After a long time iam writing a trip report about one remarkable sector with Syrian Air's TU
-134 which I hope you will find interesting.
Thanks to a friends sharp attention he found out about two weekly trips from Damascus to Aleppo (the second biggest Syrian city in the north of the country) operated by a Russian plane. Since I was already in Damascus I immediate reacted. We were dropping some other friend at Damascus Airport when we passed by the RB
ticket desk and I asked them about the Tu134 flights. I was lucky, RB
was operating with the TU
-134 on the very next day. So the next action was easy to predict. The tickets are very cheap, only Euro. 27 for a Roundtrip.
Syrian Air Flight number RB113/17 May 2005
Dep. Time 18:00
The next day I almost missed the flight due to late arrival at the airport. But in the middle east such things are easy going. I rushed to the Check-In counter to find that I was the first one and the staff didn't come yet. Minutes later some 10 people showed up and before checking in I made sure that no equipment change whatsoever is taking place and that the nice old lady is flying! Of course I took a window seat which was available.
At 17:45 we were bussed to the Plane and there she was a very young looking Tupolev shining in the summer sun. It was so nice boarding a 134 again, the last trip I made with this old Russian veteran was 3 years back with Albanian Airlines from Tirana to Istanbul.
My seat was occupied but I even got a better seat so I didn't argue much. The first impression I got was a surprising one. The plane was damn clean and organized too much for a spotter who is expecting the old stuff. And yet again a think to remember, the Russian smell was still there! The smell you just find when boarding one of these tupolevs or Iljushins. I love it!
There were no overhead bins, just shelves offering limited storage space. The huge windows (I think they and the Vickers Viscount are the biggest found on a commercial plane) were covered with nice clean curtains. The seat covers were the new RB
ones referring to it's homepage. The seat was really comfortable and quite narrow (good old Russian feeling!) There were about 50 Pax out of the total number of 76 seats. The first two rows were facing each others and they had a nice wooden table in-between.
The numbering of the seats was different on the right side to the left. The signage was in both Arabic and English. The P/A was very good and the announcements clear.
At 18:10 we were off-blocks and started taxi passing the old terminal (now used for Cargo and Hajj-Flights) just to pass by some very nice old stuff parked there for quite some time: two Tristar (one 9L
-LDR with "Star Air" markings. And one 707 in with a dark blue tail (I couldn't get the Reg.) . Afterwards we passed the YAK-40 which conducts two trips to Kamichli every day (a city close to the eastern border with Iraq). In addition there were: 2X RB
320, 2X 727 (one in old, one in new C/S) and ony the famous RB YK
-AHA B747SP at the gate, A Gulfstream Royal Jet (A6-RJA) and a A313 of KU
Then we headed to RWY 05L and the fun started! After the short takeoff roll of merely 23 seconds we went into the sky. Soon after reaching cursing altitude I went to the Toilet to find a remarkably clean and neat one. The old style Russian room spacious and with the best thing being the nice window in the ceiling bringing in daylight!
The know for flush was carrying writings in Arabic (hand written), neat regular liquid soap container with RB
branding and tissue boxes were supplied. Another funny thing was a foot handle to open the trash bin in the WC
Soft drinks were served and a very tasteful piece of coconut sweet. We started our descend and passed by the city of Aleppo (the airport is very close to the city, depending on the wind, you can enjoy really nice take offs and landing passing by the famous Citadel and Souks of old Aleppo.
The landing was quick and firm. When deboarding the flight I told the Cabin crew that I am returning on the same flight and if possible to stay on board, they stared at me and then they were very helpful , called the ground operation and a guy came and told me I have to get into the terminal but he will rush to check in otherwise they will close. So I waited in the duty free area (nice duty free and way lower prices than in Dubai) finally he came with a boarding pass and a smile wishing me a nice flight.
Syrian Air flight number RB118
Dep. Time: 20:00
There were about 60-65 Pax, we were bussed again to the plane, by now it already got dark. Once I entered the cabin one of the FA
's told me that the captain wants to see me… He was sitting in the first row and after greeting me he asked if iam the strange passenger who flew in and out.. We had a nice discussion and I got to know that this plane of one of two remaining TU
-134 in ops. With RB
. It was completely refurbished and overhauled some two years ago. The plane was built in 1982. Afterwards he left me to and went into the Cockpit. So I remained seated in this nice seat having the foldable wooden table in-between. The take-off was again a short role and you could feel the powerful engine thrust. The noise level was very acceptable and not really loud. Also I didn't feel any vibrations at all!
I was reluctant to ask but I didn't and it paid off. I asked for a cockpit visit and much to my surprise I was allowed to (had many RB
flights before and always declined cockpit visits) the first thing I noticed was the flooring of the cockpit which was not higher than the cabin (not on all TU
-134) the crew of 3 was very nice and we had a good chat. The instruments were in good shape and no fading colors whatsoever (almost disappointing…
The was a GPS instrument which was placed in the middle console. After 10 minutes I though let them work, but they insisted for me to stay and ordered some coffee, when I returned to my seat I passed by the galley and had to recall my early Inteflug flights. The galley looked huge for a plane with 76 seats, there were 2 hot ovens.
Again we got soft drinks and a piece of cake and landed on RWY 05R in DAM after 55 minutes of taking off. Unfortunately the best flights always come to an end when you are enjoying them best!
All in all a blast of an experience , a nice way to spend a summer afternoon in Damascus, flying a nice old bird….
With best regards