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Cubana Il-62, Yak-42, An-24 & Belize & Guatemala  
User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13738 times:


Segments flown: 16
Airports visited: 20

The goal of this trip was to fly one aircraft type that I have never flown on and which is increasingly becoming rare - the Ilyushin 62. This is only possible in the CIS states, North Korea and Cuba. Using Cubana (CU) to fly the Il-62 has the added benefit of combining it with flights on the Yakovlev 42, another type I have never flown on.

By looking at CU's schedules, I would have to fly the Il-62 on the Havana - Santo Domingo route or the fortnightly service from Las Palmas (LPA, on Gran Canaria) to Havana (HAV), the only route to Europe where the Il-62 is still used. The Yak-42 could be used on domestic routes within Cuba, daily to Cancun (CUN) or, with less frequent service, to the French Antilles (Guadeloupe and Martinique) or to Central America. At first planning a side trip from HAV to CUN and back, I quickly changed my mind when I noticed the twice weekly HAV - Guatemala City (GUA) - San Jose (SJO) - HAV flight, giving me one sector more on the Yak-42 with the stop in SJO. So I decided to go for LPA-HAV-CUN / GUA-SJO-HAV-Paris (ORY) with two domestic sectors HAV - Nueva Gerona (GER) - HAV on the Antonov 24 thrown in. Also, there were numerous options to cover the CUN / GUA overland portion of this trip. Also interested in history, this gave me the opportunity to combine flying on odd aircraft types with seeing the famous Tulum and Tikal archaeological sites. I wanted to book the CU flights through a friend at a travel agency, but it turns out they are using the Galileo Reservation System where CU flights are banned due to U.S. sanctions towards Cuba as Galileo is owned by a U.S. company. Therefore used the Lufthansa (LH) office in ZRH (who use Amadeus) to book these flights. The surprise came about a week before I was supposed to depart when I was checking my reservation using the CU website. The reservation for the first flight segment, LPA-HAV, disappeared. I contacted the LH office who found out that the reservation was thrown out by the CU reservations office at LPA - on the grounds that I was holding a LH and not a CU ticket. LH found this out after several phone calls to CU reservations (but only after a Spanish speaking LH agent could be found, when speaking English the phone calls were hung up all the time). LH was finally able after lengthy talks to convince CU to reinstate the reservation (they could not do it by themselves as the flight was fully booked at this point). Despite the reinstatement, I was expecting an overbooking situation at LPA. We'll see.

The trip to LPA I booked myself, using Helvetic from Zurich (ZRH) to Valencia (VLC) and then a cheap Iberia one-way ticket from VLC via Madrid (MAD) to LPA. Unfortunately both IB sectors were operated by the same aircraft type, the Airbus 321. At 2 hours, transfer time in MAD's newly opened Terminal 4 was very comfortably planned. Flights in Belize and Guatemala and the last sector, from Paris (CDG) to Basel (BSL) were booked over the internet, too. My flights from Belize City (BZE) to Flores (FRS) and on to GUA were booked with Tikal Jets. I was looking forward to flying a DC-9-51, the loudest of the DC-9's and the only DC-9 subtype I still missed in my flight log.

Date: 02 March 2006
Routing: Zurich (ZRH/LSZH) - Valencia (VLC/LEVC)
Airline: Helvetic Airways / Flight number: 2L 042
Aircraft type: Fokker 100 / Registration: HB-JVC

Check-in was quick and friendly, with no queues at this time of the day. Using a B-Gate in ZRH and a bus to the aircraft, boarding and departure were on-time. Friendly cabin crew, as usual on Helvetic, and a relatively light load (about 30 to 40 passengers) and the favourably spaced leather seats made this uneventful flight a very nice experience to start a journey that would take me to a total of 7 countries. Arrival in VLC was on-time. Weather in VLC was already considerably nicer (warmer temperatures and sunshine) than in ZRH, where it was snowing. With 2:45 to spend in VLC, I was asking the IB ticket counter if they could accept me on an earlier flight to MAD, as this would have given me the opportunity to sample Air Nostrum, IB's codeshare partner. However, as expected, this did not work so I waited patiently for IB's A321 to show up.

Date. 02 March 2006
Routing: Valencia (VLC/LEVC) - Madrid (MAD/LEMD)
Airline: Iberia / Flight number: IB 331
Aircraft type: Airbus 321-211 / Registration: EC-JMR

