Istanbul April 2009

Following a weeks holiday in Thailand, flying via Dubai with Emirates, on return to Dubai i then took Turkish Airlines to Istanbul for the next part of the trip. Planned around a visit to Moldova, flying there with Turkish was the best option, with almost a full day in Istanbul before my connection to Chisinau. This would be my first time in Turkey, with Istanbul being somewhere i had wanted to visit. Then, on the return from Moldova, i had planned on an extended stay, with a further four days here.


The flight from Dubai to Istanbul was listed as operated by A340-300, though turned out to be an A321-200, with TK1163 departing at 0245, arriving 4.15 hours later at 0700L. The intention for this first visit was to do the aircraft museums, to then concentrate on shooting the airport movements when i returned. So, jumping into a taxi, the first stop was a museum in the city, mainly for a DC-3 present. Quite easily found, as right on the Bosphorus river, the Koc Muzesi is a large transport museum with a couple of aircraft present, including a Starfighter on the gate, as well as a few ships, submarines and even a London bus! Unfortunately the place didn't open for another hour, however the DC-3C TC-ALI was still OK for a shot from the gate, so with that 'in the bag' it was back to Ataturk Airport, and the excellent Turkish Airforce Museum (Havacilik Muzesi) which adjoines the military Southside of the airport.

Highlights here for propliner fans are the Turkish AF Viscount and C-54, aswell as two C-47's, with the Istanbul Airlines Caravelle also great to see. The museum probably has almost every fighter type previously operated by the Turks over the years, with the great weather meaning i spent a good few hours here shooting everything, before heading back to the terminal for the flight out. After a couple of discreet shots from the terminal, it was onto TK1471 to Chisinau, operated by B737-800. On taxying out, a couple of shots managed were of one of the old MD-80's lying around the place, Eram Air MD-82 TC-TTB.


Returning to Istanbul from Chisinau on TK1472, again operated by B737-800, i was now going to have four days in Istanbul, after arriving back a day early. However, with the weather not being too clever today, after sorting out the hire car and arranging a hotel for the extra night, i then decided to call it a day. Anticipation was high though, not just for the expected movements here, but for the UN government meeting that by chance was taking place. The BIG news though, was of a state visit by a certain guy...!

Istanbul Ataturk airport has three runways, the long parallel 36L/18R and 36R/18L to the west of the terminals, and the shorter 06/24 between the terminals and the militaty area (and museum) to the South of the airport. The military base, known as Yesilkoy, is fairly busy with transport aircraft, helicopters and some training aircraft. Prior to making the trip i had done a lot of research on Istanbul, and had contacted a few of the local photographers. Not suprisingly, the advice was that you need to take a lot of care, although there are 'safe' places to go. A popular place is the Southerly perimeter, around the final approach area to runways 06 and 36L/R. However, after making arrangements, i was fortunate enough to be able to visit the Tarkim Flight Academy building, with their great rooftop cafe and balcony which overlooks the airport. This is located on the western perimeter, very close to the parallel runways and not far from the '06 approach. With photography from here being fantastic and so convienient, i was to become a familiar face after spending the next four days here!

The day started with a bit of drama! After waking, i looked to check the weather outside (not good again), only to see a massive fire starting not far away! It turned out to be a large tent shaped show venue called Gosteri Merkezi, located about 100ft away from the WOW Hotel, which was where i had booked for the next few nights! Anyway, the place burnt down, but luckily the hotel didn't! Despite the grimey weather, todays big interest was going to be aircraft connected with the government meetings going on in town. The UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) meeting had attracted quite a few government aircraft, which were already here. Hoping to photograph these on departure over the next few days, i missed a few which left at night, including a Spanish AF A310, Bulgarian Government Tu-154 and a Greek Government Legacy.

Aswell as this meeting, the big news was that President Obama was making a state visit to Turkey (his first overseas visit), and was in the capital Ankara. Thankfully, it was then discovered he would be flying up to Istanbul later. Yes! However, as the day went on and the weather wasn't improving, the concern then was if he would arrive before dark? The Tarkim cafe was then attracting TV and press, to cover his arrival from the great vantage point, as we watched live on TV as the President was leaving Ankara. First to arrive though was Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, in his Government A319CJ TC-ANA (which i had missed at Zurich two months earlier!). By this time the rain was coming down and photography was difficult. An hour later, and getting darker... 'Istanbul Tower this is Air Force 1, established on 36 Right', followed by 'Runway in sight, four miles out'. The controller replied 'Air Force 1 you are not cleared to land, security vehicle still to vacate', which drew the quick, blunt response 'Please clear the runway immiedietly'. VC-25A 82-8000 then made a perfect landing at 1859, with the reverse thrust throwing up a huge amount of spray off the wet runway. Six minutes later it was followed by 'SAM3801' C-32A 98-0001, which was supporting the Presidents visit (no second VC-25A this time). And that was the end of an eventfull first day... shame about the weather!


After President Obama had spent the morning visiting the sights in Istanbul, he arrived back at the airport in his famous limo 'The Beast' at 1405. Ten minutes later VC-25A 'Sierra 1492' was taxying for departure on Runway 36R for take off at 1421, followed two minutes later by the C-32A as 'Sierra 3801'. It was later discovered that the President had flown direct to Iraq on an unannounced visit, staying there just a few hours before heading back home (landing at Andrews AFB on the 8th at 0624Z). Presumably the 'Sierra' callsign was used for security reasons, shortened from 'SAM' (Special Air Mission), the regular callsign used by the 89AW (note the C-32A's callsigns), including by the VC-25A's when the President isn't onboard. This then debunks the theory that 'Air Force 1' is always used when the Pres is onboard! As for the '1492 part of the callsign... who knows?

