Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Big Bell Helicopter Transits Mackay Airport Tuesday

Bell 214B-1 Big Lifter Helicopter P2-MLJ has transited Central Queensland Airports this week. It was noted departing Cairns Airport for Mackay Airport and points South on Tuesday 28 February. This big Bell helicopter is well known in Australia as ex-N214JL of McDermott Aviation.

Bechtel Corporation Dassault Falcon 900EX BizJet at Gladstone Airport Tuesday - UPDATED WITH PICTURES!!

Bechtel Corporation (an engineering and construction company) Dassault Falcon 900EX, N960SF, reportedly departed Gladstone Airport on Tuesday 28 February for Brisbane.

Thanks to Shane T who was on the spot and sent through the lovely picture of the Falcon parked on the Gladstone Airport apron!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CQ Plane Spotting Blog STORE!!

To celebrate our 100000th page view, I've been working on developing a range of merchandise featuring the recently developed CQ Plane Spotting Blog logo.

Shirts, caps, bags, IPhone and IPad cases, and more is available for purchase through our store - hosted by CafePress - HERE.

Central Queensland Plane Spotting Blog Hits 100000 Page Views!! Thanks For Your Support!!

It wasn't long ago that I was thanking our followers and supporters on hitting 50000 page views, but today - Tuesday 28 February - the Central Queensland Plane Spotting hit a whopping 100000 page views!!

I can't believe that something that I started nearly two years ago has grown so much, and is accessed by (mostly) aviation enthusiasts from all over the world!!

I sincerely thank everyone for your continued support of the Blog - especially our followers here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Here's to another 100000 page views!!

Damian F

Strong Wind and Rain Cause Flight Delays and Damage Across Central Queensland Airports

The hangar doors of Emerald Airport-based charter company Advance Aviation were ripped from their hinges last week during one of many storms that have hit Emerald an other parts of Central Queensland over the last week.

Fortunately, the hangar was unusually empty at the time, with most of the fleet parked well away from the doors (as shown above in a picture from earlier in the year). It is believed severe wind created a vacuum in the hangar, ripping the doors outwards.

Heavy wind and rain have also played havoc with flights to and from Mackay and Proserpine / Whitsunday Coast Airports this week. On Sunday 26 February, a Jetstar flight from Brisbane couldn't land at Mackay Airport, forcing the cancellation of the outbound Mackay flight and causing massive travel disruptions for passengers. While on Monday 27 February, CQ Plane Spotting Blog contributor Adam P was caught up in the disruptions, with his Virgin Australia flight to Proserpine / Whitsunday Coast Airport cancelled in the morning due to the adverse weather conditions in the Whitsundays.

Lastly, a QantasLink flight from Emerald to Brisbane last Monday 20 February was re-directed from Emerald to Rockhampton after the captain became ill. The flight evenutally made it to Brisbane after about a 2-hour delay.

Monday, February 27, 2012

QantasLink Boeing B717-200 to Rockhampton Airport This Week for Training

With thanks to local spotters comes information that a QantasLink Boeing B717-200 jet will fly into Rockhampton Airport this Thursday and Friday to commence staff training ahead of the start of scheduled services to both Gladstone and Rockhampton Airports on Thursday 15 March. Current schedules show the first B717-200 operated Brisbane-Gladstone-Brisbane and Brisbane-Rockhampton-Brisbane flights will operate on Thursday and Friday.

From Monday 19 March, there will be 7x B717-200 flights between Brisbane and Gladstone from Monday to Friday, but only 3x Brisbane-Rockhampton-Brisbane flights, with an additional service starting Wednesday 21 March.

From Monday 26 March, Brisbane-Gladstone-Brisbane services increase to 10 flights per week, additional flights on Thursday, Friday, and on a Sunday. One additional flight commences on Saturday between Brisbane and Rockhampton, taking the total number of flights to the beef capital to 4 per week.

It is unclear whether Gladstone Airport will see any training flights, although given that B717-200 services are also starting to Gladstone, I would say that spotters should keep and eagle eye and ear out!!

Remember that B717 flights between Brisbane and Mackay on Monday 26 March with 5 flights per week each weekday.

Cessna 750 Citation X BizJet at Rockhampton Airport Again!

Clive Palmer's Cessna 750 Citation X bizjet VP-CFP popped into Rockhampton Airport on Saturday 25 February.

