Sponsor Message:
Aviation Trip Reports Forum
My Starred Topics | Profile | New Topic | Forum Index | Help | Search 
Andes, Jungles, Metroliners: Prop-Hops In Bolivia  
User currently offlinevolvair From Germany, joined Oct 2011, 167 posts, RR: 0
Posted (2 years 7 months 3 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7851 times:



Welcome to my 5th tripreport!

This report covers my recent flights in Bolivia on three Fairchild Metroliners from La Paz-El Alto International (LPB) to Sucre (SRE) via Trinidad (TDD) and Santa Cruz de la Sierra - El Trompillo (SRZ) with the regional airline Aerocon. The report also contains a couple of pictures of downtown Santa Cruz.



Disclaimer: This report contains almost 150 pictures. Unfortunately some of the pictures taken in-flight are a little blurry due to unclean windows.






_________________________________



This report is not about fancy lounges or savoring a first-class cabin. It is not about the fondness towards an attentive flight attendant or the rudeness of an airport security empolyee. It is neither about miles nor perks, neither about seat-back TVs nor in-flight dining. All this did not play a part in my trip.

Still, I would never like to miss those flights for the experience on the ground and in the air was one of its kind.

This report is about escaping the pabulum that air travel can become, it is about escaping the confines of overregulation and it is about escaping from the routines and expectations that we passengers have built around flying.

For me, the flights covered in the following have been a breath of fresh air.

Please follow me on the three legs which have taken me from one of the highest airports in the world to the Amazon Basin, the Gran Chaco lowlands and back to the Andes. All on a certain 19-seater turboprop airliner proudly boasting nicknames like San Antonio sewer pipe or Texas lawn dart.


_________________________________



Just as with my last trip to Cochabamba taking the decisive steps to get me a seat on the plane started out less than a week before departure. Planning this trip, however, began long before I first set foot onto Bolivian soil. Back in spring I was organizing all those indispensable things for my couple of months in Bolivia like finding myself a flat or getting the recommended vaccinations. At this time, when everything for my journey was falling into place, I also started researching for flights I could take once in Bolivia. In contrast to other major operators in the country like Boliviana de Aviación or the Air Force airline TAM, where online research proved to be rather futile due to defective or completely lacking online booking engines, a little regional airline quickly sparked my interest, mainly due to its - for Bolivian standards - outstanding website.

The name of this little airline was Aerocon, and as I quickly learned, it provides scheduled passenger service mainly to communities in the Beni Department in the Bolivian Amazon basin and links this remote region to the major centers in the county. It does this with its fleet of Fairchild Metro 23s and Metro IIIs. Apparently they also operate a Dornier 228. It calls itself "flag carrier of the Beni Department" and advertises that it flies "everyday to the same destinations, at the same times". Well, if you like to split hairs, the last part is not entirely true as the weekend schedule differs from the schedule during the week. Also, as you will see, this promise is easy to be made, but much harder to be kept. The airline started operations in 2005.

Maybe, the name "Aerocon" rang a bell with you. On 07 September 2011 Aerocon Flight 238 from Santa Cruz de la Sierra to their hub Trinidad disappeared on approach to Trinidad. Sadly, out of the nine people on board (incl. 2 crew) only one passenger survived the accident. He was found by the rescue team two days after the plane crashed. The plane went down in the jungle about 30 kilometers outside of Trinidad. Due to bad weater conditions it took a lot of time until the vessel was located.

You can read the corresponding thread to the crash here:
Fairchild Missing In Bolivia: 9 People On Board. (by notaxonrotax Sep 7 2011 in Civil Aviation)




Booking, cancellation, rebooking, rescheduling, desperate phone call attempts and a well-deserved beer

Already after a couple of days here in Bolivia it was obvious that I had to go to Sucre, the constitutional capital of the country. Most of my friends at work advised me to do so and consequently, as soon as I found myself with a free weekend I decided to go for it and book some flights. This was when I remembered the nice website of Aerocon. I entered my dates and they offered me a connection for a little more than 60 Euros. A little steep I thought at first, but a second glance at the webpage revealed that the ticket consisted of three flights: from La Paz to their hub Trinidad, located in the Amazon basin and then onwards to Sucre via the inner city airport of Bolivia's largest city, Santa Cruz - El Trompillo. Suddenly the price did not seem too high anymore, on the contrary: three flights on the rare Metroliner, with an average length of almost an hour, for a price of 20 Euros each. And indeed, this was a great deal. The first leg alone, if you would book it separately, would already cost about 10 Euros more than the whole itinerary. As Aerocon is a private airline their prices are usually a lot higher than those of the government-supported BoA and TAM. For the Sucre itinerary they have apparently matched the price of the private competitor AeroSur which charges about the same for the journey, albeit on a direct 45 minute flight with Boeing equipment and not on a 6.5 hour, 2 stop-itinerary with a cramped 19-seater.

With this fixed price this might be one of the best deals on the planet for a Metroliner itinerary measured in price per flight time. But it is also the variety of regions and landscapes covered with this itinerary that made it very interesting and almost impossible not to book it. After I checked the schedule for possible return flights with TAM (probably covered in a later report) in their La Paz office I finally booked the flights for Sunday, October 27th. I had to work on Saturday, but was able to take Monday off, so my weekend was a little delayed. The whole booking process was done in less than five minutes and I quickly received a booking confirmation in my inbox. So, six days before my departure, everything was set for my trip to Sucre.

Or so I thought.

When I got to the airport on the day of my scheduled departure, I noticed this:


Aerocon flight 73: cancelled.


I immediately went to their combined check-in and ticket sales desk. I was told that today there was no other way to get me to Sucre with Aerocon. They also tried to rebook me to another company (AeroSur had the only other departure to Sucre later that day), but there was no availability. So in the end they rebooked me on their own departure the next day, which was unacceptable for me seeing as I actually wanted to see something of Sucre and not just its airport.

Me: Why did you not try to contact me beforehand? I checked the flights on your webpage yesterday at 10pm and everything was still showing up as normal.
Agent: The flight got cancelled this morning. We tried to contact you on your phone.
Me: I did not receive a phone call this morning. When did you call me?
Agent: (After typing away in his computer) At quarter to seven we called your number [stating my correct phone number].
Me: (showing him my phone call records) I did not receive a phone call from you.
Agent: I don't know.
Me: Why did you not try to contact me by e-mail?
Agent: We don't do that.


Okay, after taking a deep breath I told him I would check flight information with other airlines and be back in a bit. First I went to AeroSur to enquire whether there was really no availability to Sucre today. It turned out that the flight was indeed booked solid. Then I went to the ticket desk of the military airline TAM to enquire about their schedule around next weekend. They offered three return flights on Monday in a week, so I would have many good opportunities to return home. I came back to the Aerocon counter and asked them to rebook me to next Saturday. Luckily the same 2-stop connection to Sucre was available on that day. I also asked the agent to add my mail address to my contact information or write some kind of annotation or memo into my reservation that I should be contacted by mail in case of future problems. I also told him that I was an aviation enthusiast and I would basically be taking the flight only because of the Metroliner and the nice routing. His response was inexistent. Maybe I read too much in the 787 keylace he was wearing (a 787 visited LPB for high-altitude performance tests some months ago).

So, to sum up, my plans had changed a little: I would go to work on the next day and then fly out to Sucre on Saturday, 3rd of December and return to La Paz on Monday, 5th. So this would give me two nights in Sucre. The downside was that I would lose one weekend which I could have spent travelling to another place. So, six days before my departure, everything was set for my trip to Sucre.

Or so I thought.

When, on Friday evening before departure (at 18:48 precisely), I was writing some important mails to my professors back in Germany, I received a mail in my inbox. In this mail an Aerocon emplyee notified me that my itinerary had changed and they could not get a hold of me on my cell phone. This time they really did call me and I missed it. The new itinerary, however, was a little horrifying for me: As per Dictum Aeroconum I apparently was to get myself to Trinidad (TDD) on the same flight I was originally scheduled on (Saturday at 10 a.m.), landing about one hour later. Then, I had to spend 24 hours in this oh-so-beautiful town until I could take a flight to Santa Cruz and connect from there to Sucre, reaching my destination only 24 hours later than originally planned. Some quick research revealed that my second leg from Trinidad to Santa Cruz was cancelled and there were no sensible rebooking opportunities available. Needless to say, I was not pleased with the overall situation.

