Archive for March 10th, 2008

White Plane at Bratislava

According to news from Slovakia, the plane on the picture below has been sitting on the apron at Bratislava international airport for quite some time (for weeks according to one of the commercial TV stations in Slovakia and published by the Hungarian News Agency – MTI as well). As we can see on this picture, the plane has no livery painted, only a US registration number, even that painted with hard-to-see grey color on the white aircraft body. Just by doing a little research on the internet and looking for this registration number in search engines, we can see the following “unfolding story” of the aircraft itself:

  • the plane used to be operated by Continental Airlines until around late 2005,
  • 2006 January, it began appearing at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany, with still blue tail, but without the Continental logo, it also showed up at least once in Luxembourg (according to Airframes.org it was delivered to Vision Air on 2006-01-09)
  • 2006 February and March, more spotting in Frankfurt,
  • 2006 May already saw the aircraft with a white tail, showing up in Budapest, Hungary, some pictures providing such information that it was to fly to Washington with a stop in Iceland,
  • 2006 September, it is spotted in Budapest, Hungary again,
  • 2007 July already sees the aircraft flying out of Bratislava – where it is still stationed in March 2008, according to the reports spreading today around the internet.

Here is the public information about ownership and history of the aircraft, which first flew in 1985. It’s interesting that one article on the internet mentions this same plane flying together with another, which is claimed to be inolved in CIA operations.

White Boeing 737 in Bratislava (from airliners.net)

Photo: Andras Kisgergely. More photos from this photographer here. 

The above mentioned reports spreading in the news try to find the reason, why this plane may be sitting on the apron at the International Airport of the Slovakian capital, which is a member of the European Union since 2004. According to the Slovakian press, the plane hasn’t flown in the last few weeks, but the engine is started up everyday as a check-up. They also claim that only one person (whose citizenship is supposedly US) has access to this aircraft. If it’s true that they run the engine everyday for a few minutes, it proves the theory suggested by the reports that this is a back-up plane for some sort of operations. What kind of operations require such a back-up plane to be always ready to fly? The same reports also suggest that it may be supporting secret CIA missions and operations, where the CIA still transports whatever and whoever they wish through European Air Space, what more, uses a European Union airport as a supporting base.

We as an airline blog do not wish to be involved in the guessing of what this airplane does and why it is where it is, we’ll leave this for the regular media. For us it was just interesting to hear that there’s an “unregistered” plane at Bratislava – which as you can see above is not “unregistered”, it has an official owner and is registered in the Unites States of America and has a public history of flying around different airports.

by balint01

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Supersonic Business Jet Plans

When talking about supersonic commercial aviation, we all think about the Concorde which is out of operation by now, but a small, supersonic aircraft is being currently developed by a private firm in the US. Even though they will not be able to use such a name as “Concordino” (as it has been unofficially taken by a small turboprop airliner by Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab), the US Firm, Aerion (Advanced Aeronautical Engineering Organization taking on the name of the Greek heroic horse of Adrastus) is planning to roll out a new generation business jet: a small, supersonic plane carrying 8-12 passengers.

 Supersonic Business Jet - copyright by Aerion Corp.

The Reno, Nevada based manufacturer that was established in 2002, based their business plan on the research that foresaw the sales of around 8300 business jets between 2004 and 2014. Their idea is to get at least part of this potential market of around 131 billion USD, with a break-through, light, special, supersonic jet. The team of Aerion includes former top management figures of LearJet and Bombardier for example, which shows that the program is taken seriously and is not just some sci-fi style research.

The project that will include construction of 5 SBJ (Supersonic Business Jet) prototypes (2 to be used for tests on the ground, 3 in the air) has been financed by a Texas Billionaire who deeply believes in the success of this project. Even though some larger aircraft manufacturers turned their backs on the offer for a partnership for now, he has continued to finance the progress that included a few successful, high altitude, high speed tests with smaller models of the plane with the radical new design for the wings.

The tests included flights at 2.5 Mach, even though the planned supersonic cruising speed of the SBJ would be 1.6 Mach. As traveling at supersonic speed is not allowed at most parts of the world (except for above the oceans, and a few areas above Siberia, Canada and some parts of Australia), the aircraft will have to travel between 0.99 – 1.1 Mach above the mainland and can only increase its speed to 1.5 Mach once it reaches the Ocean. According to the manufacturer, the new wing design allows for a boomless cruise of 1.1 Mach. The radical new design of the wings also brings much lower noise emmissions, and according to the manufacturer, the plane will deliver within the most strict noise limitations. The engines are to be provided by Pratt & Whitney based on an existing engine specification.

Supersonic Business Jet Interior - copyright by Aerion Corp.

In reality the new plane would be able to fly as far as 7400 km’s, thus the New York – Paris flight would be reduced to 4.25 hours, and New York – Tokyo for example would be 9.5 including a one hour refueling stop in Anchorage, but even the flight between New York and Miami could be reduced by almost one hour. A possible route between Chicago and London would be flown at 5 hour 42 mins, including the 2 hour Atlantic crossing at high altitude (flight level 510) and at supersonic speed. The guests on board can have lunch, take a nap, send/receive emails, or talk on the phone – just like in any business jet currently existing. The cabin would feature a restroom, a kitchen and could carry a lie-flat bed or a four seat sofa or even a shower if required. It can seat a maximum of 12 people, with an internal cabin height of 1.88 m. The designer claims that the operating costs will be comparable to today’s larger business jets, thus they will not be supersonic, regardless of the possible speed. Possible routes, ranges and times can be found on the manufacturer’s site.

Aerion at the Dubai Air Show 2007 

As the latest chapter in the story of Aerion SJB, at last year’s Dubai Air Show, ExecuJet Aviation (based in Switzerland) received unique sales rights for the the world outside of the US, and just days later the first potential customer, Sheik Rashid Bin Humaid Al Noaimi has signed a letter of intent and even provided a USD 250.000 deposit for the first of the USD 80 million private jet, which is now planned to be delivered in 2014.

by balint01


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