UL / WMKK), Malaysia">
AT Macedonian Airlines (Greece)">
Pl. bear with these irregularities...... 777MAS
From The Plaza Hotel, Jalan Raja Laut, the taxi fare was RM6.40, including RM1 for baggage. I had earlier considered taking the Light Rail Transit (cost: RM2.80 - but will need to change trains and railway lines at Masjid Jamek), but though better of it after figuring out I'd struggle badly with 3 bags and a jacket in my hands!!
Getting off the taxi at 1125, I struggled into KL Sentral. If there were any trolleys at the KL City Air Terminal (or XKL - part of KL Sentral), I didn't notice them. But the walk to MH's check-in counters was manageable. After checking in one of my bags and 1 minute later, my boarding passes were issued, and I walked over to the KLIA Ekspres Rail Link ticket machines. Swiped in my MasterCard to pay the RM35 fare, and a ticket and receipt were issued. Walked past the MAS ticket office as I reached the gates and inserted my ticket - my ticket was swallowed, the barrier opened, and I was through. As the escalator taking me down reached the bottom, the electronic board advised that the next train will depart in 11 minutes’ time.
There were only about 25 pax on the platform when I boarded the train to a rendition of "Moon River" by The 3 Tenors (?) from the LCD entertainment system.
1144 Train starts moving. Welcome announcement, with the oft-repeated message that the trip to KLIA will take 28 mins. Passed by the gigantic Mid-Valley Megamall, and soon, we reach the KL Airport. Of the 1950s, that is - we’re at Sungai Besi. From the train, there's a great view of the parking apron and runway, which looks rather short! Not a single aircraft in sight today, though. Where's the Royal Malaysian Air Force?!?! Can see the Petronas Twin Towers and KL Tower in the distance.
1150 Zipped past Bandar Tasik Selatan KLIA Transit station.
1153 The Palace of the Golden Horses, followed by The Mines Resort and its lakes, appear on the left
1201 Putrajaya comes up - its Convention Centre and 2 bridges stand out
1207 Pass Salak Tinggi station. Around here, can see quite a number of oil palm estates, some of which look abandoned or poorly-maintained. In any case, judging by their height, many are 25-30 years old!
1209 KLIA Control Tower is visible, and a MH B747-400 can be seen taxiing in the distance
1212 Reached KLIA, in 28 mins as promised!
1st LEG: UL / WMKK), Malaysia">KUL - BKI (Kota Kinabalu)
Date: 25 Oct 2003
Scheuled ETD: 1350; ETA: 1625 (Flight time: 2 hr 35 mins)
Published distance: 1636 km / 1017 miles
Seat No.: 36H (Y Class)
1258 Entered Departure concourse; at the bottom of the escalator, I picked up a mini-trolley from the many there waiting for us – love this free value-added service! Went into Butler's Family Restaurant (a fast food outlet), ordered an iced Mocha for RM8.90, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that their window seats overlook the entire "B" Gates apron, and also have an unobstructed view of the Satellite Terminal Building. From here, I can see a MH B747-400 parked nearby at a remote bay opposite the "B" Gates. At the Satellite Building, also at remote bays, are another MH B747-400 and B777-200. Can see the tail of a UL (Air Lanka) A340.
1319 VN A320 taxis past to the Satellite Building
1321 CI B737-800 taxis in the distance, also to the Satellite Building
1326 Went to Gate B6, from which my flight would leave. About 30 to 35 pax as I enter - a fraction of the A330-200's capacity of 229! A minute after I enter, the boarding call was made, and I was the 2nd one to go through the gate!
1330 As I walk down the aerobridge, a SQ B777-200 rolls past.
1331 Entered the A330-200 FOR THE FIRST TIME, thru door 2L, and walked past the rear compartment of C Class. The seats here look to have, who knows, 55-60 in. pitch?? Very unlike the 38 in. on their B737-400s!!!
