Back to Boeing: 737-300 Classic
As the Boeing 737 classics become rare birds in passenger operation in Europe, and we had not flown with one before, it became time that we did. So as we like to do, we search for a creative way to fly one. Our goal was the 737-300 of Jet2. Our route of interest was CDG-LBA. Now, the challenges are: getting from Amsterdam to Paris Charles-de-Gaulle, and getting back home from Leeds-Bradford. So, why not flying to Paris Orly via Madrid with Air Europa? And why not rent a car at Leeds and fly back home from Manchester? With that set, it is time to fly: let's go!
Thursday 2 February - To Paris With Love (and Dreams)
So, flying to Orly via Madrid? Yes we do! First, we fly with Air Europa on its 787-9 Dreamliner to Madrid. For this trip, we take our friend with us: Rudi. We report at Schiphol and as if we get two years back in time, we need a facemask again. Yep, those Spaniards still require that you wear your mouth pamper. Security at Amsterdam is no issue at all, as usual, and without any hassle we report at the gate. Here we do a bit of planespotting before our Dreamer comes in. Deboarding of the incoming passengers takes ages, even though two jetbridges are in use.
Finally it is time for us to board. The gate agents try to keep order, but with so many passengers not having a mask combined with a gate filled with Spanish temperament, this area was a complete mess. Eventually we get through to the jetbridge, which is suprisingly empty. No crew member to welcome us on board whatsoever. So, we board the plane by ourselves, and mix ourselves in the mess that is the cabin of this Dreamliner. We barely took place in our seats as the cabin crew start shouting some things in Spanish. Later, we discover that this piece of aeronautical rage was meant to be the safety demontration. No English, only Spanish. Oh well, who needs international safety anyway?
As we push back and taxi towards runway 24, the weather turns worse and the rain poors. Glad we move out for sunny Madrid, olé! The engines spool up and with hardly any sound we reach for the skies. As we enter the French airspace, the French seemed to ordered for sun to shine, so the coulds disappear and we see the coastline. Not long after the city of Bordeaux is visible. Memories to 2017 when we came here with a strange Fokker 70. Then, the Pyrenees mountains come into view. Flying over mountain ranges never fails to impress.
Eventually, after an uneventful flight with no service or attention by our cabin crew whatsoever, we land at Madrid Barajas Airport. Here, we disembark our plastic fantastic Dreamboat via stairs as a bus will take us to the terminal. Goodness, it is hot in here! Oh well, we will be in Paris tonight, so hopefully there is airconditioning in the terminal.
Crap, there is no airconditioning in the terminal. Now, we have a couple of hours to spend before boarding begins for our next Boeing flight towards Paris Orly airport. Some nice planes are moving by such as an AlbaStar 737, a World2Fly A330 and an Aerolineas Argentinas A330. The terminal is not big, but really long walks from one end to the other. Luckily, our guess to walk to the entire opposite end is a good one, as our next flight departs from here. Let's see if the 737-800 product is any better than the 787.
To be honest, besides the flight crew taxiing like a bull is chasing them, the flight from Madrid to Orly is pretty good. Climb is fast and steep, and after a short cruise (read: over Bordeaux) we already commence our descend. After landing at Orly, we take the metro towards Tour Montparnasse for dinner (okay, we take the nearby McDo, but we do visit the rooftop afterwards). As the Parisian metro always has some nasty suprises, there is no train running towards Charles-de-Gaulle airport, so we end up catching an ubèr instead. Tonight we sleep in the Citizen M hotel at CDG. That is the same phenomenal room as Citizen M at Amsterdam, and there are even some planes visible, albeit not that sharp.
Friday 3 February - Classy Classics
We wake up as our stomachs rumble and crave for some authentic French croissants. Luckily, the train station which has a supermarket is at walking distance from le hotel. The other thing from walking distance is a spotting location next to the taxiway. We are just a bit too late for the passing GeoSky 747-200 which we could capture from our room. So good to see a 747 Classic combined with a Klasjet 737 Classic and of course, the classy classic Concorde. Les croissants taste trè bien, and after le breakfast we are walking for le terminal. Jet2, here we come, on y va!
