During my three weeks in Chicago I spent a day at the world’s second busiest airport (ORD), I visited the Boeing world headquarters downtown as well as United Airlines’ HQ plus their Operations Centre in Elk Grove Village (at the far side of ORD). Here are some pics I took:
US Airways check-in at Terminal 2
JetBlue Airways check-in at Terminal 2
Northwest Airlines check-in at Terminal 2
Air Canada check-in at Terminal 2
Continental Airlines check-in at Terminal 2
CO gate consolidation notice
Airport Transit System – Terminal 2 station
UA’s Terminal 1 (which it shares with LH departures)
Corridor connecting Terminals 1 & 2
Sister City flags
Arrivals area at International Terminal 5
Iberia Airlines check-in at Terminal 3
Flags outside International Terminal 5
Terminal 3 baggage claim
Aer Lingus check-in at International Terminal 5
ORD’s currently-in-use ATC tower
New air traffic control tower (still under construction)
Shamrock 127 arriving from Shannon. This was about 1.50pm
EI127 taxiing over the bridge
Lufthansa 436 taxiing after arrival from Düsseldorf
Shamrock 123 on approach from Dublin
Swiss 8 arriving from Zürich
My grandparents live in one of four prominent Irish-American neighbourhoods in Chicago – Edison Park on the Northwest Side. As it happens their street is located directly under the approach for ORD’s new Runway 27R, so I spent a lot of evenings just sitting out watching aircraft line up for arrival. This runway is used mostly by regional jets but I spotted a few heavies too…
While I was in town President Obama paid a visit home:
Live coverage of Air Force One’s arrival at ORD
The home of United Airlines – 77 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago
I also visited United’s Operations Centre in Elk Grove Village (at the far side of ORD). The car parks were named after airport codes like MSY, DEN, MSP, BOS etc. In the reception were 3 huge UA model planes: a 747, 777 and ERJ, but nothing much else of interest.
I also visited the Boeing HQ just up the river:
The Boeing Store
American Airlines ad at the Ogilvie Transportation Centre
The three weeks weren’t long going and the day eventually came to head back home. I checked in online for my CO flight (or so I thought) the night before.
My boarding passes for flight CO1182 to EWR and CO24 to SNN
When we reached the CO desk at T2, we were informed that due to thunderstorms sweeping through the NYC area, our flight to EWR would be an hour late departing and we would not have enough time to making our connecting flight to Shannon. There were two options available to us:
1> We could fly ORD-EWR-CDG-SNN with CO/AF (arriving in SNN at 7.50pm – no thanks)
2> ORD-CDG-SNN with AF (arriving in SNN at 12.15pm)
We took option 2 (I think most people would), we would be only arriving 5 hours later than planned so nothing major. The CO agent printed tickets to give in at the AF desk to obtain our boarding passes. However, AF are located in T5 so the 5 of us began the long trek over with our 300 or so bags to check-in! It was no picnic but we got there eventually. The whole experience turned out good for me because I got to check out Air France, CityJet, the Airbus A340, the Avro RJ85 and CDG for the first time.
We got to the Air France desk and the agent was extremely helpful when we explained the ordeal with CO. He checked our baggage straight through to SNN and gave us our boarding passes for both the ORD-CDG and CDG-SNN flights.
My boarding pass to CDG
My boarding pass to SNN
We were assigned to Gate M7 but our aircraft was nowhere to be seen. Instead, occupying this gate was a Lufthansa A340. This had dropped off passengers and was now being towed to Terminal 1 for departure.
Meanwhile our bird was being towed to M7 from its remote stand (it had been on the ground for 4 hours already and was taken away so it wouldn’t be occupying precious gate space). Anyway I decided to take a walk around the gate area:
Iberia Airlines at Terminal 5
…then after being towed to Terminal 3
Showing coverage of the light aircraft crash in the Hudson
A Swiss International Air Lines A330 making a rare appearance at ORD
Virgin Atlantic Airways’ Airbus A340-300 named “African Queen”. This aircraft made an emergency landing at SNN in January on its way from LHR to ORD
F-GLZC in the former Air France livery ready for boarding. Ironically this exact aircraft was here last August when I was waiting for my Aer Lingus flight to Shannon
As I got back to the gate I was called on the intercom to approach the podium. When I got there two agents informed me that I was being moved up. “Up as in business class?” says I, one of them laughed and said something in French and the woman next to her told me she said “you must be joking”. Oh well, worth a try anyway. This lady asked me if I was Irish (my accent and surname gave me away no doubt) and said that she was third-generation Irish herself and that she was an O’Leary.
