AJ From Australia, joined Nov 1999, 2386 posts, RR: 24
Reply 1, posted (12 years 11 months 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 2259 times:
I used to fly on Lao Aviation Antonov 24RVs in the late 1980s between Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Bangkok. Although my therapist has said not to I can scrounge a bit of information up for you if you are interested.
Pacificjourney From New Zealand, joined Jul 2001, 2732 posts, RR: 8
Reply 4, posted (12 years 10 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 2152 times:
Last week from KBO to SVO on a TU 154. Previously on this flight they have used a TU 134 but now it is time for the new boys, including ( sad to say ) a B-737 !
The 134 was complete with glazed nose and the interior was very fifties with curtains on the windows and all. No complaints from me, especially the wine. Couldn't really spot any ride features that were different from more 'modern' planes. One thing that surprised me the first time was that when we landed and everyone stood to deplane all the seat-backs folded down and the plane suddenly felt very big indeed. Quite a good idea really ....
TUP 154 From Netherlands, joined Nov 2000, 49 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (12 years 10 months 4 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 2150 times:
i have fly 2 years ago,whit balkan tup-154,frome ams.to sofia.it was a fine flight no problems at al.frome there i flew whit a anthonov 24 to istanbul.the plane was 26 years old.whit the anthonov 24,i fly back to sofia was 33 years old.when whe where flying,a lot of peopel where afraid,because there was coming steam in the plane.but it whas normal the said.it was only the airco.but i also didnt like the second flight whit the anthonov 24.a lot of noice,and a very old plane.frome sofia,i got a view days extra,so i have taken a flight to varna,whit a hemus air yak-40.smal plane,but it fly very nice.the most flights i like.i hope to fly one time in a il-18,and a il-62.you never now.greetings aad.
RedAirForce From Ukraine, joined Aug 1999, 197 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2087 times:
OK, here is mine from last year. Has western AC (A330, A320) but also has Russian AC (TU-154, IL-62); from July / August 2000.
July 15 Day 1 - Left JFK at 6:30pm on Swissair flight 101 to Zurich on a nice new ( built 1998) Airbus A330. Good flight; each seat had its own personal video system which was nice.
Day 2 - Landed in Zurich 8am Swiss time ( 3am NYC time) and switched to an A320 for the 9am flight to St.Petersburg. Landed in St.Pete / Pulkovo around 3pm after a nice flight from Zurich. On the flight w saw Sweden, Estonia, and an El Al 747 that went right over us. Pulkovo was busy, with flights from Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and London there at the same time we were. It made getting through the passport an customs check a real hassle. I was near the front of the line and it still took me about an hour. The car was waiting to pick me up after I grabbed my bags and we were off to the St.Petersburg Hotel. My initial impression of St.Pete after being gone for 2 years was that it really looked better. They had paved the streets, painted some buildings, there were less stray dogs, more tourists, etc. Nice to see the city come alive again. Got to the hotel and just crashed. Still had the great view of the Aurora, but still no screens or air conditioning.
Day 3 - I went to sleep the night before at 6:30pm an got up this morning at 7am. Went down for breakfast and then decided to walk around the city. The St.Pete hotel is not great, but does have a very good location. I walked by the Aurora and up the Neva to checkout the stalls near the Artillery Museum. Nothing good. Then I went over to the Cathedral of Spilt Blood, as there was another market there. I bought 12 good size Icons from a low life dealer and then had to haul them back to the hotel in the rain. Tough walk, but I was happy to get them. I also bought a fake Order of Lenin for $15. Next to the hotel there is a store called “Stockmans” where one can get semi-western food. Its like a real little supermarket or a NYC bodega. I dropped the icons off at the hotel and went over there to pick up some basic supplies. That night Olga took me out to dinner with her friends ( Olga Abramova is the lady who runs all these specialized tours; she does an excellent job), It was sort of a NYC type of place with loud music and MTV playing on the screens. It was neat to see them in their “natural environment”. It still seems to be the basic dream of middle class Russians to move to America. Anyway, dinner was nice.
Day 4 - Another of my “on my own” days. Poor night of sleep meant I really did not have much energy. Weather was typical; cloudy and looking just about to rain, but holding off. The car picked me up at 10am and took me out to Smolny. Smolny is the building where Lenin and the reds really ran the revolution. Later it was the HQ of Kirov and the Leningrad party. Today it is still the home of the St.Pete government, so security was tight. I had to go through alot of paperwork and metal detectors, etc. I was told I could film in the historical rooms, but not the halls. I was going to be the only one on the tour until some Swedish guy came and it became a two man tour. We went in to the main hall room where Stalin used to speak when he came to Leningrad. I stood at the podium where he spoke. Neat. We also saw an exhibit on Smolny in WWII, as well as Lenins office. They ha one of Lenins hats in his office so I took a feel of it while the guide was in the next room. We were able to see, but not photograph, the spot where Kirov was shot. In the afternoon I met a friend and fellow collector who was going out to visit a dealer who lived near Vyborb, on the Finnish border. The drive was well over an hour and when I got there I realized why I had never heard of this guy. All he had was junk. Repro VP generals hats, dug helmets, stuff he was ‘aging’ out back, etc. Real low life.
