Air International 2000-03
Antonov An-26 ST-SAL taxies out from Sharjah on January 22, 2000 prior to departing on delivery to new Sudanese operator Sarit Airlines.
Eurocopter announced a US launch customer for the EC 155 B at Heli-Expo while also confirming that the type has been certified for single-pilot IFR operations. Demonstrator F-WQEY (c/n 6542) is seen here over Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, UK, last year during customer demonstrations from McAlpine Helicopters Oxford/Kidlington base following Helitech '99.
Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters' S-55QT Whisper Jet N17758, seen here at Las Vegas last year in service in its earlier configuration, which still retained the original three-blade main rotor rather than the five-bladed rotor of the full conversion. This modified variant of the veteran Sikorsky S-55 has now achieved FAA certification for commercial air tour use and the first two fully-modified examples are due to enter service with Papillon in early 2000.
Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor 4004, the first example equipped with a fully integrated avionics suite, is towed from the manufacturer's final assembly line at Marietta, Georgia, on January 28, 2000. Using 'lean manufacturing' techniques, the aircraft was completed with more than a 10% cost reduction over earlier examples. The aircraft will now enter Marietta's robotic coatings facility for application of the final finishes before the aircraft joins the P-22 Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB, California, later this year.
Freshly repainted in the colours of new Sharjah-based carrier Air Gulf Falcon, Boeing 747SP-09 P4-GFC (c/n 21300, ex B-18252) is one of two acquired from China Airlines. A further two 747-136s have come from British Airways and a 747-246B from Japan Airlines to form the initial equipment for the airline, which will specialise in Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance (ACMI) leases. The carrier is leasing the aircraft from sister company Falcon Air Leasing, both companies being subsidiaries of Sheikh Mohammed Al Tarni's Gulf Falcon Group. The aircraft will initially be used to operate on the Hadj flights to Mecca in March 2000 and then be available for leasing out, possibly moving out to be based at Fujairah. In mid-February the airline was offering 4 x 747-100s, 4 x 747-200s, 2 x 747SPs, 1 x 747F and 2 x 707F as available for ACMI lease worldwide. The fast expanding operation has reportedly already finalised negotiations for a further ten 747s and is in discussions for a further 11 747s, three 747Fs and nine 707Fs. The final recently retired German Air Force Boeing 707-307C, 10+01, has also been acquired and was delivered to Sharjah on November 26. There are also plans for acquisition of 24 narrowbody twinjets from 2001.
Seen shortly after arrival at Palma de Mallorca on January 9, 2000 while on delivery is this Embraer RJ-135 for the Hellenic Air Force, wearing only partial titles and markings with the remainder, including the Greek serial, taped over and carrying test/ferry registration PT-SFX. The aircraft, which continued on to Greece the following day, is one of two from a previously unannounced order and had been handed over at the Sao Jose dos Campos factory on January 7. The aircraft will form a new Hellenic AF VIP Flight.
Papeete, Tahiti-based Wanair's first Fairchild Dornier 328JET, named Marutea after an atoll in the Tuainotu Archipelago, seen prior to delivery in January 2000 in the carrier's distinctive colour scheme. The airline, owned by local businessman Robert Wan, who also owns Tahiti Pearls, the largest private pearl farm in French Polynesia, will use the aircraft to introduce its first scheduled services throughout the region.
A rare operator, even for Sharjah, Pakistani airline Shaheen Air International was thought to operate only a single Boeing 737 leased from MAS, but has now added this Tupolev Tu-154M, RA-85816, which arrived at Sharjah on the night of January 21, 2000, leaving the following night. The aircraft was last reported with Ufa-based BAT-Bashkirian Airlines, from which it is probably leased, as it has retained its Russian registration.
Seen at London Luton Airport under threatening skies on February 11, 2000 is the ninth Boeing 757-330 for Germany’s Condor Flugdienst, N1002R/(D-ABOl), which has yet to be delivered to the airline, the aircraft passing through on this date as part of its world demonstration tour
Arkia Israeli Airlines’ became the second carrier to introduce the new stretched variant of the Boeing 757 when its first 757-3E7, 4X-BAU (c/n 30178), departed Boeing field, Renton, Washington, on delivery on February 2, 2000. The aircraft, which will shortly be joined by a second example, will be used to expand existing routes and to offer more international charter flights connecting to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.
Robinson Helicopter’s latest evolution of the R44 is the Raven, which features a newly-developed hydraulic flight control system. Since the option was announced, almost every order has included a request for the system, which will be incorporated as standard on future production.
The first Airborne Laser (ABL) flying platform, 00-0001 (c/n 30201), based on a Boeing 747-4G4 freighter, was rolled off the assembly line on December 13, 1999 and is seen here as it took off from Paine Field, Everett, Washington, on January 6 for its first functional check flight. On January 22 the aircraft was flown to the Boeing facilities in Wichita, Kansas, where it will undergo 18 months of major modification to become the Boeing YAL-1A Attack Laser prototype, the world's first flying missile defence system. Despite currently running on time and on budget, the ABL is still under threat, with plans to cut $900 million from the programme over the next few years.
Eurocopter's latest variant of the single-engined Ecureuil, the hot-and-high AS 350B3, which is intended as a replacement for the veteran Lama, secured further US orders at the show. Two were ordered by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in California, which becomes the second US state and local law enforcement customer for the B3 after the California Highway Patrol.
Eurocopter sold 30 EC 135s during 1999, including two for the Kuwait national police. First orders of the new century to be revealed for the type came from UK-based Bond Air Services which has ordered five Arrius 2B1-powered EC 135s through UK distributor McAlpine Helicopters.
MD Helicopters reported at Heli-Expo that its MD 500 series continues to be popular with law enforcement agencies. The City of Phoenix Police Department was one of the first customers to take delivery of the MD 520N, the NOTAR version of the MD 500, in 1992 and the example seen here, together with four others of the type, continue to serve with the force.
Seen during pre-delivery test flying by Kazan Helicopters, Mil Mi-17MD (Mi-8MTV-5) Hips RAF-1707 and RAF-0210 are two of the four examples which were delivered to the Rwandan Air Force last November 1999. One further VIP-configured example is also in production for later delivery. Apart from two Mi-24 Hinds acquired in 1997, these are the first aircraft acquired by Rwanda since the end of the civil war in 1994, which left the Air Force without any active aircraft.
The first US Navy Seahawk to be upgraded to SH-60R standard makes its first flight on December 22, 1999 from Lockheed Martin Federal Systems' Owego, New York, facility.
One of the first two Turkish Air Force F-4E Phantoms to he upgraded by IAI seen at Eskisehir air base while being delivered from Israel on January 24, 2000. Note that the aircraft has also been repainted in a new overall dark grey colour scheme.
The first RAF Bulldog T.1s to be sold off, seen lined up at RAF Newton in the early morning sun on February 13, 2000 moments before they departed for Le Touquet, France, on the first leg of their delivery flight to the Air Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM). The four aircraft, 9H-ADQ (ex XX691/'10'/London UAS), 9H-ADR (ex XX696/'S'/Liverpool UAS), 9H-ADS (ex XX709/'E'/Yorkshire UAS) and 9H-ADT (ex XX714/'D'/Yorkshire UAS), are wearing temporary adhesive nationality markings and serials for the ferry flight and still retain their old RAF unit codes. Full AFM markings will be applied after arrival in Malta
Antalya, Turkey-based Sun Express Aviation accepted delivery of its first Boeing 737-86N, TC-SUA (c/n 28612), on January 18, 2000 at Seattle. The aircraft is one of four being leased from GECAS, with the remaining three due for delivery later this year.