On Saturday 28th October 2017, Brussels Airlines said goodbye to the Avro jet by operating its last scheduled flight with the four-engined regional jet to and from Geneva. Flight SN2720 GVA-BRU marked the end of the story of the Avro, which played an important role in the development of Brussels Airlines.
Being a real ‘avgeek’, I really wanted to fly onboard this fantastic aircraft one more time. Hence, I purchased a ticket for this last scheduled flight. So fasten your seat belt, put the table in front of you in the upward position and enjoy this trip report.
Some ten years ago, Brussels Airlines had already started to phase out the British regional jet from its fleet. In October 2008 the last Bae 146 left the fleet and in 2014 the airline said goodbye to its last Avro RJ85. On 3rd October 2017, Brussels Airlines officially announced that it would withdraw its last Avro RJ100 jet at the end of the same month. The last scheduled flight would be flight SN2720 GVA-BRU on Saturday 28th October 2017. The flight from Geneva to Brussels would have some great symbolic value as the very first scheduled flight of the Belgian airline, back in 2002, was also operated with an Avro aircraft and with destination Geneva.
The airline stated that those who still wanted to fly onboard the plane could still do so until the 28th October 2017, for instance by making a day trip to Geneva on flights SN2713 BRU-GVA in the morning and back on SN2720 GVA-BRU in the evening. Other options included scheduled flights to Warsaw, Basel and Copenhagen.
I started to make plans to fly onboard the last scheduled flight itself. Of course this meant that I needed to find a way to get to Geneva first. One of the options was to make a day trip to Geneva. Unfortunately ticket prices for a day trip turned out to be a bit steep, so it appeared I might not make it for the last scheduled flight after all. Fortunately, ticket prices for a return trip to Geneva by leaving on Friday and returning on Saturday were significantly lower so I booked my flights.
I made all other practical arrangements for my trip to Geneva, including a one night stay in the Nash Hotel, located just next to Geneva Airport, and a guided tour to the famous Geneva-based CERN (Conseil Europeén pour la Recherche Nucléaire) on Saturday morning.
Brussels Airlines SN2720 GVA-BRU (Brussels Airlines Last Scheduled Avro Flight)
Date: Saturday 28th October 2017
Flight: SN2720 GVA-BRU
Aircraft Type: Avro RJ100
Seat: 17F (Light&Relax)
Scheduled / Effective Time of Departure: 18:00 / 18:13 (GMT+2)
Scheduled / Effective Time of Arrival: 19:20 / 19:42 (GMT+2)
Scheduled / Effective Block Time: 01 hr 20 min / 01 hr 29 min
Scheduled / Effective Flight Time: 01 hr 20 min / 01 hr 06 min
Arrival & Check-In
After having already arrived in Geneva on Friday 27th October 2017 and a good night’s sleep at the Nash Hotel, I started my day in Geneva with a very interesting guided tour at CERN. I returned to the hotel to pick up my hand luggage and arrived at the airport’s main terminal at around 16:00 local time. I had already checked in for the flight on Friday morning so I this gave me plenty of time to visit some shops at the airport and have a (very) late lunch at the airport’s Food Court, situated on the departures level.
Diversion to Lyon
While enjoying my sandwich I checked the latest messages on my smartphone (by using the airport’s 90 minute free wifi service). That’s when I was informed that a private jet had caused a serious incident at Geneva Airport during landing. One of the jet’s landing gear tyres had exploded upon landing and the jet was blocking the airport’s main runway.
When the incident occurred, the Brussels Airlines Avro RJ100 OO-DWD was still enroute from Palma De Mallorca (PMI) to Geneva (GVA), operating flight LX2163, a subcharter flight for Swiss International Air Lines. As GVA was closed, the flight crew of OO-DWD had to divert the Avro to Lyon (LYS), one of the filed alternate airports. Fortunately, Geneva Airport reopened few moments later and within minutes the first Easyjet Airbus was already taking off from the GVA runway.
After having finished my lunch and some more shopping, I headed to the security check. Upon arriving there, I immediately noticed the long queues, most probably due to some outbound flights having been delayed by the temporary closing of the airport. Eventually however, it took me less than fifteen minutes to pass the security screening.