Day 5 - Went out on foot on my own about 10am. Walked to the end of Vasilevsky Island ( sort of center of the city). I decided to see some non-military stuff so I bought a ticket and went into the zoological museum. It was neat inside, lots of stuffed animals and such. The real thing I wanted to see was the exhibit on woolly mammoths. They have a f that were dug out of peat bogs in Siberia and are almost 100% complete and alive looking. They were cool to see. Next to this museum was the museum of Ethnography ( I forget its full name). The line outside was 100+ strong. I decided to wait in line as I ha nothing else to do. After an hour we got in and I piad extra to video ( they love to get you to pay extra whenever they can). The museum was mostly different exhibits on non-Russian cultures. There were displays on the Japanese, Incas, Africans, etc. This was Ok, but the real attraction was in the center of the museum. There they keep Peter the Greats “freak” collection. Lots of 2 headed fetuses in jars and stuff like that. Really weird. I decided to next go into the Central Naval Museum as it was next door ( even though it was included on the tour). I decided to not film, but thats Ok as it looked the way it did back in 1998. Still a great museum, but a restroom that can challenge the strongest man. After a long walk back to the hotel I took a 30 minute break and then headed over to Finland Train station, where Lenin arrived in Petrograd in 1917. When I came back to the hotel from that walk, Vaughn Obern, the second member of the tour had arrived.
Day 6 - Vaughn and I took the car and did a brief ‘city tour’ so he could get a good fell of the basic sights of the city. In the afternoon we went to the Kirov Museum, in the north of the city. the museum is in the 1930’s offices of Sergei Kirov, Leningrad party chief and the last big rival to Stalin. The museum was quite large and very well done. After about 2 hours there we decided to walk back to the hotel, past the artillery museum and the north part of the city. That night the Websters came in.
Day 7 - In the morning, after breakfast, Vaughn and I drove out to Piskarovskoye Cemetery, where most of the victims of the WWII siege are buried. We walked around there for about an hour or so, then headed back t the hotel. we ha about an hour break at the hotel and then Vaughn, Olga and I headed off to the Artillery Museum. We had a neat guide; a former Colonel in the General Staff. He was a nice guy and really went into detail. The musuem is still undergoing repairs ( they had the same damage they had in 1998) an alot of the WWII rooms were closed. But, they were nice and opened them up for us. We were even able to get into the communications room, where they keep stuff from signals troops. After we spent about 2 hours in the Artillery museum we went over to the other side f the museum to see the museum of Engineer troops. It really is a separate museum. This museum was well done too, but they had some incorrect descriptions of uniforms ( identifying regular officers as commissars, etc.).I got into a bit of an argument with the guide ( a new guide) about this. I decided to let it drop, but he would not.He even called down the head of the uniform department , who sided with me. After that he did not bring it up again. Turns out the head of the uniform department is a collector himself, so we talked a bit. Gary, the last member of the tour came in that afternoon, an we had our first group dinner that night.
Day 8 - In the morning we began the ‘regular’ tour with the city tour. It took us to the highlights, but since 3 of the tour members had already been to the city the tour went to some not often visit sights like St.Petersburg University an some older churches. In the afternoon we went to the WWII submarine museum, Naradovolets. Same tour as last time but still fun. The tour then went to the Central Naval Museum, but I went to meet with friends in St.Pete. I met up with the group that night for dinner in the hotel, and then we went to the hokey, but typically tourist, “Volga River Dancers” show ( in 1998 they were Cossack dancers).
Day 9 - We left the hotel at 9am to head out to the island of Kronstadt in the Gulf of Finland. On the way we picked up Rear Admiral Chernavin, who we had met back in 1998. The drive took about an hour and we got to the once closed island. We took the island tour, saw lots of memorials and some WWII fortifications. e went to the port and saw a few subs and some border patrol ships. The large ships had been moved to the North Sea Fleet back in 1996. After the island tour we went to the well done Baltic Sea Fleet Museum. After the museum we went to lunch in the officers mess with Admiral Chernavin. We drove back to the city after lunch, dropped off the admiral, and headed to the Hermitage. I’m not much for the Hermitage,but we were going to see a special display called “Scythian Gold” about ancient gold relics dug up in the Volag and Crimea areas. Since we were going to the Crimea it seemed like a good exhibit to see. After that Olga ran us through the rest of the museum at top speed, with us covering the entire thing in about 30 minutes. That night the car drove everyone but me and Olga over to the cruiser Aurora.We walked, but still beat the car. We got a private tour of the cruiser and then had a great Vodka party with the Admiral and another vet of the war. We exchanged gifts and I had 6 shots of that good Russian booze. It was a great night, an we should do it again in 2002. After that we went outside and hung out a bit near the Neva. It was 10pm, but still bright out.I was loaded so Gary, who is a Police Officer, gave me a sobriety test which I surprisingly passed.
Day 10 - In the morning we took a nice canal ride of St.Petersburg.It was on a very small boat, but that was nice as we were able to go through very small canals. W then were dropped off at the Peter and Paul fortress, which we toured for about 2 hours. For lunch we went to a great restaurant in the heart of the city. In the afternoon we drove out to the WWII memorial and museum for about an hour. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the square behind the Hermitage and took some photos,but it really began to pour. We were driven to a military bookstore and allowed to shop there for about an hour before finally getting back to the hotel.
