This is my second trip report here for the year 2001. It covers a route with which I am very familiar, the Trinidad-Tobago domestic service. Yet, everytime I fly it these days I find interesting things to report on. There is much to be said about 15 minutes in the air each way. Here goes...
TUESDAY 22 MAY 2001. I had originally planned to go to TAB on Monday 21 May but changed to Tuesday 22 because my folk found it inconvenient to carry me to the airport on that day. My mother travelled to Barbados on the same day (22 May) so the morning departures would have coordinated movements better. Alas, after staying up until 0300HR to help with my mom's presentation I slept a bit late and as such she moved on out to POS before I did, my dad having to return to fetch me.
I was booked on the BWIA flight 226 departing POS at 0845HR. I got to the airport at 0630HR and checked in. Another flight, BW 845, due to leave at 0730HR was also being checked in for at the time. Needless to say I enquired about the earlier flight and was placed on stand-by. I then left the domestic terminal to get a newspaper at around 0650HR and 5 minutes later the BWIA agent came running to tell me that I had gotten on the 0730HR flight. What great luck!
My flight on this day left from the old Piarco terminal. The domestic facility is situated at the eastern end of the building; the main BWIA counter area is to the immediate west and the international airlines check in just west of that. The duty-free and arrivals hall areas are immediately west of that and the departure lounge extends northwards as a finger in the vicinity of the international check-in area. A number of restaurants and shops have opened outlets in a covered area in front (make that south) of the arrivals and check-in areas - it was there that I had gone to get the paper.
After bidding my dad goodbye, I cleared the security check and filed into the seating area for domestic flights. Shortly afterwards, the flight was called for boarding. I got seat 14C, a rear-facing seat on the Dash 8 Q300, 9Y-WIN. The Dash 8 has 50 seats, 48 in 12 rows facing forwards and the last row, 14, in front of them all and featuring 2 rear-facing seats. This promised to be a unique experience!
POS had several other planes present on the day, including:
2 BWIA MD83s - one of which left for BGI, ANU and KIN - my mom's flight
2 LIAT Dash 8s (1 100, 1 300) - 1 left for GND, SVD, ANU
Caribbean Star Dash 8 100
2 AA 757-200s
Orbis DC10, visiting to perform eye surgery
2 BWIA TriStars in hangars
3 BWIA 737-800s
Also present was the new terminal, which opened on 25 May. Several touches were being placed onto it at the time but the distance between the 2 buildings was great enough to prevent me noticing much detail on the new building, into which I would arrive.
Pretty soon the Dash 8's doors were closed and the plane taxied out for departure. The plane took off from runway 10 at 0730HR precisely. The take-off was very smooth and so the rear-facing seat was not a disadvantage but I wonder about the jets with their steeper climbouts. The view was typically East Trinidad, although the very dry weather left its mark on the huge Caroni Arena Reservoir, the water level of which was visibly diminished and raw earth was visible at many points. As the plane then turned northwards to Tobago my seating position at the aisle proved a serious disadvantage as I saw little more for the flight. Within a few minutes after crossing the North Coast of Trinidad the descent into TAB started and landing was ever so smooth. Touchdown was at 0743HR on runway 9, 2 minutes less than scheduled. Once again, the Dash 8 proved itself as a fast, quiet and comfortable plane, even if everything appeared to be in reverse. I made sure to pass a sweet word to the pretty FA who really took care of us during the short flight as I left the plane.
TAB had no other planes at the time. The waving gallery remains closed (so spotting, which I did several times over the week I was there, had to be done by the fence), a great pity indeed. I collected my luggage easily and caught a taxi to go to the city of Scarborough, where I stayed.
Over the week I was there I visited the airport several times. A popular beach, Store Bay, is within 5 minutes walk from the airport and so I could scurry across whenever an interesting plane came in. A nearby park afforded me a few shots of incoming planes - hopefully when I get them I will post them on the forum. The common planes included:
BWIA Dash 8s
LIAT Dash 8s
jmc air DC-10-30
Condor 767-300 - the only one I did not see close-up as I was well away from the airport on Friday 25, Friday being the day it comes.
