Our ride: Q400 Dash 8 – Photo: Alastair Long
My 10-year-old son and I recently treated ourselves to an alternative from the usual routes over to Paris and Continental Europe. We’d done enough easyJet or British Airways hops on A319s and A320s, out of the various London airports, to merit trying something new. We therefore headed to the south coast to check out Flybe’s Bombardier Q400 Dash 8 that the airline deploys from Bournemouth (BOH) to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG). This was a day of firsts for us: the aircraft type, the airline, and the airport – kind of a “perfect storm” for an AvGeek.
Getting into mood: croissant at BOH – Photo: Alastair Long
Part of the Manchester Airport Group of airports and with annual passenger volumes of approximately 662,000, BOH is a delightfully quiet place to jet (or, prop) off from for a few days. “Easy (Like Sunday Morning)” as the Commodores’ song goes, I don’t think I’ve ever been the only one in the security queue before or even the only one in duty free shop, much less the only one buying breakfast at BOH’s Olive Tree restaurant. Admittedly, we’d gotten to the airport that Sunday morning earlier than usual, but even when other passengers began to arrive the airport never lost its charm. It’s one of the few airports through which I’ve traveled without succumbing to any bouts of “airport brain.” So far, so good.
Sometimes you just have to dive in – Photo: Kris Hull
Working for an airline might seem prestigious to most on the outside: a job filled with adventure and travel, with good perks. However, like with most things, reality if very different. For the past nine years, I have spent my time working as an FAA-certified and licensed Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic, or A&P. A&Ps are the lifeblood of civil aviation in the United States.
In short, we are tasked with ensuring that all aircraft in the US are maintained in an airworthy and safe manor. It is not very glamorous, but it sure is fun! I obtained my A&P license by attending an FAA-approved course for two years at a Washington state community college, and then I entered the aviation workforce with gusto and drive, ready to conquer the world; or so I thought!
FAA A&P mechanics can work on anything, including this PBJ-1J under restoration – Photo: Kris Hull
Throughout my ten years in the aviation industry so far, I have worked for four companies; two for a year or less, and the other two for four years each. I have had the opportunity to work on everything from the diminutive (yet mighty!) Piper J-3 Cub up to the newest member of the 747 family, the 747-8. So sit back and enjoy reading this while I recall some of the adventures (or misadventures!) I have had over the past several years!
United Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 at Durango – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter
As a Silver Premier member with United Airlines (their lowest-level elite tier), getting a complementary first class upgrade happens almost as rarely as spotting a unicorn. In a year and a half of being an elite, I’ve gotten two first class upgrades. Recently, upgrade number two came in an unlikely form; on a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.
That’s right, folks – United is offering a first class cabin on planes with propellers. I caught my upgrade on a quick business trip from Denver (DEN) to Durango (DRO), Colorado.
All of United’s Q400s are actually operated by Republic Airlines, one of many regional carriers for UA. They are configured with 71 seats; seven in first class, 10 in Economy Plus, and 54 in economy. As to be expected on a regional plane, “first class” really only meant a wider seat, more legroom, and a free beer. Well, we got some pretzels too.
Boarding P2-PXS at Jacksons Domestic Airport – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
So, while Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea, or PNG) may not be a holiday treat, it is certainly better than it has ever been since independence. If you want a tropical holiday, you are going to have to leave the ravenous guard dogs and car jackings of Moresby behind.
Being a huge WWII nerd, I figured my best bet was to head out to either Kavieng (on the island of New Ireland) or Kokopo/Rabual on the island of New Britain. Both of these islands were invaded by the Japanese in 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese, however, did not hold on to them long, I will cover that in a later article, because first I have to tell you about the fun one can have at the domestic terminal of Jacksons International Airport.
The airport is chaotic, and there is no air conditioning. To keep machetes and buai out of the terminal there is pre-screening before the sterile area. Check-in opens at least three hours prior to departure to deal with the seemingly-unending lines of people going back from Moresby to their home villages, and the infinite tonnage of excess baggage.
But it all ends up being worth the hassle.