Supporting the Presidents visit to Istanbul were three C-17A's (including 04-4131 'McGuire'), which arrived during the day and departed after dark. Also involved was 105AW NY ANG 'Stewart' C-5A 70-0455, being the final aircraft to clear up and leave on the 9th. Also possibly involved was 86-0419 C-130H 440AW AFRC 'Bragg-Pope', which had departed just before the Galaxy. These aircraft were tasked to take out the Presidential vehicles etc (though no helicopters on this occasion). Also, as usual, the press corp were following the President, using two United B777's (one in 'Star Alliance' colours).

So far runway 36R had mainly been used for take offs, with '06 for most arrivals. So, it was a nice change to see them switch to runway 18R for most take offs, with '24 now used for most landings. This meant that take offs on the parallel runway closest to Tarkim (18R) had aircraft rotating while looking down on them (especialy those that used a lot of runway), so great for shots. Also, the weather today was much improved and the forcast for the next two days was good.


Today saw take offs continue to use runway 18R, with the final departure after the UNAOC meeting, Oman Government Gulf 4 A40-AC. Over the previous couple of days, the following were also photographed departing... T.18-1/45-40 Falcon 900 Spanish AF, A9C-HWR RJ-85 Bahrain Royal Flight, 5105 CL601-3A Czech AF, T-783 Falcon 50 Swiss AF, TC-ATA Gulf 4 Turkish Government and CM-01 Falcon 20E Belgian AF (with '15th Wing 60 Years' special markings), with Italian AF C-27J MM62223/46-88 also maybe connected. Highlights for me though were YK-ASB Falcon 20F Syrian Government, and (presumably connected) UP-T3403 Tu-134A-3 of Jet Airlines, fitted with a 37-seat VIP interior.


After checking out of the hotel, the final day in Istanbul was again spent at Tarkim, with runway 36R again used for most departures, and '06 for most arrivals. As well as the Government aircraft mentioned, there were of course some highlights of the 'regular' airport movements. Those photographed included Tartastan B737-300 VQ-BAP, Air Astana A320 P4-UAS, Libyan Airlines A320 TS-IND, Air Moldova A320 ER-AXP, Ariana/Saga Airlines A310-300 TC-SGC, Cessna 560XL D-CZZZ, Turkmenistan B737-800 EZ-A004, Buraq Air B737-800 5A-DMH, Challenger 300 SP-ZSZ, Aeroflot Don B737-400 VQ-BAN, BH Airlines ATR-72-200 E7-AAE, Donbassaero A320 UR-DAC, Cessna 525 LZ-DIN, Tajik Air/Travel Service B737-800 OK-TVH, PIA A310-300 AP-BEU, Lufthansa Retrojet A321 D-AIRX, Cessna 560XL N666MX, Gulf 450 VP-BSA of Shell Aircraft (Based at Rotterdam), Falcon 2000EX M-STCO, Iran Air A310-300 EP-IBK, Royal Jordanian ERJ-195 JY-EMF, Air Baltic B737-300(WL) YL-BBY, ASL Beech 200C OO-ASL, Aeroflot Don B737-500 VP-BLG, KLM Cargo B747-400ERF PH-CKB, Saudi Cargo MD-11F HZ-ANC, Air Baltic B737-500 YL-BBG, Cessna 525 OE-FMT, Silk Way/Cargolux B747-400F LX-PCV, Seagle Air B737-300 OM-HLC (operating for Iraqi Airways), Saratov Airlines Yak-42D RA-42389, Cessna 525A OE-FII, EMB-135BJ P4-IVM of ITERA and Mehan Air A310-300 F-OJHI.

Turkish biz included Cessna 560XLS TC-DLZ, Falcon 900B TC-AKK, Falcon 2000 TC-SNK, Hawker 850XP TC-STD, Challenger 300 TC-SCR, Hawker 850XPi's TC-CLK & TC-TKC, CL605 TC-SAB of Doysa Air, THK Pa-42 TC-THK, Beech B200 TC-FIR and choppers AW109E TC-HKB of Kaan Air and A119 TC-HSS of Med Air. While Turkish military included Air Force C-130B 62-3496, CN-235M 95-103, Army Beech B200 10013 and Police S-70A '2' and MD-600N EM-0060.

Of the local airlines, Onur Air A300's and AtlasJet B757's operate on wet lease for Saudi Arabian Airlines. Infact, all SVA flights operated out of here are by Turkish registered aircraft. Turkish Airlines have their new B777-300's on lease from Jet Airways (with VT- registrations), while they recently leased a couple of Kingfisher A321's. Of the older stuff, their final few B737-400's and two remaining passenger A310's are still in service, along with three A310 freighters. Other cargo operators are ACT and MNG Cargo with A300's.

Finally, also to mention the other airport in Istanbul... Sabiha Gokcen Airport is on the Asian side of the city to the east, and quite a long distance away. Not as busy, it is used by some of the Turkish charter and low-cost airlines, aswell as Easyjet, and is well known for frequent visits by Russian & CIS cargo and charter aircraft. It also has a few resident classics, with a couple of Jetstars based, along with the burnt out B707 9L-LDU! I had tried contacting the airport to arrange a visit, but no luck.

Pictures to follow...