Very much in the vein of the foray across the border made by Eddie in the late 1970s to catch Peruvian rariities covered in the January 2011 issue, and prompted by December 2010's star visitor at Newcastle Airport, my mind wandered back to a similar trip made by myself to catch earlier executive jet deliveries to Singapore Airlines and its flying college. The evening of Friday 10th December 1999 saw news hit the enthusiast forums of three Learjet 45s arriving at Glasgow Airport on their ferry flights to Singapore Airlines. A mouth-watering prospect, and only a few hours drive away, and while I had a longer, and massively significant road trip (aimed at settling a score!) planned for the Sunday and Monday of the following week (the full story of which is published on the novembertango web site), I remember setting off at 0500 on the Saturday morning, and battling my way through the snow on the M74 - at one point wondering to myself, 'what am I doing here'! - to arrive at Glasgow Airport in time to see the trio preparing for an early departure on the airport's executive ramp. With the three gorgeous machines in the bag, I positioned myself at one of the favoured spotting sites at Glasgow back then, around the back of the Loganair hangar, to hopefully record the machines on film. Sure enough just before 0900 all three taxied out and departed, in somewhat challenging photographic conditions (see above!), on continuation of their long ferry flight via Nuremburg, Larnaca and beyond. A more leisurely drive back to Newcastle ensued for me, in order to prepare for a night shift on the Saturday night and a late morning drive southwards on the Sunday! Young and keen .... !
The Singapore Airline Flying College, established in 1988, is fully owned and operated by Singapore Airlines, primarily to train ab-initio pilots for the three airlines in the group, the 'mainline' and cargo divisions, as well as wholly-owned Silk Air. Based close to Seletar Airport in Singapore, the college operates two training facilities in Australia, at Jandakot Airport, Perth, WA. (Cessna 152/172R & Beech Baron), and Maroochydore, Sunshine Coast, Qld. (Learjet 45). Four new Learjet 45s were ordered to replace six older Learjet 31s (9V-ATA-F), to operate in Singapore, and whilst all four set off on the Atlantic crossing 'together', one, 9V-ATG (45-029) - sadly for me - diverted into Shannon, subsequently meeting up with its sister-ships from Glasgow - 9V-ATH (45-031), 9V-ATI (45-033), and 9V-ATJ (45-035 pictured above) - in Nuremburg on Saturday 10th.
Two of the quartet were disposed of in July 2002, 9V-ATG becoming N290LJ and then subsequently N170LS, an identity the airframe was wearing when I caught up with it for the first time at Fort Lauderdale Executive in February 2007, while 9V-ATH became N310LJ also in July 2002, which it wears to this day (and which it wore when I saw it at FXE the day before '170LS in February 2007!). The two remaining Learjet 45s were moved to Australia in November 2002, becoming VH-SQD and VH-SQM where they still remain, the pair initially losing their Singapore titles and tail designs, and then subsequently being re-painted into a more anonymous white livery with titles and tail badge, similar to that worn by the machine on this month's front cover. The two were joined by a further pair of Learjet 45s in late 2002, VH-SQR (45-195) and VH-SQV (45-207), aircraft which appear to have worn a mixture of the two liveries worn by -033 and -035 from delivery to this day, Singapore Airlines cheatlines and tail colouring, with 'Singapore Flying College' titles and tail badge.
In July 2009 the Singapore Flying College ordered five Citation Mustangs to ultimately replace the Learjet 45s at Maroochydore, and as we go to press four have already been delivered, VH-SQW through Glasgow - and over the Newcastle area, above cloud! - during late June 2010, VH-SQY through Stansted during mid-November 2010, and VH-VSQ also through Stansted in late January 2011; oh, and of course VH-SQJ which provided one of the moments of an already fairly 'colourful' year at Newcastle Airport during early December.
Acknowledgements: airliners.net, sfcpl.com, Aviation Letter.