This is the first report of a series of six flights originally posted in my native French. My favorite flight is LCX-SHA, but when you fly in economy, you must fly each segment in sequence. The same goes for flight reports, lol.
For many reasons, flights FM802/801 were ideal for me when I lived in Taipei, but choosing a Chinese airline to go to China does not make things easy when you live in Taiwan. No, I could not buy the ticket on China Eastern's website (I can handle a website in Chinese only), but FM only sells roundtrips to Taiwan online, not from Taiwan. I had to go through a travel agency, and I asked my Taiwanese assistant to handle that.
Like the previous time, the answer was waiting list, which was somewhat stressing when you enquire three months ahead of time. But this appeared to be the normal procedure, and only one month later did she tell me that it was OK.
The international boarding gates of TSA were separated from the outside by the corridors for the disembarking passengers (it is no longer true), which did not make plane spotting easy when you have nothing else to do. But TSA is deep in the heart of Taipei, and I am not the first one to have realized on a street map that there is a lane just beyond Runway 09 on the west side of the airport, and the planes always land in that direction, due to the prevailing wind direction. In order to avoid posting a FR which would look like a copy paste of the previous one, I went there two weeks before my flight. The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds, but I did not have much of a choice.
It is apparently a usual family outing spot, because all ages are present.
The environment looks like that of somewhat untidy suburban vegetable gardens, but there are some feature which remind you that you are next to the airport's premises.
We are here less than 100 meters from the touchdown location, at an ideal location to see the planes from very close up. Of course, the beach next to SXM is better (in particular, you need to choose between seeing the planes from far away, or being south of their landing path, with an ideal lighting), but you cannot complain if you consider its accessibility, a mere quarter of an hour on foot from Yuanshan subway station in the city center. No way to try (unwisely) any further: the perimeter is barbed wired and some MPs guard the gate on the right, which was to be replaced by a cinder block wall a year later.
On the other hand, I do not know what is the actual relevance of the signs in the foreground which prohibit in particular any photography, filming, sketching, note taking, as some spectators are equipped with quasi professional photographic gear. Shooting (with guns) and fireworks are also banned in this location, I wonder why…
Enough talking, let's look at the planes
ATR-72, TransAsia Airways
Bombardier Dash 8-300, Uni Air.
An Eva Air A330 before take-off
Note the iconic Taipei 101 tower, in the background on the right.
Mandarin Airlines' Embraer 190 share with the the Boeing 737 the peculiarity that the main landing gear is not fully hidden in flight, hence these characteristics circular openings under belly.
A Uni-Air MD-90 at take-off.
… and another at landing, note the final change of attitude just before touchdown. It is roughly 4pm, and the runway is already lit.
The next two planes belong to the two Japanese airlines which serve the TSA-HND route. The first one puzzled me, because both airlines fly 767s that I saw each I took off from TSA. But what about the wings of this aircraft? It is much too big to be a 737, and the reactors do not have the telltale triangular shape of those of 737s, so what is it?
Only when I was home did I identify it: JA-624A was brand new, had been introduced in commercial operation on September 2nd, and ANA is one of very few airlines which chose the winglet option. Note that the tires will not remain in mint condition very long.
JAL's 767 is much more ordinary.
Last, two of Far Eastern Air Transport 's four MD82/83 currently in operation.
The place is ideal for plane spotting place at Songshan, but variety is not limitless. In less than two hours, I took pictures of all the plane types of each airline serving Songshan, except China Airlines and Shanghai Airlines.
How about the Shanghai Airlines that I was going to board? No problem, I saw in its final descent one month earlier, from a park located somewhat further away from runway 09.
That Saturday morning, I took the subway to Taipei-Songshan
Like the previous time, there was hardly anybody at check-in (in terms of travelers, not employees), which meant that the procedure was fast. Note the rather comfortable seats for waiting landside.
The international traffic is rather limited, see the list of that morning's scheduled flights.
There is an infirmary on the left and a nursing room on the right, like in Taipei's major subway stations.
I remembered that the passport and security check areas where somewhat cramped? Once I had reached the boarding gates area did I realize that the whole international terminal had been reconfigured: the departures and arrivals are now at two different levels, thanks to escalators at the end of the jet bridges. And consequently, the arrivals corridor which degraded plane spotting has been removed and the departing passengers are only one wide window away from the tarmac. And that makes a huge difference!
Note that there are leftover Welcome to Taiwan poster on the pillars, which are now somewhat out of place since there are only departing passengers here.