I proceeded to the assigned gate for flight SN2720 GVA-BRU, which was gate A6. I arrived there at around 17:10 local time, well ahead of scheduled boardig time. As I still had some time left, I checked my messages once again. I was informed that the Avro had received a slot of 18:15 at LYS. This meant that our flight would be delayed and that flight crew duty time might even be exceeded. This could jeopardise the Brussels Airlines plans of operating the final scheduled Avro flight. Fortunately, the airline managed to receive an earlier slot out of LYS, so the Avro was ready to leave LYS for GVA.
Last landing in Geneva
At 17:18 local time I managed to see our Avro land on Geneva’s RWY 05 for the very last time as flight LX2163 LYS-GVA. As the aircraft exited the runway and made its way to her remote parking position, more and more passengers for the flight to Brussels started to make their way to departure gate A6, including some other aviation enthusiasts. As we waited for the boarding announcement, there was some time to relive some exciting Avro moments of the past.
Once boarding started, all passengers headed for the two buses that would take us to the remote parking position. Few minutes later, we arrived at the aircraft and could catch a glimpse of the star of the day: Brussels Airlines Avro RJ 100 OO-DWD.
A bit of history
The Avro was produced by British Aerospace and has played an important role in the growth of Brussels Airlines. When the airline was founded, its fleet consisted exclusively of 32 Avro type aircraft (12 Avro RJ100, 14 Avro RJ85 and 6 Bae146) that were acquired from Sabena subsidiary DAT. Since then, 31.5 million passengers have flown on board a Brussels Airlines Avro jet to a European destination.
More than 500 Belgian pilots and a thousand Cabin Crew Members started their career on board the four-engine plane. Several hundred Brussels Airlines aircraft engineers have been responsible for the planes’ maintenance.
Our Avro jet for today is an Avro RJ100 with registration OO-DWD (‘Delta-Whiskey-Delta’). It was delivered to Sabena subsidiary DAT in April 1998 and has 97 seats in a two-class configuration.
Preboarding Photo Shoot
In the meantime, most passengers started to queue in front of the aircraft’s boarding stairs as if it was an ordinary flight from Geneva to Brussels. But the ‘avgeeks’ did something else: they took out their digital cameras and began to take photos of the aircraft on the Geneva tarmac. Fortunately, the Geneva Airport security people were aware that this was a special and unique occasion so they did not really mind that we strolled around the aircraft to make as many photos of the jet in Geneva as we could. Eventually however, we were kindly requested to board the jet as there was still a commercial flight to be operated.
‘This is it’
Once boarding was completed and doors were closed, we were kindly welcomed by the flight crew, Captain Sven Peeters and Captain Ben Teugels. Indeed, all of today’s five sectors had been operated by a dual Captain flight crew. Commander of this flight from Geneva to Brussels was Captain Sven Peeters.
The flight crew began their crew announcement with ‘This is it’, as they made it clear to all passengers (including the non-‘avgeeks’) that today’s flight would be the last scheduled flight of an Avro regional jet for Brussels Airlines. The non-avgeek passengers (including the very friendly couple sitting next to me on row 17) suddenly understood why quite a few passengers had taken so many photos before boarding the jet (some of them even thought that we were having our very first flight and that we had never seen an aircraft from this close).
As the flight crew completed their preflight duties, the cabin crew also welcomed all passengers and made a little tribute to the Avro jet as it would also be their last scheduled flight ever on the type.
Taxi & Takeoff
The four jet engines were started and once air traffic control authorized the flight crew to taxi, the parking brake was released and taxied to RWY 05 for departure to Brussels.
At 18:30 and with a light breeze from the north, we began our takeoff roll on Geneva’s RWY 05 and few moments later the Avro rotated gently and we were airborne.
After takeoff we maintained runway heading on the GVA 045 radial. As soon as we reached 7.000 feet (but after passing navigation fix D8.0 GVA first) we made a gentle turn to the north and continued our climb. As soon as we reached 10.000 feet, the landing lights were extinguished and the fasten seatbelts sign was turned off.
Few moments later the cabin crew announced that, as it was a very special flight, they would serve some bubbles to all passengers to mark the occasion. A nice gesture from Brussels Airlines and its cabin crew members.
As we continued our climb to the cruising altitude of FL300, passengers having a window seat (especially those seated on the left side of the aircraft) could witness a spectacular sunset as the evening sky turned orange and red. We reached our cruising altitude at 18:55 local time, some twenty-five minutes after takeoff from Geneva Airport.