Day 11 - Got up at 3:30am. We left the hotel at 4:50am to go to the international Pulkovo Airport. We flew a Tu-154 to Moscow at 7am. I had 3 seats to myself, so I was happy. Flight was fine, with an all male crew ( sort of odd). We landed in Moscow about 10 am and got our luggage, went to another terminal, went through Russian customs, and boarded a great old Il-62 to Simferopol, Crimea. The flight left at about 2pm and got us to the Crimea at 4pm. Simferopl is not used to dealing with a big AC like ours an the Ukrainian customs line was long. We had an Intourist rep waiting for us who got us to the front of the line, much to the displeasure of the Ukrainians and Russians. We even needed a police officer to calm them down. By the time we filled out our forms and got our luggage most of them passed us anyway. We got into a little bus to drive to Yalta. The drive was pleasant as we had AC and the scenery was fantastic. It was like being in Greece or the Caucuses. the drive took about 2 hours and we got to the big Hotel Yalta. The lobby was packed with Euro-trash tourists, but the rooms were nice. Each had a great balcony and view of the black sea and mountains. The room had AC and a TV where I could get the BBC ( this was the day I found out about the Concorde). Very nice rooms for Russia / Ukraine. We had a quick tour of how to get down to the beach ( walk down to an elevator then through this really long tunnel to the beach of the hotel; the beaches are all stone and packed with Euro-trash, but it was neat to be at the Black Sea). Quiet dinner and then a good night sleep.
Day 12 - In the morning we had a brief tour of the city of Yalta ( like a little winding Greek town). It was hot and dirty and other than the huge amount of great looking women I was not impressed. We also went to Livadia palace where the “big three” met in 1945.That was neat to see. I got to fondle the chair that Stalin sat in. The palace was nice, but that table was really the only thing I wanted to see in Yalta. we then went to the main beach front or Yaltas boardwalk. Again, mostly loaded with lower class Euro-trash. Way above the city was an old Soviet war memorial which we drove to to take photos. After this tour we got back to the hotel around 2pm. We decided to all try the Black Sea. We met at 2:30 and headed down. We found a pretty good bit of beach for us and each took a dip. I like it. A bit salty, but it was a real highlight to say I swam in the Black Sea. After the beach I read on my balcony for about 3 hours before dinner. At night we took a boat trip ( with about 40 Euros) along the southern coast of the Crimea to the Swallows nest castle. When we got there, 45 minutes later, we had to walk way up to get to the top, but up there was a great view. The boat trip was nice.
Day 13 - In the morning we went to Alupka palace. It was for the old Muslim Khans and then taken over by the Romanovs. It was nice, with a great view. After this tour we went for a wine tasting to the Alupka winery. The Crimean wines are very strong, and I can’t say i liked any of them. In the afternoon it was another beach trip followed up by relaxing on my deck .
Day 14 - We had an early breakfast and then loaded in a nice black mini-bus to drive us on the main highway from Yalta to Sevastopol. The drive was Ok, pretty scenery and all. About halfway through the van blew its back left tire. The four guys in the bus got out and watched the one bus driver try to fix the flat. We happen to break down right over Foros, where Gorbachev was held during the coup. After about 40 minutes we were back on our way to Sevastopol. We got into the area about 1pm and decided to try to hunt down the British memorial to the Charge of the Light Brigade before heading into town. After asking around a bit we finally tracked it down in the middle of a vineyard in Balaclava. We took some photos near it and then headed into the city. We got to the Hotel Ukrainia. It was Ok. We got redone rooms, but they were still pretty basic. Also, no AC and it was hot as hell. The hotel tried, I’ll give them that. They went out and bought us all fans which helped a little, but the nights were rough. Gary, Vaughn, and I decided to take a walk for an hour or two ( turned out to be four hours) to see the city. We walked all the way down to the waterfront where we saw a group of big Russian ships waiting for navy day. The town was empty of non-Russian tourists as far as we could tell. Our foot tour was nice and we were able to find a few stores that sold supplies. Nice dinner and then a very hot nights sleep.
Day 15 - In the morning we headed to the Crimean War - Battle of Sevastopol Panorama museum. It was not bad, though the Crimean war is not all that exciting. Out side the museum was a large group of people selling stuff, including dug relics of the Crimean war from Balaklava. I bought for about $10 a good size bag of buttons, bullets, a fuze, etc. In the afternoon we ha the regular city tour, led by a lt. of the Ukrainian Navy. We also went to the Black Sea Fleet museum, which was well done. From there we drove out to one of the WWII Sevastopol battlefields where there was the museum of the WWII battle. Great view overlooking Balaklava valley. The musuem was good, if a bit small. The memorial was there too. What was neat were some original trench lines as well as some cement pill boxes. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a WWII armored train.
