" Even the best laid plans... "

 

                                    Sometime last year, a trip was announced [by another tour group -shame on me] to not only visit Turkey, but to go Istanbul's second airport - Sabiha Gockcen International, with full airside access and photography guaranteed. I jumped at the chance, having missed out on the TAS visit to Istanbul's Attaturk airport some years ago.

                                    Good news on booking was that the flight would be directly to Sabiha, but the bad news was that it was to leave from Luton Airport which is a long way down the M1 from Manchester. Now anyone who has seen my car would know it wouldn't make the journey to Luton, so I did what any tightfisted person would do in this case. I called to see if I could possibly car - share on the way down, to be told that I was the only person on the trip who lived north of Watford! That certainly didn't help me getting a lift, but the odds of one northerner to thirty southerners was pretty good as far as I could see, with no disrespect meant to any people from "darn sarf" reading this,well not much anyway.


So it was that I found myself waiting at Chorlton Street bus station [classy joint] for my National Express coach to Luton on Tuesday 3rd July, thinking of how much the film Midnight Express had always terrified me about going to Turkey. If you have seen the film, you will know what I'm talking about. Arriving at Luton Airport in the early hours of Wednesday was necessary as our flight left at about 6am, with check-in starting at the unearthly hour of four o'clock.  Meeting the group was strange as I knew no one at all, but they seemed a friendly enough crowd even at that time of the morning. An Easyjet B737 got us to Sabiha in just a few hours, with everyone anticipating Russian built aircraft littering the ramps at what has been described as the "new Sharjah". Well, perhaps we arrived at a quiet time as just one Antonov 24, one IL76 and one IL18 were seen together with the yellow ADAC Dornier 328. Still we had plenty of time here over the next few days, so no problem waiting for things to arrive. With arrivals formalities swiftly concluded, we all met in the ground floor departures area - which, strangely enough had a bar overlooking the main ramp. I never learn. Don't be the first to buy a drink as you always get stiffed by the waiter, until you realise how much it is to order beer in a different way. As I said - I never learn! While making acquaintance with my colleagues from south of the border, the tour organiser - I'll call him Graham - was organising our ramp passes for the following days which we needed to get through security. They would give us a few hours today [Weds], all Thursday, all Friday and a few hours before departure on Sunday airside - an excellent deal in anyone's book!. The beer tasted good, and one or two planes moved resulting in thirty cameras, pairs of bins etc being rapidly taken out of bags and thrust against the nice clear windows of the terminal - and that's when things got funny. On the other side of a glass partition were the Turkish police/ customs/ immigration people who went absolutely beserk on seeing this happen, but they were on the wrong side of the glass to stop us -ha,ha! Still it didn't take long for someone official to visit us, and tell us to refrain from what we were doing. I think the waiter was actually glad to see the back of us all, despite ripping me - and probably the others off some tidy sum. Thankfully our passes were now ready, so we left our bags and went airside with our pretty Turkish guide, and boarded the coach for a short tour of the aprons. The coach driver took us everywhere, but photos had to be taken out of the open bus doors as everyone was obviously a little skittish about us actually doing what we were doing. This is not easy with thirty photographers and just two bus doors, so after our third stop I took the big step of standing on the apron fully expecting to be accosted, but I think the driver and guide could see we needed to do this. Anyway, I didn't end up in clinckyville, and from there on, the tour became a lot easier going as long as we behaved ourselves and didn't stray too far. There was not a lot to look at anyway, so we soon left the airport and drove forty minutes or so to our hotel -the Harem - overlooking the Bosphorous. This was clean and comfortable, but the views were excellent - it was just like a scene from Michael Palin's "Around the world in eighty days", with the harbour directly in front, and the Blue Mosque on the other side of the river. After an evening meal [ less than adequate at best], it was time to chill out on the terrace overlooking the pool, and find out how much the beer was going to cost. It was expensive but the company was great. I had met my best mate, Mike Barth, the world famous photographer [in his own mind anyway] who had flown in from Dubai to join the tour, and we joined others in the group to talk about the days events -and drink loads of beer while we were doing it! Tony and Andy from the south coast, Arthur [who lives in Malawi a lot of the time], and Paul and Stuart who work for Air Canada at Heathrow made up the rest of the group. A very boisterous group apparently!

