Aurigny's DO288-200 - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Aurigny’s Dornier DO228-200 – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

This is a gem for the AvGeek: Four flights, three aircraft types, and one airline all in a single day. Could I generate some sort of silly AvGeek personal record? I would see. The opportunity arose by a chance encounter with Andy Butler, Distribution Services Manager for Aurigny Air Services at an industry event. Established in 1968 and nationalized in 2003, Aurigny (pronounced “Or-rini”) is the national carrier of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel (or La Manche, if you’re French). Together with the islands of Alderney, Sark, and some smaller islands, they form part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Along with Jersey, they are more commonly known as the Channel Islands.

The Channel Islands are British Crown dependencies, but are not part of the UK or the EU. Given the Channel Islands’ proximity to France, and having historically been part of the Duchy of Normandy, there is a distinctly Anglo-French heritage. Aurigny means Alderney in Norman French. Anyhow, geography and history lessons over. Back to flying.

Aurigny's Embraer 195 aka "The Jet" - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Aurigny’s Embraer 195, aka “The Jet” – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Andy invited me to fly down on Aurigny’s Embraer 195 from London Gatwick (LGW) to Guernsey (GCI) and join the airline’s media relations manager, Euan Mahy, for a flight to Alderney (ACI) and back, followed by an operational tour for the day. I must confess that I’d only seen the name Aurigny for the first time on the side of an ATR72 at Southampton Airport (SOU) earlier this year (whilst covering the 80th Anniversary of the Spitfire). Not only had I never flown on them, but I had also never flown on an Embraer, a Dornier, a Britten-Norman Trislander, or an ATR before. This would be an aviation enthusiast overload of ducal proportions [Editor’s note: Had to Google “ducal” – “of, like, or relating to a duke or dukedom.” Nice!].

The Jet's interior - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

The jet’s interior – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

I navigated my way through the hordes of excited holidaymakers at LGW South Terminal, not stopping to sample the gin tasting (I just ain’t a player at 7:00 am) and headed for a quiet-ish corner to muse. The Aurigny pre-boarding zone was quite serene, compared to scenes around some of the other gates. The flight was sensibly boarded rows 16-to-32, then 1-to-15. No first, business, gold card member, priority boarding, or any other elite status getting anybody on board before anyone else here. I was quietly thankful for it, too.

8F was my berth for sector one - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

8F (window) was my berth for sector one – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

We taxied and queued whilst LGW evicted as many winged-squatters off its land as quickly as possible [Um… Google doesn’t even help here. Best guess: “planes took off.” – Editor]. Joining the fleet in July 2014, Aurigny’s Embraer 195, affectionately known as The Jet, is a single-class 122-seater with comfortable slimline seats at 30″ pitch. The flight time to GCI is a mere 35 minutes, and the Brazilian-made aircraft’s twin GE CF34 turbofans whisked us up to a cruising altitude of 22,000ft and we were over the Channel in no time.

Complimentary coffee - photo: Alastair Long |AirlineReporter

Complimentary coffee – Photo: Alastair Long |AirlineReporter

Well, it was enough time to enjoy a free cup of coffee or to buy VAT tax free goods, if I wanted. The flight attendant announced that the flight was fully non-smoking (I understand that Aurigny has operated fully non-smoking services since 1977) then proceeded to offer duty free Lambert & Butler cigarettes in batches of 200 or 400 for sale. I chuckled to myself at the irony of the cabin address order.

St. Peter Port on approach to GCI - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

St. Peter Port on approach to GCI – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

We cleared through a bit of chop and cloud and descended for the approach into GCI. I could see Guernsey’s capital, St. Peter Port, which was as close to it as I would get today. The friendliness and hospitality of the staff extended to indulging me with a few photos of the empty cabin after disembarkation. 35 minutes was the shortest commercial flight I’d ever taken. I was about to beat that.

The Britten-Norman Trislander - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

The Britten-Norman Trislander – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

I hooked up with Euan in arrivals and we hurried through GCI security to return airside for the “Freighter” flight. Aurigny currently operates three Britten-Norman Trislanders, a versatile three Lycoming piston-engined, British-made aircraft that first entered service in late 1970 (and with Aurigny in July 1971). The Trislanders carry an average of 14 passengers but are also adapted for cargo or emergency medi-vac operations.

Boarding today's Freighter - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Boarding today’s Freighter – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

 

Capt. David Gillespie welcomes us abroad - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Capt. David Gillespie welcomes us on board – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Aurigny flies parcels, mail, and other freight to and from Alderney on a Trislander G-RLON. This was my first cargo flight and it bizarrely made me think of the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom except without Indy, Willie, Short-Round, or two nefarious, parachute-wearing pilots of course. Or any chickens.

