Breaking free, free from the confines of borders. Like a caged bird, having space to fly but still restricted, a B767-200 has been let off the leash and made a beeline for Dublin!
To explain………….Its time again for a rotation of Irish Defence Force troops stationed in the Middle East, in this case patrolling in Syria. The charter flight, performed by B767-224ER (VP-BAL) of UTair, departed Moscow - Vnukovo on Tuesday 6th of April and arrived at Dublin Airport that afternoon at 13:41. The first visit by the aircraft to Dublin, this particular 2001yr 767, has been with the Russian airline since 2014 and in recent times has performed services mainly within Russia. With the opportunity to fly west to Ireland, VP-BAL was straight out of the traps.
Not the first UTair fleet member at Dublin, a B737 carried out a similar charter a few years ago. The B767 overnighted at Dublin and readied the troops Wednesday morning for a 07:53 departure. Flying a diagonal route across Europe south easterly, the 249 seat Boeing bound for Damascus International Airport.
Always a tense arrival for flight crews into Damascus, with focus intensifying on short finals. Due to a degree of security risk, pilots are briefed on arrival and departure procedures for this particular airport. For the layperson, a disappearance from Flight Radar 24 once the aircraft is within range is typical so as not to broadcast the actual approach sequence.
Likewise, departure is usually swift, especially for a flight carrying military personnel out of the region. Departure routes vary and a part-corkscrew manoeuvre is often preferred, gaining altitude as quickly as possible before bridging the mountain range ‘Mt. Hermon’ to the west of Damascus, reaching the relative safety of the Mediterranean Sea.
Having touched down at Damascus at 15:00 local time, VP-BAL offloaded the arriving troops and boarded the returning group of Peace Keepers. By approximately 19:30 it was time for the off as the 767 (without winglets) became airborne making its way west into the Mediterranean. Presumably spirits among the passengers would be high with thoughts of returning home to loved ones and having survived their tour unscathed forefront in their minds.
VP-BAL first operated with Continental Air almost 20 years ago and then spent time with United Airlines before “defecting” to the east, ending up flying for Russian airline UTair Aviation, based at Moscow. Within the fleet currently three B767-200’s operate.
After a five hour flight, VP-BAL arrived back at Dublin under the cover of darkness at 22:35. With business complete, sparing little time on the ground, the 767 departed the Irish capital five minutes before midnight, en route to Moscow through the night.
Photos by Dmitry Sharovatov