Photo © Jonathan Kong
1332 Settled into seat 36H after gently squeezing my oversized bag into the overhead stowage bin. Immediately, the PTV and flight data being displayed becomes obvious - right now, the altitude is 86 feet, and distance to destination is 1,629 km. Looked thru the seat pocket; apart from the “Going Places” inflight magazine and some usual stuff, I came across a meal menu – it’s for UL / WMKK), Malaysia">KUL-BNE and v.v. – surely this A332 didn’t fly to BNE not too long ago?
As I greatly appreciate my surroundings and the fact that I'm flying A332, and NOT B734, I suddenly noticed something that I've never experienced before in all my 230,000 km of flying: IN-SEAT LUMBAR SUPPORT! Yes, my lower back feels like there's something supporting it; at almost the same time, I notice a 2nd button next to the seat recline button - the diagram next to it suggests it's something to do with one’s lower back. I press it (while leaning), and something like a bladder (within the seat) at my lumbar area deflates; I sat upright, without leaning, pressed it again, and the doohickey inflates itself. COOL! The footrest is also of an improved design (can't quite describe it here) - much better than the ones you get on older planes. This A332 bird is so modern, so unlike its A333 bigger sister! Also comes with foldable headrests! And when you press the seat recline button, the seat bottom also gets raised, to widen the seat bottom-seat back angle! Are there any other wonders that I haven’t discovered yet?
1339 A TG A330-300 lands and speeds out away to the right in the distance
1354 Door closed; nobody is occupying the seat next to mine. The cabin is also quite empty – some pax started changing seats to the one of their preference! No, MAS, please, DON'T terminate these wonderful A330 flights!!
1355 Welcome address by Chief Steward Zainal Arshad, in Bahasa Malaysia and English. He advises that the flight will take 2 hr 10 mins.
1358 Pushback, followed by a video safety demo from the PTV. The MH B744 (9M-MPN) at the remote bay comes up close as we get pushed further out. A GA B733 taxis past. Engines start
1402 We begin taxiing.
1406 Can see Iran Air (IR) B747SP (EP-IAA), CX A340, and the tail of an EVA Air B767, as we taxi near the Satellite terminal
Photo © M Radzi Desa
1408 Turn into runway. Takeoff roll starts immediately, and 45 seconds later, we're in the air. The flight data on the PTV tells me we took off at 320 km/h.
1410 Can see the KLIA Ekspres rail tracks; these lead to the snail-themed Salak Tinggi station, into which a worm-like train is entering.
1411 After coming out of some clouds, and banking right, Putrajaya comes into view - its wide boulevard stands out!
1416 We're at 16,000 feet, and 735 km/h
1420 F/A Sharon Loh comes round with a tray of pre-poured OJ
1423 28,000 ft, 825 km/h
1426 I notice the engines have become louder - we're still climbing (to FL41, as it later turned out).
1429 Amidst thick clouds, the PTV indicates we've reached the Pahang coast, at 31,500 feet and 868 km/h.
1433 Engines quiet down as we reach 34,000 feet & 866 km/h, and 1,355 km away from BKI
1440 40,000 ft, 820 km/h; it's -57 deg C outside!
1442 41,000 ft, 816 km/h
1445 F/A Jacintha wheels a cart into the front compartment of the Y cabin. A minute later, Capt. Gurcharan Singh came on air, reporting that we’ve reached our “final altitude” of 41,000 ft., and are cruising at 820 km/h.
1450 With so few pax, Jacintha’s cart reaches the rear compartment; at the other end of the cart is Saiful Anwar. There’s no menu, so I’ll try my best to describe what’s on offer:
Appetizer: Potato salad with 2 slices of chicken salami (?)
Main course: Fish with potatoes OR chicken “masam merah” with steamed rice (?? as referred to by Saiful Anwar) – I went for the fish – not bad!!
Bread roll + butter (the roll was cold, unlike on an A330-300 flight ex-BKI I was on!)
Dessert: Cake with blueberry-like filling
Mineral water (pre-packed)
Metal cutlery was used!! Great – can’t fancy using the seemingly soft plastic stuff!
1515 Jacintha clears my tray, 5 mins after everyone else
1522 We’re 674 km from BKI, and are almost directly north of Kuching
1543 At my request, F/A Markildry brought a cup of tomato juice and 3 packets of peanuts. We’re 375 km to BKI, and not too far north of Miri (MYY) and Bandar Seri Begawan (BWN). At 842 km/h, we’ve got another 34 mins to go; and we’re still at 41,000 feet. Saw the F/As regularly walk up the aisles with drinks for pax who requested for them.
