I work as a Dispatcher for a business jet operator. Although the company is based in Vienna, our aircraft don’t come here very often. And if they do, it’s often with passengers on both inbound and outbound legs, which means we are not allowed to fly along. So when our Learjet 60 was ferried in from Moscow and would ferry onwards to Malaga the next day, I of course took the opportunity to get a ride on the Ferrari among bizzjets!
In the summer of 2008 I went along on a circuit training with a Falcon 900 and this would be my second trip on a business jet.
I’m always a bit nervous when planning anything which has to do with the business jets because in this industry, schedule changes happen all too often (especially with this particular aircraft.) The night before the trip, I booked my airline flight from Malaga back to Vienna as well as a rental car and a hotel in Torremolinos, near the airport. Luckily this time the schedule remained as planned…
I made my way to Vienna Schwechat airport on a cold winter morning and met up with one of the two captains at the airport hotel (two captains and no first officer on this flight), from where we took a taxi to the general aviation terminal. There we met the rest of the crew, the second captain and the flight attendant (I’ll call them the Austrian Captain and the Spanish Captain…) After printing the latest weather charts we walked to our waiting aircraft.
A nice collection of bizzjets at Vienna Schwechat
08 January 2009
International Jet Management flight IJM399
Vienna / VIE - Malaga / AGP
Bombardier Learjet 60 OE-GSU
Before starting the engines, the Austrian Captain asked me whether I had ever experienced the legendary climb performance of a Learjet… I said no and kindly requested him to give me a demonstration if possible Engines were started and we taxied to runway 29 for departure. The acceleration during the take-off run was great. Once lifted off, he initially kept the plane in a shallow climb. You can guess what happened next… we went BALLISTIC! Wooo-hoooooooooo!!! I was pushed back firmly into my seat as we climbed like a rocket. Now I know what the Lear’s climb performance is like
Cruising over the Alps
Room with a view
Air France 747-400 going in the opposite direction
Needless to say, we were at our cruising altitude in no-time. Our routing (which I had prepared myself the day before…) took us over Nice, Barcelona and Valencia. Unfortunately it was overcast from Nice onwards, but the first bit over the Austrian Alps provided some spectacular scenery. Unfortunately the Learjet doesn’t have a jumpseat – if you see the size of the thing you’ll understand why – and I split my time between overlooking the men on the job in their “office” and relaxing in one of the large leather seats in the cabin.
FL390, speed M.795, somewhere over Spain
The descent into Malaga was bumpy and we lined up for an approach to runway 32. Unfortunately it was raining upon arrival but at least I didn’t get stuck there like thousands of people did in Madrid because of the snow!
I thanked the crew for the fantastic trip (they now had to wait for two passengers and take them to Paris Le Bourget) and jumped into the handling agent’s van, who was kind enough to take me via the airside to the passenger terminal where I picked up my rental car.
I went to a spotting location recommended to me near the final approach path to runway 32, at a big shopping complex, and sat in the car waiting for some action. That action never really came however, and combined with the rain and cold made me decide to abandon the spot and go and look for some food before driving to my hotel for the night.
A visit to AENA’s website assured me that the next morning there would be a lot of traffic in the morning hours which, combined with a clear sky and sunny conditions, gave me the chance to do some great spotting after all and test my new Canon 70-300mm lens.
A venerable Learjet 35A built in 1978, still going strong
Big Brother is watching you
A former FlyNordic Mad Dog now in basic Norwegian Air Shuttle colours
I left the location around noon, as there was a 45-minute gap between incoming flights anyway, and returned the rental car after filling up the tank. As I had already checked in online for both flights at home the morning before (you can do this from 30 hours before departure with Air Berlin) I walked straight through security into the airside of the terminal. Photography through the dirty windows and against the sunlight wasn’t any good so I spent some time strolling along the shops and having a small lunch, before making my way to gate B20. It struck me than nobody checked my identity before I got on the plane, neither at security nor at the boarding gate…
Quite a beauty, this NetJets Falcon 7X
09 January 2009
Air Berlin flight AB5587
Malaga / AGP - Hamburg / HAM
Airbus A321 D-ALSA
The flight to Hamburg today was almost completely full. We took off from runway 32, and the routing was via San Sebastian, Paris and Brussels. It was amazing to see everything covered in snow and ice. I must say that this particular flight on Air Berlin was a bit of a disappointment, mainly with the catering service. I flew on the airline from Zurich to Palma de Mallorca in 2005 and the catering was great, with a full meal. However, on this 3-hour flight the standard catering only consisted of a cheese or salami sandwich with a drink, followed by a second round of drinks a bit later. It was possible to buy a hot “meal” with a price between six and ten euros, but it didn’t look too filling to me anyway. Luckily I’d had a sandwich at the airport so at least I didn’t die from starvation.
My connection in Hamburg was seamless: we parked on a remote stand and upon entering the terminal I made my way to the floor above, where boarding was just about to start for my flight to Vienna.
Sunset over a wintery France
09 January 2009
Air Berlin flight AB8846
Hamburg / HAM - Vienna / VIE
Airbus A320 D-ABDO
Service on this 1 hour 10 minute flight was the same as on the longer flight I had come to Hamburg on, with a sandwich (cheese or turkey this time) and a drink. The moving map display was working properly this time which made it interesting to follow. It’s really a nice system, using satellite images to track the flight, combined with nice graphics. It for example also shows the view to the left and right of the airplane as well as a forward view as it is from the cockpit. Actually it looks a lot like the graphics on Microsoft Flight Simulator and allows you to “see” the scenery on the ground even if it is overcast…
Vienna was a chilly -8 degrees centigrade when we landed on runway 16, followed by parking on a remote stand and a short bus ride to the terminal.
Although the whole thing turned out a bit more expensive than I had hoped for, the experience was certainly worth it. Let’s see if next time I can hitch a ride on the Global 5000 The scenic airport of Samedan in Switzerland is definitely in my top 5 wish-list… although I’ll happily take any opportunity to ride a bizzer of course.