Asian Adventure January 2014 Part II Thailand to India
DAY 6 WEDNESDAY 8TH JANUARY
Arriving last night and staying for two nights at the Phuket Airport Hotel, located around half a mile South of the terminal, this is one of a few hotels well located for walking to the good photospot on the beach for runway 09 arrivals. Used the most for arrivals, landing shots next to the perimeter fence here are ideal, with the East-West runway meaning the sun is behind you for most of the day. Shots of aircraft taxying for departure, are also good from here, especially in the afternoon when the sun gets around. Also, when runway 27 is in use, most departures stay low enough, for good take off shots from the beach. On a previous visit here, i only used the beach, although i was aware of another good spot, up on the hill near the ATC tower, overlooking the runway just over half way along. Again though, on this trip, we wouldn't try this, as our original plan of hiring scooters for the couple of days here (to ride between the photospots etc), never happened in the end. Although there are plenty of good shots to be seen, taken from up the hill, i was aware of photographers being stopped and moved on from here. And, speaking with another photographer on the beach, he also confirmed that there is a security check on the road up to the tower, which could deny access up there. Because of this, we just settled for the beach, around 20 minutes walk from the hotel.
The second busiest airport in Thailand, behind Bangkok BKK, this place is certainly worth a visit, and almost on a par with St Maarten, the scenes on the beach, with tourists posing for pictures below low landing aircraft, are quite similar. With Russian tourists here very common, especially around New Year, there are of course a lot of charters to cater for this. Unfortunately, gone are the days of the IL-86's and Tu-154's etc, with the common sight now being Aeroflot B777's, Nordwind B767's, Transaero B747's, B767's and B777's, and UTAir B757's. Quite a lot of these were to be seen over the couple of days here, with others known to be operating (on certain days of the week), being Ikar B757's and S7 B767's. As well as the Russians, other long haul charters seen were Condor B767's, Thomas Cook Scandinavia A330's, Thomson B767's and B787's, and TUIfly Nordic B767's, with others including Emirates (of course!), Qatar Airways and Virgin Australia (B737-800's) also having schedules. Of the regional carriers, Air Asia A320's, Dragonair A320's and A321's, Firefly ATR-72's, Jetstar A320's, Malaysia Airlines B737-800's, Silk Air A320's and Tiger Airways A320's were all seen. While of the Thai carriers, Thai Air Asia A320's, Bangkok Air A320's and ATR-72's, Business Air B767's, Jet Asia B767's, Nok Air B737's, Orient Thai B737's and B767's, Thai Airways A300's, A330's, B747's and B777's, and Thai Smile A320's were all seen. Unfortunately, a lot of Chinese charters, which have become quite numerous recently, all operate here in the early hours. Then, as well as all the airline traffic, occasional executive and Thai military movements can also be seen, with most of the military stuff parking on a small ramp (with hangar) on the opposite, North side of the airfield.
Highlights photographed today then, included Nordwind B767-300ER's VQ-BMQ, VQ-BMU and VQ-BPT, Thomson B767-300ER(WL) G-OBYF, Thai 'Star Alliance' B747-400 HS-TGW, Gulf 4 N888FR, new Thai Air Asia A320(SL)'s HS-BBD and HS-BBF, TUIfly Nordic B767-300ER(WL) SE-RFR, Condor B767-300ER(WL) D-ABUE (in special Janosch colours), UTAir B757-200(WL) VQ-BKF, Thai Smile A320's HS-TXA and HS-TXD, Transaero B777-200ER EI-UNR, B767-300ER EI-UND and B747-400 VP-BKL, Thomson B787-8 G-TUID, Orient Thai B737-300's HS-BRJ and HS-BRK, Air Asia A320 9M-AFE ('Asean Basketball League' logojet), Nordwind B767-300ER(WL) VP-BOQ (ex G-OBYD), Thai Navy S-76B 2312 (based here with 203Sq Det 2), Thomas Cook Scandinavia A330-200 OY-VKF, RTAF Saab 340B 70202 of 702Sq from Surat Thani (with special RTAF 100th Anniversary tail markings), Thai Air Asia A320 HS-ABW (in special 'Skytrax Worlds Best Low Cost Airline' colours), Firefly ATR-72-500 9M-FYH, Business Air B767-300ER HS-BID, Orient Thai B767-300 HS-BKB, Thai Navy Do228-200 1111 (based here with 101Sq Det 1), departing Jet A Company Gulf 200 HS-JAA, and two other very smart biz-jets parked up, all blue Ocean Sky CRJ-200ER G-IGWT and 'NewYorker' Global Express 6000 VP-CNY of German company SHK Jeans Co.
