IMG_6458

Trip Report and Review – Business Class on Vistara UK813 IXB-DEL

Introduction/Background

Vistara, a joint venture by the Tata Group and the Singapore Airlines, began operations in January 2015.From day one, the airline promised to revolutionize the entire air travel experience in the domestic aviation scenario in India.Motivated and driven by the tagline ‘Fly the new feeling’, Vistara aims at delivering a unmatched product in the Full Service Carrier segment.

I had been really wanting to try this new airline from quite some time, because of many reasons. Some of them were a. 9W and AI lacked in some areas in the FSC tally b. Having traveled in Kingfisher Airlines, I really wanted to once again see a carrier with a product similar to it,if not better c. New Airline.
Plans to fly Vistara materialized a little later than I’d expected, but nonetheless, something I really looked forward to. Expectations were high, partly because of reviews from other travelers/reports and partly because, two of the most reputed  organisations in their sectors – Tata and SIA have joined hands to give birth to Vistara.

Planned Routing was as follows:
UK868 DEL-IXB via Guwahati (Premium Economy)
UK813 IXB-DEL (Business) Airbus A320 VT-TTJ

The Flight(UK813 IXB-DEL  Airbus A320 VT-TTJ)

  1. Online Booking and Website-The online booking experience was seamless and quick. After choosing the flights, the booking gets done in four steps.The website is user friendly and easy to use. In my opinion, the homepage can be given a better design, the present one is a little too ‘in-your-face’ for my taste.
  2. Check In and Boarding – This is where it gets interesting. The scheduled departure of UK813 is at 1420hrs from Bagdogra. I had left my room at around 1135hrs and planned to reach Bagodgra airport by about 1230hrs. Having done the web check-in a day earlier, I did have a lot of time to spare (…or so I thought). Just about 8 kms short of the airport, there was a traffic jam of more than a kilometer with many people standing outside their vehicles. Somehow, the taxi driver managed to bypass quite a few cars but couldnt go really far. Upon little investigation, we got to know that an accident had occurred at one end of a bridge and there was absolutely no way this jam would clear anytime soon.By now it was almost 1220hrs and the driver told me that this was the only approach road to the airport. The only other road, route rather, would have me traverse more than 45kms to get to the airport, and included crossing a dry riverbed. We made the call and decided to take that road, time was passing by rather fast, the distance wasn’t. I finally managed to reach the airport at 1350hrs!! During this time, I received four calls from the Vistara manager at Bagdogra who continuously kept asking me of my whereabouts and had kept the flight open till I reached. I was the last passenger and he personally accompanied me through the entire security check and boarding process and ensured it went well.IMG_6439
    Business Class seats on Vistara’s A320 VT-TTJ.
  3. Pre-Takeoff – From the minute I stepped into the aircraft, there was an aura of a certain perfection which  I had noticed during my first flight with them as well. Vistara offers 8 seats in the Business class cabin in the standard 2-2 layout. Just a couple of minutes after taking my seat, I was offered the welcome drink – Guava juice.
    Not the most pleasant looking drinks, but refreshing without a doubt.WP_20160605_14_20_48_Pro
    Guava juice.Thereafter came the cold towel, which was offered after boarding was complete and the ladder was being detached.Quick taxi thereafter and we were airborne at 1425hrs sharp.Noteworthy, here is the fact that, procedures at Bagdogra do not involve pushback and the aircraft makes a right turn out of its parking bay on its own power, with the total time to runway of not more than 4 to 5 minutes. The lead FA and IFM of the flight was serving the Business passengers.Responsible for making the safety demonstration announcements in English and Hindi, she also was supposed to collect our towels and drink glasses and be seated after all this in less than 4 minutes.
  4. Cruise – Just after the captain notified the cabin to begin with the service procedures, we were given the food Menu.IMG_6417IMG_6418IMG_6419On offer today for the vegetarians was Chanar Kofta and Masaman curry. Non vegetarians had the choice of Za’atar Chicken or Fish curry served along with vegetables and rice.Without any second thoughts, I went for the non-vegetarian option – Za’atar Chicken. Here’s what the entire meal looked like.IMG_6425
    The meal was delectable and well-flavored, the chicken was tender and nicely marinated. The flight attendant served another offering of bread – Oregano this time.Each meal was served individually to each passenger in the business cabin and there was no cart used for any service. After the middle eastern delight we had a choice of juices (Orange,Mix-Fruit and Apple), aerated drinks, Tea and Coffee on offer.IMG_6432
    Orange Juice it was! Do take note of how the glass is placed right in the middle of the Vistara star. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t placed this way by chance. The FA deliberately put it there and did it with a lot of poise. Thats the perfection I was talking about.

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    By now, the crew had begun preparations to land at Delhi and very swiftly the entire cabin was prepared for arrival.

