Sunday, January 30, 2011

Recent Clermont Aerodrome Action

There has been some interesting aircraft over the last couple of weeks that have graced the skies at Clermont.

Pictured above at Clermont Aerodrome on Friday 14 January, was Skytrans Airlines newest Dash-8-100, VH-QQL, preparing to fly one of the morning's FIFO Mining Charter flights to Brisbane. This was the first time I have noted this aircraft in Clermont - although I believe it has visited previously last year.

On Monday 17 January, RACQ-CQ Rescue Bell 412, VH-BZH, flew into Clermont Hospital from Mackay. It was on the ground for about 5 minutes before being pictured below lifting off from the pad at the Hospital and departing back towards Mackay.

Finally, below are a couple of pictures of the scene at Clermont Aerodrome on Tuesday 25 January, showing Advance Aviation's Piper PA-31 VH-BCQ, which hasn't yet been repainted in this new company's colours, as well as Skytrans Airlines Dash-8-100's VH-QQF and VH-QQJ, all preparing for their FIFO Mining Charter flights to Mackay and Brisbane. Taking a photos like these is quite easy as you can see that you can drive right up to the fenceline at Clermont Aerodrome and see every plane on the airport ramp.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Emerald Airport Terminal Redevelopment Complete

Visiting Emerald Airport on Wednesday 26 January, it was a pleasure to see that the $7.7 million refurbishment and extension of the terminal area is now complete and fully operational.

During this last phase of the refurbishment, a new, and much bigger arrivals area has been built in the old all-purpose terminal. The arrivals area now boasts a new baggage collection carousel, as can be seen in the pictures below.

The airport kiosk and car-hire desks have been retained in the arrivals area and thse have also had a face-lift. A new, but smaller, sit-down eating area has also opened, but this little area has large windows with a great view over the two Airport Gates, and further to the Runway. Pictured below are the area itself with the morning's QantasLink Dash-8-Q400, VH-QOF, preparing to depart for Brisbane.

From the earlier stages of the Airport redevelopment, the check-in area and the departure lounge, continue to function well and remain unchanged. Plans are still in place for security screening to added at the entrance of the departure lounge in the future.

Overall though, the views out of the new terminal - especially of the smaller GA aircraft on the visitors ramp and outside Advance Aviation (formerly Central Airlines) - have actually become a little more difficult, as the big observation area from the previous terminal has now become a restricted access area with the public discouraged from walking through it.

The outdoor areas, however remain available, and spotters are encouraged to watch planes from these vantage points - Spotting information HERE.

Visitors will note too that a new flight information system has been created, with large television screens throughout the airport displaying up-to-date flight information. This information has also recently gone online and is available on the Airport's website - link HERE.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Emerald Airport Spottings

Emerald Airport has played host to some interesting visitors over the last couple of weeks.

During the recent flood crisis in the town of Emerald, the Airport was largely unaffected and continued to be operational. It provided a staging point for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) support, with various ADF and other fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters noted flying around. Pictured below are a pair of Australian Army Sikorsky S-70A Blackhawks on the ground at Emerald Airport recently.

As mentioned in a previous post, Alliance Airlines has been operating FIFO mining charter flights with Fokker F-100 aircraft. These usually operate from and back to Brisbane, however on Tuesday 25 January, it was noted that the aircraft flew from Cairns to Emerald to Brisbane to Townsville.

There appears to be no set schedule for these flights however, with aircraft noted either departing Brisbane or in the air to Emerald on various days each week.

Pictured below at the Airport on Wednesday 26 January is Pel-Air (Regional Express - REX) SAAB 340A VH-EKD. This aircraft (or occassionally a Metro) arrives from and returns to Brisbane each Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning on a FIFO mining charter.

Also noted on Australia Day was QantasLink Dash-8-Q400 VH-QOF departing on Runway 06 for Brisbane as QF2403.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

CQ Rescue Crew Deployed to Brisbane to Assist Flood Victims

RACQ Central Queensland Rescue (CQ Rescue) service crews have been deployed to Brisbane recently to help victims deal with the flood crisis.

Three crew members, including a pilot, air crewman and rescue crewman, flew out of Mackay last week to relieve another team that has been operating in the area.

The CQ Rescue crews have been working closely with Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) at the Archerfield Airport.

The CQ Rescue helicopter – Bell 412 VH-NSV – has done at least 10 medical taskings during its time of deployment.

