03.10.2004 MLA-GZM MaltaAirCharter Mil Mi 8 LZ-CAV owned and operated by HeliAirService of Bulgaria
KM 910 11.00-11.15 Flights ontime
Fare:64.-- EUR booked by START without any booking fee, return
Load factor:I am the one and only pax.
Photo © Joseph Tonna
Photo © Peter Tonna
I´ve booked a ticket MLA-GZM 12.30 and return GZM-MLA 14.00. I am early at the airport and I´d like to change to an other flight. After some experiences in such cases I dont go to the ticket desk, they always want money for changes. I go direct to the announced counter 25 for the 11 am flight to Gozo. Nobody was there. At the counter beneath waited a young male AirMalta employee for the last passengers on an Germania flight to STR.
I showed him my tix for the 12.30 flight and asked him if the GZM flight was closed. He said, no problem, I will check it by the system. He checked and answered: There are no passengers booked on these flight, if you want to change to this flight, go to the KM reservation desk, I call the agent there and they will change your reservation. OK, I do it, 2 minutes later I was back at the check in with my changed tix and the male checked me in. He said:
Please wait here, you are the only passenger, I call for a collegue who escort you direct to the bus. 5 minutes later another male KM employee arrived, guided my through security and directly to the bus. We crossed the apron and drive along the fence to the maintenance area from KM and beneath the LH Malta maintenance facility. Two Mil Mi 8s parked there, one with mechanics around, it was the first flight this day. I boarded the heli and was welcomed by a female FA. She showed me the security details for this flight and we chatted about the flight and what to expect. She said: Sit on the right side for the best views. I answered: Thank you, but I sit here in the first row, to check the pilots work. She asked me: Are you interested in that things?
I answered: Oh yes, more closer, more better, the jumpseat is the very best,
its possible to sit there?.
Guys, thats a sound as we started the engines. Very noisy.
The cabin was renovated to western standard, seating 2/2, small fabric seats IMO like in a military plane. We drive along the taxiway from the maintenance area to the runway and departed. After 2/3 minutes in flight, the captain gave me a sign, join the jumpseat!.
The crew was completely bulgarian, the two male pilots and the female FA, extremely friendly, the FO was the pilot flying. I chatted with the captain about the future of the eastern aircraft industrie and so on. Amazing all the instruments in kyrilic language and amazing views through the glass bottom cockpit. Short before landing I´ve gone back to my seat and had another nice chat with the FA, asked her if its enough time to change the reservation at Gozo heliport to fly directly back.
She answered, 13 passengers booked, normally no problem. We arrived, stoped the engines, I disembarked and said: Please occupie this seat for me, I will be back in some minutes. The friendly male agent at Gozo Heliport changed my reservation and...
03.10.2004 GZM-MLA MaltaAirCharter Mil Mi 8 LZ-CAV owned and operated by
HeliAirService of Bulgaria
KM 911 11.30-11.45 Flights ontime
Load factor 13 pax
Photo © Joseph Xuereb
...I leave the small building, the FA waved me from the heli´s door, I waved back jumped in the heli and thinked: Sad, my seat was not free.
But there was another reason, the captain called me, join the jumpseat. Its nice to fly a guy who ist not angry that we operate with the russian helis and is real interested about the aviation industry.
I am in the cockpit for the whole pre-departure procedure, again an imagine sound as the engine started, the FO was again the pilot flying. The captain showed me the whole procedure included rotor angle corrections and so on.
He commenced my question that Malta cancelled the agreement with HeliAirService by the end of October forced by rules after Malta joined the EU earlier this year. They will charter some western helis from November and thinking about to built an airstrip at Gozo to operate with small commuter planes like the Beech 1900.
For the moment he dont know what happens after October, but HeliAirService operated some Antonov cargo planes for the UnitedNations in Africa and that was the simplest way to operate the Mil Mi 8 further, straight to Africa after 7 years without any incident at Malta. One of the Mil´s is in service, the other always used as backup.
Departure with low power, he said only 20 % of the available power needed to bring the heli in the sky included 13 passengers, crew and cargo.
We fly over the channel between Gozo and Malta and along the Maltese coastline, clear sky and exciting views along the whole flight. About 4 to 5 minutes before arrival we ended our discussion, the captain does the communication with the tower.
Exciting we approached like a normal plane and fly in about 5 meters height along the runway to our parking position at the maintenance area. The other pax left the heli, the pilots asked me about my opinion after this flights. Guys I am really impressed about that power. The bus driver honked amd waved, time to go for me. Shake hands with the extreme friendly pilots, they are really proud about their job, shake hands with the extreme friendly FA and entered the bus, followed by annoyed views from the other pax, whats this for a guy, flying on the jumpseat, chatted with the pilots and the FA?.
The bus started, the captain in front off his heli waved me good bye. The first time I thinked, what a pity that I had no digicam to upload the pix about this famous trip. The bus driver leave the airport area through a small door, drives around the corner and stopped at the normal bus stop in front off the terminal building ass all the arrivals are international and this is the only national route, so we dont need to go through passport control.
Conclusion: One of the best flying experiences in my aviation history, many thanx to the crew and I am really impressed about that russian build aircraft.
Critics and comments, also the small ones, always welcome,