9M-MXJ Boeing 737-8H6 (MSN 40137/4131) of Malaysia Airlines, at Perth Airport - Sun 3 July 2016. Flight MH121 from Kota Kinabalu, landing on runway 24 at 2:10pm. Photo © David Eyre

9M-MXJ Boeing 737-8H6 (MSN 40137/4131) of Malaysia Airlines, at Perth Airport – Sun 3 July 2016.
The 737-800s are to be replaced by 737 Max 8 aircraft from 2019. Photo © David Eyre

27 July 2016 © David Eyre

Malaysia Airlines has ordered 25 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, and taken options on a further 25 737 Max 8 or Max 9, with deliveries to start in 2019.

The new 737 Max aircraft will replace the airline’s current fleet of 56 Boeing 737-800s, which operate to Perth from Kota Kinabalu on Sundays.

The 737 Max is expected to cut operating expenditure by 15 per cent and its longer range will open up more destinations. The jets will be fitted with slimline seats as well as wi-fi connectivity.

Malaysia Airlines has been operating 737s of different versions for the past 40 years.

The order was the first major decision since Peter Bellew took over as CEO on 1 July 2016, replacing former CEO Christoph Mueller, who has joined Emirates.

Malaysia Airlines suffered huge losses, compounded when flight MH370 disappeared and flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in 2014. As part of the restructure, Mueller was appointed to restructure the airline, retiring its Boeing 777200ER fleet and arranging to lease four Airbus A350-900s from 2018. Malaysia Airlines also ceased all non-stop flights to Europe, other than London, and stopped some Asia Pacific flights. The company expects to be profitable from 2018.

9M-MTM Airbus A330-323X (MSN 1431) of Malaysia Airlines, at Perth Airport - Mon 30 May 2016. MH125 from Kuala Lumpur, landing on runway 06 at 3:03pm. Photo © David Eyre

9M-MTM Airbus A330-323X (MSN 1431) of Malaysia Airlines, at Perth Airport – Mon 30 May 2016.
Daytime services will end on 17 November 2016, with the service moving to night time.
Photo © David Eyre

27 July 2016 © David Eyre

Malaysia Airlines is changing the flight numbers and schedule for its services between Kuala Lumpur and Perth from 18 November 2016, moving from a daytime to nighttime service, but still using Airbus A330-300 aircraft.

Current schedule: Revised schedule from 18 November 2016:
MH125 departs Kuala Lumpur 9:20 AM: arrives Perth 2:50 PM MH127 departs Kuala Lumpur 7:35 PM: arrives Perth 1:05 AM next day
MH124 departs Perth 3:50 PM: arrives Kuala Lumpur 9:30 PM MH126 departs Perth 2:10 AM: arrives Kuala Lumpur 7:40 AM
RA-2900G Cameron O-550 hot air balloon flown by Fedor Konyukhov, over Perth - Sat 23 July 2016. Passing north east along the Swan River towards Perth city at 11:44am, as he breaks the record for a solo circumnavigation of the world. He landed near Bonnie Rock at 4:30pm, after waiting for the winds to drop. Photo © David Eyre

RA-2900G Cameron O-550 hot air balloon flown by Fedor Konyukhov, over Perth – Sat 23 July 2016.
Passing north east along the Swan River towards Perth city at 11:44am, as he breaks the record for a solo circumnavigation of the world. It was at an altitude of around 19,000 feet when this photo was taken. He landed near Bonnie Rock at 4:30pm, after waiting for the winds to drop.
Photo © David Eyre

23 July 2016 © David Eyre

Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov has today set a new world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth in a hot air balloon, completing the flight in 11 days and 9 hours, beating American Steve Fossett’s 2002 record of 13 days 8 hours.

After passing in an north-easterly direction over the WA coast near Fremantle, Konyukhov’s balloon passed over Perth city just before midday. On descent around 1pm, he passed over within 250 metres of the launch site at Northam – an amazing achievement for a circumnavigation balloon flight.