My 800th flight! Check-in was very quick as there were no queues. Check-in staff was very friendly and I got the requested window seats also for my connecting flight from MAD to LPA. The aircraft arrived with a bit more than 1 hour delay from MAD. I was not worried about my connection to LPA as I still had about 1 hour (down from 2) at MAD. Once boarding was completed, we sat in the aircraft ready for departure. At this point my connection time had melted to 45 min, but still I did not worry. Also, I was aware that if I wouldn't make it there would still be one more later flight this evening from MAD to LPA. We sat ready but nothing happened until the crew announced that we would have to wait longer on the ground due to the ATC capacity at MAD. Finally, we took off about 1:40 late, my connection time down to 20 min. This would become very critical. Shortly after take-off, there was some commotion in the back of the cabin. When they asked for a doctor it became clear that someone was not doing well. The crew brought 2 metal cases containing equipment to the back of the cabin, after 10 Minutes or so the situation seemed to be resolved and the passenger well. During this event, I was fearing that we would have to return back to VLC, but fortunately, this was not necessary. There was no service on this short flight. The aircraft was very clean and you could clearly see that it was fairly new. Arriving at MAD with 20 Minutes to make my connection I was hoping that my connecting gate would be close by and my connecting flight would be delayed. Unfortunately, neither was happening, we were docked on the Terminal 4 Satellite and my connection was from Terminal 4. So I had to take a people mover ("next train in 5 Minutes") when I still had 13 Minutes to go. These were my longest 5 Minutes. Then ran to the connecting gate, fortunately, there were no queues at security.

26 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Reply 1, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13722 times:

Date. 02 March 2006
Routing: Madrid (MAD/LEMD) - Las Palmas (LPA/GCLP)
Airline: Iberia / Flight number: IB 812
Aircraft type: Airbus 321-211 / Registration: EC-JEJ

Arrived at the gate at 20:30, the time of departure. The very last passengers were still boarding, what a relief! The gate reader did not accept my boarding pass, they had already checked my out and rebooked me on the next flight. But no problem, they changed it back to this flight and I even got back my window seat. I said that the baggage probably won't make it but the agent said I should not worry, it would be on this flight. Oh well, there's always a chance... After sitting down just behind the movable curtain and after cooling down from my sprint through the brand new Terminal 4 (no time whatsoever to look around....) I ordered a sandwich and a couple of drinks, something I usually avoid. The sandwich was just ok, a bit on the dry side... The flight was uneventful and the landing was quite interesting, with my first glimpse at the Canary Islands (I had never been there before). As feared, my baggage did not arrive. I reported it to Lost & Found and the lady told me that she expected my baggage to come on the next flight from MAD, due in at 01:45 local time. Hoping that this would be the case I transferred to my hotel. My mood was down when thinking about continuing my trip without any fresh clothes.... my baggage would just HAVE to arrive on this next flight!

User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Reply 2, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13722 times:

Date: 03 March 2006
Routing: Las Palmas (LPA/GCLP) - Havana (HAV/MUHA)
Airline: Cubana / Flight number: CU 481
Aircraft type: Ilyushin Il-62M / Registration: CU-T1284

I arrived back at the airport early. First, I went to IB to enquire about my baggage. And I was lucky, it was there! I was relieved. Proceeded to the departure level for check-in. There was a queue already but they only opened the desks 2 hours before scheduled departure time. Check-in (done by IB) was slow, as passengers had huge amounts of baggage. A lady was hassling everyone in the queue by asking if someone could take a parcel for her to Cuba. No thanks! Despite the problems with my reservation for this flight and the feared overbooking situation everything went well and I even got my prereserved window seat. Proceeded through security to departures and then saw the beautiful aircraft that would bring me to Cuba. With time to spare, I ate an early lunch at the terminal (you never know what they'll serve in flight - I'm a pit picky!) and I had time to go on the observation deck (airside only) and got a couple of pictures (Binter ATR-72, Regional Airlines Beech 1900). Boarding was more or less on-time. Was greeted by a friendly crew member when entering the aircraft via loading bridge. The first impression was that the aircraft looked quite old and worn inside. There's a small business class section (called Club Tropical) with leather seats and new flat screens fitted to the bulkheads. The economy section was behind a bulkhead. It did not only look cramped, it indeed was. Seating is 6 abreast. Seat pitch is at a minimum and luggage space was scarce. Some luggage was stored on a empty window seat on the other side of the aisle. The seats were very soft. All in all the aircraft looked rather shabby from the inside, but that's what I wanted, didn't I? After everyone had settled down, the cabin crew came and reseated entire rows of passengers. Fortunately, I was able to hold on to a window seat (but not the one I was assigned at check-in). The aim of this was to keep 2 rows of 3/3 empty for the use of crew members. There were hordes of crew members and other staff with badges on board. I wondered what their function was. Some of them just sat on the emptied rows for the entire flight. Maybe they were positioning back to Cuba after they worked the inbound flight, as this was only a fortnightly service? We sat in the airplane for almost an hour and they were loading huge amounts of baggage into the holds during this time. 1 hour after scheduled time, they finally were ready (no explanation of the delay) and engines were started. You could hear the typical high-pitched sound of those Russian designed engines. I was getting very excited. They mentioned that the flying time will be 7:40 which was nice because that meant we'd be making up some of the delay (published time was 9:15). During taxi the safety demo was made. And then finally the moment came and we were ready to take-off. Engine sound increased and off we went. We used quite a lot of runway and, as usual with Russian aircraft, the climb out was quite flat. We turned around and I was able to see Gran Canaria and later Tenerife with Pico del Teide (the highest point of Spain). My seat neighbours were Cubans who own a house on Las Palmas. Food was distributed after we reached cruising altitude. It was a hot meal with beef strips (beef stroganoff) and it was quite a large portion and was good. Using a trip to the lavatory to look around the plane, it seemed to me that everything on this aircraft was of a very simple but sturdy design. The areas around the doors are very plain and unsophisticated and so were the lavatories. It seemed to me that it was a flying bus! Slept and read through the flight and after about 7 hours, preparations for landing began. My seat neighbor mentioned something about a landing in Holguin (HOG). By trying to talk with him (he spoke Spanish and I spoke English) I found out that indeed we were going to land in HOG instead of HAV for fuel. That explains the short flying time of 7:40 - I probably missed in that speech during taxi that we were going to refuel in HOG. Of course I was excited, as this gave me one more segment in the Il-62 later on! For landing, we were flying relatively low for a long time as we circled HOG. You could hear the reverse going into action shortly before touchdown (as is standard procedure on the Il-62) on the runway. Several military installations could be seen, such as antiaircraft launchers and military vehicles and some MiG jets (I am not familiar with those military designs) on the other side of the airport. We backtracked on the runway and taxied to the civil ramp. An Air Transat Airbus A310 was parked at the terminal. Upon exiting the aircraft, the first thing that I noticed were big posters of Fidel Castro and some other Cuban hero (probably Jos� Marti). Plenty of personnel were on the ramp and I asked one if it would be ok to take pictures. To my surprise he replied "please feel free to do everything that makes you happy". We walked the 200 m across the ramp to the small but nice terminal building. We were given a plastic "transit" boarding card. Inside, a lot of German and Canadian tourists were in the transit area, waiting for their flights to Canada and Germany. HOG has a nice rooftop terrace and I could get a good shot of the Air Transat A310. Unfortunately, "my" Il-62 was parked in a less ideal position.