1549 Engine becomes quieter as we start to descend; we’re almost north of Miri now
1552 37,500 ft, 825 km/h
1555 28,500 ft, 838 km/h
1557 25,000 ft, 818 km/h. It’s –19 deg C outside
1559 21,500 ft, 798 km/h
1600 19,000 ft; 15 seconds later, it’s 18,500 ft! 770 km/h
1602 We’re north of BWN now, at 15,450 ft, and 705 km/h
1603 Can see Labuan (LBU) to the right – due to what seems to be haze, it’s blurred.
1606 7,989 ft, 642 km/h. The coast of Sabah becomes visible
1607 6,551 ft
1608 5,989 ft, 588 km/h
1611 3,300 ft, 472 km/h
1613 3,313 ft, 422 km/h, as we’re in a holding pattern north of BKI
1615 2,335 ft
1616 2,027 ft, 409 km/h
1617 We pass the northern side of Pulau Gaya; on this side of the island, there are no squatter colonies – it’s just like any nice tropical island. Aircraft then banks to the right to line up for approach to Runway 20
1619 That eyesore, the southern side of Pulau Gaya comes into view, with its squatter/slum houses and rubbish can be seen floating on the sea nearby!!
1620 232 ft; Sutera Harbour and its nice hotel & golf course rolls by underneath
1622 Touchdown, on Runway 20. As the thrust reversers roar and we zip past Terminal 2, I can see the Transmile Air B737-200 still parked there, apparently unmoved since 4 days ago. The PTV shows an altitude of 9 ft.
A330-200 taxiing at BKI:
Photo © Garry Lewis
1623 3 MH B737-400s here. 9M-MMJ is waiting for us to leave the runway; the other 2 (9M-MMB & 9M-MMZ) are parked at remote bays next to Gate 6,as all the other gates are occupied, EXCEPT Gate 5, which is reserved for us – that’s the privilege of being a “big boy”!! At Gate 1 is a MH A330-300 (9M-MKF), and Gate 2 has a rare visitor, a Royal Brunei (BI) A319 (V8-RBP). Another 2 B734s (9M-MQL and MQG) are at the other gates.
Photo © M Radzi Desa
1629 Docked at Gate 5. The PTV queerly shows a distance to destination of 3 km!!
1634 After savouring my last few moments on this A332 bird, and not being able to extend it (the F/As themselves are already about to disembark!!), I reluctantly leave.
IN TRANSIT AT KOTA KINABALU
The afternoon sun shone into the terminal building, and unless you’re in the shade, it’s stuffy. I looked for the best place in the departure concourse to minimize my risk of getting skin cancer, walking through thru the entire concourse. There are no longer any holding rooms at BKI Airport, and the people are free to roam all over the place; only that they aren't allowed to enter the aerobridge zone. I like this open concept....... back in the mid-90s, when there were separate holding rooms for domestic & international pax, you felt like you were caged in, with the people around you just sitting there waiting for their flight - it was so monotonous. Now, you’re able to walk around, do some window-shopping, etc. Much livelier. It also means that domestic pax like me are able to (NOTE: I didn't say "allowed to") buy from the duty-free shops; back then, only international pax had (physical) access to duty-free shops.
At 1644, I see a great deal of exhaust emitted by one of those doohickeys as it pushes 9M-MKF (MH A330-300) back. The BI A319 leaves at 1705.
At 1750, I walked to where Gate 6 (actually, a ramp leading down to the tarmac/remote bays) is, as a Fokker F50 comes in to land. A few minutes later, and taxiing real fast, it reaches the remote bay just outside Gate 6. There’s a gust, evidently coming up from the ramp from all that air being displaced by its engine, which carries with it that familiar “Fokker 50 smell” – many people would regard it as air pollution, but I found it somehow welcome!! A De Havilland Twin Otter lands at 1802; it too taxis really fast as it comes in.
