Today was a special day for plane spotters at London’s Stansted Airport. The airport today hosted its first passenger A380 flight after everybody’s favourite A380 stopped by to say “Hi(Fly)”.
HiFly is operating a charter flight to Baku in Azerbaijan for the Europa League final. The football match sees two British teams, Chelsea and Arsenal, pitted head to head. Apparently, there has been controversy regarding the location, and being a non-football type I can see why. Why thousands of football fans are being flown halfway across the world for a match between two British teams seems confusing. However, let’s get back to aviation!
First passenger flight
Today marked the first passenger flight of an Airbus A380 to operate out of London Stansted. While the aircraft previously visited the airport, this was due to crew training on the type. The landmark is significant as, out of all of the London airports, Stansted is least best equipped to handle the A380.
No better way to kick-start #TravelTuesday than by waving off the first ever passenger @Airbus A380 flight from @STN_Airport – one of several extra football flights to Baku for #EuropaLeagueFinal2019! @EuropaLeague! ⚽️✈️ pic.twitter.com/c0wMTNnVMJ
— London Stansted Airport (@STN_Airport) May 28, 2019
There are only two aprons at Stansted Airport rated to take the Airbus A380. Apron Z has no gates, while Apron A is shared between cargo and passenger aircraft. To the best of our knowledge, there is no gate designed for the Airbus A380 at Stansted, although we have asked for clarification as to how the aircraft was handled.
According to a tweet from the airport, it looks as though the aircraft used a gate on the A Apron, possibly the one that is usually used by Emirates’ Boeing 777 service.
A message from the captain:
Simple Flying spoke to HiFly in Lisbon, and received the following message from Antonios Efthymiou, the captain on the first ever Stansted A380 flight:
As we were informed at the airport, Hi Fly is the first company who operated the A380 on a commercial flight from Stansted.
Both Stansted and Baku airports can accept the A380 with specific mitigations and restrictions.
The Rescue and Fire Fighting Services (RFFS) in both airports need to be upgraded to accommodate the aircraft. This upgrade involves enforcement of machinery and/or personnel from nearby stations to be available at the time of arrival and departure of the aircraft. It is a common procedure and it is put in force with a prior notice to the Airport Authorities.
In both airports there are ground movement restrictions due to the size of the aircraft, with the wing span being the most restrictive component. Movement and parking of the aircraft can be done only in specific routes and positions.
For some airports, Stansted included, these restrictions are depicted in charts. For all other airports our Performance and Navigation Department studies and validates the airport that we intend to operate and provides information about the ground movement or any other restrictions.
In the case of Baku only one of the two runways is suitable for the A380. During our approach it was coordinated with the Air Traffic Controllers which in fact were very cooperative and we used the specific runway.
The flights itself
The flight to Baku was not alone. Indeed, an Azerbaijani Boeing 787 Dreamliner also flew excited fans this morning from a Stansted to Baku. However, it’s the HiFly A380 that we’re really interested in. The aircraft flew to Stansted Airport last night from its base in Portugal. The aircraft then stayed at Stansted overnight while waiting for its passengers.
This morning the aircraft took off at 0829 UTC from Stansted. At the time of writing the aircraft is on approach to Baku just under five hours later.
First class suites
The HiFly Airbus A380 used to belong to Singapore Airlines. However, while they did repaint it, HiFly didn’t bother to redo the aircraft’s interior. As such, the aircraft is as it was when Singapore Airlines operated it.
This means that a passenger has the possibility of sitting in a first-class suite onboard. Norwegian took full advantage of this when they were operating the aircraft between London and New York, asking passengers to pay extra for the suites. As the HiFly Airbus A380 is wet leased, all of the crew and service onboard are provided by HiFly.
Were you onboard the HiFly Airbus A380 flight to Baku? Let us know in the comments!