She told me the captain operating AF51 this evening is always poking fun at her Irish-ness but loves Irish people. So I asked if I could visit the flightdeck to meet the captain because I was very interested in aviation. She told me this was against Air France security policy but she said she’d see what she could do and to enjoy my flight. Very nice woman I must say.
Boarding began at 4.45pm CDT. Unfortunately the Aer Lingus flight from Dublin was late into ORD this evening so I couldn’t get any pics. I was told to wait until last to board so they could organise my seat change. The boarding process was very quick and at about 4.55pm I was last to step on board the A340-312, my first time aboard this type of aircraft. I’d estimate the load factor at 80% in Voyageur class, not sure about Affaires. Each seat was fitted with PTVs (no Audio/Video on Demand however):
I found AF to be a bit stingy with legroom (which came as a surprise). I’m average height for my age and I found it quite uncomfortable at times during the flight.
AmricanShamrok From Ireland, joined May 2008, 2718 posts, RR: 0 Reply 1, posted (4 years 2 months 3 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Door 2L was closed at 5.01pm CDT and the captain addressed us; first in French, then in English. He projected a flying time of 7 hours and 15 minutes. Pushback was at 5.04pm followed by engine-startup at 5.06pm. The safety video was played and we began the long taxi to Runway 32L at 5.12pm.
During the taxi we passed all the terminals and joined the short queue for takeoff on Taxiway T. We entered the runway at T10 at 5.25pm. 14R/32L is one of O’Hare’s longest runways (10/28 is of equal length at 13,000ft) so we left about a quarter of it behind us as we began takeoff roll.
The A340 takeoff didn’t seem powerful at all and the engines seemed to make more of a whiny sound than those of the A330. 5 minutes after takeoff the slats and flaps were completely retracted. And we had made our initial turn right heading northeast of Chicago.
7 minutes after takeoff an announcement came that the crew were preparing for the bar service, followed by dinner in about an hour. 30 minutes after departure our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet was reached. When the drinks came around, we were also given menus for dinner. How posh.
My 7up and pretzels
On the menu this evening:
Barley salad with cilantro and tuna
Choice of main course
Beef Bourguignon accompanied by mashed potatoes -or-
Fillet of Pollock served with tomato basil sauce and steamed rice
Banana chocolate cake
Coffee and tea
Upon request you could also have:
Schweppes Indian Tonic
Schweppes Saveur Agrum
Brandy & Liqueur
I chose the beef with 7up to drink. It was served at 6.30pm CDT. When we got the dinner, a crew member came around with a basket of pain (bread rolls) and asked us to choose one from it.
In my seat pocket was an amenity kit which contained a refresher towel, eye mask, ear phones for the PTVs and ear plugs. Everything was AF-branded (with the old AF logo, except for the Air France Magazine).
Safety instruction card
Air France Magazine
We flew right over Detroit and just north of Toronto, Canada. The flight map on the PTV was called Geovision. This was also showing on the screens at the bulkhead.
