and the distance covered. Therefore, together with the decrease in the evolution of fatalities (taking the 5 year average) I have plotted below the evolution of the ratio of fatalities per trillion RPK. You can see that the ratio has decreased 81 fold since 1970, from 3,218 to 40 last year (5-year average).

2019_safety_fatalities_per_RPK

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A380 transport convoy (Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit)

One of the most recognizable features of the Airbus industrial system, with factories in different countries, mainly in Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and France, where the main components and the aircraft are assembled, is the transportation of those components by the iconic A300-600ST Beluga aircraft.

Arriving TLS

Image credit to Brian Bukowski.

However, as most of the A380 components are too big to be carried onboard of the Beluga, a special transportation system was required to be put in place. It included transportation of the bigger components from the plants in Hamburg, Broughton, Saint-Nazaire and Cadiz by ship to the port of Paulliac, close to Bordeaux. From there, they travel by barge up the river Garonne to Langon. Then they are mounted on special purpose trucks to travel the road from Langon to the final assembly plant near Toulouse.

110776E_Flugzeugbautransport

Ever since I came to work to Toulouse nine years ago, I had wanted to go and see one night the A380 transport convoy on the road. I kept postponing it, until last month. Airbus announced in early 2019 that the A380 programme would come to a close with the last aircraft to be delivered somewhere in 2021. Therefore, not many such transports were left to be seen.

Fortunately there is a public website with all the information required to prepare the visit: Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit. It includes: maps of the route that is followed, a yearly calendar with the days in which the transport will take place, a detailed schedule with the time slot in which the transport will pass by the different villages along the route and support documentation.

IGG

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Detailed_calendar

With that information I set out to see the convoy last December on the night between the 18th and 19th. Firstly, I went to see the convoy at their stop at L’Isle Jourdan.

IMG_20191219_005940070

I then followed part of the route with the convoy, seeing how the team removed sign posts along the way and marked some points as reference for the truck drivers.

Route_google

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Then I drove to Lévignac, a village where the pass is rather tight and slow. At Lévignac I found a group of about a dozen enthusiasts dressed in yellow vests who come to see every single convoy since years ago out of pure pleasure of watching such a magnificent sight.

IMG_20191219_025342972

The convoy arrives at Lévignac at 2:23am and normally takes 12 minutes to pass by (see the detailed schedule above), but this time there were many cars parked in the streets which needed to be displaced: either by the tow truck or pushed by hand. Careful measurements were taken by the operators to ensure the convoy would pass.

IMG_20191219_024438095IMG_20191219_030121615IMG_20191219_030507962

With all the checks properly done and cars removed, we enjoyed the slow pass of the 6 trucks:

IMG_20191219_025911751IMG_20191219_025955330IMG_20191219_031452106_BURST000_COVER_TOPIMG_20191219_032105262_BURST000_COVER_TOPIMG_20191219_032242685_BURST000_COVER_TOPIMG_20191219_032822374IMG_20191219_033027266

I got to see the convoy of MSN (manufacturer serial number) 270, an Emirates aircraft. There will be just two more aircraft to be built after that one, MSNs 271 and 272, with their respective convoys, which dates remain to be announced in the above-mentioned website at the time of writing this post. If you have the chance, do not miss it!

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Aeropuerto de Zaragoza y el transporte de mercancía, 2003 – 2018

Hace unos días leí una noticia del diario Expansión titulada Así es el desconocido negocio de la carga aérea en España. La noticia describe los principales aeropuertos de la red de AENA en términos de transporte de mercancía, encabezados por Madrid, seguido de Barcelona, Zaragoza y Vitoria.

El artículo ofrece algunos gráficos, comparando el volumen de la carga transportada desde esos aeropuertos, el crecimiento del volumen total transportado en la red de aeropuertos (+54% entre 2004 y 2018) o una comparación con los grandes aeropuertos europeos en términos de transporte de mercancía.

También se ofrece la pista del porqué el aeropuerto de Zaragoza es un hub de carga, y es debido a que, entre otras empresas, Zara tiene allí su centro logístico, desde el cual se transportan el 40% de las prendas por vía aérea.

