In planning for this trip, it was a constantly changing routing, where eventually just a few short weeks out, it was finalised! And the final routing would see me using an almost all new carriers (with exception to Finnair (AY)). It also had me on a new type, the Fokker70 (F70)! I was quietly looking forward to it, as I was to catching up with friends, both old and new!
18th June 2012 TZ001 SYD-SIN
I was dropped off at the airport by my friends JL and MC. I joined the line for scoot (TZ) where I had the 'FlyBagEat' package. Checking in was harmless, although when asked about my cabin bag, I was a little 'oh oh' as it has all my gear in it (laptop, camera and associated lenses! The agent just made sure it was of suitable 'size' and not like those huge ones you see about the place. Check-in was complete, so we had a bite to eat, and soon it was the goodbyes. I entered the departures hall, where there were minimal officers and a fairly healthy line! It took some 20 minutes in the late morning/middle of the day as the US departures were imminent!
DEP SYD 13.40 (sched) 14.30 (actual)
ARR SIN 19.35 (schedual) 20.35 (actual)
Boeing 777-212ER (ex SQ) 9V-OTC
Boarding TZ001 to Singapore commenced with scootbiz and those in the rear of the aircraft (zone 4) which was my zone. Most people adhered to this call, although one was turned away; suitably unimpressed! My first impressions when getting into the cabin was it looked good, bright in places with the yellow/purple combination. The yellow seats are those you can upgrade to, at a fee, whilst the purple is the seat you pay for! I found my seat, last of the three, and got comfy.
Soon after, our Captain come over the PA saying she "had a technical issue they were trying to correct, and that as soon as it was completed, we'd be on our way" and she also apologised for the delay. There was also a passenger that was a no-show, and those bag(s) were needing to be removed. However, we were soon on our way and taxied out to 34R. Our departure was swift, powerful and we tracked out over western Sydney. Now here is the one 'gripe' I had about scoot, and that is when they removed the entertainment systems (not an issue) they also removed the monitors on the bulkheads, and with that, there is no 'moving map'! I like to have a situational awareness, and knowing where I am (in relation to the flight progress). Additionally, they could sell this off to advertising, subsidising (a little) of the tiny weight it may have for what, a dozen monitors? Anyway, if thats my only gripe, its not a very big one!!
Soon after, the crew announced that iPads were soon to be offered for hire, and that the passengers who had pre-ordered a meal, this would be served. I had, and I was keen to see what it was like. I looked through the menu, and I chose the lasagne, mandarine segments in juice and a 7UP.
The flight progressed pretty much uneventful, and during a break, the Captain came through the cabin to the rear galley, acknowledging passengers on her way down. I thought this was kind of cool, and cud's to her for doing this! I had a brief chat about her nationality (Dutch) and how she had been with SQ for a few years, as was some of the crew. We soon commenced our decent into SIN, and were at the gate only slightly delayed from the revised time.
Clearing immigration was quick and effortless, and as I had to collect my luggage and change terminals, I caught the sky train across. My booking were held across three different PNR's! Once through to T1 from T2, I found the desks for AY to be open, and I quickly re-checked my bag and passed through immigration; less than 30 minutes after clearing them!
DEP SIN 23.50 (schedule/actual)
ARR HEL 06.35 (schedule/actual) +1
Airbus A340-313X (ex AF F-GNIF) OH-LQF
Boarding AY, compared to scoot, was a slow an onerous task, disorganised, yet it seemed to be quicker when compared to scoot overall! I found my seat, again to the rear of the plane, this time though on the opposite side. We pushed back, safety video was played, and before long we were off into the midnight skies… Typically A340 style, it was a slow climb out, but relatively smooth. Flight time tonight was some 11 hours and 25 minutes from what the Captain said after introducing his team up front. After the seatbelt sign went off, I leaned over to the wall, and thats about all I remember of the flight until I got up to go for a walk, and the lights came on in readiness for the crew to serve breakfast! I had the best sleep for almost the entire flight! Breakfast, was a simple quiche, a sausage some potatoes and tomatoes and some greens. I also had a coffee!