Day 16 - Naval Day. This was the real highlight of the trip, and even the video does not really do it justice. We had to get up and be out of the hotel early as it would take some time to get down to our seats. The entire city turned out for the day, along with Kravchuk ( head of the Ukraine) and Lushkov ( Mayor of Moscow). we had to get through 4 lines of Naval Infantry guys, but we had a guy with us who was able to wave a bit of paper and get us through each line.Our tickets were meaningless! We were given great seats, in a balcony right over the water with no one in front of us. If fact we sat in front of a table of officers, including a Vice Admiral. The table across the stairs to our side was all senior Naval Aviation officers. The festivities started at 10 and lasted till about noon. Among the highlights were: anti- submarine warfare display with torpedoes dropped from helicopters and one from a ship; a naval infantry landing from two ships; and a naval rescue using a real person. The video shows the day better than I can describe. For the performance the Russians get an ‘A’. For crowd control thy get a ‘D’. Trying to get out after the show was crazy. They had only one exit working and we all had to get out together. I rubbed up against alot of Russians that hour! We saw Kravchuk drive by as we were leaving. In the afternoon we took a little boat around Sevastopol bay and got up close looks at the ships of the parade, as well as the subs in a separate part of the base. Some of them looked like they had not been moved in a very long time. We had seen Luchkov walking to his boat when we were going to ours, and when we were on the water we were chased by his security people! At night we had some champagne at the hotel. Great day.
Day 17 - In the morning we headed out from Sevastopol, driving to Bachakasery, the former home of the Crimean Khan, on the way back to Simferopol AP. The flight back to Moscow was fine, again in a great old Il-62. We landed in Moscow, went quickly through customs, and then headed off to the Cosmos Hotel. We got to the Cosmos about 4pm.The hotel was packed with a Chinese delegation. Vaughn, Gary, and I went for a walk around the hotel so I could show them the Exhibition of Economic Achievements, the Korloyev statue, and other highlights around the hotel. We stopped at a small store and picked up supplies. had dinner at the hotel and got a good night sleep. The Cosmos is nice, with quiet rooms with AC.
Day 18- In the morning our local tour guide took us on the basic city tour and tour of the Kremlin, including a good visit to the Kremlin Armory. In the afternoon we went to the WWII museum which is very well done. In the late afternoon we took the subway from the hotel to the old Arbat St. where they sell touristy things, but also some uniforms. I must have counted 100 postwar generals items for sale. Some nice stuff, but tough to take it all! I bought some WWII belts and talked with guys who had some stuff. After about an hour here the group took a cab back to the hotel, but I took the subway as I wanted to make sure I knew how to use it well for my days on my own.
Day 19 - The tour was officially over and Gary left at 4am to head back to the USA. In the morning the remaining four of us went out to the Central Armed Forces Museum. They have changed their displays somewhat but it still looked good. The VP room was empty! All the stuff was at the History Museum in Red Square. Before we left we were allowed to visit the reserve collection of the museum thanks to the museum director, an army colonel. It was in a little side room run by an old lady. The Soviet collection was small, and not too impressive ( I wonder where all there good uniforms went?) but they had some neat German tunics. They had a tunic of Hitler which I got to hold. It was white, with the armband. It was damaged by fire at its top. It came from the Riechschenncelory ( yes, I spelled it wrong) and was grabbed by Soviet soldier. The neat thing was when the old lady opened it up and showed us the tag inside that said “Adolf Hitler 1938”.They also had one of Gorings big jackets, a few SS jackets and German generals jackets, and one for Martin Bormann. So, from the CAFM we went to Red Square and the History Museum which was doing a special display on the 1945 VP. It was really a great display, with 2 Marshals VP uniforms ( Konev, Rokky) as well as a generals M1943 parade uniform and a generals VP. Lots of standards and even a video of the parade. I spent an hour there and then Vaughn and I headed downstairs to some other rooms displaying icons and Czarist stuff. Very nice museum. That night Dave Webster and I met some local dealers who came to the hotel. Nothing super but some good belts and other items.
Day 20 - Vaughn and I took our local tour director and car and headed for the Air Force Museum outside Moscow, at Monino. The drive took about an hour. The inside of the museum was neat, with alot of WWII Aircraft. Our museum guide was a former Red Air Force pilot. There were some modern uniforms, but not many. After about an hour inside we headed to the great outside display to see about 100 or so aircraft on display including the Soviet Tu-144 “Concordski”. We walked around there for about an hour an asked our guide about each AC. we headed out from the museum and decided to stop at a Moscow McDonalds for lunch. Tasted the same as over here, but you have to pay extra for anything on each hamburger like a pickle, ketchup, etc. From there we rushed to the KGB museum to meet out contact who got us in,a Lt.Colonel. We were late and the tour had started ( there were two other Americans on this tour; they lived in Moscow). We caught right up an went through the museum. Very nice museum, filled with spy items, some uniforms an standards, and lots of photos. Very well done, but not seen often. There is also a Border Troops museum,but I did not get to see that. After the 2 hour tour we were allowed to ask questions of the Colonel who runs the museum. I asked about royal blue piping on postwar generals uniforms, researching NKVD generals, etc. We finally left the museum and decided to head over to the old Arbat again. We shopped around there a bit and then had dinner at a Mexican ( pretty good ) Restaurant at the Arbat for Vaugns last night. We drove back to the hotel after this ( good thing as I had had 2 margaritas) and the next morning the Websters and Vaughn headed out to the USA.