2nd LEG: BKI (Kota Kinabalu) - SDK (Sandakan)
Fokker F50, 9M-M??
Date: 25 Oct 2003
Scheduled ETD: 1820; ETA: 1910 (Flight time: 50 mins)
Published distance: 223 km / 139 miles
Seat No.: 4C (S Class - S being Full Fare Economy Class on MH's F50s. Why isn't it "Y" ?)
This trip is my umpteenth in the F50. Ever since I first saw it in 1990, I’d always wanted to fly in it, although it was another 2 years before I got the opportunity. Not that I’ve never experienced what it was like – between 1977 and 1980, I’ve flown on its elder brother, the Fokker F27, quite a number of times – but (in 1981) when MH introduced B737-200 flights to where I lived, my fickle-minded 10-year-old self “ditched” the F27 in favour of the “bigger better” jet. Come 1990, I somehow found myself missing the experience – after all, as a kid, some of my fondest childhood memories have been while flying or while at airports, and the F27 was the plane that I flew in then. By then (1990), they have been retired, but the F50 succeeding them might as well be the same!!
Photo © M Radzi Desa
1810 Boarding call made. Walked down the ramp, inhaling some more of that “Fokker 50 smell” – somebody please tell me I’m NOT harming myself!!
1811 Exit onto the tarmac, to the reassuring noise of the F50’s APU, evidently coming from the rear cone of the starboard engine. That, together with the “Fokker 50 smell”, is the essence of flying on this great bird! Walked to the door at the front, and passed by the port engine with its blackened rear cone. In the distance, with the daylight fading fast, 9M-MQM (another B734) starts its takeoff roll.
1813 After waiting on the tarmac while the F/As help a wheelchair-bound pax board, I was met by Rachel, to whom I handed my jacket. Settled into seat 4C, which is next to the engine, and had a hard time trying to fit my oversized bag under my legs.
1821 Door shut. Starboard engine starts – the familiar and welcoming sound of its whine fills the cabin.
1822 Rachel walks down the aisle offering a copy of the day’s newspapers, while Yau delivers the welcome address. The Captain for this flight is Vishnu Utomo. Port engine starts.
1825 During the safety demo, the plane begins taxiing; just before entering Runway 02, the lights are dimmed.
1828 As the whine of the 2 engines reach a maximum, takeoff roll starts, after about 1 minute idling on the runway(!) – lasted 30 seconds. Soon, the little lights of Kota Kinabalu city pass below us
1830 As the seat belt light goes off, the cabin lights are switched on again. Soon, the engines become noticeably quieter.
1837 Rachel comes round with a tray of pre-poured mango juice (not bad!!), 2 minutes after she brings a tray of something into the cockpit
1845 Flight Officer Afzal Zaini came on air and reported that we’re at 18,000 feet, and 420 km/h. We’re north of Mount Kinabalu – hey, we’re not flying in a straight line to SDK!!
The F/As had an inactive flight – we passengers were not that demanding after all!
1903 Lights dimmed as we are approaching. The dull and tiny lights from houses scattered all over te rural part of Sandakan can bee seen. Here, in the clouds, I notice the zebra stripes on the propeller blades.
1910 Touchdown. A minute later, as we taxi into the apron, the port engine is turned off – we’re being powered by the starboard only. As we come to a halt, Rachel takes out my jacket, waited for me to walk up to the front on my way out, before handing it to me. As I walked towards the ramp leading up to the terminal, I walk past the nose, it looks to have some kind of adhesive tape pasted over where paint looks to be peeling off. Or is it my eyesight after a long day?
As you might be able to guess, the really enjoyable part of this trip was the flight in an A330-200, my first time ever!! (Let’s face it, had I been on a B734, I might not have bothered writing this trip report!) While I have flown in their A333 twice before, and would give it a 8/10 rating, for this one, well, it’ll get 8.5/10. The Fokker F50 segment – ah, for sentimental reasons, I’ll give it 8/10. They are around 12-13 years old now, and with Fokker out of business, the day will come when the F50 becomes extinct. So, I shall take every opportunity to fly on one now, while I still can, and hope MH doesn’t phase them out too soon!