Tuesday 3 August 2021
This page covers my latest visit to Aberdeen Airport which was on the above date. Click here for the main entry.
During the pandemic, Aberdeen Airport has been busier than most Scottish airports for much of the time, primarily due to the based helicopter operators flying in support of the offshore oil industry. Weekdays see most activity and between 06:30-09:00 hours there is continual action as choppers start up and taxi out for departure in between the scheduled passenger and cargo fixed-wing movements. The helicopters start to reappear a couple of hours later and spend time on the ground before returning to the rigs later in the day.
I had only been to Aberdeen once before and that was almost four years ago when I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (above) on the terminal side of the airfield. This time I checked out the grassy mound directly opposite, located between the Babcock Helicopter apron and the Gama Aviation hangar. It`s fairly small but provides an excellent view of proceedings irrespective of which runway is in use.
Unlike my previous visit to Aberdeen, the weather was superb. The mound is best during mornings and early afternoons on sunny days, but unless it`s overcast, you`ll be shooting into the light from mid-afternoon onwards. I had the location to myself for most of the time and I`ll make sure to bring a folding chair on any future trips.
Based Bristow Helicopters Sikorsky S-92As present were G-CGCI, G-CICH, G-CKXL, G-IACA, G-IACC and G-IACD. Bristow Helicopters Limited is a British civil helicopter operator originally based at Aberdeen Airport, which is currently a part of the US-based Bristow Group which in turn has its corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas.
CHC Helicopters and CHC Scotia choppers photographed included Sikorsky S-92As G-CLNH, G-EMEE, G-WNSE, G-WNSG, G-WNSU and G-WNSV, plus Airbus Helicopters EC175Bs G-EMEC and G-EMED. Several other unidentified machines from various operators were either parked up or hangared.
From the NHV Helicopters` fleet were Airbus Helicopters H175/Eurocopter EC175B G-NHVF, G-NHVG and G-NHVI.
The NHV Group, based in Ostend, Belgium, specialises in business-to-business helicopter services, both offshore & onshore. Today, the Group states to be the only helicopter service provider with presence in all Oil and Gas producing countries in the North Sea region and notes a strong presence in West Africa. In 2014, NHV Group was the global launching customer of Airbus Helicopters’ H175. The first two H175s were operational by the end of December 2014 for Oil and Gas missions in Den Helder, The Netherlands.
Sikorsky S-92A Helibus G-MCSB of Babcock MCS Offshore.
Babcock Mission Critical Services Offshore (known as Bond Offshore Helicopters until April 2016) is a British helicopter operator, specialising in providing offshore helicopter transportation services to North Sea and Irish Sea oil and gas platforms. Babcock operate a mixed fleet of helicopters on behalf of more than 10 major customers. Annually they transport around 200,000 men and women to and from offshore installations from bases at not only Aberdeen, but Norwich and Sumburgh airports. Bond Offshore Helicopters became a Babcock International Group company when Babcock acquired the Avincis group in May 2014.
Other helicopters noted from the Babcock MCS Offshore fleet included Sikorsky S-92A Helibus G-MCSK, G-MCSL and G-VIND, AgustaWestland AW139 G-MCSC, plus Airbus Helicopters H175 / EC175B G-MCSG and G-MCSH.
The two AW139 helicopters pictured below left are based at Aberdeen Airport and are equipped with specialist search and rescue equipment to provide 24-hour SAR coverage for the central North Sea. A Scottish Charity Air Ambulance helicopter (below right) is also based at Aberdeen.
A large number of aerial surveys have been taking place across Scotland during the summer months with Prestwick hosting a variety of related aircraft, some of which were non-UK registered. Aberdeen makes an ideal temporary base for covering the north and northeast of the country and I found several survey planes present on the Babcock ramp, the most noteworthy being this mean looking Vulcanair Partenavia P 68B Observer OY-VPS. It is operated by Danish Aerial Data Acquisition company Bioflight.
The others were Partenavia P.68B Victor G-ORVR of Ravenair and Diamond DA-42MPP Twin Stars G-EMPP and G-ZDEA. The latter aircraft was the only survey plane to take to the air while I was there.
Apart from the planes engaged in survey work, the only light aircraft present was SOCATA TB20 Trinidad G-BMIX...
Aberdeen Airport has hosted more than its fair share of interesting visitors over the years with the standout on this occasion being Vulkan Air Antonov An-26B UR-CQV. This aircraft and other similar Russian-built cargo planes often visit Prestwick but the presence of this one at Aberdeen was an unexpected bonus.
Over 1,400 AN-26s were produced between 1969–1986 with the primary users being the Soviet Air Force, Pakistan Air Force and Vietnamese Air Force but many, like this one, have since found work with civilian operators. Although designed as a tactical transport, the An-26 has a secondary role as a bomber utilising underwing racks. As a bomber, it was extensively used by the Vietnam People's Air Force during the Cambodian–Vietnamese War and Sudanese Air Force during the Second Sudanese Civil War and the War in Darfur.
Eastern Airways Jetstream G-MAJY set off for Sumburgh, Shetland, just before 07:00 hours but declared a Mayday soon after becoming airborne due to some sort of technical issue.
The captain headed back to Aberdeen and took up a holding pattern for around 20 minutes, probably to burn off some fuel while attempting to rectify the problem, the nature of which wasn`t announced.
Full scale emergency procedures went into effect but fortunately the Jetstream landed without incident.
The aircraft initially parked on a stand beside the terminal, but after an inspection was towed to the Eastern Airways hangar.
Loganair is the main operator here flying mostly Embraer Regional Jets, ATR turboprops and Saab 340s.
KLM Cityhopper Embraer ERJ-175STD PH-EXI.
Boeing 737-476(SF) freighter TF-BBJ of Bluebird Nordic.
Above: Wideroe Bombardier DHC-8-Q-402 LN-RDV.
There are two red Westland Lynx helicopters used for training purposes. This one, near to Dyce Railway Station, is a HAS.3, serial number XZ232. The other one, AH.7 XZ647, (not photographed) is used by fire crews on the opposite (west) side of the airfield. It has been at Aberdeen since 2009. There are also a couple of purpose-built training rigs resembling other helicopters or airliner fuselages.
Other actual airframes used for non-destructive fire training here are Jetstream T.2 serial number ZA110 and SEPECAT Jaguar GR.3A XZ372/FV.