                                  

Thursday morning came all too quickly, and there was a very strange banging going on inside my head. Maybe there were builders outside or something. After brekky, we boarded the mini buses driven by a pair of suicidal Turks and sped off to Sabiha for out first full day airside. Full of anticipation we arrived to note - not a lot! Things had changed overnight, with a nice Aero Vis Antonov AN12 and a Deta Cargo IL62 appearing on the cargo apron, but not a lot else. Perhaps it gets busier later in the day. Nope it doesn't. Once airside, we were taken to the best places for photography with the sun behind us wherever we went. Pegasus and Turkish B737's are the most common movements by far, interspersed with other goodies from time to time such as Air Turan tu154, Royal Wings A320, Alexandria Aviation B737 and surprisingly, quite a few biz-jets. Movements are slow and it soon became clear that scanning the skies for smokey approaches was futile - not a lot was going to happen. The mood became a little downbeat as we had all been expecting more Russian aircraft types than this. Oh well, din dins was taken in the terminal building with our friendly immigration officers [see earlier] looking on from behind the glass, now smiling and waving as we no longer posed a threat to national security!. Back airside, we were treated to brief visit to the control tower for some photography looking down on the Rusky planes. Well we would have taken piccies had there been anything there apart from Turkish/ Pegasus stuff. After that we settled down, and some fell asleep waiting for the action, which never really happened. We did go up to the general aviation area for a few piccies of a Jetstream, Mil 2, some light thingies and the burnt out Koda Air B707 in it's orange colours parked up in the corner of the ramp. Our girly guide had been very open and friendly up until this point, but she did not want close- up photos of the 707 being taken. I presume it did not reflect well on the airport, having a burnt out hulk being seen by all and sundry on the internet the week after our visit. And so it was, not long after, that girly guide [sorry, but I cannot remember her name] said something like  "ok, let's have one group picture togther with the coach before we all leave". Now being a canny northener, I thought this sounded a little strange as we were coming back tomorrow for another full day airside, plus possibly a few hours on the Sunday. Think again sucker. On going landside through security, and getting our passports back, girly guide said something like " ta ra, thanks for coming, visit is over, I'm off, enjoy the rest of your stay in Tukey". Basically it meant we were not being allowed back airside the following day and there was nothing we could do about it - ha, ha! Despite extensive discussions between Graham [our leader] and girly guide, nothing could be done. Trip was effectively over -and we had all Friday and Saturday to go yet, before leaving for home on Sunday. The only  [truly English] thing to be done, was to return to the hotel, slag everyone concerned off and drink loads of beer. OK, we were pretty much stuffed regarding aircraft photography, but on a positive note, we found a little corner shack near the hotel selling really cheap bottles of beer. We bought - and drunk - a lot, just to be sociable of course.


Friday morning came, and there again was that loud banging in my head - flipping construction everywhere! As there were no planes to see today, we came up with plan B, which meant that we were all going to do the touristy bit and go on a cruise up the Bosphorous. Sounds like a Carry -On film title. This turned out to be really good, as the shipy thing we were on served the communities on each side of the large channel as a taxi, in that it would pull up to a little dock thing, people would jump off, jump on and then we would continue the journey along this incredibly busy waterway. After about ninety minutes we reached our destination. The boat stops here for a short while, which is just long enough for everyone to offload, find a restaurant, have something to eat and drink, and then get back onboard for the trip back to Istanbul. Everyone from our little group decided to go on this cruise, and we had a really good time despite some inclement weather in the morning. The day ended, amazingly with us all in the bar discussing what we were going to do on our organised touristy day on Saturday.  I had come to see aeroplanes however, and rumours that two of the group had dared to go to Attaturk Airport today for some photography began to circulate. Perhaps I could do this tomorrow - but how, at an airport surrounded by high walls/ fences and manned guard towers on the perimeter? Had to put my thinking cap on- it's lucky Kath [my missus] had packed it for me.


