Life is full of surprises and none more so than aviation and air travel. Each day throws up something new and unexpected. It’s one of the many exciting aspects of the interest which enthusiasts enjoy. One of those “moments” was delivered upon us recently in the form of a special visitor to Dublin Airport. There’s something slightly thrilling at the sight of a large aircraft displaying the titles UNITED NATIONS along it’s fuselage arriving at your local airport and by large we mean, Boeing 767-300(ER) large…………..
Image by Don Cashen
Several things to note here. UN aircraft are more likely to be found operating in conflict zones or developing nations, it’s the nature of the organisation. Secondly, the type of locations where UN aircraft fly are often harsh and difficult and result in Soviet era aircraft being chosen for their toughness. And thirdly, airports within Europe which on occasion host UN aircraft are more likely to be high-calibre freight or logistic airports such as Leipzig, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.
For a UN aircraft to be seen at Dublin, which has business other than painting, maintenance or training is highly unusual – but very well received by the enthusiast community. Before day break on Monday May 10th, ET-ALJ landed at Dublin Airport, in from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a long-haul 8hr 20min flight.
Operated by Ethiopian Airlines but leased by the United Nations and the only B767 in the UN fleet. The aircraft was at Dublin to ferry a new group of Irish Peace Keeping troops out to Beirut and return an exchange group home after their Lebanon service.
Image by Ian Lim
With all aboard early on Monday morning, ET-ALJ departed Dublin at 07:22 for the 5hr flight east to Beirut. For those making the trip, a mixture of anxiety and excitement as they set off on a serious but satisfying adventure. Having transported the troops across Europe, Flight ET8801 approached Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, using RW16 which is a welcome gateway protruding into the sea on the same flight path as incoming traffic from Europe. One of three runways operational at Beirut, at 3,395m in length, RW16 is more than adequate for the UN B767.
Barely an hour and a half on the warm ground at BEY, returning troops scrambled aboard, it was departure for Flight ET8802, pushing back a little earlier than planned, using RW21, the longest of the three at 3,800m and avoiding overflying the city, taking the aircraft immediately out over the Mediterranean.
Transiting Europe taking a similar route as the previous outgoing flight, ET-ALJ returned to Dublin at 19:05 arriving to a wet capital but brightening spirits of enthusiasts gathered to view the UN B767-300 touching down on RW28. At closer quarters, the stark livery can appear slightly imposing as it taxi’s to stand. Nevertheless, an impressive looking aircraft and a worthwhile catch for enthusiasts.
Image by Kevin Horgan
Returning troops deplaned and the tanks brimmed with Jet-A there was no rest for the UN machine as it took to the sky once again at 21:28 bound for home, Addis Ababa, 8hrs away. Interestingly, as mentioned earlier, ET-ALJ is the only B767 in the UN fleet which consists of an ATR-72, an A320, 7 x CRJ-100’s, 4 x DHC-8-100’s, 1 x DHC-8-300, 2 x ERJ-135’s and 3 x ERJ-145’s.
Another point to note, it was not ET-ALJs first time at Dublin Airport, the B767 had visited several times in 2017, 2016 and 2015, though not as a United Nations aircraft.
Images by Kevin Horgan, Don Cashen & Ian Lim – Wikimedia Commons