Saying Goodbye to the Passenger DC-10 – Pleasure Flights with Biman Bangladesh
- Thursday 6:40am: The Mailbox, Central Birmingham
- BG8 Birmingham Airport to Birmingham Airport
- One less three-holer in the sky.
Welcome to a completely non-scheduled trip report. And I mean I didn’t know I was going to be doing this until 3 days before this flight was due to take off. Still. It’s entertainment… and an experience – something I like.
Thursday 6:40am: The Mailbox, Central Birmingham.
For those who love the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, welcome aboard one final time.
Biman Bangladesh… that’s an airline you don’t hear much of in the least. A regional carrier that’s been mismanaged by a government with a “stick pins on a map” and “migrant worker shuttle” flight strategy.
However, the airline has been dragging itself off these haunches and starting to develop their product and fleet. It’s been looking to its short-haul, standardising on the 737 platform, whilst on the long-haul, its been standardising on the successful Boeing 777 series.
And where does this leave the DC-10s?
For a while, the DC-10s have been becoming rarer bird to catch since Northwest withdrew their fleet. With a total of 446 built, 69 are currently in service – with the majority as cargo planes for Federal Express. Up until November last year, two passenger planes, both with Biman Bangladesh remained in active service. This was reduced to one aircraft – S2-ACR – which became the final DC-10 to operate a scheduled passenger flight on 20th February 2014, from Dhaka to Birmingham via Kuwait.
However, this was not to be the end. Whilst in Birmingham, the aircraft had been booked to operate a series of nine sorties (including the last ever DC-10 passenger flight) from Birmingham to Birmingham.
When these seats were initially released, I ummed and ahhhed about it. On the final commercial flight day, I finally bit the bullet. I didn’t go completely airplane spotter to get a final flight seat (least of all, at £150 in an isle seat, £200 in a windows, it was overpriced). Even at £100/£150 a seat for an hour, it’s still pretty expensive for just 60 minutes in the air.
But as I’m fond of saying, “Value is where you find it”, and to have a chance to fly one of these was just too good to turn down.
That and I said I’d be going on BBC WM 95.6… So I had very little option but to in the end 😉
After dealing with the weirdness that is Biman’s booking engine (book the ticket first, THEN be sent to a 3rd party site to pay… or pay at Biman office – that’ll be tough around here), I had a shiny PNR and e-ticket (and looks rather swish printed out).
So with all of that done, I was set to fly on the six of nine flights, on-board a plane I haven’t been on since was young (four years old or so)… a McDonnell Douglas DC-10…
With a 15:00 departure, I had something rare on my side on a Sunday morning – TIME. I decided however to head to the airport early for “Spotting purposes”
So yes, I was out of the flat at midday, armed with the bare essentials for the day – and by that I mean I had my photography bag loaded. It didn’t help that when I got to the train station I had left my passport at home (oops… mad dash back).
Near GhettoIFE.com towers
Virgin Trains did the honours to Birmingham Airport for a paltry £3 return. As we approached BHX, I was on the look out for the DC-10 (mainly as I knew from a previous night it was out be parked up at the far end hard stands)
Inbound train from Wolverhampton
Umm. No DC-10 here…
The stand was empty – indicating that the plane was running late. The more things change…
By 12:50, I was in Birmingham Airport’s main terminal.
At Birmingham International Station
Ah. Flight listed on the departure board.
Check in was handled by ServisAir, who had managed to deck the check-in area appropriately for the occasion.
A very special check-in
At Check-in my boarding pass was issued (with my request to be near the back of the plane granted), and my isle seat confirmed. With a SEQ of 99 (and a load of 130, this wasn’t going to be too busy… but busy enough).
I was also informed that their would be a viewing area open today and souvenir shop. Just follow the signs BEFORE security.
Well, as I had a good hour before I needed to through security and at the gate, I decided to head upstairs.
Many many moons ago, Birmingham Airport had a publicly accessible “Indoor viewing area” – which sadly was closed as due to it not making money (with various operators trying to make it work… alas, there are only so many snacks and so many models you need to sell, whilst charging for entry…).
This has been re-branded by Birmingham Airport as “Flight School” – used for school groups to learn about the airport.
So I was in familiar territory. A boarding pass check was carried out (to allow free entry to Biman Passengers – those who weren’t travelling were invited to pay £2 for the privilege – still a good bargain considering how cold it was outside)
I settled in for some spotting…
Air France A320 taxing
Thomson Airways Boeing 757-200… with winglets
until I had word that the DC10 was arriving. Due to the new constructions on the airport, I couldn’t get a clear line of the plane until it begun slowing down on the runway…
What’s going to be an increasingly rare sight.
With the plane arriving, it was time to clear security… and lets just say it was easy to spot the people who were flying the DC-10 today.
And I mean REALLY easy.
Still, it made for interesting conversations as we headed to the gate area.
Of course, when you clear security you have to play “Run the Risk” through Duty Free shop. There are some times I hate airport designers when they must place another place to extract you of your cash right after you’ve been through scanners.
Run the risk!
Still, this was a quick clearance as departure would be from Gate 65 – a bus gate… meaning we’d need to go through the maze of the older part of Birmingham Airport.
Through the main terminal
Once arrived at the gate, it was pretty full already as a lot of people were due out on this sixth leisure flight Biman were operating.
As we were doing bus loading, there were restrictions on who to load when. There was also an announcement about photography. Yes, we were allowed, and yes… full photography allowed on the Hard Stand at BHX – but keep inside the white lines as beyond that… are active taxiways.
So, yes, they were letting 130 people out to play on the tarmac in two busloads. Is that a Health and Safety Manager sweating profusely I hear?
Well – it’s not that bad if we’re honest. Stand 89 is in the far corner of the stands, and I strongly suspect ATC were fully aware of what was going on, and routing traffic around it.
The major tenant of BHX – Ryanair and one of its many Boeing 737-800s
The drive to the stand was much of the usual BHX traffic:
Until out of the way, was a lonely plane… with three engines. Yes – our DC-10 was there. The bus did a drive around the plane, before parking up outside.
It’s out there….
Again, we were reminded of the rules whilst on the ground (and don’t go out of the white lines). With that, 75 Aviation Enthusiasts (or #AVGeeks) were loose on the tarmac.
And very well behaved. Patient enough to wait for others to get their photo – which was good to see.
So with that in hand, all the passengers from the first bus where around the plane was waiting.
So, some outside pictures then…
Gotta love that tail
In honour of Marcus’s Under the wing shots.
After 10 minutes or so, the first bus-load of passengers were started to be directed to board the plane as the second bus-load was due to arrive. I headed up the airstairs… and onto DC-10-30
Number 2 bus-load!
From the steps
Next: Aboard the DC-10-30 and In-flight fun and games.