Of course I immediately tried to get someone of Aerocon on the phone, but for a half an hour of trying, either their line or the whole cell phone network was occupied. So I responded to the mail they sent me, asking them to call me as soon as possible. I also discovered that they had some kind of online chat on their website, so I opened this application as well. After some 20 minutes of waiting an Aerocon employee entered the chatroom and an automatic message appeared, asking me how they could help me. The message was in German, so the software must have had autodetected my system language. I quickly described my problem and asked whether they would provide compensation or hotel accomodation or whatever. Needless to say, I never received a reply.

Alongside my futile communication attempts with the airline I also checked out possible other solutions of getting to Sucre. Luckily, AeroSur offered a departure about one hour before my Aerocon flight was about to leave, and their 727 was scheduled to do the run. So at this moment my plan was: getting to the airport way early, and if my Aerocon itinerary would still not work out, cancel the flights and rebook myself on the AeroSur departure. According to the AeroSur webpage there was still some availability, so chances were good I would at least get another flight on their 727.

At this point I desperately needed some beer and food, so I grabbed some quick dinner at a nearby food stall and got me a couple cans of Paceña. I got back to my flat, finished my mails and started composing a longish rant for our little fb group when, suddenly, I received a phone call from Aerocon. It turned out to be the same agent with whom I have "shared the chatroom" before. He told me that a suitable Trinidad-Santa Cruz flight was freshly scheduled and my itinerary would work out perfectly. During the conversation I navigated to the Aerocon website to view my reservation and everything looked indeed perfectly fine. I profundly thanked the agent, hung up, leaned back in my chair and opened a can of beer which I found to be well deserved after those two and a half nerve-wrecking hours. You can not imagine the grin on my face. So, less than 13 hours before my departure, everything was set for my trip to Sucre.

26 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlinevolvair From Germany, joined Oct 2011, 167 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (2 years 7 months 3 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7877 times:

La Paz-El Alto International Airport

I took the convenient minibus from a nearby square to the airport. It runs quite frequently from 06:15 and costs less than a can of the aforementioned local Paceña beer. The shuttle dropped me off at the airport about 90 minutes before my flight was due to depart.


LPB curbside. Notice the armada of shuttle busses about to depart for downtown La Paz.


I quickly receive my boarding passes from an Aerocon agent. Interestingly, the boarding passes were printed by a dot-matrix printer, something I had not yet seen before.


My boarding pass for the first flight.


Huayna Potosi and the Bolivian flag wishing us a good morning.



LPB arrivals.



LPB departures. Everything looks fine for my flight today.


While I am the only one checking in for a flight with the airline, there is a little line of people dropping off packages, letters and suitcases at Aerocon's cargo counter. Apparently, with the lacking postal service infrastructure, Aerocon also seems to be a very important provider of package delivery for Bolivia's Amazon basin region.

After checking in, I still have plenty of time to explore the airport. Unfortunately, there is only a small landside windowfront offering views of the action outside. Next to the airplanes the most interesting thing to watch is some ground handling personnel playing fetch with a dog on the tarmac.


TACA Peru A320 bound for Lima. If everything works out I'll be taking this flight soon.



Must have a 727 in a report!   A good message for our 727 enthusiasts: Apparently sistership CP-2515 is undergoing C-Check at the moment and will be back in service in two months. So there soon will be two 727s flying with AeroSur.



Transporte Aéreo Militar BAe 146-200 deboarding.



Those airlines have left LPB a long time ago.


LPB is a nice, small airport. The whole landside area is about 70 meters long and hosts not much more than the check-in desks, a Subway outlet, a café, a souvenir shop, a newsstand and some travel agents. There are no spearate airline offices where tickets are sold. Everything takes place at the check-in desks.


LPB landside. Amaszonas and AeroSur check-in desks are visible to the right.



A little bit further up the there is BoA, AA and Avianca-TACA.



Avianca started flying here only a month ago and shares its check-in area with TACA for obvious reasons.



The Aerocon check-in desks.


After a quick breakfast it is time for some more spotting:

CP-2498 during takeoff roll. Already a well-known scene to followers of my trip reports.



TACA taxiing to the runway.


After this plane left there is definitely nothing more to do landside, so I cleared security, which was a quick and painless affair. The domestic departure area is divided into a lower part from where you walk to the aircraft and an upper part where jetways are used for boarding.

CP-2550, the first frame in BoA's fleet. A former Air France and Conviasa bird.



View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © digitalex Wiecka
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Luis A. Gabaldon


Aerocon staff getting ready for the arrival of our plane.



A view of the currently deserted upper floor of the departure area.



My plane taxiing in.



It doesn't look too small from this perspective.


After this little airside spotting session I head down one floor to the boarding area for those planes who will not be using a jetway. All other passengers for our flight have already found their way to this area. What is a bit disturbing though is that our flight already shows as "closed" on the FIDS. However boarding has not even commenced yet. There is not even a staff member in sight.


Aerocon flight 73. 10 minutes before departure boarding has closed.


About five minutes after scheduled departure time an Aerocon agent shows up and opens the two doors separating us from the tarmac. He calls our group of seventeen for boarding - without a microphone of course. I am the second one in the queue. He rips off the smaller part of the boarding pass and wishes me a pleasant flight. "Que te vaya bien!".

I am released to the apron, which is always a very nice treat and one of the many reasons why flying is such a joy here in Bolivia. Unfortuantely we passengers and the Aerocon staff members are the only ones moving about the tarmac, so there is not too much to see other than AeroSur's sole 734, "Puma", in the distance. Before its time with AeroSur the bird was operated by several airlines around the globe, including Aloha, XL Airways France, Jet Airways and Garuda Indonesia.


"Puma" at the other end of the tarmac.



View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Joe G. Walker
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Javier Rodriguez - Iberian Spotters


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © A J Best
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © JKSC




Aerocon's orange and blue make for a nice look on the Metroliner, even more so in with the sunlight we have today. I am happy that I can finally get up close and personal with it, especially after the hassle that came before this flight. At this moment I am absolutely positive that this will be a great day for flying.

CP-2563 will do the honors today, at least for the first leg.


My fellow passengers most probably did not have to experience the same ordeal I went through in the last week. For all I know they just walked up to the Aerocon counter two hours ago and purchased their ticket to their destination, most likely to be a remote community in the Amazon jungle. With all the cheap and quick flights on BoA and TAM there is little appeal of taking Aerocon to Santa Cruz or, God forbid, even Surce. I do not think even Aerocon itself thought that some nutjob would book himself a flight on LPB-TDD-SRZ-SRE when all the other alternatives are both cheaper and a lot less time-consuming.


Sewer pipe, here I come!



The plane is named "El Cruceño".


At 10:05 I stepped onboard.




03 December 2011
Aerocon
Flight A4 073

LPB - TDD

0955-1100 (arrival 10 minutes late)
Fairchild Metro III
CP-2563


It is very hard to find information about the history of Aerocon's planes. Apparently, CP-2563 flew for Aerolitoral in Mexico before it was taken up by Aerocon.

I am among the first passengers to enter the plane and I immediately sit down on Seat 1A (free seating here), for it offers the best legroom and views of the cockpit and the engine. I immediately begin to explore the cabin. It turns out the plane only has 18 seats as the middle seat in the last row is missing. The cargo bay is separated from the passenger cabin only by a net, so you can see right through. I am quite disappointed by the windows being very dirty and blurry as the route and the landscape below us would be quite impressive. We would begin at the high plain of the Altiplano, fly over the 5000m high peaks of the Cordillera Real before we would reach the low lying Amazon basin


My left-hand neighbor. Passengers are still boarding.



As so often, seat 1A is as comfortable as it gets on the plane. What a privilege!



No "Your oxygen mask is located in the overhead compartment above your seat" on this plane.



And this is where you are supposed to plug it in.



I would have preferred to find a chilled beer here. But his is not North Flying, and I will not be cruising over the North Sea but some 5000m high mountains today.



Overhead panel reduced to essentials.



And of course the legroom shot. Please fogive the zip off pants. As I am German I don't care about the looks but rather the functionality of my clothes  



The space on the side can also be used for a seat, but on this plane it is a storage compartment for our pilots' luggage.