Cargo en route to ACI - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Cargo en route to ACI – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

I buckled up, donned a headset, and sat excitedly and in trepidation as Capt. Gillespie started the engines and steered the aircraft to the runway. The Trislander needs very little runway to get airborne. This is useful for Alderney’s 2,887 ft main asphalt runway and its two secondary grass runways at 2,405ft and 1,631ft respectively (three operational runways on an island with approx. 1,400 inhabitants…!). We would have a 12-minute flight, cruising at just under 4,000ft across the sea to an island that is only eight miles from mainland France.

Behind the Trislander's right hand seat - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Behind the Trislander’s right hand seat – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

 

Guernsey coastline - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Guernsey coastline – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

 

Up in the cruise - photo: Alastair | AirlineReporter

Up in the cruise – Photo: Alastair | AirlineReporter

 

Navigating our way to ACI - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Navigating our way to ACI – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

 

On final approach into ACI - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

On final approach – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

The weather was generally clear and turbulence was minimal. I understand that both the Trislander and Dornier DO228 are quite sturdy in heavy crosswinds, but vast quantities of fast-moving Channel Island fog have always posed operational challenges. “We can get 60-knot fog in the Channel Islands,” explained Dornier Fleet Manager Capt. Mike Selwood. ACI does not have an Instrument Landing System, so deteriorating weather conditions will inevitably have an adverse impact on services from time to time.

Alderney animal control - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Alderney animal control – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

 

ACI arrivals - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

ACI arrivals – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

We left G-RLON, and Capt. Gillespie and I headed to ACI arrivals. I was still tingling after my first flight in a unpressurised cabin on a good old-fashioned propeller aircraft. The Trislander is popular amongst the locals and I can see why. It’s one of those quirky British aircraft, an unassuming hero of a workhorse that steadily (and loudly) gets on with the job carrying pax, their (rabies-free) pets, and cargo. I loved every moment of the experience. We did a quick tour of Aurigny’s ACI base operations before heading to departures for the return leg on the Dornier DO228.

Making the DO228 ready for departure - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Making the DO228-200 ready for departure – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Forming part of Aurigny’s fleet is the 19-seater Dornier DO228. Aurigny have two ‘classic’ variants and a New Generation one. We were heading back on a classic! Like the Trislander, the German-made DO228-200 is capable of short take-offs and landings due to a wing design that generates considerable lift without needing much engine thrust. This also makes it a useful addition to the island-hopping fleet.

DO228 flight deck and cabin - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

DO228-200 flight deck and cabin – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

The DO228-200 is a square tube of a plane, the sort of thing that you could create out of Lego in the days before Lego starting making circular bricks. It’s great fun and the twin Garrett TP331 turboprops are powerful and fuel efficient. The captain gave the cabin address in person and announced a flight time of 10 minutes. My personal best of 12 minutes on the Trislander was just about to be broken.

DO228 view - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

DO228 view – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

We rapidly descended into GCI nose down at what felt like quite a steep angle and received a series of mild bumps and jolts from the odd low cloud. Landing was equally as smooth as it had been in the Trislander. The captain brought the aircraft to stand and stepped into the cabin to thank us for flying with Aurigny. It was such a cozy atmosphere that I loudly thanked him. I felt oddly self-conscious, but it seemed the right thing to do.

Disembarking the DO228 at GCI - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Disembarking the DO228 at GCI – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

We waited for the propellors to stop and debunked to arrivals, the second time in the space of two hours for me. Euan and I had some lunch and Mike gave me a brief tour of Aurigny’s hangar. I got up close to the ATR and was hopeful of imminently flying back to LGW in one. Alas, it was not meant to be. I flew back on The Jet. Still, three aircraft types in a single morning is pretty darn good!

The Aurigny Puffin - photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

The Aurigny Puffin – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Aurigny runs a great service, with a fleet adapted to suit the logistical and geographical requirements of its operations. It has several accolades, winning the European Regional Airline Association’s 2015 Airline of the Year Silver award and the Which?(a UK consumer watchdog) Preferred Provider award in January 2016. Clearly, they’re doing something right. In any event, my day of flying with Aurigny in the Channel Islands had been brilliant. As I watched Capt. Gillespie expertly pilot the Trislander into ACI, I simply wished that I’d gone to flight school and not law school.

NOTE: These flights were paid for by Aurigny Air Services, but all opinions and statements are my own.

CORRESPONDENT - LONDON, UK. Alastair is a Brit AvGeek and an aviation services lawyer, with a passion for all things aircraft, airport and flight. Email: [email protected].

http://www.airlinereporter.com
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18 Comments
Sholto Douglas

Thanks Alastair for the report. It’s great to see the Tri-lander still being used in regular service.

Best photo captoon is the “Alderney animal control”. My initial reaction was an auto spelling correction and then I looked at the small notice above the window!!

Once again, many thanks.

Alastair Long

Thanks Sholto! It did make me giggle seeing that sign on arrival.