Our last full day in Turkey was Saturday, and this had been set aside as our organised touristy day. Leaving the hotel,we proceeded to the Turkish National Aviation museum which is situated quite close to Istanbul's Attaturk airport, and it possible to spot from here to a degree while waliking around the numerous aircraft, including an Istanbul Airlines Caravelle and a Turkish AF Viscount - both of which I had previously seen many years ago. It was now that Steve [from Woking], Maarten [from Holland] and I decided to leave the main group and try our chances with photography at the airport. This proved to be good and bad - and stupid probably in retrospect. We walked along the road from the museum towards the hotel and took up camp in the most stupid place I've ever tried to take piccies from ; in the middle of a grass island in between two major roads, in full view of one of the guard towers - and they do have guards in them!  For some reason this was a hang out area for some local tramps. Either that, or they travel a long way to have a kip here. As such, we made out like we were tramps lying in the grass until something took off,  raised up [did not get up], took piccy and lay down again. I kid you not, but it had to be better than this. As the sun moved around, and the tramps started to get up, we decided to get a taxi to a spot rumoured to give decent views of arriving traffic over the sea. I expected this to be the park I had read about before coming to Turkey, but in fact we went to a bridge crossing over a dual carriageway which gave great photography of landing traffic. Being shielded from our closest guard towers by trees helped, but you had to be quick with the camera as the approach was not visible until the planes came over a large billboard thingy, crossed right to left in front, and then disappeared again over the perimeter fence. We spent a good six or seven hours here with no trouble from security or police, but if I had a pound for every suspicious look from normal people passing us on the bridge, I would be a very rich man. Goodies included Atlas Jet CRJ700's, Vladivostok Avia Tu154, Izair A319 and Jordan Aviation B737-200 amongst the hoards of Turkish Airlines B737's and Airbuses. When the sun started to set, we jumped in a taxi and headed back to the hotel to meet up with the others, quite pleased with what we had achieved [or got away with, depending on how you look at it] today. For myself, it saved the trip after the disappointment of Friday when we could not go back to Sabiha International. More beer was consumed while swopping stories of tourist sights and tramps, and early on Sunday we made our way to the airport for our Easyjet flight back to Luton. Time in the departure lounge gave some more shots of a couple of interesting airliners including a Podilla Avia AN 24 and a privately owned Yak 42, before an uneventful trip home to the UK. After saying tara to everyone, I noted zillions of biz-jets which were around apparently due to Wimbledon being on at the time, and then took the coach home. So even the best laid plans [see the title] of mice and men can go wrong, as they did with our exclusion from Sabiha, but they can also work out right with bit of effort and the company of nice people -despite them being southerners!

 

 

                                      Hope this is of use,

                                                Dave Ross

Dear All,

 

Recently returned from an excellent five day trip over to Istanbul. Can offer little that hasn't previously been posted on this list (albeit in one of its previous disguises) - however, presuming that the archives still hold them, reference should be made to Glenn Wheeler's report from May 2005 and Nick Cross from February 2006, both of which contain excellent information. Some spotting details are also available on Chris Blackmun's site. While I'm sure they are still applicable, I cannot confirm that the details given are still current, as I spent the whole time spotting from the Radisson SAS Hotel, located at the end of the parallel runways (36R/36L and 18R/18L). These are the main take-off runways (with a number of landers also), so everything that departed during day light could be read off. The only frustrating period is when the light begins to fade and you see aircraft landing but know that it will be dark by the time they take-off and resultantly go unidentified (this happened with an Elbrus Avia YK42, Iran Air Fk100 and 2 Hamburg International A319's). If they are using 18R/18L you get an excellent view of the aircraft as they queue for departure. If they are using 36R/36L, they will be in the air by the time they reach the hotel and, depending on the position of the reg on the fuselage, often you have to rely on reading the reg on the underside of the wing - however, as they are close, this didn't prove to be much of a problem, although the sun is not in a great position for morning departures. The far single runway (almost exclusively used for landings while we were there) is a long way in the distance and nothing could be read, although quite a few on the terminal, particularly when the heat haze wasn't a problem, could be read, as could quite a few of the aircraft in the maintenance area. Keep checking this area, as things are moved about quite a lot - it was here that TC-JIK was parked, along with newly delivered A320 TC-JPP. The Turkmenistan B717 EZ-A104 was also in the hangers and was read when it was moved out to let another aircraft out. The main biz-jet parking area is also right in front of the hotel. With regards photography (which I don't do), the view from the rooms is excellent for spotting but not good for photography, as the windows, as was mentioned by Chris Blackmun in his post in February 2008, are filthy. If it is photos you are after, I guess the well documented Florya beach area and nearby 'Flyinn' shopping centre are the places to head for. Do not be tempted to stand outside the hotel taking photos as there is a watch tower opposite the hotel which is manned by an armed guard and I can only imagine this would lead to problems. A large number of the rooms face the airport, so getting a suitable room should be no problem. As is often the case, just ask for a high floor room facing the airport - we had requested the previously mentioned room numbers 324 (Nick Cross) and 350 (Tim White via Chris Blackmun) but were allocated a room on the 4th floor with similar views.