User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Reply 3, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13718 times:

Date: 03 March 2006
Routing: Holguin (HOG/MUHG) - Havana (HAV/MUHA)
Airline: Cubana / Flight number: CU 481
Aircraft type: Ilyushin Il-62M / Registration: CU-T1284

Boarding was late because Air Transat and us were boarding at the same time. In order not to mix up the passengers of these 2 flights, we had to use a single bus to board (about 4 trips were needed). After sitting on the aircraft again (the cabin was cleaned during the stop) we had to wait for the Thomas Cook (Condor) Boeing 767-300 to land. About 2 hours after landing in HOG, we finally were taking off. The flight was about 1 hour and I could see the Cuban northern coast most of the time during the flight. Landing in HAV was at dusk and 3 hours late. But it was a great experience and I was given 2 flights on the Il-62 for the price of one! Baggage delivery was very slow at HAV. In the distance, I saw one of Cubana's newly acquired Il-96 parked.

Date: 05 March 2006
Routing: Havana (HAV/MUHA) - Cancun (CUN/MMUN)
Airline: Cubana / Flight number: CU 152
Aircraft type: Yakovlev Yak-42D / Registration: CU-T1246

Arriving at the terminal early, I was able to look around the airport before check-in. To my surprise, two Loftleidir Icelandic Boeing 757 and a Hola Boeing 737 (EC-IOR) were parked in HAV. Also, a Domodedovo Il-96 (flying for Cubana, I presume) was visible. An Air Jamaica A320 and the retro-Air Canada A319 were also there. Cubana requires all checked-in baggage on their flights from HAV to be wrapped in plastic. Fortunately, this is offered for free, but you still have to queue before you can proceed to check-in. Check-in was slow but again my seat reservation was in their system and I was given my usual window seat. I then proceeded through immigration and security to the gate area. The Cubana Il-96 (CU-T1250) I saw the evening before was just pushing back from the gate on a flight to Buenos Aires (EZE). My Yak-42 was ready at the gate. Boarding was called more or less on-time but again loading took much longer so that we ended up with a 20 Minute delay. The entrance door of the Yak-42 is very low, you have to duck in order not to bang your head. The interior of the Yak-42 was even more worn out than the Il-62. Everything looked quite shabby and even dirty. There's a particular smell as I entered the cabin. You don't really feel comfortable on these aircraft. But again, that's what I wanted! The flight was pretty full and the windows are not very big and there are not so many of them. Too be able to look out, I had to turn my head way back. The engines are quite loud (even as I sat in the front cabin). Take-off and climb out were slow. The flight took about 1 hour and was uneventful. Some turbulence during the approach to CUN. The view was great, you could see the big hotels and resorts along the CUN coast line. During the approach, an Airbus 320 in the new US Airways colors crossed 300 ft below us. It's always great to see another aircraft air-to-air. CUN was very busy, with mostly U.S. airlines, among them some charters such as a Pace Boeing 737-200. Coming from Cuba, immigration procedures are strict and the first screening took place on the stairs of the aircraft. We were waiting for about 5-10 on the bottom of the stairs in the sun and heat for the passenger bus. I rented a car from CUN airport and headed south to Tulum and Chetumal and from there by bus to Corozal in Belize.

