Corfu Airport 2019
*Page under construction*
At the end of May I returned to Corfu for a week-long break, once again staying at the excellent Corfu Holiday Palace Hotel at the foot of the Kanoni peninsula. Unlike Corfu’s better known coastal resorts there are no clubs and only a handful of tavernas here so although this area is a great place to relax, many people may consider it too quiet.
There was low cloud and heavy rain at Glasgow on departure day which ruled out any aerial shots of the surrounding area on takeoff, although the sky was much clearer by the time we crossed the Dutch coast. Tankers and other merchant ships, an oil rig transporter plus an off-shore wind farm could all be clearly seen 30,000-plus feet below.
Once over Germany, in the general area of Frankfurt, there was a fair bit of traffic with other airliners coming into view, one particular aircraft, a Ryanair 737, shooting past at right angles and although probably several thousand feet below it was well within camera range, albeit only for a split second. I had a go at photographing a few of these other planes including an Emirates A380 but mostly ended up with blurred specs in the frame. This is the best of the bunch.
Yet again my wife and I, having booked a sea-view room in the main block, were given a much appreciated upgrade to one of the luxury bungalows which was even closer to any aircraft on finals, and had an infinity pool. I’ve covered the hotel and general area in detail following my previous visits: See my Corfu Airport Introductory Page. The mouse mat below, on sale at the souvenir shop at the Cafe Royal, shows Corfu Airport`s dramatic situation and includes a fine view of the Corfu Holiday Palace Hotel. Gouvia Bay lies beyond Corfu Town immediately right of the tall radio mast.
Although planes will takeoff from either direction, arrivals almost always approach from the south over the causeway as shown here.
It`s not only aircraft that guests at the Corfu Holiday Palace can see from their pool area - there`s even an occasional pirate ship!
Late May / June, when I prefer to visit Corfu avoids the crowds but isn’t the best time for aircraft movements as there are often long periods with no activity. The volume of tourist flights doesn't ramp up fully until July and August but it was even slower than usual this time with far less variety plane-wise. Apart from some occasional afternoon thunderstorms five years ago, I`ve always had hot and sunny weather here but grey skies, low cloud and heavy rain spoiled the second half of this holiday.
There’s always a chance of an unusual visitor, whether an airliner seldom seen in the U.K. or a biz-jet or military flight making a fuel stop. Highlights during the week were one of the latest additions to the Arkia fleet, Airbus A321LR 4X-AGK in the Israeli carrier’s latest colours, a Mexican-registered Gulfstream 650 and a Greek Air Force Spartan and two PZL-Mielec M-18 Dromader water-bombers.
The latter aircraft take up temporary residence on the island during the summer months to help combat forest fires. info*
Above: The Cafe Kanone terrace from the Cafe Royal. This vantage point overlooks what is probably the most-photographed spot on Corfu, with the whitewashed Vlacherna Monastery directly below and tree-covered Mouse Island beyond.
Above: The cafe terraces from the opposite (west) side of the lagoon.
Vlacherna Monastery is a very popular wedding venue although these shots show preparations for a Christening.
Special-liveried airliners are fairly common here with the best by far for me this time being NordStar Airlines Boeing 737-86J(WL) VQ-BNG complete with a smiling Siberian Husky nose and another giving the `thumbs-up` on the tail - I’ll bet even world famous naturalist and author Gerald Durrell (7 January 1925 – 30 January 1995) never saw any of these animals during his time on Corfu! The livery advertises the 2019 Winter Universiade, an international student and youth sports competition which took place from 2–12 March 2019 in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.
Corfu Town is a very popular destination with cruise ship operators and three such vessels had berthed at the port on Friday 31 May. They are, left to right, Marella Discovery, MSC Opera which is only partly visible, and MSC Magnifica. The latter vessel left for Kotor, a fortified town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, later that day but it was her sister ship Opera which went on to make the headlines. After departing Corfu, she sailed to Venice, reaching the world-famous Italian city about 08:30 hrs on Sunday 2 June.
