Monday 28th October 2002
Just a week after arriving in Mexico it was unfortunately time to go home to rainy England. We arrived at the airport with about 3 hours to spare for the flight, but already check-in was very busy indeed and we had to queue for about 45 minutes. This was not helped by the fact that every single bag was opened and searched on tables close to the check-in desk except, for some reason, ours! We had pre-booked seats 36 G & H, so no surprise to get issued those once again. We went for a pizza in the restaurant then went through security from where we could see G-OOAN parked on the apron. The doors were just being opened at the time.
There was an American in the terminal sat next to us determined that there was no such airline as Air 2000, who was bragging in a very loud voice to his friends how it must be a military aircraft. He also thought our aircraft was a 737. Since when did they paint military aircraft like this?
Photo © Peter Unmuth - Vienna Aviation Photography
Anyway we didn’t feel the need to correct him! Whilst waiting in the lounge I noticed the crew opening and closing the left engine reverse thrust doors, with one pilot standing at the top of the steps watching. Small problem, I thought?
Boarding was called about 1 hour before our scheduled departure time of 19:45 local.
Two bus-loads of passengers initially went out to the aircraft. This was not based on seat row number at all, you just got on either bus. Our bus stopped at the front door and the second bus stopped at the rear door. Since we were in row 36, we decided to head for the rear door but were told to stay at the front. This was a most inefficient boarding system and it took ages for us to get to our seats!
It did give me the chance to chat with the First Officer though, who funnily enough I had known from flight school in years gone by! He was busy inspecting the lock-out plates fitted to the left engine reverse thrust door, as I expected they had a problem with the reverser on landing at PVR. Deferred defect, no big deal.
I went up to the flight deck with him and chatted for a while with the two other pilots. It was going to be a quick 9 hours and 50 minutes back to LGW, rather than the scheduled 11 hour trip, due to a strong jet stream. Finally said my goodbyes though and headed back to my seat.
Taxi out and takeoff was on schedule, which meant we would be getting to Gatwick about 1 hour early. Our takeoff was to the south-west on Runway 22, with a straight out departure and climb over the bay until sufficient altitude had been gained to turn back to the north east over the mountainous terrain for the trip home to Gatwick.
Our routing took us over Monterry, Houston, Dallas then right up over towards New York and across the Atlantic towards southern Ireland and the UK. After the meal was served I went to sleep, although we watched a spectacular electrical storm on the right hand side of the aircraft as we flew over Texas, it went on for about 200 miles.
Morning came pretty early, with about 3-4 hours to go, and I couldn’t sleep anymore. The crew served a “breakfast” which consisted of a horribly moist croissant with a slice of ham and a slice of cheese in the middle, with coffee or tea. It was probably the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten on an aircraft! Simply horrible.
With 1 hour and 20 minutes to go the cabin crew started the second movie “About A Boy”. I wondered whether there would be enough time for it to finish! It was a good movie which passed the time over the last hour of flight.
We were in the final descent and approach to Gatwick, turning North at Shoreham for a landing on Runway 08R. I saw Brighton in the distance along the coast, where we live. The movie was still playing! We continued our descent with a few right turns to establish on the ILS, and at about 1,000ft Flap 30 was selected. At about 500ft, the film finished – just in time!
We made an extremely hard touchdown on the runway which was actually quite painful. The cabin crew looked a little worried, but I knew the 76 could take it. The flight attendant in front of us said it was the hardest landing she had ever had in 2 years, and I must admit it was one of the hardest I have experienced.
Speedbrakes and braking were used to bring us to a taxi speed, no reverse thrust this time with the left engine lockout problem.
We vacated the runway at Charlie Romeo and took taxiway Charlie and Papa up to Gate 51, about 1 hour ahead of schedule. I popped my head through the door and said a quick goodbye to the boys up front, didn’t mention the landing though!!
Overall the flights were better than I had expected. The legroom was minimal for such a long journey but other than that the service was good and the food was reasonable, apart from the “breakfast”.
I would travel on the route again in the future, and probably will as we fell in love with that part of Mexico. The only thing I will do next time is go for 2 weeks instead of one!