After waiting so long to get on the classic 737-200 I finally booked in February 2004 for October, knowing they would still be used on the LGW-DUB-LGW route. Having been to LGW many times this year, the occasional -800 making an appearance, I was worried that I would get a 738.
Still dark I woke up. Oh great it’s 6.30am, and I rolled over. Then it clicked. It was Tuesday 19th October, my ride on the classic 737, an airliner which had such great importance in the history of jets! I jumped up, did the usual of getting ready, listened to my scanner and this confirmed that luck was already on my side and 08R would be used for takeoffs. A nice view of my house on departure!
It was light when we left at 0745 but very cloudy with limited sun and there was a light breeze. An EasyJet A319 whined above us as we approached the “fantastic” new welcome arch at LGW’s SOUTH terminal !
Entering the terminal building I realised I didn’t have a clue where FR checked in. I knew the terminal like the back of my hand, where every other airline checked in but not FR! The screens said “H” so along we went. There was already a small queue, Air Bulgaria, Maersk and Germanwings flights were checking in either side.
After a small wait we were checked in by the Servisair staff who seemed a bit cheery! We were given Servisair Globeground boarding passes which sucked! I was number 28. Security was right there so we went through hassle free and arrived in the shopping centre (SOUTH departure lounge).
After we had a look around, seen it all before really, we headed for the nice café which I like to sit in and watch the movements at SOUTH. We had hot chocolate with scones (yum ) and I got my new piece of equipment out which I’d only used 3 times prior to this, my Finepix S5500.
Took some shots of the movements which included a NWDC-10, CO 767-400ER, 2 Maersk’s, numerous BA aircraft and lots of charters and no frills. Here are some of them:
We rung my Dad and he walked out onto the tarmac and waved lol .
Soon enough “Board Gate 9” came up on the screens so we headed down towards Pier 1. Ryanair prefer to use gates 9 and 10 at LGW, no jet bridge and perched on the end of the Pier. The -800’s don’t fit very well onto these stands so FR are keeping the -200’s into LGW as long as possible.
After a very long walk we arrived at the seating area for Gates 9 and 10. My Dad had text me and said that EI-CJI was our aircraft for the flight. Yes a -200! But considering that they can rarely stay operational for more than a day before breaking down I was still nervous about getting an -800. An EZY 319 (G-EZEG pictured earlier) was on gate 10 and I walked up to the window for the moment of truth.
YES! CJI was sat on the tarmac just metres away. Very patchy and a bit dirty but you know .
Departure time (Scheduled/ Actual): 1000/ 1012 (Local Time)
Photo © Ben Pritchard
Photo © Stephen Poynton
It was now time to prepare for the FR rush. Whereas EZY are organised in their boarding FR were not as I had heard. The pilots at this time were reading the morning newspapers .
“We would now like to call all passengers with Boarding pass numbers 1-65 to the gate.” They were actually alright organised wise. One poor FR man almost got flattened by the stampede a couple of minutes later though when everyone decided they didn’t want to wait anymore!
I walked out onto the tarmac and was surprised to see the planes own stairs working, of course plastered with adverts . I got to the top and took this picture:
Once onboard I was met by a smiley cabin crew and the comparison against EasyJet immediately began.
I was really surprised. The cabin looked new, no signs of its age and was very clean! In fact the British Airways 737-436 I was on in August looked older. If I were a non-knowing (aviation wise) passenger I would have thought this was a pretty new plane! That was until the engines started .
I took seat 17F and boarding music started. We worked out why they did it. It was the sort of shopping music that makes you buy things they play in shops. Clever work FR! Of course this was in between numerous adverts about their great menu.
The headrest cover in front had an advert for Mars on it, “Pleasure you can’t measure”. We then talked about Mars bars lol, wonder why?
I took a proper look at the cabin now that I was settled. I couldn’t get over how well kept it looked, wow! There was only one fault, a gaping hole in the seat in front of my Mum lol! The menus were stuck onto the panels above, another good idea. Maybe, just maybe Ryanair wouldn’t be that bad.
The doors were closed and the cabin crew welcomed us aboard this “Boeing 737 200 series aircraft” . After a bit of a wait the aircraft began to slowly roll backwards. Once we had been turned completely and lined up with the taxiway lines an EasyJet A319 was facing us:
At this time the Cabin Crew ran into positions for the manual safety demo. This was very quick and seemed literally to only say the key points and leave it to us to look in the safety card. It was at this point that the engines started.
The noise level of the 319 at full thrust was how noisy taxi was. The pilots liked really revving her up then pulling back on the thrust and we went flying along the taxiway towards runway 08R bumping gently over the surface of the tarmac.
