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Trip Report: Star Air Inaugural from Hubli to Hindon

VT-GSE, Embraer ERJ145

In October, Star Air announced their plans to operate to Hindon Airport from Hubbali (a.k.a. Hubli) airport from October 6. This route was announced under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)-Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) scheme started by the Central Government of India in 2017.

About Hindon Airport

The airstrip at Hindon (IATA: HDX, ICAO: VIDX) is an Indian Air Force (IAF) base under the Western Air Command (WAC). Hindon is the largest airbase in India and the 8th largest in the world. In October 2019, Hindon airport opened for commercial flight operations. This gives flyers from Delhi-NCR region another option to fly to 2 or 3-tier destinations under UDAN scheme. Hindon airport is 50 kms away from Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.

When Star Air announced this new route (HBX-HDX), we at #teamvtaviation were really excited about this! Why? Because this would be the longest flight in India under the RCS-UDAN scheme (block time of 2:40 hrs). That too, on an Embraer ERJ145-LR aircraft. This got us going with the bookings and our itinerary for the day looked like this –

OG101 BLR 1145 – 1245 HBX Oct 6
OG114 HBX 1305 – 1545 HDX Oct 6
OG115 HDX 1610 – 1850 HBX Oct 6
OG102 HBX 1920 – 2025 BLR Oct 6

Let’s flip over to the day of the flight and show you all the action with some pictures.

Let’s fly Star Air …

Upon reaching the airport at 10 AM, we checked in for the flights. One of our team members (Sriram Hariharan) had done an extensive review of Star Air on BLR-HBX-BLR earlier this year. Based on his experience, we requested for seat 17A/18A. For the first sector (BLR-HBX), we got seat 17A. For the next sector (HBX-HDX), we got seat 6A. Why 17A? Keep reading on …

After security checks, we headed to Gate 2 on the lower level for boarding. Boarding commenced at 1130 hrs and we hopped on to the shuttle bus. 15 minutes in the shuttle bus, there were no signs of us getting going :(. Passengers started to get bit nervous. There was a delay in getting some clearance to proceed with the boarding. A few minutes later, we made the move towards the aircraft.

Our ride for the day

We reached Stand 74A and got the first look of the aircraft. It was VT-GSE, a 16.8 year old Embraer ERJ-145LR aircraft. We clicked the same aircraft operating the inaugural to Mumbai in September. The flight had staff from Star Air and folks from Embraer joining in for the inaugural.

VT-GSE, Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR
VT-GSE, Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR

The flight purser welcomed us with a cheerful smile. A quick dash through the cabin and we settled down on seat 17A. This happens to be the second last seat on this aircraft.

Aircraft Comfort

The seats are very comfortable on the ERJ145 with a generous 31″ pitch across the cabin. For a tall person like me, the generous seat pitch is a huge advantage. The huge windows on the ERJ145 also guarantee great views. Here are some pictures of the cabin.

Cabin View Star Air ERJ145LR
Cabin View Star Air ERJ145LR
Leg Room Embraer ERJ145LR
Leg Room Embraer ERJ145LR
Window View Star Air ERJ145LR
Window View Star Air ERJ145LR

Let’s get going …

Pushback commenced at 1215 hrs. At 1221 hrs, we were airborne from Runway 09 at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA). A quick left turn and we were on course to Hubli airport. The weather en-route was mildly turbulent. Hence, seatbelt signs were kept on for majority of the flight.

Enjoy these wing views!

Now, let me tell you why we wanted seat 17A for the flight! It’s simply because of these lovely views that you get of the engine and the wing in a single frame! Something that is unique to these rear fitted engine aircrafts. And, the pure engine acoustics if you are a true #AvGeek. You must experience this to feel my words here.

VT-GSE, Star Air Embraer ERJ145
VT-GSE, Star Air Embraer ERJ145

New addition to Star Air Food Menu

15 minutes into the flight, we climbed to cruising altitude of FL240. The cabin crew started the food and beverage service. We had opted for the Prime Seats option during check-in. Now came the surprise – we were given a choice of newspaper and hot towel (after boarding), and a special meal.

New Food Menu StarAir ERJ145LR
New Food Menu Star Air ERJ145LR if you upgrade to Prime Seats

At 1250 hrs, we gradually commenced descent into Hubli airport. The descent was turbulent through some rough clouds and finally touched down on Runway 26. A rapid deceleration on the runway and within minutes, we were on Stand 7.

There was an Air India A319 preparing for departure from Stand 6 to Mumbai and minutes later, an IndiGo ATR 72-600 aircraft gave us company on Stand 8.

VT-GSE, Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR
VT-GSE, Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR

Since the loads were normal, the disembarkation procedure took only a few minutes. The ground crew sprung into action to prepare the aircraft for the next leg (the actual inaugural route). We had a different seat allotted for this sector (6A), so we quickly swapped seats before the passengers commenced boarding.

Let’s fly India’s longest UDAN route

It was a full flight (on both HBX-HDX & HDX-HBX sectors). At 1330 hrs, we commenced the startup and taxi procedure. It was a short and quick taxi to Runway 26, and the cabin crew had to scurry through their pre-departure routine. Minutes later, we could hear the (faint sound from 6A) Rolls Royce engines powering up. With the full load of passengers and fuel on board for the trip, the departure was a gradual climb. We had to take a few deviations to set course due to bad weather.