Day 21 - I slept late and had a late breakfast before heading out to the old Arbat via subway ( got a little lost in the morning, but eventually worked it out) to buy my last minute souvenirs. I shopped there for a bit before walking around the center of Moscow a bit. Pretty relaxing day.
Day 22 - In the morning I was picked up by one of my boys and taken to Izmilovo where we did alot of business. We then went out to a late lunch and I was back at my hotel by 5pm to pack.
Day 23 - I got up at 8am, finished packing, an was picked up at 1pm for the ride to Shermetyevo for the ride to Zurich. Customs was no problem as they did not even have the machines running. We waiting on a long Swissair line, and then another passport line before finally heading to the plane. I bought a $3 Coke and had a snack. We sat on the runway a bit as they only had one operating! We finally took off, an hour late. The flight was OK, even saw an A340 of Cathy Pacific fly fight under us on the Belorussian / Polish border. We had to circle around Zurich for about 20 minutes before finally landing at 6:20pm.This was tight as my flight to NYC was at 6:25pm! I ran down to my other plane and got on another A330. The flight was delayed a bit by the heavy rain, but the takeoff was smooth. Not a bad flight and I was home by 11pm.
RedAirForce From Ukraine, joined Aug 1999, 197 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2064 times:
Posted wrong report; here is the correct one with flight details, leaving out the non flight stuff.
Flight 1 July 15, 2000
The car picked me up in northern New Jersey at 1:40pm, about 10 minutes late due to the poor weather. I have to say I was upset more that it was raining than at the late pickup. The flight did not leave JFK until 6:35pm so I had plenty of time.
The drive was uneventful and we finally got to Terminal 4 at JFK. The last time I flew out of JFK I flew out of the great Terminal 1. I thought T4 would be like T1, but no. T4 was undergoing major work. The walk from bag check in ( a joint desk dealing with Sabena ,Swissair, and a few others) to the waiting area was very long and winding. Well, after checking in and getting rid of my suitcase I and my 2 pieces of carry on luggage headed upstairs to see where we could get a good view of the area. When I first got up there I could not find anyplace to see AC. I finally went though security along with a large group going to Accra on Ghana Airways ( I’ll try to post a shot of their DC-10). The security lady decided to poke into my carry on bag, but only for a minute. I finally made my way through more of the alleys and up a non working escalator to the gates. Finally, glass! The first AC I saw, down here at the very and was a nice looking 747-400 of South African (ZS-SAX). As I walked along towards my gate I also saw a 767 of Malev, a few big Deltas, the great looking Ghana Airways DC-10, another DC-10 that belonged to Bangladesh, an Aer Lingus A330, an finally two A330’s of Swissair, the airline I’d be flying tonight. I was VERY happy to see the A330’s as the flight I was taking, SR 101, was usually a MD-11. I have nothing against the MD-11, but I wanted to fly the A330 and for some reason on this day that is what was scheduled. There were two of them next to each other. Ours was QC ( usually goes to Boston), and looked great. Next to the other SR A330 was a Sabena A330 that was leaving about an hour before us. Now that I knew where our gate was, and that we would be in an A330, I could wander around.
I walked down to the very end of the walkway where you could see AC that were not getting ready for a flight in the next few hours. The biggest boy there was a Pakistan PIA 747-200 with its doors open. Behind him was an EL-AL 747-200 and a MD-11 of Varig. After looking at them for a bit I decided to head back to my gate. On the way back I watched as a 747-400 of Air India rolled in, just having landed. I also watched as the Ghana Airways flight headed to takeoff. I also watched an Olympic A340 roll by. I have to say JFK is the best for spotting.
As my flight got closer to boarding I sat near my gate and watched AC take off over us (the best being a Royal Air Maroc 747). I watched the South African 744 roll by to go to its gate from where it was being worked on and watched a TAP A310 come in to park after landing. But, finally it was time to board. I stood up as I was at the end of the AC (33A) and grabbed my 2 pieces of carry on luggage. Just as I was doing that the guy at the gate mentioned that under no circumstances would more than one carry on be allowed as it was a packed flight. I walked up and just told him that my small bag came out of my larger one and that if he wished I could jam it back in for the walk to the AC. He said it was OK and I headed out and down the ramp. I was immediately impressed when I walked into the Swissair A330. Very clean and new looking. The blue interior was very nice too, but I was really taken by the individual video screens. I also really liked the bottle of water in each seat back. I put my big bag in the overhead and my camera bag under the seat and sat down. OK, the seats are a bit narrower than I thought they would be, but no big deal.
The rain was again picking up outside as more and more people entered the AC. I was praying for the seat next to me to be left open, but it was not to be. A skinny older lady sat down. We would not speak the entire flight but she seemed nice and did not bother me at all. The Captain finally announced we would be heading out but that we were 10th in line. We taxied out and got out place in line. I was OK as I could see the AC taking off. A British Airways 747-400, Virgin 747-400, another British Airways, but this time a 767 ( where was it going?), and some others. When it was finally our turn to go I could see the long line behind us including an Air France 747-400, a Turkish A340, and a Finnair MD-11.
Take off was long and smooth and we were soon above the clouds and rain. It took me about 15 minutes to figure out the color button system of the SR A330 video system, but after I had I kept the moving map on for most of the flight.