  5. Landing – We landed at Runway 10 at Delhi and had quick taxi back to gate.IMG_6453
    Spotted VT-TTL – Vistara’s latest bird which arrived just a day before from Toulouse parked on the remote stand alongside VT-IDU, 6Es latest bird.IMG_6458
    Docking at the gate next to sister ship VT-TTI.
    Before deplaning, an announcement was made asking passengers to lower their window shades so as to keep the temperatures comfortable within the aircraft and prepare for the next flight. Exit was quick as I didn’t have any checked-in baggage.

 Review/Verdict

  1. The service offered, from the start till the end of the flight, is very professional, complete and adopts a no-nonsense approach.
  2. The functioning of the airline, its staff and its operations seem to integrate into one cohesive unit very easily, functioning like clockwork.
  3. The product, atleast for now, seems to be consistent. 9W and AI lack the most in keeping their product consistent across the spectrum.
  4. Major changes have been introduced from the day Vistara began operations – Ticket pricing has been looked into, Premium Economy maybe done away with, IFE and Wifi are being introduced etc.This speaks alot about the airline and shows how they are adapting and surviving in the very niche FSC market.
  5. Lack of IFE wasn’t felt much, probably because it wasn’t a long flight. However, It should be introduced.
  6. Crew are quick,polite, and efficient.
  7. The tradition of excellence adopted by Tata and SIA shows very well in the working of this airline and each detail is taken care of.
  8. Perfection.
  9. The menu and food still have room for improvement.
  10. Overall Rating – 9/10

The airline is growing well and adding aircraft and sectors at a steady pace.Currently operating 11 aircraft over 17 destinations with Chandigarh, Kochi and Srinagar being some of the latest additions. What remains to be seen though is whether Vistara can survive the test of time, and more importantly be able to hold fort in a very dynamic and continuously changing Indian aviation market scenario.

Good wishes to them and I hope they continue to grow at the same pace!

 

 

 

 

3 MiG-23BNs on the Jalandhar Amritsar axis

Three MiG-23BNs have been found at various places , all within a radius of 75 kms of each other.

All the three are from Halwara . Halwara operated the 220 Sqn with MiG-23s until they were retired , the squadron now flies the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI.

Detailed articles with photographs :

SM201 : Science City , Kapurthala

https://foxbatone.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/indias-first-mig-23bn-sm201-at-science-city-kapurthala/

 

SM219 : Sainik School , Kapurthala

https://foxbatone.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/mig-23bn-sm219-at-sainik-schoolkapurthala/

 

SM268 : GNDU,Amritsar

https://foxbatone.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/mig-23bn-sm268-at-gnduamritsar/

 

Visited each location and tried to gather as much info as much as possible  , especially on the construction numbers. Other than SM268 ,c/n plates of all seem ok,

 

Jai Hind

MiG-23BN SM268 at GNDU,Amritsar

Nailed another BN just a few days back!

This one is SM268 at Guru Nanak Dev University,Amritsar!

IAF operated the BN variant of the MiG-23 for 27 years with four squadrons flying aircraft serials from SM201 to SM295.A number of these have been given to various institutions , public places etc!

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Located just ahead of the admin block

The bird has been dedicated to the university by the Marshal of the Indian Airforce Arjan Singh , who formally inaugurated it on 28th March 2008. The MiG was sanctioned in early 2007 and transported from Halwara and installed under the leadership of Sqn Ldr Harjinder Singh Marwaha.

The aircraft has been kept in a pretty good condition with a plastic mesh cover on the exhaust , retaining Tipnis Grey ,roundels and finflashes, the serial has been painted in a different font. The serial is painted on the NLG doors and the tail.Image

‘SM268’ in a different font

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C/N : 8*25

C/N plates at all locations are unreadable.

 The aircraft is maintained better than the other two MiGs of Kapurthala and has been mounted perfectly.

 

 

India’s first MiG-23BN : SM201 at Science City , Kapurthala

A newspaper article helped me nail this airframe down.

Discovered that the Pushpa Gujral Science City in Kapurthala boasted a Defence Gallery containing a Vijayanta tank , Torpedoes , AA Gun , Rockets and a MiG-23 BN.This is the second BN in the district on display.

Little research on the net and identity was confirmed as SM201 : The First ‘Vijay’ of the IAF

Here we go …..

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The aircraft was manufactured on August 25th,1980 and inducted in the IAF in 1981-1982.Used in Op.Safed Sagar and Op. Brasstacks , with a total of 1542 hours.

Last flown by Flt Lt.Rahul Lilani on 5th Oct 2001 , operated by 220 Sqn , Halwara.

Science City received the aircraft in 2006.

It has been placed in a fenced enclosure at a junction of the road to the auditorium and main complex.