As soon as the doors are closed our engines are started and we commence taxi to the runway which is not more than a short 200 meters. My first thought: Those engines are indeed loud. But I can manage without earplugs.

During the short taxi one of the guys upfront gives us some kind of combined welcome speech and safety announcement. Only in spanish of course. It is very rushed and hardly understandable. "Pleasefastenyourseatbelts"

We come to a halt at the start of the runway. Our engines spool up, the brakes are released and we dash down the runwayveering a little to the left and right. Through the cockpit windows I can watch the runway and later the blue sky as our nose points upwards. The sight is pretty impressive. We sharply turn right after leaving the airport behind us. The first fifteen minutes of our flight turn out to be quite bumpy.


4000m of concrete in front of us.



The front office during takeoff roll.



Taking off and leaving El Alto behind us.



Reaching the city limit.



Turning right before we continue flying alongside those mountains.



The weather is still pretty nice with only some clouds directly over the mountains.



Getting up close and personal with the Cordillera Real. Directly behind it it is quite cloudy.


We soon fly over a mostly overcast part of Bolivia. So I turn my attention to the cockpit. Please forgive my ignorance, but I don't have the slightest idea what most of those buttons and displays do.


The navigation-thingy in the middle shows that we are heading for waypoint CRC, obviously referring to the town of Coroico in the Yungas-Region which is one of the traditional centers of Coca leaf production in the country.



Peeking over the F/O's shoulder.



"We sincerely apologize that only the airshow channel is available on this flight's entertainment system."



Having passed CRC we are now on our way to waypoint REKAS.


At this point there is not much left for me to do but relax. The seats - albeit unmovable - do already come with quite a large recline and as I am able to stretch my legs the whole affair is not too uncomfortable. After a couple of minutes I notice a few holes between the clouds and I enjoy the views of the rainforest which we are overflying by now.


A vast expanse of green below us as well as a river which is a remote tributary to the Amazon.



But we keep heading for more clouds and views are limited again.


At this point - more than half of our flight time has already passed - the F/O pulls out his i-device and shows his colleague some photos on it. Apparently they did not want to be disturbed as they close the curtain to the cockpit now. With no entertainment outside the window or in front of me I close my eyes again and enjoy the continuous rattle from the engines.


The show is over - for now.



Our TPE-331 engine still going strong.


Our descent is announced with a very rushed message from the cockpit again. "WethankyouforchoosingAerocon". The last minutes of our flight turn out to be more bumpy which is probably caused by the rapid change of the weather here in the tropics. In the current rainy season thunderstorms happen here on a daily basis.


The increasing number of fields point to a near settlement.



And soon enough, the first houses are visible.


During the turbulence we are experiencing, I look over to the other side of the aisle. In seat 1B there is a man, suit-wearing. He returns eyecontact and grins, which reveals that he is actually missing more teeth than he has left. His grin is accompanied by an up-and-down movement of his arm, obviously mimicking the up-and-down movement of our plane. It seems he is enjoying this rougher part of the flight as much as I do. I reply with a big grin. However, the lady seated behind this man in 2B does not quite share our enthusiasm. I notice her making the sign of the cross on her chest thrice, closing her eyes and resting her forehead on the seatback in front of her. She only opens her eyes again almost ten minutes later when have safely landed and are taxiing to our parking position.

Laguna Suarez is below us.



Over the lake we turned towards the city.



We had a nice approach directly over Trinidad.



Hard to imagine Aerocon wanted me to spend 24 hours here. I don't think there is too much going on in this town.



Trinidad is usually only frequented by tourists as a hop-off point for jungle excursions. The local church and the central square are visible in this picture.


Luckily the guys upfront decide to remove the curtain, so some nice views of the approach are possible.


The runway is already in sight.



Close now...



...closer...



...and touchdown!


FAB-002, the Bolivian "Air Force Two" (North American Sabreliner 60) is visible here.



Apart from this government aircraft there are two other Aerocon metroliners on the tarmac as well as some light aircrafts. We reach our parking position, the engines are turned off and our door is opened. Immediately the temperature in the cabin increases as it is very hot and humid outside.


Bye, CP-2563!



The built-in stairs were never used, always those orange stairs (which were not too steep and had a rail to hold on to) were provided.



In the distance is this beauty: Former North East Bolivian Airlines C-46 CP-1616.


After its time with the USAF it also flew with AAXICO, Airlift International or Air Haiti.


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Giovanni Francisco Rodriguez Bravo
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Richard Werno

Teniente Jorge Heinrich Arauz Airport, Trinidad


Welcome to Trinidad!



Metroliners lined up.



TDD FIDS


From the tarmac I directly enter the main airport hall. It reminds me more of a bus station than an actual airport. The building is maybe about 50m long and its amenities consist of a newsstand and a small airport authority counter next to the check-in desks. It is brutally hot in the terminal building as there is no form of air conditioning and the few fans on the ceiling do not help much.

As I am directly released to the airside area I am a little puzzled weather I have to pay airport tax again so I head for the Aerocon counter to enquire. I immediately get the attention of two agents and they tell me that it would not be necessary. I also enquire whether it would be ok to take liquids I buy airside onto the plane as it is apparently allowed to take liquids onboard domestic flights. They tell me yes, but they will also provide water before boarding.

I still had a couple of minutes before I needed to enter the pre-boarding area so I went outside to take in some of the tropical heat. Also seating opportunities are scarce. Of course, this is the glorious moment when I am magically transforming my pants into shorts.


You can see the whole length of ther terminal building.



Aerocon counter. Amaszonas counter to the right. Notice the sign of defunct LAB.



Curbside at TDD.



Some construciton work going on in the parking lot.



Terminal entrance. Motorcycles seem to be the preferred choice of individual transportation here.



Rural surroundings.


After ten minutes of sunbathing I hear the pre-boarding announcement for my flight over the speakers, so I make my way back to the terminal. Of course I pay a visit to the loo first, seeing as I won't have the opportunity to relieve myself on the plane. The description that the terminal building rather appears to be one of a bus station certainly applies best to the restroom. It is dirty, it smells, the water-tap doesn't give me any water...

I clear security in no time and reach the pre-boarding area. This is, by far, the most peculiar, weird and fascinating scenery I have ever seen airside at an airport.

There are about thirty people in the area (probably a 50 square meter hall), many families with small children who are quite twitchy and not exactly quiet. Only understandable as it there is still a sweltering heat and now there is no more escape to the outside where there's at least a little breeze. There is a big air conditioning unit mounted at the wall but it is obviously broken. The two ceiling fans, running at full power, do not seem to have an impact on the temperature. Most men's shirts don't have sweat stains, they are completely soaked. One man, who is actually not to badly groomed, seemingly thought to himself "screw etiquette" and simply lifted up his polo shirt and let it rest on the top of his potbelly. Rather mesmerized by this sight I have to shake myself in order for my eyes to continue wandering around the area. Only for them to rest - a mere blink later - on two young boys playing soccer with what appeares to be a giant dead bug. And yes, only a couple of seconds later my presumption is confirmed when they kick the dead animal in my direction and it comes to a halt directly in front of my feet. The thing has a diameter of about 5cm. Add to the whole schenery a breastfeeding mother and a two men, one carrying the IV bag of the other.

This is one of the rare cases where the it is more interesting to watch what is going on inside the terminal than outside.


FAB-002 is still here.



Some Bolivian Air Force guys are about to walk to the part of the airport at the other side of the runway. CP-2563, the plane which borught me here, is also still here.


Boarding is called, as I am used to by now, by an airline employee simply yelling out the destination. Within 20 seconds a line forms and as I count the number of the people in front of me (16) and behind of me (0) I know I will be the last one to board, but the plane won't be full, so no cramped seat in the middle of the last row. My name gets ticked off a list and I am offered a bottle of nicely chilled water by the gate agent. Luckily we don't head for familiar CP-2563 but for CP-2655, which is also another Metroliner subtype, a Metro 23 opposed to the earlier flown Metro III. The Metro 23 features a little more power and higher takeoff weight.


CP-2655...



is named El Cumpa



At 12:00 I stepped onboard.


User currently offlinevolvair From Germany, joined Oct 2011, 167 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (2 years 7 months 3 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7849 times:



03 December 2011
Aerocon
Flight A4 386

TDD - SRZ

1155-1255 (arrival 10 minutes late)
Fairchild Metro 23
CP-2655


I did not find information about the frame's history.