About 30 minutes into the flight we were given a snack and drink. I had a Coke, while the snack were these surprisingly good little bread sticks. I looked through the guide but could not find any good movies. I kept the moving map on and got out my paperback. I have to say that I was happy to see that each seat had its own bottle of water in the seat back. Good idea. Do other airlines do that?
About an hour into the flight, when we were near the US / Canadian border on the Atlantic coast, it was meal time. The choice was chicken or mushroom and cheese pasta. I decided on the pasta It came with roll, small salad, and small desert. About halfway through the dinner another attendant came though with a basket of hot rolls 9 nice touch). I took another and finished my dinner. By this point I was pretty impressed with Swissair. The flight cruised at 39000 feet.
After dinner I visited the roomy and clean restroom. There was a large group of children on the plane and they were running around at this point and really were starting to disturb the people in the front row of the middle section. When the mother or aunt or whatever came to get them there was a bit of a tiff between her and a few of the passengers sitting in the first row of the middle section. Can’t say I blame them, as these kids were totally unsupervised.
After getting back to my seat I got my book out again and looked out at the dark Canadian coast. I closed the shade as the lights dimmed and prepared for the long middle hours of the flight. I watched an episode of Friends and an episode of Frasier. I tried watching an episode of this British comedy but just could not get into it. After the TV episodes were over I read by the light of the moving map. I did not turn on the overhead lamp as it was just too bright and I did not want to disturb the other passengers. In ECN, if we are a bit considerate of each other, we can make long haul flights a bit better. Anyway, I read for a bit and kept myself awake. About an hour before landing in Zurich we were served a breakfast of croissant, butter, yogurt, and OJ. While we were eating I looked out my window and saw a DC-10-30 shadowing, and passing, us. I got out my mini binoculars and saw it was CO, out of Newark. Faster yes, but I bet less comfortable. We landed in Zurich about 10 minutes late, and saw that Continental DC-10-30 right ahead of us!
Zurich AP was nice, but very busy as it was about 8am. I went to gate 62 to get my connection flight to St.Petersburg, Russia. I watched mostly SR flights come in and go out, but did see a neat Sri Lankan A330 come in. I waited there but then heard that gate 62 would be a flight to Warsaw and the St.Pete flight would be down at gate 40. I headed down there and waited on a long line to go through the metal detector. When we finally got to our gate we were sandwiched! The flight next to us on the left was going to Paris and the flight to our right, to Madrid, were all leaving around the same time. The area was packed! We finally got out boarding passes and went out to our bus. It was overcast but not raining. We drove way out to our A320 and boarded. The inside was nice, with dark blue leather chairs. I was in seat 31 A, next to an older Swiss couple. We had to wait for two late passengers and as a result of this the pilot came on and told us we missed our window. We would have to sit and wait for 30 to 40 minutes. When we finally rolled to take off position we had to wait behind two other SR AC. The first, an MD-11, took off with no problem. The second, another A320 like ours, went about 1/4 down the runway and then just stopped. It sat for bout 3 minutes and then taxied off the runway. Never saw that before. Don’t know what happened.
Take off was smooth and we were up and over the cloud cover in a few minutes. We headed north, over Germany. About 30 minutes into the flight we had gotten well north of Switzerland. I spent 80% of this flight looking out the window and was rewarded. Somewhere over Germany I was looking out and whoosh, right over us about 5000ft I would guess, heading west, went an EL AL 747-400. It was making contrails and was gone a fast as it appeared. It was really neat to see! We were given a small chicken lunch, with bread, a salad, and a Toblerone for dessert. I had my 5th Coke of the day just trying to stay awake.
The flight took us over the German coast, the island of Rugen, an then up over the Baltic. We could see Sweden out on our left. We turned east and headed over Estonia. We landed in St.Petersburg about 30 minutes late. I was very surprised to see how busy the airport was. Last time I was there Pulkovo was almost dead ( back in 1998). Now I saw an Air France flight, as well as BA and KLM, disembark with us. An Austrian Air flight was taxiing out to take off. This was nice, but it meant getting through customs and passport control would take awhile. I was able to get a good position, but it still took about an hour to go through. There was going to be a near riot as I left. The line was out the back door of Pulkovo and to more flights had landed. Glad I got out when I did.
After a week in St.Petersburg it was time to head to the south, towards the Black Sea and the Crimea.