Thanks to the Rockhampton spotters who sent through photos of sleek looking machine!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday's Spotting at Rockhampton Airport

Seemingly one of the two plain white Fokker F-100 aircraft that Virgin Australia has started flying recently has become unavailable and so Alliance Airlines has placed some of thier other F-100s onto the Virgin Australia routes. As Posted earlier this week, VH-XWQ was noted operating into Proserpine, and pictured below, VH-XWP was operating for Virgin Australia on Thursday 23 February through Rockhampton.

As shown, the F-100 has full Alliance Airlines livery.

Also noted at Rockhampton Airport on Thursday was Virgin Australia Embraer E-190 VH-ZPM, which is still looking resplendent in its Pacific Blue colour scheme.

Also noted was Virgin Australia - Skywest Airlines operated - ATR 72-500 VH-FVL, which is pictured departing on a scheduled Virgin service to Brisbane. There appears to be a new daily ATR flight that Virgin operates on weekdays - VOZ1239/1240 - which departs Rockhampton around lunch time.

On the General Aviation side of the Airport, a nice pair of helicopters were noted with Marine Safety Queensland Eurocopter EC135 VH-ZGI pictured below.

While Aerospatiale AS.350BA Squirrel VH-XLM is pictured arriving into Rockhampton, where it is reportedly being based while the crew carry out inspections on nearby high tension power lines. The chopper is operated by V2 Helicopters in Brisbane.

Thanks to the Rocky Spotter for the information and pictures!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tuesday Night Storms in Central Queensland and First-Time Airport Visitors on Wednesday

Storms have hit several Central Queensland towns late on Tuesday 21 February causing flights to be diverted or even cancelled. Disruptions occured at Emerald Airport and at Rockhampton Airport, where at least three inbound flights were either diverted or forced to return to Brisbane.

Virgin Australia (Alliance Airlines) Fokker F-100 VH-XWN was one example, departing Brisbane at about 7pm as VOZ1251, before being noted returning into Brisbane around 9pm without landing at Rockhampton. It then departed Brisbane again at around 10pm and was able to get into Rockhampton, with VH-XWN noted returning into Brisbane after midnight as VOZ1252.

Meanwhile, earlier on Tuesday, Alliance Airlines Fokker F-100 VH-XWQ was noted operating into Proserpine / Whitsunday Coast Airport on behalf of Virgin Australia as VOZ1113. This aircraft is still believed to be in Alliance colours, and is believed to be a substitute aircraft for Fokker F-100 VH-XWM which Virgin has been operating, and seemingly had suffered a technical problem.

Also on Tuesday, a recent arrival in the Virgin Australia fleet in the form of B737-800 VH-YIE made its second visit to Rockhampton Airport, while Alliance Airlines Fokker F-70 VH-QQX was operating to Rockhampton from Brisbane on behalf of QantasLink. Finally, Alliance Airlines Fokker F-100 VH-XWP - the newest Fokker in the Alliance Airlines fleet - was noted operating into Mackay on behalf of QantasLink.

Lastly, on Wednesday 22 February, both Rockhampton and Mackay Airports had first-time visits from a nice new pair of Virgin Australia Boeing B737-800s in the form of VH-YFK and VH-YIF. VH-YIF was operating sectors usually operated by a Fokker F-100 and was thus photographed in Cairns (photo on the Far North Queensland Skies Blog HERE).

Proserpine / Whitsunday Coast Airport Honours Aviation Pioneer While Paid Parking Starts

Sir Reginald Ansett's contribution to aviation in the Whitsundays has been recognised with the installation of a new street sign at Sir Reginald Ansett Drive - the access road to the Proserpine / Whitsunday Coast Airport.

In 1957, Sir Reginald Ansett funded new terminal facilities and an upgraded runway, and in 1976 he offered to finance the airport's redevelopment to jet standards and helped build a helipad in Airlie Beach.

Whitsunday mayor Mike Brunker said his council had replaced the street sign, which had gone missing, and the airport was planning its history with a wall of memorabilia in its new terminal.

Meanwhile, paid parking at the Proserpine / Whitsunday Coast Airport has recently commenced. This comes on top of recent upgrades to the airport. The Whitsunday Council has said that the fees had been introduced based on similar sized airports on the east coast of Australia, and that any revenue from paid parking will be put back into the Whitsunday Coast Airport to fund infrastructure upgrades and ongoing maintenance.

Schedule of fees
First ½ hr - free
31 min - 1 hr $2.00
1 - 2 hrs $4.00
2 - 3 hrs $6.00
3 - 4 hrs $8.00
5 hrs $9.00
6 hrs $10.00
7 - 24 hours $15.00
2 - 30 days $13.00 per day

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monday Afternoon Spottings from Emerald Airport - A Sexy REX(Y)!!