Arrival into HEL was relatively smooth, and this time, was from the opposite direction to when I arrived in 2010. We were not even at the gate when, en mass, people stood up to retrieve bags from overhead bins! I am still aghast as to why people do this, when, we all end up in the arrival hall waiting for bags! But, not for me this time, as my bag was checked through to OSL, so I joined the EU line at immigration (AU passport remained in its case), and I was through in no time at all. Next up, it was a matter of finding my departure gate!
This is my second AY Embraer 190 flight; the first being from HEL to TXL in 2010. We were bused out to the aircraft to a hard stand. There were some showers about, but the walk up the steps was quick. My seat was the first after the movable J class wall, and I felt a little 'cramped' with the curtain. Luckily, for me, there was a nice big window to view outside! By this stage, a shower had started, as we prepared for the flight. Cabin crew performed the safety demonstration, and we were soon rocketing off through the clouds, leaving the showers behind. Soon after, the cabin crew commenced a snack service, a coffee/tea and a snack (sweet or savoury).
However, all to soon, we started our descent into Oslo. Not having been here before, I was looking out of the window to see if I could see anything. My eyes soon became focused on an otherwise brown area just ahead, and slightly to the right.
Soon enough, the gear came down and we did a steep bank to the right to line up to what I had seen. I had been told by my friends they would get a shot coming in, and that they would meet me in the arrivals hall. I could not see them as we came into land though, and soon we touched down (was smooth), and we were soon at the gate. After deplaning, my bag came through in about 10 minutes, and as I entered the hall, there was Mr C and Mr T!
I was asked if I wanted to be dropped off at my hotel (at like 9am?) after the long flight from Sydney. Alas, as I was feeling good, I wanted to start some spotting, and out we went… First off, was to head out to a spot just pop 01R/19L. This was a great location and here's a couple of shots…
As the day progressed, we moved about somewhat. There was now a group of people there, as Mr C got an sms asking if the 'Kangaroo' had arrived! They are such a friendly bunch of people them Norwegians!! We had some, ok a few, cups of coffee, some lunch, and then ended up near the 19R/01L runway. This is a great location for afternoon/evening arrivals (well towards 9-9.30pm of a summers evening)! After a good couple of hours, it was time to head for the hotel and get some sleep…
20th June 2012
This was to be a spotting day, full on. I was given a treat, in that we went to the top of the 94m tall ATC tower!! I was SO happy to be heading up there. After a short walk, we entered the tower compound and into the lift. In no time, we were outside on the balcony and into the warm summers day. Light, having been up for several hours already, was always going to be an issue for good photography, but I didn't care, I was up there! Here are some of the shots from the tower…
We then headed to some other spots around OSL, and we caught up with an English man who was an engineer at Norwegian! We ended up spending the afternoon with him (over two locations) before Mr C took Mr T off to catch his flight. Good bye Mr T, it was fun meeting you!
All afternoon, we got the usual suspect, SAS, Norwegian, but I also managed to get a C-130 from the Norwegian Air Force!
When entering Kristiansand (KRS) airport, it was as though it was still back in the '60's! Even though, there is a new ATC tower under construction, the terminal itself was a little drab. Although check-in wasn't open for a little while (I had shared a cab from the conference hotel), one of the ground crew enquired as to my needs. I told her that I had an 'issue' with online check-in, and that it wouldn't let me. She mentioned that they have just installed a new computer system there, and this could well be the cause. She corrected it, confirmed my onward booking from AMS to PRG, and allowed me an early check-in as well! If I could've given her a hug and a kiss, I would've, she went beyond her duty to do this, and I was grateful. Soon, it was then time to clear immigration/security. Although there was 2 security officers there, the same woman did the majority of the procedures! bag (sans laptop) was x-rayed, and I was soon enjoying a coffee with my irish mate from the cab! His flight was called (to CPH and DUB) whilst I finished my coffee! I jumped online (2 x 30 min free wifi) and spoke to some friends from home. A familiar voice came over the PA announcing my flight was ready for boarding.. Can you guess who it was?