DAY 7 THURSDAY 9TH JANUARY
Day two at Phuket, and straight back to the beach first thing, for most of the day, before a flight out later to Bangkok. Again, highlights (not seen yesterday) included Jetstar 'Valuair' A320 9V-JSK, Thai B747-400 HS-TGT, Aeroflot B777-300ER VP-BGC, 'new' Bangkok Air A320 HS-PPH (delivered one month ago, in a white scheme), Thai Smile A320's HS-TXE and HS-TXF, Nok Air's latest B737-800 HS-DBO (delivered in October, ex Ryanair EI-DLS), Thomas Cook A330-200 G-OMYT, Skydance/Advance Aviation EC130B4 HS-BCN (flyover), Executive Wings/Siam Land Flying Co Beech 350 HS-CPA, Transaero B747-400 EI-XLO, RTAF A319CJ 60202/HS-TYR of 602Sq Royal Flight, two months old Air Asia A320(SL) 9M-AQY, Orient Thai B737-400 HS-BRD, Jet Asia B767-200 HS-JAB and Thai A300B4-600R HS-TAZ (one of only five still in service now).
Returning to the hotel and checking out around mid-afternoon, it was on to the terminal to check in for Nok Air to Bangkok. DD7515 operated by B737-800 HS-DBC, was off at 1725 for the one hour flight to Don Muang, arriving just after dark. Hotel for the next three nights was the very nice Amari, ideally located just outside the terminal (linked by a walkway).
DAY 8 FRIDAY 10TH JANUARY
A full day at Don Muang today, with a visit to the RTAF museum first thing, before hopefully catching some airshow arrivals in the morning, with the rest of the day photographing from the terminal. Don Muang (DMK) was the original, and now Bangkok's second airport, following the opening of Suvarnabhumi (BKK) in 2006, and has a large RTAF base on the East side (with the famous RTAF golf course between the two runways!). Six months after closing as a commercial airport, it was re-opened again in 2007 due to high costs and safety issues at the new BKK, and has since become the main hub for several low cost carriers, including Nok Air, Thai Air Asia, Orient Thai and now Thai Lion Air. For me, certainly the more interesting of the two Bangkok airports, with the airbase busy with transport flights, including resident C-130's, HS748's and the Royal Flight etc. Then, as well as the LCC's, the civil side has fairly regular executive movements. In addition, a lot of very nice wfu/stored old airliners are present, which include some aircraft written off when the airport was flooded and closed for over four months at the end of 2011.
First then, the RTAF museum, located on the airbase side of the airport, has quite a few nice aircraft present. These include F-5B 38438/70101, marked as 'The oldest Tiger' and '44 Years of (1963-2007), The first F-5B of the world', and old Swedish AF test JAS-39A Gripen 39178, which has RTAF markings on the left side. Both are on display inside, with others including a Spitfire PR19 and some nice choppers. Outside, highlights include camo C-47A 547, which is presumably a long term restoration, being without wings, engines and rudder fitted, while a very nice recent arrival is ex Royal Flight B737-200 22-222. Now minus engines, this was retired around 2006 and arrived here at the end of October.
From here, we walked the fairly short distance to a spot close to the end of the runway, hopefully for some landing shots of some airshow arrivals etc. Of the parallel runways here, the '21 end from the NE is used the most for arrivals, with not surprisingly, runway 21L closest to the airbase side, used for most military movements (as well as some civil). During the morning, with the position of the sun, a photospot on the East side of the final approach would be ideal. However, good spots in this area are difficult, with a military checkpoint on the perimeter road preventing this being used. Close by we could see a nice small lake/park with seating, which looked promising. However, the first arrival showed we were still quite distant. Again nearby, is an RTAF golf driving range, where we would give the area one more try. A lot better for landing shots, we managed to stay for an hour or two and also grabbed something to eat, before the manager then let us know he was a bit concerned about photos being taken from the military side (being very polite, as most Thai's are). So, we then decided to head to the terminal to shoot from there, after catching a few nice arrivals from here... Thai Air Asia A320's HS-ABJ (in special 'Carabao Concert' colours) and HS-ABK (in special 'Thai Fight, King of Muay Thai' colours), RTAF JAS-39C Gripen 70110 of 701Sq at Surat Thani (practice display), followed by 4x PAC CT/4 Airtrainers (derived from the old Victa Airtourer/cruiser), Air Asia A320 PK-AXC, two months old Thai Lion B737-900ER HS-LTH, Nok Mini Saab 340B HS-GBC, an unidentified Thai Army Casa 212 (based here), RTAF Alpha Jet A 23141 of 231Sq at Udon Thani (with RTAF 100th Anniversary tail markings), and RTAF Basler BT-67 Turbo Dak 46155 of 461Sq at Phitsanulok (also arriving for the show).
Heading to the terminal on the West side of the airport, shots are obviously better here in the afternoon when the sun gets around. With small seating areas on the top floor, at either end of Domestic Departures, shots are fairly good, taken through glass, with most movements on for shots as they taxy from/to the gates, with the near runway (21R) also close enough. So, for the next three or four hours here, highlights included... Orient Thai B737-300's HS-BRI and HS-BRK, AC Aviation Beechjet 400A HS-ASC, Air Asia A320's 9M-AFL (in special 'SkyRider Club' colours) and 9M-AHE ('Tune Talk' logojet), Jetstream 32 HS-DCA of the Thai Dept of Civil Aviation, Red Bull Racing Falcon 2000LX HS-RBR, Thai Air Asia A320(SL)'s HS-BBE and one moth old HS-BBJ, Nok Air ATR-72-500 HS-DRD, six weeks old Thai Lion B737-900ER HS-LTI, RTAF Basler BT-67 Turbo Dak 46159 of 461Sq at Phitsanulok (with RTAF 100th Anniversary tail markings), Thai Air Asia A320's HS-ABC (in special 'Thailand Womens Volleyball' colours) and HS-ABH (in special 'Year of the Dragon' colours), M Jets Cessna 750 HS-KCS, RTAF Bell 412EP 94301/HS-CPV (operated for HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn), City Airways B737-400 HS-GTB (still in ex US Airways colours), and Nok Mini Saab 340B HS-GBH.
