Silver Airways’ New Aircraft Hopping Around Florida and The Caribbean
Silver Airways is an airline based out of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and has been flying around the Sunshine State and parts of the Caribbean for roughly nine years now. They have been flying classic twin-prop SAAB-340 aircraft for those nine years and still continue to fly them today. However, they recently made an order with Aérospatiale to operate ATR 42 and 72 propjets in the U.S. for the first time in years. The last airline to do so was with an American Eagle subsidiary in the beginning arts of the 2010s. The airline made a purchase order for 20 ATR 42 aircraft with an option for up to 30 additional in 2017. The airline did choose to change their order to sixteen of the shorter 46 seater –42's and four of the larger 76-seater –72 aircraft.
Being a South Florida native who has flown on Silvers SAAB's before, I was excited to try out their brand-new product on the ATR-42-600. I had booked a ticket to fly on the 42's from Key West to Tallahassee with a nearly two-hour layover in Tampa, which is a base for Silver. If you have never flown into EYW in Key West, I would highly suggest you do. The airport is beautiful, and for AvGeek's like me offers fun perks like deplaning on the ramp as the airport has no airbridges. A cool thing about the Key West airport is that when you step off the plane, you immediately feel the ocean breeze and can even smell the ocean since the airport is practically on the ocean. I arrived into EYW approximately 2 hours before my ATR trip from Atlanta on board, the largest aircraft that can land in Key West, which is a Boeing 737-700. It was a super cool experience, and a story on that flight will be live exclusively at www.WorldTravelReport.net soon.
The way EYW is set up when you arrive, you go right to baggage claim instead of the main terminal first like most airports. After doing so, I took some time to take in that beautiful ocean breeze, and then I proceeded upstairs to the Silver Airways check-in counter. Silver's check-in is located at the far-right end of the ticketing area. The agent working the counter was very kind and seemed really excited to have the ATR's flying into Key West. I found out that I would be flying on the same ATR-42-600 for both flights. The registration number of my exact aircraft was N401SV. This was the second ATR-42 delivered to Silver. After getting my boarding passes, I proceeded to TSA, which from the looks of it, is contracted in Key West with another security company, much like in the Kansas City airport. They still offer TSA PreCheck like most U.S. airports, and I was through the checkpoint in minutes. I then made my way to the small but unique departures area. It felt much like a Caribbean or Central American airport departures area. I would recommend eating at the restaurant landside before security because once you are airside, you only have a take-out stand for snacks and drinks, and it gets quite crowded.
While I waited for my aircraft to arrive in from Tampa, I wandered around the crowded departures area and found a neat outdoor area with a waterfall connected to the terminal. This is a place to get some fresh air if you are feeling overwhelmed by the gate area. My flight was scheduled to depart Key West at 1:25 PM with a boarding time of 12:55 PM. The boarding process began right on schedule, and I began to walk out back across the apron to the aircraft. A very unique thing about the ATR's is you can only board through the back of the aircraft due to the cargo hold being towards the front behind the flight deck. Once on board, I was amazed by how spacious and airy the cabin was. The legroom was phenomenal, and the seats reclined which you do not see too often in small propjets and regional aircraft. I was in seat 3A for the 1-hour flight up to Tampa. The aircraft ended up having 32 out of 46 seats taken. We pushed back right on schedule at 1:25 and made a short taxi to runway 9 and were airborne at 1:32. My seat offered great views on the props and the overhead wing. Another fantastic thing about the ATR's is how quiet they are, especially compared to their main competitors like the Bombardier Q series.
On Silver, you are just offered a small bottle of water for the service, which is adequate for the short duration of their flights. We cruised at flight level 170 or 17,000 feet. This lower altitude offered great views of the bright blue ocean below and the Southwestern Florida coastline. This first flight up to Tampa was pretty uneventful. We touched down at approximately 2:30 PM and made a rather short taxi into the A gates. Silver used the lower level where you board and deplane once again onto the apron, which I loved! My connecting flight to Tallahassee wasn't scheduled to depart until 4:30 PM, so I had roughly 2 hours or so to explore the very spacious and well-designed concourse A at TPA. Besides Silver Airways, jetBlue, Spirit, and United serve the concourse as well. As mentioned before, the flight to Tallahassee was on the same exact aircraft, N401SV, but this time I was seated in 8D towards the rear of the ATR. Boarding commenced right on time, and we were completely boarded in a matter of minutes. This second flight, to my surprise, had a few more passengers than the first with 36 of the 46 seats taken. I presume this was due to government officials traveling back to the Florida Capital in Tallahassee. We took off at 4:26 PM four minutes before our scheduled departure time, which was awesome! This flight was another short one at just 45 minutes long.
Once again, just a bottle of water was served during the cabin service. From seat 8D, I had a great view below, and the aircraft felt even quieter from this seat. We landed at TLH 5:20 PM, 25 minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival time, and made another short taxi to the terminal. Overall, I was very impressed by the ATR-42 with how spacious and quiet it was. I was also impressed with how Silver Airways runs its airline. The staff was very respectful and courteous which is great to see in an airline Thank you, Silver, for a great journey, and I am looking forward to flying your larger ATR-72's soon!
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