As I am the last one to step onboard obviously the best seats in the house are already taken. The man with the IV and the one assisting him took the seats in row 1. I settle down at Seat 8A in the second last row. The seat behind me stays empty. This time there is a bulkhead-like seperator to the cargo hold behind the last row. The last row also features three seats. Two seats stay empty on this flight, so our load is 17/19.

In 8B there is a well known fellow to me: exposed-potbelly-guy. Apparently he still has to cool down. In his defense, the plane (which has been sitting on the tarmac longer than I have been in Trinidad) is awfully hot and while the air vents do provide a punctual cooling effect the whole situation will not improve until we are airborne.


Seat 8A in the second last row.



I can also expose body parts! Legroom actually is quite comfortable.



No engine next to me on this flight.



A cabin shot from the back. Including me there are three gringos on the flight. Note the orange Aerocon advertisment used as fan. At my BoA flight they used safety cards for that.


Only one minute after I sit down we start taxiing. Again there is a 20 second long combined welcome speech and safety announcement "therearethreemergencyexitslocatedoverthewings"


TAM MA-60 taxiing in. I might have to file that plane as "momentarily failed project". No chance to get on this plane here during my remaining time in Bolivia.



Entering the 2400m runway.



A peek into the front office during takeoff roll. Can you spot the IV bag?



And we are airborne.



It really is flat here. Hard to believe that 5000m high mountains are only 250 km away.



Dense forest and some traces of civilization in between.



Green, green and more green. And some meandering rivers in the background.


We turn left, pass over the airport and head for Santa Cruz.


Trinidad and the airport.



Approaching the airport again.



Aerial overview of Trinidad.


Since I have a seat pocket now, it is time to explore its contents.


Safety card (1).



Safety card (2).



Air sickness bag. I have only seen plastic sickness bags here in Bolivia so far.



The seat pocket contained a lot of earplugs. Some more for my collection!



Increasingly, the forest gives way to agriculturally used land.



There are quite some high clouds on our way and the pilot tried to fly around them.



Still the flight is again fairly bumpy.


As it is largely overcast I start to read up a little on Sucre and possible options for accomodation and dining.


Forest vs. cultivated farmland. The old story.



In contrast to the Trinidad region there are now a lot more settlements below us.



We are following this river for quite a while. It is Río Piraí which will, of course, end up in the Amazon.


Descent is announced by one of the guys upfront. They do speak really quickly! "WewillbelandinginElTrompilloAirportinelevenminutes"


This is Santa Cruz-Viru Viru International Airport, Bolivia's main international gateway. Can you spot the AeroSur graveyard?



Soon enough we are flying over the outskirts of Santa Cruz.


Santa Cruz de la Sierra is the largest city in Bolivia with about 1.7 million inhabitants. It lies in an area which rich in natural gas and also has very fertile soil. This explains the wealth of the city and also it being Bolivia's business center. The differences in social structure, needs, problems and perspectives between the Bolivian lowlands with its center Santa Cruz and the highlands with the political center of the country, La Paz, have caused a social, political and economical divide in the country. Understandably, many Cruceños (People of Santa Cruz) care little or nothing about their government in La Paz. A referendum for greater autonomy of the Santa Cruz department (with the result resembling regional autonomy in Spain) was struck down by the Bolivian National Electoral Court. The cleavage has not stopped widening.

When flying over Santa Cruz, you hardly see any high-rises. Thus, with a population of its size, the city extends over a big area.


Santa Cruz suburbia.



The landscape is very flat here as well.



More suburbia.



Houses are coming closer.



Where is the airport?



Maintenance hangars.



Bolivian Air Force hangars.



Air Force helicopters.




El Trompillo Airport, Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Take 1

We stop in front of the Terminal building. deboarding takes little to no time. On the tarmac we are accompanied by CP-2382 a Let L-410 of Aeroeste.


Turbolet being towed or pushed around.



Farewell shot of my Metroliner. Cargo has already been offloaded.


Now imagine it is 1970. You have just stepped off from Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano's first brand new Boeing 727-100 here at El Trompillo, the major hub and state of the art airport in Bolivia.

Actually, for me this would not be too hard to imagine right now. The terminal in front of me definitely has not changed a lot since that time and the typeface of the letters also points to a better time of the airport.

With the opening of Viru Viru International in the 1980s El Trompillo has mainly been used by regional operators. Since the increase of operations by TAM, the Bolivian Air Force airline, El Trompillo sees more activity again.


Remove the cars, make that black and white and we are back in the 60s.



Another view of CP-2382.



This is all that's going on right now.



Terminal interior. A lot cleaner than TDD. But hard to imagine this was Bolivia's main international gateway once.


As my short-notice schedule change with Aerocon left me with a longer layover in Santa Cruz I definitely wanted to check out the city center. But I do not have a travel guidebook with me neither did I get some information prior to departure. So I am directly heading for the airport information desk. The agents prove to be quite helpful, tell me where to go to get a cheap public bus to the center and hand me a free map. Great service!



Santa Cruz de la Sierra

So I leave the terminal again after spending less than about ten minutes in there. I head for the street intersection where local buses should pass by. After a couple minutes I flag one down and in less than 10 minutes I am directly in the city center, three blocks away from the central square. In total 30 minutes from deboarding to the central square with no prior idea about the city at all. Nice!


The entrance to El Trompillo.



Firefighter station at the intersection where my bus is supposed to leave.



Downtown Santa Cruz. We have 35 degrees centigrade and the arcades offer a pleasant escape from the direct sun.



When will the merger reach this office?



Central Square.



More palm trees and arcades.



The square is just too nice.


I get myself an ice cream for "lunch" as I am not able to eat something more hearty in this heat. Most restaurants and shops are closed down anyway for siesta. But I do not mind. People watching on the square is interesting enough anyway. You can not compare the population in Santa Cruz to that in La Paz. It is like being in an entire different country. Faces are more European and less indigenous. Generally, you will see more brand name clothing and also attire is less conservative. For all I know I could well have been in a city in Spain.

Soon enough there is nothing more to do for me here and I decide to head back to the airport.


Bye, Santa Cruz.




El Trompillo Airport, Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Take 2

I reach the airport earlier than expected, so I have some time to kill. I go to an overprived internet cafe (which is still inexpensive for European standards) and catch up on some mails and news. I also check out the observation deck to notice that my next plane is already there. And it is a new registration again!

CP-2527 will do the honors on the third flight today.


CP-2543, a Cessna 207 Stationair.


There is nothing left to do despite waiting for the pre-boarding announcement. Luckily they have ESPN running on a TV so that provides some distraction.


Aston Villa 0 - 1 Manchester United.


After the game is over (there were only ten minutes left) I join a group of people who have congregated at the entrance to the pre-boarding area. After a couple of minutes a female Air Force person opens the door and started performing the safety control. There is a metal detector but it is not used. Instead she just does bag checks. I, however, am waved right through with no security control at all while a family in front of me with two toddlers is thoroughly searched. Racial profiling?

After all passengers cleared security (or not), boarding is immediately started. I count 16 passengers at that moment, which will prove to be a fatal mistake.


CP-2527 from up close.



I kind of like that orange vertical stabilizer.



Those shots seem to become mandatory as well... But it was kind of hard getting this one.


There is an Aerocon staff member standing in the shadow of the wing distributing water bottles again.


At 15:50 I step aboard "El Castañero".




03 December 2011
Aerocon
Flight A4 235

SRZ - SRE

1550-1630 (arrival 10 minutes late)
Fairchild Metro 23
CP-2527


I am entering the aircraft somewhere in the middle of my boarding group. OF course, the first row is already occupied. I notice that the windows are a lot dirtier than on the first two legs. So I continue down the aisle, looking for a better window and finally settle down in the last row. Having only counted 16 passengers I suspect the last row to stay empty. Well, turns turns out there were still some passengers who cleared security after I have left the terminal. In total 19 passengers are boarding, so it is a full load and I am stuck in the last row with no possibility to stretch out. Let's just hope no one comes up with something like a "last row rule" which encourages people to venture for this particular spot on the plane  

It is brutally hot on the plane and, at least at the back where I am sitting, the air vents do not really have a lot of power. Of course all the passengers are sweating more than their deodorant could compensate, so the smell in the cabin is also not the most pleasant one.

