Philippines Airports

FEB 22 2011
Airports >> Philippines > Manila: A Taste of

When you land or take-off from Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport you cannot help but notice the contrast between the old and the new. Terminal 1, the International gateway, is old and crowded and once through to the gate area, small and uncomfortable with very little in the way of facilities. In contrast Terminal 3, the new domestic building, is huge; spacious and with everything you need to make your journey as comfortable as possible. The same can be said of the aircraft on the airfield. Rakes of Boeing 747, 777, A330 and A320s adorn the landscape, but look closer and you'll find all kinds of interesting aircraft tucked away, mostly out of view of the new aircraft and international terminal's sight.

Some of these aircraft can be seen from the departure gates of Terminal 3 but what you can glimpse from there is only part of the story as many aircraft are hidden behind the buildings. The light here is usually in one of two modes. Extremely bright, creating a huge contrast between whites and shadows, or overcast with the smoggy sky a uniform white. Consequently, photography here can be a challenge.

When Japan retired all of its YS-11s many found their way to the Philippines with Manila becoming the hub of YS-11 operations. Back then you could find lots of colorful YS-11s operating, but now, even here, the YS-11's days are numbered. There is a single example left in service and this one is only used by Interisland Airlines when charters dictate or during the peak-season for flights to Kalibo on the island of Panay to the south. This aircraft seems to be well looked after and wears a striking red, white and blue colour scheme. They also have a Yak-40 stored here, but this has not flown for some time so is presumably stored.

Other YS-11s stored here include RP-C3585 belonging to Aboitiz / 2GO which still looks to be flyable at least with all control surfaces intact and engines still in place. This is in stark contrast to RP-C2677 which is sitting on the grass with its Dart engines removed. 2GO no longer flies aircraft itself but instead utilises the hold capacity of Cebu Pacific's large network. Another one that's still looking good is RP-C3588 which used to fly with Asian Spirit but has long since had all its titles and colours removed.

There were a further two YS-11s on this grass area. First of all RP-C3587 which is painted in the colours of BIMP-EAGA Air Alliance and is starting to look decidedly worse for wear with a very dirty upper fuselage, although it still has its engines intact. BIMP-EAGA is the acronym for the very wordy Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and The Philippines - East ASEAN Growth Area, with ASEAN standing for Association of Southeast Asian Nations - phew! The flags of the four countries are painted on the tail of the aircraft.

The second aircraft RP-C2252 belongs to Airlink International Airways and Aviation School based on the airfield and is in excellent condition. I assumed it was stored and used as a ground trainer when I saw it on my first visit but the last time I was in Manila they had the engines running. There were reports that the aircraft performed a flight in March 2010 so presumably it is still used from time to time.

A lone An-24B RP-C7205 belonging to Mosphil Aero is the last relic of a startup company founded in 2005 to take advantage of the BIMP-EAGA "open skies" policy and first flew in November 2006, but it's unclear when it ceased operations.

Keeping to the grass storage area there are many aircraft here that have been grounded for a very long time indeed. Stand-out is the Winkys Fish C-121J Constellation which has been here since June 1988 when it was hauling tuna between the Philippines and Guam, developed trouble and needed repairs in Manila. While that was being done there were legal issues that went to the courts in Manila and during that battle an order was passed that prevented any flights, effectively impounding the aircraft. The process took so long that the owner ran out of money to continue the battle in court and abandoned the aircraft. She's been there ever since and, considering the long passage of time, she is still in remarkably good condition.

There are no less than six C-47/DC-3 aircraft stored here and two of them look as if their days are coming to an end very soon. RP-C1354 has had its wings removed since my first visit and RP-C1352 is even further along the reclamation route with its tailplane also now missing. Both these airframes belong to CM Aero Services and I guess they are parting them out for their active C-47B. RP-C535 with Victoria Air is here because I assume the company stopped operations after the tragic accident involving C-47D RP-C550 on 17th October 2009. Two Swiftair airframes still survive with engines (RP-C147 and RP-C368) in the storage area - Swiftair operated this pair between 1972 and 2000.

DHC-4 Caribou RP-C2702 used to operate out of Clark and the last photo evidence that I can find of it there was in 2006. It's currently stored at Manila and it'll be interesting to find out when it made the short flight. This is an ex USAF AC-1A / C-7 aircraft (62-4160) and was also N800NC after its release from MASDC.

One of the busiest small operators here is CM Aero Services which operates a single C-47B plus a sizable fleet of Beech 18s, all used for cargo work. The Beech 18 fleet is a mixed one with E18S, G18S and H18 tricycle gear variants. The staff were more than happy to pose and wave while I wandered around the fleet and on each occasion that I either visited the airport for photos or to transit through, I always saw one of their Beech 18s flying, so business is hopefully good.

