Mfz From Germany, joined Aug 2004, 259 posts, RR: 2 Posted (10 years 1 month 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 2835 times:
Day-Trip from Malta/Luqa to Gozo and back
I believe every spotter being on vacation on Malta is tempted to fly on one of the last Mil Mi-8 in scheduled civil airservice worldwide. Malta Air Charter, a subsidiary of Air Malta, operates a number of daily flights between the Maltese main island and neighboring island Gozo with Mil Mi-8 leased from Bulgaria.
So when being on Malta in March 2003 I decided to treat myself to this flight, especially because Malta Air Charter offers return flights for about 30 Euros student fare.
They told me to go to check-in counter number soandso where I in fact found a small sign saying : "Check in to Gozo". However, until 5 Minutes before 10:00h (!) nobody showed up at the counter and I was just to start worrying about my flight. Then a lady arrived, picked up my ticket and handed me a handwritten boarding pass. Besides me a British couple were the only passengers on this flight. We were escorted through security by the lady from the checkin, and outside the terminal on the ramp there was already a bus waiting to take us to our helicopter. The ride from the terminal took about 10 minutes (almost as long as the flight... ).
On the ramp LZ-CAR, our bird, was parked next to her sistership LZ-CAX.
Boarding was obviously quick, and I was surprised to see that there was even a flight attendant onboard for this short flight. However, her only function seemed to have been to give the safety instructions... The cabin of the Mil Mi-8 is quite spacious (at least for a helicopter, e.g. compared to a Jetranger...) and the seats were actually quite comfortable.
I chose a window seat, and after a short take-off roll (yes, the Mi-8 sometimes takes off rolling!) we climbed out of Luqa and headed north until we reached the coastline of Malta. From there the flight lead along the impressive cliffs and over Popeye's Village (the Popeye-Movie was shot there back in the 70ies, and now it's kind of an amusement park). The Gozo-Channel which separated Gozo from Malta was crossed fast and after a short 15-Minute flight we started our descend into Gozo Xewkija Heliport which actually has 174 meter long runway.
After the engines where shut down I asked if I could have a look into the cockpit. The captain was very friendly and he happily explained the cockpit to me and appreciated my enthusiasm. He as well as the f/o and the flight attendant came from Bulgaria but spoke good English. He asked me when I was flying back, and as I answered "Later this afternoon" he told me that he would still be on duty then and offered me to join him and his copilot in the cockpit on the flight back to Malta and to get on the jumpseat. I happily agreed, and after a short good-bye left the helicopter.
Three passengers boarded the helicopter for the immediate flight back to Malta, and I stayed out on the ramp to watch the departure. The Mil Mi-8 needs about one minute of running engines before the oilpressure builds up for takeoff.
Then I left the airport, walked up the short road to Gozo's main highway, and took a bus into the islands capital. I had a very relaxing day there, and at 14:30h I was back at the heliport for my 15:00h flight back to Malta. When walking down airport road I already heared the buzzing of the large helicopter, and about one minute later it came in right over my head.
I went into the small but modern terminalbuilding for check-in, and was even issued a computerprinted boarding-pass. In the small waitingarea there were already three other passengers who were going to fly together with me!
After our flight was called we walked the short distance over the ramp to the helicopter. While the bags of my fellow-travelers were loaded into the trunk of the Mi-8 (at least it looked like that as the cargo-bay is at the rear at the helicopter; check the cabin-photo above for details) I walked around the bird and took photos. After the loading had finished I took the following one:
Then I boarded and was immediately greeted by the captain and again offered the jumpseat. In a Mil Mi-8 the jumpseat in fact is a little bench which folds down in the cockpit-entrance and you cannot even lean back. But a seat can't be that uncomfortable that it wouldn't be worth a cockpitflight in a Mil-helicopter.
Takeoff was smooth and with a sharp leftturn we headed back to Malta basically on the same route on which we came in the morning. I was impressed that the aircondition in the cockpit consisted of two small fans which were mounted on the dashboard (check the cockpit-photo below - you can see them). And if needed, you can even open the cockpit-window inflight for more cooling! After another 15 minutes flight we were approaching Malta/Luqa Intl. Airport again and a nice ride for me slowly came to an end.
Contact Air From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 1154 posts, RR: 13
Reply 1, posted (10 years 1 month 6 hours ago) and read 2676 times:
great report, I liked reading it, especially because I did the same trip back in October 2002. I agree with you: definately a great experience. On my tour, both flights were quite full (maybe 70-80% load factor). Maybe this was because I made the trip on a Saturday.
and after a short take-off roll (yes, the Mi-8 sometimes takes off rolling!)
This is interesting: I know that the Mi-8 sometimes takes off rolling; however, this was not the case on both of my flights, even if they were quite full. And on your flight with only 3 passengers, the aircraft needed to roll. Do you know under which condition these heli's need a "runway"? Does it depend on weather conditions?
Mfz From Germany, joined Aug 2004, 259 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (10 years 3 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 2574 times:
I am happy that you liked my first a.net trip-report ever! Unfortunately I do not know under which conditions the Mil-8 needs to roll for take-off. Ours however was really short, maybe 50 meters. So maybe it was just the personal style of the captain, who knows...
But if someone else can possibly explain why and when a takeoff-roll is needed I'd be very thankful!
Extra Bavariam non est vita et si est non est ita! --- My flights: http://my.flightmemory.com/mfz