This is my first trip report. I am a relative newcomer to aviation and spotting, so please forgive any mistakes.
Living in Tokyo and close to Haneda is great. A 15-minute train ride and I am at the 4th busiest airport in the world with two fantastic observation decks. But after seeing the same old JAL, ANA, Skymark and other planes, I decided to start travelling to other airports in Japan for spotting and touring.
With several low-cost carriers providing cheap flights to a variety of destinations, I can report on two things here - flying with a low cost carrier in Japan and spotting at an airport outside of Tokyo.
The first trip was made from Feb 2-4 to Fukuoka on
February 2, 2007
Haneda (HND) - Fukuoka (FUK)
Flight BC 25
Departs: 18:40 (actual 18:43)
Arrives: 20:35pm (actual 20:36)
Scheduled Flight time: 1hr 55min
Boeing 767-300 JA767E
Seat 23A, Economy Class
I left work at 5 pm and headed straight to Haneda, using the monorail from Hamamatsucho station. Skymark's check-in desk is to the far right of terminal 1 (JAL) and was completely empty when I arrived. I asked for a window seat on the left side of the plane and was given 23A, directly over the wing. As it was already dark, this was not a problem for me.
The security check was also quick and painless. You can even leave your winter coat on, never mind your belt and shoes.
I went to the gate and saw that the airplane hadn't arrived yet, so took the opportunity to check out some of the JAL planes in the vicinity. Nothing remarkable here, and when I returned to the gate, the plane had arrived and passengers were disembarking. I checked the registration to find I would be flying 767E, a plane with a long history, mostly with Royal Brunei Airlines.
Boarding for domestic flights in Japan is usually smooth and this was no exception. Although the plane had arrived late and our flight was nearly full, the gate agents were able to get everyone on board quickly and we pushed back only 3 minutes late.
The plane was clean with a screen in front of the middle bulkhead seats which showed the route map. There would be no complimentary beverage service on this flight, which for me was not a problem as I had a bottle of water. Most passengers were snoozing as we taxiied around terminal 1 to runway 34R for take off.
It was a clear night and there were some good views of the lights of Tokyo as we became airborne. We made the usual right circle turn over Tokyo Bay and headed south toward Fukuoka.
The flight was very quiet as most passengers were sleeping after a hard week's work. The 6 flight attendants didn't seem to be very busy as they were only a few passengers ordering drinks (all beverages were 100 yen, including cans of beer!).
There wasn't anything particularly remarkable about the service, but I enjoyed the smooth operation of all areas of the flight, and the friendliness of all Skymark employees I encountered.
After about 90 minutes, we began our descent into Fukuoka. The airport is in the middle of the city, which makes for a fantastic landing at night. Neon signs abound as you approach the single runway. We landed on runway 16 and then had to taxi all the way back to gate 1 for disembarkation. It was now past 21:00 and too late to get any real spotting done, so I decided to wait until the next day and headed into the city.
FUK is only a 5 minute subway ride from the center of town, certainly the most central airport in Japan. I made it to my hotel and quickly fell asleep, setting the alarm for an early start for spotting on Saturday.
When I woke up I was disappointed to find it cloudy and worse, cold! I checked the forecast and discovered that Sunday would improve, so decided to spend Saturday touring the city and save the spotting for Sunday.
I won't bore you with the details of Fukuoka, but it is a city worth going to. February 3rd is Setsubun and I managed to catch a couple of packs of beans at a temple, so this year should be lucky!
Back to the topic, when I awoke Sunday I was greeted with a warm, clear day. It was time to go spotting!
There are two observation decks in the domestic terminals, one in terminal 1 and the other in terminal 2. Both are free of charge and have enclosed observation rooms above them.
I began in the observation deck of terminal 2. It has large glass panes and is next to gate 6. Although you can see the planes from Gates 1 to 6 very nicely
you are near the end of the runway and so it is difficult to get good shots at rotation or touchdown.
