There was no real imperative to go to Amsterdam. I had visited the city a number of times before and was familiar with the main sights. However, I had a free day in Hamburg and thought "why not?" It would give me the chance to do a bit of spotting at Schiphol and I'd get to fly an Embraer 190 there and an Embraer 175 back.
Booking was through the KLM web site. The flights would be operated by KLM Cityhopper and the final fare, including taxes and seat selection, was a little over €170.
A quick check of the departure boards on arrival at Hamburg Airport „Helmut Schmidt“ showed that the flight would leave from gate A38. There was plenty of time so I went up to the Observation Deck. It was a typical summer day with showers. Departing aircraft, for example this Condor flight, were throwing up plenty of spray as they hurtled along the runway.
Passengers who had arrived on United's flight from Newark might have wished for better weather. This Boeing 767-322(ER), registered as N655UA, has been with United since December 1992.
Not quite as old, Germania's movements are reflected on the apron as it moves out. The Airbus A319-112 with its CFM56-5B6/3 engines was ferried XFW-TXL on 22 March, 2012 on delivery. Another A319 followed out. This one has been with Germanwings since January 2008. Unlike the Germania craft, it is powered by 2x IAE V2524-A5 engines.
No doubt those travelling with Sun Express had clear intentions. But how many would have known that the Boeing 737-8Z9(WL) was named after the great singer, songwriter and record producer Freddie Mercury?
Time came to go to the gate, walking past a sign for an airline that recently announced that it wants to offer connecting flights from Hamburg. A queue had formed at the gate but before boarding could start, arriving passengers needed to clear the area first. An announcement was made inviting priority passengers to board and finally my phone was scanned.
Clearing the gate was not the same as boarding the aircraft. There was a bit of a delay and passengers formed an orderly queue in the stairwell. After some minutes had passed, we could walk out into the rain to approach the waiting Embraer 190 and board by steps, front and rear.
At the door, the senior cabin crew member welcomed everyone aboard. In my seat, a look around the aircraft showed that it appeared to be clean and tidy. Legroom was reasonable.
In the seat pocket was the house magazine, Holland Herald, featuring the usual reviews, travel tips and advertisements. Of most interest to me was the list of aircraft in the fleet.
The Captain announced that we would be leaving shortly and estimated a flight time of about fifty minutes. Further announcements were made by the senior cabin crew in English, Dutch and German. On push back, the safety demonstration was carried out. The safety card showed signs of frequent use.
The cabin crew made a final pass through the cabin, securing overhead lockers and ensuring seat belts were fastened and tables were stowed.
During taxi, you might like some background information. Today's flight was operated by PH-EZV, an Embraer ERJ-190STD (ERJ-190-100) with KLM Cityhopper. It is configured CY100 and powered by two GE CF34-10E5 engines. Built in Sao Jose Dos Campos and first flown with test registration PT-TUQ, it was delivered on 20 April, 2012 and is currently leased from Tokyo Century Corporation.
The aircraft was involved in a hard landing incident on 01 October, 2014. The crew were incorrectly under the impression that they had configured the aircraft for an automatic landing. The indications of the automatic pilot did not lead the pilots to suspect that the aircraft was actually configured for a manual landing. The FMA indications that they saw during the approach were what they were used to seeing. Moreover, the aircraft was in a valid configuration, which meant no error messages were generated. As a result, both pilots had no reason to think that the aircraft was not flying in the correct mode for an ILS Category I approach followed by an automatic landing. The aircraft did not perform a landing flare and made a hard landing.
After the flight arrived at the aircraft stand and the engines were shut down, the central maintenance computer on board the Embraer 190 printed a warning that the aeroplane had touched down with a vertical acceleration that was 2.78 g. Engineering personnel were informed about the hard landing so that the aeroplane could be inspected. The inspection revealed that an operating rod of the left-hand main landing gear door was damaged and an operating rod of the innermost right-hand wing flap was bent.
More recent, while performing flight KL1031 from Amsterdam to London Heathrow, the plane was in the initial climb out of Amsterdam's runway 24 when the crew stopped the climb at 2000 feet due to an indication a GPU hatch had opened. The aircraft returned to Amsterdam for a safe landing on runway 18C about 15 minutes after departure. The aircraft remained on the ground for about 80 minutes, then departed again and reached London with a delay of 2 hours.
But enough. It is not my intention to make any nervous passengers even more anxious. The aircraft entered Runway 23 for a take-off to the south-west. On the ground were planes from Swiss and Turkish but weather conditions were not conducive to photography at the rates of knots we were travelling. Once in the air there were views over the city and the Alster before we were enveloped by clouds.