In the meantime I continued my conversation with the friendly Swiss couple seated next to me. They live in Geneva but were on a short holiday break and travelling to Brussels as one of their familiy members lives there. I congratulated them with choosing this special flight and they were thrilled to be a part of Belgian aviation history.
During our short cruise flight you could see many ‘avgeeks’ leaving their seat (including myself) to try to take some more unique photos of the cabin during this last flight, or to go to one of the other ‘avgeeks’ and relive some unique Avro jet moments of the past.
After the cabin crew had served drinks (and a warm meal for those passengers travelling in Flex&Fast and Bizz&Class), the cabin crew began to distribute some souvenirs, including a Brussels Airline key chain and a unique Brussels Airlines flight certificate to commemorate this special flight, a genuine true collector’s item. Another very kind gesture of Brussels Airlines.
Many ‘avgeeks’ try to keep a collection of safety cards (you know, those colourful cards in the seat pocket in front of you that show you the nearest emergency exit doors and how you have to put on the oxygen mask in case of an emergency). As this was a special flight, it would be nice to have a safety card of this Avro. However, it is strictly forbidden to remove the safety card from the aircraft and the airline would still operate three farewell flights for its employees and their relatives on Sunday. Fortunately, one of the cabin crew members was kind enough to offer me a spare, brand new safety card.
Mr Geert Sciot, VP External Communication of Brussels Airlines, was also onboard this flight as the airline had invited several Belgian journalists. He made an announcent via the aircraft’s PA system. First of all he informed the passengers of the very long duty of today’s flight crew and cabin crew members. They had left Brussels Airport at 08:00 in the morning that day, and were working on their fifth sector (due to the unforeseen diversion into Lyon Airport earlier that day). They received a very warm and kind applause from all passengers as we all appreciated the professionalism and passion of the crew on this last scheduled Avro flight of Brussels Airlines.
Mr Sciot continued with a nice surpise, as he informed the passengers that it would be possible to make some photos of the crew and the Avro aircraft after landing at Brussels Airport. The aircraft would be parked at a remote location, and one bus would take passengers with e.g. connecting flights immediately to the terminal building, while another bus would be reserved for the ‘avgeeks’ after their photo shoot of the aircraft and its crew. Another bonus point for Brussels Airlines!
Descent and landing
In the meantime, the sun had set and the evening sky had turned completely black. After a short and uneventful cruise at FL300, flight SN2720 was already flying over the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and we had reached our top of descent.
The cabin crew members collected the last empty plastic cups and made their preparations for landing at Brussels Airport. Before we left Geneva Airport, the flight crew had informed us that it would be a bit windy at Brussels Airport, but local meteorological conditions were still quite OK, except for some overcast clouds.
After an uneventful approach over Belgium, we made a smooth landing on Brussels Airport’s RWY 25L at around 19:37, just a bit over an hour after our takeoff from Geneva Airport. The aircraft exited the active landing runway and taxied to apron 4 where we came to a complete stop on a remote parking position. After running through the ‘engine shutdown checklist’, the flight crew stopped the Avro’s four engines. The last Brussels Airlines scheduled Avro flight had come to an end. The end of an era and the end of another chapter in Belgian aviation history.
One last photo shoot
After the first passengers had disembarked the aircraft, most avgeeks started to take photos of the cabin interior of the Avro or started a nice conversation with the friendly cabin crew and flight crew. Brussels Airlines also allowed us to take some photos of the flight deck and the two Captains for today’s five sectors.
Before making my way to the bus that would take us to the terminal building, I disembarked the aircraft and started to take photos of the Avro like I’ve never done before. As the sun had already set, there was not much light except for the light poles on apron 4, so it was quite a challenge to take good photos of the Avro after its final scheduled flight. Nevertheless, I think I’ve managed to take at least a few good shots of ‘Delta-Whiskey-Delta’.
So this was it. My last flight onboard a Brussels Airlines Avro aircraft, and my very last chance to take photos of the four-engined regional jet wearing the Brussels Airlines livery. Thank you Brussels Airlines for flying from Geneva to Brussels tonight. And thank you for all the other flights I’ve flown in the past: to Stockholm, to Krakow, and some other European destinations. Special thanks to the flight crew members Sven and Ben, cabin crew members Josiane, Nathalie and Sebastian, and Mr Geert Sciot, VP External Communication of Brussels Airlines. And thank you Avro. You will be missed…
Hi-res photos are available here.
28 October 2017