I’m a bit surprised you’ve never flown an Embraer E-Jet for this long, given how popular they’ve become worldwide. The Trislander and DO228, however, will always be odd ducks and the star of this show!

Alastair Long

Phoenix, I agree. I need to get out more. Much of the European short-haul aircraft that I’ve tended to fly on has either been Boeing or Airbus, with the odd Dash 8 thrown in here and there for good measure.

Alastair, your bit about winded-squatters defeated the editor. I think you meant to type “winged-squatters”??

I think the Trislander has to be the ugliest aircraft ever built!

Alastair Long

Thanks Lindsay. It was indeed “winged”. I think the WordPress autocorrect might have wrong-footed us all. I’ve amended it. That said, the US editors do like to rib me from time to time over my use of unusual or colourful (yep, not colorful ha ha) local British vernacular.

On the Trislander – that is a fair opinion. She flies like a beauty though.

Alastair, I can give you some Aussie slang for your next article to really confuse your mates in the US 😉

Unfortunately, I have never had a chance to fly in an Islander or Trislander. I have flown in another “ugly” – the Short 330 “Flying Wardrobe”. Flew on one many years ago on the milk run from Cairns to Brisbane via just about everywhere in between. They were a great aircraft (one of my favourites), as long as you weren’t in a hurry!

Alastair Long

Thanks Lindsay! I like the idea of the Short 330 “Flying Wardrobe” – sounds like something you’d get if you crossed the Chronicles of Narnia and Dr Who!

I think the Short 330 wins that prize for ugly! haha

Thanks for the FUN feature, Alistair. What a hoot! Before reading, I never heard of the Trislander, but that is my kind of airplane. Big jets and Piper Cubs are fun, but modest working machines are fun.
A few years ago I small regional carrier in my area operated a couple of Pilatus PC-12s, another workhorse that I’d never seen or flown on. I heard that they were transferring them to another small market that they serve. At the time, they usually operated the Pilatus PC-12 with ore pilots than engines! If all seats were sold, they sold seat 0-B and yes, airplane can easily (and legally) be flown by one pilot. I explained my AVGeek status and the day’s Capt. left his FO at home so I could have 0-B, even if not sold out. I paid my fares, rode all over Oregon for the day and had the time of my life! And yes, the Pilatus PC-12 is one hot little airplane. I had to drive >2 hours to catch the day’s first flight, and did not get home until nearly midnight. AVGeeks don’t care! When we want to experience something, we WILL find a way. I guess the geekishness is in my DNA; the days cost me several hundred dollars and any regrets were less than a dime. For this geek, it was far better than a 14-15 hour trip in First Class, on an excellent airline.
As for your day, 10 and 12 minute flights are certainly unusual. However, if one’s destination is a small island, there are few options. Flying is the only viable choice. And that Capt. certainly stays current with his required take-offs and landings. Nice airplanes and again, the Trislander was a new type for me. An unusual looking bird, but I guess it does its job – well. A fun report and thanks!

Alastair Long

Thanks Cook! I do recommend a jaunt in the Trislander whilst it is still in operation. From an AVGeek perspective alone, it’s definitely worth a trip to the Channel Islands for it. I believe the type is also quite active in the Caribbean.

Cragg Utman

I lived on Alderney for a few months in 1971 as a traveling student and arrived and departed from there on BN Islanders back then. Don’t recall the name of the airline. The runway and “terminal” look the same. Great Island. It was known as “1400 alcoholics clinging to a rock” back then due to it’s duty free booze and Imperial sized shots (about 2 oz.) There were ten pubs there then, a ratio of one per every 140 people! Fun time and place to be 18.

Why did you leave, Cragg?!!

I was a student and had to get back to college. But it was hard to pry the whiskey bottle out of my hand! Heh heh.

Juan Carlos

You have to try Aer Arann BN Islander to the Arann Islands. When I flew with them in 2000, I was weighted before boarding and then I asked 0B, which I got after much head scratching by the Commander trying to make good the W&B amendment.

Icart Guy

The correct name for the airline is Aurigny Air Services not airlines, however ignoring that minor error I enjoyed reading the article about my local airline. I’ve yet to fly in their or any 228 so have that on my ‘to do list’.

Alastair Long

Good point, Icart Guy. I will correct that error. I hope you get on board their DO228 soon. Perhaps not as much fun as the Trislander from a pure AvGeek point of view, but still a great experience.

Great Article ; )
I commute regularly to & from Alderney, and I have flown on the Trislanders more time than I like to count! It is sad that they are being phased out 🙁
I have a “few” photos of, and from, the Trislanders over on flickr here https://www.flickr.com/search/?user_id=17559979%40N00&text=trislander&view_all=1
Trivia – one of the decommissioned Aurigny Trislanders (G-XTOR) was destroyed for the filming of James Bond “Spectre” – It was made to look like an Islander (3rd motor removed) and dropped from a great height into the snow in Austria!

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