The balloon landed with some rough bounces at 4:30pm today, near the small town of Bonnie Rock, 116km north of Merredin, in WA’s Wheatbelt.

The support crew wanted to wait for the winds to drop to enable a safe landing in a suitable landing zone. A large crowd of spectators, including aviator Dick Smith, gathered to chase the balloon. They helped to slow it down and deflate it so that they could help Konyukhov get out of the gondola.

Unfortunately,some spectators took ‘souvenirs’, including the solar panels and the valve mechanism from the top of the balloon. Konyukhov had to ask people to return the items as the balloon is to be preserved in a specially-built museum in Moscow.

Like Fossett, Konyukhov had launched his record flight from the Western Australian town of Northam, east of Perth.

The UK-designed and built Cameron O-550 is a Roziere-type hot air balloon and had 35 propane gas cylinders fitted around the basket. It took off from Northam at 7:30am on 12 July 2016.

Steve Fossett travelled 33,000km on his flight, but Konyukhov covered more than 34,000km, after jetstream winds took his balloon close to Antarctica, where he endured  temperatures down to -56C while flying at heights of up to 10,000 metres.

Konyukhov had problems with a heater and could not cook properly, so he lost around 10 kilograms of body weight. He also suffered from lack of sleep.

The route flown by Fedor Konyukhov on his record breaking solo round the world flight.

The route flown by Fedor Konyukhov on his record breaking solo round the world flight.

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland - Thu 21 July 2016. First flight. Photo © Pilatus Aircraft

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland – Thu 21 July 2016.
First flight.
Photo © Pilatus Aircraft

21 July 2016 © David Eyre

The first Pilatus PC-21 turboprop training aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) made its first flight on 21 July 2016, at the manufacturer’s facility in Stans, Switzerland.

Bearing serial number A54-001 (MSN 234) and Swiss test registration HB-HWA, the aircraft is the first of 49 PC-21s for the RAAF.

As part of the AIR 5428 Pilot Training System project, the PC-21 will replace the RAAF’s current Pilatus PC-9/A and Pacific Aerospace CT-4B aircraft.

42 of the PC-21 aircraft will be used as trainers at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria and RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia. Three PC-21s are being acquired for the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) based at RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, and four Forward Air Control variants for 4 Squadron, which currently operates the PC-9/A Forward Air Control variant from RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales. Seven simulators will also be acquired.

In November 2015, the first Australian pilots to undertake conversion training on the Pilatus PC-21 arrived in Switzerland. These pilots will establish the transition team responsible for developing the new training curriculum.

The PC-21 covers a broad training spectrum, from elementary flying training through to bridging the gap between the PC-9/A turboprop trainers and Hawk lead-in fighters.

The PC-21 is capable of sustained low-level speeds in excess of 320 knots and handles similarly to a fighter, with hydraulically-assisted ailerons and roll spoilers, which can roll rates of over 200 degrees per second.

Two aircraft were shortlisted for the AIR 5428 project, the PC-21 and the Hawker Beechcraft T-6C Texan II, itself derived from the PC-9/A. The contract was awarded to the Lockheed Martin “Team 21” consortium in December 2015, in a deal worth A$1.2 billion (US$900 million).

The contract for the RAAF PC-21s was signed in December 2015, with the first aircraft A54-001 due to be handed over to the RAAF at East Sale, Victoria in June 2017, and the first pilots course scheduled to start in early-2019.

The current RAAF PC-9/A fleet has been in service since 1988, and was originally intended to be withdrawn after 20 years, but is due to be extended until 2019. A total of 67 PC-9s were purchased.