The Captain came over the PA and talked to us about the flight. A flight time was expected of 55 minutes with a cruise at 26000ft. 15mph winds in Dublin with some low cloud and some sun.
The breaks moaned and squeaked as we came to a halt at the end of the airfield parallel with the runway. The F/O this time came over and told us that we would wait for an aircraft in front of us to depart and two to land then we would be on our way.
After a small rumble another EasyJet A319 zoomed into the distance along 08R and we slowly rolled forward then stopped again. A BA 734 landed, we moved forward more. Then a huge VS 744 suddenly appeared and touched down just after out nose!
We moved onto the runway and stopped at an angle which I found odd. Whereas the engines would normally slowly rev up there was no messing with this baby!
A huge roar filled the cabin as we were pushed back into our seats. This aircraft did not want to leave the ground and was still fully on the tarmac where an aircraft of this size is normally well on its way. Nevertheless the speed we picked up was amazing. What was a bit worrying though was feeling the captain sharply adjusting the steering to keep her on the centreline.
By this time the surroundings were all a blur and at last the Captain pulled back on the yoke.
The aircraft did what was commanded of it immediately and at 1012 we roared into the sky above traffic, trains and fields. My head hurt briefly after takeoff from the noise !
The flaps were immediately retracted and we turned sharply to the left as the wing sliced through the first layer of low cloud.
After several turns the cabin crew were freed and started their duties immediately. Looking in the menu we decided to purchase a special deal of Coffee for £2.80 with a free muffin. Actually they have cleverly just priced both items and only put it against one saying the other one was free!
Anyway the muffin was a choice of blueberry or chocolate and I chose blueberry. It was Mcvities and was very nice !At 10.17 the thrust power was brought down, 5 minutes after takeoff, quite a while compared to some flights I’ve done this year especially on A32X series aircraft. The floor vibrated so much it hurt my feet!
We flew over north Wales and over the Irish Sea
At which point I noticed shavings of plastic in the lights (let’s hope ) looking like lots of flies
The seat belt signs came on and the engine power was reduced once again. We started dipping in and out of the cloud causing some bumpiness. The flaps were set slowly and the gear brought down.
We emerged through the final few clouds and the sea below looked gleaming and peaceful. It looked so still.
Soon enough we were flying over a sandy beach, the flaps being set into the full position.
The nose was lifted slightly and the engine power reduced one final time. The ground was slowly getting nearer and nearer and I took this shot. The gates below had a few new ones for me:
We floated above the ground and then softly kissed Dublin’s runway 28 at 11.13, 2 minutes early. The speed brakes immediately kicked into action but no thrust reverse. For a minute I thought that I would never get a picture of or see the buckets. Then it happened.
The rear of the engine completely opened up and made a huge sound as it kicked the thrust back out forwards. Wow, this is how to thrust reverse the proper way!
The nose dipped with the braking power and as the bucket slowly dismantled and settled back to make the engine complete again we turned off the runway. We braked to a halt then revved up speeding along the taxiway towards the terminal building.
Company 732 EI-CNV was “Bucketing” with a roar as we turned onto the apron. We turned onto the stand A2 and came to a halt. The engines were shut down and I had a huge smile on my face. I had done it, a flight on the 732!
Everyone started embarking but I wanted my usual cockpit visit. ‘NV’ pulled up next door:
I walked to the front once everyone had disembarked and asked, but because of company policies I wasn’t allowed , first time this year! Oh well, I walked down the steps and to the door into the terminal. I took one last look at JI and took this picture:
Once into the simple terminal of Dublin I took some more photos:
And then it was time to leave the airport for 4 hours in Dublin .
After such a laugh we got the 747 bus back to the airport, as on the way. For 10 miles it took 40 minutes because of typical Dublin Congestion. I almost fell asleep it was so warm on that damn bus lol! It pulled up (at last) outside the terminal building and I emerged into the cold air. Beautiful blue skies but VERY cold.
Dad text me saying EI-CJI was scheduled to bring me home. Damn not another double!
The check in in Dublin seems very low key with small desks. Again there was a small queue and once I got to the front she just had a book of paper boarding passes, actually crossed me off on a printed out list, ripped a ticket away from the rest and gave it to me! Very cheap! Number 48 this time, still in the first lot then .
Headed through security and through the shopping area, there are LOADS of shops in this first bit of departures. Walked along and soon emerged into the gate areas we arrived in. Time for some more photos:
The odd thing was that CJI and pretty much all the 732s were in, so it had to go out and come back again yet! There was no way it would be a 1910 departure!
It then occurred that I should look at the screens again to see my flight. Oh dear. ‘19.10 London LGW Delayed/ 20.05’. Ok that’s alright for now, more photos but the sun was already beginning to get weaker.