The crews have been initially involved in retrieving people in isolated communities that were cut off by the flooding. However now that the clean-up and recovery phases were under way, the rescue teams have been helping to bring vital supplies in and out of affected areas.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More Changes at Mackay Airport

More changes are underway as Mackay Airport prepares to move into a new phase of construction.

From Thursday 20 January, food and beverage services were moved temporarily to allow work to begin on the retail section of the $3 million terminal redevelopment.

Hungry travellers can now grab a bite to eat from the Lansard Grab and Go facility after the airport’s main food outlet Flavours closed the previous night. However, Flavours would operate out of the Grab and Go facility temporarily until the new cafe Delimarche was up and running.

Mamma Leone’s Pizza and a new bar would also open at this time.

The bar would face the observation area (as shown above), while the new food and beverage outlets would be located on what was the arrivals walkway.

The new bar – which has been named after the Airport took onboard the suggestions of travellers – will be called The Barra Pond. There used to be a very popular barramundi pond in the observation area.

In the final stages of construction the security section will move closer to check-in so passengers will be able to pass through security before being able to access shops and food.

Once construction is completed in March, it is planned that the airport would be able to offer exciting retail facilities, including a bar and more food outlets in a bid to lift the profile of Mackay Airport.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rockhampton Airport to Re-open This Week

Three weeks after floodwaters drowned its runways, Rockhampton's airport will reopen this week.

The last major flight took off on New Year's Day just days before the Fitzroy River was due to peak.

Day time flights will resume at Rockhampton on Monday 24 January, with night flights resuming on Wednesday 26 January.

Rockhampton Airport says on its website that all major runway repairs and critical perimeter fencing works have now been completed, with line-marking of the runways and taxiways will be complete on the weekend.

Unfortunately though, due to extensive flood damage, the secondary runway (04/22) will remain closed for an extended period, but this will not affect the return to normal airline operations.

The Airport electrical services are in the final phase of runway lighting system repairs and calibration.

QantasLink has announced that it will resume services linking Rockhampton to Brisbane, Cairns, Gladstone, Mackay and Townsville. There will be a reduced schedule over the first two days of the week; however QantasLink will operate their larger and faster 74-seat Dash-8-Q400 aircraft on all sectors to provide as many seats as possible.

While QantasLink and Virgin Blue planes will operate this week, Tiger Airways has suspended all flights to Rockhampton until March 29.

UPDATE: Virgin Blue Embraer E190 VH-ZPL flying as DJ1231, operated the first flight back into Rockhampton from Brisbane on Monday 24 January.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gladstone Airport News

With the recent flood crisis in Central Queensland, several Australian Army Skiorsky S-70A Blackhawk helicopters have been spotted landing at the Gladstone Airport.

The helicopters were part of the Operation Queensland Flood Assist Joint Taskforce 637 - the joint taskforce run by the Australian Defence Force along with Queensland and Australian Governments’ responding to the flood crisis.

The picture below shows one of the Blackhawks (which are based at Gallipoli Barracks Enoggera in Brisbane) parked on the Gladstone Airport ramp.

Meanwhile on Thursday 6 January, Rockhampton-based Piper PA-31 Navajo VH-WZZ was involved in a landing alert over Gladstone Airport.

The aircraft with seven people on board was preparing to land at Gladstone Airport when instruments alerted the pilot that his landing gear had not activated. The pilot did a fuel drop over the ocean before flying low over the airport for a visual inspection by a helicopter. The helicopter alerted the pilot that his landing gear was down and the plane (pictured below) landed without incident.

Queensland Police Service, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service and Queensland Ambulance Service were all in attendance. A report will be made to CASA and an investigation will follow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

TRIP REPORT – Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) to Brisbane to Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) – Virgin Blue Airlines (B737-700) / Jetstar Airways (A320)

Trip report – Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) to Brisbane – Sunday 26 December 2010 – Virgin Blue Airlines – DJ1118 – B737-700 – VH-VBK.

With the prediction of flooding rain for the Whitsundays we left Airlie Beach early to head to the airport. The Whitsunday Coast / Proserpine Airport is about 10km out of Proserpine. All up it was about a 40km journey from Airlie Beach.

We got to the airport about 9am to be greeted by the cleaner and the sign below. The cleaner stated that the Virgin Blue staff will open the terminal when they arrive at about 12.20pm. This is a Whitsunday Regional Council regulation. With my wife heading home, it left me with a 3½ hour wait outside trying not to get wet.

