I had long gone with a plan to go to China on a dedicated spotter trip, but could not decide in relation to which time should be the best. There were various parameters that had to be taken into account before the perfect time could be decided. One day I came across an article in which the concept of the golden week of the people was described. I could see that in the autumn there was a week where the workers had time off and where there was a tradition for people to go home to their home areas to visit, and this also applied to people from abroad. I had found my time of departure, as the Chinese who are sent to North Korea would most likely also seek home and it would provide an excellent opportunity to see some of the few planes that the North Korean regime had.
I booked a return trip with KLM, as at that time it was China Southern that flew from Amsterdam to Beijing with an Airbus 380, a type of aircraft that I had not yet tried to fly with. On the day of departure, I was met at Copenhagen Airport by a friendly person who informed me that due to fog in Amsterdam, my connecting flight had been canceled and I had to be re booked. It was certainly not something I was happy about, but I was re booked to Finnair and had to fly via Helsinki instead. Overall, it gave delay
just 20 minutes!
My choice of hotel outside the airport was not difficult, I found a hotel where check-in could be done from 07:00. The hotel was called Beijing Wanjia Businness Hotel, which was nice and clean and had staff who were good at using Google Translate! They did not know a word of English.
Link to the hotel:
The lack of English skills should not prove to be the biggest problem, but it was the devastating smog. As long as the wind blew hard enough, conditions were fine, but when the wind calmed down, a blanket of smog settled over the city. This meant that the vast majority of my photos have a gray background.
But back to my hunt for Air Koryo, which my trip was all about. At the old Beijing airport, the planes landed on three runways at the same time, which required a little getting used to on the first day. I could only be one place at a time. I started at 01R where it was only possible to follow the traffic on that lane. No North Koreans the first day. After dinner I went over to 36R, which was also the one with the most traffic. Here I lined up in a place in a park, which was intended to be able to see both the arriving and departing traffic. After just an hour, the first control person arrived, who in perfect English asked where I came from, which hotel I was staying at, how long I was going to be in China and why I was in China. Once I had answered the questions, the person disappeared as quickly as he had come. It was to turn out to be a tradition, with a visit from a young English-speaking person who asked the same questions!
Overall, though, it must be said that the Chinese surprised me positively. The city I lived in was neat and tidy and the Chinese who dared to have a conversation were keen to tell about the places I as a tourist should see, and I must admit that China is one of the places I should visit Again, the country is simply so fascinating and interesting.
On days two and three I saw a single Air Koryo, but they constantly avoided the runway I had lined up at, but on day four there was a win. The smog was thick when a Tupolev 154 cut through the smog and I got the first picture. Less than an hour after comb saw an Antonov 148, which also became the last that day.