For the past 3 weeks since my school year ended I have been taking full advantage of my standby passes with United Airlines. I had travelled to New York to see the World Trade Center Ceremony, Flew to Atlanta to party with cousins and friends, and to Toronto to see the City, Hockey Hall of Fame, and Drink However on this lovely Monday I choose to do something I have never done with my passes. Fly multiple flights in one day just for fun! I had made previous arrangements with fellow Airliners.net Member ILUV767 to meet up in Denver for the day and fly the 747-400 back to San Francisco and then continue back home to Phoenix, AZ. After a few days of checking flight loads everything looked to be good for our day of flying. After a late night confirmation phone call with David, it was time to prepare for an amazing day of flying to come.
The next day I woke up at 9:50AM. Great I thought... 50 minutes past my alarm! So I had to rush my self and prepare to leave the house to get to Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport for United Airlines flight 358 service to Denver which was scheduled to depart this hot as hell dessert city at 12:31PM. On the ride down to PHX airport I received a phone call from David informing me he is seated on the 747-400 from SFO-DEN on the upper deck! "Rat bastard!" I thought to myself, Lucky him getting to have a full day of 747-400 action! Oh well, My time would come soon enough.
I arrived the airport 1.5 hours before departure. I visited my mom who was working that day and then continued to gate 7 where I found an empty gate. After waiting several moments for the A320 to arrive the gate I was informed by a friend working the flight it was going to be 20 minutes late due to some sort of security issue up in Chicago where this jet was inbound from. I decided to walk around the slimy terminal 2 to kill time. Not but 20 paces away I ran into another family friend who was working in the red carpet club. She invited me in and I enjoyed the extremely nice interior of the fairly new RCC. My friend then called gate 7 again asking for info on the flight, they told her to send me over and get my center seat. After I reached the gate the smart ass agent then handed me seat 3A in first class! Gota love employees who have a good attitude now adays in the airline customer service industry! I quickly boarded the A320. All passengers were boarded rather quickly and we were pushed from the gate 30 minutes late. A quick taxi out to runway 25R and we were screaming down the scortching hot runway in a hurry!
I enjoyed the ride up to Denver much more then normal. The route took us a bit east of the beautiful city of Sedona with its famous red rock formations. Following this is was on towards Flagstaff, AZ where I school I attend NAU could be seen as well as the dramatic mountains which are near the campus. Next we overflew the very large meteor crater located near Winslow, AZ. This flight was full of amazing views so far, and the most dramatic were yet to come!
Service on the flight was just as you would expect. Drinks and snack mix. However I was fooled when I got a wiff of food being prepared. I was all excited for a meal. Not long was I disappointed when the food went to the pilots! Oh well I thought, an Hour and twenty minute flight doesn't need a big meal service! Flight attendants were very nice and cheerful on the flight which made it even more enjoyable.
During approach into Denver, the captain announced all the forest fires burning in the rocky mountains. And informed us the cabin may smell of burned wood, so do not be alarmed. What an incredible view of the horrible fires from this perspective! I managed to only take one shot of the fires as I was just so blown away by the sheer size of it all! We then shot out over the flat ground level of Denver and headed straight for a visual approach to runway 35L. After a smooth touch down, we taxied to gate B16 only 17 minutes late of scheduled arrival time. Not to bad for an aircraft 30 minutes late out of the gate in PHX.
I managed to race off the plane as the 4th one off. I felt bad knowing David had been in DEN already for some 45-50 minutes now after he arrived in style on the 747-400. I meet up with David right outside of the gate. I could tell right away it was him. He carried himself in the classic standby passenger outfit. We walked around the United concourse for a few moments. Came up to a 777-200 parked next to our 747-400 that would take us to SFO. As always, I had to start comparing my favourite (747-400) to the 777 which was parked right infront of me, giving me a devilish looking glare. After a nice(?) train ride over to terminal A for a walk around we headed back to terminal B on the train playing the humorous polka sounding music! David compared it to a circus act and gave a little dance that got me laughing right away!