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland - Tue 19 July 2016. Undergoing first engine runs, prior to the first flight two days later. Photo © Stephan Widmer

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland – Tue 19 July 2016.
Undergoing first engine runs, prior to the first flight two days later.
Photo © Stephan Widmer

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland - Tue 19 July 2016. Undergoing first engine runs, prior to the first flight two days later. Photo © Stephan Widmer

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland – Tue 19 July 2016.
Undergoing first engine runs, prior to the first flight two days later.
Photo © Stephan Widmer

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland - Thu 21 July 2016. First flight. Photo © Pilatus Aircraft

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland – Thu 21 July 2016.
First flight.
Photo © Pilatus Aircraft

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland - Thu 21 July 2016. First flight. Photo © Pilatus

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland – Thu 21 July 2016.
First flight.
Photo © Pilatus Aircraft

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland - Thu 21 July 2016. First flight. Photo © Pilatus Aircraft

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland – Thu 21 July 2016.
First flight.
Photo © Pilatus Aircraft

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland - Thu 21 July 2016. Taxying back in, following the successful first flight. Photo © Stephan Widmer

A54-001 / HB-HWA Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, at Stans, Switzerland – Thu 21 July 2016.
Taxying back in, following the successful first flight.
Photo © Stephan Widmer

VH-ZWO Pilatus PC-12/45 (MSN 467) of Royal Flying Doctor Service (Western Operations) at Jandakot Airport – Sat 22 February 2014. Photo © David Eyre

VH-ZWO Pilatus PC-12/45 (MSN 467) of Royal Flying Doctor Service (Western Operations) at Jandakot Airport – Sat 22 February 2014.
Built in 2004, VH-ZWO has already been withdrawn from service and replaced. Photo © David Eyre

18 July 2016 © David Eyre (UPDATED 21 July 2016)

The Royal Flying Doctor Service has received State Government Royalties for Regions funding of $23.7 million for the purchase of two additional aircraft, two replacement aircraft, and the establishment of the new Broome RFDS operating facility.
RFDS Western Operations currently operates a fleet of 14 Pilatus PC-12s and the Rio Tinto Life Flight Hawker 800XP jet.
The RFDS aircraft accumulate a high number of flying hours, flying across the whole of Western Australia, so aircraft need replacing after 10 years’ service.
PC-12 VH-VWO has already been withdrawn from service and replaced.

Two PC-12s are due for replacement over the next six months, VH-YWO and VH-ZWO. VH-ZWO has recently been decommissioned from service and replaced by VH-OWV.

RFDS Western Operations has already placed orders for three Pilatus PC-24 jets and one option, for delivery sometime after 2017. Compared to the RFDS’s current Pilatus PC-12 turboprops, the new PC-24s travel twice as far, around 160 knots faster (PC-12: 240-260kts versus PC-24: 400-420kts).

“RFDS aircraft are specially outfitted with the latest in aeromedical technology and are flying intensive care units, operated by highly qualified medical teams and pilots who provide life-saving outcomes for our patients.”

The new RFDS Broome patient treatment and aero medical operating facilities recently opened and the funding enables the RFDS to base an additional aircraft at Broome.

In 2015, the RFDS assisted an average of 25 patients per day across Western Australia. The RFDS provides emergency care, life-saving outcomes, and health treatment and adviceto almost 70,000 people in Western Australia every year and has been operating in WA for over 80 years.

B-6526 Airbus A330-223 (cn 1220) of China Southern Airlines at Perth Airport - Fri 14 June 2013.

B-6526 Airbus A330-223 (MSN 1220) of China Southern Airlines at Perth Airport – Fri 14 June 2013.
This was the final A330 service before switching to Boeing 7878 Dreamliners, but now the airline is switching back to A330-200s from 30 October 2016. Photo © Matt Hannigan.

B-2787 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (MSN 34931/154) of China Southern Airlines, at Perth Airport - Sun 15 May 2016. Taking off from runway 21 at 8:33am as flight CZ320 to Guangzhou. Photo © David Eyre

B-2787 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (MSN 34931/154) of China Southern Airlines, at Perth Airport – Sun 15 May 2016.
The 787s are to be replaced on Perth services by Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Photo © David Eyre

15 July 2016 © David Eyre

China Southern Airlines is to revert back to using Airbus A330-200 aircraft on services between Guangzhou and Perth from 30 October 2016.

