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Friday 25 December 2015

Christmas Day Trip Report: Flying Transasia ATR-72 (Part 2: HUN-TSA)

Welcome to my return flight from Hualien to Taipei Songshan on Transasia's ATR-72! 

Wishing all readers a Merry Christmas! Happy Flying and Travel Safe wherever you are!

For my part 1, click here

Since the airfare for the return flight was cheap, I decided to do the return to make it worthwhile. Initially, I wanted to fly to Hualien one way with TransAsia and return by train, but a possibility of adding 2 aircraft registration to my flight logbook and the low airfare was enough to convince me to do a return trip instead. 

About Hualien Airport 

This airport was opened in May 1962 used mainly for military and domestic flights. The military base is just beside the airport so strict rules are imposed on passengers flying in on domestic flights to ensure that safety is not compromised. International flights to this airport are possible since 2001 but so far there are only chartered flights to and fro from this airport to Japan, China and other nearby countries. In 2004, a new passenger terminal was opened to cater for the tourists who fly in from other cities to visit Taroko National Park which is not too far from the airport. This current terminal (photos below) is bigger and more modern than the old one. 

Taking photos are allowed only on the inside of the airport.

I find the airport very wasted since its hardly used - around 5-6 flights a day? From my time there, the airport was very quiet. 

Here are some photos of the interior 

The arrival hall

There is Free Wifi at the airport, but the connection is only available near the airline's check-in counters. 

I went to the cafe (photo above) to have my lunch and the staff was friendly.

Hualien's Fried rice with coffee 

This is the best spot to use the Wifi! More passengers turned up for the chartered flight and my flight. The chartered flight was heading to China and departed 30 minutes before mine, operated by Transasia's Airbus A320.

Check-in counters for Transasia. Apart from Mandarin Airlines, no scheduled flights for the other airlines. 

Lots of seating area, but rarely is the airport packed. 

Taken from the 3rd floor 

 A model of the airport 

Once the time was closer, I went to this counter to do my check-in.

 Got my boarding pass 

Checking the weather at Taipei Songshan, it was mostly cloudy. 

While waiting, I did a check of my flight's equipment. Hoping it would be a different aircraft taking me back to Taipei. 

I got my wish, B-22817 was my ride home! 

She's on her way!

At the airside waiting for the arrival of my aircraft. Wifi is not available in the airside area. 

My aircraft: B-22817

Flight: HUN-TSA

Miles: 72

Date of departure: 25th Nov 2015
Airline: TransAsia
Flight: GE014 
Route: HUN-TSA
Aircraft: ATR-72-600
Registration: B-22815
Delivered on 4th Feb 2014
Configuration: Y72
Engines: 2 X PW127M
MSN: 1133
Seat: 3A 
Load: 30%
FL: 90 
Gate: 4 
Duration: 40 mins 
Departure time: 1600
Boarding: 1545
Push back: 1557 
Take off: 1605
Schedule Arrival time: 1645
Actual arrival time: 1632
Departure runway: 03 
Arrival runway: 10 

Looking at the weather, it was getting more cloudy. At this point, I was wondering whether the weather on the route would be bumpy and I wasn't really looking forward to it as turboprops tend to "dance" more in bad weather. Earlier on, I considered forfeiting the return flight and take the train back to Taipei, but in the end, I decided to stick to it. 

I saw a familiar face, and it turned out to be a passenger on my earlier flight, a lady was also flying back to Taipei. I am not sure whether she recognised me but I do because of her hairstyle and shoes that caught my eye while waiting at the departure hall at Taipei Songshan Airport. 

Anyway, boarding took place about 15 minutes before scheduled departure time, we walked down the jetway to the ground level and walked towards the aircraft across the tarmac. It was quite windy which means one thing - there would definitely be turbulence. 

I was one of the first few to board and I made my way to the very front of the aircraft. The female crew welcome us on board and helped a mother with a kid to settle down. It turned out that the front few rows were mostly vacant, the seat beside mine was vacant - yes! There were lots of space behind my rows so we were free to move around. I managed to take more photos of the cabin. 

