November 2004 .... my first real opportunity to create a substantial series of spotting trips taking full advantage of ours, and other UK airports', lo-cost bases for a summer season. Using mainly our own easyJet base, and with the Summer 2005 programme going on sale while I was still (only just) an un-attached man, I, in what would ultimately turn out to be a 'more than I could chew' situation, booked a whole load of very cheap flights for the first seven months of 2005. This, is partly, where I have been .......


The end of January in recent years has seen me going across the Atlantic to indulge in 'Super Sunday' exec jet mayhem, but with this year's event taking place in the apparently 'difficult' Jacksonville, we decided to take a break, and instead sample for the first time the WEF traffic at Geneva/Zurich. The year's trips therefore got off to a rather frightening start, arriving at a dark, cold and incredibly windy Geneva on the evening of Wednesday 26th January ... quite an arrival !. Staying a night at the nearby Holiday Inn gave me the opportunity to check out the exec jet aprons before breakfast the following day .... it was unbelievably cold !. Certainly the coldest spotting I've ever done anywhere ... the warmth of Northern Florida seemed like a great idea. Catching the train up to Zurich didn't find any warmer climes, but a great selection of aircraft on the ground took the mind off the cold somewhat.


My second trip to the always fascinating Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, and specifically its Airbus 'side', in approximately six months, was of a different format to the first in September 2004. Instead of spending two nights in an Ibis Hotel stumping up the whole cost myself, and using Orly-based 'orange' aeroplanes, I took GNER/Thameslink trains from Newcastle Central Station to Gatwick Airport, for a major meet up of exiled Geordie Spotters, and a day-trip on Gatwick-based 'orange' Airbus A.319s. The eight of us had a fabulous day in beautiful weather, cruising around the perimeter in a 'white van', and partaking in the usual Airbus guided tour. Highlights of the factory-fresh Airbus' lying around were three China Southern A.330s, a pair of Thai International A.340-600s and a single A.340-500, one of the former giving us our first look at the carrier's new colour-scheme, and an EVA A.330-200. As with our visit the previous September however, the 'double-deck' Airbus remained an elusive sight, tucked away inside the huge new A.380 production facility.


Finkenwerder was a place I'd been trying to get to for ages, all sorts of different methods of reaching the, previously rather 'lo-cost' starved Northern German city, being researched, with itineraries involving Hannover and Berlin-Schonefeld never tie-ing in too well with the day of the tours of the Airbus factory. Imagine my interest therefore when I happened across Ryanair news of a new Prestwick-Lubeck service beginning in early 2005. Plans began to be formulised, taking into account the build-time of A.319s/A.321s, of bi-monthly trips therefore, and this trip was to be an experiment for the endeavour to become the 'single-aisle king' amongst the group of exiled Geordies !. Fortunately, my circumstances changed before I was foolish enough to go ahead and book five or six Prestwick-Lubeck returns !.
Nevertheless two of us still residing in Newcastle set off one morning in early March for Prestwick Airport, and my first flight with Ryanair. The transfer from the tiny Lubeck Airport to Hamburg city was extremely smooth, although the weather promised icy-cold spotting once again. The next morning we took the bus from Altona in central Hamburg to Finkenwerder, went on a 'spotters-only' walking tour of the factory with a very accomodating and understanding British guide, and then began the long journey home .... the bus back to Altona, the underground to the HBF, the Ryanair bus back to Lubeck Airport, a couple of hours in the most garish cabin I've ever flown in, and then finally, a three hour drive back to Newcastle, which in itself proved memorable !
It was worth it for the aeroplanes though .... three China Southern A.319s, two Independence Air A.319s, an Air China, TACA, Spirit, Frontier machine, as well as a Jetstar Asia A.320 and Asiana A.320 ... oh, and six easyJet A.319s !.


