I decided to fly the 336 kilometres to Trichy from Chennai, as all the trains from Chennai to Trichy were full due to the weekend rush.
Air Deccan is the only other airline (apart from Indian(IC)), which flies to TRZ. I bought an e-ticket for 1500 rupees each (almost $40), one-way for me and my younger brother.
We went to the MAA airport domestic terminal at 12.45pm on Saturday, about 2 hours before departure. The DN counter was pretty crowded and most of the flights leaving at that time of the day were either DN or 9W
. We stood in the queue and were promptly checked-in and the boarding passes issued(hand-written).
After waiting for about an hour, we went through security and waited for the boarding call at Gate 01. Spent the time looking at a particularly dapper-looking A320 owned by IC
. When the boarding call came, all the passengers bound for TRZ on DN153 boarded a shuttle, which took us to our aircraft.
It was a beautiful white ATR-42, with the Air Deccan Symbol of "Hands forming a bird" on the tail. DN has free seating, so we made it a point to be one of the first to board the aircraft and went fully forward and took the first row of forward-facing seats on the righthand side. There were two rear-facing seats in front of us, but we didn't take it. My window offered a superb view of the huge prop. We spotted a few 9W
737s take-off from runway 7 and a Paramount Airways' E-170 land on runway 7. Given thye high temperature and humidity outside, the aircraft was like an oven and all of us started sweating profusely. Only when the aircraft started taxiing at 14:45 did we feel a gust of filtered cool air from the vents above us.
We taxied along at quite a pace, I don't know if it's an illusion or not. But I felt we were taxiing much faster than in a usual 737 (probably because the ATR is lighter and you don;t want a heavy 737 rollling along at the same speed ??). I spotted a Blue-Dart operated 757 (first time sighting a 757 in India), a few 737s and one Fokker50 with a logo "CA" on its tail (it was a freighter, and it was standing alongside the 757 and the 737s in the cargo apron).
We taxied onto runway 7 and taxied briskly along till the intersection of runways 7-25 and 12-30. We turned left onto runway 30, reached the very end of it and made a U-turn, now we were on the numbers of Runway 12.
The take-off roll was awesome! I was pushed back to my seat and the plane accelerated like crazy, about halfway along the runway, we lifted off and I could see the 12000 foot Runway 7-25 stretching across from me. We climbed up to our cruising altitude (we weren't very high, my guess is about 12k to 15k feet). But the visibility was not that much due to haze.
DN sells snacks on its flight. Browsing through the menu, I asked for Cofee, but the FA
said that they didn't have it. I settled for a can of Coke, but they didn;t have that either!! She apologised and said that they only had cookies and fruit cakes. I bought a fruit cake for 30 rupees (about 75 cents - but in Chennai you can have a full meal for 30 rupees whereas you'd get fries or a Burrito for 75 cents in the US), but was disappointed to see that it was bite-sized.
We cruised along smoothly, and about halfway thru the flight we encountered some mild turbulence. There were tufts of huge cumulus clouds all around and I could also see some thunderstorm cells in the distance. I enjoyed it when the pilot banked left at the last moment to avoid a huge cumulus cloud. i watched it sail by, right outside the wing-tip. We started our descent and we had skirted round the thunderstorm cells.
I could see the huge rivers Cauvery and its distributary Coleroon (which is even wider) as we descended further down. I asked my brother to watch out for the runway. I had chosen the right-hand side window particularly for that, as I knew that we'd most probably be landing on Runway 27 and we'd turn to our right as we are flying in from the north.
My brother shouted that he could see the runway, I looked further and saw the runway angled about 45 degrees to our heading. The captain asked the FA
to assume positions for landing. We banked to the right and it was a turning final which ended right on the runway threshold. We flared and the aircraft touched down softly, a few seconds later. There was some construction going on around the runway. Good news if they are improving the airport.
We taxied onto the apron and we got off a few minutes later. Ours was the only aircraft in the vicinity and I walked around the aircraft, taking in the various details and enjoying it thoroughly (felt like a FO making a preflight check
The airport in TRZ is not much to tell about, but it was decent enough. Our baggage arrived in trolleys pushed by the airport staff. We took a taxi to our house ( the airport is just 4 kilometres away from downtown Trichy).
It was a great trip and I enjoyed my first flight on a turboprop very much.
And by the way, did I mention that the FA