CRUCIAL CONNECTION #4: WILL WE GO BEYOND SIHANOUKVILLE?
Boarding was just about complete for the JC Airlines A320 - my brother reported a decent viewing area from the smoking room, which is where I headed.
I also kept an eye on the Xian MA60 taking us over to Siem Reap - rather alarming to see absolutely no activity next to it, almost lifeless. Looked like the plan had been left to park for the rest of the day. Little by little, I felt like this turned to yet another crucial connection, knowing that we were further away from Siem Reap compared to Phnom Penh, and that a drive up would take several hours. What if they found a technical issue that would ground the plane?! As nervous as I got, the anxiety shot up.
Just left there, hung to dry…
As the number of passengers increased at Gate 2 - the clock went past 11am. An announcement was made, first in Khmer followed by english. ‘Bayon Airlines flight BD115 will (now) not fly to Siem Reap’. My heart skipped a beat. WILL NOT FLY DID WE JUST GET CANCELLED?! Turns out, I had misheard it, big time. Doors opened, screen changed to boarding, all passengers lined up at the gate to board the Xian MA60. Whew! ‘Alright man, let’s get this over with!’ said my brother, as we joined the line. It was 1102 hours, barely 15 minutes in the terminal but it did feel like forever! Another turboprop, the more reputable ATR72-500 of Cambodia Angkor Air showed up from Siem Reap.
Assuming the transfer card was a souvenir - I hid it away in my backpack. Unfortunately - this had to be returned, I helped up the line a little searching for it. Luckily, I found it with maximum struggle.
Walked across the humid tarmac to the Xian - JC flight had departed. While the 3 planes on the ramp were heading to Siem Reap - these represented 25% of the day’s operations at Sihanoukville!
It was the same crew, it was the same seat: one of the crew members were at row 5 ready to brief the emergency exit procedures, but skipped it once they realized it was the same family in those seats who boarded at Phnom Penh.
Boarding was done pretty quickly while I noticed someone in decidedly informal clothes doing a walk around before heading to the cockpit…. hmmm.
This flight was also not very full: closer to a 65% load factor on this one. Everything went on quick from here: chocks removed at 1121 hours, 19 minutes before departure time, and we pushback not more than 3 minutes later. Way on time! Usual announcements, this flight would take 1hr05min. 1hr05min too long, my brother and I thought. This would be my 6th leg on a Xian MA60, but certainly the longest by some margin. Both PW127J engines were fired up - no run up this time, no crazy shutdown this time.
Taxied back on to Runway 21 and departed at 1131 hours, 9 minutes before scheduled departure time. Headed southwest for a bit, before turning North/Northeast. We got a quick glimpse of the beaches and coast before tucking back in above the clouds. Take off video
Having regurgitated the sights & sounds of a Xian MA60 from my flights 5 years ago prior to this one, I found out that we were pitched up quite a bit - at least 5 or 6 degrees or so, to maintain altitude. There were some bumps along the way due to wind shift in the clouds, but beyond that nothing too exciting. Not like we needed an inflight engine shutdown anyway…. Service commenced, once again just water on this longer leg. This was done at 1147 hours, 16 minutes in flight.
My brother took a nap, looked like he was in much more ease on this leg, while I too had come down from that scary run up at Phnom Penh… I flipped the magazines. Given that just like most other Cambodian carriers, Bayon Airlines was a JV with a Chinese company. Several magazines & brochures were in traditional Chinese. I flipped through most all of these, while barely getting a location on Google maps: this would be the inflight progress - we kept tracking north without too much drama.
Seat pocket contents:
Overhead: not too different compared to a Q400 or ATR
DESCENT & ARRIVAL
Descent commenced about 40 minutes in flight, with the crew preparing for arrival. If anything, quite the relieve for both my brother and I: an interesting adventure was about to come to it’s end. We came closer and closer to ground before I could finally start recognizing some of the landscape thanks to Google Maps - it looked like we were coming in to land on Runway 05.
GO AROUND THAT SHOULD'VE BEEN?
If there was anything dramatic about this uneventful sector - it was right during the final moments before touchdown: power was reduced, and while in the flare we went way past the 1000 foot markers, floated a long ways down before I realized that power was being added for a possible go around, but the Xian MA60 was down with yet another 3 point (but hard) landing: we had made it to Siem Reap, and how! We touched down at 1225 hours, 54 minutes in flight. The flight had come to an end, and just barely 2 hours ago we were a bunch of nervous Nellies!
Parked at a remote bay: I believe the Xian MA60 was the only non A320 aircraft in Siem Reap at the time, then again not a whole lot was going on at both the intl and domestic terminals. At stand for 1230 hours, 15 minutes before arrival time, the fuselage once again felt like it was pulled to the right for when the engines were shut down.
Got off and thanked the crew for the flight as I bid adieu to what was my third (and possibly the last!) Xian MA60 flight. Always joy walking across the ramp back to the terminal.
Ooo, an A321!
Thank you for the ride XU-002, that was a fun one (in hindsight)
Was a cute domestic terminal - just the one luggage return conveyer! Since there was none of that for us - it was off to arrivals whee our ride was waiting. Unfortunately however, the had information for BD111, the direct flight that was cancelled and combined with BD115, this one. No confusion there since we made it anyway… Aaaaand that brings me to the end of the Xian MA60 flight report!
Bonus : Click here displayhide
Headed for lunch after checking in: it would be our now favorite Fish Amok & more Angkor Beer
Smile of Angkor show was quite nice
Interesting fusion for dinner - and Angkor Beer
Cambodia Bayon Airlines
Sihanukville - KOS
Siem Reap - REP
Chasing an adventure on a rare aircraft and an unknown airline for a relatively cheap price was always going to be a gamble, one that thankfully paid off. Talking about what did go right: well, we got there, safe and mostly sound, flights were on time, and the booking process was surprisingly easy. I appreciated the water service on both legs. Crew went about and did their jobs, but it didn’t feel warm: robotic if anything. What did not go as well was the lack of information on the website regarding baggage, the run up which contributed to the overall stress & anxiety of the flight itself, and perhaps a go around that should’ve happened on the 2nd landing.
As far as operations for the day itself went: XU-002 had a seemingly easy day going back as BD116 to Phnom Penh via Sihanoukville, reaching back at base 10 minutes before scheduled time and home after being away for 6.5 hours: not the highest of utilization, especially given that the other airplane sat idle.
As far as operations currently go: a curious search for this flight in October 2018 yielded that [b]Cambodia Bayon Airlines has in fact stopped flight altogether,[/b] and with no definite timeline of when they’d be back in the air, citing a lack of aircraft spare parts. WHOA! I mean I am glad they’e keeping it safe by not flying un-airworhty planes, but how long before they get parts and resume flying?! With apparently 18 more Xian MA60s coming in, fueling a rapid expansionary drive, this does not seem realistic and perhaps may just be the end of the airline. Interesting stuff indeed….
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