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Closeup of the Nose

No serial markings are present and have been painted over with coats of paint.Painted in Tipnis Grey the finflashes and roundels are intact however , the livery is a darker and bluish shade of Tipnis Grey.No attention seems to be paid to the aircraft after the authorities have placed it there other than the annual paintjob. Exhaust cover is present however Engine Intakes are without covers.

The whole airframe and enclosure are in a poorly maintained state , some places metal corrosion has created gaping holes in the skin.

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Layers and more layers

SM201 has been painted over and over , even without the removal of the previous layer , Was able to count FOUR layers of Berger :P 

Construction Number and Identity

C/N plates are intact at their respective locations and are readable to a good extent.

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C/N : 7542

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There are 2 plates on the starboard MLG compartment and only once of them is readable .

 

The nose landing gear compartment is very clean from the inside and I was able to stand upright because of the depth of the compartment. The NLG c/n plate is on the rear bulkhead of the cockpit and is readable and confirms 7542 as the c/n.

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NLG C/N plate

There is a small step ladder placed beside the NLG. The step ladder helped me reach the cockpit , the cockpit glass is stained and all joints have rusted to glory .Not much can be seen from the outside , however on straining a little  , saw that the joystick and majority of the instruments are intact.

An identity confusion was created after seeing ‘SM-294’ painted on the pilot seat’s headrest , but chances are that the airframe is 201 with the seat which was once in SM294.

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Pilot seat headrest with SM-294 marking

 

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Note : The lower tailfin has been folded so that it doesn’t touch the ground

Jai Hind

 

 

MiG-23BN SM219 at Sainik School,Kapurthala

Visited the Sainik School in Kapurthala after a recent input regarding a MiG-23BN located in the school.Sainik School are preparatory schools which prepare the students for the National Defence Academy.These schools are run by the state government and every state has a Sainik School barring aside a few.

Sainik School Kapurthala is from the oldest of the schools and is built on the palace of the Maharaja of Kapurthala.

The MiG-23BN nicknamed ‘Vijay’ is situated around 50m from the main gate of the school.

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The MiG is flanked by a Vijayanta tank to its starboard and an AA gun to the port.

The aircraft was presented by AVM Anil Chopra on 6th December 2008.

The airframe is largely intact however the maintenance is questionable.The aircraft is painted in the light grey with serials painted on the NLG doors and tail and finflashes and roundels on either side.

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The paint was a fresh coat and the serials are painted in the same font as that of the IAF.Also , all ports , afterburner and engine intakes are without covers and are serving as nests for pigeons.

MiG-23BNs have c/n plates stamped on the rear bulkhead of the starboard MLG compartment  and in some cases on the NLG compartment.

C/N Plate SM219

C/N plate : 7650

The BN has two plates  , one below the other at this location.The second plate has the same number however ,repeated painting and mechanical vagaries have made the number fade out on both plates.

SM219

Head On : Tilted a little

Mounting of this bird has not been done properly as suggested by the image above . The aircraft is tilted slightly to the port side . Also , the the wings are swept at different angles and there are no covers on the engine intakes , exhaust and other ports.Sainik Schools are well staffed and should take appropriate care of this aircraft , given the fact that these serve as a inspiration for our future aviators.

 

JAI HIND

Identity Unveiled : An-12 Wreckage at Punjab Engineering College (BL536)

Recent visits to PEC were fruitful after I discovered a wreck at the Aero Engg Deptt of the college.
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The Wing
 
The wreck caught my attention after discovering that it was that of an An-12 of the IAF.Then began a tedious research journey which lasted for 2.5 months after which the identity of the aircraft was nailed.
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This aircraft was manufactured at Irkutsk (#39) Factory.The factory produced 154 An-12s at Irkutsk-Vostochny from 1957 to 1962.
8 An-12s were exported from this factory to India for the Indian Airforce .
Serials from BL532 to BL539.
BL534 crashed on a flight from Leh to Chandigarh  on 06th November 1966 , killing 112 onboard.
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BL533 and BL536 were involved in nose gear collapse incidents . 
 
This particular wreck belongs to BL536 
 
Export Number of this aircraft is 02 4 005 and construction number is 090 16 03 ,was registered BL536 with IAF.
 
It burnt out its landing gear while landing at Chandigarh on 5th August 1961.
The wreckage consists of a pair of the Horizontal Stabilizers which belong to BL536 (Verified) and the starboard wing with a part of the engine cowls. The damage analysis of the wing reveals the intensity of crash wasn’t large however fuel valves, flap slots etc are broken.
 
The wreck is of importance since IAF scrapped almost all its An-12s , with only one airframe surviving in Delhi’s Palam Museum – BL727 and now this wreck of BL536 – First of the An-12s imported by the Indian Airforce.
 
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Cheers🙂