For the final hour of daylight, we then headed down to the SW area of the airport, where most of the wfu/stored airliners are parked. This was the first of what was to be three visits to this area, to photograph what was possible from the perimeter, with an old multi-storey car park providing the best vantage point (although its advisable to be quick and discreet here). With several real old classics present, these included... Thai A300B4-600R HS-TAS (wfu April 2013), B747-400's HS-TGK and HS-TGN (both wfu in 2013), and A340-500 HS-TLA (wfu June 2012), ex Phuket Airlines B747-200 HS-VAK (all white, wfu August 2005) and YS-11A's HS-KAO (white colours), HS-KUO (red colours), HS-KVA (red colours), HS-KVO (red colours) and HS-KVU (white colours), all of which were wfu in 2005. Note a couple of these seem to have had their nose wheel doors swapped around, with HS-KVA having 'VO' on the door, and HS-KVO having 'UO'. Others include PC Air A310-200 HS-PCC (wfu October 2012), ex Orient Thai MD-82 HS-MDL (wfu July 2013) and all white B747-400 HS-STB (just returned from lease to Saudia, now wfu?), ex Air Andaman Jetstream 31 HS-KLA (wfu 2003), all white MD-87's N820TH and N880TH (both ex JAL, now registered to Richard Trudell Inc), Thai Sky Tristar I's HS-AXA and HS-AXE (both without engines, wfu October 2006) and Las Vegas Sands Tristar 500 N388LS, which was thought to be w/o after the floods in 2011 (although there are still reports of work being done on the aircraft, so who knows!). Also, in the scrapping compound, were ex Orient Thai B747-200 HS-UTR (with titles removed and engines and other parts missing) and a few chopped up fuselage sections, including another ex Orient Thai MD-80. Also, a couple of biz-jets parked at the end of the storage ramp, were Gulf 4 N48GL of Royal Jet Inc, and Falcon 7X VP-CSJ of Empire Aviation/Clear Sky Views Ltd. Completing the storage picture here, as well as those mentioned so far, others here include the three other Thai A340-500's HS-TLB, HS-TLC and HS-TLD (all wfu in 2012), and ex EL AL B767-200 N570JH (ex 4X-EAB) which was wfu in 2008 and is now parked outside the scrapping compound. Finally, at the Northern end, outside the Thai Airways hangars, a couple of Thai A300's are present, presumably now stored, along with a Thai B747-400, and Jet Airways B777-300 (here for maintenance?).
DAY 9 SATURDAY 11TH JANUARY
The 'Childrens Day' airshows in Thailand are part of the much wider events on this, the second Saturday of every January. Known as 'Wan Dek', many government offices and facilities are open to children (and so the public), as a sign of their 'importance to the future of the nation'. With a lot of military bases also opening their doors and putting on shows, this also appeals to another group of people... for about the only chance to catch a military airshow in the country! With all the events happening on the same day, it then becomes a choice of which base to attend, with a popular choice naturally being the main RTAF show at Don Muang. With some planning though, it is possible to catch more than one show, with one option to do the show at the main Naval Airbase at U-Tapao (not far from 'sin city' Pattaya) in the morning, before driving the 115 miles to Don Muang for the show in the afternoon. It can be done... and we did infact consider it. However, both being big fans of older classics, there was another option to consider, and although it was a lot further than doing an U-Tapao run, there were very good flights from/to Don Muang that meant it was actually easier. Around two hundred miles to the North of Bangkok is Phitsanulok, otherwise known as Wing 46 Air Force Base, the home of 461 'Vampire' Squadron, operating the classic Basler BT-67 Turbo Dak and 'hens teeth' GAF N22B Nomad (apparently nicknamed the 'Gonad'!). Seeing these ideal, cheap flights up there and back, giving us four hours on the ground, before back by mid-day, was the deciding factor. Still taking a bit of a chance though, official confirmation of an airshow actually taking place there was difficult to find, with just a 'there should be' from unofficial sources. Fingers crossed then!...
