My first flight was supposed to be the notorious Varig MD-11 airliners.net shuttle from Amsterdam to Paris! Due to some problems with the trains (a derailment took place in Amsterdam the day before I left) I rushed to the check in area around 19.35. The flight, scheduled for 20.00 was closed ! It happened more often and then I can still smoothtalk and puppy eye myself on board, but this time the check in desks were empty. I should have known better, always travelling as late and tight as possible, that I would miss a flight one day. I picked up my one way ticket anyway at the Kales desk. The girl said, the ticket is valid for a year, just call again when you want to go to Paris.
I walked around at Schiphol dazed and confused. I asked at the KLM ticket desk if there was anything affordable leaving for Paris that evening or next morning, or if I could burn some FF miles for a Paris ticket, but it wasn’t worth it. I decided to take the train instead to connect to my flight from CDG the next day, and quickly forget my bad start. I overnighted in Brussels and arrived by train in Gare du Nord next morning.
Wed. 17.8.05-A-320-OE-LOE-Fly Niki-CDG-VIE sched 16.40-18.25
I heared many good things about Fly Niki’s operation, and decided to use them to fly to Vienna. We had to check in at the cheap hangar style Terminal 3. We boarded 16.20 , I had seat 22A in the quite empty back of the aircraft. The flight attendants had silver sweaters, were we at a Star Trek convention? Due to some slot restrictions and taxi time we were in the air at 17.25.
Photo © Peter Unmuth - VAP
Niki has very good free inflight service, this was the nice tasty snackbox we got, containing three mini sandwiches with meat and cheese, there were choices as well, (a big triangle sandwich was the other option) and a second drinks round.
The weather in France was perfect but it became a bit cloudy and gloomy but not bumpy when we approached, we landed at 19.01 in Vienna
Friday 19.8.05-Emb-120-OM-DAY-SkyEurope BRS-VCE fl 350 sched 12.25-13.55
One of the things I wanted to do before the Embraers were withdrawn was flying SkyEurope. I underestimated the travel time and overestimated the frequency of the buses and trains between Vienna and Bratislava, meaning I only arrived at Bratislava train station at 11.30 while my flight leaves at 12.25 and the airport is like another 15 km’s away ! You’d think I would have learned my lesson missing the MD-11… I rushed to a taxi and told the driver to speed up. He said, don’t worry, you will get your flight. I only had Euros so I had to pay 10 euros, the slightly bad “taxi drivers” exchange rate wasn’t a problem, 10 euro well spent.
Around 11.55 I ran to the check in desks, a bit worried seeing the long waiting rows, but a lady was just yelling “anyone for Venice?” I said Yes! And was allowed to check in immediately. Even while I had showed the passport and confirmation number, after some confused faces of the nice but not too bright looking check in guy, he gave me a boarding card for their afternoon flight to Nice! Luckily I saw it while walking away so he had to solve the problem… It was by 12.05 before I got my Venice boarding pass, I could walk straight to the boarding gate. The 20 passengers descended off the stairs from the terminal and walked outside to the aircraft.
Photo © Gábor Varga
Here we were taking off at 12.31. I can’t believe I was still in a train risking an early heart attack an hour earlier!
I was in seat 3A, next to the prop, quite noisy at take off and climb. Nothing free anymore at Sky-Europe. With all the rushing, I didn’t eat yet, so I asked for the advertised snack pack, but the f/a told me the Embraers only carried smaller items so I bought coffee and a Mars bar instead. I had to hold the coffee cup as it had the tendency to vibrate on the table in the direction of my lap.
The weather was nice, we passed Slovenia, a small sector over the Adriatic sea at 13.25, we descented and came overland. Just before landing I saw the industrial city on the left, people on the right side probably had a nicer view on Venice.
20.8.05-Fokker 50-PH-PRJ-Denim Air-VCE-BLQ – flight 3D400, sched 09.10-09.35
I also have wondered about how Dutch Denim Air would be, codesharing with Swiss but operating flights under their own name. I booked a one way on their own website, from Venice to Zurich, stopping at Bologna. The 14 passengers were bused to the end of the platform. It smelt a bit murky inside, the cabin looked a bit ratty and the crew didn’t seem to really enjoy what they are doing, giving short and snappy announcements and looking ungroomed. Denim didn’t have an own inflight magazine or much else to emphasize their public identity.
Photo © Robert Stroobants
we took off at 9.07, climbed quickly and then descended to Bologna to land at 9.33. Some 8 additional passengers boarded. I believe 2 or 3 deboarded, although I didn’t see Denim marketing this short Italian domestic flight as well. The pilot announced with a heavy dutch accent the expected flight details.