User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Reply 4, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13718 times:

Date: 06 March 2006
Routing: Corozal (CZH) - San Pedro (SPR)
Airline: Tropic Air / Flight number: PM 751
Aircraft type: Cessna 208B Grand Caravan / Registration: V3-HFP

I liked the small airport of CZH. The runway is a combination of a narrow concrete strip and gravel and grass. Both Belizean airline companies, Tropic Air and Maya Island Air, have their own small terminal buildings. According to the taxi driver who took me there, I made a good choice in Tropic Air, as only their terminal was air conditioned. When I arrived, a Maya Island Air Cessna Caravan was just arriving. Turn around was very quick, about 5 Minutes. It was very interesting to watch the procedures. The baggage claim is the baggage cart, there is no fence around the airport and there is a vegetable garden in the back of the Tropic Air terminal. After the Maya Island Air departed, an other one landed again. Same procedure again. It seems there were a lot of passengers on this day as they flew a double rotation. Same for Tropic Air, with two flights within 10 Minutes. The Grand Caravans seat 14 passengers and the co-pilot's seat is also available. My flight was full. Boarding was very quick and we used every bit of the runway and we cleared the bushes and trees very narrowly. That's flying at it's best! The flight was about 20 Minutes, with great views over the maze of islands, peninsulas, reefs and bays along the Belize coast. The runway at SPR is much larger and the airplanes just continue straight after the runway ends towards the terminals of both companies. Arriving in SPR is very fascinated as the airport terminals are literally right in town!

Date: 07 March 2006
Routing: San Pedro (SPR) - Belize City-Municipal (TZA)
Airline: Maya Island Air / Flight number: MW 209
Aircraft type: Cessna 208B Grand Caravan / Registration: V3-HGP

Traffic at SPR around the full hours is quite busy, with about 3-5 flights of each company arriving and departing within 15-20 Minutes. It's fun to watch. Cessna Caravans dominate the scene, but I also watched a Maya Island Air BN-2 Islander and a Cessna Stationair of Tropic Air. The flight I booked was shown as making intermediate stops at nearby Caye Caulker (CUK) and Belize City - Goldson International Airport (BZE) before going to TZA. Unfortunately there were a lot of passengers and so they used separate planes for each destination. So I ended up flying non-stop. The first to board, I chose the co-pilot's seat. What a great way to fly. The flight took only about 25 Minutes. We had a great view of Belize City. The Municipal airport is tiny. The narrow and short paved runway is right along the water! At first I didn't see it as I was looking for something much bigger. The continuation of my trip was from Belize City - Goldson International Airport (BZE) and I hoped I would be able to catch a flight from TZA to BZE, as they sometimes combine services to those two airports. But no such luck today. So I took a cab to BZE.

User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Reply 5, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13718 times:

Date: 07 March 2006
Routing: Belize City-Goldson International (BZE/MZBZ) - Flores (FRS/MGTK)
Airline: Maya Island Air / Flight number: MW 303
Aircraft type: Gippsland GA-8 Airvan / Registration: V3-HGI

As mentioned at the beginning of my report, I booked a Tikal Jets flight (flight number WU 021) for the segment from BZE to FRS. Tikal Jets has 2 DC-9-51 and 1 DC-9-34. Not knowing which aircraft they would be using, I hoped for the DC-9-51 because I had never flown on this variant of the DC-9. Arriving at BZE airport, I consulted the screens but no Tikal Jets flight was listed. Also, there were no check-in desks for Tikal Jets. I asked at the Maya Island Air counter if they had any information about Tikal Jets. They told me that they had an agreement with them and that they were going to operate the flight. They checked me in on their flight MW 303. A little bit disappointed to fly on a Cessna Grand Caravan again instead of a DC-9 I went to the viewing terrace. An AA Boeing 737-800 and a US Airways Airbus 319 were there, along with numerous Cessna Grand Caravans of both Tropic Air and Maya Island Air coming and going. Further away, an obsolete white An-24 or An-26 registered in Moldova was stored (sorry, I don't have the registration). Suddenly, a strange small airplane in the colors of Maya Island Air arrived. I was not sure of the type, but I suspected it to be a Gippsland Airvan. Too bad I was not able to photograph it, as it was too far away. When I asked the gate agent if by any chance our flight would be by this aircraft, he said yes. I then asked what type it was to which he responded: "It's an Islander." I knew this was not true. Including me, there were just 3 passengers booked on this flight. We were lead across the ramp to the aircraft and we boarded it. Only then could I confirm that it was indeed a Gippsland GA-8 Airvan. It was flown by just one pilot. The flight was smooth, despite my fears that it could get quite bumpy. The approach to FRS over Lake Peten Itza was magnificent. We were the only active aircraft at FRS. A TAN Saab 340 and a Tikal Jets DC-9-51 were parked there. I hoped I would be in this DC-9 the next day. We had to wait for 10 Minutes for the immigration officer. All in all a very relaxed atmosphere prevailed at FRS. Next day I was visiting the very intriguing Tikal ruins in what would prove to be the touristic highlight of my trip.