Of the Turkish fleets, all Turkish Airlines A320's were seen except TC-JLJ, all A321's noted, nearly all the B738's (although we weren't particularly on the look out for these) and all 3 A319's (including the leased TC-OGU). A310 TC-JDA was noted frequently still in passenger service, JDB was noted in a hanger, and freighters JCT/V and Y were all present. 2 A340's were not noted, although only JIH was required and this was seen. All 5 A330's were seen over the five days. Only a few B734's were noted, JDG/H/T and JER. Of course, some of these are now operated by Anadolu Jet, and it should be noted that no Anadolu aircraft were seen during the stay, including, rather frustratingly, new B738's JHG and JHH. Of the other operators, only 1 ACT Cargo was seen (ACD), Ankair TC-AKN was parked up, all 3 RJ900's of Atlas Jet were noted along with stable mates ETF (A321 in basic Saudi colours), A320 OGJ, A319 OGV and 752's OGS and OGT both looking splendid in full Saudi colours. Only TC-TUC of Best Air made an appearance, and all 3 Bosphorus A300's are still parked up, opposite the hotel. No Corendon, Freebird or Sun Express made the book, while FLJ and FLM (Fly Air A300's) were parked up all week looking a little sorry for themselves. 2 of the 3 Inter A321's were about, and the same ratio of Izmir A319's were seen. About half of the KTHY fleet were noted, while 1 stored A300F of Kuzu went unidentified outside the hangers. Two stored MNG FK27's were in the maintenance area (MBC and MBD), although later in the week fly540.com titles were applied to both aircraft - check the skyliner website for the new reggies of these, as they need confirmation and will be posted when this is received. All active A300F's of MNG were noted except MND (still with Ceiba?), including new acquisition MNV. The majority of Onur flights were operated by MD83's/88's although a few of their Airbuses were about. Only TC-AAF and APZ of Pegasus were noted, as SAW is now of course the place to see these. Both were in the maintenance area, the latter being in full GOL livery with dual reg TC-APZ/PR-GIU. The only Saga machine on show was TC-SGC, an A310 on lease to Ariana Afghan. Sky Airlines provided A320's SKJ and SKK in service, and SKB/SKF (B734's) were in the maintenance area. Both Tarhan MD82's were parked up, TTA in full colours while TTB still sported Eram titles and evidence of its past with Spirit.

The log, and excellent company, was/is provided by my partners in crime, Dave Pickles and Derek Mills, and, as I have summarised all the Turkish craft, contains only the foreign visitors. This is straight from the computer of Mr Pickles, so any errors blame him. While massively down on Russian types since my last visit in the mid-nineties, all I will say is that any airport that can offer a Buraq B738, Royal Jordanian EM195, Caspian TU154, Tatarstan Tu154, Qatar A320, Kuban YK42, Turkmenistan B733 (EZ-A002 - no longer stored at Perpignan), Air Bashkortostan B752 and Windrose MD83 (as well as the Iran Air Fk100 mentioned above) in the same day (Thursday) deserves a visit.

 

Monday 15th September  

5A-DMH  Boeing 737 8GK

EC-KIM  Airbus A330 202

F-GFKZ  Airbus A320 211

I-DACT  Douglas DC-9 82

RA-42542  Yakovlev Yak-42 D

S5-ACD  Douglas DC-9 82

UR-ELD  Antonov 26 B

YR-ASB  Airbus A318 111

Z3-AAH  Boeing 737 529

 

Tuesday 16th September

A6-EHD  Airbus A340 541

A6-PHC  Boeing 737 33A

A7-ADA  Airbus A320 232

AP-BEC  Airbus A310 308

CN-ROC  Boeing 737 8B6

D-AIPT  Airbus A320 211

D-AISG  Airbus A321 231

D-AISL  Airbus A321 231

D-AISO  Airbus A321 231

D-ALTC  Airbus A320 214

EC-IGK  Airbus A321 211

EC-JEI  Airbus A319 111

ER-AXV  Airbus A320 211

EW-254PA  Boeing 737 3Q8

EY-85691  Tupolev Tu-154 M

EZ-A011  Boeing 757 22K

EZ-A104  Boeing 717 22K

F-GFKX  Airbus A320 211

F-GHQK  Airbus A320 211

G-EUUC  Airbus A320 232

HA-LOF  Boeing 737 6Q8

HB-IOF  Airbus A321 111

HB-IPY  Airbus A319 112

I-BIXF  Airbus A321 112

JY-EMB  EM190 200LR

LY-SBC  SAAB 2000

N1200K  Boeing 767 332

OE-LBN  Airbus A320 214

OO-TNA  Boeing 737 3T0F

P4-UAS  Airbus A320 232

PH-BGC  Boeing 737 8K2

PH-BXC  Boeing 737 8K2

PR-GIU  Boeing 737 809

RA-42363  Yakovlev Yak-42 D

SP-LKE  Boeing 737 55D

SU-GBZ  Airbus A320 232

SX-BKE  Boeing 737 484

T9-AAD  ATR 72 212

TS-IND  Airbus A320 212

TS-IOI  Boeing 737 5H3

UP-B3701  Boeing 737 230

UR-CEW  Douglas DC-9 82

UR-VVE  Boeing 737 448

UR-VVM  Boeing 737 448

VP-BWM  Airbus A320 214

YL-BBM  Boeing 737 522

YR-ASD  Airbus A318 111

YR-BGF  Boeing 737 78J

 