Well, the flight is short and sitting in a cramped position in the back corner of a small turboprop is hopefully a once in a lifetime experience. So I try to make the most of it. The two passengers next to me turn out to be quite nice, but quite soon chatting is impossible as the engines are started and we taxi out to the runway for our fourty minute flight to Sucre. Of course we get treated to an almost ununderstandable announcement before we take off: "Wewishyouapleasantflight."


Shots like this are as good as it gets with this blurry window.



The cabin from far back.



A facial tissue. All cabins today left a lot to be desired regarding cleanliness.



Backtracking on the runway - really fast. When we started rolling I was not quite sure if we were taxiing or performing a rolling takeoff.



Reaching the other end of the runway.



Aercon maintenance below us.



More hangars.



Aerial view of downtown Santa Cruz.



Last views of the largest Bolivian city.



It remains mostly overcast on this flight.


The flight is quite uneventful. I continue reading up on Sucre and listen to some music. At a certain point I start to become quite uncomfortable on this plane. Being in some kind of locked position with no aisle access at the end of this tube, with no possibility to stretch out. Of course this state of discomfort also has to do with the fact that I am quite exhausted by now after those flights, the heat and humidity throughout the day and that I don't see anything outside the window.

Luckily we hear some blabbering over the speakers which could be the safety announcement prior to landing. But we three in the back rowdo not understand a bit of what is coming through the speakers so we just make some jokes about it.

Taking photos inside the plane has become absolutely impossible by now.


Imagine some nice mountains during our approach to Sucre.


We touch down, 10 minutes delayed for the third time today, taxi to our parking position and everybody is out of the plane within two minutes after our door is opened. I manage one last cabin shot and head for the terminal as well.


Farewell, Metroliner.



Ground agents offloading cargo.



And a dramatic farewell shot.


One minute after this picture was taken I am already sitting in a taxi to the center of Sucre.



Concluding remarks


I did not take those three legs on Aerocon to get from A to B in the most comfortable and cost-effective way. I wanted to try the Metroliner, I wanted to catch a brief glimpse at some of those regions in Bolivia I was not able to visit extensively, and I wanted to experience something different. After those flights I can say, that regarding those aspects, I was fully satisfied. Aerocon provided a great itinerary for an irresistible price, and I am glad I booked it.

But of course, this is airliners.net, and you certainly expect a verdict regarding the quality of the airline.

Cancellations may happen, and with a small airline in a developing country they are all the likelier. As I frequently check the airport websites I am well aware that cancellations or long delays are not uncommon here, so the cancellation of my first flight did not really come as a big surprise to me. But in the end, it is all about how such a cancellation is handled and communicated. Telling me that they called me, when I clearly did not receive a phone call has been a clear lie in my point of view and I can not see any reason behind it.

The second cancellation or rescheduling was apparently not really necessary as all flights were operating as normal when I was in Trinidad and in the end it was some unnecessary nerve-wrecking. But seriously, offering me an itinerary with a 24-hour layover in Trinidad, of all places? In the end, communication worked better than the first time, even if it took some time to get someone on the line. Everything worked out in the end and looking back it is luckily nothing more than a funny story to remember.

The Metroliners are certainly the most uncomfortable planes I have flown so far in Bolivia, so unless you need to get from A to B and the route is not offered by an airline other than Aerocon I would advise against taking them. They were not kept very clean, either. On-board service is also lacking due to obvious reasons. Also, TDD is an unappealing hub lacking many basic amenities like dining options or water to wash your hands. Forgive me, if I seem to pe a bit nit-picky, I know that I have to lower my expectations when I am travelling in a developing country, but TDD sees a fair amount of passengers and could certainly improve. It is definitely lacking in comparison to Bolivian airports of the same size.

It is also worth mentioning that none of my flights arrived on time.

But as I said in my introduction. Taking those flights was not about all those things we usually look for at airlines. It was about experiencing something new, and this is where those flights fully delivered.


Destination pictures and the return journey to La Paz on Bolivia's Air Force Airline Transporte Aéreo Militar (TAM) will be featured in an upcoming report.


Thank you for reading!

Feedback is greatly appreciated.




Former Tripreports

Democracy Aloft? Boliviana De Aviación 733/CBB-LPB (by volvair Nov 19 2011 in Trip Reports)

Of Buckets & 3-Holed Workhorses:5L 732, 722 To LPB (by volvair Nov 8 2011 in Trip Reports)

The Withering Ultra-Longhauler: TAM A345/MXP-GRU (by volvair Oct 22 2011 in Trip Reports)

A Failed Escape From The Drunkards: EN/Y/MUC-MXP (by volvair Oct 13 2011 in Trip Reports)


User currently offlineloalq From Switzerland, joined Jan 2007, 219 posts, RR: 3
Reply 3, posted (2 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 7584 times:

Hello Volvair, what a great and enjoyable TR, one of the most interesting I have read on a.net. Trust we sometimes overlook the importance of air connection to remote locations but there you go, these short hops by plane would take days if carried out by road.

Could you tell from observation what was the main purpose of those flying in those segments?

Of note: Taca's tail paintjob is superb.

Best regards and once again congrats for such an amazing report!

Loalq



"...this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped."
User currently offlinevolvair From Germany, joined Oct 2011, 167 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (2 years 7 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 7331 times:

Hi Loalq, I am glad to hear you enjoyed this report.

Quoting loalq (Reply 3):
Trust we sometimes overlook the importance of air connection to remote locations but there you go, these short hops by plane would take days if carried out by road.

  . A bus journey from La Paz to Sucre takes about 14 hours and La Paz to Trinidad take some exhausting 30 hours!

Quoting loalq (Reply 3):

Could you tell from observation what was the main purpose of those flying in those segments?

On the LPB-TDD as well as on the TDD-SRZ legs there were a few passengers wearing suits, so I would guess they were on a business trip but by far most passengers would certainly fall under the VFR category. Also, on every flight there were some small children. But do not forget the fact that I was travelling on a Saturday. On weekdays the composition of passengers may vary. In a news article about the crash in September, which occured on a Wednesday, I read that almost all passengers were either businessmen or politicians.


User currently offlineMarcoPoloWorld From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 633 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 7202 times:

Thanks so much for sharing - a very exotic and fascinating trip report!

  


User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6714 posts, RR: 78
Reply 6, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 7045 times:

Servus volvair,

excellent report with great pictures! Very good to see yet another exotic airline presented by you! I also enjoyed reading about the Metroliner, I have never been on that type.

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
This report is not about fancy lounges or savoring a first-class cabin.

Very good, we already get to see too many lounge pictures on this board...

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
It is neither about miles nor perks

Very good, we already get to hear too much about funky cards and gold-silver-platinum-universe-wood-plumb-or-whatever-status on this board...  

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
TACA Peru A320 bound for Lima. If everything works out I'll be taking this flight soon.

   Just do it!


PH

[Edited 2011-12-11 00:48:59]


Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineJL418 From Italy, joined Jun 2009, 493 posts, RR: 6
Reply 7, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 6960 times:

Hello Volvair!

Congrats, this is probably one of best trip reports of 2011 according to my own personal hitlist. It doesn't sound much and you won't receive golden plated statues, medals or anything like that... but the glory! I loved your entertaining writing style and humour and I loved that you seemed to enjoy situations in which most people would have gone simply nuts.

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
This report is not about fancy lounges or savoring a first-class cabin. It is not about the fondness towards an attentive flight attendant or the rudeness of an airport security empolyee. It is neither about miles nor perks, neither about seat-back TVs nor in-flight dining. All this did not play a part in my trip.

Still, I would never like to miss those flights for the experience on the ground and in the air was one of its kind.

This report is about escaping the pabulum that air travel can become, it is about escaping the confines of overregulation and it is about escaping from the routines and expectations that we passengers have built around flying.

For me, the flights covered in the following have been a breath of fresh air.

Please follow me on the three legs which have taken me from one of the highest airports in the world to the Amazon Basin, the Gran Chaco lowlands and back to the Andes. All on a certain 19-seater turboprop airliner proudly boasting nicknames like San Antonio sewer pipe or Texas lawn dart.

