The Let 410 to IOM
Thank you for clicking on my latest trip report, covering a recent trip to the wonderful Isle of Man, a British Crown Dependency located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. This trip report will focus on the flights to and from the Isle of Man, operated by Van Air Europe with the rare Let 410 Turbolet on behalf of the islands hometown airline, Citywing - formerly known as Manx2. Also the airports in the UK I departed from and arrived at are rarely covered here on A.net, Blackpool’s (BLK
) very small airport and Gloucestershire Airport (GLO
) - which is mostly a general aviation field except for a scheduled flight to the Isle of Man.
I had been to the Isle of Man before in 2009, on a quick stopover in between flights. As I had only a few hours back then, I did not leave the airport. However it did seem like a very interesting destination for a small holiday, so I made a promise to myself to return there, and to actually visit the island. I was also interested in visiting Blackpool - once a thriving resort destination for UK families and holidaymakers until cheap air travel brought Spain, Greece and Turkey within reach of all. The town is still a tourist destination though, and I was interested in paying a brief visit to it’s old piers and the infamous Blackpool Pleasure Beach, an amusement park featuring one of Europe’s oldest still operating roller coasters. Blackpool also has a small airport, with mainly scheduled or chartered flights to holiday destinations, as well as flights to Dublin and.... Isle of Man.
The flights to Isle of Man are marketed and sold by Citywing, based on the Isle of Man itself. It has a small network of destinations in the UK and Ireland and is a so called virtual airline - all the flying is done by subcontracted airlines on a wet-lease basis. Currently, two airlines operate for Citywing: Van Air Europe with a Let 410 and Links Air with a Jetstream 31. Most routes are operated by the Let 410, including the BLK
route, so this would be a great chance to fly this very rare Czech manufactured aircraft. For the return flight I browsed through the destinations served from IOM
and my eye fell on Gloucestershire airport, a general aviation airfield that also has scheduled service to IOM
with Citywing. This would be a great opportunity to have visit such an airport. Also this flight would be operated by Van Air Europe. Getting to Blackpool from the Netherlands, and home again from Gloucestershire was easy - a KLM open jaw ticket to Manchester (MAN
) and returning from Birmingham (BHX
) was booked - both airports had good train connections to BLK
respectively. To close the booking process, I secured myself a B&B in Douglas - Isle of Man’s capital - for the first night on the island, and a room in Castletown for the second night - close the airport.
Before we get underway, please allow the Great Circle Mapper to illustrate the routing:
| | | Getting to the UK | | |
This trip report will focus on the Citywing flights to and from the Isle of Man, but I will share with you some pictures from the flight from Amsterdam to Manchester, KLM flight 1028 on a Boeing 737-700.
View from the lounge towards Schiphol’s E-pier. If it wasn’t for those blue ground vehicles you might mistake this for DTW, ATL or MSP
The 737 that will take me across the North Sea today. Not such great weather - lots of rain and about 10C. Not the weather one hopes for in May.
Take off into the grey skies with a good view of runway 18C/36C
Cruising over the North Sea
It is also gray and raining in Manchester
A brief visit to the parking garage as I waited for my train - view of Terminal 2 with a Virgin A330 taxiing out
| | | Blackpool & Blackpool Pleasure Beach | | |
From Manchester I took the train to Blackpool - a convenient direct service taking about 1,5 hours. The train arrives at the Blackpool North station, from where I walked to the waterfront and I strolled down central seafront area towards Blackpool Pleasure which I briefly visited. From there, it was only a 15 minute walk further to the airport. Fortunately, the weather was becoming more favorable and even the sun made an occasional appearance.
Saturday, May 2013
Citywing Flight 119 operated by Van Air Europe
Blackpool International Airport (BLK) - Isle of Man Ronaldsway Airport (IOM)
225th overall flight
1st flight on Citywing
1st flight on a Let 410
1st visit to BLK
, 3rd visit to IOM
1st time flying the BLK
Departure Time (Scheduled/Actual): 19.00 / 18.24
Arrival Time (Scheduled/Actual): 19.40 / 18.57
Block time (Scheduled / Actual): 0.40 / 0.33
Flight duration: 24 minutes
Mileage: 69 miles
So I walked from the beachfront towards to the Blackpool International Airport, and after a short walk through a residential area I arrived at the small terminal building just a little before 5pm. As said before, BLK
only has a handful of charter or scheduled destinations - in fact, on this Saturday there were only 8 passenger flights. And it turned out, that at the time I arrived there would be just one more flight - the 7pm flight to Isle of Man where I was booked on. The previous flight, a Jet2 flight to Palma de Mallorca had already left at 4pm. The airport was therefore totally deserted. It was almost a scene out of Stephen King’s story The Langoliers. All check-in desk were closed, the security checkpoint was closed, the car rental desk were closed and all the tickets desk were closed. My Citywing confirmation said that check-in “usually opens” 60 minutes before departure, and the flight was also listed on the FIDS, so I wasn’t worried. Since I past a cafe/pub that also served food on my way to BLK
, I decided to head there for an early dinner.
