A flight (un)like any other. It was perhaps one of the longest flights ever made by an Austrian Fokker 70: On 3rd April, OE-LFL departed on its ferry flight to the Australian city of Adelaide. It is one of three Fokker 70 aircraft that are ending their service in our fleet and are being transferred to an Australian company. Ewald Roithner was the captain on this flight and sent us a trip report. The summary: Great enthusiasm, but also a hint of melancholy.
Three of our Fokker 70 aircraft have come to the end of their service in our fleet: The Australian charter airline Alliance Airlines, based in Brisbane, has purchased the aircraft with the registrations OE-LFL, LFG and LFK. Their fleet consists exclusively of Fokker 50, 70 and 100 types; including our three Fokker 70, they will operate 34 aircraft in total.
Unlike what usually happens when selling aircraft, our cockpit crew also ferried the aircraft to Australia, to the city of Adelaide. It started on 3rd April with “Lima Golf”. But a lot of preparatory work is needed before such a special flight can take off with an Austrian flight number. This starts with freeing up a cockpit crew for this flight from ongoing operations. No simple undertaking, but at the same time this kind of positioning assignment is also a lucrative activity for us. Once Resource Management had secured the crew, it was time to start the detailed planning.
A giant project
“There were 20 of us at our first coordination meeting. We have a lot of interfaces that enable us to perform such a flight. And their number grew constantly over the course of the project,” Ewald Roithner outlines the procedure behind the scenes. “It was, of course, the kind of operation we don’t usually undertake. We also had relatively little lead time, all in all about one and a half months, no more.”
In total we needed ten stops.
So what’s the best way to get a Fokker 70, which has a range of around 2,500 km, to Adelaide, around 15,000 km away? Our colleagues Michael Gritsch from Flight Standards and Jörg Ortmayr from Dispatch, planned the ideal flight path. “The Fokker 70 has a relatively small range, so you need a number of stops to make it all the way to Adelaide. In total, there were ten,” explains Ewald Roithner. “Apart from that, the route obviously has to be calculated in such a way as to include alternative airports and to avoid any problems with the duty time in the event of delays.”
Once this step of the planning is complete, the bureaucracy begins: This involves applying for overflight and landing permissions, slots for the airports as well as organising the handling, including refuelling at the respective airports. For those countries in which the crew spends the night, hotels are booked and, where necessary, visa formalities are arranged.
OS1487 – cleared for take off
Assigned flight number OS1487, our Fokker 70 took off on 3rd April at 9.10 a.m. local time on its last flight with registration OE-LFL. The crew on board: Ewald Roithner as captain, Michael Tannenberger, normally captain, but this time in the position of co-pilot, and Martin Riedl, an experienced Fokker technician. The Austrian logo and typeface had already been removed from the tail, fuselage and engines before departure.
The first stage of its ferry flight took “Fox Lima” to the Turkish airport at Sanliurfa for the first refuelling stop. “It’s one of the loneliest airfields I’ve ever seen. There’s nothing to see for miles, and there are two to three aircraft movements per day. Our flight was in any event the highlight there,” recounts Ewald Roithner. The journey then continued to Doha in the desert state of Qatar for the first night-stop.
The next day, the flight path continued to India, first for a fuel stop in Ahmedabad. Our crew was greeted by 40-degree heat, and the formalities seemed to go on forever. Things were pretty much the same at the next stop in Calcutta.
“India is unbelievably bureaucratic,” Ewald Roithner describes his impressions of this exotic stop. “We had to pay in cash in Calcutta, and the officer wrote down the serial number of every dollar note. It’s simply different when you aren’t on a scheduled flight, where everything is regulated by contracts.” Despite this, Calcutta was a particular cultural highlight for our crew. “It would have been fun to stay there for one more day.”
Stay with us! In the second and last part of this story the Fokker will cross the equator and the red desert of Australia before having its final landing in Adelaide.