Probably the most intriguing intro I've read in quite a while! That really brought me into reading!

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
Maybe, the name "Aerocon" rang a bell with you. On 07 September 2011 Aerocon Flight 238 from Santa Cruz de la Sierra to their hub Trinidad disappeared on approach to Trinidad. Sadly, out of the nine people on board (incl. 2 crew) only one passenger survived the accident. He was found by the rescue team two days after the plane crashed. The plane went down in the jungle about 30 kilometers outside of Trinidad. Due to bad weater conditions it took a lot of time until the vessel was located.

Yes, I remember that. Quite a scary anecdote I must say.

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
During the turbulence we are experiencing, I look over to the other side of the aisle. In seat 1B there is a man, suit-wearing. He returns eyecontact and grins, which reveals that he is actually missing more teeth than he has left. His grin is accompanied by an up-and-down movement of his arm, obviously mimicking the up-and-down movement of our plane. It seems he is enjoying this rougher part of the flight as much as I do. I reply with a big grin. However, the lady seated behind this man in 2B does not quite share our enthusiasm. I notice her making the sign of the cross on her chest thrice, closing her eyes and resting her forehead on the seatback in front of her. She only opens her eyes again almost ten minutes later when have safely landed and are taxiing to our parking position.

This is a scene that Sergio Leone would have loved to put in one of his spaghetti western!

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
Of course, this is the glorious moment when I am magically transforming my pants into shorts.

They might not seem pretty (and indeed there're are better way, stylewise, to cover one's lower limbs) but I'm with you on that: these trousers are properly comfy! I got some too for when I go hiking.

Quoting volvair (Reply 1):
There are about thirty people in the area (probably a 50 square meter hall), many families with small children who are quite twitchy and not exactly quiet. Only understandable as it there is still a sweltering heat and now there is no more escape to the outside where there's at least a little breeze. There is a big air conditioning unit mounted at the wall but it is obviously broken. The two ceiling fans, running at full power, do not seem to have an impact on the temperature. Most men's shirts don't have sweat stains, they are completely soaked. One man, who is actually not to badly groomed, seemingly thought to himself "screw etiquette" and simply lifted up his polo shirt and let it rest on the top of his potbelly. Rather mesmerized by this sight I have to shake myself in order for my eyes to continue wandering around the area. Only for them to rest - a mere blink later - on two young boys playing soccer with what appeares to be a giant dead bug. And yes, only a couple of seconds later my presumption is confirmed when they kick the dead animal in my direction and it comes to a halt directly in front of my feet. The thing has a diameter of about 5cm. Add to the whole schenery a breastfeeding mother and a two men, one carrying the IV bag of the other.

Simply epic! So much different from the usual lounge scene we read about here on A.net.

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
Racial profiling?

Well, when was the last time you've heard Germans doing something bad? I guess it was in the first Die Hard and even back then it didn't seem quite credible! 

Looking forward to read more Bolivian adventures from you!

Fabrizio


User currently offlineeastafspot From France, joined Jan 2008, 742 posts, RR: 12
Reply 8, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 6947 times:

Hi Volvair

What a pleasure to read uncovered area, where aviation probably represents a lifeline more than anything else. this is a thorough trip report about aerconn for sure! Nice travel experience especially when the cockpit crew left the curtain opened, you've produced some great approach pictures. All in all a such different experience from the cancellation issues, to the staff yelling announcement to flying this classic prop aircraft fitted with a looking like vintage interior

Quoting volvair (Reply 2):
Aerial overview of Trinidad.

Perfect one, my overall favorite!

Thanks for sharing your Bolivian explorations, looking forward to read the next adventure.

EAS (Léo)



Fly with Air Burundi, Air Tanzania, Air Uganda, Kenya Airways and Rwandair...Jumuiya ya Afrika mashariki
User currently offlineMEA-707 From Netherlands, joined Nov 1999, 4304 posts, RR: 36
Reply 9, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 6890 times:

Great tripreport ! Good price for 3 flights on a Metro... Probably their infrastructure was not ready for these sort of iteneraries so I wouldn't blame them too much for messing up a bit. Things there go like that.
I have been in Bolivia twice in 2008 and 2010 and had some 727, MA-60 and C-46 flights there, but also a Metro to Rurrenabaque. Love it there.

Quoting volvair (Reply 2):
CP-2655
I did not find information about the frame's history

These histories can be found on the metro sheet of airlinerlist.com .
CP-2655 is cn DC819B, ex Aeroponiente, Aerolitoral and American Jet Argentina, bought by Aerocon 30 June 2010.
CP-2527, in case you wondered, is cn DC-824B, ex Aerolitoral and Macair, bought by Aerocon 18 Aug 2008.

Weren't you worried about the safety after their recent crash on a routing you'd take?

Did you happen to find out more during your trip what TAM is doing with their 727 and Fokker F-27 (and possibly even the C-130 Lockheed Herules? If I had a certain chance to get on one of these I'd return to Bolivia.



nobody has ever died from hard work, but why take the risk?
User currently offlinedeltamartin From Sweden, joined Dec 2010, 1061 posts, RR: 7
Reply 10, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 6858 times:

Hi Volvair!

Great tripreport!

Very nice to read about this very exotic airline it a very exotic part of the world. The metroliner is for sure a very nice addition to ones log. I've been thinking about doing like other people on this forum and log the Air Norway/North Flying one on the AAL-OSL route. I'm glad that i atleast have a L410 featured in my log.  
You have some really nice pictures in the report, too bad about those dirty windows though. And how gross with that tissue.

Looking forward to your next report!

Martin


User currently offlineFLIEGER67 From France, joined Sep 2003, 5136 posts, RR: 55
Reply 11, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 6851 times:

Hi, O.,

what a story.
Really well done and superb interesting to follow. That´s for sure something out of the ordinary here.

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
So, less than 13 hours before my departure, everything was set for my trip to Sucre.

Hopefully after all these pre-departure hassles.

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
Those shots seem to become mandatory as well... But it was kind of hard getting this one.

And a really good one!.

Looking for the return on TAM now.

Greetings,
Markus(FLIEGER67)



Next: How to deliver a present in style!.
User currently offlinevolvair From Germany, joined Oct 2011, 167 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 6820 times:

Great to see some comments here!


Hi MarcoPoloWorld

Quoting MarcoPoloWorld (Reply 5):
Thanks so much for sharing

You are welcome, glad you liked it.



Hi PH,

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 6):
excellent report with great pictures!

thanks!

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 6):
I have never been on that type.

Not too difficult to get on one now with the interesting CSO-MUC operation.



Hi Fabrizio,

Quoting JL418 (Reply 7):
It doesn't sound much and you won't receive golden plated statues, medals or anything like that... but the glory!

I don't need all of that. BA Gold status would suffice, can't you pull some strings? 
Quoting JL418 (Reply 7):
I loved your entertaining writing style and humour and I loved that you seemed to enjoy situations in which most people would have gone simply nuts.

Well, needless anger just shortens your life.

Quoting JL418 (Reply 7):

This is a scene that Sergio Leone would have loved to put in one of his spaghetti western!

  

Quoting JL418 (Reply 7):
I guess it was in the first Die Hard and even back then it didn't seem quite credible!

My name is not Hans Gruber, either.


Hi Léo, thanks a lot for your nice comments,

Quoting eastafspot (Reply 8):

Thanks for sharing your Bolivian explorations, looking forward to read the next adventure.

You are very welcome!



Hi MEA-707

Quoting MEA-707" class="quote" target="_blank">MEA-707 (Reply 9):
Probably their infrastructure was not ready for these sort of iteneraries so I wouldn't blame them too much for messing up a bit.

You are right. As I've said in the end is just a nice story to take away from it.

Quoting MEA-707" class="quote" target="_blank">MEA-707 (Reply 9):
Love it there.

Unfortuately I wasn't able to go there. Rainy season is upon us and I did not have time for an extended jungle tour.

Quoting MEA-707" class="quote" target="_blank">MEA-707 (Reply 9):
These histories can be found on the metro sheet of airlinerlist.com .
CP-2655 is cn DC819B, ex Aeroponiente, Aerolitoral and American Jet Argentina, bought by Aerocon 30 June 2010.
CP-2527, in case you wondered, is cn DC-824B, ex Aerolitoral and Macair, bought by Aerocon 18 Aug 2008.

