It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a year since I posted my “a decade ago” review of my spotting beginnings in 2006. With 2017 coming to an end, I would like to continue with the second instalment of the series, covering 2007 – an important year in my “avgeek history.”
In 2007, I got my first DSLR, I met some of my best avgeek friends, and I visited quite a few airports around Europe for spotting. And, 2007 was also the first year in which I flew more than half-a-dozen times. Thirty-seven times to be precise.
Anyways, let’s take a step back and take a closer look at the aviation things I got to do that year.
My First Solo Trip to Japan and a New DSLR
While I’d been to Japan about 15 times by that time, 2007 was the first time I went to visit my grandparents in Japan without the rest of my family. In my ten days there, I got my first DSLR (a used Canon 350D), and I visited both Haneda and Narita airports twice for spotting.
Looking back, perhaps the highlight of the trip was getting to fly on the now-extinct wingletless Airbus A320, A320-100.
As far as spotting is concerned, back then, the background of photos from Haneda’s terminal 1 didn’t feature the new international terminal. And, JAL still operated aircraft types such as the A300 and 747 – some aircraft in its old tsurumaru livery.
As for ANA, aircraft with the Japanese 全日空 titles could still be seen around. And so could the 747s and the original A321s, as well as the 767 in the Universal Studios Japan livery.
At Narita, Jumbos of both ANA and JAL (and its JALways subsidiary) could still be seen. And, airlines that do not exist anymore – like Northwest Airlines and Continental Airlines – could be seen on daily basis as well.
Finally, Iran Air was still operating into Narita – with their 747SPs!
Besides getting my first DSLR, 2007 was also the year when Prague – which is about a 6-hour bus ride from Nitra, the town where I grew up – became one of my favorite airports for spotting.
I went there for the first time in January to catch an Il-86. While the flight got cancelled, I still enjoyed my day trip as Philippe (author of The Full Gull) showed me around the airport and I could catch some interesting traffic including an Aeroflot Tu-154M.
After my January visit, I went to Prague for spotting four more times – once in March and April, and twice in June.
Sometimes I went to catch an interesting movement as published on Planes.cz – including the Air Force One which I had the chance to see again earlier this year.
And, sometimes I went just to hang around the airport enjoying its regular traffic – occasionally with special liveries mixed in.
I haven’t visited Prague for spotting (although I departed from the airport a couple of times) in the second half of 2007, but the airport became a regular spotting destination for me that I try to visit at least once a year or two even today.
Hopping Around Europe to Fly New Airlines & Types
During the second half of 2007, I took spotting trips to a number of European airports. And, I also took my first trip during which I aimed to fly aircraft and airlines that I hadn’t flown until then.
The trip took place between July 24th and 29th, and included the following flights (airlines and aircraft types flown for the first time are bold and underlined):
- Vienna-Frankfurt on a Niki A320-200
- Frankfurt-Madrid on a LAN Chile A340-300
- Madrid-Barcelona on a Spanair 717
- Barcelona-Madrid on a Vueling A320-200
- Madrid-Frankfurt on a LAN Chile A340-300
- Frankfurt-Dusseldorf on a British Airways 767-300ER
- Dusseldorf-Paris on an Air France A318
- Paris-Vienna on an Air France A320-200
I still remember stepping onboard the Niki A320 in Vienna and seeing Niki Lauda with his iconic red cap in the cockpit…
The main goal of the trip was to fly on the above aircraft, but I managed to do quite a bit of spotting as well. Especially so at Frankfurt, London Heathrow, and Dusseldorf airports. While I might do a more detailed article about that later on, below are some of the aircraft I saw during the trip that cannot be seen anymore.
Spotting Trips to Frankfurt: 10 Flights for 10 Eurocents
Another thing that kept me occupied during my 2007 summer break – other than the trip above – was Ryanair. Back then, the airline operated flights between Bratislava and Frankfurt. I mean, Hahn… And, the flights were offered for 1 Eurocent at times.
I snatched five such roundtrips for a total of 10 Eurocents with the aim of spotting at Frankfurt airport. The real one, of course…
The itinerary was as follows, every single time:
- Take an afternoon bus from Nitra to Bratislava, and then take a bus to the airport
- Catch the 9:50PM Ryanair flight to Hahn, arrive at 11:30PM
- Get on a bus from Hahn to Frankfurt airport around midnight, arrive around 1:30AM
- Spend the night at Frankfurt airport, and then spend the day spotting
- Take a bus back to Hahn in the evening
- Catch the 7:55PM Ryanair flight to Bratislava, arrive at 9:25PM
- Rush to Bratislava bus station to catch the bus back to Nitra
As mentioned above, the main purpose of the trips was spotting at Frankfurt Main airport. However, occasionally – especially before getting on the return flight to Bratislava – I also did some spotting at Hahn.
At Frankfurt, apart from a special movement every now and then, the traffic was more or less the same every week. It was still exciting to see all the heavies, though. After all, at that time, I was still living in Slovakia, rather than in Japan where heavies are not hard to come by.
My First Business Class Trip to End the Year
At the end of December, I embarked on the last trip of the year – onboard Swiss business class. Given that it was just an intra-European trip, business class only meant blocked middle seat rather than a real “premium” seat, but it was my first business class experience nonetheless.
The ticket that cost less just a bit more than 150EUR, took me from Vienna to Madrid (via Zurich) and back. In Madrid, I did some spotting – and spent a night at the airport as used to be the norm for me back then.
More Hopping Around Europe & Spotting at ‘Home’
Besides the above trips, I also visited several other European airports throughout the year – ranging from my “home” airports of Bratislava and Vienna – and even Budapest – to airports such as Milan Malpensa and Paris Orly.
The two spotting trips that stood out the most were to Milan and Amsterdam – both of which I did with Philippe.
At both of the airports, we spent a couple of days spotting from dawn to dusk. Back then, Alitalia still had extensive operations out of Malpensa, and at Schiphol airport, one could still photograph from the legendary Kaagbaan spot.
As for the three “home airports,” Lauda Air was still around in Vienna – and so were Austrian Arrows CRJs among other aircraft. In Budapest, Malev was still going strong. And, in Bratislava, SkyEurope was in the middle of its expansion.
Looking Back at 2007
Overall, 2007 was a great year for me aviation-wise. While many of the photos I took that year would not pass the criteria I have for photos I take nowadays, it was still worthwhile doing all those trips and seeing all the aircraft many of which are not around anymore in one way or another.
I am especially glad I was able to make the trip to Milan Malpensa with Philippe, as on my subsequent visits, the airport was not nearly as interesting as it was when I went there in 2007. The same applies to Amsterdam where the Kaagbaan spot is not available anymore.
Looking back at the year, I want to plan some spotting trips around Europe for the upcoming year – it’s been a while since I’ve done spotting at the major European airports extensively!