En esta entrada quería compartir la gráfica de debajo que he realizado a partir de los datos publicados por AENA durante los últimos 15 años. En ella se muestra la evolución del volumen de carga en los principales aeropuertos de España (excluyendo Madrid), y entre ellos destaca el crecimiento de Zaragoza.

aena_zaragoza_2003-2018

Algunos comentarios:

  • El centro logístico de Inditex se abre en 2003.
  • En ese año 2003, Zaragoza termina como noveno aeropuerto de España en transporte de mercancía.
  • Seis años más tarde, en 2009, ya es el tercer aeropuerto, solo por detrás de Madrid y Barcelona.
  • En 2009 el volumen transportado en Zaragoza supone un 41% del volumen transportado desde Barcelona. Nueve años más tarde, en 2018, ese porcentaje pasa a ser el 96%, a pesar del fuerte crecimiento de Barcelona en los últimos 5 años.
  • Si el ritmo de crecimiento de 2018 de ambos aeropuertos se mantiene en 2019, este año Zaragoza pasará a ser el segundo aeropuerto de la red.
  • Un último dato: la tasa de crecimiento anual (TCAC o también CAGRCompound annual growth rate, en inglés) del aeropuerto de Zaragoza en estos 15 años ha sido del 22.2%. Los siguientes aeropuertos con mayor crecimiento en ese tiempo han sido Sevilla (7.7%), Barcelona (6.5%) y Madrid (3.6%).

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Boeing 737 vs Airbus A320 family deliveries, 1967 – 2018

In the previous post I shared a graphic with the Boeing 737 deliveries per year per model since 1967 till 2018. In this post, I want to share a few graphics comparing the evolution of deliveries of the Boeing 737 family with the Airbus A320 family of aircraft.

737_vs_a320_family_deliveries_per_model_1967-2018

In the graphic you can see the tremendous growth in the past years. From the valley in 1995 (with 145 combined deliveries) till 2018 (with 1,206 combined deliveries) there has been a remarkable compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6%. The greatest sellers: the 737-800 with 4,959 aircraft delivered through end of 2018 and the A320 with 4,700.

The first time that the combined deliveries surpassed the 200 airplanes was in 1989 (204 aircraft). In 1998, the combined figure surpassed the 400 (450 aircraft). In 2012 they reached more than 800 (870). In 2016, more than 1,000 combined deliveries (1,035), reaching 1,206 in 2018.

737_vs_a320_family_deliveries_1967-2018

The A320 family surpassed the 737 family in yearly deliveries for the first time in the year 2002, when 236 aircraft of the family were delivered (85 A319, 116 A320 and 35 A321) compared to 223 737s. Since then Airbus has taken the lead in the relative market share between both families, with the exception of 2015 (49.8% – 50.2% for Boeing; with 4 aircraft making the difference – 491 vs 495).

737_vs_a320_family_relative_share_1988-2018

The 737 was introduced in 1967, the A320 in 1988, 21 years later. The 737 led the market for another 14 years, increasing the gap in aircraft deliveries. Since then Airbus has been narrowing it: at the end of 2018 the gap was of 1,839 aircraft with 10,444 cumulative 737s delivered compared to 8,605 A320s.

737_vs_a320_family_cumulative_deliveries_1967-2018

 

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737 deliveries per year, 1967-2018

Two weeks ago, both Airbus and Boeing have released the figures of aircraft deliveries for the complete 2018: 800 and 806 airplanes, respectively, in what is a new industry record. This is just a quick post to share the graphic below with the evolution of 737 family deliveries per model since 1967 (year of its introduction) till 2018.

737 deliveries per year, 1967-2018

Through December 2018, up to 10,444 Boeing 737s have been delivered, making it the most successful commercial jet aircraft throughout history. In the graphic you can see the different generations: -100/-200 till the mid-80s, the -300/-400/-500 till the end of the 90s, the Next Gen in the 2000s and 2010s, until the introduction of the MAX a couple of years ago. With the steep ramp up in the recent years, it reached 580 deliveries in 2018.

However, it is worth noting that since 2002 Airbus A320 have delivered more aircraft in every single year with the exception of 2015. The 626 A320 deliveries in 2018 have meant a new industry record for commercial jet aircraft.

infographic-airbus-commercial-aircraft-orders-and-deliveries-2018

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