24.11.05 KLM 737-8K2 PH-BXE AMS-CDG act 08.18-09.03 18F
Early morning, got up at 5.45 to catch this one. Luckily I had checked in electronically so I didn’t have to be at the airport more then an hour before. All went non eventful. I was happy to see ‘XE in its new colors at the gate, yet another new 737 frame for me to fly on, while I flew in about half of them by now. Smooth flight even while it was quite cloudy. The boxed sandwich is still tasteful as ever although it’s always the same, they should vary some more, and be aware a cold grainy sandwich is something european, many of their connecting passengers rather have noodles (asia) or toast (Latin america) or something for breakfast. Here we taxi to the gate at CDG, another KLM 737 is still there. Here we taxi to the gate at CDG, another KLM 737 is still there.
24.11.05 Air France A-340 F-GLZS CDG-LOS AF854, act 11.06-16.40 21K
Even while I arrived before schedule and the LOS flight would at least depart from the same terminal, I still had not much time to waste, waiting at two checkpoints for carry on luggage, passports and tickets. My visa wasn’t checked ever on my trip though, probably the risk on flights
I got myself a nice bulkhead seat with no one next to me, and I was delighted the flight was performed by an A-340 instead of the scheduled A-330, which makes a good chance to sample many different Air France types. Better yet was there were only about 40-50% passengers, my big neighbour in the aisle seat moved to the centre seatrow, so I had the two seats for myself. Here an impression of the fairly empty cabin
and a CRJ-700 of Brit Air, F-GRZI we passed during taxi.
We pushed back at 10.50 and took off at 11.06,
the climb rate was about 550 meters a minute, not THAT sluggish of this A-340 with hairdryer engines The weather was more clear and the flight was uneventful. Soon a drinkround, we had a hot meal within an hour. It was a nice meal, at least the choices Air France offers were a bit more interesting then the usual chicken or pasta. I chose the fish: hake with rice and simmered leeks (citied from the menu). We passed Barcelona, Palma, then the Algerian dessert, over Tamanrasset and Niamey. At around 16.00, there was a small snack (no 2nd meal as the flight is less then 6 hours I guess), a choice between a tablerone chocolate or a small muffin. Then the flight attendants were spraying the cabin with insecticide (Nigeria is also a Malaria region). It was in the late afternoon when we approach Lagos
After landing the small international airport of Lagos reminded me of Schiphol like it was 20 years ago, with the smaller tower and the non-stretched terminals which are now C and D, running walkways, jetbridges, yellow clear signage, about 20 gates in total. Near the terminal is the derelict 747 of Hydro Cargo which made a mishap earlier
It didn’t look too bad. Here our A-340 at the gate
Next to us was a 767 of Bellview
With only hand luggage, the custom entry went quite smooth. My passport and visa was checked by three different officers but they were friendly, they made a joke which I didn’t understand but of course I smiled, and I could go outside to meet my family.
25.11.05 Aero Contractors 737-322 5N-BHZ LOS-PHC act 16.35-17.19 20A
Next day we went to the domestic side of the airport (about 4 km from the international airport). The domestic side is chaotic and has a few areas. Coming from town, you have the Air Force corner, with 8 Lockheed C-130 Herculeses, two of which derelict, followed by the old Nigeria Airways buildings where the famous wrecks of A-310s, a DC-10 and 737-200s are parked,
a terminal with most airlines and a smaller one for Aerocontractors. The check in hall:
The tickets were confirmed and we could walk straight to the aircraft.
First everyone had to identify his luggage, then we boarded thru the backdoor. The inside of the aircraft was still fully United with these purple/grey cloth seats, but clean and with a good seatpitch (seatpitch configuration seemed wider then it would be on United). On taxi to the runway we were followed by an EAS 737-200 As the weather was cloudy, the whole flight was quite bumpy. Still the seatbelt signs were off apart from take off and landing, and the F/A’s handed out cold drinks and a choice of either sandwiches, a piece of cake or chips. . At Port Harcourt was an An-124
together with normal traffic like Air France and domestic. The EAS which departed beyond us also landed safely
. A Chanchangi 737-200:
The Sosoliso DC-9 5N-BFD which I tried to get a flight on next week was also present. Sadly it had only 15 more days to fly before it demised on this airport.