Making an early start, we walked the short distance from the hotel into the terminal, to check in for Nok Air flight DD8400 to Phitsanulok (pronounced 'Pissanullo'). Operated by B737-800 HS-DBK, departure was at 0640, landing 40 minutes later at 0720. On taxying out, we passed Gulf 650 HS-VSK, one of the first of the type in Asia. Now registered to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the first 650 on the British register, and thought to be the first 650 sold on, it was briefly Bernie Ecclestone's G-OMRE. Named 'Mystery', it certainly was, why he then flogged it after less than three months! Then, with some relief, on landing at Phitsanulok, we could see the airshow set up, with a small static display! So, jumping straight into a taxi and heading up the road into the airbase entrance, the show was already open. First thing seen, on entrance, was gate guard Nomad N22B 46111, on display with a Dracula mascot figure! Close by is a large stone 461 Squadron sign with 'The Cave of Vampires' and models of a Dak and Nomad. Nice touch! Then, present in the small static display, operational Nomad N22B 46135 was in the latest light grey overall colour scheme, with a large 'I'm a Vampire, 461 Squadron' logo on the fin. Nearby was squadron big brother Basler BT-67 Turbo Dak 46153, as well as F-16B 40302/90033 of 403Sq from Takhli, DA-42 60450 and CT/4A RR.12 both of 604Sq at Don Muang, Thai Army U-17B (Cessna A185E Skywagon) 1454 of the LWAB (Light Wing Aviation Battalion) at Lopburi, and civvies, DA-42 HS-BAJ and Cessna 172R HS-BAO both of the Bangkok Aviation Center at Don Muang. Kicking off the flying display, was 461Sq Basler BT-67 Turbo Dak 46159 (with RTAF 100th Anniversary tail markings), as seen at Don Muang yesterday. This was one of several parked away from their usual ramp (because of the show), on another ramp, at the opposite NE corner of the airfield. These also included 46154 and 46158, along with an unidentified Nomad N22B which later displayed (the latest scheme only has the 'last three' of the serial on the nose cone, so can't be read on the side on shots!). Highlight of the flying display though, was another 403Sq F-16B, 40302/90033, which put on a very fast and low (over the crowd!) display. After flying here, it then headed off to also display at the Don Muang show. A short but sweet airshow... but this place has a lot more to offer...
In addition to the active 461Sq Daks and Nomads, thought to be around ten of each, there are a lot more of the latter to be found here. The usual parking ramp for the Daks (next to the airshow ramp), today being used as a car park, has a row of around a dozen shelters. Parked inside some of these are a total of six Nomad N22B's... 46115, 46123, 46133, 46142, 46143 and 46144. All are retired with engines and other parts missing, mostly in poor condition, with 133 having some serious nose damage. Of the others, 123 and 142 still have fairly fresh paint, with 123 also having 'Royal Rain Making Flight' markings (as well as regular transport flights, the squadron also has this interesting role). Leaving the show and heading back towards the terminal, there were still more Gonads to come! On the opposite side of the road, is another mounted on display, 46121. Following the track past this leads to a caravan park style set-up, only not with caravans, but Gonads! Apparently known as the 'Nomad Homestay', there are another five aircraft here... 46113, 46116, 46124, 46141 and 46145. Losing count now! With 'out-house' style buildings stuck on the side of four of these, they do appear to be (or have been) used as dwellings (or 'holiday homes'), though there was nobody around to speak with about them. Reportedly, a sixth was here (46114), but moved in 2012. Of the five, 113 and 124 are still in camo, while the others have been re-painted all grey. 113 doesn't have the 'out-house', but is mounted in a take-off position, with a 461Sq airman figure and stone plaque with 'Memorial Nomad The Non-Stop Fighter' next to it. Can't remember the last Nomad i saw, but you certainly get your fill of them here! Fifteen in total now!
Walking back the short distance to the terminal, we still had a bit of time before our flight, with two more aircraft of interest to shoot, yet to be mentioned. Parked here for several years now, are ex One-Two-Go/Orient Thai B747-100 HS-UTD, and ex Orient Thai B747-300 HS-UTL, which have been at the centre of some controversy. Parked at either side of the ramp, the aircraft have had their engines removed, with regs and titles/tail colours painted over, and new titles applied reading (something like) 'This aeroplane is an asset donated for education and learning'. Both arriving here in June 2008, they have been at the centre of a police investigation since, with the 'story' going... At the end of their lease period, the owners did not want the aircraft returned, so Orient Thai flew them here for parking, to avoid the high costs in Bangkok. The police then became involved when it was alleged that the aircraft's owner had sold parts from them without paying proper taxes. Several years later the case is still ongoing, with the airport wanting it wrapped up so that the now derelict aircraft can be removed. Thats the story anyway, judge for yourself! Also, apparently the 'donation for educational purposes' now relieves the owners of some responsibility for disposing of the aircraft?