We got up at 4am to head to the domestic Pulkovo airport ( we had arrived from Zurich at the international Pulkovo AP). It was nicer than I had thought it would be and they had a separate gate at the far end that only deals with flights to Moscow. Due to scheduling problems we had to fly to Moscow before we flew to the Crimea. Anyway, we went into the empty terminal at about 5:50am and sat own to relax a bit. There was another flight going to Moscow, a Pulkovo Airlines flight, that was leaving 10 minutes before us. We were taking Aeroflot at 7:10am. After about an hour of waiting we got in line to check our baggage. The line went pretty fast and then we got on the second line, for passport check and security inspection. This line went quickly too and we were soon in the basement area of the AP waiting for the bus to come. All the AC I saw here at Pulkovo were Russian made, mostly Tu-134s and Tu-154s. We waited for about 20 minutes and our Russian bus pulled up and we loaded aboard. It took two loads, but I was in the first. We drove over to the rear of the tarmac to our Aeroflot Tu-154 and walked up the stairs. I was in seat 15F, the right side window. The AC had a dull grey - green interior with somewhat cramped seats. However, the two seats next to me were empty so I had three to myself. Takeoff was on time, and rather smooth, if a bit noisy. About 15 minutes into the flight were were given a breakfast of OJ and rolls with butter ( the flight crew was all male; sort of odd). Not bad, if a bit small. The flight to Moscow lasted only about an hour, and it seemed as soon as we were up, we were coming back down. Landing at Shermetyevo 1 was smooth and we were soon taxiing to our parking spot. We disembarked on to the tarmac and a bus came to drive us over to the arrival building. The bus was very crowded, but the drive was only about 500 feet. It would have been quicker to walk. Anyway, inside we immediately went to baggage claim as they could not transfer our bags directly. This is because we were switching from a domestic to an international flight. In the baggage area our belt was finishing up luggage from a flight that had arrived from Samara. After about 20 minutes our luggage started to roll out and we grabbed it and loaded in on a cart. This was necessary as we had to now walk 1/4 of a mile outside to the next terminal where they handle a few international flights, mostly to the former Soviet republics. Our flight, to Simferopol, was to leave at 2pm. Since there was some time I went into the basement to use the restroom. First, it stank! Second you had to pay to use it, and third, you had to buy toilet paper. Well, after a quick in an out I was happy to get back upstairs. We filled out our declaration forms and headed through the Russian customs check. Our luggage went through the metal detectors and we were all OK until the last member of our group got stopped. A souvenir coin collection he bought lit up the metal detector and the customs guys went though his bag. After this delay we got on line for passport control, went though that relatively quickly, and then waited in a small room with travelers for another flight, going to Dushanbe. After about half an hour in this room we went though another metal detector and the bus waiting room. I had seat 18F, but was not all that excited as it would be another Tu-154 flight. Well, we loaded up on to the bus and it took us out to the AC. I was really shocked when we got off not at a Tu-154, but at a great vintage Il-62! Wow, I was really excited to fly in this great old AC to the Crimea. The AC was clean and looked great inside, with a blue interior. The seats were comfortable and the airline attendants all looked smart and well dressed. After loading we taxied for takeoff. The takeoff was smooth, but the engines put out a very high pitch that was quite painful for about a minute. Once we were up and flying it was quieter. The flight was to be 1 hour and 50 minutes. About 20 minutes into the flight were were given an Aeroflot lunch of bread, meats, and cheese. I made a little sandwich and had a 7-UP ( warm, but OK). I really just wanted to sit and enjoy the flight on the Il-62. The other group members could not see why I was so excited about this AC, so I tried, I think in vain, to explain it to them. The flight went well and we headed south to the Ukraine. We looped over the Black Sea a bit and came in to approach Simferopol International Airport. As were were approaching we saw a Mig-23 take off from a local air base. Landing was smooth and we disembarked at SIF, to yet another waiting bus. The bus took us to the customs check and we waited as every one had their Passports and Visas checked. As we were an American group heading to Yalta and Sevastopol we had an Intourist guide waiting for us who got us though the check ahead of the now angry Ukrainians and Russians.In fact we had to get a security guard to keep back a few angry Ukrainian travelers. I can't say I blame them. We then picked up our luggage, went through Ukrainian customs and headed to our private bus to Yalta and our week in the Crimea.
After a week in the hot and picturesque Crimea ( Naval Day in Sevastopol was the real highlight) we drove back to Simferopol for the 2pm flight to Moscow. Again we lucked out and our flight was an Il-62 to Moscow ( just a note; instead of window shades that totally block all light, the Il-62 has shades that filter the light, like sunglasses). Customs in Ukraine was not too bad as we had our local Intourist agent who walked us through all the customs procedures. The flight back to Moscow was as smooth as the flight down, with a repetition of the lunch service. The AC was not the one we took down as this one had a red interior. I had seat 23F, window, and enjoyed the flight as we flew over Rostov and Kharkov, on the way to Moscow. Landing was smooth, an we again went through Russian customs on our way to our bus.
The trip was over after a week in Moscow and it was time to head back to NYC-JFK. The flight was to leave Shermetyevo - 2 at 4pm, so I left the Cosmos Hotel in Moscow at 1pm. The drive to the airport was fine and I got there about 1:40pm. I went to the ‘big board’ to see where I’d be boarding. The flight was not up yet and I had to wait about 0 minutes before it was listed as gate 5. As soon as it was listed a large group of us who were waiting headed over to the left side of the terminal to go through custom. The customs officer just waved us all through and we got on line for desk 3. The line was dead. It took over an hour to get up to the desk to check in. Some ECN customers from the back of the line decided just to go to the Business Class line The SR people checked them in and we, the people who stayed in the proper line, got a little angry at this as we were still waiting. After this line there was yet another. This was the Passport check. Each booth had about 40 people in line ( there were two other flights, Sabena and Air France, leaving around the same time from the same area) and was manned by tired and haggard looking young woman. One of these girls had to leave the booth to get a new stamp and started yelling at the passengers who asked here where she was going. We finally got through this line after a 45 minute wait and headed to gate 5. The wait there was only about 20 minutes. I bought a Coke ( $3!!!) and had a small snack I brought with me. We then got in line and loaded aboard our A320. I was seat 31A, next to a woman and her son going to Paris. While sitting I could watch other AC’s land. I saw a BA 757, a 737-500 of CSA ( which I see is now just Czech Airlines; what does the S in CSA now stand for?), a Lufthansa 737, and a few Russian flights.
