Thursday, April 5, 2012

HND-CTS - April 5, 2012

The busiest air route in the world is between Tokyo's Haneda Airport (HND) and Shin-Chitose in Sapporo. Over 40,000 people a day are flown from one to the other, or to put it in another way, about 1% of Japan's population makes this trip every month. Today I was part of that group as I grabbed an early Air Do flight (that's the plane below, JA601A, a former ANA bird) that took me from springtime in Tokyo to the last ravages of winter in Hokkaido. Well, I'm exaggerating a bit, it is about 4 degrees during the day here with a lot of snow and ice remaining. Not pleasant, but not miserable either.

The flight was actually not routine for a change. After pushing back a few minutes late, we took off to the southeast before turning around and heading northwest. This took us over Tokyo on a clear morning and I got a decent picture of the new Tokyo Sky Tree, a 634-meter tower that will open to the public next month, just after I leave the country.

To compare, here is the whole east side of Tokyo with the Tokyo Dome being the white dot in the top right corner.

You could also see Mount Fuji in the distance above the haze covering the metropolis below.

It was a smooth flight, but when we began our descent, it became slightly turbulent - apparently a windy day in Sapporo. As we neared the runway, I could feel the plane being buffeted and could see the flaps being manipulated quite heavily to try to mitigate the effects of the wind. It was actually a bit frightening as one could sense the struggle going on in the cockpit, and sure enough, just before touchdown, the engines revved and the pilots performed a go-around. This is not an uncommon operation, landings in strong winds are occasionally aborted. It is disconcerting for the passengers but immediately the cabin crew were on the PA to explain and apologize. The plane circled around for another approach which was somewhat easier and we landed without issue, arriving at our gate just 15 minutes late.

With some time to kill before I could check in to my hotel, I headed up to CTS' great outdoor observation deck (above) where you can see the planes taxing, taking off, and landing. There is no fence at face level here, so it is easier to get pictures straight on. In fact, that's the main reason for this post, to show a few airplane shots.

Paint your plane green and call it Eco!

Or paint it purple and call it Peach! Actually, a new low-cost airline here in Japan.

JinAir, a new Korean airline that I had never heard of.

Kudos to JAL for returning to their classic livery.

Japan is great if you like special liveries, this Pokemon 747 is famous in the aviation world.

Of course, the reason I am in Sapporo is for sports. I saw the Nippon Ham Fighters tonight and will post on that tomorrow.



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