Date: 08 March 2006
Routing: Flores (FRS/MGTK) - Guatemala City (GUA/MGGT)
Airline: Tikal Jets / Flight number: WU 071
Aircraft Type: McDonnell Douglas DC-9-51 / Registration: TG-ALE

I went to the airport early and checked-in at the spotless Tikal Jets counter. The agent was very friendly and I was given a window seat in the back half of the plane. Great, I would be able to hear the sound of the engines! Tikal Jets flies every morning from GUA to FRS and then back in the evening, allowing enough time for tourists to visit the Tikal site in one day. So the aircraft is parked most of the day in FRS. It was the same aircraft seen the day before and from the outside it was in a perfect condition! It wore new colors (no photo yet on airliners.net). Security at FRS was very slow as hand baggage was screened manually, in addition to being x-rayed. Boarding was on time and the flight was about 70% full. I was able to board using the rear exit which I always find exciting. The DC-9/MD-80/MD-90 are my favorite aircraft types - so just the thought of flying with one of those is a thrill! Plus the -51 is a type I had never flown. The aircraft interior was as immaculate as the check-in counter and the aircraft exterior. What a fine airline! Take-off was quite noisy (not as noisy as the Yak-42) inside. The flight was about 35 Minutes with complimentary drinks and a bag of nuts for everyone - free of charge and delivered with a nice smile. The approach to GUA is quite interesting, GUA lies in the mountains and the airport is right in the city. You overfly a couple of high rise buildings during final approach and the runway seems a bit elevated on a hill. Plus you can see a high and majestic mountain as you turn off the runway. The airport seems locked-in by the city and everything is quite cramped. Tikal Jets does not use the main terminal, they use their own hangar! So the aircraft taxies to the hangar and parks right in front of it with the nose of the aircraft almost underneath the roof. The second DC-9-51 (TG-JII) was also parked there and the DC-9-32 (TG-URY) was undergoing heavy maintenance. Passengers are lead through the hangar over a marked path lined with potted plants. Very special and very personalized service! What a great airline. After the touristic highlight at Tikal, this was the aviation highlight. The parking lot just in front of the hangar is a private lot. Exiting it, you're right on the airport access road.

User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Reply 6, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13713 times:

Date: 09 March 2006
Routing: Guatemala City (GUA/MGGT) - San José-Juan Santamaria Int'l (SJO/MROC)
Airline: Cubana / Flight number: CU 216
Aircraft type: Yakovlev Yak-42D / Registration: CU-T1247

The terminal at GUA is quite outdated and smallish. Checked-in early. No seat assignments were made on this triangle HAV-GUA-SJO-HAV operation. Got to the gate early on watched incoming traffic, consisting of TACA A320, ATI DC-8-72, ABX Boeing 767-200F. On the far side of the runway, a couple of turbo-powered DC-3's of the Guatemalan Air Force were visible. Our aircraft turned out to be an all-white (except CU titles) aircraft. Boarding via jet bridge was late and all passengers were hoarded into the second (back) cabin of the aircraft. It was quite crowded, with a large group of young noisy male Cubans making their trip home. I managed to get a window seat, fortunately. Again the aircraft was not very clean and worn. The signs on the emergency exits were also in Russian (next to English and Spanish). Take off was interesting, as we slowly climbed out of the valley. A drink service was provided (Cuba has their own brand of Cola, called TuKola - no Pepsi or Coca Cola available). The flight to San José was nice as I could see the El Salvador Pacific Coast and the Costa Rican landscape later during descent. Unfortunately, we had to stay on board during the stop in SJO. It was getting very hot in the aircraft during the 1:20 stop.

Date: 09 March 2006
Routing: San José-Juan Santamaria Int'l (SJO/MROC) - Havana (HAV/MUHA)
Airline: Cubana / Flight number: CU 216
Aircraft type: Yakovlev Yak-42D / Registration: CU-T1247

The joining passengers in SJO were also herded to the second cabin so that the first cabin would remain empty for crew members and their family. Also, several passengers were advised to change their seats and go sit elsewhere to make room for a group of 3 Russian passengers who refused to be scattered throughout the aircraft. Passenger service is not one of CU's strong points... Take-off was very very slow and the aircraft almost did not climb at all. This was made worse by the fact that the terrain was rising after the runway end. Climb rate and rising terrain almost were the same, so for a moment I really thought our aircraft had a problem with producing enough thrust. But very slowly we gained altitude after all and headed towards HAV, back along the Gulf Coast through Nicaragua and then heading north. A cold meal was served, it looked quite bad. The color of the plates and cups was purple and the food was purple, too (some sort of red cabbage). No thanks. The flight was smooth and we landed in HAV almost on-time.

