I think I have remembered all the planes I have flown on since I started traveling in the 1960’s. That was tough. I started traveling as a child in the midwest, then to South America, and then, well all over.
There are still small operators with DC-3s in revenue service and as cargo aircraft. The common saying among aviation buffs and pilots is that “the only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3”. The aircraft’s legendary ruggedness is enshrined in the lighthearted description of the DC-3 as “a collection of parts flying in loose formation.” Its ability to take off and land on grass or dirt runways makes it popular in developing countries, where runways are not always paved. This was indeed the case when I flew on DC-3’s in Bolivia in the early sixties. The runway was not paved. More exciting was that the ceiling (maximum height the plane could fly) was below the altitude of the Andes mountains we were flying through. So, we weaved our way between the mountains, and could look out the windows at peaks far above us.
Very few DC-4s remain in service today. There are a couple nostalgia airlines still flying them, and I would love to take a trip on one again.
I flew on DC-6s all over South America on LLoyd Aereo Boliviano. I flew over the Andes and across the Amazon jungle to Brazil. I swear I remember flying over a native village in the middle of the Amazon rain forest, looking out the window, and seeing natives angrily waving spears at the giant silver bird. Remember, this was 1964, we were flying at about 5000 feet, and I was 10.
At this time in my life, my father worked for Lockheed. I got to go on a walk-thru of the plane before the first one was built. Then, when they went into operation I was sure to take a flight. It was a very quiet aircraft, also nicknamed the “whisperliner”. It faced stiff competition from the DC10 and the 747, and proved to be Lockheed’s last civilian liner.
Now, onto the Boeing line!I’ll get back to Boeing at the end of this post for obvious reasons.
For now, let us look at the Airbus planes I have flown.
Just as Boeing has stuck with the 7 theme in naming its craft, Airbus seems stuck on the 3xx theme.
Now for odds and ends.
For four long years I lived in a backwater called Bocas Del Toro, Panama. The only way in or out of Bocas (other than a chicken bus then a water taxi) was to fly. Two airlines served the airstrip (I will not call it an airport). One was Aeroperlas
And now, the end, the final, the future…
Thanks for reading. Sorry this was so long but after all I have been flying for fifty + years! Please share with a friend, and make a comment!
The Kingdom of Bhutan does not make it hard for a traveler to visit, it is just hard to get there. When I first started reading about traveling to Bhutan I was led to understand that only a certain number of visitor visas were issued in a year, and that you had to go with a government approved guide service while you were there. The second part is true, not the first. However, the number of visitors to Bhutan per year could not fill the Rose Bowl. This is the last Shangri-La in my opinion. My fingers want to type all sorts of interesting and amazing tid-bits, but my mind wonders “where do I start? How can I convey the magic of this country while maintaining some level of credibility?”
Let us start with the official slogan of the Kingdom. “Gross National Happiness“. Yup, the government is much more concerned with the Gross Happiness of the people than with the Gross Production. Until just a couple of years ago, this was a pure Kingdom, led by the fifth king since unification. He happens to be well educated, handsome and married to a foxy commoner now his queen. He decided that the country needed to elect a congress so that it would be considered a democracy. Bhutan borders Tibet (Which I refuse to call China, although to keep things cool in Bhutan, they do) and I guess they figured a democracy would be better protected by outsiders if anyone looking is to absorb them. The people did not really want a congress, but if the king did, well, OK. They held elections and there were a hand-full of parties. The party that won a vast majority of the congressional seats had a campaign promise of two words… “No Change”.
The kingdom measures the happiness of the people in an actual census. Figuring the entire population of Bhutan is about 650,000, this seems do-able. The questions range from how is your job, to how is the infrastructure, how is your health care, to, do you like the TV channels you get. The government actually acts on things a great number of people might be unhappy about. If that does not seem incredible to you, you live on a different planet than I.
The population is something like 90% Buddhist. They have a certain, not unique, but different strain of Buddhism in Bhutan. This type of Buddhism is called Vajrayana, which means the Diamond Way because it is based on unbreakable logic. It relies on Tantras and is sometimes called Tantrayana. Here I am talking like I am an expert on the philosophies of the Buddha and I not sure I know the difference between a Tantra and a Tantrum.
OK, about getting into Bhutan. There is a single overland entrance from India. This is where anything you find manaufactured gets into Bhutan, even beer bottles. They brew their own beer, but the bottles come from India.
Both overland travelers and air travelers must pay the daily visitors tariff to the government. This is a US$250 per day charge. “But Wait! You get a set of steak knives with that!” Actually you get a lot more. This “tariff” pays for your transportation, guide, entrance fees and even the hotels you will stay in and 3 meals a day! The only thing it does not pay is your beer.
Most people enter by air on Bhutan’s only Airline Druk Air. They have two or three Airbus A320’s and only fly from Bangkok, Bangladesh or as for us Kathmandu. They are the only airline serving the country.
A few posts ago (here) I linked my readers to a Youtube video of the approach to Paro International Airport. It was definitely different. As a frequent flyer I am not used to the airplane making radical turns after the landing gear is down. But obviously all went well or I would not be here posting this for you.
Immigration paper work was easy because we had printed out our “Letter of Invitation” from the Bhutanese Royal Tourist Agency which confirmed that we had ponied up the money to the travel agency. Customs was a different story, although I was ready for them. They require a %200 duty on all cigarettes brought into Bhutan. You have to hold onto the receipt they give you because possession of tobacco is not allowed unless you can prove you paid the duty. That makes smoking very expensive, so most people don’t. More on that later.
Then we met our guide and driver, both dressed in traditional Bhutanese garments called Ghos. They are very distinct and attractive, but they look very difficult to put on.. Each one is made of different weaves, all quite colorful, yet subtle.
We drove from Paro to Thimpu, about an hour. I felt like I was in a magical fairyland. Disney could not have put Snow White in a more fantastic setting. Even the common farmers homes were quite beautiful.
We arrived in Thimpu and found our hotel to be quite comfortable. However, we were on the third floor and when I asked where the elevator was, the look on the guides face quickly made it clear that Bhutan has no elevators.
I am trying to keep my posts short, so that is all for this one. Next post, the national sport.
Stay tuned, share with a friend.