Planes, Ice, and the Midnight Sun; Greenland! Pt3: Kangerlussuaq and the long way back.
In case you have missed parts 1 and 2, they can be found here:
Planes, Ice And The Midnight Sun; Greenland! Pt 1 (by CrimsonNL Jun 21 2011 in Trip Reports)
Planes, Ice And The Midnight Sun; Greenland! Pt 2 (by CrimsonNL Jun 27 2011 in Trip Reports)
This part will show you some impressions of the Kangerlussuaq area, and the flights SFJ-CPH on AirGreenland, and CPH-AMS on KLM. Part 2 ended with my arrival in Kangerlussuaq and that’s where I will start here.
Saying goodbye to my favorite DHC-7 (OYCBT) “Papikkaaq” which I logged 4 times in one week.
Other traffic at SFJ
After being driven to the Old Camp hostel, I settled down and started planning my 3 days in the Kangerlussuaq area. It’s not an area you might expect from Greenland. It’s located in a huge fjord, and the rivers of melting water bring in tons and tons of sand. It’s very sandy and apart from the temperature which was a comfortable 15 degrees, it kinda reminded me of Arizona! There’s a large glacier nearby but it’s about an hour by car on a very sandy road. The area is home to quite some wildlife, most notably the musk ox and reindeer. They are both eaten by the locals and taste very good! I will start with a series of impressions of the Kangerlussuaq area:
Radio equipment for SFJ
The “Tacan” hill offers some cool airport overviews. The buildings in the bottom of the picture are more or less the entire town.
An awesome C-130 on HUGE Ski’s. Those guys must have fun flying around here.
A bunch of Socata’s on a technical stop from their delivery flight across the pond
View from the Old Camp hostel
Very long shadow due to the low sun that never sets
They used empty JATO bottles for decoration everywhere! If they would have fitted in my suitcase I’d have one of these at home by now
On our way to the Russell Glacier we ran into a reindeer
The wreckage of a T-33 Shooting Star. There are 3 of them in the area when the pilots bailed out (and all survived) during a complete white-out.
Finally some ice in sight!
The magnificent Russell Glacier
I did actually get to see some really large chunks of ice break off, which was very cool
The car that got me there, it was only me, a guide and a German couple on this tour
On the way back the awesome Danish guide drove through a dry riverbed
Lots of gravel here
Near every Greenlandic town there’s the constant activity of these red turboprops, I absolutely loved it!
Suloraq descending into SFJ
Descending into the fjord
The tour guide told me about nearby “Kellyville”. A scientific settlement with a huge dish radar. It was about 10KM away IIRC. Since I had the entire evening, and seeing that it wouldn’t get dark, I rented a mountain bike and rode it to Kellyville. I passed the Kangerlussuaq harbor and some very nice vacation houses along the way.
Very cool sign
The Danish name for Kangerlussuaq is Sondre Stromfjord, so the person who designed the harbor sign had a sense of humor
These tanks were full of fuel, I spotted some that said Jet Fuel too
I finally made it to Kellyville, it really felt like a James Bond site and it was well worth the effort to get there! The actual radar dish was moving around like crazy.
This sign made me laugh
On the way back
Sugar Loaf Hill
The next day I joined a tour group to Ice Point 660. It’s one of the few places with provides good access to walk on the inland ice cap. The tour group was almost entirely Danish, with the exception of a Swiss lady and me. The drive took about 1.5 hours on the longest road in Greenland, completely constructed and paid for by Volkswagen. They used to test their new cars in extreme polar circumstances here. There were 3 Belgians in another van who would be spending the night on the ice cap in tents. Very cool!
A young reindeer
And more musk oxes!
The end is in sight (or so I thought) but it turned out not to be!
Approaching the Ice Point 660
The inland ice cap
We finally made it to Ice Point 660! We were allowed off the bus and could walk on the ice for 30 minutes. The Belgians walked with a guide to their camping location. While it was a nice 15 degrees in Kangerlussuaq, it was seriously freezing here. The Greenland ice cap covers about 80% of Greenland. It was amazing to walk on it!
The Belgians getting ready
Walking on ice!
