Hi everybody, this is my first trip report and post here on A.net, so go easy on me, and I hope you enjoy it. I'd like to think I have a lot of pictures here, though not a lot of them inside cabins as I have an aversion to snapping away. Part of it is just post-9/11 angst, and the other part is that it just seems a little awkward to me.
This trip was part of a summer 2008 University of Washington "Exploration Seminar" 3-week field class in Copenhagen and Greenland to learn about glaciers, ice sheets, and climate change. I hopped on board because it sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and, needless to say, because of the unique flight opportunities. We'd originally planned to fly the weekly BWI
route that Air Greenland had inaugurated with plenty of hype a few years ago, but in March I saw that they'd cancelled the route, sending my teachers into a panic. They shifted a lot of the travel plans, doing a layover in Copenhagen, with the convenient and famous non-stop from SEA
. That actually turned out to be a great choice, as our teachers had a lot of connections with the climate folks at the University of Copenhagen. But enough of that - onto the trip report!
One more thing before I start: A.net user Myk posted another Air Greenland trip report back in Summer 2007, complete with takeoff/landing videos and cabin pictures. Take a look at it here: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-fo...ums/trip_reports/read.main/105419/
I spent the night before the trip at a friend's house in Bremerton. I didn't sleep much due to the usual pre-travel excitement. I took the trip to SEA
on the Bremerton Airporter bus - I definitely recommend it to anyone in the Kitsap area who hasn't used it before.
Crossing "Galloping Gertie" - the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Once I got to SEA
, it was through check-in and security, and then the tram to the S Satellite. This would be my first trip out of SEA
in a satellite concourse, where there were plenty of plane-spotting opportunities.
Plane-spotting - the BA
Whoa there - welcome to the Colonies
Scandinavian Airlines SK 938
August 12, 2008
Arrive 01:15pm Aug 13
Flight time: 9:30
Economy, seat 33F
Here it is!
Adalstein Viking at the gate
This was my first trip on the beloved (and soon to disappear!) SEA
flight, and my first non-stop flight across the pond. I was a bit upset at the non-window seat, but that's what you get with group reservations. I was sitting next to an elderly couple, the husband of which was a retired Boeing worker who kept ranting that he was violating his first rule of travel by flying on an Airbus - "If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going." After a few hours of this, I almost wanted to ask him why he was going in the first place. Service was top-notch, even though the FAs seemed to have more of an accent than I'd expect on an international (and Scandinavian) flight. Meals in Economy are a genuine treat for us Americans these days, though they were definitely European, with the tiny cans of pop and parts of the entree served cold. I didn't sleep much, but SAS's IFE system is excellent, along with their coffee in the morning. We arrived at beautiful CPH
the next afternoon.
Terminal and transit area
I won't bore you too much with CPH
photos, but I will say that it was probably the nicest and most livable city I've ever been to. Grad school? I wish.
One of our meeting locations
Finally, on the 15th, was our travel day! After taking a taxi to the train station and the short train ride to the airport, we checked in at the quite-chaotic Air Greenland desk. To their credit, their CPH
flight is the largest flight AG
runs, and the most people they probably ever have in one place. We were told that our baggage would be checked through to JAV (Ilulissat), which impressed me and made me a bit nervous at the same time. After security and the huge duty-free shop maze, we got to our gate.
You know you're at CPH
Air Greenland GL 781
August 15, 2008
Airbus A330-300 "Norsaq"
Flight time: 4:40
Economy, seat 35E
First sight of our plane!
Service on this flight was odd. The cabin had very little branding, and was all grey, just like the FA
really packed in that 330 with a 2-5-2 seating configuration, and I was squished in between one of my poor friends in the middle seat and a friendly Greenlandic woman in the aisle. Beverage and meal service was done all in one go - I got a choice of three separate drinks, and they all came in one pile with the meal. The whole meal was cold, which I could tell from my experiences in Denmark was common, but I had a feeling that it was about to become even more common. I'm a window seat guy, and I was extremely jealous of one of my teachers who got moved there and who took pictures of the scenery, and then the long approach into the fjord. As we got closer to SFJ
, I could see the walls of the fjord out both sides of the plane. The landing was accompanied by applause from everyone on the plane, either Greenlanders happy to be home, or tourists like us excited by the unique place we'd just arrived at.
The first sight I had of Greenland. Whoa.
Down the jet stairs and into the SFJ
terminal to collect ourselves, then a trek around the runway to find a building to hold a meeting/class in.
SAS has a seasonal flight to SFJ
on an A319, and it arrived just a few minutes before ours. From a European perspective, I'm sure it was more comfortable and had better service, but I don't understand people who go to Greenland for the comfort and service. I'm much more satisfied with my "authentic" flight. Furthermore, they taxied to the other side of the runway, had to bus to the terminal, and didn't have their luggage transferred for them to their connecting flights.
