13 October 2015

boeing 747

For the love of the Jumbo

They have been jetting across our skies since the early 1970's. They changed international tourism forever, allowing the masses to travel. They have been the bedrock of many airlines long haul fleets. By 2020 however, British Airways will have all but retired this most majestic of machines. Virgin, although continuing to operate them from other airports will retire their Heathrow based 747 operations by April 2016. And the face of UK aviation will be changed forever. So in anticipation of this moment in our aviation history, we write our own tribute to this majestic plane that has allowed millions of us to reach places that were once never possible. For the love of the Jumbo, the 747

Boeing 747
A British Airways 747 on its finals into Heathrow 
Uniquely beautiful
You would be hard pushed to find many plane spotters and aviation fans who don't like the 747 (please let me know if you don't like it). Which when you look at it is perhaps strange. It doesn't have the beautiful lines of other aircraft. The hump at the front makes it seem cumbersome. But since those early days it has become a familiar feature of our skies. Looking up into the clear skies it was instantly recognisable. The four contrail lines a clear indication. It's unique sound as it flew overhead. Unfortunately the older versions have made it an expensive aircraft to fly, partially due to environmental costs airlines now have to pay.  

The first time
On board you knew you were in a special plane. Can you remember the first time? Looking in awe at the rows of seats heading into the distance. You knew then you were on something very large. I was once lucky enough to sit upstairs. Not in business class but on a short flight between Tokyo and Seoul. The cabin had been turned into an economy section. It still made my day! Before the arrival of the Airbus A340 and A380 there was no passenger aircraft like it. A truly unique flying experience.

Part of our culture
The 747 has featured in film and song adding to its status. The British band The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) sang the following line from the song Night in the City from their wonderful "Out of the Blue" album.
"747 just left from gate 11"
Its been seen in a number of high profile films such as Air Force One and the Airport series. It's also the choice of aircraft for the US President. Making the 747 probably the most recognised commercial aircraft flying today. Well with a name like "jumbo" its hardly going to be forgotten.

Boeing 747
Thai Airlines 747 taken at Narita Airport - Tokyo
Time to move on
Sadly though aviation has moved on. Yes the Jumbo will still be around for many a year to come. The new 747-800 testifies to that. Although perhaps more a freighter than a passenger carrier. Here in the UK though we are to sadly see it disappear from our airlines fleets. Newer, quieter and more fuel efficient aircraft will be taking its place. Before it does depart, lets take a moment to remember this most wonderful of aircraft. 

Many a traveler has been privileged to have flown on it, not just with BA or Virgin but many of the worlds leading airlines. So lets all salute the plane that helped to change the industry we know as tourism. Gone but certainly not forgotten. The 747, the Queen of the skies. Have you flown on the 747? What does it mean to you? I'd love to hear from you. 


10 August 2015


Air travel the low cost way 
It's easy (sorry for the pun) to mock and stick our noses up at flying low-cost but when you don't have the funds to turn left on a scheduled airline the alternatives are far and few between. So sketches is going to praise a particular flight we went on recently with easyJet and put it out there that flying low cost isn't as bad as many feel it is. 

Our plane home from Menorca
easyjet are a UK based low cost airline flying over 700 routes to 32 countries. They are the UK's largest airline and Europe's second largest behind Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair. When we flew with easyJet we were just four of the 60 odd million that fly with them each year. All impressive figures and a familiar sight in our European skies. But why am I waxing lyrical about them?

Our story
On our recent trip abroad we had a very pleasurable experience with easyJet. Although it started in chaos. Spanish ground staff really do have no concept of time! Leisurely strolling to their desk as if nothing matters and that 200 odd people didn't really want to catch a flight! That aside all was fine. It was on the flight that the staff excelled. 


Because Europe was being battered by winds and heavy rain our flight was delayed, originally for an hour. Not great as everyone was aboard and the doors closed ready for the off. And this is where I was so impressed. The crew were incredibly friendly and helpful (not the norm with low-cost on previous flights). They were very child friendly which as the flight was packed with kids was a huge bonus, talkative, reassuring and full of fun. Not to be outdone was the pilot, who also joined in on the act. 

The happy pilot

Our pilot was a bit of a joker (wish I had remembered his name). Before takeoff and during the flight he spoke with humour when relaying to us the weather back home (had forgotten his umbrella!) and other humourous details. Including upon arrival after a bumpy descent into Southend Airport.  Passengers chuckled as did I at his comments. What I'm trying to get at here is that it was all very reassuring and you could see that every one of the crew were enjoying their roles from pilot to attendant. Flying is a serious business but with a little added humour and a smile it made the flight one of the most pleasurable I've had for many a year. 

