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Sólyom Hungarian Airways Preparing For Launch

Solyom Hungarian Airways LogoWith the bankruptcy of oneworld member Malév Hungarian Airlines on 03 February, 2012, Hungary was left without a national air carrier. About 18 months later, this (temporary) status seems to come to an end with the rise of a new Hungarian air carrier: SÓLYOM Hungarian Airways.

In 2012, the market reacted quickly to fill the missing capacity left behind by the collapse of Malév, with Ryanair moving into the Hungarian market within days, Wizzair placing more aircraft to Budapest, and other carriers raising capacity and/or frequency soon after. The classical European airlines raised prices as they practically inherited a monopoly between their respective hubs and Budapest, especially among the business travelers. All long-haul operations from Budapest have also been suspended soon after Malév stopped flying. There were brave and not so brave initiatives among ex-Malév colleagues and outsiders to start a new airline in the last year or so, but they all proved to be a speculation or more of an “idea” by enthusiastic amateurs.

Then in early July 2013, one of the Hungarian newspapers reported that a new Airline is being formed, under the name of Sólyom. Many Hungarians rushed to comment about the name being hard to pronounce for foreigners, the fleet plans being too optimistic over the coming years, the business model being outdated and such, but interest was definitely raised among aviation enthusiasts in the country.

Artist's rendering of Sólyom Hungarian Airways B737-500 livery - from radarfigyelo.hu

Then week in and out, more and more pieces of the puzzle “leaked” into the domestic media, which now seem to (more or less) come together. A few weeks later, the new CEO (Mr. József Vágó) also changed his approach towards the media and replaced his “no, I can’t answer this as it is still under negotiation” approach to revealing more and more details of his plans. The airline also held their first public news conference a week ago. So what we know so far:

  • FLEET:
    • overall plan is to have 50 aircraft by 2017 (6 in 2013, 25 by 2014, 50 by 2017): 10 wide-body, 20 mid-size and 20 regional
    • Starting with 6 aircraft leased from European Aviation Group, to be handed over between 18th of August and the end of September this year
    • First 6 aircraft: Boeing 737-500 with CFM56-3C-1 engines, with 110 seats in two cabin classes: 12 in business, 98 in economy
    • First regional aircraft to be taken over in September 2013 as well: Avro RJ 85
  • FLYING: International ICAO code has been awarded: “HUN” (Hotel-Uniform-November), full length call sign: “Hungarian”
  • NETWORK:
    • First routes from Budapest: Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Paris and Stockholm. No airports were mentioned (yet). Plan is to have these operating by the end of September, but needs further confirmation.
    • Long-haul to start in the summer schedule of 2014 – with “North-American” destinations. New York is likely, but nothing is confirmed yet.
    • Booking any of the flights is not yet open at this stage.
  • BUSINESS:
    • The parent company in the Sólyom Airways Holding is owned by three Hungarian citizens (fact). Multiple fully owned subsidiary companies have been founded to deal with different areas of the operations.
    • Money is coming from Middle-East investors, from Oman and the Emirates (as confirmed by the owners). Lot of speculation is flying around about the (potential) identity of these secret investors, we would not like to comment on that as nothing has been confirmed.
  • BUSINESS MODEL:
    • classical, full service airline – they claim they will have a higher on-board service standard than most of the European airlines. NOT low-cost.
    • Point-to-point as well as transfer passengers. Revitalizing Budapest Liszt Ferenc Airport as a Hub.
  • WEBSITE: http://solyomairways.com for the Airlines and http://solyomair.com for the Holding (launched today, both only in Hungarian)
  • RECRUITING: Hiring started today (01AUG) by launching the above website and posting the first 35 positions where the company is hiring (only a few job descriptions available in English at the last page of the list)  – You can imagine all the buzz among ex-Malev colleagues right now…

We are waiting for more details to be unveiled over the coming days/weeks/months, and are giving up our initial skepticism as well by writing this first post about Sólyom on this blog. We are wishing good luck and success for the new Hungarian Airways, and hope to have more and more international passengers learning how to pronounce “Sólyom” in the near future! After our first flight (hopefully sooner rather than later) we will make sure to post a Flight Review here!

by balint01

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Lufthansa A380 landing – full video

Ever wondered what’s going on in a cockpit during landing? Is it hard for you to understand the conversations over the radio?

This video covers a full-length landing procedure of an A380 at San Francisco. The video is a masterpiece as it not just follows the process from many different camera angles, but also you can read the conversations and it guides you through the interesting sights of the landscape.

