The Pacific Coastal Air Beech 1900D we flew back to Vancouver

The Pacific Coastal Air Beech 1900D we flew back to Vancouver

Why drive hours to Canada just to take two 20 minute flights on a pair of Beechcraft 1900Ds, on two different airlines? Why not?

Back in February, my friend (and sometimes contributor to AirlineReporter) Jason made a visit to Seattle from his home in New York. He stayed with another friend of mine Jeremy (who is pretty much my AvGeek archnemesis and really good friend — it is how I roll). Instead of doing the normal (and boring) touristy stuff, Jeremy had another idea in mind. He wanted to create a fun little AvGeek adventure, taking two different forms of aviation transportation on an amazing day-trip in Canada. I was down.

NERDS! Jeremy and Jason welcome our plane back to YVR.

NERDS! Jeremy and Jason welcome our plane back to YVR.

He ran through different options and landed on taking two small airlines from Vancouver (YVR) to a small town called Campbell River, BC (YBL). I was told what tickets to purchase and what time to be at his house — that is all I needed. With my passport and GlobalEntry card in hand (yay, I actually got to use it for once), I was ready for our little adventure.

Flying from Vancouver (YVR) to Campbell River (YBL) and the star is Seattle – Image: GCMap.com


Just three guys, having a good time. Having a good time.

Just three guys, having a good time. Having a good time.

During our drive from Seattle, I started to get a better sense of our plan. We would fly up on a Central Mountain Air (CMA) Beechcraft 1900D, hang around town for a little bit, and then catch a Pacific Coastal Airlines (PCA) Beechcraft 1900D back to Vancouver. Originally our hope was to fly on two different aircraft types, but due to some changes, we ended up on the same kind of plane. That was okay… none of us had flown on a 1900 previously, plus I was interested to compare how two smaller airlines provided service to the same smaller airport.

I have been to Vancouver International Airport a few times, but never to the South Terminal. Before our flight we drove around a bit, taking a look at the Floatplane Facility and also the viewing platform.

I was surprised to see that I could check-in online for both airlines, however Central Mountain Air was the only one where you could choose your seat. Before deciding, I looked online and saw that the flight deck was viewable to passengers, and 1A had a clear view — bingo!


Our Coastal Mountain Air Beechcraft 1900D

Our Central Mountain Air Beechcraft 1900D

Security was a breeze and it took about 30 seconds to get through. Even though it was February, the weather was sunny and warm as we boarded our 1900D from the ramp.

I was sort of bragging to Jeremy and Jason that I had seat 1A — best of the best, while they slummed it up in rows 2 and 3. Once we boarded, my bragging quickly stopped — the first row of seats had no side windows. “Gosh darn it all to heck,” are totally the words I uttered under my breath. I wasn’t sure what was worse: not having a window or hearing the silent gloating coming from my friends. I had earned it.

Luckily for me, there were only 11 people on the 19 seat plane, and 2A was still open. The downside was I had to share the row with Jeremy (a legit professional photographer) and he had no issue using my window as his own.

No apologies when stealing photos from each other's windows... especially Jeremy

Jeremy was 2B the row photo king and I was not 2B… because I was in 2A. Wow that was a bad joke, even for me, but I am keeping it.

Now, stop and imagine this scenario for a moment. You have the three of us in the first three rows, with the other eight passengers behind us. We were all super giddy, taking so many photos, like we have never flown before. Joking around with each other, swooning over the sounds, and looking on our phone apps to see when we were up next for take off. What a sight. The flight doesn’t regularly offer in-flight entertainment, but we were giving them a live show and we were making no apologies!!! (although I didn’t have the guts to turn around and see their faces)

I think we spent more time taxiing and waiting on the ground than we did actually flying. No problem — I will take any excuse to spend more time in the plane.

Flying... I love this stuff. So, so much!

Flying… I love this stuff. So, so much! Notice the reflection of the plane.

And then like that — we took off. Flying in any plane is cool, but I always love the take off feel and sound of a small turbo prop. The Beechcraft 1900D surely did not disappoint.

The cabin of the Beechcraft 1900D. Notice the little step up for the wingspar in the middle.

The cabin of the Beechcraft 1900D. Notice the little step up for the wingspar in the middle.

The plane reminded me of a Kingair. Probably not too surprising since the Kingair and 1900D are both made by Beechcraft. However, it impressed me since the 1900D is quite a bit larger of a plane.