We went in reverse at 10.06 (very noisy) to taxi out and took off from Bolgona at 10.12. Right after take off, we circled and passed the airport from a considerable hight.
The single flight attendant came by for the service, a drink and chocolate croissant, and later a chocolate, the items had Swiss logos, I guess the items are the same as at a typical Swiss flight
The f/a rushed a bit her service as the pilot has announced it would get bumpy as soon as we would come close to the Alps. Indeed the beautiful clear weather was replaced by clouds by 10.40 all around us. There were quite some bumps the next half hour. I also think we had to circle as we landed at 11.27, later then expected, in rainy Zurich.
I understood that Swiss cancelled the Denim operated flights on their behalf this month, and fly their own Embraer 145s to Venice, Bologna and Florence instead for a while, not sure what happens if they sell these as well.
I travelled by train to Basel for the highlight of my trip, the Constellation pleasure flight at sunday 21 August. I reported myself around 8.45 AM at the airport, but there was no sign of the flight anywhere. Also the rain was pouring down so I feared the worst. I called someone from the SCFA out of his bed, and he told me he’d send someone to pick me up. After a while, an older man came, Marcel, and he told me the flight was cancelled due to the bad weather, but that the passengers and crew was already in and around the Connie. The crew and staff did their best to make a little happening. The about 30 people who were supposed to fly were offered drinks, snacks in the cabin, everyone could see the cockpit, meet and greet the crew, including flight engineer Carlos Gomez who came from Miami as there are no qualified flight engineers in Europe. As I read a lot about him and his Legendary Airlines in Florida, T felt like meeting a pop star in person.
They started engine 4 for us to listen to and film. We were entertained on the ground for about 1,5 hours and then we were bussed back to the terminal.
On monday, I took the train to Bern as I had booked a Darwin Air Saab 2000 flight from Bern to London City. More bad luck, as I arrived at the airport, it was announced there were floodings and a part of the runway was under water ! The flight was cancelled. The staff was friendly though, and told us we would be bussed to Zurich and fly to LCY with Swiss. I explained I had another flight that afternoon at 15.15 with VLM from London City back to Amsterdam and I would miss it. Even while VLM is sort of low cost structured, they called them and said they transferred me on the later flight. Here a picture of Bern:
22.8.05 ARJ-100-HB-IXT-Swiss-ZRH-LCY LX464 sched 15.50-16.35
Photo © Kevin Murphy
We were bussed to Zurich between 13 and 14.30. Near Bern we saw some floodings and roads underwater, so even while I was annoyed I’d miss my Saab flight on obscure Darwin Air and get on a boring Swiss ARJ instead, grrr… even one I have flown already… but I guess I was lucky I actually got out of the mess.
We took off at 16.06. Swiss has free service within Europe again. We got a Movenpick caramel ice cream, a little chocolate and a non alcoholic drink. The weather turned nice over France and Belgium but deteriorated again over England. We landed at 16.27 local time in London City.
22.8.05, F-50, OO-VLE, VLM, LCY-AMS VG226 sched 18.50-21.10
Arriving at London City I wanted to be sure the small printed form that I was booked on the later flight would be OK. I went to the check-in, was sent to the ticketing desk. There they wanted me to pay for the ticket, but I calmly told I was rebooked by Darwin Air, insisting they promised without additional costs, of course I didn't admit I was not sure about that. After some discussion between the staff they handed me the boarding pass for the later flight with no further demands or questions. I was lucky VLM didn’t do too difficult as my ticket was cheap and non refundable and Darwins flooding problem wasn’t of course any of VLM's business. I will never know if Darwin had paid them something or if VLM is just very nice and flexible…
Photo © Darren Wilson
. We quickly taxied at 18.48 local to the hold and took off at 18.57.
Their meal, a salad and bread, was delicious, probably better then on any UK-Holland flight. . VLM really has a good product and sometimes very affordable. Their two F/A’s were hard working, continuously passing with coffee and drinks refills even while the flight was quite bumpy. We landed at 20.46 and even while it was the notorious Polderbaan, VLM is used to high speed taxis and we were at the gate at 20.54.
All in all an unsatisfying holiday week. How nice Venice and Vienna were, I failed in getting either on the Constellation, the MD-11 and the Saab. The SCFA didn’t refund my money but said I could use the credit on a future flight. I decided to try to get on it already a month later and also ‘burn’ the unused Varig MD-11 ticket on the way to Basel.
21.9.05, MD-11, PP-VQK-Varig-AMS-CDG, sched 20.00-21.20 RG8721
Photo © Bernardo Andrade
Again I came quite late, having to finish some work at home… I’ll never learn. Now it was only 19.15 though, and I picked up the paper tickets at Kales on Schiphol first. It seems a bit outdated, they couldn’t process online credit card payments and wrote the tickets by hand and also making a mistake with my return day.
