I had the pleasure of a 2 week holiday two Mexico and Guatemala, which was very interesting too from a spotters kind of view
17-5-01 Amsterdam-Mexico KLM 747-406 PH-BFS
One of the exciting facts for me of this trip is, that after so many flights, it was my first intercontinental flight with my “home carrier” KLM since 21 years (I was 9 back then).
Sadly the windowseats were gone when checking in, the travel agency couldn’t hold them for me, but luckily my neighbor didn’t notice or care me sitting on his seat) KLM flies with 747 combi’s to Mexico, so while having seat 41K just behind the wing, it was one of the last rows. I believed the seats were quite tight, that I had more generous pitches in most other intercontinental flights (UA, US, SR, GA). We pushed back in time at 14.50 and took off at 15.07. After an hour, a meal was served; I chose the chicken (there was also pasta), with green beans, shrimp salad, mashed patatoes and a small chocolate pie. Nothing special. But I enjoyed the movies. I usually fly intercontinental with foreign carriers, the problem is that the earphones aren’t good enough to catch all the dialoges, while either the sound at KLM was better or the subtitles helped, it was the first time actually I liked the entertainment, while I was not thrilled at first by the idea KLM doesn’t have any PTVs in economy. The weather was quite good, I could see the sea and the Canada/US eastcoast from time to time, very nice. About halfway we passed a THY Airbus 340 very closely. So near I could read the regi: TC-JDN. We were close to it for about half an hour, but finally we were faster. So anybody who claims the A340 is so slow is right, but only by a margin. There were regular rounds (more than on UA intercontinentals) with drinks, a choice between an ice-creambar or patatochips midway, and two hours later you could choose a small candybar. 90 minutes before landing, a smaller meal was served, consisting of some hot curry rice and fruit. We landed at 18.51 local, so flying time was 10.43 hours.
Mexico City airport is a long stretched terminal, maybe 2 or 3 km long, with many gates. From the windows, you can spot many interesting stuff. It must be one of the noisiest airports in the world, because the 727 (Mexicana, AVIACSA, Allegro, Aerolineas Internacionales), the DC-9 (Aeromexico, Aerocalifornia, Aerocaribe, AVIACSA) and 737-200 are still very much dominant here. It faced the cargo and military sections which were at least as interesting.
22-5-01 Mexico City-Guatemala City Mexicana F-100 XA-SHJ
Due to shortage of gates, we were driven by a people mover (which can get higher and lower so passengers could walk in and out of the walkways and aircraft) to our aircraft, which was parked right besides the runway. About 30 pax were on board. After everyone boarded at 14.12, we could go on our way and were off the ground at 14.19. The take off was quick, and after 30 minutes we were served a lunch, sort of Mexico flavored salmon lasagna, a chocolate bar and a nasty roll. This was my first hot meal ever in a Fokker, quite good for a 100 minutes flight. After an uneventful flight in good weather, we landed at 14.50 local time, the approach was amazing, quite low over the citycenter near the airport, so I could already spot the chaotic charm of Guatemala City. Guatamala City Airport was small but quite interesting, I could spot some DC-3s which were in service with the Air Force, and also stored aircraft like 2 F-27s and a DC-6 ex Guatemala Air Force, the last Herald of Aerovias (no engines), a Bulgarian registered An-24, some Let-410s etc.
23-5-01 Guatemala City-Flors Tikal Jets BAC 1-11-401AK TG-TJK
Tikal Jets flies daily domestic roundtrips GUA-FRS (around $115 roundtrip), leaving at 6.30-7 and return 16.30-17. While they publish a more ambitious timetable on Internet, this is the only flight they do, the 1-11 is parked at FRS between 7 and 16 hrs
RACSA also has one flight scheduled, a comparible roundtrip for $90 with their Nord 262, flying at 6-7 AM to FRS and returning at 16-17, but TG-NTR was seen parked at FRS at 24 to 27 May, apparently in good condition (with flaps out), but the RACSA staff told me their aircraft went mechanical lately and will not be repaired till at least late june. Still the check in desks at FRS and GUA were occupied by staff doing nothing. So sadly I couldn’t have the pleasure of a flight in this very rare Nord aircraft (the only other civil example flying is in Equatorial Guinee, I believe).
