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Friday 2 October 2015

Appreciating the McDonnell Douglas MD-80! (Part 1: TSA-KNH)


*Aircraft photos are credited to the respective photographers from Airliners.net. 

Welcome to my trip report on Far Eastern Air Transport! As some of you know this is not my first report on this airline but I decided to do especially with the airline phrasing out this aircraft next year. This aircraft has around one more year to go before it gets scrapped, so why not fly a few more times on it, right? 

You can check out my previous reports on this airline over here 

KNH-TSA Trip Report 1
TSA-MZG-TSA Trip Report 2

For part 2, click here.

This report is dedicated to all McDonnell Douglas fans and the Taiwanese aviation enthusiasts! 

The airline's MD-82: B-28021 (Flew on it twice)

The replacement aircraft: Boeing 737-800 (B-28066)

How did this trip come about?

Flying on Far Eastern Air Transport (FAT) is an agenda even though I flew with this airline thrice. The reason is to catch the MD-80 series aircraft before its phrased out in Asia. It is still possible to catch one in Indonesia with AirFast carrier, but this airline operates mainly chartered flights and I am not very enthusiastic about flying on this airline as Indonesian carriers apart from Garuda, Citilink, Batik Air and Sriwijaya Air have dodgy safety record. So since these aircraft are still around, why not enjoy them before they are gone. Besides, there are plans for this airline to replace them with Boeing 737-800. Once that was decided, it was time to do the booking. 

This is my step-by-step guide for non-Chinese travellers on how to do the booking without Google translation. (Thanks R.D. for Checking!) 

Airline's website (only available in Mandarin)

Here we go! 

Adults - 成人 
Children -  兒童

Single trip - 單程 
Return trip - 來回

Type of Class -  艙 等 (All domestic flights are Economy Class so it doesn't apply.) - Leave this alone and move to the next one

Departure airport - 出發地
Arrival Airport -    目的地

Departure date -  啟程日
Arrival date (applies for a return ticket) - 返回日

Destinations: TSA - Taipei Songshan, KNH - Kinmen, RMQ - Taichung, KHH - Kaohsiung, MZG- Magong 

Once you click the search button (red button below the calendar), you will be at Step 2 which shows you the choices of your desired flights. The price of 2066 (Taiwanese dollars) is normal fare while the 1818 fare is for early birds purchase, and anyone can book it. So depends on your luck; sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't. 

You see two red buttons below the flight details (Above), the left click-able icon is to return to the previous page, the right icon is to move on to the next page. 

Once your desired flights are chosen, click on 非會員登入 (Non-member).

Then click on the tick box 我同意 (I agree to the conditions.)

Once you are the page below, you have to fill up your details. 

聯絡人資料表 - The person making the booking

聯絡人姓名 - Contact name  

- First name 

- Surname 

行動電話 - Mobile phone number 

電子郵件 - Email 

電話 - Taiwanese home number 

第1位旅客資料 - First passenger's information 

Once you are at 國籍 - Nationality 

Click on this 外國籍 (Foreigner) 


at 身分 - identity 

Click on this一般民眾 (Normal Citizen)

 成人姓名 - Passenger name 

 姓 - Surname

名 - Name 

For example, if your name is George Thomas Drinkwater (Surname) 

Just key in 姓 - Drinkwater and  - George will do. 

護照號碼 - Passport number (For foreigners)

Ignore  身分證字號 - Identity card number (locals only)

After that, click on this 信用卡付款 (僅VISA 、MasterCard或JCB三種信用卡付款)

to make your payment by credit card. 

*WARNING - The website can suddenly return to the home page (due to website error) - that's the frustrating part of using this airline's website. Close the browser and try again.

Once you are at the payment mode, check your flight details carefully before making your payment. 

 有效期限 (月份/年份) - Expiry date (Month/Year) 

 信用卡背面末三碼  - 3 digit numbers at the back of your card

You should receive your itinerary (check the photo below) via your email. If you have to make any changes, you can either call the local office, 電話:02-27121555 or head down to the airline counter at the departure airport. 

Once you are done, you are ready to go! 

Flight route: TSA-KNH

Miles: 206 

On the day of departure 

This is my 5th domestic Taiwanese flight and its a joy to be able to do short rides on these routes without the need of carrying my luggage and even better - no immigration. Since the flight was at 0755, I got up quite early, around 5 and lazed around until 0545. Took the 2nd train out of Shandong Temple towards the direction of Taipei Nangang Exhibition Centre direction, stopped at Zhongxiao Fuxing Station and changed for the Wenhu line to Songshan Airport. I reached there around 0630, was slightly worried I missed the check-in cut off time, fortunately, everything went well. Got my boarding pass from the friendly staff and my assigned seat of 34F. She warned me how noisy that row is and asked whether I prefer the front row, but I declined, I told her how much I love listening to the engine of this rare bird, the MD-82. 