27.11.05 Chanchangi 727-225 5N-BEU PHC-LOS act 11.51-12.36
The employer of my brother in law urges his staff only to fly Aerocontractors and Virgin Nigeria. Bellview used to have a pretty good name as well but since the october crash which is still very unclear and everyday talk, isn’t recommended on this moment. As we wanted to be back in time for the childrens Sinterklaas party at the former Dutch consulate ( a dutch traditional childrens holiday before 5 december) for my niece, he booked us on Chanchangi instead to my full approval. Due to heavy traffic in Port Harcourt we only arrived at the airport 15 minutes before the planned departure time of 11.30, but I relaxed them by telling I see the 727 just coming in so no way it will leave in time. Quite quickly we were checked in , here the typical terminal of Port Harcourt
and headed to the departure gate. Soon we could walk to the front entrance. The inside of the aircraft, one of the ‘newer’ 727s made in 1982, looked pretty well cared for, some business class rows and mostly coach, probably like it was when with Sun Country or even Eastern.
Unfortunately I sat at the wrong side to see the derelict 707 at take off, but here a view of the terminal after take off My family didn’t believe I liked the 727 because it was too old and noisy to fly in Europe or the USA because up front, it was extremely quiet and smooth. Take off was quite powerful and the weather was good. After a few minutes, we were served juice and a snack, ad random some rows got sort of cold tasteless hotdogs while others got a sandwich with tuna salad kind of stuff. The safety card had a weird drawing of the 727, it looked more like a Yak-42.
The flight was smooth, at 12.23 they suddenly started descending from cruising altitude. Some views of Lagos on approach
The domestic corner
I decided to make a trip alone without my family as I love improvising, minibuses packed with ‘local’ people and simple hotels. I was attracted to the hustle and bustle of the Muslim north and Plan A was to get to Kano, added to my attraction was, it is the only destination of IRS which flies old F-28 Fellowships. A flight was supposed to leave at 11 and Nigerian style you just have to show up at the airport and pay cash to get along. I arrived at 9.45 at the domestic terminal. Most domestic flights check in here, only Aerocontractors have an office closeby while Virgin Nigeria leaves from the International terminal on the other side of the runway (about 3 km away) , otherwise their hub with international connections wouldn’t work. Soups wrote an interesting report about this “seamless” operation.
The young woman at the IRS desk yelled. “The flight is leaving now ! Quick, what’s your name, it’s 15000 Naira (around 90 euro). Luckily I had bundled my 500 Naira bills in packages of 5000 and 10.000 so I wrote down my last name on an old envelop and within a minute I got a handwritten ticket, I ran through security and onto the tarmac towards the IRS Fokker, hardly 2 minutes after I entered the airport. But the aircraft slowly taxied away from the stairs with screaming engines. I walked back to departures. The young lady said “well, you walked too slow”, and told the 12.45 flight was full, I was waiting listed for that, but there was place on the 18.00 flight. I waited in the departure hall, talked to a dutch expatriate who was also waiting listed for the flight and could get on the bus to it around 13 o clock.
