Well, holiday over and time to fly home. My taxi was arranged to pick me up from the hotel on Tuesday at 11.20, the short 20 minute ride to the airport down the TF1 motorway would allow me to arrive in plenty of time for my 13.20 flight to Manchester. Arriving at the airport, I checked the screens for the check-in desks for AMM431D. I was also pleased that the flight was due to leave on time, with boarding scheduled to commence at 13.01. However, I was under no illusion, Tenerife gets so busy it's quite rare for you flight home to leave on time. There were 3 check-in desks for my flight, but the queues were massive, it took around 25 minutes to check in, although this is about normal for a Spanish airport. I had no worries about seat selection, since these had already been reserved. For this flight my party's seats were in the rear cabin, again we had seats with extra legroom and some without, 31A & B and 32A & B. It took 32A for 2 reasons, to let someone else have the extra legroom and also I knew there was no window in row 31 since it's just aft of the 757's emergency exits behind the wing. Click for large version
Passing through the security check I got my first look airside. There is an excellent balcony spectator's terrace, but this is never opened, so views are somewhat restricted. Airside there was a Finnair MD-11, A300s, A320s and a DC-10 of Premiair, an Air 2000 A321, an MD-83 of Spaniar plus a Monarch A300. More unusually there was an ATA-American Trans Air 757 and an IL-96 of Aeroflot. My flight was scheduled to arrive at 12.20 but was running 11 minutes late, no doubt due to the same headwinds that had slowed us down the week before. And so it was 12.33 before Air 2000's B757-28A(ER) G-OOOY, the airline's newest, landed on Runway 08 and taxied onto the apron, stopping alongside a recently arrived jmc AIR 757. Because the aircraft had arrived onto a remote stand I knew I would be able to snap a couple of photos after getting off the bus.
Boarding started at 13.05, and after being bussed out to the aircraft, we had to wait a few moments before the Cabin Crew were ready to receive us, and two of them came down the steps at Doors 2L and 4L to stand at the bottom and welcome us. I was slightly amused because Air 2000 have introduced a rule that any employee that sets foot on the tarmac, must be wearing high visibility clothing, so the steward and stewardess at the bottom of the steps were wearing bright yellow jackets, with Air 2000 emblazoned across the back, over their smart uniforms. I boarded at the rear exit and was again welcomed by another member of the Cabin Crew in the rear galley. Taking my seat 32A, I had a good view of the rear of the wing and also the bulkhead mounted TV monitor, this particular aircraft being equipped with the LCD screens that fold down from the overheads. The aircraft was immaculate inside and out, the seats were more comfortable than the ones on G-OOOS which brought me to Tenerife and the seat coverings were of a nicer design, being an overall blue colour which I prefer to the older tapestry design.
Boarding using busses always takes longer, and it was 13.30 before everyone was aboard. Shortly afterwards the Captain explained we were waiting for departure clearance and would be starting our engines and taxiing in the next few minutes. While we were waiting an Airtours/Air Belgium A320 OO-AEZ arrived on the next stand from Brussels, indeed the Airtours group dominated Tenerife that lunchtime with Airtours International A320s and A321s plus the Premiair and Air Belgium aircraft. The first service to be accomplished on this flight was offering us a choice of newspapers, either the Independent or the Daily Mirror, I often wonder why airlines don't do this after departure, as all they get during the safety demo is a sea of heads buried behind newspapers. Finally the big Rolls Royce engines came to life and as the Cabin Crew began the safety demonstration we taxied from our stand and turned left along the apron, following Monarch 757 G-MONC to the hold for runway 08. Here we waited for an Air 2000 757 to arrive before the Monarch 757 lined up and departed. The Captain informed us we would just hold for another couple of minutes while another aircraft landed and then we could depart, also warning that there was some quite severe turbulence at low levels that he assured us he would attempt to climb through as quickly as possible. We had now been joined at the hold by a JMC Airlines 757, a Hapag Lloyd A310 and a Britannia 757.
As soon as the landing Airtours 757 had cleared the runway we taxied into position and some 31 minutes late at 13.51 we finally commenced our takeoff roll. Again acceleration was very rapid but the crew appeared to let the speed built a bit more before rotating. We used more runway and there was a sense of "ambling" before we finally rotated into a very steep climb, we must have reached around 1000ft while still over the runway. As we climbed ahead the aircraft was buffeted strongly in the lower atmosphere until we passed out over the sea, the flaps were retracted quickly despite the steep climb as there is no noise abatement at Tenerife, there are only a very small number of houses beyond the runway and you are soon out over the sea. We made a left turn onto a northerly heading to pass down Tenerife's East coast, but most of the North of the island was under cover of cloud so there was not much to see in the climb before being out over the expanse of the Atlantic again. For some reason G-OOOY does not have the Flightmaster moving map system so the long flight over the Atlantic wouldn't be as interesting as the flight down.
