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My Three Favorite Aviation Adventures : AirlineReporter

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I have been running AirlineReporter for over 15 years now and over that time I have been very lucky to experience some pretty rad things and I genuinely treasure all my adventures. Every now and again, someone will ask me which trip was my favorite and often my answers will differ. That said, there are three that consistently stand out. Since I was recently reminiscing about those good times, I figured why not share…

#1 – RWANDAIR’S FIRST 737 DELIVERY FLIGHT (September 2011)

RwandAir's first Boeing 737-800 sits in a hangar at Boeing Field.

RwandAir’s first Boeing 737-800 sits in a hangar at Boeing Field

During the delivery of RwandAir’s first 737, I remember being out on the flight line in Renton (where all 737s are built) and there were about five for Southwest Airlines. Getting a new 737 for an airline like that is just your typical Tuesday and there is no big fanfare. However, Rwandair’s 737-800 delivery was very different.

Although they already had two 737-500s and some smaller regional aircraft in their fleet, they weren’t purchased new. This 737 wasn’t just something exciting for the airline, but for the entire nation of Rwanda. 

There ceremonial keys to the plane (they don't actually work)

There ceremonial keys to the plane (they don’t actually work)

Due to fuel and crew rest requirements, we ended up with a fun flight path. We left Seattle and landed in Iceland to refuel. Then after spending some time on the very cold ramp, we were back in the air to Istanbul where we spent the night. We were hoping to get a feel of the local area, but we were there during Ramadan, so most businesses were closed.

Rwandian dancers greet us after landing in Kigali with RwandAir's first Boeing 737-800. Click for larger.

Rwandian dancers greet us after landing in Kigali with RwandAir’s first Boeing 737-800

Our arrival into Kigali, Rwanda was beyond impressive… there were locals in native dress dancing on the ramp to celebrate our arrival. I have been on quite a few delivery flights, but nothing has come close to this.

This experience let me see that a common plane like the 737 can be much more than just a machine. It can also be a metaphor for a country that had overcome so much and was looking to the future. Since this delivery flight, the airline has continued to mature. It joined the IATA in May 2015, shared intentions to join Oneworld in September 2022, and now serve 21 countries via 36 routes. They have expanded their commercial fleet to include two Airbus A330-200s, one A330-300, one Boeing 737-700, five 737-800s, two CRJ-900ERs, and two Dash 8s. 

It is worth the effort to get out of town and see how people live in rural Kigali.

A diverse living space, with modern buildings in town and a much more rural, farming community out of town

Keep Reading About Rwandair and Rwanda: 

#2 FLYING IN A BEECHCRAFT STARSHIP (November 2011)

The 51st Starship N514RS sits in Aspen, CO (ASE) before our flight.

The 51st Starship N514RS sits in Aspen, CO (ASE) before our flight

I think I was only about six years old when I saw my first photo of a Beechcraft Starship and I fell in love. Even when I see it today, I think it looks like a futuristic aircraft that is about to dominate a beauty contest.

Since the Starship is a pusher aircraft, it keeps the cabin quiet.

Since the Starship is a pusher aircraft, it keeps the cabin quiet

As I got older, I dreamed being able to fly in one some day, but I knew the chances would be pretty darn low since there were only five left flying in the world. Sure, there are multiple static displays of the plane out there, but I am sure you can all relate that even though seeing one sitting at a museum is nice, it can’t beat seeing one flying overhead (or being able to fly inside of one). 

Cruising at 32,000 feet to Orange, CA (SNA).

The Starship dashboard looks good unlit. I was excited to get into the right seat.

One night, many moons ago, I was having some trouble sleeping and I found myself watching YouTube videos of the Starship. I had one of those light bulb moments: could I make use of AirlineReporter to try to snag a ride on one? It wasn’t really airline related, but I decided that the readers would probably still enjoy the content (or at least I hoped). So, I started on my mission to fly in a Starship, and to be honest I wasn’t super optimistic. It turns out that I was pretty darn lucky.

If photographs are worth a 1000 words, this has got to be worth at least 10,000. Flying over Lake Powell, on our way into Page, AZ.

One of the canard flying over Lake Powell, on our way into Page, AZ

The first owner I contacted was excited about the idea. He invited me on a flight from Aspen, CO to Orange, CA. Yes please!!! I didn’t care from where to where, I would be there. Meeting N514RS, I felt weak at the knees. It was like I was meeting a superstar that I have been swooning over for decades.

I was able to ride in the right seat during our flight and I couldn’t stop going back and forth between looking at the canard, the wing tips, the glass displays, and glancing outside at the scenery. You better believe if I ever win the lotto, I will be trying to buy one of the remaining five… or get one of those static displays flyable. 

Keep Reading About the Starship Adventure:

#3 RIDING IN THE JUMP SEAT (August 2018)

Quite the view while taking off from the Kennedy Space Center (KTTS) in an Embraer E195-E2

My favorite experience was taking off from the Kennedy Space Center (KTTS) in an Embraer E195-E2

Over the years, I have been thankful to sit in the jump seat a few times during take off or landing on different airliners. Each time, I would get this big ‘ol stupid grin that just wouldn’t go away!

There aren’t many opportunities for “civilians” to be able to be in the flight deck during normal flight operations, but some media flights allow it. 

Sure landings are pretty fantastic, but nothing beats sitting up front, looking out the windscreen while feeling those g-forces during take off. Holy smokes, it feels much more like you are in a rocket ship when strapped in up front than in the back. Most flight decks aren’t too big (the Antonov AN-124’s is bigger than my first apartment), but I will contort my body and be uncomfortable to experience it. 

MY JUMP SEAT STORIES: 

CONCLUSION

Even though those are some pretty big adventures, I will say that as I get older, having smaller adventures like an empty economy seat next to me is pretty rad too! Big or small, what have been some of your favorite AvGeek moments? I would love to hear them 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

https://www.airlinereporter.com



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