Widely circulated video footage shows the 80-metre long vessel, horn blaring, apparently unable to halt its momentum as it approaches its berth on the city`s Giudecca Canal, and ploughing into a much smaller river boat and the dockside as dozens of people scattered with others jumping into the water to avoid being crushed. Venice port authorities reported that four people were injured in the smash.
Giudecca Canal is one of Venice's major waterways and local activists have campaigned for many years to have large cruise ships banned from entering the lagoon. A few days later, around 3,000 people took to the streets of Venice voicing their concern. As well as polluting the waters and detrimentally affecting the ecosystem, the wash from these huge vessels damages the city`s houses, bridges and sea walls.
The Hellenic Coast Guard use Gouvia Marina as its base rather than the port at Corfu Town and the island's lifeboat, also operated by the Coast Guard, is stationed there. The primary roles of the Hellenic Coast Guard are law enforcement, search and rescue (SAR), marine safety, pollution prevention, fishery protection, prevention of the illegal immigration and drug interdiction. I took the above shot of OPV Agios Efstratios (080) on patrol from our pool area early on a grey morning.
With the poor weather during this holiday and lengthy quiet spells most days, I only wandered across to the far side of the lagoon for photographs once during the entire week, so the majority of shots are taken from our hotel or the Cafe Royal overlooking the runway. Even when there aren`t many planes around, it`s entertaining watching the tourists come and go, many of whom are bussed in from cruise ships visiting Corfu Town. etc**
Many visitors to Corfu erroneously assume Mouse Island is the small flat island completely occupied by its small whitewashed 12th century monastery, but this is Vlaherna with access via a short causeway. Slightly larger and heavily wooded, Pontikonisi / Mouse Island also hosts an ancient religious building and can be reached by one of the small ferries which run throughout the day from the causeway (below left) leading to Vlaherna.
The shot on the right above shows one of the ferries at the Mouse Island landing stage. It`s worth making the trip just for the alternative angles on approaching planes and although trees surround the summit, there are a few gaps, including a direct line toward the causeway and any aircraft lining-up.
Above: Looking north from Mouse Island: Nisos Taverna is on the extreme left, the lagoon causeway runs across the mid-distance with Vlaherna and the south end of the Kanoni peninsula, including the Corfu Holiday Palace Hotel, on the right.
There are a couple of resident dogs and some Peacocks but as it sees very little human intrusion Mouse Island is also a good place for wildlife with plenty of birds flying around and other small creatures such as reptiles and insect but you may have to search for them.
Ellinair was established on 19 February 2013 and its first scheduled flight took place a year later. The airline`s name is a combination of the words `Ellin` (`Greek`) and `air`. The company is a member of Mouzenidis Group and the airline was originally created in order to serve the high volume of tourists, mainly from Russia, who visit Greece on holidays arranged by Mouzenidis Travel. In June 2015, Ellinair launched various domestic routes from Athens and Thessaloniki while international connections from Corfu and Heraklion on Crete continue to prove particularly popular during the summer months. Thessaloniki International Airport is the airline`s main base offering flights to Larnaka in Cyprus, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan. Athe time of my visit to Corfu, the Ellinair fleet consists of the following aircraft: 2x Airbus A319-100, 2x A320-200 and x3 Boeing 737-300.
Aegean Airlines Group is a Greek-based airline operator comprised of parent company, Aegean Airlines and its subsidiary, Olympic Air. Aegean is a full-service carrier operating international, domestic and charter services, while Olympic is a regional carrier that provides purely domestic services. Both airline brands operate from Aegean Airlines Group's main hub at Athens International Airport.
Aegean Aviation was established as Aegean Airlines in May 1999, transforming the charter into a full service carrier and replacing Olympic Air as the country's flagship airline. Olympic Air, previously known as Olympic Airlines, was a privately held airline operator owned by the Marfin Investment Group. However, Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air shareholders agreed to merge and create a new airline entity in February 2010. The European Commission cleared the merger in October 2013 and the two brands remain intact with each carrier maintaining their distinct fleet and flight operations.