Our flight leaves from Terminal 3, which is the smallest terminal at CDG, and just a short walk from our hotel. However, there are not that many flights leaving around this time which means that security is no issue here. We are through in no-time and spend the time waiting on our Boeing 737-300. The view from the terminal is very limited, but we can catch a glimpse of our plane when it taxis to the stand. Then, it is time to board, and boarding is by bus. The ride to the plane is short, but we board in small groups at a time. When it was our turn to board, we got interrupted by a rude yelling passenger handler who was shouting that we are not allowed to photograph and film here, albeit in French. I (Lars) do speak French, but I am also a very good tourist who does not understand a thing. So, we ignore her and board the plane. We take our seats at row 2, while Rudi takes his seat at row 4.
The flight is full, but it does not take long for boarding to complete. Then we push back and start our engines. On taxi out we take a final look at the stunning Concorde before turning right towards the runway. Our engines spool up and our Boeing thunders down the runway. We rotate and have a good view of the sheer size of CDG with the Fedex cargo apron being so remote from the rest of the airport! Soon after, we bust through the clouds heading towards the coastline. Unfortunately, our view is quite cloudy the entire way, whereas Rudi has a nice view of the English Channel with England and France both visible.
After a short but fun flight, we land at a rainy Leeds Bradford. Here we have to wait for the buses to arrive to take the passengers tothe terminal, so we have some time to spare. We ask for a cockpit visit and as we have such a nice and friendly crew, we get the flight deck all to ourselves. Thanks Jet2 for such a nice flight, keep up the good work!
After leaving the airport, we pick up our rental car and drive to our first stop, which is East Midlands Airport. Last time we were here, we tried to capture the BAe ATP, however, that one is completely out of service now.. We still get to see some nice planes such as a stored Boeing 737-400 which used to fly for Atran as VP-BCK, Ryanair's only Boeing 737-700 EI-SEV and a new Azerbaijan Airlines A320Neo which still carries it's registration from it's original lessee S7 Siberia Airlines.
As there is not much more to see we get a nice snack at the local travel stop, and then we continue our drive to our final destination of today: Birmingham Airport. The Travelodge at BHX provides a great view over the southern part of the airport where the cargo area is located. Here we see the first Lufthansa Cargo A321PF, as well as a 2Exel Boeing 737-300 combi freighter, and a Vulcanair Antonov An-26. The passenger terminal is filled with stored airframes as well such as an S7 Siberian Airlines Boeing 737 Max and several FlyBe DHC-8-400s. With that all in the pocket, we call it a day and get some sleep.
Saturday 4 February - Home Stretch via Manchester
The next morning we quickly capture some of the planes from yesterday evening, but now in daylight. Then we move on to the nearby Air Force museum at RAF Cosford. Here are some really unique airframes on display such as several prototypes, some German WWII aircraft and all three V-Bombers including the last surviving Vickers Valiant. Some notable airframes are the DeHavilland Comet, Bae Jetstream T.1, Vickers VC-10 and last produced Short Belfast. All in all a great museum with lots of history! Definitely worth a visit.
We leave RAF Cosford behind and make our way to Manchester Airport. First we make a short stop at the viewing area where there are some nice preserved aircraft. We even get a private tour in the Hawker Siddely Trident III which looks pretty well preserved! Next to it is an all lit up Nimrod, and a cockpit section of a DC-10 wearing the Monarch livery. Further down the terrain are the Avro RJ-100X, which was the proposed successor of the RJ-100 series, and another Concorde. Pretty nice place which we will certainly visit again.
Then, we return our car and make our way to the terminal. Our EasyJet flight home is smooth and familiar as always. This was a nice little trip, with some great catches along the way. And, the main goal is more than met, flying the Boeing 737-300 Classic and experiencing it the best possible way!