Toulouse - Airbus with a Sauce of Boeing
Friday 1 July - No Fokker, Yes Boeing
This trip was initially booked to fly the Dutch built Fokker 70 with KLM Cityhopper. Initially this was the case, however soon our aircraft type got changed into a Boeing 737-800. Quite the upgrade, but not the plane we were hoping for. However, this trip we will check off another bucket list plane: the cute ATR with Hop!. The itinerary for this trip is as follows:
First, we travel from Amsterdam to Bordeaux. Here we stay for one night before we take the TGV train to Toulouse. Here we stay two nights and then we fly with the ATR to Marseille and then back to Amsterdam with an Air France A321. Sounds like a plan to us.
We proceed through Schiphols great security and soon we enjoy our breakfast while looking at all the ramp action outside. When it's time we board our Boeing 737 with registration PH-BGB. The flight is great but covered with clouds. The approach to runway 23 provides a stunning view over the city center of Bordeaux. We touch down gently and park next to a Volotea Boeing 717. Always nice to see the 717 Madpup. During the landing we saw some other gems as well being parked/stored at the other side of the field such as an Air Inter Dassault Mercure, the Zero-G Airbus A300 and a couple of unidentified A340s.
Then the captain mentions something in his speech that we had completele missed. The European Championship of football is in France this year. Even worse: it is going on right now and The Netherlands are not participating. Anyway, this explains the aircraft change from Fokker to Boeing, and as soon as we get on the bus we see all hints to the championship all over the place. The Heineken plaquettes on the buses are quite disturbing though. The Dutch flag is projected (even though we are not participating..) but.. It's upside down! Pretty bad for a Dutch beer brand. We get out of the bus and walk alongside the river towards our hotel. Our hotel is one street away from a big park. Anyway, that is what the map tells us. In reality, we are sleeping one street away from the official Championship Fanzone.. Oh well, this is gonna be the trip... (thank God that France is not playing tonight..)
Saturday 2 July - Ticket to Ride
Bright and early we leave our hotel and make our way to the train station. The train ride is calm and extremely relaxing. We meander next to the river Garonne through the valleys. After this nice ride we arrive in Toulouse Central Station. From here it is a short tram ride to our next hotel. This hotel is situated directly in the approach path for Toulouse Blagnac Airport. We drop our bags and get back to the tram as we have a nice museum to visit today: Aeroscopia. This museum is adjacent to the Airbus plant and the A380 final assembly halls. The museum is still growing and at the time we visit it is not yet that big. Nevertheless it was absulutely worth it. The rest of the day we spend exploring the city of Toulouse.
Sunday 3 July - Day of Doing Not Much
The morning we spend watching planes go by our amazing room and spending time in the pool. The afternoon we go back to Toulouse downtown, where all of a sudden a football match was about to begin. Tonight it's up to France to play in the championship, and even more special: they play in the nearby stadium of Toulouse. So the city is as excited as it could possibly get, so we decided that it was appropriate to at least wear something blue. That was a good choice, as Les Bleus eventually won the match that night.
Monday 4 July - To fly or not to Fly
After a great relaxed morning with some great spotting it is time to head to the airport. Today is our big day, we finally will fly ATR to Marseille! It would mark our first turboprop ride as well, so we are pretty exited. The tram takes us quickly to the terminal and after a little wandering around we quickly eati away our last baguettes dipped in Speculoos paste. The terminal gives us a nice panoramic view over the Airbus plant with lots of new A330s and A350s being built. We make our way to our gate, which appears to be a bus gate. That would explain why we haven't seen our ATR yet. We board the bus which takes us to the remote stands. Some freighters are parked here, and some smaller planes. But no ATR so far..
The bus stops next to and Embraer 145. Apparently we have had an aircraft change and we fly this cute little charter jet. Fun fact, KLM used to operate three of these Embraers on behalf of KLM Exel. This machine has a white fuselage and a blue tail with some stylistic mountains painted. The registration reads F-HBPE. A quick Google search reveals that this plane belongs to Pan Européenne Air Service and that this plane has a big history before its current operator. One of the former operators was.... KLM Exel! What are the odds?!
The plane is not that full, so we have an entire row to ourselves. Basically, this comes down to a free middle seat, as the seat configuration is 1-2. The little Embraer has nice large windows and the seats are comparable to a premium economy seat.
The doors are closed and the small jet taxies to the runway. We have to wait for a Beluga to clear the runway for us. Quicky we thunder down the runway and we take off steeply like a real businessjet. We get a beautiful view of the eastside of the Airbus plant where some A350s and A380 are waiting their completion. The, we sharply bank right and we get a beautiful view of the airport and the city of Toulouse.
The flight itself is calm and beautiful as we follow the Mediterranean coastline. We spot a small village surrounded by pink lakes. This village is the old village of Aigues Mortes, or "Dead Lake". This walled village is called this way as the pink waters are so salty that no vegetation can grow here. In the early days, that meant that life in this village was near to impossible. Yet, the salt still is a big local product here.
Just 40 minutes after take off we already start to descend again. We make an eastern approach so we make a left turn over the coast. The impressive city of Marseille lies just underneath the approach path and looks so vivid! After landing we taxi to a remote stand in the neighborhood of the Sécurité Civile, the fire bombers. We take a short bus ride (less than 100 meters...) to the terminal and enjoy a good layover. We spot some new helicopters like an NH90 in primer (as the Airbus Helicopters factory is here), and some nice jets like Dornier 328s, Boeing 717 and a Boeing 727.
After a couple of hours and having to exit and re-enter the secured area we are finally able to board our last flight: an Air France Airbus A321 with registration F-GMZA. After take off we did get a good view of the airbase of Îsres. This field is home to te Dassault factory as well. The flight was good, although the windows were quite dirty and there were lots of clouds on the route. We landed on runway 06 (Kaagbaan). Here we get a good view of the A-platform, nicknamed "The Fokker Farm", just to get a glimpse of what this trip could have been, if it were not for some overpaid idiots chasing a bloated piece of rubber. But still, this trip was great!