Great! Did not know about this site. Thanks a lot.

Quoting MEA-707" class="quote" target="_blank">MEA-707 (Reply 9):

Weren't you worried about the safety after their recent crash on a routing you'd take?

Of course I was a little worried. Reasons for the accident are not known yet, investigations are still running. But the circumstances of the crash were hardly reproduceable for my flight. (Darkness, poor visibility partly due to forest fires, Trinidad VOR/DME unserviceable...)

Quoting MEA-707" class="quote" target="_blank">MEA-707 (Reply 9):
Did you happen to find out more during your trip what TAM is doing with their 727 and Fokker F-27 (and possibly even the C-130 Lockheed Herules?

I have seen TAMs 727 in CBB and from what I have seen it has been doing SRZ, LPB runs from there. Last week I saw it in CBB maintenance. Apparently had severe problems with an engine. It is an interesting aircraft btw as it features a business class cabin which is not seperately sold but sometimes blocked when a VIP is travelling. Should not be too hard to get on it. Dirt cheap prices (less than 30€) for CBB-LPB as well.

F-27 seems to be operational. Have seen a pic from NOV when it was operating to Ixiamas. TAM agents in their La Paz office were very friendly and they could check which aircraft is operating on a particular route. So I guess it is not totally unpredictable to guess which aircraft is doing which run.

C-130: no idea, but did not see, read or hear anything about it. So it does not look good.

Apparently their CC-109 (FAB-74) also seems to be doing runs in the Bolivian lowlands (!!), but I did not encounter any tangible evidence regarding its deployment.

Note that TAM's website is out of date. When you think about flying them it might not be too bad an idea to (Skype-)call their office during weekdays (if you know Spanish).


Hi Martin,

Quoting deltamartin (Reply 10):
Great tripreport!

Thanks!

Quoting deltamartin (Reply 10):
I've been thinking about doing like other people on this forum and log the Air Norway/North Flying one on the AAL-OSL route.

Do it! seems to be a fairly popular run and also with nice crew and service and good connection opportunities in OSL and AAL.



Hi Markus, thanks for commenting

Quoting FLIEGER67 (Reply 11):
Really well done and superb interesting to follow.

Glad you enjoyed it.

Quoting FLIEGER67 (Reply 11):
And a really good one!.

Well if you approve it has to be good!


User currently offlineSultanils From Belgium, joined Mar 2010, 1658 posts, RR: 30
Reply 13, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 6747 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Hello volvair,

I must congratulate you on this most magnificent report. Getting 3 Metroliners in a row of whom 1 is a subtype, and on top of that 3 different reg's, that's really an achievement. Apparently, you had quite a bit to endure for this journey, going from the booking ordeal to people watching in the terminal in the soaring heat to sitting uncomfortably at the very last row peeping through a badly scratched window. Hats off to you my friend!

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
This report is not about fancy lounges or savoring a first-class cabin. It is not about the fondness towards an attentive flight attendant or the rudeness of an airport security empolyee. It is neither about miles nor perks, neither about seat-back TVs nor in-flight dining. All this did not play a part in my trip.

You are my kind of guy  

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
His response was inexistent.

An airline enthusiast in Bolivia? As if he could care less...

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
the armada of shuttle busses

Named 'collectivo's', right?

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
So there soon will be two 727s flying with AeroSur.

So a good reason for a next mission: getting a ride on the other frame!

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
My plane taxiing in

Looks just like a giant mosquito lol!

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
And this is where you are supposed to plug it in.

What? So the oxygen mask comes out of the overhead panel and you have to plug it in yourself?

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
Metroliners lined up.

Where in Europe (or moreover on earth) will you find this kind of view?

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
The Metro 23 features a little more power and higher takeoff weight.

Surprise! There are even subtypes of Metro's!

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
Those shots seem to become mandatory as well... But it was kind of hard getting this one.

You had to lay down on the tarmac?

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
But as I said in my introduction. Taking those flights was not about all those things we usually look for at airlines. It was about experiencing something new, and this is where those flights fully delivered.

I guess you must be a happy man now, congrats!

Sultanils



In thrust we trust.
User currently offlineCrimsonNL From Netherlands, joined Dec 2007, 1845 posts, RR: 42
Reply 14, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 6734 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
CHAT OPERATOR

Hi Volvair!

A very enjoyable read! I always like these "off-beat" trip reports. I loved all the pictures. You are quite lucky to get 3 different places and for so little money!

Thanks for sharing and regards,

Martijn



Fly DC-Jets!
User currently offlinevolvair From Germany, joined Oct 2011, 167 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 6653 times:

Great to see more comments here, thank you!


Hi Nils, thanks for dropping a few lines.

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 13):
I must congratulate you on this most magnificent report.

Thanks!

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 13):
Named 'collectivo's', right?

Or simply "minis"

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 13):
So a good reason for a next mission: getting a ride on the other frame!

That will most likely be a Mission Impossible. I am already leaving for Europe in about a week.

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 13):
What? So the oxygen mask comes out of the overhead panel and you have to plug it in yourself?

No oxygen masks in the overhead panel here. They are stored in a compartment upfront.

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 13):
Where in Europe (or moreover on earth) will you find this kind of view?

In Europe this will be kind of hard but not so much in the US for example. Cargo airliner Ameriflight for instance operates 44 Metroliners.

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 13):
You had to lay down on the tarmac?

Almost. I was kneeling. But I still earned some strange looks  



Hi Martijn, thank you for stopping by.

Quoting CrimsonNL (Reply 14):
A very enjoyable read! I always like these "off-beat" trip reports. I loved all the pictures

Glad you liked it!

Quoting CrimsonNL (Reply 14):
You are quite lucky to get 3 different places and for so little money!

Definitely. The price was awesome too but as I mentioned in the TR the more usual itineraries with Aerocon are not quite so cheap.


User currently offlineMSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2474 posts, RR: 15
Reply 16, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 6501 times:

Hi volvair

Nice trip report, thanks for sharing it with us!
It's definatly not the usual Boeing or airbus report we read here! but hey! That just makes it so nice  
Seems like the metroliners gave you a pretty decent ride over the Amazone, Thanks for including all the pics as well


Greetings
Marc



Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
User currently offlineFlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 31
Reply 17, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 6365 times:

Hi volvair,

What an absolutely amazing report - I'm really liking these South American adventures of yours! Not something you see every day (if ever!) reported here.

The Metroliner is indeed a very nice small plane, those cockpit views from the first row are a nice bonus as well. And you really scored an amazing fare for three flights with the type. Aerocon looks like an airline that is determined to cut itself above the competition by providing online booking and even an online chat etc. modern amenities. I'm glad the schedule eventually worked out for you, even though you had a false start!

I'm very impressed by the huge contrast between the high plains around La Paz and the Amazon basin apparent in your beautiful (if foggy) pictures.

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
I would have preferred to find a chilled beer here. But his is not North Flying, and I will not be cruising over the North Sea but some 5000m high mountains today.

Touche! Although I'm sure you'd enjoyed a chilled can there! I assume there was no bottle of brandy either?  
Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
Hard to imagine Aerocon wanted me to spend 24 hours here. I don't think there is too much going on in this town.

Don't judge a book by its covers! Sometimes these sleepy one horse towns can be quite relaxing in their boringness - if there's nothing to do any little thing will perk you up and provide entertainment. I kinda like sleepy little places a lot.

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
There are about thirty people in the area (probably a 50 square meter hall), many families with small children who are quite twitchy and not exactly quiet. Only understandable as it there is still a sweltering heat and now there is no more escape to the outside where there's at least a little breeze. There is a big air conditioning unit mounted at the wall but it is obviously broken. The two ceiling fans, running at full power, do not seem to have an impact on the temperature. Most men's shirts don't have sweat stains, they are completely soaked. One man, who is actually not to badly groomed, seemingly thought to himself "screw etiquette" and simply lifted up his polo shirt and let it rest on the top of his potbelly. Rather mesmerized by this sight I have to shake myself in order for my eyes to continue wandering around the area. Only for them to rest - a mere blink later - on two young boys playing soccer with what appeares to be a giant dead bug. And yes, only a couple of seconds later my presumption is confirmed when they kick the dead animal in my direction and it comes to a halt directly in front of my feet. The thing has a diameter of about 5cm. Add to the whole schenery a breastfeeding mother and a two men, one carrying the IV bag of the other.