Back to Russian aircraft and the Let L-410 seems to have been a popular aircraft here in the past. There were still five present on my recent trips with two seemingly stored and the rest still looking to be in service with Lion Air and SEAir.

Dornier is also represented with a sole Do328 (RP-C7328 / ex Suckling and Cityjet as G-BYML) belonging to SEAir which actually has a sizable fleet of these aircraft, but this was the only one present on either of my visits. Flying Do228s meanwhile are two other operators, Island Transvoyager Inc (ITI) and A. Soriano Aviation, both of which are charter operations.

There's quite a large fleet of British aircraft here and most are still in operation which is always nice to see. British Aerospace manufactured types include an ATP and a Jetstream 32. On my first visit the ATP was owned by Aviastar and operated for Air Aceh which are both Indonesian. On my second visit the Aviastar titles had been removed, as had the logo on the tail, but it still carries Air Aceh titles. This aircraft used to fly with Loganair as G-LOGG and Manx as G-MANB when in the UK. It has been reported that the aircraft is in Manila for a maintenance check, although it's been present for over a year now. The Jetstream 32EP was operated by Royal Star Aviation which also operates a 41 series aircraft.

The most numerous of the British contingent here is Britten-Norman with Islander and Trislander aircraft, both ideally suited to small airfield operations. As one pilot that flew the Trislander in Guernsey always used to say "they are very agricultural aircraft". Pinoy Air had three Trislanders here (C-GOXZ, G-BDOT and G-OJAV) although I can't find any details on its operations at all. Islanders are more prevalent and Pacific Missionary Aviation has a pristine example in its own hangar. There were also Islanders being worked on having being stripped completely bare so there is clearly a local market for them.

Dash 7 aircraft have gone out of favour since Asian Spirit changed its name to Zest Airways and many of these airframes are dotted around awaiting sale, while Zest has concentrated on operating only three types; the A319, A320 and the Chinese Xian MA60. The MA60 is a stretched version of the Y7-200A, which itself is a further variation of the licensed built An-24, and is proving popular with sales in Africa, Asia and South America both to civilian and military markets.

The Philippines flagship carrier used to be Philippine Airlines (PAL) but the organisation is now a mere shadow of its former self after financial issues which necessitated cutbacks in routes, aircraft and employees. Cebu Pacific took this opportunity to re-equip its fleet of DC-9s and Boeing 757s with ATR-42 and A319/A320 aircraft and expanded in the domestic market to such an extent that it is now the dominant carrier internally. It also flies internationally but both PAL and Cebu Pacific currently remain on the EU list of banned carriers, as indeed do all Philippine carriers. A few of the Cebu Pacific DC-9s are still stored at the present time. Of interest, RP-C1537 was with Inex Adria as YU-AJF and BMA as G-BMWD, RP-C1545 was with KLM as PH-DOA and RP-C1546 also with KLM as PH-DOB. Air Philippines, now known as Airphil Express, has also performed a fleet update replacing its YS-11, Boeing 737-200 and MD-88 aircraft with newer fleets comprising A320 and Dash 8.

Another aircraft of interest was an Aero Commander 680 belonging to Certeza which provides survey and photo services, although the aircraft doesn't look as if it flies too often. There are still some older jets that arrive in Manila on freight schedules too, notably Transmile which is based in Malaysia with Boeing 727-200/Adv(F) airframes; always good to see.

Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /var/sites/g/globalaviationresource.com/public_html/comments/displaycomments.php on line 8

2012-02-21 - J. Lauron
Great Article! Love reading every single word.. You might try visiting Mactan Airport.. Lot's of interesting subjects to see.. Good Day! and more exciting articles.

2011-03-12 - Michal P.
Very, very interesting article indeed. I was in Manila at the same time (21FEB) and could only take a pictures a few airframes few days later on landing from PPS. Visiting apron at MNL is a must, wonder if ramp permission is hard to obtain ;) Good to see BAe ATP and YS-11 still operating! I couldn't imagine MNL is so interesting for prop enthusiast, nearby Air Force museum (next to terminal 3) is also full of interesting airframes, with another YS 11 and DC-3 among jests and training props. Thanks for great report!

2011-02-22 - Marcus Jellyman
A fantastic report Paul. What a place for the aviation nut, one of those gems that delivers something special every corner you turn.

Global Aviation Resource's photographic and written work is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without express written permission.

If you would like to discuss using any of our imagery or feature content please contact us.