The schedule from 30 October 2016 is as follows (A330-200):

  • CZ319 departs Guangzhou 1400 (Tue & Fri) – arrives 2200 in Perth (Tue & Fri) / CZ320 departs Perth at 2340 (Tue & Fri) – arrives at Guangzhou at 0740 the next day
  • CZ319 departs Guangzhou 2200 on Wed & Sat – arrives in Perth the next day (Thu & Sun) at 0600 / CZ320 departs Perth at 0830 (Thu & Sun) – arrives at Guangzhou at 1630 same day.

The airline first commenced services to Perth on 9 November 2011 on the Guangzhou – Perth route, which initially operated three times per week and later increased to four times per week.

Aircraft types used on the route have changed as follows (dates are arrival dates in Perth):

  • Airbus A330-300 (9 November 2011 – 1 April 2013): 287 passengers (4 First Class, 24 Business Class, 48 Premium Economy, 211 Economy seats).
  • Airbus A330-200 (3 April 2013 – March 2015): 218 passengers (4 First Class, 24 Business Class, 48 Premium Economy, 142 Economy seats).
  • Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (1 April 2015 – 30 October 2016): 228 passengers (4 First Class, 24 Business Class, 200 Economy)
  • Airbus A330-200 (30 October 2016 onwards): 218 passengers (4 First Class, 24 Business Class, 48 Premium Economy, 142 Economy seats)..
Cyber Technology Cyber Eye 2v2 UAV at Langley Park on 7 November 2009. These are designed and built in Bibra Lake, in the southern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. The CyberEye II is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The advanced design of the CyberEye II allows it to carry up to a 20 kg payload for up to 10 hours of continuous mission time.  Photo © David Eyre

Cyber Technology Cyber Eye 2v2 UAV at Langley Park on 7 November 2009.
These are designed and built in Bibra Lake, in the southern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. The CyberEye II is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The advanced design of the CyberEye II allows it to carry up to a 20 kg payload for up to 10 hours of continuous mission time.
Photo © David Eyre

Aibotix X6 UAV being used to conduct a survey of Rio Tinto's Argyle Diamond Mine in September 2014. Since the open pit mine cannot be entered below a level of 50 meters, aerial surveying is the only possibility to detect subsidence or other potential dangers to the workers underground at an early stage. Photo © Aibotix

Aibotix X6 UAV being used to conduct a survey of Rio Tinto’s Argyle Diamond Mine in September 2014. Since the open pit mine cannot be entered below a level of 50 meters, aerial surveying is the only way to detect subsidence or other potential dangers to the workers underground at an early stage.
Photo © Aibotix

15 July 2016 © David Eyre

The West Australian has reported that the discussions are underway to develop a “drone airport and research facility” in Western Australia, as the State seeks to diversify from its current heavy economic reliance on the resources industry.

As AviationWA reported in September 2015, the use of UAVs/RPAs is seeing tremendous growth, and the proposed facility could see Western Australia take a leading role in this burgeoning technology, allowing testing of new drones in dedicated airspace.

Murray Field airport near Mandurah is mentioned as one potential site.

WA already has a local UAV manufacturer, CyberEye. CyberEye UAVs were proposed for use in beach patrols, as reported by AviationWA in 2012.

The current discussions are being held between Regional Development Australia, State Government departments, Peel Development Commission, industry and Local Government councils.

Airbus A321neo in AirAsia livery. © Airbus

Airbus A321neo in AirAsia livery. © Airbus

12 July 2016 © David Eyre

AirAsia ordered 100 Airbus A321neo aircraft, in a contract announced at the Farnborough Airshow today by AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes and Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Brégier.

This is the first order by AirAsia for the A321.

The aircraft will be configured to carry eating up to 240 passengers.

AirAsia has  over 170 A320s in service with its various airline units in Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines. The latest order increases their total orders of A320 family aircraft to 575 aircraft, making them the biggest customer for the type.

The A321neo will be used on the most popular routes, particularly at airports with traffic slot constraints.

Indonesia AirAsia currently flies A320s up to four times per day on the Denpasar (Bali) – Perth route.