Low-cost doesn't mean low expectations

I know that there can be issues with flying low-cost but there are also problems flying with scheduled services. Our recent flight with easyJet was superb and they need to be commended for that. So the next time you look at booking a flight then don't diss the low-cost carriers, they might just surprise you.

If you have a low-cost flight story then I'd love to hear about it and why not share it with other members in the CAES (Civil Aviation Enthusiast Society) community on google CAES. Just click the link to join.  


9 August 2015

a little guide to being an avid plane spotter

The Avid Spotter
If you want to take planespotting a little more seriously today's little guide will give you the tools to help you on your way. We've looked at the amateur plane spotter in the post The Plane Spotter so we take a candid look at the avid spotter. These are the people that stand with notepads and pens, eagle eyed on the latest arrivals or departures. They know when key planes are due. 

The Tale of AeroMexico 
Trust me I once went to Heathrow and watched and listened to this small group of spotters waiting for an AeroMexico 787 Dreamliner to arrive. It's that vivid I'll never forget it. They weren't particularly bothered about the other planes arriving, just this one. It was great entertainment listening to their build up to the arrival. Chatting away, checking their trackers to note where it was...When it did arrive it was on the wrong runway! Far on the other side of the airfield. They got their number but it did feel a bit of a let down. And I felt a little disappointed for them. Most of them packed up and went after the plane had arrived. That's the avid spotter. So what equipment do you need

Its not that hard, is it?
So there you are, it doesn't take that much really. If you have the time and the few bits of equipment then you too will become the avid spotter. So what are you waiting for? Now is the time to give it a try. Head to your local airport, maybe they're have a viewing area and do some spotting. Be sure however not to break any rules, best to go where the others go, would be my advice. So you're one step closer to being an avid spotter. Enjoy!

Have I missed anything? It would be great to know so please don't hesitate to tell me. Next time we take a look at airports.


1 July 2015

Air Travel: In the A380

Air travel is all over the media here in the UK. The decision on the next runway to be built in the South East of England has reached the next stage in its process; the reports recommendation. So will it be Heathrow or Gatwick? That remains unanswered for probably another 10 years! What will be noticeable at both these airports over the coming years is the world's large passenger jet, the A380

What's it like...
This post is the first in an ongoing series called; What's it like.... So with aviation being the dominant newsmaker for today we're going to look at the worlds biggest passenger jet and review what it's like to fly on one.
Lufthansa A380
Flying High in the Sky
So, What's it like to fly on an A380? Firstly as you approach the plane you are in awe at its size. In your mind you are thinking "How does this thing get off the ground?"  Once on board your sense of scale is confirmed, its big and don't forget it has two floors! 

So with that in mind the first thing to point out is that there is plenty of room to stretch your legs. When you decide to go for a little walk it seems never ending. Do a few circuits of this plane and you'll be fine on a long journey. Secondly you notice the ceiling is a lot higher; creates a less claustrophobic feel. Thirdly the flight is quiet and very smooth for such a huge machine. (Still at this point you are in amazement that you are flying in this behemoth). The stairway at the back of the plane confirms this and you try to take a peek, looking on in envy at the high flyer's above you in their high tech chairs, drinking champagne! The seats on our flight were reasonably comfortable, which on any long flight is probably the most important aspect, so shouldn't grumble. And there was plenty of storage space in the overhead lockers.

What's it like...to fly on the A380? I found flying in the A380 an enjoyable, enlightening experience. A little less cramped, larger windows and Lufthansa provided a good service. The real joy is in the fact that you have flown on the plane, this quiet giant of the sky. In wonder at its size and the scale of the operation to turn them around and take to the skies. Joining the many millions that have already and will continue to do so for many years to come.  

A380 at Narita Airport, bound for Frankfurt
Game Changer
This aircraft has undoubtedly changed air travel for the foreseeable future. It flies more passengers than any other aircraft, some in luxury. Is far more fuel efficient than older generation big jets and much quieter. In fact they are an engineering marvel. have you flown in this beautiful beast? Would be great to hear your thoughts. 

