Your Personal Airline: AirLink Beech 1900D to Dubbo
"Dubbo." It has a kind of ring to it. Perhaps not as euphonic as Wyalkatchem, Gnowangerup or Gabbyquoiquoi but easier to remember and easier to pronounce. It has an airport and Regional Express (Rex) serve it. "Yes, that'll do me." A booking for the flights and car hire was made through the Rex website. For the outbound flight I chose an early departure that would see me travel with AirLink.
Air Link is a wholly-owned part of the Regional Express group. Established in 1971 as a charter operator, it is based in Dubbo. By 1991 Air Link was linking towns such as Bourke, Cobar, Coonamble, Walgett and Lightning Ridge to Dubbo and Sydney plus regular services between Mudgee and Sydney. In December 2008 regular services were discontinued and the company focused on charter operations, aircraft engineering and maintenance services.
In 2014 Air Link was in a position to resume regular airline services between its base in Dubbo to Sydney using a Beech 1900D aircraft and on 31 August, 2015 commenced regular airline services between Cobar to Sydney via Dubbo.
I had tried to check in for the flight on line. Unfortunately I was unable to do so, receiving only an alert that the flight was not available for check-in:
Oh well: check-in at the airport instead. No need to worry about being able to get a window seat on this flight as all the seats have a window and direct aisle access.
At the check-in desk, John greeted me in a friendly fashion and was able to confirm that check-in was unavailable online due to the flight being operated by a different aircraft type to the usual Saabs. Providing me with a manual boarding pass, he asked whether I would like a voucher for coffee? Is the Pope Catholic?
I made my way through security, being selected for the secondary explosives test, before proceeding to Gate 49 and Veloce Café
, which is located not too far from Gate 2 from where Rex flights board.
The Gate Lounge features external walls displaying the history of Rex, going back through the years of Kendall and Hazelton and including photos of some of the early aircraft types: Heron, Auster, Swearingen Metro II, Piper Aztec, Shorts 360 and the Embraer 110 Bandeirante.
Boarding was called and passengers were directed down some stairs and through to an awaiting bus to take us out to the aeroplane.
On boarding, I paused to take a couple of shots of the air intake and the tidy flight deck, before moving through to my seat.
Regional Express ZL1822
Sydney to Dubbo
Aircraft ID: VH-RUE
Type: Beechcraft 1900D
STD: 07:25 ATD: 07:25
STA: 08:35 ATA: 08:35
The Beech 1900D is a turbo-prop pressurised regional airliner with 19 passenger seats. With two crew, it travels at a cruising altitude of 25,000 ft at 520 km/hr. The walk-in cabin features individual lambs wool/leather seats, air-conditioning, seat trays and individual reading lamps.
VH-RUE (c/n UE-53) was built in 1993 and was first registered in Australia on 27 March, 2002. Prior to coming to Air Link it was with Hawker Pacific after having flown with Eagle Air as ZK-JNG.
The Captain, who today was sitting in the right hand seat and allowing his colleague to pilot the aeroplane, welcomed everyone aboard and demonstrated how to put on the life vest in case of need. He also requested that everyone read the safety cards found in each seat pocket.
While the pilot carried out his final checks and started the engines, the Captain walked through the cabin offering first a small container of water and then a packet of ginger biscuits. Yummy.
All set and the Beech 1900D commenced taxi to the runway. Here we held for a while as a Virgin touched down ...
an Emirates 777 Freighter took off ...
and Hainan Airlines also came in, with flaps deployed to assist breaking.
Then clearance was given for ZL1822 to depart. The aeroplane entered the runway and I could feel the the increase in power as my back was pushed into the seat. Very shortly after, we were rising into the air and views over the Terminal opened up.
Once in the air, Sydney could be seen as could a visiting cruise liner from Princess Cruises. The Beech set course over the western suburbs towards the Blue Mountains.
The flight was generally smooth but the were some local patches of slight turbulence. The cabin was comfortable enough though a larger person mighth have felt cramped. I whiled away some time reading the inflight magazine, the cover of which reported on a destination that was recently the subject of a report by fellow Anetter RyanH.
The flight continued in its north-westerly course, passing over rolling mountains and areas cleared for agriculture. Through the patchy sky and heat haze, I could just make out Lake Burrendong.
The country opened up as we flew over the Western Plains, Wongarbon coming into view. A few minutes later we were over the city of Dubbo, passing over the western part of town and to the north.
The aeroplane banked in a wide arc that saw it approach from the south west and align with Runway 05. We crossed Mitchell Highway and the airport perimeter, landing smoothly. From the flight deck a welcome to Dubbo an a reminder to remain seated with belts fastened until the aircraft had come to a full stop and the engines turned off. I was impressed that throughout the flight, the flight crew had pointed out where we were and areas of scenic interest. Kudos.
The aeroplane continued to the end of the runway and then followed the taxiway to the terminal, passing the Royal Flying Doctor Service base along the way.
Turning onto the apron and aiming for the man with the lollipops, we came to a stop at stand 2. As I approached the terminal, with the permission of the ground crew I was able to take a photo of VH-RUE.
The terminal building is of a reasonable size for the number of flights it receives. There are murals depicting neighbouring localities and a simple but spacious baggage claim area.
On picking up the hired car (which had been upgraded from a Toyota Corolla to a Kluger) I went straight to Gaol, did not pass GO and didn't get $200. Dubbo has had a gaol since 1847 when it was a courthouse lock-up. The main gate and walls were erected in 1887 and the gaol had separate men's and women's sections. During its period as a gaol eight executions were conducted by hanging from the gallows. The stories of the condemned and of the life of other prisoners and those who looked over them are told through a mix of animated models and holographic displays.
A visit to the Western Plains Cultural Centre proved worthwhile. It includes a well laid out museum covering the Aboriginal and post-settlement history of the town as well as an art gallery. In the latter was a haunting exhibition, Unfinished Business
by Belinda Mason revealing the impact of disability &emdash; both physical and mental &emdash; in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Another provocative display was by Rod McRae: Wunderkammer & After-Life
. Running until 26 February, 2017 it explores the relationship between animals and humans in real life and in imagination, drawing on themes of mythology, biodiversity, pollution, climate change and stewardship. If you haven't seen it, I can highly recommend the trip to Dubbo. There is also a restaurant/ café in the centre that serves a delicious falafel and Moroccan cauliflower salad.
After the enjoyable meal it was time to make my way back to the airport. There I would visit the Royal Flying Doctor base before joining a flight back to Sydney by Saab 340. But that's the subject of the next review.