VH-XUH Airbus A320-232 (MSN 6749) of Tigerair Australia at Perth Airport – Sun 3 April 2016. On the opposite side, not visible in this photo, this aircraft wears a small decal and titling on the rear fuselage advertising a partnership with Australian professional rugby league team “Melbourne Storm”. It is seen here on final approach to runway 24 at 4:59 pm. Photo © David Eyre

VH-XUH Airbus A320-232 (MSN 6749) of Tigerair Australia at Perth Airport – Sun 3 April 2016.
Tigerair’s A320s are to be phased out within three years. Photo © David Eyre

VH-VOY Boeing 737-8FE (MSN 33996) of Tigerair Australia, at Perth Airport – 24 March 2016.

VH-VOY Boeing 737-8FE (MSN 33996) of Tigerair Australia, at Perth Airport – 24 March 2016.
737-800s from Virgin Australia will replace Tigerair Australia’s Airbus A320s over the next three years. Photo © Clyde Lannan.

6 July 2016 © David Eyre

Following Virgin Australia’s recent announcement that it was phasing out all of its Embraer E190 jets and some of its ATR 72 turboprops, the airline has also decided that all Tigerair-branded A320 aircraft will be withdrawn from the fleet over the next three years, to be replaced by Boeing 737-800s transferred from Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia is trying to cut costs by reducing the number of types operated. Virgin Australia’s mainline narrowbody jet fleet will use the current fleet of Boeing 737-800s and 2 Boeing 737-700s, later to be joined by 40 new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft the airline has on order.

Tigerair Australia currently operates 14 Airbus A320s, plus 3 Boeing 737-800s that were transferred from Virgin Australia to operate services to to Bali.

Tigerair Australia is owned by Virgin Australia, having been purchased from Tigerair in Singapore, which still operates independently with a fleet of A320s.

No announcements have been made regarding the two older second hand A320s currently in service with Virgin Australia Regional Airlines.

Virgin Australia is also looking at standardising on one type of widebody jet, sometime after 2020. It currently uses Airbus A330-200s on Australian domestic services and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on international flights from Eastern States cities.

VH-EPK Bell 412EP (cn 36100) of CHC Helicopters, on lease to the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services as ‘RAC RESCUE’ at Royal Perth Hospital Helipad (YXRP) – Tue 22 October 2013

VH-EPK Bell 412EP (cn 36100) of CHC Helicopters, on lease to the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services as ‘RAC RESCUE’ at Royal Perth Hospital Helipad (YXRP) – Tue 22 October 2013.
The helipad at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) was opened on 27 July 1999. Located on the balcony of Level 5 in the North Block, the helipad is located close to the Intensive Care Unit and Operating Theatres, and is connected by a dedicated transport overpass to the Emergency Department. The helipad is used for helicopters transporting trauma and burns victims with life-threatening injuries from up to 200 kilometres away from Perth, saving critical time. Statistics show that in serious trauma cases, the time between injury and initial stabilisation (known as the ‘golden hour’) is the single most important factor in patient survival. In another link to aviation, the funding for the helipad came from the Sir Norman Brearley Trust, set up by the Rotary Club of Perth. Brearley was a famous, pioneering West Australian aviator who established the airline which operated the first scheduled air services in Australia. Brearley was also a charter member of the Perth Rotary Club and established the trust to fund worthwhile community projects.
Photo © David Eyre

17 June 2016 © David Eyre

The two Bell 412EP ‘RAC Rescue’ helicopters are to be replaced from mid-2018, with unconfirmed reports indicating that larger AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters will be used.

Royal Perth Hospital helipad will also require a $7 million upgrade to handle heavier helicopters.

The helipad is currently rated for helicopters up to 5400kg and is ageing, but it needs strengthening to handle 7000kg due to changes to CASA guidelines.

The Health Department considered this to be an urgent priority, but the State Treasury knocked back the funding request in the May 2016 Budget, until it receives a more developed business case by the end of 2016.