I popped into Emerald Airport on Monday 20 February and it turned out to be a nice afternoon's spotting...

Firstly, AeroCommander 690-A Turbo Commander VH-ATF was parked. This aircraft is operated by a mining equipment company based on the Sunshine Coast.

An interesting little amateur-built Cavalier SA 102.5 registered VH-SLZ arrived and parked for the night.

Advance Avaition PA-32s VH-MSR and VH-LPW arrived bringing freight from surrounding towns that later was carried out to Brisbane on the Toll Express Metro VH-UUO. They are pictured on the Advance Aviation 'apron' after being parked for the night.

Later, Barrier Aviation Cessna 402C VH-THX was noted passing through on the way to Innisfail. I have noted this aircraft operating this charter in previous weeks, and looks to be becoming a regular fly-in fly-out (FIFO) charter.

Also operating a FIFO charter was Regional Express (REX) SAAB 340B VH-ZXS which operated as 'ZL9572' from Brisbane. The brightly coloured SAAB arrived just as the sun set and certainly made a lovely sight. The SAAB is still carrying the basic colours of its previous operator Happy Air in Thailand, where it operated for some time as HS-HPE.

Lastly, on the commercial front, Virgin Australia (Skywest Airlines operated) ATR 72-500 VH-FVI arrived from and departed back to Brisbane.

And QantasLink Dash-8-Q400 VH-QOX made a spectacular landing shortly after sunset.

A great afternoon!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Extreme Fly-In Fly-Out (FIFO) Plan Announced for Central Queensland

Last week, it was announced that Indian-owned Adani Mining Pty Ltd would consider flying off-shore workers directly to its 2011 acquired Moray Downs property in the Galilee Basin, west of Clermont, where it also proposed to build a new 2500-person mining town.

Several large-scale mining companies were in confidential talks with the Federal Government about replacing 457 visas with Enterprise Migration Agreements, which would allow the fly-in fly-out (FIFO) transportation of overseas labour to tackle massive job shortages in the resources sector.

The prospect of any coal miner flying 'jumbo' jets full of overseas workers directly into a proposed Galilee Basin mine site has sent shockwaves through the region. However, Adani has maintained it has always aimed to exhaust all available work sources in Australia before turning overseas.

I have seen some speculation that the proposed Alpha Airport redevelopment could produce a runway big enough to handle a Boeing B747!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mackay Airport Wants Tiger Airways Back in Town!

The Mackay Daily Mercury newspaper recently published two articles speculating on the return of Tiger Airways to Mackay, given the announcement of Tiger reinstating services to Cairns.

Tiger Airways shut down their Mackay-Melbourne route in August last year, and it was by all accounts a popular choice for local residents who wanted direct flights to and from Melbourne.

According to the Daily Mercury, at present, a one-way flight to Melbourne from Mackay would cost $454 with Virgin Australia, $638 (carry-on baggage only) with Jetstar, and $719 with Qantas/QantasLink. When Tiger Airways operated, their one-way fare was as low as $79.95.

Mackay Airport and Tourism Mackay has indicated that they are more than interested in Tiger’s return to Mackay, however, a Tiger Airways spokesperson said there were no plans at this stage for a return to Mackay.

Friday, February 17, 2012

More Dramas for QantasLink Dash-8s with Forced Landing at Biloela (Thangool) Airport and Storms at Rockhampton Airport Forcing Diversions

After our Blog Post (HERE) about QantasLink Dash-8-200 VH-SDE being forced to land in Moranbah last week, comes news that antoher QantasLink Dash-8 made an emergency landing at Thangool Airport last week after a fire started in the cockpit. The incident occurred after reports of smoke coming from the cockpit of the plane. The pilots extinguished the fire and evacuated all 26 people from the plane, with no one suffering injuries. Fire crews from Biloela and Thangool went there, however the fire authorities were unsure how the fire started.

Meanwhile, Don W has sent me a story from the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin where passengers have reportedly applauded the skills of a QantasLink pilot for touching down safely in Gladstone late on Tuesday 7 February, following two aborted landings at Rockhampton Airport during a violent thunderstorm.

Most of passengers clapped and thanked the pilot after she had been forced to pull out of two attempted landings at Rockhampton Airport amid heavy rain and lightning about 9pm. More than 40mm of rain was dumped on Rockhampton in less than an hour. The pilot had tried to land the Dash-8-Q400 from both north and south approaches into the airport.

