I was done ealier than expected so here it is.
Why this trip:
Welcome to my third trip report, which includes my flight to Sint Maarten on a MD-82 belonging to Caribbean carrier Insel Air on the 21st of August. In this short trip report I made an overview about my impression on board Insel Air flight 7I531 with destination Phillipsburg, located in the Netherlands Antilles. I always wanted to visit Sint Maarten once in my life because of the airport and the crazy approaches, a dream came true when I was in the area on Curaçao.
Before the flight:
The ticket hunt began about a week before I left. There weren’t much options from Curaçao to Sint Maarten only Dutch Antilles Express (DAE) and Insel Air. DAE only had a morning flight and the flight back to Curaçao leaves also in the morning so to spend my time most efficient I needed a morning and a late afternoon flight. Luckily Insel Air offered that option because the flight to Port Au Prince (PAP) makes a stop on Sint Maarten. Same on the return so that was a very good option and the fare was reasonable. Also the chance to fly a McDonald Douglas was nice extra.
For the flight I checked in online 24 hours in advance and you can select your seat when making the initial booking, their website worked fine. Insel Air is founded in 1993, but is only operational from 2006, that makes most of the aircraft older then the aircrafts. The fleet consist of 2 EMB 110’s, 1 McDonald Douglas MD-83 and 3 McDonald Douglas MD82.
I stayed in the Royal Turtle in for 1 night, because it’s walking distance from the airport and offered a good fair with breakfast. The hotel only has 5 rooms and the restaurant where you can have breakfast at is just a 30m walk. At the restaurant you have a nice overview of the lagoon. The room is good only the bathroom wasn’t that clean, the rooms are air-conditioned. If you are island hopping this is a good place to stay I think.
Curaçao Hato airport is nothing special, the airport is not very hard to find because there is only one main road on the island. The airport facilities are a little outdated so it’s nothing special but for the couple of Dutch and US carriers it’s enough. There are only 2 security check portals so when there is a 747 from KLM and a 767 from Dutch carrier Arkefly or Martinair it gets a little crowded and it takes a lot of time to get trough. There is also a sign that they are sorry for the inconvenience and that they are upgrading the facility.
When you depart from Curaçao Hato airport you have the pay a passenger facility charge of Naf. 14,50 or $8,00,-.
The taxi free shopping area only has the necessary things and the terminal is cooled by large fans that are attached to the ceiling. The brand of the ventilation fans is called ‘’Big Ass Fans’’ found it quite funny.
There are 2 waiting rooms with seats in the Terminal, 1 on both ends. There aren’t that much flight information screens so you need to walk once in a while.
The Flight, Seat, Entertainment, Cabins and Crew:
As announced the boarding process started al little later because of the late arrival of the plane, around 15 minutes later than scheduled. Boarding was at gate 3 where the aircraft was waiting the passengers. In this case it was a McDonald Douglas MD82 with registration PJ-MDD. This aircraft was built in January 1984, when it joined Alitalia under registration I-DAWI so that makes the aircraft 26.6 years old. I thought we were boarding trough the gate but it was down the stairs and board the aircraft via the stairs that the aircraft has. This was a nice opportunity to make a picture.
Here you can see the stairs.
And the titles on the side of the aircraft.
At the door I was greeted (in Dutch) by a stewardess with a blue uniform. My seat was on 26A that’s on the left hand side just behind the wing, the aircraft uses a 2-3 configuration all Economy seats. The load factor was around 85%.
My view for the upcoming hour and 20 minutes.
During the taxi to runway 11 I saw a variety of planes including this ATR42 of Dutch Antilles Express.
Also some USAF aircraft can be seen at Curaçao, Here a Boeing 707 of the 552nd ACW based at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.
A Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker registration 63-8032.
We had a rolling take-off, and it was a powerful take-off. The weather was good to only one low cloud layer.
The safety card of the MD82.
The in flight magazine called ‘’Insights’’ cool name.
I thought the cruise altitude was FL330, not sure.
Also a nice feature on all the Insel Air MD flight is a competition. Onboard these flights every passenger receives a raffle ticket. Just before landing the winning ticket is drawn. It’s cool because you saw the people cheer up when the time was there (the winning number was one digit higher than mine). There were also 2 drink rounds onboard with a cracker snack.
The approach for runway 10 wasn’t that interesting until the end off course when you go low over the beach. I really love the color of the Caribbean Ocean.
A lot of building is in progress along the cost.
Short finals with the Islander Club and Sonesta!
Overhead Maho beach!
After the awesome sound of Mad Dog's reversing engines the back tracking began.
Vacating the runway to taxi towards the terminal, at the other end of the runway you can see a American Eagle ATR-72 lining up.
And docking on gate number 3, you can see the terminal and the tower in this picture.
The terminal of Sint Maarten is a rather new terminal that was opened in 2006. Inside the terminal it’s very light and cool. Because I didn’t have any suitcase to pick up at the baggage reclaim I was the first one for customs and I could begin my stay at Maho beach for a 2 day long dream!
My impression on Insel Air was a good one. Yes the aircraft is old and yes the seats are old and worn, but maybe that’s why it’s just cool to fly on one of these planes while you still can and for these kind of fares it’s a good airline for some island hopping. Back here in Europe they are getting replaced as we speak and the lucky ones get a second life somewhere else.
Thank you for reading my third trip report and I hope you enjoyed it much as I did.
Feedback is always welcome.
[Edited 2010-09-01 12:39:38]