Wow, this paragraph is straight out of a Kafka book, or maybe one of Fellini's movies. The only thing missing is a midget being tossed around  .

Keep 'em coming, I'm enjoying all of them!


User currently offlinevolvair From Germany, joined Oct 2011, 167 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 6248 times:

Hi Marc,

Quoting MSS658 (Reply 16):

Nice trip report, thanks for sharing it with us!

thanks for your comments. Glad you enjoyed the report!



Hi FF,

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 17):
What an absolutely amazing report - I'm really liking these South American adventures of yours!

Thanks for the encouraging compliment!

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 17):
Aerocon looks like an airline that is determined to cut itself above the competition by providing online booking and even an online chat etc. modern amenities.

Exactly. This is especially interesting as Aerocon is a regional airline focusing much more on the local market than for example TAM and BoA, which are more appealing to tourists and foreign businesspeople due to their route network. Still, in comparison to Aerocon's website AeroSur's page is still better for non-Spanish speakers.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 17):

I'm very impressed by the huge contrast between the high plains around La Paz and the Amazon basin apparent in your beautiful (if foggy) pictures.

Bolivia is simply stunning, but you had some nice views in Colombia on your domestic flights as well, didn't you?

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 17):
I assume there was no bottle of brandy either?

Nah, if there is ever a next time I'm doing it BYOB-style.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 17):

Don't judge a book by its covers! Sometimes these sleepy one horse towns can be quite relaxing in their boringness - if there's nothing to do any little thing will perk you up and provide entertainment. I kinda like sleepy little places a lot.

While I usually agree with you here, I had to make it to Sucre on Sunday for a special market where I needed to buy gifts for Christmas. Also, my guidebook said it is kind of hard to get a decent steak in Trinidad, even if it is in the middle of Bolivia's cattle country.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 17):
Wow, this paragraph is straight out of a Kafka book

Ha, thanks for the comparison with one of my favorite novelists! But the booking/cancellation/rescheduling ordeal was the more kafkaesque part of the trip.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 17):
Keep 'em coming, I'm enjoying all of them!

Unfortunately I only have very few upcoming trips...


User currently offlineThe777Man From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 6500 posts, RR: 55
Reply 19, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 6066 times:

Hi Volvair!

Thanks for another amazing trip report with fantastic pictures!

I'm very happy that everything worked out in the end so that you could take these flights! The scenes at the airports you describe sounds crazy but must be nice to think about afterwards  

Saw a Metroliner today at LAX while spotting; N564TR of Career Aviation from Oakdale, CA. Usually they don't fly here.

Looking forward very much to your next report, whenever that may be.

The777Man



Need a Boeing 777 Firing Order....Further to fly....CI, MU, LX and LH 777s
User currently offlinevolvair From Germany, joined Oct 2011, 167 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 5958 times:

Hi Lars, thanks for your feedback.

Quoting The777Man (Reply 19):
Thanks for another amazing trip report with fantastic pictures!

Glad you enjoyed the read!

Quoting The777Man (Reply 19):
The scenes at the airports you describe sounds crazy but must be nice to think about afterwards  

Yes, this day is among the top 5 I have spent flying and the refreshing experiences will be a nice thing to remember when I am on one of those dull (in comparison) LH A32s domestic hops  
Quoting The777Man (Reply 19):
Looking forward very much to your next report, whenever that may be.

I'll try to get around it after the holidays  


User currently offlinestipica From Croatia, joined Feb 2011, 426 posts, RR: 8
Reply 21, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 5749 times:

Hi volvair !
what to say ...speechless ... pure nirvana ...
stipica  



Open your eyes and think
User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 610 posts, RR: 5
Reply 22, posted (2 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 5587 times:

Hello volvair

Absolutely stunning report about a stunning itinerary!

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
a second glance at the webpage revealed that the ticket consisted of three flights: from La Paz to their hub Trinidad, located in the Amazon basin and then onwards to Sucre via the inner city airport of Bolivia's largest city, Santa Cruz - El Trompillo. Suddenly the price did not seem too high anymore

Well done and yes the price is indeed attractive for 3 sectors.

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
leaned back in my chair and opened a can of beer which I found to be well deserved after those two and a half nerve-wrecking hours

Well deserved indeed!

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
the boarding passes were printed by a dot-matrix printer, something I had not yet seen before.

Such boarding passes were quite common in the early to mid-nineties. I have a couple of those in my collection.

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
TAM MA-60 taxiing in. I might have to file that plane as "momentarily failed project". No chance to get on this plane here during my remaining time in Bolivia.

Now that's a pity. How I would have loved a report about it...

Quoting volvair (Thread starter):
And it is a new registration again!

Congratulations on logging three different SWMs on one single day, I would sort of have expected all the same aircraft for the whole trip. So that must have been a nice surprise!

Best regards,
LXM83


User currently offlinevolvair From Germany, joined Oct 2011, 167 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (2 years 7 months 1 week 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 5508 times:

Hi stipica, thanks for commenting!

Quoting stipica (Reply 21):
pure nirvana

Dude, what have you been smoking? 




Hi LXM83, thanks for stopping by.

Quoting LXM83 (Reply 22):

Such boarding passes were quite common in the early to mid-nineties. I have a couple of those in my collection.

A personal first for me (as far as I can remember). Not surprising as I am a product of the late eighties.

Quoting LXM83 (Reply 22):
Congratulations on logging three different SWMs on one single day, I would sort of have expected all the same aircraft for the whole trip. So that must have been a nice surprise!

Thanks. I thought I might get on two different frames given the long layover at SRZ. But three was indeed a nice surprise!


User currently offlineba319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8503 posts, RR: 55
Reply 24, posted (2 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 5056 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Great read and pictures, this is real back to basics get me there flying, love it!

Great pictures of Bolivia too, really want to visit this country one day, alas the 727's will likely be gone before I get around to it though.

Cheers

Mark



111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
25 signol : Hi Volvair, thanks for a fascinating insight to one of the minor players in Bolivian aviation. Also interesting to see some of the lesser-known towns
26 volvair : Hi guys, great to see some more comments here! Hi Mark, glad you enjoyed it! Well, TAM painted their 727 in full colors, so maybe it will be flying fo
Top Of Page
Forum Index

Reply To This Topic Andes, Jungles, Metroliners: Prop-Hops In Bolivia
Username:
No username? Sign up now!
Password: 


Forgot Password? Be reminded.
Remember me on this computer (uses cookies)
  • Trip reports only! Other topics here
  • If criticizing an airline, express yourself in a dignified manner.
  • No adverts of any kind. This includes web pages.
  • No hostile language or criticizing of others.
  • Do not post copyright protected material.
  • Use relevant and describing topics.
  • Check if your post already been discussed.
  • Check your spelling!
  • DETAILED RULES
Add Images Add SmiliesPosting Help

Please check your spelling (press "Check Spelling" above)


Similar topics:More similar topics...
Team Veres Zoltan In Dubai 2011-pictures Included posted Sat Dec 3 2011 05:09:25 by RATususus
A Weekend In Paris Trip Report... With Pictures! posted Sun Nov 27 2011 12:30:34 by MadameConcorde
EK SFO-DXB In C/F For CrankyFlier posted Sat Nov 26 2011 20:04:38 by usxguy
Flying The ATP In Northern Skies! GEV-KRF-ARN posted Sat Nov 26 2011 14:28:29 by deltamartin
A ROK'n And A Fokker'n In A Virgin Alliance posted Wed Nov 23 2011 20:08:43 by allrite
ELP-ORD-IAD On UX,UA In F. Part 1 posted Tue Nov 22 2011 19:59:55 by UAFlyer710
Hoppin On HA To HNL: OAK-HNL In Y (Pt1) posted Tue Nov 22 2011 17:31:21 by Loubert
The Innsbruck Experience - 2 A.netters In Austria posted Sat Nov 19 2011 07:43:25 by infodesk
Lufthansa And A Hole In The Ceiling With Champagne posted Mon Nov 14 2011 09:32:58 by knightsofmalta
Thai Suites/F & 4 Days In A Citation Bravo posted Sun Nov 13 2011 20:23:54 by thaia345

Sponsor Message:
Printer friendly format