Where? Dhaka, Bangladesh
Bangladesh is neither a common tourist destination, nor is it likely the first country that would make it on top of the list of "popular planespotting destinations". Nevertheless the trip to Dhaka was most interesting, making for some long-lasting impressions from a diversified country!
Organizing the trip was complex, and expectations were accordingly high as somehow in the end all these efforts should turn into some nice shots. It finally turned out not to be that difficult, however there were some new challenges day after day, and without the help of the local spotting community a lot of chances and opportunites for some great photos would have remained locked up.
Talking about the local spotters: yes, there are some - nicely organized, and their number is growing. Just look at all the nice shots from Dhaka on airliners or jetphotos. And yes, they do get bored by the regular airline traffic that repeats day after day after day at 'their' airport. And being honest, I got the same feeling after spending some days there. Hence, I was also hoping for delayed international flights, that usually only move at Dhaka during the night hours but can be seen in daylight under these circumstances, or for the cargo flights from different airlines that land several times a week.
A big change and challenge every day was of course the DC-10. My trip was around the time of the final operations of Biman's (or "Biman Bangladesh Airlines" if calling it correctly) DC-10 operations. Though some military versions of this classic Douglas "threeholer" are still flying around the world, Biman's example was the last one in civil service. And the remaining days could merely be counted on two hands at that point of time.
Thus there was a daily hunt for "SC-ACR" and expectations for some nice landing shots were high when it was not seen on the gate or the maintenance hangar. Things were easier of course if it was parked on the terminal, as a departure during the day was nearly a safe bet in this case.
Apart from the whole fleet of "Biman Bangladesh" of course seeing all the aircraft of Bangladesh's other carriers did make for a lot of change. No matter if it was for "Regent Airways", "United Airways" or "NovoAir", if the are doing a domestic or international flight, every once in a while their aircraft fly to Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital. And as such types as the McDonnell Douglas MD-83/87 family or Airbus A310 can already be considered a rarity on the flightplans of European airport, their sight and their sound was more than welcome.
Of course other airlines showing up with types that are usually not on the list in the Western hemisphere were really cool to see: Drukair A319, Mihin Lanka A321, Maldivian A320 or a nice selection of Pakistan International Airlines – PIA aircraft - and of course "Kabo Airlines" Boeing B747 Jumbo Jet, that surprised me with a charter flight after being stored at Dhaka for weeks… Though usually not that much interested in civil aircraft, shooting the "Kabo" at Dhaka must have been my lucky shot during that trip! On the other hand Jet Airways or several Chinese airlines arrived so often that I actually got really bored by them...
But if you are a regular follower of my site, I am pretty sure you know that I was also interested in the fighter jets operating from the military side of Dhaka airport.
The airbases is home of two Squadrons flying single- and twin seat versions of the Chengdu F-7BG (5th Squadron "Supersonics Defenders") and the 35th Squadron (ThunderCat) operating the upgraded F-7BGI version. Both version are easys to differ at a glance, as the original F-7s were delivered in a bue camouflage, and the upgraded versions are painted in a grey scheme. Apart from these Chinese MiG-21 variants there is still the 8th Squadron - Vigilance Valour Victory, operating the MiG-29 and MiG-29UB.
Unfortunately the MiG-29 Fulcrums did not move at all during my stay, and I thus had to settle for photographing the F-7. But seeing those rare birds in the air was not bad either! All this was loosend up once in a while by a Bangladeshi C-130 Hercules or an Antonov An-32 in nice green camouflage.
Of course a trip to Bangladesh would not have been complete without having a look at the buzzing and dynamic capital Dhaka, counting approximately 15 million people! Due to the forthcoming elections, the political situation was not the best around that time with general strikes being the order of the day and protest and demonstrations to be highly likely anytime anywhere. The visit was thus somehow restricted and limited to only some attractions, but even only those hours were astounding and eye-opening, perplexing and fascinating. Those impressions of one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the world were really impossible to catch, but I am tempted to say that Dhaka is an explorer's and photographer's paradise!
- Category: Air Forces
- Published: 19 May 2015
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