Date: 10 March 2006
Routing: Havana (HAV/MUHA) - Nueva Gerona (GER/MUNG)
Airline: Cubana / Flight number: CU 702
Aircraft type: Antonov An-24RV / Registration: CU-T1263

The domestic terminal for CU flights (Terminal 1) is quite some distance away from the international terminal (Terminal 3) at the other end of the runway. Terminal 1 is in quite a bad condition. Lighting is sparse, for example. There are no views from anywhere outside or inside the terminal (except from the departure gates) onto the ramp. Security is tight. Check-in was made manually, I was assigned my desired window seat. To get to the gate, you have to go through passport control and the through security into the waiting area. From there, you are then called to the departure gate area and have to pass another security check. From the gate area the ramp is finally visible, with the second CU Il-96 (CU-T1251) parked there. Also visible were an Aerocaribbean Yak-40 and ATR 72, a CU Yak-42, Il-62 and two An-24. I asked the security screener if photos were allowed and he replied no. But asking was a stupid mistake, the couple of other Western tourists were happily taking pictures (although not with a big camera with a zoom lens..). After a while of just sitting there, the security guy came to me and said, ok, I am now allowed to take 1 picture but I should do it quickly right now. Boarding was called on-time and we could walk onto the ramp to board our aircraft. Lots of staff were standing around the airplane. Take off was quick but there was some turbulence so that the elderly lady sitting next to me was clutching my arm during the whole flight.... The flight is quite short and we landed on the Isla de la Juventud's Rafael Cabrera airport. Baggage delivery was quite slow, considering it's just a very small airport with just one aircraft (ours) present.

User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Reply 7, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13713 times:

Date: 11 March 2006
Routing: Nueva Gerona (GER/MUNG) - Havana (HAV/MUHA)
Airline: Cubana / Flight number: CU 703
Aircraft type: Antonov An-24RV / Registration: CU-T1257

As usual I made my way to the airport early. The airport access has a check-point where passports were checked. The small terminal is adequate and in a slightly better state than HAV's Terminal 1. An Antonov 24 was already parked when I arrived (it was the previous flight) and I was looking for a position from where to take a picture when it would depart, but everything is fenced off with sheet steel fences. Check-in was quick and I was given a window seat again. The ramp is not visible from anywhere inside or outside the terminal, so when we boarded, I was surprised to see our aircraft wore Aerocaribbean's colors (but no titles)! A passenger asked a security guy standing near the aircraft if this was an Aerocaribbean aircraft and the security guy barked "Cubana!". Indeed, the crew on board and the safety cards were CU. I could not find CU-T1257 in any fleet list, does anybody have more information on it? My seat was on the right side in the back of the aircraft (boarding is from the back, too). I could see and hear the additional jet engine built into the right engine. This is particular to the An-24RV variant, to allow better performance in hot and high conditions. The flight was short, around 30 Minutes and uneventful. Seat pitch is very tight, with my knees touching the seat in front of me, and I'm not big at all (173 cm). Arrival was again at the dreaded Terminal 1. The baggage delivery area was very poorly lit, it felt like being in a cellar. After a while, the bags arrived and I made my way back to Terminal 3 for my trip back to Europe.

Date. 11 March 2006
Routing: Havana (HAV/MUHA) - Paris-Orly (ORY/LFPO)
Airline: Air Europa (operated for Cubana) / Flight number: CU 444
Aircraft type: Boeing 767-33A ER / Registration: EC-IQA

I had plenty of time to spend at HAV, waiting for check-in to be opened for my flight. My flight was delayed to 00:30 from 23:30. To my surprise, a long queue was already forming well before 3 hours before the flight, first at the compulsory baggage wrapping stations and then for check-in. The queue was moving painfully slow and I ended up spending about 2 hours in that queue. To my surprise my reserved window seat was still available. At check-in, the agent mentioned an upgrade to business class which produced a bit of excitement on my part. But it turns out he did not want to offer it to me for free (due to overbooking, maybe) but for USD 200. No, thank you. Our aircraft arrived late from a previous flight (from London-Gatwick via Holguin). Boarding was called around 23:45 and we departed around 00:30. The cabin crew, catering and in-flight entertainment were CU and the cockpit crew and safety cards were Air Europa (UX). I was very happy to be on Western equipment again, I had seen enough dirty, smelly and cramped Ilyushins, Yaks and Antonovs... for now. I managed to get quite some sleep (my seat neighbour politely said that he "noted" me sleeping). The flight was one hour late, I would still make my connection from CDG to BSL on EasyJet, although I would probably not make boarding group A and dinner (or lunch?) at McDonald's would not be possible. We arrived in ORY at a bus gate but immigration was quick and baggage delivery less so. Took the Orlyval shuttle and the RER train to CDG. I noted that a one day visitors ticket is less expensive than a ticket ORY-CDG.