We were met by a lovely KL crew, and boarding was via stairs. By this stage, the new ATC frame was lifted atop of the concrete pillar. With the lady-of-many-hats completing the load sheets for the flight crew, we were soon off to the taxiway and backtracked a short distance on the runway. Now most (all) of the traffic were heading off from the 04 runway. However, we headed to the opposite end for a 22 departure! We turned, and brakes were applied. Slowly, the engines spooled up, then to full power before the brakes were released, and we were slingshotted up the runway… Interesting! The crew soon started a snack service, coffee/tea/soft drink and a 'sweet or savoury'!
Before all to long, we were starting our decent and approach from the west - The Polderbaan! Now I had read a lot about the time to/from this runway, and I was dreading the worst. However, after a smooth approach and landing, we had a very brisk taxi behind an Icelander B752. All up, some 15 minutes later, we were on a hard stand deplaning! I mentioned to the Captain when leaving if it was the Polderbaan, and he confirmed, and when I had read so much bad reviews about the times it takes to get to/from there, he laughed and simply said, "I went fast, as I wanted to get in"!!! This was a new airline for me today!
Clearing immigration is such a breeze in the EU, made easier with an EU passport! I was soon out in the AMS shopping mall! A mate, JP, was meeting me shortly in AMS from PRG, and we would catch the return flight together later in the day. Once he arrived, we headed up to the KL lounge (his status got u both entry) and 'chilled' for a bit, before going landslide to both the viewing deck (which is WAY better than home in SYD) AND the KL shop! Alas, it was time (getting shorter) to clear immigration/security and get to the next flight!
Now, this is where I had issues… I was in the line, laptop was out, and the security guard was to busy chatting up the two girls two people ahead of me. Once my bag went through, I was asked was it mine and did I pack it.. I confirmed it was and that I knew what was in it, and what the problem was! A brief discussion was had (in dutch) to which I objected, and requested it be repeated in english. Both security were a little 'pee'd' with my request, but then proceeded to tell me that I did not take my camera, and lenses out! I confirmed I hadn't as I was NOT asked to as the guard on the other side was to busy prevuing/chatting up two girls!! They proceeded to talk (again) in Dutch whilst opening and closing lens caps and ends, and AGAIN, I interjected and ordered they speak in english so as I can understand what was being said. By this stage, the scheduled boarding time was approaching, I was getting agitated, and they were getting slower and slower in processing my gear. Now, in total, my gear is just shy of $10K, so I wanted to keep an eye on it, what they were doing, so when asked a question, I snapped back my answer and snapped back to watch. I think this upset him more, but at this stage, I could care less, I just wanted an understanding of WHAT was going on and WHEN I could get going. It was soon finished, and with a smug recant of proceedings, I was asked what gate I was going to, and his reply was, well its just there anyway so no harm done!! Pft whatever!!
When we got to the gate, and 'cooled down' a little, boarding was soon to commence. The flight was fairly full, and we were soon aboard and comfy. Again, just behind the movable J class wall. However, it was just forward of the engines, and the skies were somewhat clear for the duration of the flight. We had a snack onboard, coffee/tea/soft drink or beer, and we had a beer each. Shortly after the service, we started our decent into PRG, and alas (for us) we were on the wrong side of the plane to see the city - never mind another day perhaps! The flight was quick. and nothing out of the ordinary, but the service was vey good from the crew. Another new airline for me!
My three days in Prague was simply NOT enough, The highlights was catching up with my ex Sydney mate who's moved back to Prague, and I also visited the Botanic Gardens there, but the best part was that JP had organised an airside spotting excursion!! THIS was an excellent trip, and whilst he was quoted a figure, as it was only us two, the bus was no longer needed and we went out in a car (which meant we could go more places…)! We started out at the GA parking on what was once the old runway, before passing the hanger where the OK ATR caught fire just a few months back. We then headed towards the freight apron, where a China Airlines B744F was being loaded. We headed out into the field and did some spotting. After the EK B773 taxied past, it was then time for the B744, and due to the regulations, we had to get into the car and clear by some 100m before getting back out into the field… Enjoy these pics…