On reaching our cruising altitude I got my next disappointment. On the flight out I didn't really enjoy the film "Runaway Bride" but wanted to see the film on the return "Bowfinger" Unfortunately for me the films had been changed as I had not realised we still had the November/December selection on our outward flight, and I now found the January/February 2000 issue of "On Air 2000" in my seatpocket. The film was to be "The Titchbourne Claimant" which I knew nothing about because it hasn't been released yet. I would have preferred "Double Jeopardy" which was the current outbound film on that route!!!! I think that's just the way it goes with IFE. The first service was again the sale of headsets, chocolates, toffees and Pringles. This was followed by a drinks service, where I ordered a Becks Bier and a bottle of Australian Chardonnay to have with my meal. Shortly afterwards the Captain apologised for the intermittent turbulence which, he explained was due to out 80kts tailwind which was helping to make up lost time. As the sun began to go down we crossed the Portuguese coat, passing directly overhead Lisbon, the city was clearly visible below us as was the airport, you could easily see the intersecting runways and taxiways as we passed over.
The service was a bit slow on this flight, and the film was almost over as the meal was served some 2 hours into the flight. Airlines seem not to be able to co-ordinate people's eating times with when they serve food. On a flight departing at 1pm, you will have set off from home, lets say mid morning and are unlikely to have had lunch so if the meal of the plane is served at 4pm you'll be very hungry! Anyway the food was again up to Air 2000's very high standards. The menu featured the airline's new "Into 2000 with Air 2000" logo which also appears on luggage labels, carrier bags and other things like that but will not be applied to any aircraft, so I am told, as it will only be used temporarily. [[I was wrong, It has been applied to all aircraft by the forward entrance door on the A320/321 and the second entrance on the 757/767!]]
The meal was as follows;
Julienne Smoked Ham with Potato & Grain Mustard salad
Roast Turkey, Pork Meatball, Potatoes, Peas & Sweetcorn, Gravy with a hint of Cranberry
Mama's Apple Cake and custard
Warm brown Breadroll and butter
Tea or Coffee
Again, hot lemon-scented towels to freshen up with followed the meal. It was now dark outside, and having passed over Lisbon we had progressed up through Portugal and Northern Spain, over the Bay of Biscay to our current position over the Brest Peninsular. I could also see the jet contails forming outside my window, flashing past giving some impression of just how fast we were going.
Taking this opportunity to go forward and ask for a flight deck visit, knowing it was late in the flight, but it was my first chance to actually get out of my seat without having 4 trolleys between me and the flight deck! I had to wait a while, and by the time I got in there the South Coast of England. Again the guys flying the plane were very friendly and helpful, I was also pleased they fended of an attempt by the Number 1 to take me back to my seat after 5 minutes, saying I could stay until TOD. The Captain gave me several useful addresses to write to for information, and I was also able to enjoy the view of Southern England plus Glass Cockpits always look good at night. All too soon it was time to go back to my seat, but I met a horrifying sight after I had said my goodbyes and thankyous! The Cabin Crew were still doing the Duty Free service and there was no chance of me getting back to my seat anytime soon! I didn't mind, I could have asked to get past, but thought it wouldn't hurt to stand up a bit so I chatted to the Number 1 in the forward galley. When it looked like I would be able to get back soon, I went and waited by Door 2, trying not to obstruct people's view of the TVs. Approaching Manchester at a busy time our descent wasn't exactly smooth. One moment we were plummeting downhill with the speedbrakes open, and the next engine power was applied again and we levelled off. It is actually very hard to stand while an aircraft is making a stepped descent, as I found out!
DESCENT AND LANDING
By the time I got to my seat, the Seatbelt sign was on, and the lights of Northern England were visible below. It appeared the Captain's assurance we would be disembarking by 18.00 would be correct. However, as the Flaps were lowered, we levelled off, the engines throttled up and we began a sharp left turn in cloud. The Captain informed us that we had been placed in a holding pattern, and it would be about another 10 minutes to landing. So much for making up lost time! I should have got good views of Manchester as we circled but we were entirely in cloud, there was also some turbulence which made it a bit uncomfortable as I sat in the darkened cabin awaiting landing. When we finally commenced our descent to Runway 24R, the turbulence did not abate but got worse and we were thrown around quite a bit. Some of the people around me didn't like it, you know when you hear those little winces as the plane is thrown around by a gust. As the flaps were fully extended you could clearly see vortices trailing off the wingtips as we made our bumpy approach over Stockport. Given the rough conditions, It came as no surprise when we made a very hard touchdown. There was no audible reverse thrust, as Manchester requests pilots only use idle reverse except for reasons of aircraft safety. We slowed quickly and left via a Rapid Exit before finally slowing to taxi speed. The time was 18.07, so our arrival was some 43 minutes past our scheduled arrival time of 17.25. This gave a total flight time of 4 Hours 16 Minutes. I think this demonstrates how delays occur on many European charter flights, A combination of weather, poor airport infrastructure and ATC delays, all things over which the airline has little control.
We finally pulled up at Terminal 2 at 18.10 alongside company 757 G-OOOM. This was originally an Eastern Airlines 1986 build aircraft, but joined Air 2000 in 1990. It left the fleet in 1996 for Blue Scandinavia and later Britannia AB. It was due to go to Airtours, but that fell through and so it rejoined Air 2000 in December. This is the first time it has worn the new livery, and the latest variation, now appearing on several aircraft is www.air200.com titles on the rear fuselage.
Thanks for sticking with it and reading to the end!
Photo © James Laverack
Click for large version
Photo © Stefan Gruenig