User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Reply 8, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13707 times:

Date: 12 March 2006
Routing: Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG/LFPG) - Basel/Mulhouse (BSL/LFSB)
Airline: EasyJet Switzerland / Flight number: DS 1038
Aircraft type: Airbus A319-111 / Registration: HB-JZI

I arrived at the empty check-in counter 15 Minutes after it opened and was assigned to boarding group B. That was not that bad - I would still get a window seat because I knew from previous experiences how EasyJet boarding at CDG worked (or does not work, rather.). I was also informed about a 1 hour delay - great, now I could go back to Terminal 2 to get that cheeseburger at McDonald's (thanks to the 1 day visitors train ticket). Coming back to Terminal 3 there was a long queue at passport control. Once inside the gate area, I noticed an EasyJet flight (to NCL I believe) that was scheduled for 11:00. Time now was 17:45 and the passengers were still sitting there... poor guys. Later on, boarding for my flight to BSL was called. On the monitors it states "1st bus for boarding groups PB (pre-boarding) and A. 2nd bus for boarding groups B, C, D". As already experienced on earlier flight from CDG, they will not do it like this. In fact they usually board PB, A and B in the first bus. When arriving at the aircraft, they will only open the front bus door. So all you have to do to board first is getting into the bus as one of the last ones and board the bus near the front door. Bingo! It always amuses me if an airline does not obey their own procedures... why not do it the old fashioned way and assign seating? Anyway, I grabbed my window seat and off we went. It was very nice to be sitting in a clean, new and modern aircraft again. A short flight to BSL with a circling to Runway 34, giving some nice views of the city. A short walk towards the terminal with a good view towards the parked Super Constellation (N73544) and onto the bus, glad to be home again!

User currently offlineFlyKev From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2006, 1400 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 13662 times:

Now thats what I call a trip.
Certainly full of rare aircraft and definatly rare trip reports.
Thankyou for sharing this with us all.


The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only
User currently offlineMajorNelson From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 13575 times:

Great report -- but no pictures at all ??!!??

User currently offlineAzstagecoach From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 152 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 13490 times:

What an amazing trip; thanks for sharing. I hope you will post photos. As an American, I am so jealous of the ease with which you were able to take Cubana and all of the Ilyushin/Antonov planes-- planes which are so tantalizingly close yet politically out of reach  Sad

A question to anyone reading this: Would Americans be allowed to take the Cubana flight GUA-SJO???

User currently offlineHAM From Germany, joined Jul 2005, 293 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 13372 times:

This is what I call a great trip and a great report. two questions remain: will you post any pictures? and how much did that vacation cost you - especially for the tickets?

User currently offlineLuisde8cd From Pitcairn Islands, joined Aug 2004, 2578 posts, RR: 29
Reply 13, posted (10 years 2 months 22 hours ago) and read 13312 times:

Awesome trip report, very interesting. I have had the chance to stand in the threadhold of RWY 10 in CCS while a IL-62 from HAV was landing... great experience. Lots of noise and a laaaaaaaarge smoke trail could be seen.

Quoting LXM83 (Reply 2):
My seat neighbours were Cubans who own a house on Las Palmas

A cuban owning a house in an European country... hmm wait a minute, wasn't communism the way of living in Cuba? everyone being equal? does every cuban own a house in Europe?

Saludos desde Caracas,

User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Reply 14, posted (10 years 2 months 18 hours ago) and read 13208 times:

Hi guys,

tried to answer some of your questions...

I'll post some low quality pictures taken by the little camera built into the mobile phone... I'll have to download them from the phone first. Sorry, have not yet really made the jump from slides to digital photography. I tried to illustrate my trip report by including some pictures from a.net of the aircraft I flew on, but somehow it didn't work as described.

Fare for CU flights LPA-HAV-CUN / GUA-SJO-HAV-GER-HAV-ORY was approximately EUR 1270 / USD 1450. In total I spent about EUR 1755 / USD 2000 on airfares (does not include any departure taxes paid separately).

GUA-SJO flight:
According to Amadeus, CU does have traffic rights on GUA-SJO and I even saw passengers board at GUA for SJO. At first I thought these were transfer pax coming from HAV but it seems those had to stay on board during the stop at GUA. I'm sure Americans could travel on this flight, too. In Amadeus a one-way GUA-SJO quotes at USD 108 plus tax.

Americans on CU:
I know most U.S. citizens are banned by their own government from visiting Cuba. But I saw at least 2 U.S. citizens on the HAV-CUN flight (I could see them holding U.S. passports when queuing for immigration at CUN). So it is possible to go, albeit not entirely legal, I suppose.

Cubans with houses in LPA:
Luis, was thinking roughly the same as you did...

Cheers, J.

User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 618 posts, RR: 5
Reply 15, posted (10 years 1 month 4 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 12969 times:

Here are a couple of pictures from my trip described above:

Big version: Width: 1280 Height: 1024 File size: 253kb
CU 481 / 03Mar06: Boarding Il-62M CU-T1284 in Holguin (HOG) after fuel stop for continuation of trip to Havana (HAV).

Big version: Width: 1280 Height: 1024 File size: 287kb
CU 152 / 05Mar06: Yak-42D CU-T1246 waiting at the gate in Havana (HAV) for flight to Cancun (CUN).

Big version: Width: 1280 Height: 1024 File size: 341kb
WU 071 / 09Mar06: Immaculate DC-9-51 TG-ALE parked at Flores (FRS), waiting for evening flight to Guatemala City (GUA).