We boarded at 19.40. The cabin, with 2+4+3 seating, looked ok, taken from my seat 35L.
There were about 80 passengers and their mood was cheerful. We pushed back at 20.06 and took off at 20.18 in southern direction. We were at 1000m within 50 seconds, impressive climb due to the emptiness of the aircraft! I decided to make more pictures on the way back when it would still be daylight….Little did I know then… After a short while the crew came by with trays with water or orange juice and sandwiches.
We passed Brussels, we didn’t climb above 7500m and then we descended over Reims. The weather was very nice so we could see the night lights of French towns and Paris with its lighted Eiffel tower before we landed at 21.05. I haven’t been in terminal 1 yet, very 1970s Jetsons look.
22.9.05-F-100-F-GIOG-Air France-Regional-CDG-BSL, AF3286 sched. 16.45-17.53
Photo © Davide Galiani
Domestic flights in France are often not very expensive anymore. Especially between secundairy cities, Britair, Regional and Twin Jet fly a bunch of cool types like the Saab 2000, Fokker jets, Embraer 120s and 145s, Beech 1900s, CRJ 200s and 700s, so definitely something to check out later for a fun flight logging some unusual types.
The CDG-Basel return was about 120 euro including tax. At the gate I learned Mulhouse didn’t rhyme on Bull House like I expected, but on Toulouse instead, I was first like, “But I don’t want to go to Belle Toulouse but to Basel !” Funny Basel Euro airport, it has sort of a Berlin wall in the middle, how this flight is marketed as a domestic flight to Mulhouse ignoring it’s going to Basel (as well).
We boarded by bus. I always wonder why they can’t make that part of the trip more elegant, even the richest business class passenger (one looked exactly like the Swedish King, maybe it even was him) has to stand up in a packed bus waiting 20 minutes for the last passengers to board. It was a full flight, I was at seat 8A, we boarded at 16.34
We saw these aircraft during our taxi to the runway.
and took off at 16.58.
The service was a choice between snacks, from which I choose a big pretzil, and non alcoholic drinks.
About 20 minutes before landing we passed this unidentified airfield, anyone a suggestion?
. I could see our shadow during approach, and we landed at Basel on 17.48. We passed the white F-27 HA-FAD.
Before going to my hotel, I stayed to spot a bit. The appropriate title should be “sunset for the Swiss Saab 2000” as the last 8 Saabs which are based at Basel will be withdrawn next month.
The weather was wonderful all week so I was more confident I’d finally get on the Super Constellation this time. I flew on the normal Constellation of MATS in 1998 already so it wasn’t even a new type in my logbook but of course the rarest flight I’d take for a while.
There were only about 9 passengers this time, as it was on a weekday. For the price of a single sightseeing flight, the Epinal flights give you a lot of Connie fun. The planning is they ferry to Epinal, a quiet airport in Eastern France. Then the passengers deboard while the airplane is making testflights and training landings to keep the pilots current, while the passengers can look and film from the ground. Then in the afternoon the passengers are welcome again on board to fly back to Basel. This group gathered at the Swiss side, and checked in at 7.45 and it was quite a hassle getting to the aircraft, we went in and out to the French side a few times, the SCFA guy also didn’t seem to have a clue where we could have our bags and identities checked. But the mood was good when we finally got to the aircraft around 8.50, I helped pushing the stairs to it.
The Connie was in the corner of the VIP area, we saw some 737 BBJs, the United Emirates VIP 747-400
and further afield was this derelict F-27, ex HB-ISG.
At 9.15 the engines were started, smoky as ever although I didn’t see the flames. We slowly taxied to the runway. At 9.24 the engines were running at full power, and then we waited a while on hold before took off. We took off at 9.37 against the direction usually used, to avoid overflying western Basel were people have complained about the “noise” of the slow climbing Connie.
At first, the aircraft climbed very slow, but as we left the airport behind, we climbed fairly powerful. The flight was extremely smooth and just a minute after take off everyone felt comfortable enough to stroll around. Our flight level was about 4500 feet.
The cockpit crew consisted of Ernst Frei, Al Malecha and flight engineer Jerry Steele, a US veteran who flew on recip engined planes of the USAF for decades. Francisco Agullo, the boss of SCFA and also Privatair 757 pilot, was also on board to touch up his pilot skills. About midst of our short flight we closely passed some highland, a reason we had to climb fairly steep at the beginning.
