A love letter to regional planes and airports

This is a love letter to all the turboprops and regional airports out there…

I know it’s been a while regional airports but there are a few of us who still love you. I love landing on your short runways, catapulting any unfastened passengers through my windscreen, giving way to livestock, and finding enough space on the tarmac to turn without giving our waiting passengers and airport staff a haircut in the process.

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Whether it’s the coconut shed that is Aitutaki’s terminal (AIT) - one that makes the waiting room for any SAAB flight feel like you’re in the departure lounge for an overweight A380 or the postage size stamp runway of Lord Howe Island (LHI) that makes the trek out from the mainland in anything other than a Q200 impossible unless you don’t mind wet feet.

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It could be Hokitika (HKK)– the location at the base of the Southern Alps makes for a long trek out to sea to either gain or lose altitude (unless you like a tummy rub from the snow) for runway that can’t handle more than a Q300, Gisborne (GIS), where planes give way to trains (the only airport in the world plane’s don’t have right-of-way) or Bora Bora (BOB) – where all your passengers will have to arrive by boat.

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It’s fair to say, you don’t get enough love for the vital link to the isolated and magical destinations you serve. But it’s not completely your fault for being too small – there’s also the small issue of the planes to get to you.

I’m looking at you ATR, the absolute C- of plane performance (boo), but the peak of efficiency (urgh). You don’t like climbing (anything more than 1000fpm and it’ll send a strongly worded complaint to your manager), you have the landing style of a penguin falling off an iceberg, and go about as fast as my grandmother in her square-wheeled wheelchair. Oh how I dislike how necessary you are.

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And look at what you could have been – the Q200, sure it’s a plane fit for small family gatherings, but it has aspirations of being a helicopter. It’s never met a runway it couldn’t handle, loves heights and when you press go, you end up in next week very quickly.

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It’s easy to see how these planes could be divisive, but if you’re looking for a breakup, then the SAAB is for you – it’s 2+1 configuration makes it perfect for divorcees and soon to be divorcees – the engine noise so loud you won’t be able to hear your ex-partner, and with a range of 1,500nm you have plenty of time to swipe through your entire island’s Tinder profiles before you get there.

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So what’s the point?

Well, none of these small airports are likely to be getting CAT-ready runways in real life or 3D buildings in the sim anytime in the near future, and apart from the Q400 (the turboprop that thinks it’s a jet both in size and performance), and the C208 (try flying this further than your backyard, and it’ll get scared and want to come home – immediately) there just isn’t a single turboprop for the 1,500 or so planes that fly these bespoke routes everyday - and the millions of passengers subjected to their torture every year. I’m talking the ATR’s, the Q’s, the SAAB’s, the Beech’s and the Jetstreams.

To get to any of these fun outlier destinations, you’ll need to head into uncharted waters – jump in a plane that won’t like where you’re planning on going, plan an approach you’ll have to google if you don’t want the Infinite Flight News reporters banging on your HQ doors about your latest crash, and discover somewhere new for yourself.

This isn’t a request thread, there are plenty of those – but hopefully a few people might think to head out and discover their own new paradise, ready for the day when the goldilocks plane you needs heads to the sim.

What’s your favourite far away place you never see another plane? The place that brings out the explorer in you, taking the only plane you can find to get you to a place you shouldn’t be able to land?

Happy landings,

NB: None of the photo’s are my own – I’d love to say they were, but that’s a few more years of travelling for me .


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