A true non-spotting trip, only one frame going in the book, a very old German Citation I at Alicante Airport on our return home. San Javier/Murcia Airport was also visited however, which proved interesting, if not lucrative for 'numbers', the airport being the destination for the majority of the aerial traffic noted over the resort near Torrevieja, Ryanair Boeing 737-800s being the most regular sights.


I had missed the always enjoyable weekend in Frankfurt, a yearly jaunt in the late '90s/early '00s, the last couple of years, again due mainly to access problems via 'lo-cost' carriers. Our new Hapag-Lloyd Express Cologne schedule provided real alternatives however, and so it was off in our 'taxi' one Friday afternoon in late April on a first-visiting Boeing 737-700 !. A quick transit through the very impressive new terminal at Cologne, and onto an ICE train, changing at Cologne HBF, for the stunningly fast journey between there and Frankfurt Airport. Exactly an hour - I remember doing it in two and a half hours in the early '90s in an earlier generation of German trains ! - with the 'speedo' showing 300 km/h, which we frankly didn't believe until we noticed the cars being left behind by us on the adjacent autobahn ... going in the same direction as us !. Another marvellous weekend was spent at FRA, and the Zeltinger Hof in Kelsterbach town, catching up on all sorts of things as usual at the airport, although the Lufthansa A.340-600s proved frustratingly elusive, as we had expected. Our return through Cologne on the Monday lunch-time proved interesting .... consecutive arrivals consisting of an Azerbaijan Ilyushin Il-76 and an Egyptian Air Force DHC.5 Buffalo !!.


The European 'biz show' EBACE at Geneva has been a firm date in our calendar for a few years, and with our easyJet Geneva scheduled service offering a 'link' to other destinations on the carrier's European network, we decided to extend the trip to some other capital cities, one of which was a 'long-time need-to-visit' for my travelling companion. An enjoyable night-stop and half-a-day was therefore spent at a much warmer Geneva, before we departed for two nights in Madrid on a easySwiss A.319 where we met up with another 'exile', followed by another 'single-aisle' trip to Orly for a night in the local Ibis, a transfer across to the CDG variety the following day, finally returning home to Newcastle on an 'orange' 737-700. The luck was with me again, 'fleeting' Iberia in Madrid, and getting to within one of doing the same to Air France in Paris, while other highlights included my last American Airlines 767 at CDG, and my last Thai and Malaysian 'Jumbo 400s',


Eighteen days after leaving Paris-CDG, we were back for another weekend in one of the best airports in the World. This trip was the subject of a slight modification after it had been booked however, four days spotting in Paris being changed somewhat to just two days spotting and another four days sight-seeing with a non-spotting companion. With little required at CDG after the trip of three weeks previous, this seemed to be the right thing to do on a number of levels, and so on our first day, I took the bus straight to Le Bourget to see what had had already arrived, and what was to show up, on the Friday prior to the start of the Paris Salon. A great day was had just short of the Le Bourget helipad area, watching all sorts of things arrive .... Jazz CRJ.700, QANTAS DHC.8-400, Falcon 7X, although none were more impressive than the wonderful Mirage IV. The Airbus A.380 was missing however, although it was 'spied' during a shopping mission on the Rue de Rennes on the Monday afternoon !.
While I had visited central Paris on a number of occasions in the past, on fleeting forays after a day's spotting etc., nothing can compare with spending whole days, preferably on foot, in this wonderful city ... although fleeting Air France, getting 'that' Dedicate A.319, on the Saturday morning before spotting became 'banned' was nice too !.


And so to the last of the trips booked back in November, our usual meet-up in the wonderful Alexandra Hotel at C'an Pastilla (specifically rooms 601 and 602) ..... another superb weekend, and a nice way to end one of the busiest six months I've ever experienced ..... hopefully the subject of a forthcoming portfolio, if I can find the time !!!!
On top of all this I also spent two weekends walking in the Lake District, and three days in early May cycling from Newcastle to Edinburgh. Is that a good enough excuse for the lack of updates ?. Bit 'burned out' now .... next trip ? .... nothing booked !

"off into finnair ....."
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