As the sun began to set my Mum found a new liking for Snake Extreme 2 on her phone which I just found just embarrassing! I went to get some more photos:
Well darkness soon fell above the airport and I tried some night shots which are alright lol:
And some nice terminal shots (you can tell how bored I was getting ):
you can see FR gets good loads
“Go to Gate A14” appeared for our flight so along we went. EI-CJG came in first and parked next door. Not realising it was next door, I thought this was our aircraft as it was now 2010. But no, it wasn’t, passengers started boarding from another gate!
Another -200 arrives, EI-CJI became clear and here it comes onto our stand. Or not! It taxied straight past and out of view. OK then! Maybe I’d get a different aircraft which would be great because then I would have been on two 732’s!
Standing there, it was 2020 and no sign of boarding or a plane. Then I heard a sound and looked around to see EI-CNX turn onto our stand, flaps still full from landing. It came from the other way which seemed odd. Passengers disembarked and at 2025, after 30 minutes or more of standing in line and no announcement or apology from Ryanair for the delay it was time to board.
Departure time (Scheduled/ Actual): 1910/ 2054 (Local Time)
Photo © Gary Stewart
Photo © Derek Pedley - AirTeamImages
There are signs for where you go in line for your ticket number but no-one cared including the woman checking the boarding passes. They called our flight and everyone ran, literally, towards the poor girl. She frantically ripped off the wrong part of everyone’s tickets not caring what sequence number they were.
Another crowd of people pushed from the back. Luckily we got through quick and I emerged into the cold night air. We were directed to NX by the Ryanair ground staff and I walked under the wing and to the rear steps. NX looked very oddly clean with no patches like ‘JI’.
The flight attendant asked that my camera, which was around my neck, was turned off during the flight. Okay then it was pitch black anyway. I took Seat 18A and only had one window not two and an inch less legroom! My knees touched the seat in front which was quite uncomfortable.
This aircraft too was clean and in good condition. The only thing was there were no headrest covers bar about 4 on the entire aircraft. I might have made that 3 , I had to get them back for being that late and not apologising.
EI-CJI appeared and went out to STN obviously filling in. The Captain came over the PA once most people were settled and AT LAST there was an apology. The Captain told us it was due to an aircraft change (I know that’s true) and congestion at LGW (hmmm..). He said weather at LGW was a bit cloudy and 10C.
The doors were shut “Cabin Crew Cross Check and Report” and the FA apologised for the delay. That’s alright now, 2 apologies but an apology or even announcement about our delay in the airport might have been nice! Not impressed with FR I took around this aircraft.
This one had definitely come from LH. Every other no smoking/ fasten seat belt sign said “Nicht Rauchen”/ “Ditte anschnallen” (apologies if I got that wrong). And a nice feature was the window blind. One of the original Boeing ones it had the old fashioned Boeing 737 logo inscribed. The overhead panels were different too!
With a small push the aircraft began to roll slowly backwards and number 2 engine started, shortly followed by number 1. The flaps were immediately set once again and the engines revved up. We started to move along the taxiway, past all the A area gates and the others. On remote stands the FCA 757 stood out with some other Cargo traffic.
We taxied for a short while before reaching the hold for runway 28. My new stalker, G-DOCA (Mountain of the Birds) floated past and touched down. Where’s my old stalker G-DOCG (Chelsea Rose), oh well I prefer the Scottish Tail anyway. Here’s a picture of her the day before taken by me!:
We turned onto the runway and the F/O at this point made the oddest announcement I’ve ever heard. It was like a running commentary (well part of). “Ladies and gentlemen we are now just turning onto the runway and yep just braking. We shall be on our way any second now” and he went! We held at the end of the runway for quite a while, obviously letting the BA734 clear and then once again….
ROAR, the cabin was filled with noise as this baby kicked into life. We sped down runway 28 and I excitedly watched closely knowing that this almost certainly would be my last takeoff in the Boeing 737-200! Much quicker rotation and we soared into the night sky steeply and made an immediate left turn, banking over the city of Dublin.
I whipped my camera out and had to really rush this picture so it’s just a blur as I thought the FA was coming. The lights of Dublin twinkling away against the clear night sky looked so beautiful.
We levelled out and the cabin crew were off with the trolley’s. They ran with one from the back to the front and then started offering snacks. We decided to have another one of these DEALS . Buy a roll for 5 Euros and get a bag of pretzels free! Oh my goodness, what a deal ! We also wanted a glass of red and a 7UP.
We asked for these items and she gave us the drinks but there was only one roll left, egg and cress. Oh well we’d split it, and we did. Bit small but oh well. The bag of pretzels was barely bigger then my tumb nail !
