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Avro RJ100: HB-IYQ makes its last SWISS flight

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Avro RJ100 ferried to Cranfield (UK)

Our Avro RJ100 withdrawal programme is coming to a close. 15 Avro RJ100 have been withdrawn and replaced with our new Bombardier C Series twinjets over the past ten months. While some of these had reached the end of their service lives and are thus being scrapped, others have been returned to their lessors, who are leasing them out again to new customer airlines, primarily in Africa and South America. We’ve also been trying to find buyers for those aircraft that belonged to us. Most of the aircrafts concerned have been found new owners: having been well maintained over the years, our SWISS RJs still attract sizeable interest on the second-hand aircraft market. We recently accompanied a crew on their ferry flight with HB-IYQ, to Cranfield in the UK.

It’s a dull and rainy early-May morning when Captains Reto Scheidegger and Michael Weisser meet in the Zurich OPC for their pre-fight briefing. It’s no ordinary rotation today, though. They’re on a special mission: ferrying HB-IYQ to Cranfield near London, to return it to Falko, the leasing company that owns it.

The days leading up to the flight have seen IYQ carefully prepared for its handover by a team from our Technical Division. The work included compiling extensive documentation guaranteeing that the aircraft had been faultlessly maintained. “If there’s anything that isn’t in order, or if a particular document is missing, it can all get pretty expensive,” stresses Werner Reiser, Senior Manager Aircraft Phase-Out Programmes in our Technical Division.

Our pilots finish their briefing around 07:00, and are joined by Karl Wilkinson. Karl is from lessor Falko, and is there to accompany the ferry flight and check and document the aircraft’s functionality throughout. He’s an old hand, and knows almost every RJ nut and bolt. He even organized the type’s acquisition by Crossair, and spent some time working on the ‘Jumbolino’ with our Technical Division, too.

India Yankee Quebec makes its last departure from Zurich just before 08:00 with the three men on board, and climbs into the grey morning sky. Flight LX 5210 has Captain Weisser at the controls. But it’s not to the UK that he heads, but to the Netherlands. The itinerary includes a stopover at the small Rotterdam Airport. There are customs formalities involved in importing the aircraft to the UK: and these require it to land in another EU country first.

After a 40-minute flight, Rotterdam is reached. Our pilots take a break in a small lounge by the apron while Karl coordinates with Customs. Karl is evidently satisfied: he hasn’t noticed any irregularities on the flight so far.

Shortly after noon comes the phone call they have been waiting for: the aircraft is approved for import to the UK. A short time after, HB-IYQ takes off again for its final destination, Cranfield. And after a further 30 minutes it flies over the small aerodrome, turns and lands. This is where its SWISS career ends. It will soon be in service again, but with a different registration. Before then, though, it will receive another thorough inspection by the mechanics of Avolon, the maintenance company that is based at Cranfield. They in turn will be accompanied by a representative from our Technical Division, who will oversee all the work and sign the formal delivery document.

For our two SWISS pilots the work is done. They’re a little sad: the RJ, they agree, was always a special plane to fly. But now it’s time to dead-head back to Zurich, via London Heathrow.


Text: Reto Hoffmann, Florian Flämig/ Photos: Reto Hoffmann