This is the M/V Ortelius, registered in Limassol Cyprus. It's got the highest ice class a vessel can attain.  - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

This is the M/V Ortelius, registered in Limassol Cyprus. It’s got the highest ice-class a vessel can attain. – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

If you were to ask me to spend a week on a boat for all but maybe two reasons, I’d be likely to risk prison to get out of it. I don’t like boats, and I think that large cruise ships combine the worst of Las Vegas, a crowded beach, and a heaping helping of disease transmission. So, a sedate Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise is also out of the question. What are my two reasons, then? The first one is obvious; planes/missilery. The second one, less so; polar bears.

Before any of you go off on me for saying that this has nothing to do with riding on a Soviet relic, think again. In 1989, the then Soviet Academy of Sciences commissioned an ice-class expedition vessel for ambiguous purposes. This vessel, the Marina Tsvetaeva, was laid down and completed in Gydnia, Poland the same year!

Welcome to bear country. Lufthavn Longyearbyen is located on a peninsula called Hotellnesset. - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Welcome to bear country. Lufthavn Longyearbyen is located on a peninsula called Hotellnesset. – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the vessel was used for oil-field resupply in the Russian Far East, until expedition companies realized it would be the perfect boat for Antarctic charters. In 2011, Dutch company Oceanwide Expeditions acquired the ship and sent it in for a complete overhaul. From this, it would leave the Russian register, and its original name behind. Re-registered in Cyprus (a great Flag of Convenience), and named after Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius, it has been used for Antarctic and Arctic cruises since then.

This boat is also a piece of rock & roll history. In 2013, it carried Metallica, some prize-winning fans, and their equipment to the South Pole for the “Freeze ‘Em All” tour. This was in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Metallica’s first album, “Kill ‘Em All!” At least, so the plaque in the ship’s “Krill ’em All” Bar says.

Having seen the creatures out on the tundra near Churchill, Manitoba, I was determined to see them when they were not bored out of their mind waiting for the ice to come in — I wanted to see them on the hunt. Two things are needed for that to be possible: sea ice and daylight. There are only a few reasonably accessible places in the world where you can get both at once. Hence, I made my way to Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen, in Norway. I made the trip in SAS Plus, but It was such an unremarkable flight in all areas I didn’t even take an iPhone shot.

AvGeeks in Action Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

AvGeeks in Action – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The 1st of July, 2015, marked the fifth anniversary of Emirates services to Prague. To celebrate this achievement, Emirates substituted an Airbus A380 on the Dubai to Prague route, which is normally served by a Boeing 777-300ER. I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to the event. The occasion was celebrated in true Emirates fashion, with a large PR event and cocktail reception, as well as an aircraft tour and an opportunity to photograph the arrival from the tarmac; an opportunity any AvGeek among us will gladly partake in.

This was the fourth visit so far of an Airbus A380 at Prague. The first was a Lufthansa A380, followed by Emirates (for a medical diversion) and Korean Air (check out that story here). Unlike the previous events, there was much marketing and social media hype about the Emirates A380 – I guess this can be attributed to the strength of the Emirates brand image within the Czech Republic. On the day of the event, for those not fortunate enough to have access to the media/VIP event, Emirates handed out free hats and various other promotional items to all who came to view this spectacular aircraft, no matter what side of the fence they were on. Well done, EK!

Boeing is one of the largest exporters of anything in the United states in terms of dollar value - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Boeing is one of the largest exporters of anything in the U.S. in terms of dollar value – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Before their summer recess, the U.S. Congress didn’t get many things finished; some would say intentionally. Most crucial for those of us in the aviation realm is the “sunsetting” of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. What is this bank, exactly? Well, it’s almost more of an underwriter.

Founded in 1934 by executive order, but affirmed into its own agency by law in 1945, the Export-Import Bank of the United States exists to offer insurance, loan guarantees, and other financial products to foreign customers. Why? Well, the goal of the bank is to provide American jobs and revenue to American companies while selling the goods abroad.

Screen shot of the bank's website taken on July 2, 2015

Screen shot of the bank’s website, taken on July 2, 2015

Who is America’s largest exporter in terms of real dollar value? Boeing!

What does Boeing do? Well, you are reading this site – you probably have an idea. Boeing, especially Boeing Commercial Aircraft, depends on the Export-Import bank to offer competitive financing rates to international customers. Or, if financing rates have already been obtained externally, offering an extra back stop for customers that do not have a long history of highly-rated credit.

The Ex-Im bank is not a lender of last resort – they are a paramount of financial virtue and do everything by the book. More importantly for those of us in America, they can sometimes offer better rates than the commercial markets in the name of continuing U.S. trade. Truly, to explain the Ex-Im bank’s importance would require a thesis-length article with lots of graphs. No one, but me, wants to read that. So let’s keep it simple, shall we?

- Photo: Alastair Long

Virgin Atlantic’s “Golden Girl” Airbus A330 – Photo: Alastair Long

I recently flew Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick (LGW) to St. Lucia (UVF). It was a first-time experience for me, both flying the airline and riding on an Airbus A330-300. The flight was part of a Virgin Holidays package that my wife and I bought at the last minute, although flights to the island from London at this time of the year are also available with British Airways. I’d read mixed reviews about the Virgin Atlantic product, but my wife is a big fan – so I kept an open mind and we opted for the red livery.

I was excited to experience Airbus’ smallish wide-body over the distance, even though I understand Virgin operates the route with a 747 from time-to-time. The closest Boeing equivalent I’d flown on was a British Airways 767 from Moscow a few years ago, and I’d also enjoyed Etihad’s A340 from Abu Dhabi a few months ago – both en-route to London Heathrow – so I relished the prospect of adding a new aircraft type to my repertoire.

Now, I’m a European LCC short-haul aficionado for both personal and (formerly) professional reasons (I used to be the Airports and Ground Ops lawyer for a UK airline). Minimalist seat width, pitch, a single aisle, and scratching around for euros or pound coins to pay for coffee and a muffin are my norms, so frankly any change from that is a win in my book.  Actually, that’s rubbish. I love luxury, pampering, and upgrades as much as the next person. I was just full of AvGeek zeal and excitement on the day. Even the delay at LGW security whilst my Kindle Fire was tested for explosive substances was good-natured and efficient.