14 June 2015

The Plane Spotter

Rough sketch of The Plane Spotter by Gavin Darvell

There they are, at the end of runways taking registration numbers and pictures. Some are just watching them for pleasure. Others are less obvious, not wanting to be tagged as a plane spotter.  Whatever way you do it there is a bit of plane spotter in all of us, even hardened travel bloggers and travellers. Sketches in Travel has decided to delve into this much ridiculed of hobbies. So let's start with The secret spotter.

The Secret Spotter:
These are people who don't show a vested interest in planes or aviation, perhaps travel often or just don't want to be teased by their mates. However if an opportunity arises they enjoy a sneaky peek. They sit in swanky airport lounges or at the departure gate and are secretly taking a look when a plane passes their gate, or lands in the distance.They might even enjoy the buzz of an airport. People busying themselves, full of excitement before flying off to far flung places.

Ask them if it's an Airbus A320 or a Boeing Dreamliner, then they may rebuke.  Secretly though they are fully aware as they will have the planes name ingrained in their heads from their tickets or safety videos. 
On the other hand they might be people who get dragged along to the airport or airfield by someone who is keener or younger. Having to endure hours of listening to said spotter talk about the latest A380 Airbus or an airlines new livery. 

"Did you see that? Hell that's a good looking plane."
"Yes, it's a plane, wonderful." Silently in awe at the sight of these marvels of technology, secretly thinking how the hell do they get off the ground. 

On final approach into Heathrow

The Test 
They are out there, hiding. The test is to take them to an airport, stand them under a flight path (if you can) and wait until a plane zooms over their heads at 50ft. How can they not be moved by its power and dramatic design? 

Moving Forward
All spotters will have caught the bug from being taken to the airport by a family member or going on their first holiday abroad. Living under flight paths or close to smaller airfields. They get some binoculars and thus their love of spotting begins. 

Next time
We look at the more serious spotter. Are you into aviation? I would love to hear your story.


19 May 2015

Up close

To accompany the last blog post launching the group Civil Aviation Enthusiasts Society (CAES). I thought I'd follow it up with a short photo blog taken on a windy but sunny morning close to Heathrow Airport. There are fabulous opportunities for some dramatic and interesting photographs around the airport perimeter as well as spotting and enjoying the thrill of planes flying over your head. I hope this short selection helps to prove that? Please let me know. There will be more about the planespotter in future CAES posts. For now "Carry on spotting". 

A KLM 737 on final approach
Delta 767 on finals
Airbus A320
Here it comes and there it goes


15 May 2015

"Plane Spotting Across the Universe" - Civil Aviation Enthusiast Society

Launch Day

You're at the airport, excited about the adventure you're about to start. There is a buzz (or frustration) amongst the many passengers awaiting the final call. For some it may be a chore, others a delight. The joy and despair of flying in equal measure. Some aren't even flying, just observing. Some seriously, others to wave families away. Whatever your situation, planes are an integral part of the travel experience.  

Well here on Sketches in Travel I have decided to start up a group that will hopefully be a platform for those that appreciate the hobby of plane spotting, whether as a casual observer or a fanatic. My inspiration comes from the brilliant Cloud Appreciation Society (I'm member 25,512). Which allows anyone to share in their passion of...clouds (funny that). So with this new community I hope to emulate, perhaps compliment them with the Civil Aviation Enthusiast Society. Am I being crazy? Please let me know. Lets tell you a little more..

On  final approach into Heathrow

The Set Up
The group is called (CAES - Civil Aviation Enthusiast Society). I'll be publishing an article once a month on my blog that will look into the world of the planespotter. Who they are, what motivates them, where to spot, photos and more. Eventually I'd like to have some guest blogs from members who have joined the community providing tips, hints, photos and their experiences and much more besides. Why me?

Some Background
I love planes, have for many years now. I enjoy being at airports and watching them arrive and take-off. Beats sitting there getting bored waiting for your flight. Although I don't take numbers (many do of course and good on them). I'm just happy to watch. I will always look up if I hear one flying overhead, curiosity getting the better of me. Wherever I've lived I've always seemed to have lived under the flightpath or near an airport. It's as if it's ingrained in me and of course I currently teach travel, so it's part of my everyday life. 

What to do next
So there (in brief) is my inspiration. If you are interested in joining then you can find the community on google+ (just type in the full name in the search section) or send me your interest to the following email - sketchesintravel@gmail.com 

You will be given a membership number to begin with and if we have enough followers some extra bits and pieces to show you are part of this community. So up, up and away we go...

The next CAES post: The Planespotter 


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