MEA-707 From Netherlands, joined Nov 1999, 4313 posts, RR: 36 Posted (10 years 1 month 2 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 2002 times:
My third trip to the UK within two months came as rather of a surprise for me as well… I try to fly in all the different airliner types and take only no as an answer if the plane is withdrawn altogether (like the Vanguard, Trident or Tu-104). So that’s why I once casually mentioned to a friend that I envied him for studying at Cranfield College where there were still demonstration flights by a Handley Page HP-137 Jetstream, the only civil registered HP-137 still flying (for the record, I count the BAe-3100 as a different aircraft). To cut a long story short with some begging and networking, on wednesday 5 may I got an email from a professor at Cranfield that there are some empty seats on the flights they perform friday the 7th and I was welcome to catch a ride. This season was the last for the faithful HP-137 so I can safely post it now, I don’t want Cranfield being overflown by people begging for free pleasureflights.
Luckily thru to a loyalty program with the Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn I could get an OK price on a same day return flight with KLM (around 95 euro plus tax) on such short notice. An easyJet flight to Luton two days later would be twice as expensive.
I got in thru the left side so no idea if the tail was still this yucky .
The weather was a bit gloomy in Amsterdam so I was hoping my tiresome daytrip wouldn’t be in vain, as the Cranfield professor told me they wouldn’t fly in bad weather. I boarded from the platform, running thru the rain, not a good sign but we’ll just see what happens today. It was interesting to see and hear the crew didn’t speak dutch, so probably is still full KLM uk. Probably the dutch F/A’s and cockpitcrew will slowly slip into the ex KLM uk Fokker 100s in the future. There were 3 cockpit crew unlike the KLM Cityhopper F-50s and F-70s which have two. I chose the ham sandwich which was better then usual when they taste somewhat dry.
A cheerful taxi driver who told about his flying licence brought me from the Milton Keynes trainstation to the Cranfield campus. I walked to the airfield and saw the two HP-137s parked like if they haven’t moved in years. G-RAVL has been withdrawn since 2001, but G-NFLC (stands for National Flying Laboratory Centre) is still airworthy (to be withdrawn summer 2004).
Close to it I saw two guys in the pantry having coffee. I introduced myself and they appeared to be the pilots of the HP-137. We lunched and chatted a bit. They told they regret the HP-137 has only 50 hours left to fly as the replacing J-31 they will use after the summer has more complicated and slower reacting engines, so it’s less swift in manoeuvring. They were experienced HP-flyers, having worked for Iceland’s Odin Air in the 1990s. My communication with Cranfield has been short and effective and I presumed to join a smooth passenger style flight were students could study the altimeters and flap configurations and such. After I asked “what to expect” they told they plan to demonstrate a dutch roll, a stall and other scary sounding manoeuvres with the 35 year old bird. You might guess if you just have read how the FlyBe flight scared the hell out of me, that my face slowly paled, although I didn’t want to show and back off, being so close to this unique last chance. I would regret it all my life and make a fool of myself by backing off I told myself, so I answered “interesting.” I then met the professor, joined him for a while in the classroom with about 10 young students joining the flight. We walked to the aircraft.
5 Double benches were fitted on the right hand side, with a huge table, clocks and monitors in the headrest in front. On the left side, all kind of measure instruments and other whistles and bells were fitted with only one seat for the professor. I chose the most front bench. We got huge earphones to overhear communication in the (open) cockpit, instructed to be put on during the whole flight (the engines were quite noisy) although the big hinged table had to be up during take off and landing.
We took off at 13.16. I looked on the screens to the clocks, altimeters, knots, fuel etc. All the students were busy noting down graphs and numbers which they observed from the instruments. Take off and climb were fairly smooth as the weather was pleasant, and then at 13.22 the actual demonstration began. They started with pitching oscillation, with the nose going up and down a bit, and then a dutch roll (banking to the right and then left) with and without flaps. That wasn’t as scary as I thought. But then we did a spiral and then a very steep climb to demonstrate the stall protection under 80 knots. It began to shake and then it literally felt like we dropped out of the air for a while, I closed my eyes or stared at the table, sort of ignoring what was going on outside and next thing I knew we were down from 10.000 ft to 6.000 ft just hoping I’d survive to put this rare aircraft in my logbook. But this scary part only took maybe 20 seconds, we smoothed off, approached and landed at 13.48.
Actually it was fun ! I thanked the staff at Cranfield for this unique opportunity. The free Cranfield shuttle brought me back to Milton Keynes station where I could get the train back to Birmingham Airport. I did some spotting at the observation hall near Burger King outside departures, knowing behind it are only tax free shops and windowless hallways.
The aircraft was an old friend, It was my first Fokker flight on her in 1993 when it was still G-UKFE in dark blue and white Air UK colours. The cabin looked quite clean and modern. Free newspapers still on Cityhopper flights! We took off 17.23 to the west, circled northwards. Standard KLM European service; non alcoholic drinks and a small sandwich, worse then the one in the morning, probably as it has been lying in a box all day. More then during my HP-137 flight it was cloudy so I couldn’t see a thing until we were on finals, where a deafening soundtape with dutch announcements was played. We taxied by a LOT Emb-170 and I overhead a conversation of two guys in front of me. “ Hey is that a 737, what an odd one.” The other one replied “Yes, it’s a –600 which is smaller then the others.” So I couldn’t resist to interfere telling about the new Embraer, even showing pictures in a airplanemagazine I had taken along to read.
[Edited 2004-07-09 21:43:38]
nobody has ever died from hard work, but why take the risk?
Patroni From Luxembourg, joined Aug 1999, 1403 posts, RR: 14
Reply 1, posted (10 years 1 month 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 1871 times:
glad that you enjoyed your trip onboard G-NFLC. As you know it made its farewell flight three days ago and is now retired while a J31 is currently being converted into a flying lab for Cranfield University.
Thanks for the detailed flight report, I am a bit surprised that it didn't get a single reply amongst all these "everyday" aircraft like WN or FR 737's...
TKMCE From India, joined May 2002, 841 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (10 years 1 month 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 1852 times:
A wonderful surprise to see a trip report on G-NFLC!
Had two flights on G-NFLC as well in late 2002 as part of my course in Cranfield. Enjoyed it to the full.The "Flying Class Room" was of great help to us and I am glad a replacement aircraft is in place
Patroni - Nice to see your post as well . Hope you remember me - your fellow ANet enthusiast at Building 115 in Cranfield from India.