Scary things do happen. And it happened to me for the second time. In april 2001, I flew on HC-BLF, a 721 of the Ecuadorian military, on the route from ESM to UIO. About 10 months later this very same aircraft crashed in Colombia, killing all 92 souls aboard.
A couple of weeks ago, on March 28, 2005, I flew on the same route, ESM-UIO. This time it was on Icaro Air, on a lovely Fokker 28, in the cockpit jump seat. Exactly 10 days later, on April 7, HC-CDA touched down a couple of feet early while landing at Coca (in the Ecuadorian jungle), causing the left main landing gear to collapse, with the plane sliding down the runway for about half a kilometer and then coming to rest virtually inside the living room of a house next to the runway. All passengers and crew left the wreck without injury, but the good ol' F28 was worth nothing more than a few 'centavos'.
A scary thought has crossed my mind. While most people (in my situation) would say "thank God that I flew 10 days earlier and not on THAT day".
Maybe I'm crazy, but knowing that no one got injured, I would have liked to be right there in that accident. It might sound really weird. But imaging knowing BEFORE that you'll walk out there without a scratch on your elbow. Under these circumstances I would have loved to experience this situation. Call me nuts.
But now, back to the topic! Let me tell you about my wonderful & unforgettable flight...
Aircraft: HC-CDA Fokker 28 - 4000 Icaro Air Ecuador
Route: ESM-UIO, operating as flight X8'301
Schedule: leave 1520 / arrive 1550 / duration 0:30
Actual: wheels off 1540 / wheels on 1605 / duration 0:25
(all times local)
Ticket price US$ 45.00
I arrived very early at ESM, about 3 hours prior to the flight, because I got the chance to get dropped off by friends. The first hour of my wait, I was the ONLY person on the whole airport. (including staff). About 1h prior to flight, the airport and airline staff started to appear (about 6 people total). I bought my ticket. For some stupid reason, I HAD to pay the $45 that they had quoted me on the phone, when I made my reservation. Even though there was a special deal that day for $39! They wouldn't even let me cancel my phone reservation and buy a walk-up ticket at $39! No can do, even though there were plenty of open seats! (Whatever.)
The aircraft arrived from UIO about 20 minutes prior to departure, and they turned it around in no time at all. Beautiful purple & white Fokker 28.
They started boarding. A short walk across the apron, as usual on small airports. (in fact this airport sees ONE plane daily, so it's a very big event in Esmeraldas!)
As I was the last passenger in the line at the door, I greeted the captain who was looking out of the opened cockpit window. "Disculpe Señor", I yelled up to the window, "would there be any chance to catch a ride in the cockpit? I'm a pilot myself!" (I said this in spanish)
"Claro que si, no hay ningun problema!" he answered me, which means something like "sure, how would you dare NOT to join us in the cockpit?"
They were both around my age (I'm 23), and we had a great time. Even though we had a lot of fun talking, they did their job VERY professionally. They spoke perfect english on the radio, and they told me they had flown this route and other domestic routes in Ecuador several time each day for the last couple of years.
I took a bunch of pictures on the trip, and they had given me a headset to listen to ATC. Cool approach into UIO, great view over the city.
When I left the plane, the flight attendants were giving each passenger a rose. When I unpacked my backpack at my friends home in Quito, I realized that I had a swiss army knife in my hand luggage all the time. Go figure.
Hope you guys enjoyed reading about my unusual flight. This little beauty of a dutch jet will never fly again. It makes me very sad. Almost like somebody died. I've had a wonderful hour aboard this ship, one I will never forget. Thanks to the Capitán and his Co for this experience... and to HC-CDA! You will never be forgotten!
Me and the co-pilot
Banking into UIO final approach
Lining up for the runway
After getting out
HC-CDA leaving again
Edit: Here's the link to the accident report...
[Edited 2005-04-23 23:55:22]