Back at gate 36, our beastly 747-400 was just nearing the time for boarding. This flight, UA1065 was not to heavy in loads today so David and I both with excellent seniority knew we would for sure get Business class on this bird! Boarding then began for UA1065 while we sat patiently waiting for our names to be called. Not long after we sat down over the PA "Passenger Wozniak" was called and I headed up to the gate to claim a seat. I told the gate agent that Passenger Horn and myself were travelling together and requested we be seated together. She looked and said, I'm sorry sir, I cant place you two next to each other in first class. My eye brows shot up and a smile stretched across my face quickly. Both of us were going to be flying first class on this 747-400!
I took my ticket which was seat 2J (window) and walked back to David with a shocked face. From there I told him 97 passengers upgraded today, but we managed to get economy plus. I will never forget his reaction. His jaw dropped, eye brows came down in confusion and an overall look of disappointment came over his face! With a good laugh I told him we both were getting first class. After a rather looong wait and numerous other standby passengers called, David finally got called up and got his ticket! I snapped a few shots of the 747-400 and we then were on our way up the steep inclined jetway to the L1 door.
We then took our seats in the amazing first class cabin of the 747-400. This would be my first flight in the first class section of a 747 and my second flight in the first class sleeper suite of United Airlines. On my previous 777 flight I was extremely impressed and was more than excited to be back in the suite within a 3 week time span of my EWR-DEN flight.
Right away David starting talking slick to a rather attractive flight attendant who was working the first class section of our flight. I couldn't help but laugh and shake my head. Finally push back came for flight 1065 exactly on time at 5PM. It was a very jerky push back to start. We pushed back about 10 feet before coming to a quick halt. I could hear the push back tractor honk its horn from underneath my feet! I thought right away we probably hit something and we were gonna get placed on another flight. That horrible scenario quickly vanished as we continued our push back. After our 4 engines stabalized, we began to taxi out to the west. Right away the point of view of this seat messed with my head. Never before had I experienced what it was like in the nose of the 747. The windows curve in rather drastically which creates a very odd perspective! As we taxied out to runway 25, ground informed us that winds were 120 degrees at 25 kts. Our first officer quickly responded that we could handle that. But after abit of persuasion of the variable winds we were told to due a U-turn and taxi to runway 34.
Not long after the detour we were taxing into position for runway 34. At this moment I was absolutely shocked at the view on line up! From where I was sitting I was already passed the center line and numbers. It looked as if we were just about to be over the grass before the huge 747 slowly started to line itself up. "United 1065 Heavy, right turn head 280, runway three four, cleared for take off" Even after these words were heard over channel 9, I hadn't whipped the lowered jaw look of amazement off my face from what I had just seen on line up until that very very familiar sound of the Pratt and Whitney engines started howling far behind where I was seated. Still with a amazing view partially down the runway we started howling down the concrete strip. After 30 seconds of take off time we rotated with authority and were up on our way to San Francisco!
The big bird gracefully turned and fought off the turbulent air that had been heckling traffic at DEN for the past several hours. Not long after rotation the departure turn, I collected my mutliple blankets, and pillows and put my sleeper suite into service! I still was a bit self conscious reclining completely flat while the rest of the cabin was remaining in the upright position. But that didn't stop me! I then began to read through a great paper David had written on the 747 history. After I completed my reading, the seatbelt sign came off, and David came up to my seat. We then decided to take a walk around the cabin and talk to a few of the F/A's. David surely got a kick out of what the purser of the flight managed to do with the curtains separating the first and business class cabin! I will let him go into more detail about that in his trip report!
Business class was rather wide open for this flight. I counted roughly 18 open seats on the lower deck. After a quick visit back in Biz class, David and I quickly retreated back to the first class section for meal service. This evening on our flight to SFO we were served Finger ribs that were a bit dry, not bad, but could be better, chopped potatoes, salad and a really good slice of cake. David I am sure you could give more detail on the meal! I didn't pay much attention. All I do know is I destroyed my meal within 5 minutes. I went back to visit David who didn't seem to be enjoying his meal as much as I did.