I bought a return trip on the 1-11 indeed. Even while I’ve flown Ryanairs 1-11 series 500 in 1991, of course this was a very special entry for my logbook, this particular aircraft being early built, delivered to American in April 1966, so more than 35 years old. The inside looked clean, like any other modern 5 abreast jet, except for it didn’t have windowshades. It also remarked me the windows were uncomfortably low. We were towed all the way to the runway (probably cheaper than moving it by it’s guzzling RR Spey engines). Sitting at 13F near the engines, I enjoyed the whining sound of the engines spooling up. Also, retracting of flaps and wheels made a loud shrieking and tired sound, so indeed we were reminded to fly in a museumpiece now. We took off at 6.40. The two hostesses served big cups of coke or (sweet and dirty) orangejuice, and a croissant filled with applepie-filling and two grapes. Something nice of these old Spey engines is the (quite loud) sound they make, and especially the tone clearly getting lower at the end of the climb, than yet lower for the descent, than up again for the final approach.... Old memories when I was a little kid, of noisy BA Tridents and 1-11s flying over my home and lowering their power on approach, revived... We landed at 7.20.
Flores is the 2nd busy airport in Guatemala, because it’s near the major tourist site of Tikal (Mayan pyramids). An Aerocaribe F-27 was in service, but the Nord 262 of RACSA, TG-NTR, was parked.
25-5-01 Flores-Cancun TACA-Aviateca 737-200 N127GU
I got seat 3F, streight behind the two business class rows. The flight arrived from Guatemala at 7.17, few pax got out, we boarded at 7.37 and were off the ground at 7.53. Only about 30 seats were filled. Right after take off, we got a small plate with a ham and cheese croissant and melon and grape salad. After a nice flight over the Guatemala woods, we hitted bad weather, rain and turbulence 10 minutes before landing. We landed at 9.49 local, making 56 minutes flying time.
26-5-01 Cancun-Cozumel Aerocaribe Jetstream 32 N934AE
I was planning to spend two days at Cozumel, but because Grupo TACA had earlier confirmed the flight to be on 24-May, which was cancelled or not operating, I had to reschedule. Because Cancun-Cozumel was sold out on friday 25 May, I decided to spend the night in Cancun and make a short same day roundtrip on saturday before returning to Flores.
Sadly, while checking in Aerocaribe reported the Fairchild F-27 I was deeply wanting to fly, was in service on other routes in these two weeks, so both flights were in the Jetstream, even while the F-27 was in all the schedules. “That’s a very cute small plane,” the check in girl tried to cheer me up. It is actually, but it didn’t help if you know I’m a Friendship fan and especially made this detour to make my first flight on the Fairchild built variant. I was the only paying passenger, in front there were two other pilots off duty. I boarded at 8.00, we quickly taxied to the runway, took off at 8.08 and landed at 8.21, 13 minutes flying time, I think my shortest flight until now. There was no F/A and no service. The Jetstream was clean, quite spacious (compared to other commuters I flew, like the DHC-6 and Casa 212), and not very noisy (compared to the Shorts 330 and 360). Actually I didn’t understand why the plane was called least favorite by many Airliners.net-contribuants. Also the bar through the cabin as part of the wing structure isn’t that much a bore, as long as you don’t seat pax like me (6 foot 3) right above it.
26-5-01 Cozumel-Cancun Aerocaribe Jetstream 32 N934AE
Sadly it was the same J-31 on the way back. Now all 19 seats were filled. No assigned seating, no F/A, but before boarding there was a cart you could pick out a can of drink, a snackbag and / or a lollypop. Very nice. The flight took about 15 minutes.