Whilst sitting outside it was interesting to note that the airport currently has a very small carpark. It had quickly filled up, meaning most arriving cars had to park on grass or in mud and even in some cases illegally. This needs to be improved - do not drive and park here!!

Also, the terminal is currently undergoing a major redevelopment as shown below.

Several airport staff arrived around midday, as did some other early bird passengers. Right on cue at 12.20pm the doors opened.

There were about a dozen people there so check-in was quick and easy at one of the three desks. In fact for most of the time, the queue was never really long despite three or four buses arriving with groups of passengers from Airlie Beach and surrounding areas.

The simple canteen was quite busy - especially being lunchtime - and the limited seating quickly filled up. Some people were left standing with most of the outside seats wet or having smokers nearby.

About 40 minutes before departure Virgin Blue announced that passengers should go through the single security check point to avoid congestion. Most people did this and the security queue was never really long. Through to another seating area before proceeding past the works area and out to the tarmac and the plane – no aerobridges here!

There is basically one gate for arrivals and departures with the rest of the terminal closed for the redevelopment which should see more gates and bigger seating areas.

One of Virgin Blue’s Boeing B737-700s, VH-VBK, arrived for our flight to Brisbane.

Once boarding commenced so did another torrential downpour, but to Virgin Blue’s credit two large bins of umbrellas arrived for passengers to use to get to the plane. It was then interesting to note the Virgin Blue staff - who only service this one flight for the day - were then going about their duties in the pouring rain without any covering!! That's commitment!!

And then right as the front door of the plane closed, the rain stopped!

We started and taxied away on time and were quickly in the air off Proserpine’s Runway 11. Some good views of the flooding around the Bruce Highway before we disappeared into the clouds. The next sighting of the ground was on late finals into Runway 01 in Brisbane!

I paid for the extra legroom of Row 12 and was assigned the window with a clueless woman in the aisle next to me. Live TV was working fine too! Plenty of room - remembering the seats in Row 11 in front do not recline - something a young couple couldn't understand until I explained this to them after they accused me parking my knees in the back of their seats!

Just after an hour in the air, we were into a very wet Brisbane. Taxi to Gate 41 and then off the plane - in all we were dead on time! Bags came out quickly - but wet!

Trip report – Brisbane to Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) – Friday 31 December 2010 – Jetstar Airways – JQ830 – A320-232 – VH-JQX.

With the Virgin Blue lunch time flight to Proserpine having only the flexible expensive tickets available, it was Jetstar that I had to take back to Airlie Beach. The downside was an evening arrival into Proserpine with scheduled touch down at 6.35pm local.

Like previous flights with Jetstar, check-in opened 2 hours prior to the scheduled take off time of 4.55 pm. I had already booked the exit row window seat of 12A, and was issued with my boarding pass and baggage tag using the automatic check-in kiosk at the Jetstar terminal in Brisbane (pictured below).

Through security and a wait to see one of Jetstar’s oldest Airbus A320s – VH-JQX - arrive to take us north.

Boarding commenced a little late through Gate 38 which is an aerobridge gate at Brisbane. The flight looked to be pretty full but everyone was soon seated and we ended up pushing back about 10 minutes late. We taxied out past the centre finger which is looking to be nearly complete, and then we later passed the main spotting spot at Brisbane - the Acacia Street "Loop Road" - some pictures below taken through a dirty window!

Take off from Brisbane’s Runway 19 with some nice views (although through the dirty window) out to the Eastern suburbs of Brisbane and Moreton Bay. The other side of the plane had the best view of Brisbane city! With the CORAL SID we completed our turn to the North to be greeted by the low afternoon sun shining brightly though the left side windows. Window shades down!

The seatbelt sign remained on for some time before the cabin crew started their cart service. This was quick with not too many purchases from the cart - I had the Pringles!

Everything was completed pretty quickly and after about another 10 minutes we started descent into Proserpine. The seat belt sign came on pretty quickly as well, with some big patches of cloud around Mackay and Proserpine, but all the way to touch down there weren't too many bumps.

After a series of left turns from overhead the field - which couldn't really see due to cloud - we were on a long final to Proserpine’s Runway 11.

We touched down a little late and after a back taxi along the runway we parked on Jetstar’s gate at the northern end of the apron.

Off the plane and into the terminal which was quite busy and hectic with about a dozen or so transfer, taxi, and limousine drivers all milling around with their passengers. After finding my wife we went outside to wait for my bags which come on a trolley to the baggage collection area for both airlines which is outside of the terminal.

