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It’s not often that I get assignments quite so glamorous as last week’s: fly to Gran Canaria for a day to interview rising stars of the Spanish Indie Rock scene and get photos of the city. I didn’t need to be asked twice.

I’m very used to seeing the small inter-island aircraft of BinterCanarias that pass by on the blue horizon out to sea several times a day between Tenerife North Airport and La Gomera, but I’ve never actually been on one, before last Thursday that is.

The first surprise for me was the ease of their online booking service; Internet-based services are still something of a rarity here in the Canary Islands and ones that actually work are even scarcer. I booked the tickets and even checked in online, printing off my own boarding cards.

The vast majority of visitors to Tenerife fly into its South Airport so most of them never get to see the elegantly sophisticated North Airport. Light and airy with panoramic views over the Anaga Mountains on one side and the runway on the other, the airport is mainly geared towards domestic, Spanish clientele. It’s a lovely place to linger over coffee even if you’re not flying!
We parked the car and headed into the terminal for the 10am flight to Gran Canaria. As I’d already checked in, we simply went straight to gate where, after a cursory glance at passports and resident’s certificates, we were onto the runway bus with the day’s assorted commuters, most of whom were glued to their mobile phones. Just before the bus arrived at the aircraft there was a chorus of jingles as mobiles were switched off.

Most seats on the small, turbo-prop aircraft were filled as we settled down and within minutes were airborne and heading out over La Laguna. The stewardess came round with complimentary daily Spanish newspapers, then a chocolate BinterCanarias biscuit which was possibly the best choccie biscuit I’ve ever eaten and finally a glass of water just in time before we began our descent. It felt like we’d only been flying for ten minutes and here we were, banking over Las Palmas on our descent into Gran Canaria!

Mission completed, we returned to the Gran Canaria airport (not a patch on Tenerife’s airports!) for the 9pm return flight which was filled with (mainly male) commuters. Once again, barely had we swallowed our lip-smackingly good BinterCanarias biscuits and glass of water when we were landing at Tenerife North Airport and transferring to the runway bus amidst a chorus of mobile phone jingles as personal communications were restored.

The only blip on the otherwise seamless and efficient airport experience came when we had to pay the €10.60 all-day ticket for car parking. The machine only took €5 and €10 notes and we only had a €20 so we had to pay at the cashier. Unfortunately, most of our fellow passengers were using credit cards to charge their parking to the company expenses account which meant we spent almost as long in the queue as it had taken us to fly back from Gran Canaria!

For anyone considering island-hopping in the Canaries this year, I can unreservedly recommend BinterCanarias; they’re efficient and friendly and twice as fast as, and only marginally more expensive than, the ferries.
I can also unreservedly recommend Las Palmas de Gran Canaria…but that’s another story.

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Yesterday a helicopter lost control and plummeted into the tarmac of Puerto’s harbour side car park scattering pieces of shattered blades during the air display which marks the end of the July Fiestas.

Thankfully, it was only a model copter and the only injury was to the pride of the pilot who had been doing a grand job until the disastrous moment which raised what I thought was an insensitive cheer from the crowd.

That would be at least a €100 fine for anyone else!

That would be at least a €100 fine for anyone else!

Half an hour later the Guardia Civil sent bits of the lighthouse the same way as they attempted to set the runner of their very real helicopter on its top and very nearly sent the satellite dish flying. I’m sure I can’t have been the only one to consider the irony of such a blunder by the island’s traffic cops. To be fair, it was a freak gust of wind that sent the runner awry and they’d already wowed the crowds with their prowess beneath the blades in a series of awesome manoevres. Still, I trust a ticket was forthcoming.

Hordes of residents and visitors braved the excessive temperatures yesterday to enjoy the free air show, filling the stands and swarming the hillock beside the car park like ants on a termite mound. They were rewarded with demonstrations by the archipelago’s air rescue and firefighting services and a display of freefall parachutists, one of whom resembled a flying squirrel in his special suit as he glided to within what felt like death distance before pulling the chord on his chute.

The Canarian rescue services are often unsung heroes

The Canarian rescue services are often unsung heroes

Jack and I positioned ourselves on a small mound right behind the VIP grandstand with its top brass audience. With the mercury pushing 35 degrees Celsius we watched a staged land to air rescue and gallons of water dropped from the basket of a twin bladed copter which just the day before we’d watched doing it for real in the hills above El Tanque where a forest fire had clearly broken out in the tinderbox conditions.

Then half a dozen uniformed officers left the stand and disappeared, at which point the demonstrations ground to a seemingly inexplicable halt for the best part of half an hour while audiences broiled. That’s when the tragic accident befell the model helicopter whose pilot had stepped into the breach to keep the crowds amused.
Eventually the VIP guests returned and the show was able to resume. I do hope their view wasn’t too spoiled by the ambulance removing the heat exhaustion victim right in front of them.

The day before we;d seen this in action for real

The day before we'd seen this in action for real

But imminent sunstroke or not, we weren’t leaving until we’d seen the finale. A Hornet jet fighter appeared over the sea on the horizon, shimmering in the heat haze, and screamed towards the crowd in a supersonic series of manoevres that sent pulses and testosterone levels rising; an effect earlier achieved by the appearance of two rather sassy looking female army officers in extremely tight skirts and rather fetching berets.
“It’s not in the slightest bit like the British army’s female uniform,” remarked Jack, his camera lens following their hips like a guided missile to its target.

All in all, a rather splendid day and a fitting end to a month long fest of fun. Well done, Puerto!

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