Blackpool Airport Terminal building
Empty check-in desks
Closed security checkpoint and arrivals area
At just before 6 I headed back towards the airport, and when I arrived there some activity was going on now. An agent was just opening up one of the check-in points and 4 people were queuing up. Check-in was quick, as none of the passengers in front of me had any baggage to check and when it was my turn the agent said “You must be Mr. Roberts87” - I was the last passenger to check-in. It turned out that it would just be the five of us this evening. The agent mentioned that the security checkpoint would open up in a few minutes, and we then all be able to get a “quick drink at the Executive Lounge”. A quick drink, I wondered - why quick, as we are still almost an hour before departure time? The agent then reached for her phone and called in “all passengers check-in, no checked baggage” . An easy night also for the baggage handlers it seemed.
My fellow passengers and I then proceeded to a ticket machine to pay the 10 GBP Airport Development Fee (making my 29 pound ticket almost 35% more expensive) and waited for the security checkpoint to open. And indeed, after a few minutes out of nowhere three security officers turned up and the passengers and the agent were all quickly security checked. One of the officers jokingly mentioned that this had to be a new record for fastest security check. We then arrived in the departure lounge - which was also deserted except for us. The restaurant, the cafe and the duty free shops were all closed. As promised, the agent then opened up the Executive Lounge for us - a small airport lounge normally available at a fee - and went to do her paperwork at the gate. I helped myself to an orange juice, one other passenger got himself a small bottle of wine and the other passengers declined the offer. A few minutes later the agent appeared again - we were ready to board. Mind you, it was still 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time. The aircraft was there, the crew was there, the passengers was there - why wait? As my boarding pass was scanned I asked if we would be arriving at IOM
before we were scheduled to depart - the agent confirmed that this would probably be the case! We then made walked over the apron towards the waiting Let410.
Deserted departures area
The small lounge
Walking towards the aircraft
Looking backwards towards the terminal
And there’s the Let140, with a rear door for all passengers
At the door the First Officer was welcoming us all aboard, and offering small sweets. When everybody was settled, he introduced himself and the captain and welcomed us all on board this “very short flight” to the Isle of Man. He wished us a good flight and then directed our attention to a large TV
screen where a safety demonstration would be played. It was a nice safety demo, with young kids playing all the parts. Something different than the usual ones. Once the safety demo was completed, we departed the Blackpool Airport apron - 36 minutes early. We backtracked the runway, and then departed to the West. As the clouds had made their way for a blue sky, stunning views of Blackpools were offered.
My view for the next 30 minutes
Cabin view - with the tv screen on the separation between cabin and cockpit
Backtracking on the runway - much better weather now
Take-off, with the airport in the foreground and Blackpool Pleasure beach in the background
Stunning view over Blackpool and the coastline
The remainder of the flight was uneventful. Some silent movies were played on the video screen and I enjoyed the scenery of the Irish Sea below. The flight was short, all in all the block time would turn out to be 33 minutes, and the actual flight time 24 minutes. The weather did become worse again as we approached IOM
, so there were some humps and bumps during the last 10 minutes of the flight - but the Let410 was more smooth than I expected.
Crossing the Irish Sea
Descending towards the Isle of Man
Land in sight!
Touchdown, while a Flybe Q400 is waiting for us to land
And the Let410 after arrival
After landing we taxied towards one of the gate near the main terminal building. Once the we stood still and the engine were shut down the First Officer came back into the cabin and thanked us for flying Citywing. He then opened the door for us and the other passengers and myself walked to the terminal building and a brief walk to arrivals. Welcome to the Isle of Man. Arrival time: 18.57 - 43 minutes early, and three minutes before we were supposed to depart!
| | | Isle of Man: Douglas, Laxey and Castletown | | |
Some photo’s from the Isle of Man, including Douglas, Laxey and Castletown as well as the scenic landscape as seen from the Manx Electric Railway and the Steam Railway. Too bad about the weather: it literally rained non-stop from Sunday morning until the late afternoon.