Take off was delayed by about an hour, a concern as I had a connection to catch in Zurich. Shermetyevo-1 and -2 share ONE runway, for both landings and take offs. Its crazy. We sat as one plane from S-1 would take off, then an AC would land, then a S-2 would take off, then an AC would land, then the entire things starts all over again. I watched an SAS flight take off as well as an Austrian Air flight and a few big Aeroflot flights. Behind us were a Sabena flight and an Air France flight. Finally it was our turn to take off. It went smoothly and we headed west, over Belorussia. We were served a nice chicken lunch about 30 minutes into the 3 hour flight. After finishing up I decided to just look at the Belorussian countryside as we crossed into Poland. As I was looking out the left of the AC , below and to the left a A340 of Cathay Pacific flew right by! It was close enough for me to read the titles on the AC. It was making contrails as it went by and was visible for maybe 2 seconds. It was really neat to see ( I guess coming out of Amsterdam and going to Hong Kong). I also saw, at a distance, what I think was an SAS AC heading north. We headed south across Prague and into Germany. I was happy as we came in towards Zurich as my connection was to leave in 25 minutes to NYC. Just then the pilot came on and announced that we would be circling for awhile as Zurich AP was busy! Now the pressure was on. The only entertainment as we went around and around was to see who was with us. I saw a MD-11 of Swissair, an a 757 of BA also going round and round. Finally we were allowed to descend into the clouds and rain of Zurich. We touched down at 6:17pm, and the connection was to leave at 6:25pm. We made our way to the gate, 86 from memory, and I quickly rushed to get off the A320. I literally ran down to gate 73 to see our A330 still there. I went up to check in. I was told I lost my seat, which was to be 40A and was now in 25K. I asked if it was a window, and after being told it was, got on the weird Swiss passport control line. After that I ran on the AC and took my seat. It was the last in the section, so there was no seat behind me.I sat next to an Albanian woman who did not seem to like to fly as she spent the entire 8 hours just holding on to her armrests. The rain was really coming down and we were delayed until 6:45pm. We finally took off and headed above the clouds and off across France. We were given a snack of those same ( good though) bread sticks and I had a Coke. About an hour into the flight dinner was served. I had the Rissoto, with bread, salad, and a Toblerone that I took home. I used the nice Swissair bathroom, and then came back to relax a bit before watching Erin Brokovich on the personal entertainment system. The two rubes in front of me seem not to have ever flown before. They put their seats back while we were still climbing and kept going around the AC, looking in bathrooms, up at the Business Class seats, etc. They were real pains. The flight crossed south of Paris and I saw a Lufthansa AC heading southeast. We crossed over the channel and then over the southern half of Ireland. The flight was in “light” the entire time, so it was not tough to stay awake. We came down the coast of Canada and the USA, crossing Maine, and then Mass. before crossing over Long Island and then banking back in towards JFK. We were given a breakfast about 2 hours before landing but I skipped it so I can’t tell you what it was. Landing was a bit bumpy as it seemed the right side came down well before the left. We pulled into our gate and quickly disembarked. I could only see one other AC, a MD-11 of Varig, in the darkness. We had a long walk to get the baggage area after going through passport control and then had to wait as the belt kept stopping. After finally getting my to bags I followed as everyone got run quickly through USA customs. I get pulled over so to speak and get the 3rd degree as to where I was born, what I was doing in Russia, etc. I had my suitcase opened and the customs guy looked for a false bottom. After not finding it he let me go after about a 5 minute delay. I took a long walk to the arrivals area where the car was waiting. Now I know why I only do a trek like this every 2 years! Sorry if this was too long, but I hope it was generally OK.
This helicopter is operated by Malta Air Charter on behalf of Air Malta; it´s leased from Balkan, I
Anyway, the trip from Malta-Luqa to neighbouring Gozo island is Malta´s only domestic route and
offers incredible walk up one way fares of about 13 € for students!
Other than me, there was only one pax, so we could pick the best seats from the 26 ones on offer to
take some photos of Malta from the air. There was even a stewardess, but obviously no service on the
10-15 minutes flight - she was only there to remind us to keep the seatbelt fastened all the time (she
was quite firm on that, using her Russian [or Bulgarian] charme to get that point over ). It was quite
windy and bumpy but nothing special. The flight was smooth, the landing perfect, what else can I ask
for? (Perhaps windows without holes? I agree they give you a nice fresh atmosphere in the cabin, but
it does get a little cold with time...)
Helje From Sweden, joined Sep 2001, 55 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (12 years 10 months 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 1983 times:
Turtle: I'm going to India (ARN-SVO-BOM) on the 27th of October. I'm flying a IL-62 on my way there. On the return (december 18) I'm flying a Il-96. If you want, I'll post a trip-report when I get back.