A very productive short visit here then, as we checked in for the return Nok Air flight to Don Muang. Operated by ATR-72-500 HS-DRD, DD8405 was off at 1120 for the one hour flight. On take off we could then see another Dak and Nomad on display, further along inside the base (its no good, we'll have to go back!). Back at Don Muang, the commuter types park at the Southern end of the passenger ramp, providing a good chance to photograph a few others in this area. These included new outfit R Airlines/Skyview Airways A320 LY-VES (taped over new reg HS-RCB) and A321 HS-RCC (the one time G-OOAJ), City Airways B737-400 HS-GTD, Orient Thai B737-400 HS-BRE and B767-300 HS-BKB, and new outfit NewGen Airways B737-400 HS-NGA, delivered one month ago (ex US Airways). Then, jumping straight into a taxi for the airshow on the military side, we were dropped off a few hundred yards along, where shuttle buses were leaving for the show! As the afternoon flying display was just about to start (a repeat of the morning's display), the small flightline just in front of the crowd had... RTAF L-39ZA/ART's 40101 and 40103 of 401Sq at Takhli, and JAS-39C Gripen's 70110 and 70111 of 701Sq at Surat Thani. All of these then displayed, before heading off and returning to their home bases. Then flying, before parking on the flightline, were four Fairchild AU-23A Peacemaker's from 501Sq at Prachuap Khiri Khan... 42074, 42079, 42085 and 42087. Of these, all were in camo except 42085 in a grey scheme, with 42074 having the RTAF 100th Anniversary tail markings. This unit is the sole operator of the type in the world, derived from the Pilatus PC-6 for use by the US in Vietnam. After storage at AMARC, they were later supplied to Thailand, with around ten still thought to be in service. Also flying were several resident 601Sq C-130's, with some being experience flights during the show. These included C-130H 60110 and stretched C-130H-30's 60104 and 60106.
Then, the static display had the following residents... RTAF HS748-2A 60304 of 603Sq, C-130H 60108 of 601Sq (with 30th Anniversary tail markings), UH-1H 20334 of 203Sq, and 604Sq trainers CT4/A 60439/RR.15, T-41D (Cessna R172E) 60422/8968 (with RTAF 100th Anniversary tail markings) and DA-42's 60448 and 60451. Also, nice Tango Squadron preserved F-8F Bearcat 1234, F-86F 1325/5093, AT-28D 0-13534/5306 and T-33A 57-0538/1133 were also on display. Visiting static was... RTAF Basler BT-67 Turbo Dak 46155 of 461Sq at Phitsanulok, AU-23A 42087 (grey scheme) of 501Sq at Prachuap Khiri Khan, F-5E 21130/91703 of 211Sq at Ubon Ratchathani, L-39ZA/ART 40109 of 401Sq at Takhli, JAS-39C 70106 of 701Sq at Surat Thani, as well as Saab 340AEW 70201 of 702Sq at Surat Thani, F-16B 10302/86380 of 103Sq at Korat, and Alpha Jet A 23141 of 231Sq at Udon Thani (all with RTAF 100th Anniversary tail markings). Finally, parked nearby and on for shots, were 602Sq Royal Flight A310-300 60201/HS-TYQ and A319CJ 60202/HS-TYR, along with another classic Budgie, 603Sq HS748-2A 60301, while preserved tail section of VC-47A 42-100536 (w/o at Lopburi in 1985) is mounted on display outside the Dakota Squadron hangar (next to the static ramp today).
At the end of a good, long day, the final hour at the terminal viewing area provided a few more shots, including two departing US C-12's... resident USAF Embassy Flight C-12C 73-1214 and US Army C-12U 84-00155 of Co A 6-52 AVN (similar to the one caught in Manila, with the same mod), as well as a distant shot of another RTAF 603Sq HS748-2A, 60305 on the base side. Apparently these classics will operate until around 2017.
DAY 10 SUNDAY 12TH JANUARY
Today was the final day in Thailand, with a plan to catch some of the many aircraft located around the wider city, before ending up at Bangkok BKK, where we had a flight out of later. Again, a driver had been arranged for our 'city tour' for the six locations planned and pre-arranged, to catch some of the classics present at museums etc around this huge city. The first location was now looking doubtful though, after seeing the checkpoint yesterday on the drive around to the military side, but, we would give it a try anyway. Located along the SE perimeter at Don Muang, is a fire service training area, which has ex Royal Air Cambodge Caravelle III XU-JTB present. Back in 1975, this was used by self-proclaimed President of the newly created Khmer Republic, Lon Nol, to flee Phnom Penh into exile here, following the Khmer Rouge victory in the Cambodian civil war. Parked here since, the aircraft was later moved to the current location around 1994, and is of course now in a derelict, though fairly intact condition. Unfortunately though, being on the military side, access probably needs to be officially arranged, which we hadn't tried, and were denied entry past the checkpoint. Another time hopefully!
Off into the city then, next stop was the Police Museum at Thanon Ram Intra, around five miles to the SE. Here, at the entrance on the roadside, mounted above the gatehouse, is a C-47B painted in Royal Thai Police colours as 219789 (really ex RTAF 43-49516). Due to the planned 'city shutdown' demonstrations the following day (we were escaping Bangkok just in time!), the museum was closed, though with the Dak being our main interest, we were able to easily photograph this anyway (and which i had also done on a previous visit here). Next stop was for another Dak, which we were still going to look for despite our local contact suggesting it might have gone. Located around 12 miles to the NW, C-47A '979' (ex HS-TDA of Sky of Siam Co, and previously Thai Airways) had been placed next to the Chao Phrayaa River at Koh Kret. However, our contact was correct, it was gone, apparently 'cut up and taken away by foreigners' according to the locals there (the latest reports now saying it was scrapped by last month). Just too late, after it had been here over 12 years, there is a video clip of it here...