The pilots were really pushing it and just over 30 minutes from takeoff at 21.27 the seat belt signs or “Ditte anschnallen” flashed on. I always keep my seat belt on anyway so it makes no difference to me but I had to fold the tray table into the upright position.
I was about to experience the fastest approach I have ever known in a civil airliner. The engines didn’t reduce at this point, oh no, the nose dipped. And when I say dipped, I mean dipped. Looking to the front of the aircraft it was downhill!
You could hear the wind rushing past and there was no speed brake action or flaps. These guys sure wanted to make up for lost time! The clouds flew past, the wing just chopping through them with ease. This was the fastest descent I have EVER experienced!
The ride began to get a bit bumpy and we hit a huge dip at one point and must have lost hundreds of feet at once. Then smooth again. That was FUN !
The flaps were finally set and the thrust brought back to idle at 21.37. The nose rose massively now and suddenly the people at the front were above us again!
With small inputs of thrust from the Captain we descended fast into LGW and at 21.39 we were floating above runway 08R at LGW, an AEU 737-700, a descendant of this classic, taxiing out for departure. At 21.40 we touched down surprisingly smoothly for the speed we were going at. Speed brakes and thrust reverse sprung into life as the cabin was once again filed with a now familiar roar.
We turned off the runway at quite a speed and the thrust buckets closed consecutively with the speed brakes. We headed towards Pier 1 and swung onto gate 10. The aircraft came to a halt slowly and the engine noise disappeared as it was taken over by the noisy air system.
We waited quite a while for some stairs (ours were broken ) and at last they brought some to our aircraft, but only to the front door. So being at the back, I sat back in my seat and took a look at the aircraft and out of my window at the movements of LGW. About 3 EZY A319’s finishing their days duties taxied past and at last people were clearing.
I checked the overhead locker, collected all my belongings and headed down the aisle, which was only a short walk on this littlen. Once at the front, the cockpit door was open so I asked again for a visit and the FA asked another. She apologised and said no as it was their policy. Fair enough, I took one last step off the 732 and walked down the Servisair stairs. I took one last look at the aircraft and walked along the canvas tunnel, which looks like something you get in the Caribbean, into the terminal building.
10 minutes to clear passports as all those EZY flights had to have someone on them . No luggage so a quick exit, in the car and home within 25 minutes of touchdown!
I hated FR before I flew them because of all the stories I had heard so I had little expectations. The cabin crew were smiley, friendly and professional, same with the cockpit crew (or what we heard of them). I actually started to like them until the return. Nearly two hours of delay without a word is ridiculous. Especially when they knew we were standing there for a good 30/40 minutes in line. Their handling of the situation was awful and so was the boarding. The FR lady ripped off the wrong part of the boarding pass which caused a bit of trouble at LGW passport control and she didn’t tier the crowd causing chaos! I’m surprised no-one got hurt! Their magazine made me cringe. Cheaply produced with constant comparisons to other airlines, especially EasyJet! They picked carefully what data and charts they used to show their punctuality/ reliability etc. Well to be honest I think that EZY beat you hands down I’m afraid Mr O Leary. Not half as bad as expected though, it was just the low level of professionalism by the groundstaff.
2 Boeing 737-200’s to talk about. The first EI-CJI, was delivered to Arkia in March 1983 as 4X-BAB, here is a picture of it just 4 months old, funnily enough at London Gatwick:
Photo © Sarah Ward
Amazing, 21 years later still serving the same airport!
It then also served with Dan Air, here are some pictures, look Southend, Simon :
Photo © Tony Rogers
Photo © Ivan Azzopardi
Also at some point it was American registered as N45708, no pictures though I’m afraid.
Is quite weird looking at the aircraft I flew on well before I was even born with Arkia! It really is one classic plane.
The second plane, EI-CNX, though in a better condition, is in fact 2 years older. It was delivered to Lufthansa brand new way back in April 1981 as D-ABFW:
Photo © Guido Allieri - Italy
This explains the German interior signs. And very interestingly it was the only aircraft ever to wear the experimental yellow colours of LH, talked about recently! Wonder how many spotters of the time wanted this aircraft to say they’d flown on it, even if they weren’t all that nice!
Photo © Gerhard Plomitzer
As far as I am aware, it then went to Ryanair and in 1997/8 was painted into the Tipperary Crystal colours:
Photo © Chris Sheldon
And then painted back to normal colours. These are the lucky 732’s, most have now been broken into pieces and will never take to the skies again. The 737-200 was such a success for Boeing and contributed massively to aircraft production both then and now. If you still are yet to fly one of these old ladies’s, do, they are one hell of a ride!
Thanks for reading and bearing with the length,
Comments are very welcome,