Trip Report: Flying the Mad Dog to the Pearl of the Caribbean

Trip Report: Flying the Mad Dog to the Pearl of the Caribbean

DALLAS — My wife and I flew on a Rutaca Airlines’ (5R) McDonnell Douglas MD-83 on December 10 from Caracas (CCS) to Porlamar (PMV). The flight was operated by Venezolana Airlines (VNE). The return trip would also be on an MD-80 from Aeropostal (CW).

A favorite of many, these aircraft have stuck around longer than expected and, as intended, are great for short and mid-haul flights. Needless to say, we were looking forward to flying the Mad Dog to the Pearl of the Caribbean, Margarita Island.

Fearing that we would miss the flight because we arrived 10 minutes late to the CCS domestic terminal, I remembered that we had done the web check-in the night before. The VNE check-in staff cleared us to board, but not without a fuss.

We went through security and ran to our gate, looking for planes along the way. Our gate was full of passengers ready to board the 5R MD-80.

I got a few good shots of the Mad Dog as the pushback tractor positioned itself in front of the aircraft. I also managed to get a few photos of a couple of Conviasa (V0) plane taxiing and parking before boarding.

Photo: Author

Our aircraft, YV647T, was a 30.9-year-old McDonnell Douglas MD-83. It was built as an MD-81, converted in 2005 into an MD-82, and converted again five years later into an MD-83.

SE-DMD, and later LN-RON, was first delivered to SAS Scandinavian Airlines (SK) in March 1992. It then went to Allegiant Air (G4) in February 2010 and re-registered as N417NV before finally being ferried via OPF-PUJ-CCS after 5R bought it from G4 in 2021.

After several months of maintenance, it got a fresh coat of paint with a new color scheme. VNE started to operate the aircraft in August 2021.

Photo: Author

Boarding the MD-83

At 10:45 a.m. EST, we boarded the five-abreast, single-aisle airliner, the third and last group to do so. As we crossed the jet bridge, I was excited to see the MD-83 up close. We took our seats in 7E and 7F, and I immediately started checking everything out.

It was Mad Dog heaven, from the classic panel with its flat surfaces and the dated no smoking signs to the tunnel vision you felt as you looked back at the cabin and the Prussian blue cushioned seat I was about to enjoy this flight on.

Photo: Author

Pushback, Taxi, and Takeoff

At 11 a.m. EST, we began our pushback, and I heard the roar of the Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 engines. We began to taxi out, and after a couple of minutes, we turned toward the runway. We didn’t need to stop in the hold short line; no aircraft were in front of us and the airport had few movements at that moment.

The Captain applied full power and released the brakes to begin our takeoff roll. It was music to my ears as we lifted off, seeing CCS and the Avila mountain range on the right get smaller and farther away.

After three minutes, we reached 12,000 feet. It was just another five minutes until we reached our cruising altitude. The meal service began shortly after. Since it was a 35-minute flight, it consisted of soft drinks and water.

We cruised for about 20 minutes at a quarter short of Mach 1 until the top of the drop signaled that we were ready to descend to the final approach into PMV and our long-awaited wedding anniversary break from our daily routine back in the city.

The landing felt light as the Captain welcomed us to the Porlamar airport. We deboarded via stairs and were able to walk past a few aircraft parked on the apron.

Porlamar International Airport

Santiago Mariño Caribbean International Airport (PMV), aka Porlamar International Airport, is located 12 km west-southwest of Porlamar, the largest city on Isla Margarita, an island in the state of Nueva Esparta in Venezuela.

The airport opened on October 11, 1974. It is one of the best internationally known airports in Venezuela, as it is one of the main tourist destinations in the country and the Caribbean region. Fun fact: we got a chance to see two incredible aircraft at PMV out the window coming in and out of the airport.

There’s an Antonov nearby and a famous Boeing 727. The airport director was unavailable, so we couldn’t get permission to go and snap a few photos of the aircraft. We did catch them on video during takeoff on the return flight.

Photo: Author

The Boeing 727 became known among AV enthusiasts with TWA Flight 841, a scheduled passenger flight from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JKF) to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Boeing 727 airliner began a sharp, uncommanded roll to the right over Saginaw, Michigan, on April 4, 1979, at or around 9:48 p.m. EST, and then went into a spiral dive.

The pilots were able to regain control of the plane and landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).

Image: Google Maps

But why was the Boeing 727 in PMV? The airport AVSEC personnel told me that the aircraft had been there for two decades due to a legal issue but did not go into further details.

After some digging done in-house, it turned out that the jet was impounded after being involved in a drug run.

Photo: Author

On the apron, we saw a parked Nordwind Airlines (N4) Boeing 777-200ER, which flies the 14+ hour Moscow (SVO) to PMV route.

Operating on a nonstop basis, the Russian leisure airline inaugurated service on October 10, 2022, running initially around every ten days.

From December 20, the service increased to twice weekly.

Photo: Author

CCS-PMV Flight Rundown

Flight: Smooth with Caribbean-clear blue skies! No bumps at all (check out the video at the 6-minute mark).

Seating and comfort: The seats were polished and looked well cared for, and for an economy configuration and with a 32-inch pitch, it was a seat I could sit in for a long-haul flight.

Legroom: Just right! I had plenty of legroom even though I’m six feet tall. There was plenty of space under the seat, and I did not feel cramped even though I had the middle seat.

Cleanliness: Excellent! Despite the age of the aircraft, everything was spotless inside, including the bathroom. It smelled nice, and the cleaning crew did a fantastic job. The aircraft was very well maintained inside and out.

Service: Fair. The AW FAs were friendly and fast-paced with the service, as expected on such a short flight.

Food and beverage service: Also standard, with only one serving of Coke or water provided. The cup size was small.

Final Thoughts

Overall, both flights were quick and smooth, including the boardings, the takeoffs, and the cabin service. There are around 116 MD-80s that remain in service as of August 2022.

I highly recommend flying on the Mad Dog while you still have the chance. Just seeing the overhead no smoking signs light up will take you a few decades back.

Here are a few shots of the return flight aboard the CW MD-80.

Photo: Author

The interior of the CW MD-80 cabin looked as clean as the 5R’s. This time, the seat fabric seemed a bit 90s-style, perhaps due to the dated pattern. The trays and overhead bins looked newer.

Photo: Author

The flight back to CCS went in a similar fashion as the one to PMV, except for the feeling of leaving the island.

Sitting in row 14, we could hear the engines roar more than on our first flight three days earlier. With clear skies, the journey went without incident, thanks to this old dog of a machine.

We approached CCS from the northeast, flew parallel to the runway, and then began a left turn to intercept the localizer for an ILS approach to runway 09.

I thought it was great to feel the MD-80 bank twice and how handy the eyebrow windows are for the Pilots to look out at this moment—as it banked again to align itself with the runway and land after a short but rewarding flight.

You can check out the video of both flights below.

YouTube player

Have you flown on an MD-80? What was your experience like? Be sure to leave your comments on our social media channels!

Featured image: Author

Digital Editor
Digital Editor at Airways, AVSEC interpreter, and visual artist. I am a grammar and sci-fi literature geek who loves editing text and film.

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