So, one out of three so far, thankfully the next three were easy, with the next stop certainly the highlight. Around 20 miles to the SW, is the Jesada Technik Museum at Nakhon Chaisi, which has a lot of aircraft, as well as an amazing amount of vintage cars etc as part of the owners collection (Elbow now getting very excited about old Renault 8's and stuff!). At the main entrance, an O-1A Bird Dog is marked as 'US Army 25190' (really ex 50-1349), while just inside is ex German Army Alouette II 75+16, still with an HFS-11 unit badge on the nose (but no serial). Just up the road is the main aircraft parking area, with very nice classic YS-11A HS-APA, last operated by short-lived Air Phoenix. Only operated for two months, in May-June 2008, it was then wfu at Don Muang before being moved here in September 2010. Still in great condition, the paint looks very fresh and clean, retaining the Air Phoenix cheatlines, but with the titles and tail logo (and reg) painted over, with a 'JD' tail logo now applied. Nearby is RTAF G-222 60311, which has the tail fin from (and marked as) 60309. This was moved here from Don Muang in August 2012. Also here are a load of old ex RTAF O-1A Bird Dogs, all dismantled in poor condition. I think 19 in total (i won't list all the serials!), all are tightly lined up in two rows. Also, a few tins are TB-9 HS-TCO, Pa-38 HS-TCU, R-22 HS-TZJ and Enstrom 480 HS-TZN. Then, over the road is the main storage 'boneyard', with a few more aircraft present, including old Lao AF CH-34D Seahorse (Wessex) 3699 (ex 153699). Nearby, two Daks present are C-47A N2270M and VC-47D 476302, both fairly complete with engines still fitted. N2270M was last operated by PMC Associated Co in Burma, from 1980-1983 as a cloud seeding aircraft. Then after storage at Nakhon Sawan, was moved to Kanchanaburi (River Kwai) around 2001, before arriving here in 2006. The large PMC logo and US reg are still just visible on the bare metal fin. Meanwhile, 476302 is in faded RTAF colours, and is ex SVNAF (South Vietnam Air Force), which escaped here in 1975.
As well as this main site, Jesada also have another compound not that far away, which we didn't visit. Here are two RTAF C-123K's (many more of which are located around the city). So, moving on, next stop was the Police Cadet School in Sampran, around six miles to the South. On display near the main gate here, is Royal Thai Police DHC-4 Caribou 12257. This arrived in 2006, after being wfu at Don Muang for almost ten years. Now heading back into the city, we again passed fairly close to the Taweewattana Royal Palace, where an RTAF Dak and HS-748 are on display. Asking about public access here, the reply was 'how well do you know the Prince?'... we gave it a miss! So, on to the final stop, the National Science Centre for Education (ex Bangkok Science Museum) in Sukhumvit, central Bangkok, around 25 miles to the East. On display here, are ex Thai Army C-47A 9414 (painted in RTAF colours), along with RTAF F-86F 4482/'1211' (previously coded 4311 and 4313), vintage Pa-23-250 HS-TCZ of CATC (Civil Aviation Training Centre), and a Lake LA-4-180 thought to be either HS-TCR or HS-TCS.
And that was it, on to Bangkok BKK around 12 miles further East. Landing from the South today, photospots are not so easy around that end, and as time had got on a bit, we just headed straight to the terminal, where in the end we didn't take any further shots. Checking in with Air India for our flight to Mumbai, the reasonable charge for an upgrade to business, was taken up on. Operated by A321 VT-PPD, AI331 was off at 2040 for the 4.15 hour flight, landing at 2325L (2.5 hour time difference!). Staying two nights at the well known Orchid Hotel, even the short taxi ride there was an experience (hands over your eyes), the first of many to come, in 'incredible India'...
DAY 11 MONDAY 13TH JANUARY
The Orchid Hotel is a well known 'spotters hotel', being located very close to the end, and just to the West side of the cross-runway at Mumbai, runway 14. With a rooftop pool and restaurant, with fantastic views overlooking the line-up and touchdown points on 14, this place could be perfect. BUT, two problems, 14 is not the main runway in use (27 is and can barely be seen from here), and in any case, unfortunately security has now clamped down on photography (and maybe all spotting), apparently after being told to do so by airport security. We had heard of reports on this before booking here (including of spotters being 'thrown out after ignoring requests to stop'), so had requested a North facing, high floor room (which was given), in case it was as bad as some were indicating, so at least we would have the option of shooting from the room. There was some good news though, regarding the main runway in use. Due to major work being carried out on the taxyway leading to runway 27, this was currently being closed every day, we were told between 0900-1700 (was actually from 10am), with runway 14 then being used instead. This meant the option of using the very good runway 27 photospot, could now be forgotten, if it was safe to do so anyway (getting very mixed opinions about this)? However, 14 would now be the runway in use for almost all the daylight hours.
