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PhilInBRN
Topic Author
Posts: 322
Joined: Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:30 pm

Matterhorn one-way! Riding the Helvetic E190 to Sion

Sun Feb 19, 2017 8:39 pm

Hello there

It's been some time since I last contributed to this forum by way of a trip report. However, due to the exclusiveness of my most recent flight, I felt obliged to write a trip report.

Background
For many years Sion Airport in the scenic Swiss canton Valais did not see much scheduled service. The only service remotely resembling regular passenger flights was offered by Air Glacier flying to several mediterranean destinations in Summer. This all changed in 2015 when a local tour operator started to offer weekly flights to PMI with ATR72 aircraft chartered from Intersky. This service was then offered in 2016 by Etihad Regional Saab 2000. Interestingly, the positioning flight from Lugano was offered for sale to the public. Although it had always been my intention to experience the scenic approach to Sion, I unfortunately missed out on these flights. Luckily, Swiss came forward in August 2016 announcing that it would offer four scheduled flights in February 2017 from Sion to London Heathrow and back aboard a Helvetic E190. The aircraft would do the following routing: ZRH-SIR-LHR-SIR-ZRH. As prices for the ZRH-SIR and SIR-ZRH legs were fairly attractive, I didn't miss out on the opportunity this time and booked myself and my companion a seat on the ZRH-SIR flight.

Flight info
Airline: Swiss opb. Helvetic Airways
Flight-No: LX2840
Departure Airport: Zurich Kloten Airport (ZRH/LSZH)
Arrival Airport: Sion Airport (SIR/LSGS)
Date: February 18th, 1017
STD: 09:05 LT
ATD: 09:15 LT
STA: 09:50 LT
ATA: 10:05 LT
Aircraft: Embraer 190, HB-JVP
Load: 106/112 (95%)

On this foggy Saturday morning, I arrived at Zurich airport by train at 08:15. Boarding was scheduled to start at 08:40. Although the airport seemed fairly busy, we passed the security check in no time and arrived at the bus gate A52 well on time. To my surprise, a large crowd had already gatered at the waiting area as the flight seemed to be fully booked. A short time later, boarding started and we were bussed to the remote apron where HB-JVP was already awaiting its passengers. Many passengers seemed to be aviation enthusiasts wanting to experience the spectacular approach to Sion airport first-hand.

Boarding our aircraft
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As you can see, the weather was quite foggy at ZRH. Luckily the forecasts were much better for our arrival airport
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After everybody had been seated, the final passenger count was announced over the PA system. 106 out of 112 seats were occupied. Not bad for a positioning flight.

The pilot came on and announced a flight time of around 50 minutes to Sion. We then made the short taxi to the threshold of runway 28 in order to depart to the West.
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Passing some aircraft on the way
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Turning onto runway 28
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Shortly after take off we broke through the clouds into sun light and proceeded on our way to Sion
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As you can see, the flight was almost full. Most passengers would later also take the return flight to ZRH
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The flight took us over the Emmental region toward lake Thun and then further south. To our surprise, we proceeded further south than expected and made a nice 180 degree turn close to the Matterhorn and then back towards Interlaken before turning into Valais valley for our approach. Our crusing altitude was at 18,000 feet. Here is the flight path as recorded by Flightradar24
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Over the Emmental region, home to the famous Swiss cheese
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Looking towards the city of Thun in the Canton of Bern
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The large pyramide-shaped mountain is called Niesen with a height of 2362 meter. You can even see the tracks of the funicular
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We crossed the scenic Bernese mountains and the villages of Adelboden & Gstaad and shortly arrived above the Valais valley
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You can actually see the town of Sion and its airport in this picture
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Turning back towards the Bernese mountains
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Easy to spot in this photo - the iconic Matterhorn. At 4478 meters probably the most famous mountain in the alps
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We then proceeded towards Interlaken and began the descent over the Jungfrau region
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Bietschhorn - very spectatuly summit at 3934 meters
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Jungfraujoch - at 3466 meters the highest train station in Europe
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The views were amazing on this morning
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After turning into the upper Valais valley we soon spotted Europe's largest glacier, the Aletschgletscher to our right
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The Bietschhorn again, this time from the other side
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In a short time we had descended below the mountain peaks to our right
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We were nearing Sion now and soon passed the famous village of Crans Montana on the rights
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On final approach now. On the lower right is the stadium of FC Sion, a Swiss premier league team
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Above the city of Sion (population 34,000). Visible to the right are the medieval structures of the Basilique de Valère and the Chateau de Tourbillon
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On final approach to runway 25 (length: 6562 ft)
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The landing was smooth followed by strong breaking. Overall a very calm, but highly entertaining flight!
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Looking down toward Lausanne one can see that the departure must also be quite spectacular
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Some private jets parked on the other side of the runway
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Looking toward the Basilique from the ground. When departing the runway one could spot the arresting cables used for F-18 landings with the tailhook
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The unusually large aircraft certainly attracted a decent crowd to the observation desk
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Very small terminal here - but hey, flights with over 100 passengers don't arrive often at this airport
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Exiting our aircraft. I've surely enjoyed every flight on the E190 I've taken thus far. But this one exceeded them all by a mile
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As it should be - Swiss cross tail fin with snowy mountains in the background
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After this exciting flight above the Swiss alps we exited the terminal and took the shuttle bus to Sion train station (without charge). For the return journey we took a train up the Valais valley to Brig, a beautiful little town in the German speaking part of the canton. The main sight at Brig is the Stockalper Palast