If ever you had some fear of flight, you can see these guys are abslutely in control of what is happening.

Have fun with it!

by Szafi

First Flight of the Airbus A350

The brand new Airbus A350 aircraft has taken to the skies for the first time ever on June 14, 2013 (earlier today). A very much awaited moment for the aviation world – and the 33 customers who have firm orders for the type – has happened, and the plane worked flawlessly. The first flying fuselage is an A350-900 version (the medium size of the type).

Airbus A350 XWB First flight (Live from Airbus.com)

The Extra Wide Body (XWB) plane took off (see video) from Tolouse-Blagnac airport at 10:00 am local time. The first flight is a very important milestone in the life of a new aircraft type, that has been preceded by the manufacturing of different parts, transporting them to Toulouse, building the actual airplane, installing the wires, connecting the engines, running ground tests, engine power up (happened on June 2nd) and also taxi tests, when the plane rolled-up and down the runway by its own power. The fuel efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines on MSN1 are also new, and this flight marks the first flight of those engines as well. The A350 is planned to be more fuel efficient and have operation costs up to 8% lower than the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Airbus A350 XWB First flight (Live from Airbus.com)

Nearly two hours into the flight, above the Northern part of the Pyrenees  Mountains Peter Chandler has confirmed over radio in the Airbus.com live coverage that “All is going pretty well, the weather is beautiful up here and the plane behaves wonderful. We are climbing up higher to do some higher speed tests“. The first flight took nearly 4 hours altogether and ended with a smooth landing (see video).

Airbus A350 XWB First flight Path (from flightradar24.com)

The flight path on flightradar24.com

The A350 XWB is the all-new mid-size long range product line comprising three versions and seating between 270 and 350 passengers in typical three-class layouts. The new family will bring a step change in efficiency compared with existing aircraft in this size category, using 25 per cent less fuel and providing an equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions. Scheduled for entry-into-service in second half of 2014, the A350 XWB has already won 613 firm orders from 33 customers worldwide as mentioned above.

A350 XWB First flight crew - by Airbus

The A350 is the first Airbus with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon fibre-reinfoced polymer. The launch customer is Qatar Airways (who is soon to take its first Airbus A380 as well) with 80 pieces of the plane on firm order.

Besides this first test aircraft, two more of the type are soon to join the test fleet as they are already on the final assembly line. The third fuselage will be the first one to feature a full internal cabin as well, the other two are equipped with in-flight test lab computers on most of their deck and water tanks for heavy flight tests.

by balint01

New Livery for American Airlines

American Airlines is undergoing changes. Not only due to Chapter 11 procedures and a possible (more and more likely) merger with US Airways, but also due to technical reasons. Like the new livery – which is driven by all of these three.

American Airlines New Livery Boeing 777 - courtesy of AA

American Airlines has been using the same logo and aircraft livery for more than 40 years. Quite a nice lifecycle for a brand, especially in our fast-paced, marketing driven world of the late 20th and early 21st century. But AA is going through so many changes, that it was about time. Even if the board may have had questions about it – the undebatable technical reasons made it a must.

AA has had the very well known, very well received and very well accepted, famous, landmark aircraft livery with the polished, silver aircraft bodies reflecting the sun so beautifully – having only the red and blue stripes across the planes on the sides below the windows. This now simply HAD to be changed, as it could no longer be maintained with the upcoming new aircraft types (mainly the 777-300ER in the short term), that have a (partial) composite frame: plastic can not be polished the same way as metal (it can’t be polished, period), thus it must be painted. (Even the old livery planes had composite parts which are very well visible on this image below on the left side, for example the hold door or the nose – they were painted in simple grey until now and made such planes look somewhat like they were pieced together from left-over aircraft parts with different paint on them…)

Boeing 737-800 American Airlines Old and New livery - images from airliners.net - by David Field and Christian Eggers

Direct links on airliners.net to the above images:
Old livery / New livery

AA took a step forward, and once it had to change the basic color of the fuselage of its planes, it introduced a new logo and an updated, more fresh look – which was the right movement in my opinion. I think personally that the new design is fresh indeed with its dark grey “American” word on the forward part of the plane together with the updated, stylistic Eagle logo and with the new tail design that looks like a flag. But most of all, I think the fact that they still use the silver as the main color of the planes, keeps the heritage alive as well – as much as technically possible. Their planes will now be painted in silver-mica paint.