Always cool when you can see the runway from the front windscreen.

Always cool when you can see the runway from the front windscreen.

The actual flight was short — only about 25 minutes. I still was wearing my smile from take off and now I had to de-plane. I was sad that our Central Mountain Air experience was over, but in a few hours, we would be back on another 1900D.


Once we arrived to the airport, we realized that we didn’t really have a plan. We decided to grab lunch from town, but it was 6.5 miles away. Jason pulled up his apps to get a ride share and none exist in Campbell River. Now what? Oh right, taxis!

The drive to/from took a good chunk of our time, but we were able to have lunch, and walk around a bit before we started to head back.


Well, that plane type looks pretty familiar -- Pacific Coastal Airlines Beechcraft 1900D

Well, that plane type looks pretty familiar — Pacific Coastal Beechcraft 1900D

I was excited to once again get back into the air, but I thought it was going to mostly be a repeat of the flight north — I was wrong.

We took off from Campbell River, hit 2,000 feet, and then leveled off. Hmm. That was weird. I know sometimes aircraft have to stay at certain altitudes for a short amount of time, but we never climbed. And it was freak’n amazing.

Flying below the horizon.

Flying below the horizon.

My photos truly do not give the experience justice. Here we are in this small commercial airliner, flying 2,000 feet over the water, through valleys on islands, all while the sun is starting to set. For our flight north, we were cruising at 10,000, and on a different flight path, so this was a pretty big noticeable difference.

It might not look low, but when you are in the middle of your flight and supposed to be at 11,000 feet, it surely feels low!

It might not look low, but when you are in the middle of your flight and supposed to be at 10,000 feet, it surely feels low!

Jeremy, Jason, and I kept talking back and forth “Are we really at 2,000 feet? Why? A pressurization thing? Rouge ninja pilots?” I think we were making the passengers around us a little nervous. Heck, I think Jeremy was making Jeremy a little nervous. I grew up flying in smaller planes than this, so I loved it. Man, what a flight… one of the best commercial flights that I’ve ever taken!

Seeing the hills out the windows just makes me smile. Of course I could also see out the front windscreen and know we were cool.

Seeing the hills out the windows just makes me smile. Of course I could also see out the front windscreen and know we were cool.

When the flight was over, we asked the pilot why we flew so low. He just smiled and said, “why not?” Why not indeed. Thank you my friend.

Now, I will admit that I was a tad nervous that our flight was a “no-no” (official FAA terminology). However, Jeremy ended up talking to a pal of his, who knows such things, and what happened is legit. I guess it doesn’t happen too often, but those who get to experience it, get a real treat!

You can tell the D vs earlier models from the flat bottom nose.

You can tell the D vs earlier models from the flat bottom nose.


Which airline to choose? Take whichever one where the pilots will fly the low scenic route.

In reality, you don’t have too much to compare and contrast. CMA has a lavatory in the back, but even in a potty emergency, I would never, ever use it. Those poor souls in the last row. I totally understand why PCA opted to have none.

Pacific Coastal Air has a bench seat, no lavatory in the back.

Pacific Coastal Air has a bench seat, no lavatory in the back.

CMA you can choose a seat, but in such a small plane, it is not a big deal (and it almost left me with no window and hurt ego). PCA operates some flights via WestJet Link and CMA interlines with Air Canada and WestJet. That might matter to some. I am guessing that locals have a favorite and stick to it. Or they just pick whichever airline matches their schedule, is the cheapest, and/or serves their airport.


Really, this wasn’t about reviewing the airlines. It was about three idiots getting together for an adventure. Mission accomplished! For what it would have cost to taken Jason to see all the “been-there-done-that” attractions in Seattle, we were able to do this instead. I think this was the better choice and I thank Jeremy for planning it!

Have you done similar adventures with your AvGeek friends? Have you flown on the Beech 1900? Let us know in the comments.


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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CHRIS H Peters

Love it, retired form CO after 36 years, you guys are certain having a good time, keep those pictures coming really enjoy them.

Love it! What an awesome day trip!

Now that is a fun couple of trips!!!

Hey Mark… you know it has a lot to do with the people and Jason and Jeremy are good peeps. At least when Jeremy isn’t shoving his camera in my face :).