Watching The Simpsons after nightfall
A few hours into the transatlantic portion of our journey, I saw another aircraft, what turned out to be another A340 with red engines slowly approaching us from the south. It was heading in the same general direction as ourselves. Now darkness had long fallen and I watched out my window for about 20 minutes as this aircraft got closer and closer. Then it passed right over us no more than 1,000 feet above. Because of the red engines I’m assuming it belonged to Scandinavian Airlines System (it had its landing lights on). After it passed over us the landing lights of our aircraft were switched on for about 10 seconds, then off again. Is this some sort of greeting signal or something? Next thing I knew it passed back over us again, back into my view and back again. Then it disappeared. This all happened between 8.20pm and 8.45pm CDT, fascinating stuff. This was the best pic I could get:
I tried to sleep but couldn’t (partly because of the leg room). We encountered some minor turbulence about 45 minutes before reaching the Irish coastline during an otherwise very smooth flight. The fasten-seat-belts sign was illuminated and the turbulence got worse as we went along, getting quite violent a times it has to be said. I couldn’t help thinking about AF447 at this stage but I wasn’t nervous and I knew our flight crew were expecting it because they gave us enough warning about it. About 20 minutes later it was plain sailing again.
Ironically enough we would pass directly over Ireland where we would be returning in just a few hours. It pained my mother to watch it as she would much prefer direct flights. It was just after sunrise but the west of the country was covered in cloud. I got some good clear views of the southeast though.
Breakfast was served at 6.30am CET which comprised of a plain muffin, orange juice and yoghurt. I was half expecting a croissant with it being Air France and all, but no.
We made landfall over Co. Mayo at 6.44am CET (about an hour from landing), heading in a southeasterly direction and we passed over the island within 15 minutes, heading over the Irish sea past south Wicklow. At this time our groundspeed peaked at 643mph at an altitude of 36,000 feet.
At 7.10am the captain informed us of the descent into Paris and 2 minutes later we began what turned out to be quite a steep drop. This was southwest of London as we were about to head over the English Channel. The speedbrakes were used frequently and the slats were extended at 7.46am. It was overcast so I didn’t see much of France.
We approached from the east and landed on Runway 27R (the northernmost runway) at 7.53am CET, 42 minutes early. The taxi to the gate took 15 minutes and we arrived on stand at 8.08am local. During the taxi I saw my first ever A380 up close – Singapore Airlines at a remote stand.
We were due to arrive at Terminal 2, Hall E. However (possibly because we were early) we docked at Gate F81. We disembarked through Door 1L as opposed to 2L. The gate was a dual airbridge but the second airbridge was not used (or maybe it was after I disembarked). We would have over 3 hours to wait before our connection to Shannon.
We now had to look at the boards and find the gate our onward connection to SNN would board from. It showed as on time/Á l’heure and would board from Gate E21 in Hall E. We followed signs and were led down stairs to a waiting bus. The bus journey to 2E took about 5 minutes and when we got there we had to re-clear security. There was a special channel for all UK and Irish-bound passengers. After security the terminal looked more like a glorified shopping centre than an airport! I bypassed all the shops and stalls and went straight to the gates and snapped some photos:
I liked 2E, it’s huge and has a lot of space to move around.
The return flight to Chicago (AF50) was already boarding when we got here – with a different aircraft obviously. This flight spends more time on the ground in Chicago than it does in Paris.
Delta Air Lines flight DL170 having just arrived from Salt Lake City
Great spot for aviation enthusiasts – you can just lay down and watch the movements all day
Our gate was E21, which is downstairs from where the airbridge-gates are. We would have to get on another bus to take us to our aircraft.
Boarding for our flight, WX5080 was called at 10.30am CET. It would be operated by Air France by CityJet.
CityJet is Ireland’s third airline, fully owned by Air France-KLM. All aircraft are Irish-registered and each is named after an Irish island. It operates two divisions: Air France by CityJet out of Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly and CityJet for Air France out of London City Airport. CityJet operates a fleet of 26 95-seater Avro RJ85s (2 of which are on lease to Blue1). After its merger with VLM Airlines it will operate 41 aircraft from its bases at CDG and LCY.
This flight was crewed by 2 Irish pilots, 1 Irish flight attendant and 1 French flight attendant. We were on board the Avro RJ85 at 10.55am. It was registered EI-RJJ Hare Island, delivered to WX on 1 February 2008. All passengers boarded through door 1L, accessible by steps. This aircraft was painted in the old colour scheme.