Some melting water
On the way back we stopped at a nice viewpoint for some hot drinks and pictures. A very nice wall of ice could be seen in the distance
The next day, unfortunately, would mean I had to go back to Europe. The flight to CPH leaves at 11:55, but due to the time zones you don’t arrive until 21:15. This meant another night stop in CPH for me. I had booked the Cabinn hotel, the same as the week before, and would be flying back on KL. In the morning I was driven from the hostel to the airport terminal, about 2KM. The car was a pickup truck and I dropped my suitcase and backpack in the open trunk. It was a very strange feeling to know you could just leave them outside and leave the bike unlocked, as there’s no crime here! Check in at the airport was a breeze. Though I won’t soon beat the 30 second check in I had in Ilulissat! I had some time to kill before departure. The only gate with security at SFJ is gate 2, used for flights to CPH. I didn’t feel like clearing security just yet and looked around the terminal.
In 8 out of the 9 days of my trip I hadn’t seen a single mosquito. But the night before, they were suddenly there. En masse. It wasn’t good plane spotting getting jumped by tens of mosquito’s at the same time. So I stayed inside the terminal until my plane arrived. I found it interesting to see how the runway was used in both directions.
Man I will miss these red props!
Suloraq was there to say goodbye. I flew on her a few days before. (as seen in part 2)
After a while I saw a big red jet on the horizon, it could only be Norsaq, the coolest A330 in the world! She was banking for the final approach into the fjord.
The small ramp would suddenly get very full!
She still looks amazing!
After I had enough of the mosquitos I decided to go inside. I tried to score an AirGreenland T-shirt but unfortunately my size was sold out. There was a GL marketing department guy at next to the check in desk with whom I had a lengthy and very interesting conversation. I got some more good insights in the GL fleet planning and day to day operations, as I had with the pilots who let me ride on the jumpseat a few days earlier.
The check in desk
After clearing security, I ended up in a recently renovated gate area. I headed upstairs as advised by the GL guy, and found a nice café with some excellent ramp views. I settled for some coffee.
I don’t smoke, but the smoking area had more uses as I found out, a great observation deck!
That’s the hostel in the background!
After a while it was time for boarding. It wasn’t too busy, I’d say about 80% of the flight was full from as far as I could see. This seat map shows the cabin layout.
Spent my last moments on Greenlandic soil plane spotting, we are on Airliners.net after all!
She looks fantastic!
One last look outside, goodbye Greenland!
A330-223 (7th A330 ride, 3rd on the -200)
OY-GRN “Norsaq” (Second time on this plane)
Photo © Alexander Arildsson
The aft economy cabin
My legroom, wasn’t bad!
Boarding, like all flights I’ve experienced in Greenland, was in a calm and relaxed fashion. Everyone got seated quickly and I think we left on time. Taxi-out was very short and we were ready for take-off!
Immediate left bank after take-off, heading for Europe
The Russell Glacier
Ice Point 660 area
Flying over the inland ice cap
Beautiful blue melt water lakes
First drink round started
While GL does have PTV’s and IFE, I don’t recall using them on this flight. Especially on the first stretch I was stuck to the window the whole time. Later on I had the moving map selected on the PTV.
Approaching the Eastern shore
Count the blocks of ice!
The meal, it was your average airline meal in terms of taste. The crew was a friendly bunch however.
Overflying Northern Iceland
I think this is Akureyri
I asked for a Tuborg beer during the second drink service, and my seatmate asked for two. I saw quite some booze flowing throughout the cabin including hard liquor. The flight was very uneventful. By the time we hit Denmark it was already getting dark outside.
When we got to the gate something strange happened. A lot of people got up as they had onward connections to Danish cities like AAL, but everyone was asked to return to their seats. The purser announced that the Danish authorities were on board and she announced a series of names of people that had to come forward. A bunch of hippies seated throughout the cabin got up and they walked to the front. Some of the flight attendants talked to them and it seemed as if they knew them. I overheard one of the mentioning Greenpeace. After this rather strange occurrence we were allowed off the plane and I headed to the baggage claim.
When I arrived at the baggage claim it took only a few minutes for the first bags to appear. A large group of the GL passengers claimed their bags and left, but a small group of us were still waiting. The screen showed that not all the bags had been offloaded yet. After 20 minutes, and another GL flight from Narsarsuaq had landed, there was still no sign of our bags. One of the passengers inquired at the handling agent baggage office and was told that we just had to wait. After a total of 40 minutes the final bags finally appeared on the belt. I wasn’t very amused as it was already past 10PM and I still had to get to the hotel. I noticed that all the suitcases were wet. So what I think happened was that they were either loaded in the bulk of the plane, or, that they were in the same container as the baggage of the hippies. In the latter case the authorities may have separated our baggage from their baggage on the ramp and that would explain the delay and why they were wet.