Above: ATR 72-500 SX-ONE of Sky Express. This regional airline is based in Heraklion, Crete. The carrier is primarily focused on scheduled flights between Crete and other smaller Aegean Islands, and of course Corfu where its turboprops can be seen on a daily basis. Sky Express also operates charter flights. SX-FOR also called in several times during the week.
Thomas Cook Airlines Airbus A321-211(WL) G-TCDN (above) and G-TCDK (below) arrived one after another on Thursday 30 May 2019.
One of Thomas Cook`s leased Airbus A321-211s, LY-VEG is pictured above departing on Thursday 30 May. Conditions were far worse on 1 June when LY-VED took-off in a downpour, creating a long trail of spray in the process.
Germany, Austria & Switzerland
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Above: Condor Airbus A321-211(WL) D-ATCC.
Lufthansa retro etc*
TUI Boeing 737-8K5 D-ATUF lines up for takeoff on Saturday 1 June.
Gowair is a Spanish ACMI carrier serving the Canary and Balearic Islands. The new carrier is part of Grupo Gowaii, a specialist tour operator headquartered in Tenerife. Gowair specialises in charter, wet lease and ACMI services for European operators. Also known as wet or damp leasing, ACMI leasing is an agreement between two airlines, where the lessor agrees to provide an aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) to the lessee in return for payment on the number of block hours operated. ACMI provides the lessee with additional or replacement capacity, even at short notice. Gowair commenced wet lease services on 28-Jul-2017 with a pair of Airbus 320-200 aircraft. Another is on order.
Airbus A320-214 EC-MVH is operated by Thomas Cook Airlines Balearics.
Boeing 737-808(WL) VQ-BRF of Royal Flight flew in from Moscow`s Sheremetyevo Alexander S. Pushkin International Airport, the busiest of the four international airports that serve the Russian capital.
Below left: Belavia Boeing 737-3Q8 EW-336PA arrived early on a grey Wednesday 5 June. Early morning mist resulted in streams of vapour streaming from the wings.
Russian carrier Utair has its head office at Khanty-Mansiysk Airport with hubs are at Surgut International Airport and Moscow-Vnukovo International Airport. It operates scheduled domestic and some international passenger services, scheduled helicopter services, and extensive charter flights with fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters in support of the oil and gas industry across western Siberia. Boeing 737-524(WL) VQ-BPS is seen here lifting-off on Saturday 1 June 2019.
Other Eastern European Countries
Aviolet is the charter subsidiary of Air Serbia. The airline commenced operations on 24 May 2014 from its hub at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport and provides summer charter services to numerous destinations throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. The airline utilises a fleet of four former Air Serbia Boeing 737-300 aircraft, including YU-ANI , seen here, and operates under the same IATA (JU) and ICAO (JAT) codes as its parent. The Aviolet aircraft are configured in an all-economy class layout with capacity for 144 passengers.
GetJet Airlines is a Lithuanian air services provider based in the capital Vilnius. The company provides aircraft lease, aircraft management and charter services from its hub of Vilnius International Airport. GetJet began operations on 25-May-2016. At the time of my visit, GetJet`s fleet comprised 6 Airbus A320s, 7 Boeing 737s and one Airbus A330-300, the airline`s first body which was delivered in January 2019.
Named `Trident`, Brussels Airlines Airbus A320-214, registration OO-SNA, has been painted in a special Belgian Red Devils Livery to honour the country`s national football team. The strikingly-coloured airliner is pictured here climbing after takeoff on Saturday 1 June.