It turned out later that the rows behind were empty and the crew on board was surprised to see me at that row, and they hinted to me a few times to move a few rows in front which I did during the flight. 

About Songshan Airport

Songshan Airport is one building and it consists of both domestic and international flights. Located just beside the Songshan Airport MRT station, this airport is in the heart of Taipei, so travellers flying to nearby countries can check this airport out. Of course, cities that are further away (3 hours and longer flights) are available only at Taoyuan Airport. 

This is the domestic terminal, turn to your right and walk for 5 minutes and you reach the international terminal. They are connected. 

The airport offers free Wifi and you can connect it almost every part of the building. You be pleased to know there is no need to log in, just click on the I agree on the option and you are online.

Checking in for my domestic flight to Kinmen, this is the boarding pass, good for collection, it is certainly better than the supermarket-style receipt. One thing about the ink on this boarding pass, it fades after a while. For those who collect boarding pass, please take note. 

Checking in was done over here, another pleasant experience for me. 

Checking my flight, its schedule to depart on time. I wonder what does that 'Extra' mean for Uni Air's flight to Nangan. Extra flight for only that day perhaps?

This is the land side, there are signs everywhere so you can't get lost. 

It was pretty quiet at that time, so getting to the airside was a very quick affair. 

This is the departure hall on the airside. These gates over here are for aircraft parked at the remote parking lot, which means passengers have to take the airport bus over. This was my first experience at this airport.

You can charge your electronic devices at the table where the red shirt guy is sitting.

My experience with the FAT's crew had been average. (3 flights before this flight)

Gate 13 was the assigned gate for my flight. Other flights were heading there too. 

The Airline Lounge for frequent flyers. 

Soon, the departure time came and an announcement was made to board the aircraft. After showing my boarding pass to the staff, I was directed to the bus outside the terminal. Once everyone was on board, the bus took us to the aircraft. There were 2 out there, the first one was B-28037 (MD-82) which I had not taken before and soon I saw my ride, B-28021 which I have flown before, so was a bit disappointing not to get the MD-83 but was looking forward to my 2nd ride on this aircraft. Not just that, I would be sitting at the same seat! 

Date: 2nd September 2015
Airline: FAT (Far Eastern Air Transport) 
Flight: FE61
Aircraft: MD-82 
Registration: B-28021 
Date of delivery: 9th June 1995 (From US Air)
Engines: 2 X PW JT8D 
Line: 2056 
Seat: 34F then moved to 30A during the flight
Duration: 1 hour 
Gate: 13 
Load: 40% 
Boarding: 0740
Push back: 0753
Take off: 0803
Scheduled departure: 0750
Scheduled arrival: 0850
Actual arrival: 0845
Duration: 1 hour 
Departure runway: 10
Arrival runway 06

Among the narrow-body aircraft, this is my favourite - the MD-80 series (MD-82)

Photos of B-28021 

First time boarding this aircraft this way, it was thrilling! You can see how low this aircraft is. 

The good and reliable Pratt and Whitney JT8D engines also power the Boeing 737-100 and -200 series. 

Its time to board the aircraft - It is my first time boarding the MD-80 aircraft this way, my previous flights were by the aero-bridge at the terminal.

Another shot of B-28021 

This is one of my favourite angles of the MD-80. 

Nice to see this logo on the aircraft. 

The nose of the aircraft 

Once onboard, there were 6 crew members, that's quite a lot for this aircraft. The crew wasn't particularly friendly when I walked down the aisle to my seat and a few of them looked stunned to see me sitting near the rear. I was the only one there and one of them asked whether I wanted to move in front and also asked to see my boarding pass. I wasn't happy at this point. 

 Seeing them eager for me to move, I suggested to do so but another crew came and told me to change my seat during the flight. That was a good thing though. I will exclude this incident from my overview rating. Since this is a short flight and I had some freedom to roam around, I won't complain.

Once again on this airline, no electronic devices were allowed during takeoff and landing. 

I was surprised the Captain made announcements in both English and Chinese updating us on our flight, I suppose English was meant for me as I was the only foreigner on board.

Here are some photos of the seats

The windows at the rear were closed to keep the cabin cool and they were opened once the aircraft was ready for push back.

The 2-3 seating configuration of the MD-80. The 2-seater has better legroom space. 

The first row - bulkhead seat offers better legroom space than the others. 

Most passengers chose the rows in the front. 

I recommend the 2-seater. it is up till row 30. If you want to sit beside the engine, you have to sit at row 34F which is, in my opinion, the best window view for engine and wing shot. 