A few minutes later the aircraft was above the cloud in brilliant sunshine. My seat neighbour was a young man travelling with his parents on vacation to Paris. He was kind enough to offer me a bonbon but I declined, being sweet enough already. 😉
The appearance of the sun seemed to be the signal for the cabin crew to jump into action. They came through the cabin offering a snack and drinks. The wrapping of the snacks drew on traditional Dutch themes in Delft blue while the contents included a cheese sandwich, a Stroopkoekje — a crispy biscuit with a caramel filling — and a small tub of water.
The aircraft had commenced descent and through breaks in the cloud the verdant countryside came into view. Wetlands and canals bordered fields that edged up against towns and villages. In the distance lay Amsterdam and the industrial and harbour district of Westpoort.
From our approach, it appeared that we would be landing on the Polderbaan. Sure enough, soon we were crossing the Zwanenburgerdijk and lining up for a landing on 18R. Leading edge flaps and spoilers were deployed to assist with breaking as the aircraft began the overland part of the journey.
Along the way to the stand, we passed a line of aircraft from China Airlines, Delta, Xiamen and KLM. Turning into the lane leading to the gate, we passed a representative of LOT Polish Airlines — SP-LIB an ERJ-175STD — and a couple of different flybe liveries. In the purple, a DHC-8-402Q previously with Colgan and Republic; and in white another ERJ-175STD.
Alongside were a couple of aircraft with airBaltic: nearest was a Boeing 737-53S that previously flew as F-GJNU for Air France. In those days it was configured CY112. Today it can accommodate 120 economy passengers.
But the time had come to leave the aircraft. Passengers have been thanked for choosing to fly Cityhopper and the door was open. One final look at the aircraft from inside the terminal. Already the bags were being unloaded and the aircraft being made ready for the next flight.
Many people would consider the most important people in aviation to be the pilots. There is no denying their skill and expertise. Yet there are many more people who contribute to passengers being able to travel. No less important are those who work on the ramp come rain or shine.
It isn't just passengers that fly. A significant part of the airline industry is dedicated to cargo and Schiphol is a major shipment centre. Among air freight carriers represented are Airbridge, DHL, KLM, Etihad Cargo, Kallitta, Silkway and Cargolux. For many cargo operators the 747 is the aircraft of choice, but not so for all.
At the other end of the scale from large freighters are smaller regional carriers. Among them, Schiphol sees the Canadair CL-600-2D24 Regional Jet CRJ-900LR operated by Ljubljana-based airline Adria; the British Aerospace Avro RJ85 operated by CityJet; and HOP! sends the Canadair CL-600-2C10 Regional Jet CRJ-701.
There were some names that I didn't recognise among the airlines visiting. Airzena turns out be Georgian Airways, which the flag gives away. This example has an Australian connection. 4L-TGN previously flew with Virgin Blue (subsequently Virgin Australia).
Another Boeing with a Sunweb livery turns out to be Transavia, although it appears to spend much of its time alternating with Sun Country Airlines.
More familiar liveries included that of Air Europa in the shape of a recently delivered Boeing 737-85P(WL), EC-MPG; another 738 with everyone's favourite Ryanair; and an Iberia Express Airbus A320, EC-LVQ.
With flypgs.com on its sides and named Jasmin Y , TC-CPM arrived; an Airbus A320-232 with Aegean and registered as SX-DVX was being loaded; and not much seemed to be happening around a Vueling Airbus labelled Vueling, que es gerundio. That is as may be but so too is "standing".
All the ME3 are represented in Amsterdam. There were a couple of Emirates freighters on the ground in addition to the Etihad Cargo plane already seen. Here the third member of the much-maligned group is taxiing out on departure: a Qatar Airways narrow body, an airbus A320-232 registered as A7-ADD and named Halul. In the background, over at the Leonardo da Vinci hangar, stands a Boeing 777-2Q8(ER) in the old Orenair livery.
Where the next aircraft is from should be obvious. N384AA is Boeing 767-323(ER)(WL). While the next couple of shots are details of a 767, they are from another aircraft flying with United.
More movements along taxiways with Nordica (operated by LOT Polish Airlines) Bombardier CRJ7 coming in; a Nightingale aka KLM Boeing 737-9K2(WL) registered as PH-BXR leaving; and TUI going out. The latter carries a US registration and since 05 July 2017 has been leased from Miami Air International.
Over the course of the day, I saw many more aircraft of different types, from different countries and with different liveries. Of course it would be impractical to post them all here but I hope this gives spotters a small taste of what there is to see.
As the advertised time for the return flight to Hamburg was approaching, I made my way back down to the gate (I had been down earlier, just to check the location). Like in Hamburg, this was on a lower level as the flight would depart from a remote stand and a bus would take passengers to the plane.
