Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue………….Skipping up the aisle, getting hitched, no nothing to do with nuptials here. This is applicable to 9H-TQZ, Airbus A340-300 of Hi Fly Malta which spent some time at Dublin Airport recently. Let’s explain…………
Rewind to Thursday evening, 29th of April as the 1997-built aircraft (something old) landed at Dublin. The reason for its visit, to receive a new livery at IAC formerly Eirtech Aviation (something new). Something borrowed, relates to the lease on the aircraft and something blue, well the images relay that story.
Arriving as CS-TQZ, the A340 was re-registered as 9H-TQZ during its time on the ground at Dublin. The transformation from Euro-White to Brilliant-Blues is incredible, the corporate colours, a most appealing scheme.
For enthusiasts, they received the first indications the new-look was on the move as it was rolled out of the paint hangar to acclimatise on the 11th of May, only to remain stationary for the next few days, teasing all looking on from beyond the perimeter fence.
The significance of this aircrafts presence at Dublin is two-fold. Dublin Airport does not receive regular schedule flights (even pre-pandemic) with A340’s and the number of operational A340’s globally is experiencing a sharp reduction on an ongoing basis. As of February 2021, a total of 104 A340’s were in service. The quad-jet aircraft is on the ‘extinction list’ with airlines, along with other older, less fuel efficient types. Retirement is looming for many.
Airlines such as Hi Fly should be applauded for continuing to operate aircraft in the ‘guzzler’ category. As enthusiasts cling on to a shrinking stock of interesting aircraft, Hi Fly embrace these appealing aircraft, with up to six A340-300’s in the fleet, five A330’s consisting of the ‘900neo, ‘300 & ‘200 series, a duo of A321’s and A319’s. The fleet members are distributed across the Hi Fly group which includes subsidiary Hi Fly Malta. Interestingly, the Malta branch of Hi Fly, first launched in 2013, began operations using the largest variant of A340, the ‘600 series.
The owners of Hi Fly, the charismatic Mirpuri family, with members taking daily active roles in operations, previous owners of Air Luxor prior to its demise, are firm fans of the Airbus product, having only ever operated this manufacturer and continues with an all-Airbus fleet. The first airline to acquire a pre-owned A380, a brave move and provided an injection of interest and glamour for enthusiasts to follow and engage with.
9H-TQZ was readied to return to its Portuguese base from Dublin on Sunday 16th of May. Ticking all the boxes for exceptional planes from an enthusiasts perspective, the new-look livery even contained the ‘eye-mask’, a black cockpit window surround treatment. Light-of-load, the A340-300 launched itself into the air at 14:30, using far less of the 2,600m runway than one might expect, portraying its true performance capability during this ‘out-of-service’ flight.
One positive which can be taken from this Dublin visit, is that having gone to the trouble and expense of painting this A340 surely indicates the airline intends to retain this aircraft, meaning one more on the ‘extinction list’ is sticking around for a while.
Images by Niall McCormick