Boeing 737-8SH(WL) C-GLRN from Norwich on 31 May 2019.*
Arkia Israeli Airlines (Arkia) is a privately-owned Israeli airline based at Ben Guiron International Airport, Tel Aviv. Arkia operates both scheduled and charter passenger service to domestic destinations as well as international destinations in Europe, the CIS and Egypt. I photographed Airbus A321-251NX 4X-AGK from the pool area on Thursday 30 May, moments before it landed. Arkia is the first customer to receive the type, also known as the A321LR, taking delivery of its initial aircraft, 4X-AGH during a ceremony at the Airbus Finkenwerder plant in Hamburg on 13 November 2018. This aircraft had originally been destined for Primera Air, but having struggled for years to turn a profit, the Danish carrier, owned by the Primera Travel Group, ceased operations on 1 October 2018.
The long-range Airbus A321 has the capability to operate over a 4,000nm range with 206 passengers, however, Arkia`s have 220 seats, giving the airline around a 3,300nm range which is sufficient to reach target markets from Tel Aviv identified by the Israeli carrier, including Paris, Zanzibar and southern India. Arkia was formerly an operator of Boeing 757-200s and the new Airbus variant has three auxiliary fuel tanks which give it 100 nmi (190 km) more operational range. It also offers a 30% per-seat fuel-burn reduction and a 31% cash operating cost saving per seat. Seven of the 10 largest 757 operators are already A321 customers. Arkia`s Embraer EMB-500 Legacy 4X-CMN VIP transport (below) also called in on the 30th.
Biz-Jets & General Aviation
Gulfstream G550 N780KS (above) etc*
The best day for light aircraft was Saturday 1 June when number?* Swiss single-engined props belonging to Motorfluggruppe Zürich made a fuel stop, I`m unsure as to their routing either before or after Corfu. The aircraft were Diamond DA 40-NG Diamond Star HB-SGD (above), Cessna 172P Skyhawk II HB-CLH, Piper PA-28-181 Archer II HB-PIV, - gallery etc.
Hellenic Air Force Alenia C-27J Spartans, including 4122, seen here preparing for takeoff, late evening on 5 June, have made numerous visits to Corfu Airport in recent years. In fact I`d previously photographed this actual aircraft during a holiday here in June 2017.
The C-27J was developed and manufactured in Italy and is an advanced derivative of Alenia Aeronautica's earlier G.222 (C-27A Spartan in U.S. service). The design incorporates the engines and various other systems which are used on the larger Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules.
In addition to the standard transport configuration, specialised variants of the C-27J have been developed for other roles including maritime patrol, search and rescue, and intelligence gathering. The Hellenic Air Force had originally ordered 12 C-27Js in 2003 with an option for three additional aircraft but I`m unsure of the current fleet strength. The transports are assigned to 354 Sqn at Elefsis near Athens.
Bell 212 serial number 30-763 of the Greek Air Force was snapped on Friday 31 May 2019.
Lake Chalikopoulou, a large salt water lagoon, is fed by several streams that trickle fresh water for most of the year to create a diverse habitat for wildlife. Numerous birds flock here on passage during Spring and Autumn migration although visiting in summer I`ve only spotted herons, egrets and a few ducks. Locals can often be seen rowing across the lagoon or wading through the shallower waters with nets, collecting crabs or other shellfish. The lagoon and the wetlands bordering its edges are now an official nature reserve.
The luxury motor yacht Ilona was built for Australian businessman Frank Lowy, an experienced yachtsman who has circumnavigated the world four times, Ilona set new standards for elegance, technology and innovation when launched in 2003. Within her stylish mahogany-lined interior, designed by Redman Whiteley Dixon, a lift connects her five decks, which incorporate a large owner’s suite, accommodation for up to 18 guests in six cabins, and a 14-seat cinema.
The yacht has four active-fin stabilisers and a battery of 65 underwater lights, but perhaps her most notable feature is the full support that she can provide for her permanently embarked helicopter, AgustaWestland AW109SP GrandNew G-CHFD. Stowed within the protection of a fully enclosed hangar located beneath the aft deck, the aircraft is raised to the heli-pad by a lift. Ilona is manned by 28 crew and staff.