30 May 2001
This was to be my second flight of this year and following my trip to Dubai in February (report on this site) I knew I was going from a scheduled airline (EK) to a charter (AMM). The flight was due to leave at 12.45pm and arrived at the airport at 10.30am and checked in at terminal 2. The a/c was to be an A321 so I requested two adjacent aisle seats in order to have easier access to the toilet and also beg some legroom from the aisle - 30" pitch is no fun even when you're only 5' 10" tall. After requesting aisle seats the check in staff said there were seats available in Row 11 - the front emergency exit - our luck was in so I snapped up seats 11 E and F and looked forward to the flight. It's 15 years since I flew from Manchester Terminal 2 and they still haven't changed the disgusting purple carpet! It offers excellent views across the apron and along all the gates. As it was the morning the long haul flights were still to depart and on stands were a CO777, Delta &&&, CX 747, PK 747 (replaced by another late arrival from Karachi) a Canada 3000 A310 with Royal Airlines tail colours. Away from the gates were 2 Air Atlanta 747s, Hong Kong Air (?) 747 freighter and a 747 with a single AMM line down the sides but no other markings, I could also just see the tail of BDs new A330. There were no AMM aircraft around but at 12.00 we were told to go to gate 213 and within 5 minutes our a/c arrived from Innsbruck. As soon as it stopped a the gate it was surrounded by the ground crew who started changing a tyre on the right hand main wheel bogey. It took two crew to jack the bogey up - the first guy had to stop as it tired him out! We took our seats at 12.45 and pushed back at 13.15 - a 30 minute delay. The capt said the delay was due to traffic congestion over Europe - no mention of the puncture! The cabin crew explained to me how to open the emergency door - this was a first for me, luckily I didn't need to use my new found knowledge. We taxied off and looking out of the window I saw a Heavylift An 124 being loaded - an awesome beast and the first time I've seen one in the flesh. We took off from runway 24R as the new runway is closed over lunchtime. We turned right and flew over Sheffield where Sheffield Wednesday's football ground could be clearly seen through the patchy cloud. The view from my seat was excellent, just in front of the engine and therefore no obstruction from the wing. We tracked over hull and the coast of The Wash could be seen. The routing was the usual west to east over Europe, across the North Sea, over Amsterdam, Germany (where I think we went over Frankfurt airport three or four parallel runways with a further runway at one end at 90 degs to the others), part of Austria then south over Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece before approaching Skiathos. The food on board was very basic - a very small omelette and one sausage with a yoghurt for desert and an orange juice drink. The film was Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon but I refused to pay £3 for headphones when I knew the film would be disturbed by drinks and food being served during the next three hours - plus the screen was too far away.
Photo © Derek Pedley
I could see Skiathios out of the window with the runway running into the sea at both ends. We approached to the left of the island and lost height by doing a 180 deg left turn over the sea before a downwind and crosswind leg ready for the final approach, we had made up time due to 100mph tail winds. The approach was over the sea and we landed right on the piano keys where full reverse thrust was applied to bring the a/c to a halt on the short 5,200 ft runway. We back tracked and parked on the apron along with a JMC A321, whilst we were disembarking an Aero Lloyd A321 arrived - watching this I could see how quickly the a/c stopped!
After chaos in the very small terminal building we eventually took our bags and spent a week sunbathing (or at least I did the wife had to work for 3 days!)
Photo © Kyprianos Biris
For the return flight at 7.20pm we arrived at the airport for 4.45pm and requested row 11 seats - they had all gone but we were offered row 25 - the rear exit row!! So lucky on both legs, unfortunately seat 25 F has no window. Whilst at the airport all the a/c arriving were airbus A320 and A321 including an Edelweiss A320 (nice colour scheme), JMC, another AMM and the Aero Lloyd we had seen the week before.
Once on the aircraft the number of passengers who had bitter comments when they saw me and the wife sat in the exit seats was amazing - talk about jealousy. There is no secret about getting the seats, just ask for them! The a/c arrived 20 minutes late from Manchester due to it having a nosewheel changed after the captain found a metal object embedded in it. We took off 30 minutes late for the short hop to Thessalonika in order to refuel. The runway at Skiathos is too short for a fully loaded A321 to take off. From Thessalonika we took the same route as the outward journey. Food was once again sausage(!) with mashed potatoes and sticky toffee pudding. I think the film was 'What Women Want' but I was too tired to notice! We arrived in Manchester on a wet and windy Wednesday night and the approach was bumpy to say the least - the smaller A321 a/c certainly moves round more than it's A330 cousin.
The charter experience wasn't so bad and the service on AMM was very good, I was also impressed with the A321 although it was noisier at the back than the front. All in all two pleasant flights.