The following is a trip report by Luis Velázquez from Venezuela. He could not post the message himself so he asked me to do it on his behalf. In addition to seeing your comments here, I am sure he will be glad if you get in touch with him for any questions. Luis' e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caracas – Punta Cana – Caracas
I graduated from high school on July 2003. We decided to make a prom trip to Punta Cana. My prom was made of about 110 people, but due to lack of money only 55 of us could make the trip. We planned the trip with people from other schools from my city (Caracas) which also wanted to go on a prom trip, so we were about 350 fun-seeking teenagers that were about to have a great week away from our parents in the Barcelo Resort Complex in Punta Cana!. There were going to be 3 charter flights to take all of us, 2 operated by Aeropostal (DC9-51) and 1 operated by Aserca (DC9-32). I wanted to fly Aeropostal, because I had already flown Aserca’s DC9-32s. I was very happy to see my Aeropostal ticket .
Date: 03 Aug 2003
Flight: Aeropostal Charter
ETD: 09:45 (ATD: 10:50)
ETA: 11:10 (ATA: 12:10)
A/c: DC9-51 (YV-15C) http://www.airliners.net/open.file/489520/L
I arrived with my parents to the airport around 7:00am. By that time there were many of my friends already waiting in line for the check-in, and man, it was a huge line. More people started to arrive and the line was getting longer and longer, most of the late-comers had friends at the beginning of the line so they cut us through (that pissed me off). The line wasn’t moving much and I was getting hungry, so I went upstairs to Subway and had a nice 15inch sub and a coke. At about 08:30 I was at the check-in counter, I asked for a window seat and the clerk told me that none were left.
After checking my bags and all that stuff, I had to wait in another line to pay the departure tax (about 35$). I went through security at 09:30 and rushed to the gate to find only around 20 people waiting there. I knew we wouldn’t leave on time. The captain was standing at the beginning of the jetway so I called him and started chatting with him. I told him I had flown the route on Flight Simulator and he told me that the route I flew on the sim, was the same we were about to fly (For you flightsimmers: 1RECKON DEPARTURE – UA553 – POKAK – PNA).The only difference was that I cruised at FL350 and in real life the captain told me were had to cruise at FL310 because we were too heavy. He told me that we were gonna be late for departure because of the huge check-in lines, he also said that there was a storm at that time around PUJ, so the delay would be good because maybe by the time we got there, the storm would be gone. At 10:30 we started boarding and I switched seats with a friend who always gets nervous when flying. I told him that flying is very safe and all that stuff, but I think he didn’t buy the trick. We pushed back and started taxing via F taxiway to runway 27 (Rwys 09 and 08 are the ones usually used for departure, but winds had shifted at the time of our departure and rwy 27 was the active for takeoffs and landings)
We entered the runway and had to backtrack because there isn’t a taxiway that reaches until the end of the runway. After backtracking, we were on full power and quickly lifted off into the clear skies. The DC9 is a fast climber I must say. 15min after takeoff we were over the Caribbean between Bonaire and Los Roques Archipelago. After reaching cruise altitude of FL310, the FA’s started serving beverages and a tiny ham and cheese sandwich. I guess that’s what you can expect on a quick 1:20hr charter flight. After 5-10 min after we began descending I could see the southern Dominican coastline. We flew over farmland, not too much to see in the Dominican countryside. Spoilers were deployed to slow us down a couple of times and flaps were also down. We were on a visual approach to runway 09. We made a sharp turn right and we were aligned with the runway. We came down hard and fast, thrust reversers were activated and so did the spoilers. Nonetheless we missed the last taxiway to the terminal (which is located at the middle of the runway) and we had to backtrack again but we didn’t go to the end of the runway to backtrack, I guess the DC9 is small enough to perform this maneuver. Shortly after vacating the runway an Air Europa B767 from MAD landed on runway 09. We parked at the gate and I could see a North American B757, a LTU A330, a YES L1011, and an Air Transat A330. Our DC9 looked rather tiny alongside all these widebodies. We deplaned directly onto the tarmac and walked about 30m to the terminal (http://www.airliners.net/open.file/030023/L/). Cleared immigration, picked our bags and boarded the coach that took us to the resort.