The plane had been due in Rockhampton at 8.25pm but eventually arrived there almost three hours late after refuelling at Gladstone where the crew also decided to ride out the storm as it moved south. It is believed that other flights were diverted to Thangool and Brisbane during the storm. Some Rockhampton passengers were then forced to wait more than 30 minutes in a taxi queue at the airport for a ride home due to the late arrival.

Air Australia / Strategic Aviation Ceases Operations

Air Australia, previously known as Strategic Aviation, went into voluntary administration in the early hours of Friday 17 February and subsequentially ceased operations. The airline had only a few days ago denied that it was entering into administration and was still taking bookings the day before the announcement was made. Thousands of passengers are affected by the shutdown, with many stranded overseas.

KordaMentha has been appointed as administrators, and are best known for handling the administration of Ansett Airlines when it shut down. KordaMentha has stated on the Air Australia website that "It currently appears that there are no funds available to meet operational expenses so flights will be suspended immediately. For clarity, it also appears highly unlikely there will be any flights in the short to medium term. The Administrators will decide on the strategy for the group during the following days and weeks."

Air Australia's troubles had possibly began much earlier. In 2010, when the airline was named Strategic Aviation, it lost a $30million contract with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to transport troops to the Middle East. It then restructured as a full-service carrier operating scheduled flights with an Airbus A330, as well as operating Airbus A320 aircraft around Australia, including for a brief time, services between Gladstone and Brisbane. Sadly though, Strategic cancelled these services as it reportedly found the competition from QantasLink too great.

In early 2011, one of the two key shareholders pulled out, and by November 2011, Strategic Aviation restructured again as a lower-cost airline under the new brand name of Air Australia. CASA reportedly expressed concerns as to whether the airline could meet its safety requirements, and in December 2011, insolvency insurance coverage for Air Australia was withdrawn. Air Australia also claimed that it would make a profit in 2011/12, but said it was looking for "cornerstone" investors. It was rumoured that the airline had debts of $30 million, and that creditors had begun closing in. Earlier in the week, reports began circulating that administrators KordaMentha were being consulted.

Australian Army CH-47D Chinook Helicopter Passes Through Rockhampton Airport

Spotters and locals couldn't mistake the thunderous sound of an Australian Army Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopter passing through Rockhampton Airport on Thursday 16 February.

The big transport helicopter - serial A15-104 - which is believed to be operated by 5 Avn Regt based at Townsville - seems to be returning from Victoria, where it, along with another Chinook, have been spotted participating in a small military exercise.

We thank Ben O who gave up his afternoon nap to get some shots as it departed North-bound.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Toll Freight Aviation Metro VH-UZA Belly Lands at Brisbane Airport Wednesday

Toll Freight Aviation Metro III VH-UZA has made a wheels-up landing at Brisbane Airport in the early hours of Wednesday 15 February. The two pilots on board were uninjured and the plane has been removed and hangared where investigations into the incident have commenced. VH-UZA is pictured below at Rockhampton last year.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Things Looking up for Blackwater Airport?

While on the road over the weekend, I came across some news that the quest to reopen the Blackwater airport has received a political boost after local stakeholders met with state and federal politicians recently.

The airport has been an ongoing concern for Blackwater, and recently, there has been some pleasing developments on the issue.

The desired outcome is the restoration of commercial flights back into Blackwater. There is no doubt as to the viability of the facility and there are a number of companies working in Blackwater that would welcome the airport's reopening as they currently rely on Emerald Airport (around 80kms away) to get contractors into town.

Skytrans Airlines has previously announced that it would provide a service to Blackwater if an airport was available.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monday Spottings at Emerald Airport

Even though it was a quiet time at Emerald Airport when I called through on Monday 13 February, there was still a few interesting aircraft to photograph.

On the freight and visitor parking apron, I spotted...

Toll Express Freight Metro III VH-UUO, which was to depart later in the evening.

Also present was Bond Air Charters Cessna 525A Citation CJ2 VH-MOR.

While Forbes Aviation Beech B200 King Air was parked nearby.

Also on Monday some of the usual fly-in fly-out (FIFO) movements included Alliance Airlines' Fokker F-70 VH-QQX and Fokker F-100 VH-XWQ operating from and back to Brisbane, with VH-XWQ making a stop enroute to Emerald at Hervey Bay, while Regional Express (REX) SAAB 340 VH-EKD also arrived in Emerald from Brisbane.