Tokyo Hop – RUAG Do-228NG First Revenue Flight (Sort of ??!)
This is my first ever trip report so it is not as polished as many of the others that I read on here. There are no photos of the journey to the airport or even of the airport interior etc which seem to be part of the commonly accepted format, and I warn you now, and I almost feel ashamed to admit it, but I somehow neglected to take the obligatory Leg Room Shot. (I have attempted to compensate for this with a funky title image.)
However, this trip gains extra significance as it marks the world’s first revenue flight of the RUAG Do228NG! Perhaps not quite as flashy as another first revenue flight which is scheduled to take place here in Japan in the not too distant future, but worthy of note nonetheless.
This flight actually happened well over a month ago now, though I had to wait a while to post this report for reasons I will explain later.
Tokyo based New Central Airservice (NCA) is a local commuter airline serving the main communities of the Izu Islands linking them with Tokyo via their base at Chofu Airport. The airliner doesn’t have an IATA code and for that matter neither does Chofu Airport.
NCA were the launch customer for the 228NG and received their aircraft in a small ceremony in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany in August 2010. This first revenue flight was originally scheduled for way back in October 2010.That would have made it the first operational flight of the Do228NG in any form of commercial service. Unfortunately, Japanese certification problems caused by the JCAB kept the aircraft stuck in Europe.
Finally on 7th Dec. 2010 the aircraft landed on Japanese soil at Kagoshima Airport (KOJ) in Kyushu before making the final leg of its week long ferry flight up to Tokyo. She arrived with the German registration D-CRAQ. Hmmm…?… The delays however were continuing and the aircraft remained grounded in Japan. In the intervening period while the aircraft was idle, the second NG
off the line had been handed over and had begun operations in Norway. This is however a ferry service for the workers of an energy exploration company or some such similar mission. So as far as I am aware, this still marks the first revenue flight (right??!). Whilst, I really do not want my bubble burst, if anyone can tell me differently, please let me know!
Eventually though the OK
was given, and with the original registration number safely removed, the first revenue flight was clear to go ahead.
Airline: New Central Airservice (NCA) [新中央航空]
Depart: Chofu Airport : RJTF/ n/a
Arrive: Oshima Airport : RJTO/OIM
Departure time: 09:00
Friday 1st Apr. 2011 – A clear sunny morning over West Tokyo. Good conditions for the short 104km VFR hop from Chofu Airport over to Oshima and back.
I had taken the day off work but was up bright and early for the morning flight. Jumping off the Keio line at Chofu Staion, I met up with a colleague and we headed to Chofu Airport by taxi.
The airport is of course only small and the NCA terminal area essentially amounts to one room with a service desk where you can purchase your tickets and check-in etc. It also serves as the departure lounge with a door leading straight out onto the tarmac.
I was taken through to the control/operations room. After meeting and greeting several very nice NCA members including the company president, we nipped outside onto the apron to begin the day with a quick walk around.
And here she is, the newest member of NCA’s fleet – JA34CA
The new five blade propeller made by MT
-Propeller; the only obvious external difference between the Do228 and the Do228NG.
The chap over on the right with the bag and the camera hanging around his neck is a professional from a Japanese Aviation magazine. I am sure he got much better pictures than I managed. More from him later on.
The open luggage bay door at the rear.
Back inside NCA’s operations room – Today’s flight schedules up on the planning wall.
The captain was kind enough to give me a copy of our flight plan.
I was also presented with a very short form to fill in. First time I have been requested to fill in my weight at check-in. I was tempted… but I thought it best not to lie!
Ready to Board – After a few more minutes of waiting, it was time to go so we headed back out onto the ramp. As we approach the pilots look on as Mt. Fuji looms in the distance.
The passengers board without fanfare. No souvenir gifts, no announcement. A shame really. The original plan called for a little celebration and an appearance by Miss. Oshima! (＾＾) But due to all of the delays and of course the recent earthquake we have suffered here, those plans were shelved. I don’t think any of the other passengers had any idea there was any difference to the usual service.
Seating inside for 19 souls.
As the engines started up flames roared out of the exhaust. The noise in the cabin was quite impressive.
As we begin to taxi to the runway, staff of NCA mark the occasion by waving us off. Even the company president was in the line up.
