Last week I had the opportunity to be on the delivery flight of a Eurowings Canadair Regional Jet 200ER (D-ACRD) from Montreal-Dorval (YUL) via Iqaluit (YFB) to Dortmund, Germany (DTM).
I arrived at Bombardier’s CRJ delivery center at Dorval Airport at 1pm to meet the colleague from Lufthansa who arranged the trip for me, and the colleagues of Eurowings whose job was to take care of the acceptance of the aircraft and who would also fly along. After a first look at the aircraft, which was in the delivery hangar alongside three Delta Connection CRJs, a friendly Bombardier colleague gave me a tour of the production facilities. Since CRJ700 production has moved to Mirabel (YMX), the YUL facility is focused on the CRJ200 and Challenger bizjet. Yet there was a stunning number of aircraft in different stages of production. While it wasn’t allowed to take photos, I saw example of United Express (ACA, Air Wisconsin, SkyWest), Delta Connection (ACJet, ASA, Comair), Iberia Regional, China Yunnan (with a special flowers colorscheme) and three remaining CRJ700 of AA, Horizon and Delta Connection (ASA). On the outside, finished aircraft for Cameroon, Northwest JetAirLink and Delta were awaiting delivery, while a Midway CRJ was in storage.
After the crew had arrived, the flight plan had been prepared, and all formalities had been taken care of, the aircraft was towed from the hangar to the outside at around 3pm. Despite a grey and misty sky, I shot a few photos before preparing for departure, which occurred at 4.25pm from runway 24L, with flight number EW 6803. The very northernly route was dictated by the fact that the aircraft was not equipped with HF radio, so the aircraft had to stay near landbased stations. Otherwise, a routing with a stop in Iceland would have been shorter. We headed north, climbing to 35,000ft towards a direction of 30 degrees at a speed of M 0.75. With an overcast sky, there was nothing to see for most of the trip until I moved forward to the jumpseat to join the crew for landing. Under clear Arctic skies, the lights of Iqaluit became visible from some 40 miles distance, and I watched in awe as the runway lights emerged from the dark. We touched down on runway 35 at 7.20pm, covering the 1,280 miles in just under three hours. The aircraft taxied by a First Air B727-100M and Canadian North B737-200C to the fueling station, where we were already awaited. Passengers were boarding the two aircraft, which both had the forward compartments used for cargo. The only other aircraft I could make out in the dark were two First Air HS748 and some Twin Otter.
Refueling took about 20 minutes and was paid for by credit card, during which I briefly walked around the aircraft to get an impression of the Arctic environment, and shoot a few photos and video. It was –24 degrees Celsius, but luckily no wind. The First Air 727 was about to leave, and took off to Ottawa and Montreal a few minutes ahead of us, while the Canadian North 737 started taxiing as we entered the runway and took off at 8.05pm, climbing impressively despite the full fuel tanks. We turned East at a heading of 100 degrees toward Söndre Strömfjord (Kangerlussuaq, SFJ) on Greenland, reaching the highest latitude at 69 degrees North, well above the polar circle. The rising moon along with greenish, spiralling Northern Lights cast a fairy-tale glow on the white, snowy landscape. I was almost expecting Santa Claus to drift by my window. We reached 37,000 ft and the aircraft was flying just as quiet and stable like any other larger airliner. TAS was M 0.7 for this leg to save some fuel, and the increasingly stronger tailwinds slowly pushed up our ground speed from 420 to 560 miles. I sat a while in the front left seat to chat with the friendly pilots, one Canadian currently on contract-flying for Eurowings and one German. Over Greenland, we turned to a heading of 120 degrees towards Iceland. Along the trip, the pilots noted some minor issues that weren’t 100% satisfactory yet, such as some vibrations from the engines, and some malfunction of the GPS system. The five of us in the cabin and the two cockpit crew served ourselves from the well-stocked galley and despite all the excitement, the wine made me a bit sleepy, so I stretched out over four seats across the aisle and dozed off for about an hour. The cabin was fully equipped with 50 seats (whose covers still had to be changed to blue leather instead of grey cloth), and extra life rafts and oxygen supplies were carried. When I woke up, we were approaching Scotland east of the island of Stornoway. Still clear skies allowed views of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Newcastle, and some oil rigs as we flew down the North Sea into the rising sun. As we approached the continent, a thick cloud layer had built up, which we entered during our descent before the sun would rise. Arrival in DTM, originally forecast for 8.10am was pushed up to 7.45 thanks to the tailwinds, bringing this second leg of the delivery flight to an end after just 5 hours and 40 minutes and 2,764 miles.
Time had just flown by, despite not having the comfort and entertainment of a regular transatlantic widebody flight, but the excitement of this unusual flight surely made up for this.
I hope you enjoyed this special trip report, and there should be some photos added soon.
Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been...