Seeing around 80 people cueing up for the small F-28, I didn’t have much illusions to get in. Indeed the aircraft was full before the standby people could even get at the stairs. There was a mid eastern Stellios kind of business man with a confirmed ticket who exploded when he was also refused entrance, he started to yell and push some IRS people who tried to calm him down. I was more serene, and went back to the IRS desk. So for the second time today I had a F-28 taxi away from me while I should have been on board. . At least an opportunity to make some shots, here you see the dusty old Chrome Air BAC 1-11 which doesn’t fly. and here an Albarka 737 They were all too happy to change my single ticket Lagos-Kano to a Kano-Lagos ticket I could use later, as I didn’t want to wait so long (and still not be 100% confident there wouldn’t be a cancellation or whatever) until 6 PM to fly out to Kano and end up in a dark place (forget about streetlights in Nigeria) I don’t know, and decided to fly to Abuja instead in daylight. There were quite some options flying around 4-5 PM, like Bellview (flying 732), SpaceWorld (732),
ADC (732), Fresh Air (732)
and EAS (732), as Lagos-Abuja is the most competitive route in the country. Did I tell yet the 737-200 is the most widely used aircraft in Nigeria? Fresh Air advertised for 8000 Naira (47 euro) flights to Port Harcourt while most others are 10.000 Naira. In Nigeria that should ring some alarm bells, are they so notorious noone would fly them if they were 10.000 like anyone else?
A few days later (still a week before the Sosoliso crash and without any own crashes), they were grounded so I read. I wanted to fly Sosoliso Airlines who had a DC-9 and a MD-80, but unfortunately they didn’t have anything to Abuja and I didn’t want to go to Port Harcourt again. So I was getting a bit fed up waiting longer and bought the 15.30 first flight out, by Chanchangi. I expected there would be more options from Abuja to get to Kano (forget about websites or timetables to check here in Nigeria).
30.11.05 Chanchangi 727-225 5N-BEU LOS-ABJ act 15.49-16.45
Unfortunately I was driven to the exact frame I flew on sunday as well, 5N-BEU. BEU means ‘fed up’ in dutch appropriately. But well, I liked Chanchangi sunday and another 727 flight never hurts. I got seat 22A assigned but removed to 22F to be able to see the other side view on take off. Here a DHC-6 Twin Otter while we were taxiing.
We took off at 15.49 and on our initial climb, on the right side I saw the troubled runway 18R and a fright terminal I didn’t see yet, with 2 DAS DC-10s, a dusty ex Aer Turas DC8-63 and a yellow DHL 727.
While the flight was only 50% full, maybe the heat made the take off seem particularly sluggish. When we made a sharp right turn over Lagos downtown only a minute after take off, the buildings underneith were still too close for comfort and actually seemed to get a bit closer. I have been on lots of 727 slow take offs but this didn’t really seem correct, it was one of the weirdest and sloppiest climbs I ever had in an aircraft. This picture was taken some while after take off… Luckily the 727 sped up and climbed well as soon as we headed north to Abuja. The weather was nice, I relaxed and gave the crew benefit of the doubt again. With six boeing 727s and two 737s at least they are experienced on the domestic market in Nigeria, unlike all the start ups like Space World, so they should know what they are doing. After 10 minutes, the crew (4 flight attendants, 2 men, 2 ladies) served water, juice and a big white roll, without anything else to put on or in it, (no butter, let alone cheese or so), funny.
At 16.24, just like on the earlier Chanchangi flight, you could feel they abruptly started the descent from 27.000 feet cruising altitude. The weather was clear so I could enjoy the mountainous area. We landed at 16.46.
Abuja also contained 3 old unidentified BAC 1-11s, 2 derelict Albarka 727s and some airworthy stuff. I could exit from the cool tail stairs.
There were no direct flights between Abuja and Kano, and if I wasn’t stuck with my IRS ticket I would have skipped Kano and IRS and get back later via Port Harcourt to ‘log’ the Sosoliso DC-9 and a 737, but as I didn’t want to waste 15.000 Naira (around 85 euro) I decided to take the 5 hours ride in a minibus to Kano instead.
2.12.05 IRS Airlines F28-4000 5N-NCZ Kano-LOS act 12.05-13.17 seat 13A
Kano Airport was a short ride only a few kms north of the city. From far away, I already saw the tails of 3 old Kabo 747s. The domestic terminal was small and not busy when I arrived around 10. Some faded Bellview signs showed that they used to fly to Kano before their accident, but lately they don’t. The only domestic flights now from Kano are by IRS, 3 daily flights to Lagos, erratically making stops midway at Abuja.