So, first thing this morning, a rooftop recce revealed it to be deserted apart from not one, but two security guards. Not looking good! Meanwhile, we had been in touch with a couple of local photographers, one of which was going to join us here, with the possible option of going to another good photospot nearby. In the meantime, runway 14 was now in use, and although shots from the room were 'OK', they were far from ideal, through two lots of dirty glass (around six inches apart). As well as the regulars, movements included... Jindal Industries Cessna 525 VT-OPJ, Indian Navy Do228-200 IN-229/COC of INAS550 at INS Garuda (Cochin), Bhushan Aviation Cessna 560XLS VT-BSL, Invision Air Services Phenom 100 VT-IAJ, new GoAir A320(SL) VT-GOP, Jet Airways B737-800 VT-JGV (in special 'Disney Channel' colours), Taj Air Falcon 2000EX VT-TDT, ExecuJet Middle East CL850 VP-BSD, Indian Navy Do228-200 IN-222/DAB of INAS310 at INS Hansa (Goa-Dabolim), Cathay Cargo B747-400ERF B-LIA, Reliance Industries Hawker 800XP VT-RPL and Air India Regional/Alliance Air CRJ-702 VT-RJB.
With our Indian contact here now, we decided to return to the rooftop. Speaking with the guards, we were given the 'OK' to shoot from the rooftop... but only for a short while. Over the next hour or so, and for the rest of the afternoon back in the room, highlights included... Jet Airways B737-800 VT-JGJ (with JetKonnect titles), Modern Road Makers Ltd Hawker 4000 VT-VDM, BA 'One World' B747-400 G-BNLI, Ethiopian Cargo B757-200PF ET-AJS, Reliance Commercial Dealers Ltd Global Express XRS VT-HMA, Oman Air B737-800 A4O-BB, PIA B737-300 AP-BFT, Zest Aviation CL604 VT-ZST, and Government of Madhya Pradesh Beech B200 VT-MPT. As well as Air India stuff, the regulars included Jet Airways B737's and B777's, JetKonnect B737's, IndiGo A320's, GoAir A320's, SpiceJet B737's and Air India Express B737's.
DAY 12 TUESDAY 14TH JANUARY
With a flight out at mid-day, and with runway 14 not in use until 10am, we decided to check out straight after breakfast and head to the terminal, in case any shots were on from there. They weren't, so there was time to chill before the flight to Goa. Flying with SpiceJet, SG803 was operated by B737-900 VT-SGW, with departure at 1225. On reaching Goa, we were put into the hold 'because of military flying... with no landings until 1315'. With other civil flights ahead of us, we then landed at 1335, making it a 1.10 hour flight. This pattern of 'civil movements slots' became familiar, even over the short time we were to be here. And the reason we were here... Goa airport (Dabolim) is of course also the main Indian Naval Air Station, otherwise known as INS Hansa. As well as the active Navy aircraft, just outside the airport is the Naval Aviation Museum, one of only two military aviation museums in India (the other being in Delhi).
Those that are familiar with this place, will know the usual landing and taxy procedure, which should enable good shots of some of the resident military. Taking advice from Indian photographers, any attempt to take shots here is extremely risky, with the 'safest' chances being from the aircraft after landing, and at the museum. With the usual landing runway here being 26, as it was today, after landing most aircraft will then exit the runway on to a taxyway loop, to vacate the runway for any following movements. This loop takes you right past the main parking ramps and hangars for some of the based Navy aircraft. Sitting on the left side of the aircraft, ideally in window seat 2A or 3A (or right at the back), will give the best, clear chance for shots. After taxying around (and maybe holding in) the loop, aircraft will then re-join the runway and taxy to the terminal further down. Thankfully this was to work OK this time, with some other passengers seeing us taking pictures (as we had been of the scenery en route), without concern. If doing this, its maybe advisable to use a good compact, as a DSLR might draw too much attention.
The residents then... Sea Harriers of INAS300 'White Tigers', Mig-29K's of INAS303 'Black Panthers', Do228's of INAS310 'Cobras', IL-38SD's of INAS315 'Winged Stallions', HAL Chetak (SAR helicopters) of INAS321 'Angels', Kamov Ka-31 (AEW helicopters) of INAS339 'Falcons', HAL HJT-16 Kiran (jet trainers) of INAS551 'Phantoms', and Harrier T-60's of INAS552 'Braves'. Of these, some carry the code 'DAB' (for Dabolim), with all the 'Russian stuff' operating from the North side ramps and hangars, along with the 228's, with the Shar's and everything else from the South side. As well as these, visiting military are fairly common, including for exercises held here. These can include the iconic Tu-142MK-E Bear, eight of which are operated by INAS312 'Albatross', and were previously based here, before moving to INS Rajali, also known as Arakkonam Naval Air Station (hence their tailcode 'ARK'). Unfortunately, none were visiting today (after just missing one at Mumbai by a few days!), with just the one Shar seen parked up on landing. Thankfully though, being the easiest to photograph on taxying in, we shot the four IL-38SD's present... IN301, IN305, IN306 and IN307 (all coded 'DAB'), as well as one Do228-200 parked outside, IN-224/DAB. Of the others, the Mig-29K's are not so easy to photograph on their ramp, while the few Kamov's we saw had large covers over them.
