A flight (un)like any other. It was perhaps one of the longest flight ever made by an Austrian Fokker 70: On 3rd April, OE-LFL departed on its ferry flight to the Australian city of Adelaide. The journey continues: After the first stage the Fokker celebrated its first line-crossing ceremony and crossed the red desert of Australia. And then the crew became melancholy: The very last landing in Adelaide …
Golf courses and other highlights
For the crew it would have been fun to stay longer in Calcutta, but ultimately, however, the schedule had to be adhered to right down to the second. And it took our OE-LFL to the refuelling stop in Bangkok at Don Mueang International Airport. This airport has a special highlight: situated between the two runways is an 18-hole golf course that gives the golfers a special kick between the departing and arriving aircraft. What’s more, our scheduled Bangkok flight hasn’t taken off from or landed here for years, but at the new Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport.
Our crew spent the next night in Singapore and sniffed a bit of real long-haul air, because this is the home of the wide bodies: Boeing B777, Airbus A380 and other “big birds” take off and land here.
The line-crossing ceremony
On the next stage to Denpasar on the Indonesian island of Bali there was a special premiere: “None of us had crossed the equator before. When the navigation jumped from ‘north’ to ‘south’, we celebrated this ‘line-crossing ceremony’ with ginger water,” Ewald Roithner tells us. “Flying to Bali in a Fokker is a really great thing for us short-haul pilots. Unfortunately, we only refuelled there and then flew on straight away towards Australia.”
Desert from a bird’s-eye perspective
It’s like there’s no end to it!
The red continent showed us its greenest side during the approach into Darwin. But this quickly changed during the final stages crossing Australia: nothing but red desert for hours. “It’s like there’s no end to it! There was only one single asphalt road from Darwin to Alice Springs and that was it. We flew into Alice Springs on a visual approach. After 15 minutes, we were in the air again, making it a really quick turnaround,” says Roithner.
The cockpit was quiet on the last leg from Alice Springs to Adelaide: “That’s when you know that this plane has been flying for us for 18 years; we all associate it with many memories and felt almost a bit melancholic. I performed the final take-off in Vienna, Michael took over for the final landing in Adelaide. We’d arranged to do that from the very beginning.”
On 7th April at 5:41 p.m. local time, our “Fox Lima” ended its long journey in Adelaide. From spring in Austria, via high summer in India, to autumn in Adelaide – our crew flew the plane not only through several time-, but also climate zones.
After the final landing, the aircraft was officially handed over once our Technik colleague Martin Riedl had “anonymised” it: This involved removing our aircraft registration, and reprogramming the transponder and all the computers that stored our codes.
Was this special trip actually an aviation challenge for the pilots? Ewald Roithner answers this by saying: “As short-haul pilots, we know our routes in Europe and the western part of Russia with absolute precision. We fly there a lot and are professionals. In this instance, we entered unknown territory, which was exciting, of course. From an aviation point of view, however, it wasn’t all that different from what we’re used to. What is new for is us that we’re flying against the clock, in other words beginning each day a bit earlier. At some point, you have a 10-hour time difference. This is something we haven’t experienced as short-haul pilots.”
As fascinating as this flight was, Ewald Roithner is happy to be back on his normal schedule. “It was a real highlight for me, but also a project that has now come to an end.”