With Jetstar’s container usage, the bags needed to be unloaded from these and placed onto the trolleys. This was a time consuming process and then of course the outward baggage had to be loaded onto the outbound flight as well! The bags eventually came through after about 20 minutes and then it was a free for all to get the bags.

Bags collected, it was time to hit the road with a slow drive out of the airport and pretty much all traffic headed to Proserpine with most continuing to Airlie Beach.

A nice flight with Jetstar. Although the current situation at Proserpine Airport, with the luggage collection described above needs to be improved. Hopefully this will occur with the redevelopment in progress. A baggage collection area with a carousel will be installed. To be honest, this facelift and the others can't the finished soon enough!!

In all, it will be interesting to see the final product of the Proserpine redevelopment - it is currently a small airport with few facilities - and only has two scheduled RPT flights each day - hopefully a bigger and better airport will encourage more airlines and destinations to come to Proserpine!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) Airport Getting Bigger and Better

The Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) Airport (PPP) is located approximately 10 kilometres south of Proserpine and is the main gateway for travellers to and from the Whitsunday’s and Airlie Beach. The airport is operated by the Whitsunday Regional Council and presently only has flights to Brisbane operated by Jetstar and Virgin Blue.

The small terminal currently has the basic facilities of most regional airports, but is undergoing an upgrade which is expected to be completed sometime during 2011. The terminal itself (including the cafeteria) only opens its doors from around 12pm to 7pm each day – this is a Council regulation. Passengers arriving at other times will find the doors shut and locked tight.

The check-in counters for Virgin Blue and Jetstar are at opposite ends of the terminal, with a departure lounge and cafeteria situated in the middle. There has previously been an outdoor departure area where passengers could sit and watch the visiting airplanes. Baggage collection is presently outside of the terminal with passengers collecting their bags off trolleys brought from the plane.

Parking at the airport is free of charge, although space is limited and cars are often parked on the grass verges. The most popular method of ground transportation is via one of the many transfer bus and car companies that ferry passengers from and to Proserpine and Airlie Beach. Car Hire and Taxis are also available.

In November 2010, construction commenced on a $7 million upgrade of the existing terminal and facilities at the Airport. The upgrade and refurbishment of the Whitsunday Coast Airport Terminal is a joint project between the State Government and the Whitsunday Regional Council.

Construction involves the demolition of parts of the current structure and earthworks. The key features of the upgrade include a bigger departure lounge and baggage claim area, a new bigger combined check in area, a new baggage claim carousel inside the terminal, a new-look cafeteria and bar, relocated and refurbished airport offices, and customs and quarantine facilities for potential limited international carriers in the future.

To ensure the continued functionality of the terminal throughout the upgrade, the project is being delivered and ready for use in three stages:
Stage 1 – New departure lounge and Virgin Blue check-in counters and office opening for use in February 2011
Stage 2 – New cafeteria and bar, and new Jetstar check-in counters and office opening for use in April 2011
Stage 3 – New arrivals area and indoor baggage claim carousel – opening for use in May 2011.

It is hoped that with the airport welcoming more than 130,000 people a year on tours, transfers and adventure flights, that a revamped Whitsunday Coast Airport would be a real boost for both international and domestic tourists, providing a more functional and comfortable terminal for the visitors to the region.

Plane spotting at the airport is quite easy, with a large grassed area next to the terminal (pictured below) overlooking the terminal apron and itinerant aircraft parking area.

Local fixed based operators are located at the Eastern end of the airport, and photos of their aircraft (including helicopters) can easily be taken through or over the fence.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Alliance Airlines FIFO Charters to Emerald and Middlemount

Lloyd F in Brisbane reports that Alliance Airlines has commenced operating mining FIFO charter flights from Brisbane to Emerald and return with Fokker 100 jet aircraft. Fokker 100 VH-XWM was noted operating the QQ1020/1021 service on Monday 17 January, with the aircraft arriving in Emerald late in the afternoon.

These new flights are in addition to Alliance Airlines' continuing mining FIFO charter flights from Brisbane to Middlemount and return with Fokker 50 turbo-prop aircraft.

It appears that no set timetable exists for these flights, with the days of operations varying over the last couple of months.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More General Flood Recovery Information for Rockhampton Airport

The Rockhampton Regional Council reports that with flood waters receding in Rockhampton a little faster than anticipated last week, by Saturday 15 January, all the key aircraft movement areas at Rockhampton Airport – including the main Runway 15/33 – were finally clear of floodwater.