Big version: Width: 1280 Height: 1024 File size: 282kb
CU 216 / 09Mar06: Yak-42D CU-T1247 resting at gate 6 in Guatemala City (GUA), operating the triangle Havana (HAV) - Guatemala Cit y (GUA) - San Jose (SJO) - Havana (HAV) flight.

Big version: Width: 1280 Height: 1024 File size: 213kb
CU 216 / 09Mar06: Inside Yak-42D CU-T1247 during stop at San Jose (SJO), enroute from Guatemala City (GUA) to Havana (HAV). Seats can easily be folded forward, typical for Russian made aircraft.

Big version: Width: 1280 Height: 1024 File size: 294kb
CU 702 / 10Mar06: Ramp in front of Terminal 1 (Domestic) with An-24RV CU-T1263 being prepared for flight to Nueva Gerona (GER). Il-96 CU-T1251 of Cubana and a unidentified Aerocaribbean Yak-40 visible.

Big version: Width: 1280 Height: 1024 File size: 253kb
CU 703 / 11Mar06: An-24RV CU-T1257 in Aerocaribbean colors (but no such titles) operated by Cubana in front of Terminal 1 in Havana (HAV) after arrival of flight CU 703 from Nueva Gerona (GER).

User currently offlineIRelayer From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 1107 posts, RR: 2
Reply 16, posted (10 years 1 month 4 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 12934 times:

What a cool trip report (and a cool trip!). You are making me jealous. Good job on the report...very detailed and very exotic.


User currently offlineBoeing744 From Canada, joined Jun 2005, 1905 posts, RR: 11
Reply 17, posted (10 years 1 month 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 12714 times:

wow very interesting report. Makes me want to fly on a Soviet plane, they seem to be a very interesting experience  Wink. I just got back from Cuba myself, and it turns out that we were in HAV on the same day March 10th. I was arriving on an AC A319 from YYZ.

Quoting LXM83 (Thread starter):
To my surprise, two Loftleidir Icelandic Boeing 757

I also noticed these 757s, although the first time I was there, there was 3, and upon leaving HAV, there were only 2. Does anyone know if these aircraft operating for Cubana, or some sort of charters to Europe?

User currently offlineSfomb67 From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 417 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (10 years 1 month 4 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 12691 times:

What a trip ! Regarding the picture of the Il-62 at HOG, it looks like you were standing on the wing. I assume though, that you were on a second boarding stand.

Not as easy as originally perceived
User currently offlineAleksandar From Serbia, joined Jul 2000, 3241 posts, RR: 31
Reply 19, posted (10 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 12553 times:

Woow, so many flights, so many planes. eyepopping  Thanks for sharing your experiences with the rest of us.  bigthumbsup 

User currently offlineMajorNelson From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (10 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 12450 times:

Wow - fantastic photos .. definitely worth the wait!

That Tikal DC9-51 is one sharp plane - i love the tropical design too -

That Yak42 interior ... wow - looks like a raunchy commuter train!

Excellent report - and thanks for adding those pics!

User currently offlineLatinplane From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 2806 posts, RR: 11
Reply 21, posted (10 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 12416 times:



Great report!

Do you have more Cubana pics?

 Smile LatinPlane

User currently offlineDesertAir From Mexico, joined Jan 2006, 1557 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (10 years 1 month 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 12175 times:

Thank for the description of the Guatemala Åirport, La Aurora. I flew in and out of this airport many times during the 6 years I lived in Guatemala. The airport is indeed, locked in by the city. I was interested to learn that Cubana has flights between the two countries now. This was not the case in the early to mid 90s.

I do have one question. I recall when landing in Guatemala, the runway had a dip, somewhere in the middle. Did you experience this?

User currently offlineCarmenlu15 From Guatemala, joined Dec 2004, 4763 posts, RR: 26
Reply 23, posted (10 years 1 month 1 week 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 11934 times:

Excellent trip report! Hope you enjoyed the stay at my country.  Smile

Quoting LXM83 (Reply 15):
WU 071 / 09Mar06: Immaculate DC-9-51 TG-ALE parked at Flores (FRS), waiting for evening flight to Guatemala City (GUA).

So that's the new paint scheme? Looks great!  bigthumbsup 

Quoting DesertAir (Reply 22):
Thank for the description of the Guatemala Airport, La Aurora.

Second that. Try landing at night, with the city lights surrounding you... my, what a sight!

Don't expect to see me around that much (if at all) -- the contact link should still work, though.
User currently offlineDesertAir From Mexico, joined Jan 2006, 1557 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (10 years 1 month 1 week 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 11892 times:

I landed many times at night-you are right-it was beautiful. I was often on the evening flight from DFW.

25 LXM83 : Yes, correct, I was using the stairs at the 2nd door. No, I don't remember anything like that. But this doesn't mean it wasn't there... I was probabl
26 Post contains images HBIHLtoEZE : Hey LXM83, great trip and thanks a lot for sharing. I am partly familiar with the routes you flew (I never made it on board of a CU IL 62, though - co
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