I Laugh, So That I Do Not Shriek In Bowel-Voiding Terror
Air Koryo, the state-owned North Korean carrier on which I will be flying tomorrow, has the honor of being one of only two airlines with a one-star rating from Skytrax, the airline quality company. The other one-star carrier is Afriqiyah Airways, the national airline of Libya.
The passenger comments collected by Skytrax include: "Revolutionary marching music played before take off and before landing." "Was amused when both pilots came around to say hello to the dignataries with me, presumably leaving the aircraft on autopilot." "I think one of the engines may have been inoperative, but otherwise the flight was fine."
Air Koryo boasts an "all-Soviet fleet" consisting of Antonovs, Ilyushins and Tupolevs which range from 19 to 41 years old, possibly the world's oldest. Air Koryo flies a regularly scheduled international route between the North Korean capital of Pyongyang (FNJ) and the Chinese capital of Beijing (PEK), with irregular service to Bangkok, Macau and maybe some places in Russia. No one really knows from one day to the next. Air Koryo's range of operations is limited by, among other constraints, the fact that many international airports have banned the planes that it uses.
Air Koryo has no official web site. However, a Spanish gentleman by the name of Alejandro Cao de Benos de Les y Perez -- who is a legend among North Korea buffs due to his sincere belief that he is a highly decorated operative of the North Korean government -- has created an unofficial Air Koryo site.
For the record, I depart from Beijing tomorrow (5 May 2007) at 11:55 a.m. on Air Koryo flight JS152 to Pyongyang. I look forward to fully understanding the phrase "a wing and a prayer."