Just like on the way out, I got to chat with the single other Caucasian in the hall. He suggested to relocate to the VIP lounge for 500 Naira (3 euro) not a bad deal, quieter, airconditioned and a lady served one cup of coffee and crackers. Wish AMS or LHR lounge entrance would cost 3 euro!
The F-28 which would bring us back to LOS landed in Kano around 11.17, it was the same 5N-NCZ which departed twice without me on wednesday, I guess its brother 5N-SSZ is standby for additional or charter flights. Hand screening was careless, they didn’t even find my binoculars in my bag so I could have taken a gun if I wished. After a few minutes, we were called to go to the door and board a little bus. Probably a separate one for the 5 “VIPs” in the lounge, as we were the first to board. We drove to the international terminal at the other side. We passed the derelict 747 5N-RRR with many engines spread around it, a very derelict GAS BAC 1-11 5N-AXV, here a picture during take off half way staff was working on two 747s, 5N-NNN and 5N-OOO which seem (potentially) airworthy, but with some flaps out. At the international corner, apart from our F-28 there was an interesting white 707. It had only windows in the aft half, the registration looked something like 5N-ILJ but I couldn’t find anything about it, anyone a suggestion? Next to it was an unidentified 727 around the corner. The F-28 looked fine from the inside and out. It was the final F-28 built, in 1987. Maybe I should make it a project to try to fly on the last built of every aircraft, as I flew in the last ARJ (Air Botnia) and the final 737 classic (CSA) already. Inside most signs are english but I saw a few Swedish and SAS signs in the front pantry, hinting to the Linjeflyg background. The cabin contained one business class row (brown leather) and 15 rows of coach (black leather seats). I sat on 13A, just behind the wing but with the engine fairly close behind. I sadly later had to remove the cabin photos but it was the same as this other ex Linjeflyg aircraft
Photo © Serge Bailleul - AirTeamImages
, and also a cool inflight picture of the non moving F-28 front fan.
Buses later brought more passengers, the flight filled up to capacity. Like at the Aerocontractors flight, people had to identify their luggage and someone was asked to come back outside to the tarmac to identify his. At 11.57 the last two persons jumped in, and a minute later the aircraft taxied to the runway. I am not sure if they gave a safety briefing but the 2 F/A’s checked our belt and closed the overhead bins. We took off at 12.05 to the north. I enjoyed the typical whining Spey engine noise nearby with changing pitches. The take off run took fairly long, probably due to the hot midday at Kano and full load. We turned right over Kano and continued to climb uneventfully as the weather was clear. The F/A’s came by with the cart and handed out plates with a big roll with yellow coconut topping, a package of apple juice and a mint, with later a round with a big bottle of water and plastic cups for those interested. We passed Pita (?) around 12.36 on the left. Weather was nice but near Lagos a bit hazy so we had a bit bumpy approach and were on the ground at 13.17 and bused to the terminal.
Back at Lagos the thought passed my mind of doing a “fun” same day roundtrip to Port Harcourt to log the DC-9 from Sosoliso, and possibly a 737-200 flight back, but I had a sort of bad feeling, airline safety in Nigeria is considerably lower then in the west, and a flight in and out without any other purpose would be playing with fate, more then a flight with a purpose like I made earlier, to join my family and see cities like Kano.
I had to wait for a while for the driver of my family as the roads were very busy and I was back earlier then I expected, so I sat in the window of the ticketing hall which caused some suspicion (I didn’t even think of making pictures now). I was taken to the office of the airport authority for inspection of my bags and questioning. My paper notebook, my newspapers, all was slowly and repeatedly being examined and discussed by the lazy and friendly staff and a bit snappy big sweaty boss. I hid away my digital camera in a faraway place in my bag but unfortunately they found it. The sweaty boss demanded the film, and after explanation it has no wanted to see the pictures on the display. Luckily I could keep most just pretending I deleted them. I was free to make phone calls so I had some high ranking staff of my brother in laws work talking to them, and before long I could leave, luckily with my notebook, cam etc. After an hour or so I could leave. So again a prove to be discrete when spotting at Lagos and not hang around unless you have to wait for a plane! Also having some ‘contacts’ help, at least in saving some money.