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After lunch in the old town we concluded the train back to Bern and Zurich through the 35km Lötschberg base tunnel.

Conclusion
Sion is the fifth airport in Switzerland that I have flown into. The only ones remaining with regular service are Altenrhein and Lugano. Hopefully I can cross these two off the list soon. After doing this trip I can only recommend it to anyone keen on spectacular sights and interesting approaches. Unfortunately there is only one weekend when these flights operate. However, if the flights to LHR turn out to be popular we can expect LX to expand their seasonal operations out of Sion. Furthermore, there are news about a startup airline wanting to operate several weekly flights for ski tourists between Sion and British airports as well as Brussels using the AOC and aircraft (Fokker 100) of Trade Air. The Summer season will bring back the Helvetic E190 to Sion as they will take over the weekly charter flights to PMI from Etihad Regional. However, no positioning flights will occur as the aircraft will do BRN-PMI-SIR-PMI-BRN. As the military base at Sion will close in a couple of years airport authority is poised to increase its civil aviation offering (primarily business aviation, but also scheduled passenger services).

Thanks for reading. I hope that this trip report gave you some new insights into a relatively new, but highly spectacular part of Swiss aviation. Hopefully I will be able to do trip reports more often. Any comments are appreciated.
 
LTenEleven
Posts: 439
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2016 8:56 pm

Re: Matterhorn one-way! Riding the Helvetic E190 to Sion

Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:44 pm

Interesting trip report and great photos. :)

Do pilots flying into Sion need any special training?
 
debonair
Posts: 4309
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2004 10:50 pm

Re: Matterhorn one-way! Riding the Helvetic E190 to Sion

Mon Feb 20, 2017 8:11 pm

Any idea why swiss was planning only 4 scheduled flights to LHR? Why not a seasonal charter?

BTW. the web-page of the new start-up: http://www.powdair.ski/ ! Good luck!
 
michaelg90222
Posts: 178
Joined: Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:54 pm

Re: Matterhorn one-way! Riding the Helvetic E190 to Sion

Wed Feb 22, 2017 5:20 pm

Thanks for this trip report and the excellent photos! I frequently visit Interlaken and know the area well so it was good to see the scenery from a different perspective.

Coincidentally, Niesen is one of my favourite mountains, due to its perfect pyramid shape, so that photo made me smile :smile:

Glad to hear you had a good time on the Embraer
 
PhilInBRN
Topic Author
Posts: 322
Joined: Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:30 pm

Re: Matterhorn one-way! Riding the Helvetic E190 to Sion

Wed Feb 22, 2017 7:20 pm

Thanks for the replies.

@LTenEleven: You're right, pilots need to undergo special training for SIR. There actually is a new GPS-guided approach that allows for higher sight minimas. This new approach is said to be a major factor that 2L will fly regular charter flights to SIR next Summer and that LX is thinking of offering flights to SIR during a prolonged period.

@debonair: LX is offering just four round trips during the peak season for UK ski travel. Media reports suggested that if these trial flights turn out to be successful LX will more flights next Winter. It is also interesting that apparently the bookings on the positioning flight from ZRH and back have also been quite good. I don't have any insights on the yield or on the percentage of non-rev passengers but it seems as though all flights were fairly well booked. If timed well, the ZRH-SIR-ZRH segment could also offer some nice in- and outbound connecting opportunities.

@michaelg90222: I concur, Niesen is definitely one of the more majestic mountains in the Swiss alps!
 
User avatar
CollegeAviator
Posts: 558
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:55 am

Re: Matterhorn one-way! Riding the Helvetic E190 to Sion

Wed Feb 22, 2017 8:16 pm

Great report replete with excellent pictures, thank you very much for sharing!

A lovey aerial tour of the Swiss Alps, and very descriptive details of each.

I love the livery of the aircraft, too.. looking forward to more!

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