The shops – luxury or not – and the restaurants are more numerous, but they are not alone: this here is an exhibit on the objects displayed at the Palace Museum, which holds all the treasures which used to be in Beijing's Forbidden City.
What also strikes me is the silence of this terminal. Very few flights, few departure announcements: it is really quiet. There are still internet self-serve terminals, but the plane-shaped kid area has disappeared.
Double plane spotting session for this FR, only limited by the number of international flights. With a good telelens, shooting take-offs would be an option, though.
A Mandarin Airlines E190 which just arrived.
A few private jets, and a Far Eastern Air Transport (FAT) MD-83 on the left
With regards to that other FAT MD-83, not only you need to pay attention to the area under construction during push back, but you would have to push it until its final destination, since its reactors have been missing ever since I first saw it.
A C-130 (which was to take off later) and a few private jets, with Yangmingshan National Park as a backdrop.
A China Airlines A330 at the next gate
We often forget about them, but what would be air travel if these humble tarmac vehicles did not exist?
Note that this Follow me car has a military registration plate.
Meanwhile, flight FM801 as arrived from Shanghai, a little late, and boarding is delayed by ten minutes at 11:40.
If you look closely enough, you can see the front wheel locking pin's streamer.
Boarding: the plane is 2/3 full, which means that most middle seat are empty.
.. and the seat pitch is very comfortable.
Take-off: the wing hides part of the view (see my other FR ex TSA), and the cloud cover is very low. The weather will clear up when reaching the Taiwanese northern coast which is only twenty kilometer away. The clouds are again very dense and low when we reach the continent.
Distribution of the meal, with smiles and efficiency . No, it was not chicken or beef, but noodles or rice (in both mandarin and English versions).
This was a curious definition of the menu, which is actually pineapple pork with rice (my choice), or apparently sea food with noodles (my neighbor's choice, who did not taste it, actually).
No matter how you call it, it was hot and delicious, with an appetizer and dessert. The flight attendants come back with the beverage tray.
For addicts, there is Coca-cola, but I'll choose coffee, drunk with this pineapple cake which is a Taiwanese sweet, but this one was made in Shanghai, as you can read. Taiwanese original and Chinese copy are equally stuffy, anyway.
Shanghai Airlines' coffee…. Let's skip the initial reluctance (it is with milk), but the first sip is quite strange. In a blind test, I would not have guessed that it was claimed to contain coffee or milk, but it was actually good, although really unusual. Really worth trying next time you fly Shanghai Airlines, if you have a chance, but may be their version of coca-cola was strange too.
Touchdown, with condensation trails in the air saturated with humidity, and arrival pier side on time sharp.
I waited until nearly all passengers had left the aircraft to take the picture of the economy class of the cabin.
This is the business class section, as usual two rows in 2+2 seating, where I saw only two passengers when I was one of the last passenger to board the aircraft.
Plan spotting is next to impossible when you land in PVG, apart from the aircraft at the neighboring gate (an Air China A320, nothing very exciting), from the jetbridge whose windows are spot clean.
A loooong walk on the whole length of the terminal
Before reaching the passport control, these are the counters which deliver the special visas for Taiwanese citizens (who are called Taiwan residents in Mainland China, since Taiwan is supposed to be part of China).
I waited a little to use an ATM of my bank here, which was not a good strategy, because there was another one in the luggage delivery room, and worse, a wide body plane load of passengers from the US arrived in the mean time. The Chinese immigration displays its quality charter which vouches to process 95% of the passengers in less than 25 minutes (the target was probably 20 min originally, but the second digit was corrected). This time, I was in the remaining 5%, with a stopwatched waiting time of 28 minutes (and nobody waiting behind me). What is your average waiting time at CDG if you do not have a Parafe-compatible passport?
I had wasted so much time to leave the aircraft, then withdraw cash and last go through immigration that the luggage delivery was over and my suitcase was no longer there, but no worry: a cleaning staff showed me China Eastern's counter where it had been stored. It is not on the picture, but it was in the small enclosed space on the far right.
The sun sets early on Mainland China's coast, and the drizzle ruled out many tourist sights. But the weather was great the next day, and we had that superb skyline of Pudong around 5:30 pm.
Taipei City - TSA
Shanghai - PVG
Excellent services for a one and a half hour flight, but these direct Taiwan – Mainland China were very expensive. The round trip cost me 12,900 TWD (it was 9,600 TWD for 14 days maximum, but I did not want to reduce my vacation by two days), which is outrageously expensive compared to Chinese domestic flights on the same distance and size of aircraft.
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