Special Goodies from Embraer

Food and beverage service commenced 30 minutes into the flight. For most part of the climb, seat belt signs were kept on. About an hour into flight, we reached the cruising altitude of FL370. Rest of the flight was uneventful. The folks from Embraer distributed goodies and an inaugural flight certificate to all the passengers.

Special Goodies from Embraer - Star Air Hindon Inaugural
Special Goodies from Embraer – Star Air Hindon Inaugural
Special Goodies from Embraer - Star Air Hindon Inaugural
Special Goodies from Embraer – Star Air Hindon Inaugural
Goodies from Embraer for Star Air Hindon Inaugural
Goodies from Embraer for Star Air Hindon Inaugural

The flight path took us along the western coastline over Mumbai, east of the cities of Vadodara, Udaipur, Jaipur and into Hindon airport. At 1535 hrs, we commenced descent into the smoggy city of New Delhi. Announcements were made on board about photography restrictions at Hindon airport, which was a nice gesture from the flight purser.

At Cruising Altitude - Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR
At Cruising Altitude – Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR
Descending into Hindon Airport
Descending into Hindon Airport

At 10 mins past 4 PM in the evening, we touched down at Hindon airbase Runway 27. We received a water canon salute to welcome the first flight from Star Air at Hindon. Thank you Hindon airport and IAF officials for the nice gesture!

Return Leg

30 minutes of turnaround time looked very long, especially with the mobile and camera staying inside the bag. Soon, it was time to say goodbye and start the return journey.

A full flight (which was a welcome sight!), we got on to our assigned seat 3C. This is the bulkhead seat on the ERJ145. This is one of the most spacious bulkhead seats I have ever travelled on a domestic airline. 1709 hrs – Safety demos done, crew strapped in, it was time to depart from Runway 09.

A quick roll on the runway and off we soared into the clear blue skies again from the brownish smoggy skies in Delhi. The setting sun gave us breathtaking views on the horizon.

Evening Sunset - Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR
Evening Sunset – Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR

SURPRISE from the Crew

We reached the cruising altitude of FL360 and the routine kicked off in the cabin! After the inflight meal service, the Embraer folks handed over the goodies to all passengers. That’s not all! There was something else in store for us AS A SURPRISE! The cabin crew brought a cake and invited passengers to cut the cake to celebrate the special inaugural occasion. This was a nice gesture from the cabin crew. Thank you Star Air!!

Cake Cutting Ceremony onboard HDX-HBX - Star Air
Cake Cutting Ceremony onboard HDX-HBX – Star Air
Cake Cutting Ceremony onboard HDX-HBX - Star Air
Cake Cutting Ceremony onboard HDX-HBX – Star Air
Inside VT-GSE, Star Air Embraer ERJ145
Inside VT-GSE, Star Air Embraer ERJ145

By now, it was dark outside. The cabin crew dimmed the cabin lights so that passengers could relax for the rest of the flight. We passed through areas of rough weather with heavy lightning. It was lovely to watch Mother Nature’s light show through those huge ERJ145 windows!

Landing at Hubli

30 minutes to landing, we commenced the descent and made our way through some rough turbulent weather. The beautiful city of Hubli showed up with amazing lights as we navigated our way to the airport.

Night view of Hubli Town
Night view of Hubli Town

At 5 minutes to 8 PM, we touched down (once again) on Runway 26 at Hubbali airport. Another surprise was in store for us at HBX. A water canon salute for connecting the Northern Karnataka region with the national capital for the first time, and successfully completing the longest UDAN flight!

We parked on the (same) stand 7. 3 out of 4 sectors completed, and it was now time for the last sector!

Final leg

VT-GSE, Embraer ERJ145
VT-GSE, Embraer ERJ145

Time to switch seats (yet again); this time to 11A. Ground crew prepared the aircraft for another sector. Cabin crew welcomed the passengers. Cabin crew armed all doors, security briefings were completed, it was time to fly the last sector.

2025hrs (when we should have landed back in BLR!) we were airborne from HBX. Everything was routine and smooth en-route to BLR.

What’s in the seat pocket?

Time to check out the things in the seat pocket. An in-flight magazine that also contains the StarCafe menu, safety card, and an air sickness bag. One of the pages that caught our eye in the magazine is the expanding footprints of Star Air. Here’s a picture of the existing and proposed routes of Star Air. Stay tuned to Star Air’s social media channels for instant updates on new routes and other information.

Safety Card, InFlight Magazine and Air Sickness Bag - Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR
Safety Card, InFlight Magazine and Air Sickness Bag – Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR
Star Air - Existing and Proposed Routes (October 2019)
Star Air – Existing and Proposed Routes (October 2019)

We cruised at FL250 for just 9 minutes before commencing descent towards Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru. At 2118, we touched down on Runway 09 and docked at stand 74A at 2120 hrs. We were back from where it all started 10 hours earlier in the day.

Onboard Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR descending into BLR
Onboard Star Air Embraer ERJ145LR descending into BLR

We got off the aircraft and it was time to bid goodbye to the Embraer ERJ145 aircraft and the fantastic crew. It was such a memorable and wonderful experience flying the inaugural flight. A quick hop on the shuttle bus and we were at the terminal to pick up our checked in luggage and end the day in style.

Wrapping Up

Overall, it was a great experience to fly with Star Air on the Embraer ERJ145LR aircraft. As #AvGeeks, the different aircraft type only gives us the adrenaline rush to catch the experience. The experience and the hospitality was certainly different and it’s great to see Star Air living up to their branding of “Connecting Real India”. Thank you Star Air and Embraer for the goodies. Wishing Star Air the best of luck for their future expansion plans.

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