Indy Udol recently flew the Xian MA60 – a rare turboprop airliner from China based on the Antonov An-24 – on a trip to Cambodia. He has sent this trip report.
Cambodia is often overlooked when it comes to flying rare birds in contrary to Russia, or even Kazakhstan and Ukraine. This is my mini story of my first ever flight on the fake AN-24 in Cambodia on the 12th January 2018.
As an extreme aviation enthusiast living in Thailand, positioning to countries like Russia or Central Asia can be time consuming and pricey at times. Fortunately, there were two MA60s flying scheduled service within Cambodia, at the time of my travel. The MA60s were operated by a little known airline called Cambodia Bayon Airlines.
Most of Cambodia’s airlines fly the popular Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route. As did Cambodia Bayon Airlines. I went to the website of the airline and tried to book the flight, but for some odd reason, the booking page did not work despite numerous attempts of refreshing and altering between different browsers. Luckily, one of my good friends Rene was in Siem Reap at the time while I was figuring out the booking glitch. I asked him for a favor to book me the flight. He began calling their ticketing office in Phnom Penh as stated on their official website but no luck. After numerous tiring and frustrating attempts, he resorted to the traditional method of booking flights, through travel agents.
Rene kindly asked the agent for a one-way trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap with Cambodia Bayon Airlines. According to Rene, the looks on the travel agent was very bemused by the fact that he had requested to fly specifically on this airline. She suggested flying other airlines like Lanmei Airlines or Cambodia Angkor Air, but my friend insisted on Cambodia Bayon. The agent reluctantly processed the payment and arranged the flight. She handed Rene the booking confirmation, which looked like a receipt from a typical roadside South East Asian food stand:
I woke up mega early as I was very excited to fly on the fake Antonov An-24. I rushed through the airport and went to check in. I handed them my booking confirmation and everything was efficiently arranged! I looked at the arrival time at Siem Reap which showed 12:00PM, with a 10:00 AM departure from Phnom Penh. This was odd, as flights between these two popular cities last no longer than 40 minutes and perhaps a little bit longer for turbo-props flights. I asked the check in staff about the unusual long flying hours, but unbeknownst to my knowledge, the staff informed me that the flight will be doing a tech stop at Sihanoukville Airport. Two sectors on an MA60 for $79, wooo!
The flight was almost full at least on the first leg to Sihanoukville, with mainly locals, western expats and a couple of tourists (including me, the only avgeek on board!)
Once I got onboard, the interior looked like any other turbo-prop passenger aircraft, similar to older ATRs. The odour was very strong as if the cabin was sealed for a couple of months, giving off a very strong old perfumery scent, the same sensation you’d get once you entire a retirement home or a visit to your grannies. But it did not bother me.
Take Off Video from Phnom Penh Airport
Very simple, you were given an option of water or cola. I opted for the water, being gassy on a plane is not that great.
Transfer at Sihanoukville
The process of transferring at Sihanoukville was very smooth and efficient. To my surprise, I was the only one connecting to Siem Reap! I would have enjoyed my experience better if the airport terminal wasn’t being renovated.
The last leg was almost empty, as most if not all disembarked at Sihanoukville if I could correctly recall. There were four western backpackers and a Thai businessman who boarded from Sihanoukville which made the flight very light and rather empty. The inflight service was the same ordeal with a choice of water and cola and the rest of the flight to Siem Reap was very smooth and hassle free.
The MA60 is a very underrated aircraft and is not highly sought after by aircraft enthusiasts. The flight was very mediocre and simple, but the rarity of the aircraft adds in the extra experience and even more value to the $79USD fare paid. I have recommend many enthusiasts to fly on this flight and all of them have enjoyed the experience.
Thanks to Indy for sending this report. All photos (c) Indy Udol
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