15th December 2021, Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
This particular Wednesday was a long, yet fruitful day of spotting considering that I have not tried a 10-hour spotting session in Malaysia since 2019. What’s more, after 10 months of waiting, @LordWizrak and I finally met up for another spotting day (with McDonald’s this time, thank you Malaysia Airports for setting one up so close by the deck). Anyways, without more irrelevant information, here are some quick details of the day:
Runway in use: 32L/32R
Spotting location: Surroundings of taxiway F and G
Weather conditions: Fair, eventually heavy precipitation (visibility as low as 150 meters)
With a limited number of photos allowed here and an overwhelming number of backlit captures, we shall start off with a late morning departure:
Here comes Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A350-941, registered as 9V-SML taxiing out of the main terminal for departure. Definitely glad to see these widebodies returning to Kuala Lumpur with the recent introduction of Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), which allows residents and visitors of Malaysia and Singapore to commute between the nations without quarantine.
An interesting visitor in KLIA, a Bombardier Challenger 605 under 9H-VFD, potentially parked here after dropping off passengers somewhere else due to cheaper parking fees. This 12-seater is manufactured back in 2014, operated by Vistajet Malta and is able to fly up to 7,400km non-stop.
Introducing another unusual visitor, though unfortunately, it was taxiing on the other side of the airport, hence the reduced quality. Bamboo Airways, a Vietnamese airline sent out their Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner here to repatriate passengers, which is crucial in these times when direct flights between Malaysia and Vietnam is highly limited. VN-A829 also has a unique history, where it entered service with Hainan Airlines in 2018, before moving to this startup airline a year later due to financial difficulties for the Chinese carrier.
It probably makes sense to get a shot of Malaysia Airlines at home, but this combination is rather uncommon. Presenting MH’s revised standard livery, currently sported by the A350 fleet and selected 737 airframes. Coincidentally, 9M-MXR and 9M-MXT appeared together after their domestic trips and are both finishing their journey. The revised livery features thinner stripes, new logo positioning on its tail, a lighter shade of white for the fuselage, as well as the font type found on the widebody fleet.
The highlight of the day - Malaysia Airlines’ one and only Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) livery, mashed up with their trendy Negaraku paint scheme. The forward part of the aircraft is painted with a striking yellow, representing the team colour and the tiger being Malaysia’s national animal and FAM’s symbol. The Negaraku scheme is integrated towards the aft fuselage, showcasing Jalur Gemilang, translated to the Stripes of Glory. 9M-MTG itself is turning 10 next May and I vividly remember its incident over Beijing, where it started off with a cabin door issue and eventually experienced a failed pressurisation system after departure, flying MH’s maiden flight from Beijing Daxing Airport last year. Not to mention it was also involved in a miscommunicated routing dilemma over the Tasman Sea some years ago.
A close up of the FAM livery while 9M-MTG enters bay B6. Note that “Harimau Malaya” is painted on the fuselage too, as it is the official nickname of the football team. Safe to say both of us were amazed by the livery combination, it surely hits different seeing it with your own eyes.
Special livery fun never ends. Etihad Airways sent one of their “Choose” series aircraft to KL, and is coincidentally docking on the closer side of the terminal. A6-BLF is seen with the “Choose China” paint scheme, using the dragon from Chinese folklore to symbolise happiness, luck and fortune. It has a special meaning to me, as having lived in China in the past, it contributed to a large part of who I am now, thanks to lucky opportunities and meeting new people including @LordWizrak.
While this is not a special deco, it is an aircraft that we surely missed here. With the lifting of 737 MAX ban in Malaysia and the aforementioned VTL, Singapore Airlines has an afternoon service using their “brand new” 737 MAX 8 with 12 lie-flat business class seats and 144 refurbished economy seats. 9V-MBA was originally delivered to SilkAir, a regional airline. After a merger with Singapore Airlines announced in 2018, this airframe is eventually upgraded and resumed commercial services last month. This is also the first week of 737 MAX operating into KL. I certainly hope to try out its cabin products in the near future, as premium narrowbody aircraft is still uncommon in the Asian region and it would be interesting to see what SQ has to offer in these 30-minute flights.
After a long wait due to heavy precipitation over the airfield and 5 consecutive go-arounds/missed approaches, visibility was restored from 150 meters to around 5000 meters. Fortunately, with only a few holding patterns over the Strait of Malacca, Air India Express arrived into KL without major delays. VT-GHI, painted with Harmandir Sahib and Jumping Man schemes on its tail is only 3 years old, delivered fresh to the subsidiary of the Indian flag carrier. It is fascinating to witness the purchase of Air India by Tata Group, as well as the potential merger between AirAsia India and Air India Express. I am rather interested to see the future of the Indian aviation industry over the next decade or so.
Our spotting evening ends with the arrival of Turkish Airlines’ B777-3F2ER in overcast conditions. TC-JJE, an 11-year-old aircraft is named Dolmabahçe, after a palace located in Istanbul. Personally, I am intrigued with how they are able to use 2-3-2 configuration while ensuring comfort for business class travellers. As far as I know, their food product is undefeatable, especially with their Flying Chef service. This is also an airline that is on my list to experience one day, particularly on the 777/787.
To conclude this day, it was absolutely enjoyable and eventful with the unpredictable weather, various aircraft with different liveries and most importantly, being able to catch up with @LordWizrak after so many personal circumstances that prevented us from doing so for more than a year. This may not be the best day in terms of weather and variety, but we are already happy with the outcome (i.e. 2,200 photos). While we hope to meet up again, I did not come to realisation that this will happen in less than 72 hours after bidding farewell.
Stay tuned for the next spotting topic, and cheers for the Iced Blended Mocha - I’m sure the ice creams will be available soon.