To celebrate graduation from high school, my friends and I (the 10 of us) decided to go to Corfu, Greece for two weeks (July 17-31). Indulging in beach activities and doing anything we pleased was certainly a fitting way to end high school, all topped off by my decision to bugger off for a day, spending the morning spotting at Corfu's famous airport, and dedicating the afternoon to a flight on Europe's only scheduled seaplane service (or so I'm told).
I do not want to flood the forum with pics, so for the spotting part of the trip I'll redirect you to this thread on an Italian aviation forum - obviously all written in Italian, but there isn't much to read, so hopefully it won't be a problem
I'll just say that I spent about 3 hours and a half on the road that runs right past the runway 17 threshold, a great spot to be, except that when planes start taking off landing on 17 (as opposed to 35 which is the approach from the bay) it is advisable to move a bit further from the runway lest you should be washed away by the jetblast I managed to savour the exhaust fumes of an Aegean Avro RJ-100 before moving across the road and asking a grumpy old Greek lady if I could stay on her lawn to take photos of the planes (in Greek, too! I hope that whatever I said to her made sense) - she was kind enough to let me stay, or better said, she really didn't seem to care
Anyway, time passed and at ten to 2PM I decided it was time to trek back to the terminal and take a taxi to AirSea Lines' office in Eleftheriou Venizelou Street, near the New Port. I had called two days in advance to reserve my ticket, a very quick process thanks to charming Sofia, who spoke excellent English too.
I was warmly greeted by her and her colleague upon entering the office, and picked up my ticket for the flight.
I waited for about half an hour until the minibus to the marina we would depart from arrived. In about 5 minutes everyone was aboard, and a 15-minute drive got us to Marina Gouvia. The "terminal" there was quite small, but well-organized. Check-in was very quick, as was the security check (a fat Greek matron with a metal detector). Another 10-15 minutes passed before we could board our flight to Paxos island, just 12 km South of Corfu island.
AirSea Lines (operated by Pegasus Aviation)
15:25-15:40 (changed from original scheduled times, 15:45-16:00)
De Havilland Canada Dash 6-300 on floats - SX-BVP
I had been on a Twin Otter before (Grand Canyon Airlines' "Vistaliner), but the fact that this time it was a seaplane made the whole thing a bit more "exotic", if you will.
I was last to board but luckily still got a window seat on the starboard side of the plane in row 3. The captains introduced themselves and explained the usual safety features of the aircraft, and jokingly pointed out that, beyond their informational purpose, the safety cards could be used as a ventilation system as well!
The engines were turned on, and in a matter of minutes we were taxiing to the designated water strip for takeoff - here's a video of the takeoff run. Climbing was quite slow initially, but after a while we quickly gained altitude and reached our cruising level of around 3000 feet, if I'm not mistaken.
We passed Kerkyra town on our right, and shortly afterwards crossed the island, then following the coast over the Adriatic sea.
As the flight only lasted 15 minutes, we soon came into view of Paxos island.
We overflew the bay of Lakka, where incidentally some other former classmates of mine were spending their holiday at the time (we left Venice on the same ship):
Soon afterwards we reached the bay of Gaios, the island's main town, where we would be landing:
Circling over the bay to lose altitude, we were also provided with a nice view of the small island of Antipaxos
Having drawn very close to the water now, the plane seemed to have reduced its rate; suddenly the pilots descended sharply and splashed into the bay - surprisingly smoothly, I might add. The aircraft came to a quick halt and a few minutes later we were moored at Paxos' aerostathmós (air station).
Oh, before I forget, here are two videos: approaching Gaios and "touchdown.
Unfortunately I wasn't planning to spend the night in Paxos (a decision I instantly regretted, because it looked beautiful from what I could see), so it was already time to check-in for my flight (PEV407) back to Corfu.
I do not have any pics of the return flight since the batteries died on me, but it was more or less the same, except that I got to see the place where I was staying (Agios Gordios) from the air.
All in all, this was a very interesting experience. I had never been on a seaplane before, and now I can't wait to do it again! If you are planning to go to Corfu, I would highly recommend it - booking is easy (heck, I reserved my flights on the phone while basking in the sun on the beach ), the AirSea Lines staff are very efficient and polite, and at €60 return (€35 for a one-way flight to Paxos) it is a great way to do something different. Depending on the day of the week, there may be two flights a day from Corfu to Paxos, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so it is also a cool way to do a daytrip to either island.