Ed Brzezinski

Absolutely love your articles…Have been a AVGEEK since I was a little kid
Now 64? really?!? Have lived in St Louis and now Orlando and would like nothing
better on a weekend afternoon to go to Lambert or OIA and plane watch at the end
of the runways…9/11 really changed that at OIA..they used to have hot dog and
beer guys at the parking area…Thanks guys, Ed Brzezinski

Hey Ed,

I get down to Orlando now and again… next time I get down there, we will need to have a little AvGeek meet up, grab some dogs and do some plane watching!



Absolutely….let me know…I am 15 minutes from OIA

Scott Shearer

Another great article! Thank you, gentlemen!

Thanks for reading Scott :)!


I was in Kathmandu for a few days back in April 2012 and took one of Buddha Air’s 1.5 hour “mountain flights”, which included a closeup of Mt. Everest from 24,000′. Needless to say, besides the spectacular scenery outside the window, the ride on one of their Beech 1900s (the flight deck was accessible for visits by PAX) was awesome.

Wow… now that would be a sight to see. It might be one of those where you are looking out the side window more than the front ๐Ÿ™‚


It was unforgettable. If you’re ever in that part of the world, do it!


Matt Baillie

Squirrelly things to tow and servicing the lav is a fun adventure! Never had the opportunity to fly on them, but worked with them lots at YYZ. Got to enjoy some vicarious flying through the article – a treat after being cooped up for the past month.

Not to go too TMI, but do people use the 1900 lav that often?


I just loved your post and quite impress your photography skills. Even I have flown this beautiful machine 1900 D for 3 years but show me some different angel of it.

Keep it up. you can send us your new articles frosting in worldaviation.center

Bruce Abbott

Hi David. Try another trip on the Island but this time make Tofino airport your destination. Pacific Rim National Park is very close by with miles of sandy beach, no more than 10-15 minutes away by taxi. I guaranty you will never forget the experience. If staying over night, my favourite is the Wickaninnsh Inn. Pricey but worth every dollar. Pacific Coastal flies there I believe every day. Best time to go are the spring, ,summer and autumn months. The Inn is also known for storm watching in the winter but flying becomes a little dicier due to weather. Again, you won’t easily forget going. It’s one of my very special destinations.

Hey Bruce,

Great advice. Although, this sounds like it might be a better trip to do with the wife than with the two yahoos I went with on this trip :).


Ha ha! “Three idiots”? I really don’t think so! More like three avgeeks who know how to make the most of a day together. Thanks for your excellent trip report and all the details. I enjoyed it all the more now that so many of are confined and don’t know when we’ll be able to fly again.

Thanks John! Although I think even the three of us would admit we were pretty much three AvGeek idiots during much of the trip… of course in the nicest way possible :).


John Clear

I flew on America West B1900D’s a bunch in the mid 90s on the CMH-IND route.

All the B1900D flights would board at about the same time from the same gate. One time, they’d called all the other flights and I was the only one left sitting in the gate area wondering if I’d missed the call for my flight. The gate agent came over and said “Are you ready for your flight Mr. Clear?” I was the only pax on that flight.

Of course the question remains…. which seat did you choose? ๐Ÿ™‚

John Clear

I took the emergency exit on the right side.

Good call. Somehow the emergency exit seems a bit more legit on the smaller planes ๐Ÿ™‚ -David

Love it! Thanks David for yet another great article (and related photos/video!).

Thanks for reading Pedro!


Glen Towler

Yes I remember when Air NZ had B1900Ds they where always fun to fly in. Especially on a windy day and being able to see into cockpit was always a highlight of the flight. Air NZ retired their ones many years ago. I miss those aircraft.

Hey Glen,

Funny you should mention flying on ANZ’s 1900Ds… Pacific Coastal Air is getting two of them: https://twitter.com/ARdpb/status/1234577607011659776.


Glen Towler

Hey, David

That is very interesting as I heard they had gone to Africa there must be plenty of life left in them yet.


Back in the 1990’s, I flew Air Canada Express (Georgian Air) between MHT and YYZ and that route was served by B1900D aircraft. It was a 2.5 hour flight each way, which was a long time in that small aircraft. Still, it was usually a lot of fun except for that day when we hit a strong cold front and dealt with 90 minutes of pretty heavy turbulence. That was interesting.

AC no longer serves MHT, and I don’t know if they still use many B1900Ds under the AC Express brand.