Monday, May 2013
Citywing Flight 600, operated by Van Air Europe
Isle of Man Ronaldsway Airport (IOM) – Gloucestershire Airport (GLO)
226th overall flight
2nd flight on Citywing
2nd flight on a Let 410
4th visit to IOM
, 1st visit to GLO
1st time flying the IOM
Departure Time (Scheduled/Actual): 07.40 / 07.34
Arrival Time (Scheduled/Actual): 08.45 / 08.47
Block time (Scheduled / Actual): 1.05 / 1.13
Flight duration: 1 hour, 2 minutes
Mileage: 183 miles
So on Monday morning it was time to for the second Citywing and Let410 experience. As I had an early flight - 07.40 - I had opted to stay in Castletown, which is a town about a mile away from the airport. To get to the airport I had the option of taking a five minute bus ride, but the times were inconvenient - I would either arrive rather early, or it would become a bit tight. I therefore decided to walk - it took me about 20 minutes and since the weather was a bit better then before it was a nice morning walk. I arrived at the airport a little before 6.30 and approached the Citywing check-in desks. I was quickly checked in by a business friendly agent who also inquired if a I needed a taxi at Gloucester - which I declined. Keeping Saturdays experience in mind I asked if it would be a full flight to which she replied “it is a fairly full flight” - in a tone that said she wouldn’t tell me any more. Even though it was getting busy at the airport, security was brief and I was landside just before 6.45 am. Airside was a bit of a mess, as there was some construction going on - the previous airport branded airside cafe was turned into a Costa Coffee.
has an interesting departure bank on Monday morning. Basically all RON aircraft leave between 6.45 and 08.00 hours - and the first flight doesn’t arrive until 08.30 which basically means that all commercial aircraft present depart and the airport is then empty until the 1st flight arrives. This also means that it was getting fairly busy and a little crowded in the terminal. There were 3 FlyBE flights, to Manchester, Gatwick and Liverpool, one British Airways (operated by Eastern Airways) flight to London City and three Citywing flights, to Blackpool, Belfast - and my flight to Gloucestershire. My flight would be the last of all flights to depart, so I killed the time waiting with watching all the aircraft push back and take-off.
Apron and terminal view from the landside restaurant - BA, Citywing and FlyBE are all present
Small terminal extension with 3 FlyBE Q400’s and one Citywing Let410
Similar shot, with the Q400's gone, and the Let410 taking the skies towards Belfast
Eastern Airways in full BA livery pushing back - the BA livery sure looks good on the Saab 2000!
Once all the other flights departed, some 15-20 people still remained in the departure lounge - all passengers on the Citywing flight to Gloucestershire. Boarding was called at around 07.25, first for Business Select passengers. When no one turned up, general boarding was quickly called. As I wanted to secure a good window seat, I made sure I was one of the first to board. All passengers walked down the stairs of the terminal building and onto the apron. As I reached the aircraft it was the same routine as on the first flight - a greeting and sweets from the FO as I got on the aircraft, and a welcome speech from him when everybody was settled in.
The aircraft for today, OK-TCA, just as the first flight
View for the next hour - this time ahead of the wing and a little closer to the front office
Taxiing to the active runway, passing some interesting aircraft
A great view of Castletown after departure
The flight itself was uneventful again. It took about one hour, at a cruising altitude of FL110. The weather conditions were alright, changing from overcast, to scattered clouds to clear skies and back to overcast as the flight progressed. Especially when it was partly cloudy there were some stunning views on the clouds from this relative low cruising - to bad the prop was mostly in the way for good photo’s.
Back over the Irish Sea towards to the UK
Overcast over the UK
Descending through the clouds with the typical English landscape appearing
Flying over Cheltenham and the M5 motorway
Final approach with some of the Gloucestershire facilities and a private aircraft holding short of the runway visible
Exiting the runway
Also on arrival the same routine as before. A quick thank you from the First Officer and then all passengers could exit the aircraft into the very small Gloucestershire terminal.
Arrivals - with a very small luggage belt
View towards the apron, with the Let being refueled for the return trip to IOM
The “terminal” at Gloucestershire Airport, from the inside and outside
Final overview of the airport, with the Let departing back to the Isle of Man
| | | Back to The Netherlands | | |
And from Gloucestershire airport I took the bus towards Cheltenham, from where a direct train to Birmingham’s New Street Station was available, taking about an hour. In Birmingham I did some shopping in the enormous Bull Ring Shopping Center, and took another train to Birmingham Airport, from where KLM flight 1463, operated by a Boeing 737-800, would bring me back home. A brief perspective on this flight.
As I walked through the airport, an announcement was made asking all passenger on the BMI Regional to flight Gothenburg to please come to the Champagne bar in the central area. It turned out that the inaugural BHX-GOT flight was that day, and BMI treated all the passengers to champagne and fancy snacks and finger foods. Great job BMI Regional, that’s the way to celebrate an inaugural!
Very dark skies east of the airport. My flight is parked at the right of the picture
Less dark skies, and a rainbow, south of the airport
And clear skies and sun west of the airport
Taking off towards the dark skies
Climbing over the clouds
And the skies became clear as we approached the Netherlands
Approaching the coastline, seen here is IJmuiden and the North Sea Channel
Now flying over the Northern part of the Noord-Holland province, near the city of Alkmaar - we will be landing to the South on the remote ‘Polderbaan’ runway
Looking towards IJmuiden and the North Sea Channel again, but from the other side, while of final approach
| | | Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this report. Comments and remarks of course appreciated. Stay tuned for the next report, which will feature - if all goes as planned - a flight on the Beech1900 with Twinjet in France...| | |