Nothing appeared to be happening so I checked the airports web site to see if there had been any changes. This showed that boarding had been put back ten minutes. An interesting feature is that the web site also provides details of the aircraft type and registration, as well as any code shares.
While waiting to board, I was approached by a young man conducting market research for Schiphol and consented to answer his questions. Anything to help the airport improve the passenger experience.
When boarding was called, once more my phone was scanned, a wish for a pleasant flight was voiced and I made my way to the waiting bus.
The beauty of boarding at a remote stand is the opportunity for close-ups of the aircraft one is about to fly.
This afternoon's flight was operated by PH-EXH, an Embraer ERJ-175STD (ERJ-175-200) with KLM Cityhopper. Previously it was registered as PR-ESV before being ferried JK-REC-SID-LIS-AMS on 17 - 18 June 2016 on delivery. It is configured Y88 and powered by 2 x GE CF34-8E5 engines.
Another cheerful welcome as I stepped into the cabin. A quick glance showed that it too was clean and tidy. Like on its bigger sister, the legroom on this smaller E175 was reasonable for the route lengths the aircraft serves.
The Captain announced that we would be getting underway shortly but that we were still waiting for another bus with the last few remaining passengers. While we wait, some more details about the aircraft.
On 31 May 2017 this KLM Cityhopper Embraer ERJ-175, registration PH-EXH performing flight KL-1177 from Amsterdam to Trondheim, was climbing out of Amsterdam when the crew stopped the climb at FL160 reporting technical problems with the weather radar. The aircraft burned off fuel and returned to Amsterdam for a safe landing about 90 minutes after departure. The airline reported a technical problem prompted the return. The flight was cancelled.
Ah, the final passengers have arrived. Once they were seated, the safety demonstration was performed.
As the final checks were carried out, a number of aircraft were taxiing in. This Boeing 737-8K2(WL) is a relatively new addition to the Transavia fleet, having been delivered on 21 April this year.
Also arriving was an Airbus A320-214 with Small Planet Airlines. Originally configured as Y174 and delivered to Air Berlin in December 2005, D-ABDB was withdrawn from use and re-configured Y180 in 2011. It spent a few months with ill-fated OLT Express Poland as SP-IAH, before returning to Air Berlin.
The Embraer family seems very popular in Schiphol. Here we see an ERJ-195LR in Austrian livery. OE-LWC joined Austrian in January this year after having flown for Lufthansa CityLine for several years as D-AEBE. There was a constant stream of aircraft leaving, including another KLM Cityhopper Embraer.
As the all-clear was given we could follow PH-KZK, one of the remaining Fokker 70s in the KLM fleet, departing. We held next to a sign, yellow on black S5, white on red 24-06 as a freighter with DHL commenced its roll. Then we were next to go.
The Embraer entered Runway 24 for a take-off to the south-west, passing the Anthony Fokker Regional Jet Centre, before lifting up into the air.
As it gained altitude, the Embraer 175 passed the marinas and islands of Westinderplassen before rising above the grey clouds.
The flight path took us in an arc along an area of parks featuring coastal dunes, though these remained obscured by clouds. Through a small patch of clear sky, I could just make out IJmuiden at the mouth of the North Sea canal that links Amsterdam and Westpoort to the world's maritime trade.
Once more in the sunshine above the clouds, the cabin crew began the meal service. The evening's snack, in the traditional Dutch designed packaging, featured a scrambled egg wrap. No Stroopkoekje this time but coffee was served.
Once the meal was cleared, I spent some time looking out at the shapes made by the clouds and conversing with the seat neighbour. He was from Iowa, similarly aged and travelling with his wife and daughter to join a cruise ship in Hamburg. They had a couple of weeks sailing the Norwegian fjords to look forward to.
The Captain announced that we had started our descent and would be arriving in Hamburg shortly. The weather on the ground was fine but some showers could be expected. The flight path took us north of the city, in an arc that would have us pass over Hummelsbüttel and cross the Langenhorner Chaussee. There was still a fair amount of cloud about but the sun was peeping through.
Lined up for approach on Runway 23, the Embraer passed over Zeppelinstraße for a smooth landing. As we exited the runway and taxied to the stand, my day trip to Amsterdam-Schiphol had come to an end. It had been a pleasant outing that enabled me to see a few types and liveries that I'd never get to see in Perth.
The crews, both on the ground and in the air, were friendly and efficient. It is good to see that KLM still offer a snack on flights of short duration. The flights were comfortable and I can see no reason not to travel with them again should the opportunity arise.
Next up, a visit to Lufthansa Technik, a go around in a Junkers Ju52/3m and a trip up the Elbe river to the Airbus factory in Finkenwerder.