Wednesday 17th September

9M-MKV  Airbus A330 223

9V-SYJ  Boeing 777 312

A4O-ED  Airbus A320 212

A6-PHA  Boeing 737 2T4

A6-PHF  Boeing 737 219

A7-ADB  Airbus A320 232

D-AIPD  Airbus A320 211

D-AIPM  Airbus A320 211

D-AIRL  Airbus A321 131

D-AISH  Airbus A321 231

EP-MHM  Airbus A300B2K-3C

ER-AXT  Airbus A320 231

EZ-A002  Boeing 737 332

EZ-A004  Boeing 737 82K

F-GFKL  Airbus A320 211

F-GFKV  Airbus A320 211

G-BZHB  Boeing 767 336ER

G-EUUI  Airbus A320 232

HA-LOJ  Boeing 737 6Q8

HB-IOH  Airbus A321

I-BIXU  Airbus A321 112

I-CFSZ  Canadair CL215

I-DAVM  Douglas DC-9 82

JY-EMD  EM170 200LR

LX-PCV  Boeing 747 4R7F

OE-LVF  Fokker 100

OO-TNK  Boeing 737 301F

P4-MAS  Boeing 757 28A

PH-BXL  Boeing 737 8K2

PH-BXY  Boeing 737 8K2

PH-CKC  Boeing 747 406ERF

RA-42421  Yakovlev Yak-42 D

SU-GCC  Airbus A320 232

TS-IOL  Boeing 737 6H3

UR-IVK  Boeing 737 3L9

UR-RUS  Canadair RJ100 200LR

VP-BBR  Boeing 757 22L

VP-BQU  Airbus A320 214

VP-BWZ  Boeing 737 528

YU-ANW  Boeing 737 3H9

ZA-MEV  BAe 146 300

 

Thursday 18th September

5A-DMG  Boeing 737

A7-ADC  Airbus A320 232

CN-ROL  Boeing 737 8B6

D-AIRR  Airbus A321 131

D-AIRS  Airbus A321 131

D-AIRW  Airbus A321 131

D-ANNB  Airbus A320 232

D-AXLF  Boeing 737 8Q8

EC-IXD  Airbus A321 211

EC-IZH  Airbus A320 214

EI-CDG  Boeing 737 548

EP-CPS  Tupolev Tu-154

F-GFKJ  Airbus A320 211

F-GJVW  Airbus A320 211

G-BNWX  Boeing 767 336ER

G-XLAD  Boeing 737 81Q

I-BIXP  Airbus A321 112

I-DAWQ  Douglas DC-9 82

JY-EMA  EM190 200LR

LZ-FBB  Airbus A319 112

N174DZ  Boeing 767 332

OE-LDG  Airbus A319 112

OE-LVK  Fokker 100

OK-XGE  Boeing 737 55S

OO-TNB  Boeing 737 3T0

PH-BXE  Boeing 737 8K2

PH-BXM  Boeing 737 8K2

RA-73012  Boeing 757 230

RA-85101  Tupolev Tu-154 M

RA-85135  Tupolev Tu-154 M

SP-LKF  Boeing 737 55D

SX-BKU  Boeing 737 48E

T9-AAE  ATR 72 212

TS-IOP  Boeing 737 6H3

UK-31003  Airbus A310 324

UR-CFF  Douglas DC-9 83

UR-DAA  Airbus A320 211

UR-DAP  Yakovlev Yak-40

UR-DND  Boeing 737 5L9

UR-WRB  Douglas DC-9 83

VP-BBS  Boeing 757 22L

VP-BLG  Boeing 737 528

YL-BBE  Boeing 737 53S

YR-ASC  Airbus A318 111

 

Friday 19th September

4K-AZ38  Boeing 757 256

9V-SYK  Boeing 777 312

AP-BEQ  Airbus A310 308

D-AISE  Airbus A321 231

D-ALTJ  Airbus A320 214

EC-KEV  Airbus A319 111

EP-IBA  Airbus A300 B4605R

F-ORME  Airbus A321 231

G-EUUJ  Airbus A320 232

G-EUUR  Airbus A320 232

LN-RRW  Boeing 737 883

N171DN  Boeing 767 332

VP-BKX  Airbus A320 214

 

And that's your lot. Hope this has been of use. I can highly recommend a visit - just spot with discretion.

 

Cheers

 

Mark Williams