After spending about 20 minutes there and spotting about 15 planes, I decided to make my way to terminal 1 as it was closer to the middle of the runway as well as to the Dash-8's that I couldn't get with my binoculars.
Terminal 1 is about a 3 minute walk away and is much different. Old and empty, it is not a nice place to be and the same goes for the observation deck. It is surrounded by a wired cage and the holes are not big enough for my camera to fit into, limiting picture capability. The only good thing is that it is on the 3rd floor, so very close to the planes as they taxi in front of you. Very loud and the smell of jet fuel can be annoying after a while.
I spent about 30 minutes here and decided to return to terminal 2. However, I noticed a spiral staircase as I walked out from the observation deck and went up. I had entered the observation room, which was old and unpleasant, but which offered good views of the runway, albeit through very dirty windows.
I decided to stay here for a while as I preferred this spot for spotting and pictures. The place was almost empty, so I sat down and began spotting and taking the occasional picture.
The first plane of note was Amakusa Airlines JA81AM, the only plane in their fleet.
I could see the international terminal from where I was and saw KE, CZ, MU, SQ, and one VN plane, which I was particularly excited about, having not spotted one yet. Finally it departed and I was able to get one decent shot:
Later on I caught an ANA 772 accelerating behind a JAL 773 that was taxiing to its gate:
You can really see how dirty the windows are!
A few minutes later JA767A arrived from HND.
Finally, EVA's Hello Kitty plane departed, a highlight of the trip.
I spent about 2 hours there, getting about 45 planes in the process. I had arranged to meet a friend in the afternoon, so decided to return to terminal 2 to check out their observation room. A quick walk back and up the elevator brought me just in time to see PR 426 from MNL arriving:
I made my way up the stairs and found the observation room here to be much nicer than in terminal 1, but also more crowded. I should have taken more pictures of these areas rather than just the planes, and will do so more next time.
Anyway, I left the airport to meet my friend, knowing that I had to return that evening for the flight back home.
Again I will spare you the details, but after a fun afternoon, I returned to the airport about an hour early.
February 4, 2007
Fukuoka (FUK) - Haneda (HND)
Flight BC 26
Departs: 21:15 (actual 21:15)
Arrives: 22:45pm (actual 22:39)
Scheduled Flight time: 1hr 30min
Boeing 767-300 JA767D
Seat 27H, Economy Class
After another speedy check-in, I wanted to get in some last minute spotting. I returned to the outdoor observation deck and caught a few planes. I had to leave but saw one last plane approaching and thought I might as well get it - yesterday's lucky bean catching was paying off. The approaching plane turned out to be JA01AN
Photo © Masato Nakao
, ANA's Golden Jet. I had never seen one of these before, and unfortunately didn't realize it in time to grab any sort of shot. Still it was exciting enough for me to momentarily forget that I had my own flight to catch.
When I arrived at the gate, passengers were already boarding, so I joined the line and boarded the plane. Quite a difference! The seats were faux leather and quite a nice change from the usual airplane seats.
The departure was on time and again as it was night, a very interesting scene to witness. After we were airborne, the comfy seats got the best of me and I soon dozed off.
The ride back was very quick, and we landed on 34L in HND ahead of schedule. There was no gate for us this time though, so we had to take a bus the final bit, always a treat for me as the bus gets you very close to the planes at the gate.
Finally it was off the bus and onto the train to return home - a great weekend!
All in all, FUK is a good airport for spotting. It is not crowded, but busy enough to be interesting. Would be great if they could clean the glass in the observation room in terminal 1 though.
As for Skymark, there wasn't anything particularly remarkable about the service, but I enjoyed the smooth operation of all areas of the flight, and the friendliness of all Skymark employees I encountered. Their website is in English as well, so if you are looking to travel locally in Japan, try them out. They only serve four destinations currently, but I hope this increases in the near future.
The next report will be on a 1-day trip to Sapporo. Hope you enjoyed this one!
[Edited 2007-02-07 13:51:27]