“That was interesting” is a good way to put it :). I love flying in turbulent weather in a small plane, but 90min of those conditions, in a 1900D might be my limit!

I looked up about the 1900s still being in AC Express’ fleet and the answer isn’t straight forward. It looks like Central Mountain Air flew for AC Express until Oct 2011. Then Air Georgian took over and flew the 1900D until November 2018. That was the last time a 1900D flew for the Air Canada Express brand. HOWEVER, currently Exploits Valley Air Services, which has a fleet of five 1900Ds, is flying on behalf of AC, but not under the AC Express Brand. So, to answer your question: no, but kind of :).


Denny Payne

Imagine 26 “idiots” on a tour of Russian airliners through Siberia ๐Ÿ™‚ The other passengers *really* didn’t know what to make of us there LOL. We had a few chartered flights where we were the only passengers though, and of course we went all out on those.

Here’s a shot of part of our group on a Let-410 that pretty much says it all: https://flic.kr/p/2iWnk61

This was a nice read, I got a few B1900 flights back in the day with Air Midwest (US Airways Express) and Great Lakes Airlines. Cool plane for sure.

Hey Denny,

Thanks for the nice comments and oh man am I jealous of your adventure! I haven’t been able to do one of those tours and they look amazing.


Many, many years ago, flew with 2 sons [ 12 & 6 ] from IAH to GLS. Both boys were convinced that Dad was flying for the WRONG airline. I worked & have since retired from Delta. Unlike flying on Delta, the boys said they could see all the houses & cars, because of the low altitude route. Older son now flies for American.

Hey Joel,

Awesome story! You cannot beat low altitude flying. My dad was a Navy pilot (EA-6B) and he was lucky enough to have his own plane (V-tail Bonanza) based in Oak Harbor (ODW) and I am told that is a fun airport. I also flew Harbor Air (also out of ODW) a lot, so my childhood was tons of low flying around the Puget Sound, so this flight brought back some great memories!

Hopefully your son is holding up okay with all the COVID-19 stuff… send him our best wishes.


Don Murray

Back in the 1970s (when I was working for Allegheny Airlines as a computer guy), my parents and I took a flight from Stornaway (in the Hebrides, off the northwestern coast of Scotland) to either Edinburgh or Glasgow. We never approached the altitude of the Scottish “mountains”, probably no more the 2000 feet high. We looked up at them the whole way. The plane didn’t seem to be having problems, they probably flew that “high” because they could! I was a little concerned at first because we were flying so low, but there were no issues with the flight so I think it might have been since the weather was so nice (remember this is the north of Scotland and that is relatively rare), the pilots probably just decided to let us have great views.

That is awesome Don! I mean, the pilots need to have some fun every now and again too :).


Rahsaan Johnson

Awesome trip and great story, old friend.

RJ! It was almost as cool as being on a tug, while pushing back a 757 :). Almost. David

King F Hui

I plan to fly B1900 this month (May) from YVR to Port Hardy. From there get on a Grumman Goose go somewhere and come back to Port Hardy on an Otter/Beaver. Now with the COVID-19 lock down, I am looking at September. After that I won’t take a chance with the weather.

Enjoy reading your article.

PS I am YVR based and went to a few AGF.


Hey King,

Now that sounds like a great adventure and I think we had a chance to meet/chat at AGF? I will admit that I am not the best with names, but with yours, it is pretty easy to remember :).


Larry M

USAir Express used this aircraft on their Elmira (ELM) to Philly route back in the late 1980s and early 1990s I flew it 30+ times during that period and loved it ! I little cramped but always a fun ride

Every seat had a window and an aisle… well, I guess unless you are in either in row one or the middle seat in the back row, if the plane had no lav :).



What is a no-no flight?
By the way my only opportunityto to fly in the 1900, whas 3 years ago, a 1900C series form zanzibar to dar-es-salaam

Hey Felipe,

After the flight I was wondering if the pilots were allowed to be flying that low, in that area. That they might have been breaking the rules a little bit to do some fun flying. So, I called that a “no-no flight.” But luckily it turned out that it was totally okay and an approved flight path/altitude.


“Gosh darn it to heck” – I’m sure these were your actual words!

I’ve been on the Jetstream 31s operated by Eastern Airways quite a few times and they have that wing box that you have to step over in the center of the cabin as well. The cabin attendant did the safety briefing by just ‘talking a bit louder’ – no amplification needed!

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