The American Eagle aircraft will also receive the new livery, the first outfitted airplane slated to begin flying in February. Here is a rendering of an Embraer E175 (ordered for Republic Airways Holding):

American Eagle New Livery Embraer E-175 - courtesy of AA

by balint01

First Boeing 787 for Air India

Air India took its first Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner earlier this year and joined the elite club of 787 operators as the fifth member back in early September. Air India’s turnaround plan is highly dependent on the efficient operation of the new type.

Air India's first Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner - photo by Boeing

Only the fifth airline to take delivery of a 787 (following launch customer All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and LAN Airlines) Air India’s first delivery was delayed by over four months because of negotiations over the issue of program delay compensation. The Indian government is also arguing with Boeing about the weight guarantees promised by the aircraft manufacturer earlier – but those discussions are continuing separately.

Today is a great day for Air India as the most technologically advanced and fuel efficient airplane in the world joins our fleet,” said Rohit Nandan, Air India Chairman & Managing Director at the delivery ceremony. “The 787 will allow Air India to open new routes in a dynamic marketplace and provide the best in-flight experience for our passengers.

Air India has 27 Dreamliners on firm order, and one of the early deliveries has been assembled in Boeing’s new South Carolina plant – where the delivery ceremony took place as well. The airline took delivery of a second 787 just a week after the first one, also in South Carolina. They are taking deliveries of 4 more planes by the end of 2012 (have three in operation at the time of this article), seven in 2012, five in 2014, six in 2015 and three in 2016 to complete their planned fleet of the type.

Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class - photo by Boeing

With 18 seats in Business (pictured above) and 238 in Economy class (pictured below) (256 in total), Air India is right in the middle of the other 787 operators in terms of seat density (JAL and LAN have less seats, while ANA and Ethiopian have more).

Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner Economy Class - photo by Boeing

After the first month or so when the type was only used domestically, the first international destination of the Air India Boeing 787 has been Frankfurt, Germany.

by balint01

First Boeing 787 for LAN Airlines

LAN Airlines, member of the oneworld alliance and part of the LATAM Airline group (and one of my personal favorite airlines) took its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner at the end of August. It was a few months ago, but let’s take a closer look at this beautiful bird.

LAN Boeing 787 Dreamliner   - by Carlos P. Valle C. on airliners.net

The aircraft, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, was the first Dreamliner to be received by an airline in the Americas (and the fourth in the world after Japanese ANA and JAL, and Ethiopian Airlines). LAN has 32 787s on order, valued at USD 4.9 billion, to be delivered over the next decade. Two more are delivered this year.

The cabin features 247 seats altogether, with Business Class (30 fully-flat seats in a 2-2-2 layout) and Economy (217 total, in a 3-3-3 layout), making the 787 slightly less crowded than Ethiopian (24+245 = 269) and ANA (12+252 = 264) but more efficient than JAL (42+144 = 186). The numbers compared to the other operators of the type look like a fair compromise expecting a fairly good business audience, that offer specious comfort as well as economy of scale at the same time.

LAN said it expects to start Los Angeles-Lima 787 flights in January 2013. LAN CEO Ignacio Cueto said in a statement, “The Dreamliner will make it possible for us to cover greater distances in a more environmentally conscious and highly efficient aircraft.” As per the latest route announcements, it looks like LAN is planning to operate sort of a circle flight with Santiago-Los Angeles, Los Angeles-Lima, Lima-Santiago – enabling three routes with the aircraft type on paper – while in reality each city-pair would only be services one-way by the 787.

Other cities expected to be served by LAN 787s over the next year besides the hub of Santiago are Buenos Aires, Madrid and Frankfurt, the carrier said.

LAN Boeing 787 - c by Russell Hill on airliners.net

I have flown LAN all around South-America and to the Easter Island (twice), but now I’m looking forward to my next LAN flight, which I will aim to make on one of their 787’s.

by balint01

The Hobbit Flies With Air New Zealand (An Unexpected Briefing)

Air New Zealand has “always” been the official “Airline of Middle-earth”, and this is no different in case of the release of the latest Tolkien Movie, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”. But this time they have created a great short movie – which is actually useful for those passengers embarking on an expected journey aboard one of their planes as it prepares them for the unexpected safety situations.

First let’s take a look at their latest special livery aircraft (registration number: ZK-OKP), a Boeing 777-300ER, painted to promote the movie itself (see more images on airliners.net):

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER in special "The Hobbit" livery  - by James Mepsted on airliners.net

And then the funny Onboard Safety Demonstration Video with the very well known Lord of the Rings Characters:

I haven’t seen the movie yet, (will surely do) – but I don’t expect any “goofs” hidden with the random appearance of an Air New Zealand plane…

by balint01


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