Tobago, of course, offers much more, such as beaches, coral reefs, fine local cuisine and eco tours. Since I have been to the island so many times I mainly stuck to the beach (and spotting, my secret passion).
MONDAY 28 MAY 2001. After a great week of rest and relaxation it was time to go back to POS. The day featured a sea bath at Store Bay, which allowed me a glimpse of the jmc DC-10 doing one of its last runs into TAB (it stops the route for good on 4 June) and the purchase of fish from fishermen at a nearby beach. Too soon it was all over, though.
I was booked on BW 295, scheduled to depart TAB at 2130HR. When I arrived at TAB a long line existed at the counter while just 2 agents attended to the pax! Before I arrived at the head of the line 2 other agents joined and the processing moved with some alacrity! As time went along, though, I noticed a very large number of pax checked in and thus began to wonder - would I get one of the 737-800s?
Again I filtered in and sat down and waited... and waited... and waited. The flight was rescheduled to leave at 2150HR but the incoming plane did not arrive until 2155HR. Alas, it was an MD83, 9Y-THX, still in the old BWee colours. All the same, my 6C seat would have been an aisle on either type, which was not a problem as it was a night flight. It turned out, as the Captain told us, that another flight (BW 298/9) from POS to TAB and return was cancelled and the Trinidad - bound pax accommodated on 295, which in fact originated in MIA as BW 483 and terminated in TAB. Almost all the seats in the MD83's Y section were filled but 1 next to me remained empty, even as a female passenger was allowed to sit in the First Class section! What luck - but then, there IS no First Class service on domestic flights!
The flight only left at 2239HR after a large load of cargo was placed in the hold. My 6C seat gave me a lot of legroom, being as it were at the head of the Y section. After being tugged out, the plane taxied onto runway 9 and then took off, heading east for a short while before heading to the southwest for POS. Tobago soon disappeared.
The MD83's ride was very smooth and very silent. It was the first time I had flown one in such a fore position and I must say the silence compares well with any other type that I have flown, especially as I am more used to the rear where the engine noise is greater. Trinidad soon appeared and after crossing the North Coast the plane headed over the city of Port Of Spain before heading over the Gulf of Paria and then turning towards POS. There was another plane on the approach and that led to our protracted course. Pretty were the lights of Port of Spain on the right then left and of Chaguanas and Couva in Central Trinidad and the corresponding opposite sides, although I did spot my workplace in the city from the air (!). Pretty too was the landing, which was very smooth, onto runway 10. It was now time to park at the new terminal.
The jet taxied onto the new parallel taxiway to the north of the runway (it is still incomplete) and then towards the new terminal, which at once hinted of MIA, JFK and, most of all for me, LHR. There were BWIA MD83s and AA 757s parked at the jetways and BWIA Dash 8s at the open-air gate positions. An American Eagle ATR was at a jetway position too although of course it cannot be hooked up to it. The MD83 pulled up to the gate and the FA mentioned that deplaning would be via the rear exit - she was true! I would then learn that the jetways are not yet functional.
After deplaning I walked to the domestic area, where a carousel brought my luggage (the first time that has occurred for a domestic flight of mine). I then entered the main concourse of the new terminal which is very spacious and bright, with its cathedral-like dome and the large "Gateway to the Americas" mural. I will certainly return just to admire its beauty - after all, it was 2254HR when the plane landed! By contrast, the old terminal was a ghost town with only a light aircraft parked by it.
As I left the airport, the entrance featured a sign made out of a tailfin from an Air Caribbean YS11 (C2 collapsed last year) - certainly very interesting and deserving of a picture but a bit sad to consider that, as with the old airport, something old has passed on to give rise to the new.
All the same, it was a great trip and POS' new terminal is well on its way to being a big hit! I certainly love it!