After the meal service we took another walk around the cabin before I returned to my suite and slept like a little baby for about 45 minutes before we started our descent into SFO. After a very smooth flight, I began hearing reports on San Francisco approach of some rather rough wind conditions down on the ground. I was more then excited to see how well the captain would fly the big 747-400 in strong wind conditions. After all they did want to take on a tail wind of 20kts earlier at DEN, so needless to say I was all about seeing some skillful crosswind flying.
The view into SFO was awesome from my seat! The bay and Pacific ocean were lit up in a bright gold due to the low sitting sun with just a bit of fog forming over the coastline. I was so jealous of the pilots sitting up there flying such an amazing machine and taking in a view like this for approach! Not long after winds were then reported to us at 250 degrees at 25 kts. By now I could see the black silhouette of San Francisco Airport forming out in the bay. United 1065 Heavy then turned final just a bit south of the San Mateo Bridge. Our first officer called the tower at the bridge for our landing clearance to runway 28 right. "United 1065 Heavy, goodevening, traffic is 737 trailing you on the left no factor, winds 240 degrees 27 kts, runway 28 right cleared to land". With our clearance, the battle of the 747 and the cross wind was on! The water below was even being kicked up by the strong winds from the west.
Closer in the big bird was obviously fighting the winds. The engines were screaming with power on and off and the wings were fighting to keep level. We quickly flew over the runways jutting out into the bay and continued the battle. About 10 feet from the ground the captain had it flared to perfectly we slidded down onto the runway and came to a rather quick exit off runway 28 right. We then taxied to gate 84 to deplane. It was such a shame this excellent flight had to come to an end. After deplanning, David and I checked the departure monitors to find out where this jet would continue on to. We were so thrilled from the flight we wanted to stay with the 747!
We then went to gate 79 Where we I met another Airliners.net member Kai (OH-LGA) who was working this evening on Santa Barbara and Boise, United Express CRJ flights. He was extremely friendly and was nice enough to check me in for my next flight onto PHX. After that we stood by the windows to watch the traffic using the 28 runways. Thank god for David keeping a look out and called me over to check out an Aeroflot 777 taxi by for take off! My first time seeing it! We then were treated to a nice departure of a British Airways 747-400. Kai Even opened up a door to the stairs so I could be treated to a clear sound of that departing 747-400!
After our little time together it was time for me to head on back to PHX on UA flight 1920 which was a 737-500 departing gate 7:45PM. I began to get nervous after nearly everyone was on the flight around 7:30 and still no call for me! Finally 5 minutes later they called me up and gave me seat 1A! More then happy to take it, yet depressed since it couldn't compare to what I just was on from DEN, I said my goodbyes to Kai and to David for an awesome day travelling together! I then boared the little 737 and took my seat. During push back I could see David right at the windows. I gave him a way from my seat but he never saw me, bummer!
Our 737 quickly started its engines and was off to runway 28L. All other runways were closed due to the wind conditions at SFO that day. We took a long route out to the runways before finally making it out way in the bay! We then were off like a rocket. I was sad to leave behind such a great city! I wish I could have stayed longer! The climb out was very nice with the sun set! That amused me for a bit until drink and snack service came around. I managed to get a little sleep on the 1 hour and 30 minute flight to PHX before our ontime arrival into Sky Harbour Airport at 9:39PM.
All in all, I was very pleased things worked out the way they did on this awesome day of non rev travelling. It was a nice treat to have first class all around on these flights after getting a rough experience the week before going up to Toronto. Needless to say I was very happy to get to meet David as well as Kai. I look forward to seeing them more in the summer and surely David... you and I will continue this as much as possible this summer! I had a blast! Finally thank you all for reading this huge epic novel covering what it was like to fly for fun over a day span!