Behind row 30 is the crew's workspace and seat, I guess they are used to the noise by now.

The rear of the aircraft, can you see the exit door? You can exit the aircraft via the exit door with the staircase attached to the aircraft. It is not in used for FAT's flights though. 

The view from my seat, as you can see I was the only passenger sitting at this section. At this point, all of the crew were in front and that's how I got these photos.

This photo was taken during the flight. I shifted to row 30 and not long after, the crew had a good conversation among themselves. The good thing is I got to take as many shots as I want, more freedom than my previous flights on this airline's aircraft. 

Happily on board the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 aircraft! 

Can you see the miserable seat pitch? I was actually glad to move on. 

The old McDonnell Douglas cabin interior 

The seat pitch on the 2-seater is better. Can you see the difference?

It was less than half full - excellent for me! 

This was my seat, row 30A. I will be flying on Uni Air's ATR-72-600 in November 2015. 

More photos of the seats!

The legroom space is comfortable.

Some of you must be wondering, these aircraft are 25 years old and are they safe to fly? Yes, as long as they are maintained well, they are safe to fly. This airline has a good safety record, so not to worry. Do you know there are still some post-world war aircraft still flying? So don't worry, fly on this aircraft with confidence and besides it won't be long before this aircraft gets replaced. 

My recommendation: Get the front rows, 2-seater sets for more comfort and quieter cabin for the non-aviation travellers. 

For the aviation enthusiasts: Rows 33-35F (34F is my preference, check out my window shot photos)

What's inside the seat pocket? 

Safety Card

Duty-Free Magazine 

In-flight magazine

There is no IFE (In-flight Entertainment System) on board so you have to settle for your own. Electronic devices can only be used during in-flight. 

The last few times I flew on Taiwanese domestic flights, I was only offered a drink and this time I was offered not only a drink but also a custard cake which is quite delicious. A choice of water, Chinese tea or coffee, I chose tea.

Window-shot photos

The aircraft pushed back with the left engine fired up first followed by the right. To me, it is music to my ears! Noisy it was, but to hear the JT8D roaring was absolutely thrilling. 

Once the engines were stabilized and pre-flight checks were completed. We taxied to runway 10 and took off immediately. 

My favourite seat on the MD-80 series. This is my 2nd time in row 34F on this airline's MD-82 and also the same aircraft, B-28021. 

The small private planes are resting at the remote parking lots. 

The take-off was very powerful as usual, as the light load and short flight certainly help. You are being pushed back to the seat while accelerating down the runway, and I love that feeling! 

The climb was slightly turbulence but we got into smooth air not very long after. 

It was a good day for flying like the rest of the flight was smooth. 

We flew over the coast of Eastern Taiwan and soon over the water towards Kinmen which is quite close to Xiamen, China.

We flew through some clouds but not much turbulence. 

Midway through the flight, I moved to seat 30A and there was the view I get. 

Flying over an oil refinery 

Soon, we were over the water and it wasn't long after, descending commerced. 

Flying through some clouds, but once again it was smooth. 

At this point, I wish the flight could just go on.

We were soon on approach to Kinmen. As it was a quiet period, we flew straight in for a landing. 

There was a bit of crosswind during approach but we landed smoothly. 

After touching down, we taxied to the airport terminal within 5 minutes. The airport is quite small and is used for domestic flights only.

The Uni Air and Mandarin Airlines aircraft were also from Songshan Airport.

We parked beside Uni Air's ATR-72-600 aircraft. 

That concludes my flight from TSA-KHH (Taipei Songshan to Kinmen). I have a few hours to kill for my next flight to Kaohsiung, and this would be my first visit to that city, finally! Stay tuned for my next part. 

Thanks for the ride, B-28021! 

My rating: 

Airline's website: 5/10 (No English version) 
TSA airport experience: 7/10
Check-in counter staff: 7/10
In-flight service: 6/10
Cabin interior: 8/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
Snack and drink: 7/10
Aircraft condition: 10/10
Punctuality: 10/10 
Overall rating: 69/90


It's my 4th flight with this carrier, enjoying the MD-80 ride very much. While I didn't find the in-flight service fantastic, they were professional throughout. It would be great if the airline's crew opened up to passengers even on short domestic flights. As for this airline, it has a colourful history and I would reveal more about that in my next part. As for the MD-80s, they are edging towards retirement, a well-deserved one. They have been working hard for the airline, bringing in revenue but as they grow older, parts and maintenance become more expensive, not to mention the engines are not fuel-efficient, losing out to Mandarin Airlines' ERJ190 in terms of efficiency. This airline will be taking delivery of new aircraft next year, probably leased Boeing 737-800s and I hope to be on the airline's new aircraft when the time comes. 

Thanks for reading this trip report!

Click here for part 2. 


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