Flying the ATP – a trip to Sweden
Another big reason for my trip was to fly on the now rare British Aerospace ATP aircraft.
Only one airline currently flies the type in passenger service, and that’s Next Jet, who have three examples flying domestic routes out of Arlanda. Here’s my trip report:
The flight, to Arvidsjaur, was operating from Stockholm Arlanda with an intermediate stop at Lycksele in both directions. Next Jet operates this route up to three times per day, linking these remote communities with the capital, and also providing an important tourist link to the winter skiing and summer hiking and fishing opportunities.
Next Jet operates from Terminal 3 at Arlanda. This is the smallest of the airport’s terminals. Passengers walk along a pier, with great views on either side of aircraft parked up and using the runway. After checking in at one of two desks, passengers then head downstairs to the security screening area. Beyond this are a number of gates and seating areas around a central cafe.
On this Monday morning, the area is a hive of activity as a number of flights from Next Jet, Direktflyg and Skyways are scheduled. These provide a vital link to the many outlying communities around Sweden, with a mix of business passengers and those visiting family.
Due to a radar malfunction at Lycksele, our flight is delayed until further notice. However, after only 20 minutes boarding commences. Today our aircraft is parked on a remote stand, so a bus is used to take us past the busy piers of Terminal 5, to a small apron with a mix of regional airliners.
Our aircraft today is BAe ATP SE-MEE, which spent most of its life operating for SATA Air Açores and still bears the tail logo of that airline, albeit with Next Jet titles.
Seating is not assigned on this flight, so I took a window seat near the front where more legroom is available. Outside is a wonderful view of the starboard engine and propellers.
The load on this flight is around 30 passengers, with the ATP seating 68 in total. The taxi ride to runway 19R is fairly swift and we are soon rolling with engine power increasing.
The ATP is a little more sluggish than more modern turboprops, but our light load is no match and we are soon airborne and making a turn to the right to join our track to Lycksele. This early turn affords a great view over Arlanda Airport shortly after departure.
In flight service on Next Jet consists of the two cabin attendants offering the sale of drinks and sandwiches to the passengers. The flight to Lycksele is around 1 hour 15 minutes.
Approach to the small airport is over the attractive countryside of lakes, hills and villages, before landing on the single 6,564ft (2001m) runway. The aircraft backtracks to the exit taxiway and parks on the apron outside the small terminal building.
Time on the ground at Lycksele was only 15 minutes, during which time some passengers disembarked and a couple joined. Because the load was now lighter, I was asked to take up a seat near the rear of the aircraft to aid in aircraft balance. It was at this point that the cabin crew realised they had an English speaker on board and apologised profusely for speaking only in Swedish so far. The message obviously made it to the cockpit as announcements from the captain were also now made in English as well as Swedish.
The remaining flight time to Arvidsjaur was a quick 20 minutes at relatively low level over the stunning scenery in this part of the world. Arvidsjaur Airport was only build in 1990, adding a vital link for the small community, and also a resource for the rising industry of cold weather testing for German car manufacturers. This has brought about regular charters by German airlines, and a lot of tourists come to the town’s ski runs during the winter.
Next Jet began operating the subsidised link with Stockholm following the departure of Skyways, who had previously linked the two airports with Fokker 50 aircraft.
Like Lycksele, Arvidsjaur is a small airport with a modern terminal of typical Scandinavian design. Checking in for the return journey later in the day, I head through the small security screening area and into the departure lounge with its attractive wooden seating and small cafe area. Boarding is soon announced, and our return flight is on the same aircraft as earlier, which had remained at the airport.
This time I took a seat behind the wing on the opposite side of the aircraft. The load was again light, but after making the short hop to Lycksele a significant number of passengers joined the aircraft leaving very few seats vacant. Take-off was therefore much more pronounced this time, with a shallow rate of climb noticeable on the ATP aircraft.
Our route took us out over the Bay of Bothnia before turning inland towards Arlanda in the evening sun. Flight time was almost 1 hour 30 minutes on this return leg, and after landing on runway 26. The aircraft was parked outside the pier of Terminal 3 this time, with the aircraft being prepared for its next journey shortly after passengers left.
It was fascinating to take time to travel on the BAe ATP, to experience two remote Swedish airports, and of course to enjoy the unique service offered by Next Jet.