The old generation – One of NCA’s Do228 passes by the window.
Lining up for departure – RWY 35
What I had thought was quite a clear morning quickly revealed itself to be fairly hazy.
Looking west as we climb and turn to begin the short flight south.
Mt. Fuji is ever present on the horizon as we pass Naval Air Facility Atsugi.
The Yokohama waterfront.
Arriving at the coast – The famous island Enoshima.
Unquestionably majestic, Mt. Fuji dominates the view as we head out over Sagami Bay
As the view below turns to watery expanse I brought my attention back inside the cabin.
I have been seated in seat – 9C
, an emergency exit row.
Alas, at this point I somehow managed not to take that all important leg room shot… Apologies!
[Insert leg room shot here]
The flight is only 25 mins. in total and we soon approach our destination – Oshima airport passes out on the left.
Making the turn onto base leg.
As we turn onto final, Oshima reveals itself beneath us.
Technically Oshima is a part of Tokyo. I am pretty sure the population density is somewhere well below the mean.
A smooth landing on RWY 03.
Oshima Airport terminal…
Welcome to Oshima.
Now I had been waiting well over half a year for this flight, and seeing as I had never been to Oshima before I had originally intended to spend the day on the island, most likely submerged in a warm onsen. In the event, what with all the delays I ended up with a personal schedule clash so I had to get back to the mainland. This meant getting the next flight back which would naturally be on the same aircraft.
That left me with only half an hour on the island, which was only enough time to exit the terminal doors, take this picture of the map immediately on the right as you exit…
Before heading back into the terminal, stopping only to get a shot of the NCA service desk.
Before going to board the return flight to Chofu, we had a couple of minutes to dive into the NCA Oshima operations room for a chat.
A/C weight and balance calcs.
Shortly after we had arrived at Oshima, we were joined by ANA1943, ANA’s morning flight out of HND
Now basking in a fine Pacific morning the marking on the engine was nicely appropriate for this report.
The ANA DHC8-Q300, a fine aircraft for sure but can it really compete with this?!….
Heading over to board. The chap third from the left is the mayor of the island.
The pilots going through pre-flight checks. The new glass cockpit is the primary difference between the Do228 and the Do228NG.
The flight back was much the same as the outbound journey. Mt. Fuji certainly hadn’t gone anywhere, though the haze over Tokyo was getting thicker as the morning wore on.
The wind had picked up we were tossed about in turbulence for several minutes making it impossible to take pictures. This shot though shows the towers of West Shinjuku, and in the distance you can just make out through the haze the 600m tall spike that will be the Tokyo Sky Tree.
After another smooth landing we taxied back over to the terminal building. Low and behold, our photographer friend was still there waiting for us. I snapped him as we were turning into our stand in the vain hope that I might find a picture of me peeking out the window with my camera published in a magazine.
The cabin - Very cozy.
After disembarking, I hung about on the apron next to the NCA office taking photos. It wasn’t too long before JA34CA was ready for departure again.
Also during our time there, this JAXA Beech Queen Air took to the air. She was preparing to head north to take measurements and readings in the skies above Fukushima.
I mentioned that the celebrations for the first flight had been shelved. But luckily for moi, I was fortunate enough to receive some tokens of the day.
I assumed this would be a nice box of senbei.
It actually turned out to be a very nice tin of biscuits.
I also received this rather nice little pin badge.
And finally, the reason I left this report for over a month before posting. I was waiting for the May editions of two of Japans monthly aviation magazines. (No excuses for the extra month delay though!!)
As you can see, my hopes of a front cover story were dashed. However turning inside, our little island run had garnered a two page spread from one of the magazines.
Our photographer friend had certainly been busy and gave a much more thorough review than I have managed here. Sadly though, no pictures of me looking out the window I’m afraid.
The RUAG Do-228NG, perhaps to some not the most graceful looking of all aircraft, but it had been a pleasure to fly on and turned this little Tokyo Hop into a great morning. For anyone wanting to make the same hop, then you can book flights over the phone, at the airport or make reservations at JTB offices in Japan.
My sincere and warm thanks to my colleague without whom I could not have arranged the above, and of course to all the people at NCA for their generosity.