26-5-01 Cancun-Flores TACA-Aviateca 737-200 N127GU
I flew back to Flores again in exactly the same aircraft (I like to ‘score’ as many different planes as possible, so that was a minor disappointment again). Only 15 seats were filled. We boarded at 15.38 but because the paperwork wasn’t complete, we didn’t take off till 4.23 local. The small meal consisted of two sandwiches with potatoes, ham and cheese, mushroomsalad, and creampie. Because I was the only one who asked for red wine, the friendly F/A came back three times to offer a refil because they were stuck with an open bottle. We landed at 16.18 local (flying time 55 minutes).
27-5-01 Flores-Guatemala City Tikel Jets BAC 1-11 TG-TJK
I also took the same 1-11 back to Guatemala City. I guess they rotate their two 1-11s about every week (doing only 2 flights a day in total, it would be too expensive to fly both on the same time) so I would have been really lucky if it was the ‘TJF this time. Maybe because it was a very hot afternoon, it remarked me the 1-11 needed the full runway and was climbing quite slowly. The service again was orange juice or coke and now with a bag of potato chips. Take off was at 16.28, landing at 17.02 again after the impressive approach over the center of the city, flying time only 34 minutes.
28-5-01 Guatemala City-Mexico City Mexicana F-100 XA-TCG
At the boarding hall near the jetway, there was selfservice complementary coffee and cookies. All in all I must say that even while my flights with mid-American airlines like Mexicana, TACA, Tikal and Aerocaribe were short (13 to 100 minutes), the service was way better than my experiences in the US, maybe slightly better than Europe’s. On the other hand, flying isn’t very cheap around here, luckily I did do some sectors with my FF-miles.
Again only about 25 passengers. Maybe an Embraer 145 would be a wonderful replacement for routes like this.
We took off at 7.17. After half an hours, a quite large hot breakfast was served, consisting of scrambled egg, onion, the typical Mexican brown mashed stuff (don’t know it’s name), a roll, cookies and fruit. We landed at 9.59 local (1.44 flying time).
29-5-01 Mexico City-Amsterdam KLM (Asia) 747-400 PH-BFP
Even while I checked in early, because I didn’t want to trick myself into a windowseat again, the nasty ground F/A told me there was no window seat available, even while I had a reservation for it, and I got a seat 38C boardingpass thrown at me. While boarding, I noticed someone else sitting in 38C, with an according boarding pass. I asked the F/A and explained my love for windowseats. She was friendly and invited me in the galley for some drinks while she’d do everything to get me at a window. The seat assignments were a big mess, many seats not or double filled, so the nasty ground girl handed out new boardingpasses inside the plane and I got 25A, left of the galley right behind the business class. We took off at 21.24 local. The skies were clear so I took a last glance over the lights of the enormous, dirty but wonderful Mexico City, were I made some very good friends. After 100 minutes, we were served a dinner; pieces of beef, spinach, rice, a cheesepie, crackers, a nice hot roll, and a tomate/olive salad. Unlike normally on flights like this, there was no afterdinner liquor service (cognac, whisky etc.). We were damanded to shut the windowshades so I had to explain politely to the different F/A’s that I never sleep and will close it as soon as it gets light.
After a short night, I covered myself and the window with a blanket so I could see the sunrise without disturbing the other passengers. They had regular walks around the cabin with drinks. The midway snack was a choice between potato chips and candybars. Two hours before landing, the breakfast consisted of scrambled egg with a sausage, bulgarian yoghurt and melon salad. Finally I could open my shade legally and saw many aircraft passing westward, 2 Lufthansa A340s, a Delta 767, a BA 744, a Virgin 744 and an Air Canada 767, all a few hundred meters below us. Again it was a comfortable and uneventful turbulence free flight, just like most of the flights on this trip.
We were still quite high when we flew over the wellknown Dutch territory, I never saw my hometowns Zaandam and Amsterdam from these heights. We were now quickly descending, turning around over Almere (mid Netherlands) and landing over south east Amsterdam at 14.25 local, completing a flying time of 10.01 and finalizing my 202nd flight, and the last one for a few weeks...
nobody has ever died from hard work, but why take the risk?