Date: 10 Aug 2003
Flight: Aeropostal Charter
ETD: 12:45 (ATD: 14:50)
ETA: 13:10 (ATA: 16:10)
A/c: DC9-51 (YV-43C) http://www.airliners.net/open.file/480090/L/
After partying/drinking/eating like beasts for a whole week, it was time to return home. None of us wanted to leave Punta Cana but we had no choice. At 9am we were checking out in the hotel and shortly after that, we boarded the coach that took us to the airport. After waiting again in a long line to check-in I was assigned seat 29E, I asked a friend of mine which seat he had gotten and he showed his boarding pass that said 30E (Remember this…). I told him: Hey you are gonna be behind me! and I grabbed my camcorder and started to record the arriving flights. Time passed and there was no sign of our DC9. At 13:00 we were told over the PA that the plane had left CCS late so we would have to wait. Waiting in Punta Cana’s terminal is a pain in the a$$, it’s very hot and humid, with no A/C. Bottled water costs around 4$ and a coke 5$. We Venezuelans cannot afford to pay that much for a drink because of currency restrictions (I can buy 2 Large Big Mac Meals for 5$ in Venezuela, so 5$ for a Coke is very expensive for us). What really impressed me was the landing of a LTU A330. That guy made a very very sharp left turn and went down like a rock to land in Runway 09, only 15secs after a C182 had done the same. I started wondering how the ATC worked in the Dominican Republic…
Finally we saw our DC9 land in rwy09 and at about 14:00 we started boarding. After boarding I started walking towards the back, looking for my 29E seat. The funny thing is that row 29 was the last one of the plane and at that time I thought about my friend who had seat 30E assigned to him. He finally made to the back to find out that behind row 29 there wad no row 30, only 2 lavatories and the galley. He wasn’t the only one with that problem, people that had 30A-B-C-D were in the same situation. They were told to wait in the aisle until everyone was seated. The FA found out that row 1 was never assigned so that’s why everyone was moved 1 row backwards. These lucky guys with seats 30A-B-C-D-E, got row 1 which is very quiet. I had an engine blocking my window view and I have to admit it was very noisy. We had to wait about 30min at the gate because some of the paperwork that had to be signed by the crew wasn’t ready. Finally we pushed back at around 14:50 and we were on our way to runway 09. We taxied and held short of runway 09. After 5min holding short, I looked to the left and there was no plane landing, to the right I could see that the runway was also clear so I started wondering why we were told to hold short. Suddenly I saw a Corsair B742 fly over the runway at about 3000 ft or lower, he was on heading 270 so he passed over us and a few mins later he landed on runway 09. I figured out that the ATC didn’t want to clear us for takeoff while the B747 was doing a VOR/DME approach to runway 09. After the B747 vacated the runway, we were cleared for takeoff and we blasted into the skies only to stop climbing at about 2000ft. We made a right turn to the south directly to Venezuela, still at 2000ft. We maintained 2000ft for about 10-15min and then we continued climbing to FL330. Shortly after reaching cruise altitude the F/As started serving beverages and a tiny sandwich just like in the CCS-PUJ flight. I was very tired after sleeping only about 20hrs in 7 days, so I quickly felt asleep despite the engine noise.
I slept about 45-60 minutes and a friend woke me up asking me to borrow him my camcorder, because he was going to the cockpit. I told him I would go with him and we walked our way to the front and asked the FA if we could visit the cockpit. She told us there was no problem and opened the cockpit door for us. There was another friend already inside so it was 3 of us standing in the cockpit chatting with the pilot and copilot. I had a quick look at the instruments and we were descending through FL250 at mach 0.60. We were 70nm from Maiquetía VOR. I could hear the ATC on the speakers and Maiquetia Center told us to descend to 7000, gave us the altimeter and instructed us to contact Maiquetía Approach on 120.1. The copilot acknowledged and set the autopilot altitude to 7000 and the set the altimeter to 1011mb. At that time they told us that we couldn’t stay in the cockpit any longer and we thanked them for giving us the chance to be there and walked back to our seats. We landed on runway 09 and vacated the runway on E taxiway. While taxiing to the ramp a FA in the front galley, used the PA to welcome us to Maiquetía Simón Bolivar International Airport and to wish all of us a successful college life. The whole plane clapped and cheered. We parked at a remote gate and deplaned directly onto the tarmac to board a bus that took us to the international terminal.
I would like to congratulate the Aeropostal crews for their kindness and good service on both legs, but especially in the return flight. Excellent service.