5/6.12.05 Air France A-330-200 AF 855 LOS-CDG act 23.33-05.02 25K
To my delight I now get the normally scheduled A-330, so I fly another aircraft I didn’t fly yet on Air France. I was told to check in early, and I arrived at 20 hrs at the airport. Windowseats were gone but I got J (next to window) assigned. It went fairly smooth although the two girls at the handluggage screening chitchatted that I probably have much money and I should give them as their friends a “Christmas gift.”
Boarding started at 22.15 already (official departure 23.45), why so early? The good thing though was boarding was completed before 23 and we pushbacked at 23.19 already. Now the cabin was filled for about 60%, when checking in I could only get an aisle seat but now I could move to an empty row at 25K. We took off at 23.33, smoothly but force fully climbing over the coastline, turning right heading north. In general the flight was smooth, except some chops over Niger. At 12.18 the food was served, the flight attendant announced different choices (beef/salmon) as stated on the menu cards (chicken or grouper fillet) and patronizingly “corrected” the passengers who asked for a choice from their menu card instead, until pointed out they actually were handing out according to the menu. Quickly the plates were collected, the lights were out and most people including me were sleeping. An early flight would at least mean I wouldn’t miss the connection to my first A-318 flight from CDG to AMS. At the ungainly hour of 4 AM all the lights switched on and the crew made a round with coffee/tea and water and a small raisin muffin. The crew seemed as tired as everyone else when we approached CDG at 4.30 am. My snack items were still on the tray next to me, the flight attendant snapped at me “votre tablet!” I couldn’t help but snap back “well take away my cup and trash first” even while I never try to be unfriendly to airline staff. We landed at 5.02, giving me enough time to move by bus to the other terminal in unadequate CDG.
6.12.05 Air France A-318 CDG-AMS F-GUGG AF1140 act. 07.03-07.49 17F
At this very early morning I got a new plane type, the little A-318. We departed a bit late (scheduled 06.45) as some luggage had to be removed. Air France had two dividers with curtains in it, which made the aircraft seem surprisingly long from the inside, in all three “classes” the seats were the same, 6 abreast. I sat at 17F in the aft section (about 6 rows). All the first 15 rows got a plate service (probably sandwich/fruit/yoghurt thingie) while we only got a greasy chocolate croissant with a choice of coffee/tea/water. I’d rather have something fresh and healthy so early on. I wondered, probably this flight was mostly used by Business and full Y pax? I felt a bit left out that my cheapest but by no means cheap AMS-LOS trip neither my Silver Flying Blue membership was good enough to welcome me in let’s say the mid section.
Weather was cloudy and cold but the baby Airbus seemed to cope pretty well, not much difference from an A-319 though from the inside, and after a short comfortable flight we were back at Amsterdam. Feel the cold and darkness in this post landing picture.
It were my first long Air France flights, and while it was adequate, I wasn’t deeply impressed. The IFE was pretty good, I was luckily without neighbours in the window twin on both flights, but food (especially on shorter flights) and crew friendliness was slightly below average, while I expected AF based on other reports to be excellent in the meals/drinks aspect.
All in all I didn’t want to miss a thing of my Nigerian trip, I learned a lot on the country, seeing so many aspects of it, the expats, the industry, the aviation and the everyday life. While all clichés of corruption and mess are true, it wasn’t ‘the hell on earth’ I feared it would be, 99% of the people I met were extremely friendly and cheerful.
A very lengthy report. I made more pictures, selected and shrunk them to make the loading time of my report not too long.