Here are the photos 

The 2 spare seats facing the cabin are for deadheading crew (if I am not wrong) - this means crew that are off duty. 

Adequate legroom space for the short hop. Just like Uni Air's flight, no laptop or tablets are allowed to be used especially if the flight is full.

With quite a low load, I managed to take a good number of photos. 

The seat is quite comfortable 

The photo was taken after the flight, no issue with photography on board. 

Sitting at row 4 or 5 would be better for engine view photos

One difference between this and B-22822's seats is this.

B-22815's disposal bag pocket

B-22822's disposal bag pocket 

You can see how low the ceiling is! 

In-flight experience

This set of crew was not bad, just as friendly as the ones on my previous flight. 

The aircraft landed pretty early and had a rest over an hour, I guess the crew were based in Taipei and probably be heading elsewhere after its flight to Taipei. Anyway, once aircraft was pushed back, we taxied to runway 03 for a quick take off. It was quite turbulent but eventually, we hit smooth air once were out of the clouds. Unfortunately, near Taipei, it was quite cloudy and we flew through the clouds at our assigned flight level of 90 (9000 feet above sea level). Needless to say how bumpy it was and the ride got a bit uncomfortable especially with the up and down drifts. This ride lasted for quite a while but it was slightly better once we were out of the clouds. Fortunately for us, landing at Songshan Airport wasn't so bad with some crosswind. We landed safely and only then I could relax. We slowed down to taxiing speed not long after. Did I regret not taking the train back to Taipei? Well, it was a tough call really but I was just glad to have finally flown on this airline's ATR-72-600 and share my experience with you. Bad weather is part and parcel of flying but be rest assured that these pilots will not deliberately fly into bad weather and are trained to fly through this kind of condition. 

Choice of drink: Green Tea or Apple Juice 

This time I chose the Apple Juice - too sweet for my liking.

Window shot photos 

 I got a good seat - the view of the engine 

Took off in bumpy weather 

If only the weather was better

Soon, we entered the clouds to "enjoy" some bumps! 

The thick layer of clouds 

Finally, we were out of it! 

Enjoying some smooth air and the beautiful blue sky at this point

Making a turn before descending into Taipei

We cruised through the clouds for about 15 minutes - the turbulence was quite intense - not the worst but still uncomfortable.

Lots of shakes and my hands were holding onto the front seat after this photo was taken. 

A good amount of shakes at this point

We descended low enough to clear these nasty looking clouds 

There was crosswind when we approached the runway.

Touched down and we taxied to a remote parking lot 

Passing by China Eastern's Airbus A330 and ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Just as our aircraft taxied into the remote parking lot, the left engine was turned off.

We parked beside the airline's Airbus A321. 

 We had to wait for the vehicle to supply power to the aircraft before the right engine could be turned off. After that, we were allowed to leave the aircraft and board the airport bus which took us to the arrival hall. 

My rating:

Airline's website: 7/10
Check-in staff: 6/10
Hualien Airport Experience: 6/10
In-flight service: 7/10
Drink service: 7/10
Cabin interior: 10/10
Seat comfort: 7/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
Aircraft: 8/10
Punctuality: 10/10
Overall rating: 78/100


Honestly speaking, flying with TransAsia especially on the ATR-72 was nerve whacking at first, with many friends telling me not to do so, but after flying 2 short legs with this airline, I trust this airline to have changed things a bit regarding safety issue and pilot's training. 

The interior of the aircraft and in-flight was very much to my liking and apart from the bad weather, I never feel unsafe at any point of the flight. Airfares on this airline are quite cheap and if you ask me, go ahead and fly with them. I believe the Taiwanese Aviation, airline and ATR themselves are working together to ensure the safety of the ATR-72 and pilot training and more importantly, won't let history repeat itself. Remember if the airline is unsafe, they won't be allowed to fly. 

This airline also operates a fleet of Airbus A320, A321 and Airbus A330-300 that are used mostly on international flights. A320 is possible on the Songshan to Kinmen route and I have plans to fly on this soon. 

Hope you find my part 1 and 2 of Transasia ATR-72 Joyrides useful! 

You can check out my TransAsia's Airbus A330 trip report over here and part 1 over here.


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