Right after we cleared the last mountains, around 9.55, we started our descent, the flaps came out in 9.58, at 10.06 to 45 degrees. Now I understand their safety briefing that the flaps should be used as sliding devise in an emergency evacuation. At 10.08 we landed at Epinal. During the flight, we could hear some ticking sound on the left side. Turned out it was a failed cylinder in engine nr 2. “Nothing to worry about, it has 18 cylinders” the mechanic told me. But before the crew started their testflights, they had to fix it , also there was an oil leaking problem with engine nr 4 all day. The crew left for circuits (stalls, touch and goes) at 11.32, while about 12 passengers (including some SCFA volunteers) enjoyed the view of the Connie and the sandwiches and drinks which were taken off the plane and presented on a cart on the ramp by flight attendant Jean-Philippe Pitard.
In contrast to our big Lockheed, the only other aircraft at Epinal was this small Beech 1900D on a scheduled flight from Paris.
23.9.05 Super Constellation N73544 Epinal-Basel
After some succesfull sectors, the plane came back at 12.48 and after the crew took some coffee and food as well on the platform we were welcomed back on board. A young volunteer showed me I could enter the cargo bay from the hatch at seatrow 13.
We taxied out at at 13.48. I noticed some howling dog sound sometimes but it was explained to me it are the brakes. We took off at 13.53, again with the sluggish early climb and then a more forceful climb after a minute. As it became a hot afternoon, we had some bumps over the highland but in general again a smooth flight, we landed at 14.18.
Approaching to the east I could see our own shadow on the ground !
Taxiing back to the parking spot I could see this hangared Saab HB-IZR in Carpatair colours. It will be YR-SBK soon.
The Epinal day is definitely a treat. Hanging out almost for a day with the crew becoming on first name basis, makes you feel more as part of the operation then a more artificial short pleasure flight. Be aware they have to cancel a lot due to weather and mechanicals. My august trip was a pain, and I heared of a friend he came from England for nothing on monday 27 september because the Connie was technical again, but if you are finally on a flight it’s definitely worth it. Become a member on http://www.superconstellation.ch/
Sat. 24.9.05 Fokker 100-F-GNLK-Air France-Regional-BSL-CDG AF3283 sched. 10.57-12.10
Next morning I took the Fokker back to Paris. While on hold the Connie took off! I was too late with my cam to shoot… that’s why you can’t see it parked on the picture below. We took off at 11.18, still great weather so nice take off views from the airport and Basel. Again an almost full flight, with the same service (choice of snacks and a drink). We landed at Paris at 12.06 after a smooth short flight.
24.9.05 737-8K2 PH-BXN KLM CDG-AMS
Photo © Justin Cederholm
After we were bussed to Air France terminal , I spotted a bit and around 13.30 I decided to go to Terminal 1 to check in for the Varig flight scheduled at 16.00. My heart sank when the flight was “cancelled” on the screens. I asked at the information desk what to do, was sent to the Varig check in area 2, then sent to Globeground for a rebooking, and then I had to go to Air France at Terminal 2. They got me a ticket for the 19.20 flight, all earlier flights were sold out. Bugger as I had dinner plans in Amsterdam.
I asked and could be put on the waiting list for the KLM 16.20 flight, and at 15.50 they announced we actually were on (after some problems as my name didn’t appear in their reservations). They even got me a business class seat 3E. Delighted I walked to the gate but within 5 minutes they spoilt the good customer relation already. The gate woman grabbed my boardingpass, typed nervously in her computer and threw a new boardingpass with 22C on it at me without saying anything, even while I said “what happens?” So slightly annoyed I sat down in the back, while actually it was a good thing I was getting home in time. Pity I didn’t score the daytime second MD-11 flight. I saw the aircraft actually arriving at 14.30, and the flight back to Sao Paulo was also scheduled as normal on 22.30, so I think the aircraft was capable of doing the Amsterdam flight and they just cancel sometimes when the loads (also cargo) are too light to cover the extra fuel and crew costs involved to fly to Amsterdam. So an MD-11 flight of Varig is nice experience… if you can get it and they don’t cancel on the last moment, counter in some serenity about cancellations if you think about doing it.
The KLM flight was fine, but of course I was underwhelmed not being in an MD-11. We took off at 16.40. Their short haul snacks are quite good compared to the stale small rolls they threw at you a few years ago. A cockpit crew announcement “The city at the right is Brussels… as a matter we think it’s Antwerp” they added quickly. The weather was good so we saw Rotterdam and The Hague on the left, and landed shortly later at 17.19 already on the Kaagbaan, the most convenient runway from the south and with short taxi time to the gate.
a picture of the aisle looking forward. Had to make a different picture now I am in an aisle seat for once…
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