After a few hours, and a short lecture on the basics of glaciers and ice sheets, it was time to head back to the terminal to catch our flight to Ilulissat. Domestic flights in Greenland have no security checkpoint, because... well... what would be the point? The flight was delayed for about an hour for no discernable or intelligible reason (the airport announcer was quiet), but when the gate agent put up the placard for our flight, everybody rushed into line to jostle for the best position - they'd heard about which side of the plane to get on to see the show.
Air Greenland GL 512
August 15, 2008
DHC Dash-7 OY-GRF
Depart 02:45pm (this was more like 4pm)
Arrive 03:30pm (more like 5pm)
Flight time: 45 min
Seat: A Window on the right, near the back. 9D, maybe?
Our plane (sorry about the blurriness)
This was my first time on a Dash-7, and man, those things are powerful. They're relatively loud for today's turboprop age, but I assure you that you'll appreciate the four engines on Greenland's short runways. The FA
's briefing was quick - we were told that it would also only be in Danish and Greenlandic. Luckily, everybody had been through these plenty of times before. From what I remember of the safety cards, there were also some special wetsuits on board that would keep you alive in the freezing water. This flight even had drink service, along with some cookies. After just a few minutes, things got foggy, and just a few seconds after we started our descent...
Looks like I spoke too soon...
This was the Ilulissat Icefjord, the largest and most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere. It was foggy, so I didn't get to see too much, but this ice was one of the main reasons we were in Greenland, so I would get plenty of viewing opportunities later on.
Ilulissat is probably one of the most beautiful places you could ever travel to. The town itself is a little scrappy, just like all arctic towns. But it's all about the nature. I'll keep the non-aviation pics to a reasonable level, but I'll give a quick overview of our land- and sea-based activities.
We spent the afternoon and night in a hostel in Ilulissat, then took off on a 5-hour boat trip to the Eqi glacier, about 50km north, for a 3-night hiking/camping trip and excursion up onto the ice sheet. After returning to Ilulissat and visiting the Icefjord in all its glory, we took another boat over to the town Qeqertarsuaq (Godhavn) on Disko Island, where we stayed at the Arctic Research Station, had some lectures, and went on some hikes for a few days. A very choppy boat ride back to Ilulissat, one more Icefjord visit, then a 2-night trip on the Arctic Umiaq Ferry down to the capital of 16,000 people, Nuuk.
Mashed potatoes and Whale Stew
Standing on the Greenland Ice sheet edge, looking out to sea
The Qeqertarsuaq helipad, with a Disko Bay iceberg all the way from Ilulissat in the background
After a huge amount of classes, presentations, and meetings with some important Greenlanders, it was time to start making the long trek home. Nuuk's airport, GOH, serves the largest city in Greenland, but only has an STOL runway, so all Copenhagen travelers have to go through SFJ
. Interestingly, Air Iceland serves Nuuk with a few flights per week. Again, no security for domestic flights. It was an early morning.
Air Greenland GL 502
August 28, 2008
DHC Dash-7 OY-GRF
Flight time: 55 min
Seat: 1D, rear-facing
I also managed to get some video in of the takeoff and landing. In the first you can hear a bit of the pre-recorded safety briefing, and the second is our landing at SFJ
. There are plenty of other Air Greenland videos on YouTube by other people, for those interested.
Back in Kangerlussuaq, we had an extra day and night of spare time before our flight back to CPH
. Much of it was spent biking, doing coursework, and, of course, plane spotting. I managed to bike out to a shack that was about half-way down the runway, an excellent position.
Dash 7 liftoff
Air Greenland GL 784
August 29, 2008
DHC Dash-7 OY-GRF
Flight time: 3:50
After dinner at the airport cafeteria (I had a muskox burger) we got on the overnight flight back to CPH
, on AG
's 757-200. It was even a more odd plane than the 330, as I don't think there was a first class section, and meal service was non-existant. It was a sleepy, not terribly comfortable 4-hour flight back to CPH
. When the sun rose and I saw Denmark and "civilization" as we know it, the magnitude and beauty of the place I had left hit me all at once, and I wanted to turn the plane around and go back.
After a few more nights in Copenhagen, and a trip to the University's GEO-Center to see some Greenland ice cores and hear a lecture, it was time to fly back to Seattle.
SAS A319 in retro paint
Our ride back
Scandinavian Airlines SK 937
September 2, 2008
Flight time: 10:00
Economy, seat 34H
This flight was a treat, as I got moved into a window seat this time. After a few hours, we were flying over Greenland, and I almost wanted to jump out. Probably not a good idea for anyone involved.
That's all I really have at this point for a trip report! I hope all the technical parts of it work out, and I look forward to feedback or any questions anyone has about anything.