Of the IL-38SD's present today, IN305 certainly looked in the best condition (with very fresh paint), while IN301 had some leading edge panels missing. With five operated, IN303 was the only one not present today (away on maintenance?). Receiving the first of these maritime patrol aircraft back in the Seventies, a further two arrived in 1983 (the five aircraft being IN301 to IN305). In 2002, a pair (IN302 & IN304) collided over Dabolim while performing an airshow routine, killing all 12 onboard. Russia then donated two more aircraft free of charge (IN306 and IN307), to replace the crashed aircraft. In 2001, an upgrade contract had been signed to modify the aircraft to IL-38SD (Sea Dragon) standard, with a modification being the large ESM/ELINT 'pod' held above the cockpit on struts. A really bizzare looking bit of kit, the Indian aircraft differ from Russian Navy IL-38SD's by having three struts, compared to the 'lattice structure' of eight struts on the Russian aircraft. Problems arose though when the Indian Navy expressed unhappiness with the upgraded aircraft's performance during tests (when it failed to detect submarines). Contract payments were then suspended until further improvements and tests were carried out, even though the Russian side say there was nothing wrong with the aircraft, and it performed as stipulated in the original contract. However, the Indian's were still not happy and refused to take delivery, resulting in the aircraft involved being parked-up in Russia for an extended time. Subsequently, a new target-finding system dubbed 'Morskoy Zmey' was installed, which resulted in all the aircraft being completed and accepted.
So, following the excitement after landing, we then headed straight for our nearby hotel for the one night. This very short visit was planned for a visit to the museum, with the 'any other shots' from the aircraft possibly being all we could expect here. So, after dropping the bags off, we headed to the Naval Aviation Museum, just to the South of the airport. Well known main attraction here, is classic L-1049E Super Constellation IN315. One of five operated by INAS312 when here (now flying the Bear) between 1976-1983, this is of course the only survivor. Other highlights include Short Sealand Mk2 IN106 (the only one in India), Dove IN124, Sea Harrier FRS51 IN621 of INAS300, Sea King Mk42 IN505/W, and Kamov Ka-25PL IN573/VVZ of INAS333 at INS Dega (Visakhapatnam). While at the museum, Mig-29K 673 was in the circuit, then heading off to enable some civil movements, before returning for more circuits and land. Shots of some of these movements are possible from here, but with a LOT of discretion!
DAY 13 WEDNESDAY 15TH JANUARY
The final day in India, and the final full day of the trip, needed an early start. With the restrictive operating hours here, all morning civil movements must be made before 0830 (before the 0830-1300 restriction for military flying only). So, checking in with GoAir for New Delhi, our first flight was G8376 to Mumbai. Operated by A320 VT-WAJ, departure was at 0655, landing 1.05 hours later at 0800. Connecting straight on to G8335 to New Delhi, operated by A320 VT-WAI, departure was at 1020, landing 1.35 hours later at 1155. Taxying in, highlight among quite a few nice aircraft present, was HAL-748 VT-EAT of the Indian Border Security Force, just about visible in the grimey weather! We had heard that the weather would be very different in New Delhi, and it certainly was! From the heat in Goa, this place was pretty cold, with terrible visibility (as is normal at this time of year apparently). Infact, we could barely see the Korean Government B747-400 10001 landing a few hundred yards away. With only half a day here though to put up with it, it was straight off to the Indian Air Force Museum, which is part of the Palam Air Force Station, on the North side of the airport.
Highlights outside here include classic Tu-124K V644 (named 'Rajdoot'), An-12A BL727 of 25Sq, C-119G IK450 (with both 19Sq and 48Sq badges), maritime patrol B-24J Liberator HE924 of 6Sq, recce Mig-25RB KP355, Mig-23MF SK434, Canberra B(I)58 IF907, S-55C (Whirlwind) IZ1590, and Mil-4A BZ900 of 16Sq. Inside, highlights include many British built types, including Hunter F56 BA-263, Hurricane IIB AB-832, Tempest II HA-623, Spitfire XVIII HS-986, Vampire NF10 ID-606 and HAL Gnat II E-2015, along with Soviet built Mig-21FL C-499 and Su-7BMK B-888. The damaged tail section of another Su-7 is also on display, which the pilot managed to fly back during the 1971 conflict with Pakistan. Similarly, outside are some shot-down remains of one or two PAF aircraft. Some awesome classics here then, with more just over the museum wall, where some of the based HS-748's and B737-200's etc can just about be seen, and certainly heard... but unfortunately not photographed!
DAY 14 THURSDAY 16TH JANUARY
With plenty of time before our flights, we later used one of the lounges to chill before heading to the gate. The poor visibility was now causing some delays though, including to Elbow's Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi (and back to the UK). My Qatar Airways flight to Doha, due out around the same time, was delayed by an hour in the end, for my first ride in a Boeing 787. Operated by A7-BCA, QR563 was eventually off at 0540, landing 3.30 hours later at 0640L. Pulling onto stand, one final nice shot was of GCS Cargo A300F4-203 4L-BIC (the old MNG TC-MNB), which was just pushing back for departure. Then finally, connecting onto QR1102 to Bahrain, operated by A330-200 A7-ACF, departure was at 0905 for the 30 minute flight.