I made a quick stop at Burger King before heading to the Cabinn hotel. There were long lines at the train ticket machines, and I found it very amusing that I completed my ticket purchase faster than most Danish people in line! After a short train ride and walk I got to the hotel where I purchased a cold Carlsberg before heading to my room.
In order to get some rest and to be able to take it easy in the morning, my KL flight to AMS wouldn’t leave until 11:45. After having breakfast at the hotel I made it back to the airport. I tried the GL desk at CPH for the T-shirt but unfortunately they didn’t have it here either. The check in lady for KL was a very cute Danish girl, who passed on a greeting send from my friend at KLM Load control. He would be making the loadsheet for my flight and had included some passenger comments in my booking. Johan had also texted me before hand, that the flight would be operated by PH-BGB, a new registration for me. I know CPH pretty well by know, it’s my second most used airport (with commercial service) in terms of flight movements, so I headed directly to the gate.
The airplane, “Regenwulp” was already waiting for me
It’s the BGB alright!
After some back and forth texting with Johan at KL OCC about whether the CPH dispatcher was cute or not, it was time to board
B737-8K2 (13th time on type)
PH-BGB “Regenwulp / Whimbrel” (First time on this plane)
Photo © JRC
I was greeted at the door by the crew who all seemed friendly. There were 152 passengers on this flight and it seemed that all of the overhead bins were already full. I made my way to my seat and found seats B and C to already be occupied.
View from my seat
I think we left more or less on time. After taxi-out we were on our way to AMS.
And the snack, very meager service as we’re used to on KL. The crew however was nice and the cabin was spotless. The purser approached me with another message from Johan wishing me a pleasant flight.
This made me laugh, you get 2 flying blue miles for each chocolate bar you purchase! How much chocolate equals one Trans-Atlantic trip in business class?
The flight was very uneventful and before I knew it we were already making our way down into AMS.
The one advantage of flying KLM to AMS is that they will often get a good runway instead of their competitors. We ended up landing on 18C while the infamous 18R was also in use. This saved at least 10 minutes in taxi time!
After docking and saying goodbye to the crew, I quickly made my way to the baggage claim. One stop at an exchange office where I changed my last Danish Kroners to Euro’s. I could do it without a fee upon showing my AMS airport ID. The guy at the desk asked me if I had liked Denmark. Well, those 12 hours weren’t bad When I got to the baggage claim my suitcase was already there, another advantage of flying KL to AMS! My dad picked me up for the drive home.
GL is a truly fantastic airline. Their operations are so incredibly versatile that it’s not comparable to any other airline I can think of. The domestic flights are the coolest. There is no security and everything just goes in an orderly, but smooth way. I had good conversations with various GL employees on the ground and in the air. They and the cabin crew were all very nice. It was the first time I got to visit the cockpit in flight, on a commercial flight, since August 2001. The Dash-7 and the helicopters are the most fun to fly on. All of this combined made AirGreenland jump to my number 1 position of favorite airlines. It does have to share the number 1 place with Kenmore Air however. I logged a total of 10 flights on GL:
2x A330-223 (OY-GRN) Norsaq
4x DHC-7-103 (OY-CBT) Papikkaaq
2x DHC-8-202Q (OY-GRG) Suloraq
2x Bell 212 (OY-HDM) Tuujuk
A FANTASTIC experience! If you are into arctic stuff, or nature in general, I will highly recommend it. The people are generally friendly, and the surroundings are amazing. You can easily book everything in advance online, and domestic travel on GL is a breeze. Most of the people in the hotels and restaurants will know English, and with a few Danish words you will be able to communicate. I’m usually not one for exotic foods, but eating polar bear is something I won’t soon forget! It is however, not a cheap destination. It was worth every penny though. Seeing all these pictures again while writing this TR, it really makes me want to go back. It offers excellent opportunities for us plane spotters too!
KLM has definitely improved their service level the past couple of years. I really had nothing to complain except maybe the meager snack service. I like the way they are promoting their Dutch roots. But overall it was a pretty average experience.
Domestic flights taken:
This concludes my 3 part trip report about my Greenland trip. I apologize for the delay between the last two parts. I hope you enjoyed reading the report(s) and all comments, questions or whatever are always welcome!
Thanks for reading and regards,