An AirBaltic Pilot’s Five Favorite Airports

Formerly employed in the world of business aviation, David Berscheminski has been flying Airbus A220-300 aircraft for the Latvian flag carrier these past two years. Here, he shares his top destinations across the AirBaltic network.

An aerial view of the French city of Nice and its seaside airport. (Photo: Manjik/123rf)

LFMN – Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, France

Nice is definitely my most favorite airport to fly to. When the visibility is good, it is a very beautiful and scenic approach, with its azure blue waters, clear air, and the nearby river Var flowing into the Mediterranean Sea.

Pilots especially like receiving clearance to fly a visual approach, although in Nice this means following prescribed tracks, roughly flying toward the mouth of the river Var while carefully avoiding the Cap d’Antibes peninsula because of noise abatement restrictions. The entire approach is flown above water with one last final turn to align the aircraft with the runway, approximately on the last minute before touchdown. Disembarking the aircraft, one is met by the wonderful Mediterranean scent of the French Riviera and sweet-smelling pine trees.

 

Inside the passenger check-in area at Tallinn Airport. (Photo: Uskarp/123rf)

EETN – Tallinn Airport, Estonia

When arriving for the early morning flight from Tallinn to Riga at 5:45 a.m., I enjoy my usual cappuccino at a small café next to the gate, which is always served with a local candy. This airport aims to be the world’s coziest airport, and it really is cozy. The departure area has a grand piano inviting beginners and seasoned pianists alike to tickle its ivories, a ping-pong table for sports enthusiasts, and a giant chess board. The airport staff are very hospitable—every night they prepare a table with snacks and sandwiches for late arrivals when all the cafés and restaurants are closed. There is no cashier or prices shown, just a donation box or basket so you can put in whatever you think the food is worth.

 

On the tarmac at Kazakhstan’s Almaty International Airport. (Photo: David Berscheminski)

UAAA – Almaty International Airport, Kazakhstan

Being the gateway to my birthplace, Almaty International Airport conjures up a sense of nostalgia each time I approach and touch down on one of its four-and-a-half-kilometer runways. The city’s gorgeous setting framed by majestic mountains to the south and east adds to the special appeal of this airport situated more than 600 meters above sea level.

After leaving Almaty for good in 1987 when I was just four years old, I found myself flying back to the city just a few months after joining AirBaltic in 2018. Whenever I land in Almaty, I always try to visit the area where my family once lived. On my last trip there, I even took my parents and sister along and we spent two full days touring the city after more than 30 years away.

 

Terminals 1 and 2 at Frankfurt Airport, as seen after takeoff. (Photo: David Berscheminski)

EDDF – Frankfurt Airport, Germany

As my hometown is only 30 minutes away by train, landing in Frankfurt always puts a smile on my face. I also have particularly fond memories here thanks to my years as a flight student at Lufthansa Aviation Training, whose center is located at the airport. After a full day of studying aerodynamics, meteorology, aviation law, and other subjects, I would sometimes grab dinner at the terminal with my classmates and spend hours on the observers’ terrace, watching airplanes take off and land, as we dreamed of landing here one day ourselves.

My AirBaltic colleagues and I appreciate the professional and no-nonsense approach of the air traffic controllers—one of whom conducted part of my radio phraseology and communications training—and their efficient management of arriving and departing aircraft.

 

A bird’s-eye view of Lisbon Airport and the Tagus River. (Photo: Aldorado10/123rf)

LPPT – Lisbon Airport, Portugal

During my years of flying in business aviation, we once had a flight to the resort town of Cascais, near Lisbon. Afterward, we enjoyed a most delicious meal in a Portuguese restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It was the best prepared codfish that I have ever had, and it came with steamed vegetables and a lovely local white wine. The food in Portugal is something I always look forward to whenever I have the chance to return for a slightly longer stay.

As Lisbon is approximately four hours’ flight time from Riga, which is the Latvian capital and AirBaltic’s main hub, the route is one of the longer ones in our network. I love flying into Lisbon for its sometimes-challenging approaches especially in windy conditions. As pilots, we enjoy a great view of the residential area that we overfly on the approach to Lisbon’s northwesterly Runway 35.

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