Taken from the bus
We were briefed by Captain Lauten at 11.13am CET and the door was closed soon after. This flight was operated under a codeshare agreement with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL2094). There was one wheelchair bound passenger on board and she was boarded via the back door on a lift. The load factor was about 90%-95% full in Voyageur and 30% in Affaires. All the window seats were taken so I had to sit at my assigned seat – 9C. The engines were obstructing the view out the window so I spent most of the flight sleeping.
Safety instruction card
Logo carved into the seat
The safety demo was performed by Cabin Manager Niamh at the front of the cabin and Sophie in the centre at 11.19am. Again, the taxi was long and I couldn’t see where we were going. We began taxiing at 11.24am and takeoff was at 11.37am. Legroom was poor, but for a short flight like this I didn’t mind. Our cruising altitude was 32,000 feet. There were curtains over the business class seats during the flight but opened before takeoff and landing. There were no curtains blocking the aisle.
Bar service began at 12.00pm CET along with sandwiches if you wanted. The choices were ham and cheese or salami. I passed on the sandwich and drink because I was trying to sleep.
At 11.45am IST we were briefed on the descent into Shannon. We were about to make landfall off the east coast and we would travel over Leinster, south Tipperary and straight into east Clare for a landing on Runway 24. I noticed the flight was quite rough at times with the severe turns, climb and descent.
The gear was down at 12.12pm IST and we touched down at 12.16pm, 1 minute late. We spent 4 minutes taxiing and arrived at Gate 6 at 12.20pm, 5½ hours later than expected if we had travelled through EWR with CO.
We passed through passport control with no hassle. The lad didn’t even look at passports just asked “ye’r coming from Dublin is it?” (EI133 had just arrived also). We said yeah and walked right through can’t beat the Shannon welcome!
7 out of our 8 checked bags came off at SNN and we were the only ones standing there when all the other passengers left. There was an AF agent standing there in case there was any problems and we told her our situation. She said it would more than likely arrive on the next flight due in at 7.50pm that evening. It did arrive and was delivered to the house the next day.
Well after all that I enjoyed the experience even if it did sway nerves in my travelling party. AF are top notch with their service – both mainline and WX. Legroom could have been better though. Also, just today (11/09/09) AF/WX announced they are to close the CDG-SNN route after 18 months of operation in October. I’m glad I got the opportunity to travel with them and they’ll be missed at SNN.
Buck3y3nut From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 871 posts, RR: 0 Reply 4, posted (4 years 2 months 3 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
I love chicago and I'm glad you had fun. I've been to chicago so many times and have yet to go check out the Boeing HQ. And a great set of trip reports. i really enjoyed reading both of them with really nice pictures too. Thanks a bunch for writing this report and sharing it with us
Quoting AmricanShamrok (Thread starter): F-GLZC in the former Air France livery ready for boarding. Ironically this exact aircraft was here last August when I was waiting for my Aer Lingus flight to Shannon
So, of the various airports on your trip (SNN, EWR, ORD, CDG), how would you rank them (both as to function and as to a good place for a spotter)?
Thanks SRT75. For the trip I would rank as follows:
1. EWR (very impressed; big spacious airport, made a seamless connection)
2. SNN (my home airport; hardly any queues, friendly staff)
3. ORD (my 2nd home airport!; great for spotting, easily accessable)
4. CDG (interior of the airport was good but wasn't too keen on the bus journeys and all the moving around)
Quoting OA260 (Reply 3): Nice report and great pics as usual. Lucky you got to document the last time on CDG-SNN. Nice to have a report in the TR forum.
Thanks OA. Yes, I'm glad now I got to experience it, don't think I'll be on WX again for a while now.
Quoting Buck3y3nut (Reply 4): I love chicago and I'm glad you had fun. I've been to chicago so many times and have yet to go check out the Boeing HQ. And a great set of trip reports. i really enjoyed reading both of them with really nice pictures too. Thanks a bunch for writing this report and sharing it with us
Hi Buck. Chicago is a great city, I'd encourage anyone to go it has everything for people of all tastes. The Boeing Store is a bit expensive though, I bought a Boeing notebook for $8. Thought it was a bit steep.
Quoting SOBHI51 (Reply 5): Very nice report and great pictures. Thank you.