IN192 (CGK - TJQ)
Plane Type: Boeing 737-524
Reviewer: Malcolm Lu
One would think a short flight from Jakarta to Belitung would be simple and fast, one would be mistaken. After taking a smooth ride on Malaysia Airline's B737-800, I was treated to a very different flight onboard NAM Air's B737-500. Now the -500 series baby Boeings belonged to an older generation of 737 models, named the Classic Series. This particular plane, rego: PK-CLU was at the time 22 years old, one of the oldest planes I have ever flew on. Nam Air was one of 3 Airlines that operate to the small Island of Belitung, on which my company was holding a corporate retreat and team building session for our staff. Personally, I would have preferred to take Garuda all the way from Singapore, as it meant an easier and smoother transit at Jakarta. However, the pricing was beyond our budget and we settled for a Jetstar Flight from SIN- CGK, and Nam Air from CGK - TJQ. Catching a first glimpse of the plane, I was a little nervous, seeing how much smaller the -500 is compared to the -800. I do have an odd fear of heights and claustrophobia, and flying in small planes makes my palms sweat. As we boarded flight 192, i realised my seat, no 20A was at the last row, which any frequent flyer would know, is normally the most bumpy place on a plane.
As I walked down the small narrow isle of the 737, it was interesting to see how different the interior of the plane was as compared to her younger sisters in the next series. The evolution between the Classic & Next Generation series is most evident if you have flown on both these planes. Notice the overhead bins and windows are much smaller, as well as the old style lighting systems onboard. Also, due to most of Nam Air serving on regional / domestic destinations, their planes have no IFE onboard. Then again it was only a 40 plus min flight, not enough time to finish a movie. As old planes go, this one was relatively clean for a 1 Star Airline (Skytrax Rating). My seat was just a bit squeaky, and it being the last row, cannot fully incline back due to the rear bulkhead.
The Flight & After...
Taxiing out on the runway was bumpier than the 737-800, not sure if it was the plane or the runway or where I was seated; Perhaps it was a combination of factors. Take off was fast, and the plane climbed steeply out of CGK with a sharp angle bank to the right, giving me a nice view of the city scape below. First 10-20mins out of CGK was uneventful, smooth cruising high above the clouds. After that, it was scary, at least for me. Turbulence kicked in, with high level rain clouds in our path. Our pilot made some course adjustments to avoid the thick of it, but it was still a very choppy ride. Add to the fact that it was a small old 737, and I was at the last row really did not help calm my nerves down. It was here I turned off the camera, closed the window shade, held on tight to the armrests with my sweaty palms and closed my eyes to relax. I began to lose track of time, as it felt like we were in the chop forever, until finally the pilot made the pre-landing announcements, and we noticed the Island of Belitung emerging beneath us. On the descend into the airport, the plane passed through more rain clouds and formed some nice condensation trails over the wings. Landing was rough and the plane decelerated hard on the single runway of Belitung Airport. At the end of the runway, the plane had to make a 180 turn back down the runway in order to taxi to the terminal, which was just 2 small buildings with no air bridge. The fun part began as we got off the plane, and people just stood around taking photos with the aircraft, with no security to chase us away. I was able to catch a Sriwijaya Air arriving at parking at the tarmac as we entered the arrival area of the airport.
What can I say ? Skytrax gave the Airline a 1 Star Rating. If you googled the name, you can find the long lists of complaints and negative feedback about the airline. Personally, I might not have enjoyed my flight as much as I hoped, but I certainly do not have any negative feedback to the airline. The bumpy ride was an act of nature that cannot be helped. It was also a very affordable flight, so you can't expect the best in the industry with the latest creature comforts. The airline did its job by getting us to our destination safely and at a cheap cost no less. The 737 might be old but it is still one very reliable plane as long as the company does its proper maintenance and upkeeps. With that in mind, I do treasure the unique experience in flying with Nam Air and the Classic 737, for it is an experience I would not be having any time soon.
Till next time, Happy Flying Folks.