Cleaning works have commenced and visual inspections have been conducted, with areas of concern identified. The Council’s pavement expert is on site and has commenced a detailed assessment of the runway condition.

Gas pockets had been located in various locations on the main runway during last week, and have been drilled to release the pressure under the asphalt. So far this work has been successful.

Power has been restored to the main terminal and services are now being reinstated. Power to the General Aviation Area has also been restored. Approximately 30% of the runway lights have been cleaned and repaired.

Pavement repair work should commence at the Airport this week, following the engineering assessments, and the Council has indicated that by Monday 24 January, it may be possible to reinstate some aircraft operations during daylight hours only. Airport facilities necessary for Regular Public Transport (RPT) services (e.g. QantasLink and perhaps Virgin Blue) may be possible but more information is required by Council before this can be accurately determined.

However, the Council believes that it is probable that that normal RPT services should be reinstated by Friday 28 January.

Lastly, the Rockhampton Aero Club has recently updated it's Flood Photo Album on Facebook - click HERE to go to the album.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

CQ Plane Spotting Blog Hits 10000 Page Views!

Thanks to everyone for your support of the Central Queensland Plane Spotting Blog!

On Sunday 16 January the Blog had it's 10000th page view.

The Blog started in May 2010 as a bit of fun - but I hope that I can continue to provide you all with aviation and spotting information and movements from the airports of the Central Queensland region.

I would like to thank the loyal followers of the Blog... and for the casual viewer, you too can become a follower by clicking the link to the right of this post!

I would also like to thank those other plane enthusiasts who provide me with information and pictures to post on the Blog - Ben O in Rockhampton, Adam P in Mackay, and Lloyd F in Brisbane.

I hope you all continue to enjoy reading the Blog!

Damian F

Advance Aviation takes off at Emerald Airport

Advance Aviation, formally Central Airlines (CHAT), has recently commenced operations out of Emerald Airport.

The company has been providing air charter services to individuals, businesses and government representatives for many years. They offer convenient charter at short notice, fly-in fly-out operations, emergency evacuations and medical transfers, as well as freight and special purpose operations as required.

They currently operate 4-5 FIFO flights between Mackay and Clermont each week, as well as several flights from Emerald to Brisbane and return via Hervey Bay each week as well.

With aircraft capable of carrying 1–18 passengers, and consisting of twin engine piston and pressurised or non-pressurised turbo prop aircraft, Advance Aviation owns, operates and maintains their entire fleet ensuring comfort and safety for all their clients.

Advance Aviation’s current fleet consist of Piper PA-31 Navajo Cheiftains VH-BCQ, VH-LWW, VH-FWJ, and VH-NWN; Piper PA-28 Cherokee VH-BDF; Piper PA-32 Cherokees VH-LPW and VH-MSR; Beech 58 Baron VH-FLZ; and Cessna 210 VH-TQC.

PA-31 VH-LWW was photographed below in Mackay on Monday 10 January wearing the company’s new aircraft colour scheme – very smart!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pionair Cargo Charters and Other Notable Movements at Mackay Airport This Week

This classic Convair 580 Freighter aircraft which is operated by Pionair Cargo Australia operated a series of freight charters between Bankstown and Mackay earlier this week. The lovely old aircraft is pictured at Mackay Airport on Monday 10 January.

A couple of nice bizjets were also noted at Mackay Airport on Monday 10 January. The Queensland Government Hawker 850XP VH-SGY visited during the morning, while the Queensland Police Service Cessna 560 Citation Ultra, VH-PSU, arrived during the afternoon. VH-PSU is pictured parked on the Eastern General Aviation apron, as a busy terminal and major runway and taxiway works prevented it from parking on the bigger western apron.

Also noted was Aviation Tourism Australia (Island Air Whitsundays) Cessna 208 Caravan Float Plane VH-LNI which was visiting from Shute Harbour for maintenance.

Meanwhile, of note at Mackay Airport on Tuesday 11 January was LearJet 45 VH-CXJ of Careflight Aeromedical, which operated as “Careflight 451” from and back to Townsville.

Virgin Blue Embraer 170 VH-ZHE operated the DJ1473/1472 from and back to Sydney direct.

And parked on the GA Apron was Cessna 206 VH-PGJ of Keswick Island Aviation.