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Time for TEA

For the British, tea is practically an institution and a good cuppa is vitally important. The Irish are also onboard when it comes to the hot drink, used not only as a beverage but as part of our social fabric.

“Rosie Lee” which just happens for be urban speak for “cup of tea” is the name of a new Virgin Atlantic fleet member, Airbus A350-1041, G-VTEA. The new addition to the airline visited Dublin Airport not once, not twice but so far three times in ten days recently, and as expected caused a degree of interest among enthusiasts.


Virgin Atlantic, the glamorous airline, admired by all, never fails to draw glances at airports round the world, especially so when the red-tailed aircraft are not a common sight at one’s local airport. The A350-1000, the stretched variant of the ever-popular A350 is a ‘looker’ and certain liveries have the positive affect of making it even more desirable to most eyes. The latest A350 painted in the Virgin Atlantic colour scheme is no doubt, ‘eye-candy’ to the enthusiast. It’s fair to say, the A350 is the plane-of-the-moment in its class, the one everybody wants to experience.


Last May (2020) in the early grips of the pandemic, Virgin Atlantic acquired an air freight contract servicing Ireland and the US, initially using its passenger B787’s with cargo transported in the hold. When the bottom had fallen out of the air passenger market, freight became a lucrative alternative prospect. If it meant revenues from belly freight could help keep the lights on, it should be explored.


With Aer Lingus postponing flights between Dublin - San Francisco and Dublin - Los Angeles and other US airlines curtailing they’re transatlantic operations significantly, due to the coronavirus sweeping the globe, tech consumables and pharma products for export / import were still required to reach market. Virgin’s cargo flights, departing London Heathrow arriving Los Angeles, LAX and returning, began to include a short detour to include Dublin, generally twice weekly. The Dublin sector, is usually performed on Friday and Sunday, incoming from Heathrow and returning to London before the aircraft is loaded with the bulk of its cargo, departing for the US west coast the same day.


The first glimpse of “Rosie Lee” at Dublin was Friday, March 5th with a 17:29 landing on RW10R after a swift 49 min flight. A brief stationary spell and G-VTEA was taxiing for departure back to London, lifting at 19:05.


The Rolls-Royce powered A350 was delivered to the UK airline in November last year, and is the latest of the type to join the fleet. Six other ‘1000 series A350’s were delivered ahead of G-VTEA with up to 12 in the original Airbus order, there are still some new-comers to wear the Virgin Atlantic livery.


G-VTEA was back at Dublin two days later, on Sunday, March 7th and again on Friday, March 14th. On Friday, March 12th it was the turn of fellow fleet member, G-VDOT, Airbus A350-1041 to conduct the Dublin leg of cargo operations and another first visit of this particular aircraft to the capital. “Ruby Slipper” a-la ‘The Wizard of Oz”, has been with Virgin Atlantic since September 2020 and was not a new aircraft when it arrived. Three years old in fact, it had flown for Air Caribes from December 2019 and before that, it had the honour of being an Airbus test aircraft for a time and is the second A350-1000 off the production line.


Strange to think, these fabulous looking, luxurious state-of-the-art long-haul airliners, designed to whisk passengers halfway round the world in immense levels of comfort (3-class) are experiencing the first part of they’re flying career, not cosseting passengers but instead delivering cargo due to a pandemic. At least they are operating and not parked up, stored away.


And so while you “put kettle on” with warm thoughts of “Rosie Lee” and the new ‘1000 series of A350’s beginning the next chapter in Virgin Atlantic’s history, spare a thought for the glorious Virgin Boeing 747’s which set the airline on its course all those years ago.


Photo by Percival Ramsbottom

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