The date my friends is Wednesday, March 19th.
Its 3:30pm, schools finally over. I got my absence slip for thursday and friday signed by my teachers and all the school work taken care of. I quickly get home, change clothes wash up and take my bags downstairs. Im taking a desktop computer with a 17 inch monitor for my grandma in Poland so the space in the bags is limited for my stuff. After eating some Pierogis, I head pack my bags into my dads SUV and we drive to Chicago O'Hare Int'l Airport.
I arrive at ORD at 6:00pm. I check in my bags with ease and pass through security. Surprisingly, it was not a hassle. I am flying out of Terminal 1 with United. The aircraft is a 777-222 N784UA which will take me to Frankfurt. The flight is UA#940 I stroll to Concourse C through the underground walkway admiring the famous lights on top of the ceiling.
I arrive at Concourse C, and sit down at one of the gate areas. I take out my scanner and start listening to the ATC. Im also watching the CNN Airport Network since it is the first day of the Iraqi War. A UAL 757 captain notices my scanner and we get a good convo going about United and possible Liquidation. After the captain left and all the pax left the gate area (the aircraft boarded for SEA) I walked to my gate., C18. I checked my boarding pass with the gate agent. Damn, I was unsuspectedly switched from a window seat to a middle seat. The gate agent however was Polish so he did another Polak a favor and moved me to a window seat.
I board the 777, my first time on the aircraft. I admire the PTVs and note the flight is half empty. We pushback at 9:05, 20 mins behind schedule. We are heading to runway 32R for takeoff. Then however we taxi back to the gate. The Capt. announces that our de-icing controller is broken in our left engine. The UAL mechs had to drag one out of a remote hangar, and instal it. This created a 4 hour delay. With the delay, pax from other flights that needed to get to Europe boarded, now the flight was practically full.
My seat is 36A, a good distance behind the wing. Finally we get off the ground at 12:15AM, a 4.5 hour delay. By now I know I missed my LH connection at FRA to Warsaw so I am getting a bit worried but I push it aside. I watch Chicago zoom past my window. That moment when I saw ORD and the downtown reminded me how much I love this city and this country. In no time we are over Canada then crossing the Atlantic. During this time I watched several movies including Jerry McGuire, I Spy and The Tuxedo. I take a quick nap and when I wakeup I find myself blinded by light. We are flying right over the English Channel. I check the PTV and note that we will be flying directly over Paris. I stare out the window admiring the French coast. I have my binos handy because every couple of mins another plane passes us. A Swiss RJ85 must have passed us within 1000ft, It was so damn close I could almost read the registration. I also notice an AA 767 from Paris going back to the states and a Singapore 744 heading also the the US.
Paris comes right under us, the Eiffer Tower, Arc De Triomphe are all visible and the of course CDG. I snap a couple of quick shots and prepare for the descent to FRA. FRA is congested (figures) and we stay in the air an extra 15 minutes. The traffic pattern is quite long, because when we did a U-Turn the downwind aircraft were visible, I catch a couple LH A320s and A321s behind us as well as a CSA 737.
Thursday, March 20th. The descent into FRA is foggy yet the sun is cutting through. We land and immediately I gawk at the US AF side of the airport. Before my eyes stretches a sea of C-5s and C-17s. I also note a World MD-11, AA 777 and a Atlas 742F chartered out by the USAF. The big LUFTHANSA TECHNIK sign looms over us with a new Condor/LH STAR 767. We taxi to a remote hardstand as there is no room at the Terminal. I gather my things from the overhead bin, I bid farewell to N784UA and climb out of the aircraft. We are immedialtly ushered to a LH bus. The ride to the terminal is most impressive. I am used to see a ton of AA and UA aircraft but this is something else all together. I see VARIETY, something we desperately need at ORD, then I chuckle at the poor us spotters who live by smaller US airports, and all they get is UPS or US Airways..tough luck. LH aircraft are everywhere. I I note airlines such as a US Airways A333, AA 777, Emirates A332, Gulf Air A330, Thai 744, SIA 744, Garuda 744, Ethiopian 762 and various Thomas Cook aircraft as well as almost every bigger European airline in with at least 2 types of aircraft.
I dont have time to hit the spotters deck at FRA because I already missed my connection. I head on over to one of the LH transit counters. Im put on the last LOT Flight to Warsaw LO#391 I believe. I go to a phone and call my dad and my grandparents in Poland informing them that I will be on another flight and quite late. I walk away from the phone and walk halfway down the terminal when I realize. SH*T I left my tickets, passport and all my documents by the phone. I panic, litterly. I dont even remember which phone it is. I run like a chicken with its head cut off around the terminal. Then i spot my stuff laying by a phone. No one even touched it. I am surprised to the max and thankful FRA is not LGA. My flight is 4 hours away so I buy a Coke and sit down in a lounge and write down a couple regs, noting the new STAR LH 744, ANA 744 and the Trigema scheme. I visit the duty free stores and realize that I forgot that Europe is a rip-off concerning most consumer goods. I check the price for a Sony F717, $1200, Even though this is a duty-free shop at the airport im amazed at the prices. I notice that FRA airport isnt the easiest to navigate for a non-german speaking person. The terminal areas and gates could be better coordinated with the ticket #s. I am impressed at the ramp however at FRA. Everything is clean, too damn clean and in order. Great I think to myself. German organization. Then I think about the ORD ramp, baggage carts everywhere etc. I laugh to myself and say, good ol' ORD ramp rats.
I board the LOT aircraft. A 737-400. I take my seat and I am immediately greeted with a warm cup of coffee, during which I take about 5 sets of safety cards, inflight mags etc. After being up for 40 hours I sure as hell need it. We takeoff into the darkness and are in Warsaw in 1.5 hours roughly. We arrive at gate 6 and park next to a BA A319 and a AF 735. I pass the passport control quite quickly and my baggage is the first one out. I am greeted by both sets of my worried grandparents. After being up for 42 hours, 49 including time changes I am ready to go to sleep. I take a last glance at the Warsaw Airport and stumble across the lower terminal parking garage to my grandparents car. My grandparents are driving a Toyota Yaris and the others a Ford Mondeo (Probe for us americans, or roughly its size) Im dissatisfied with the lack of trunk space in the cars, damn, If this was a Yukon..im thinking to myself. We drive out of the airport and arrive at my grandparents house. Grand total of 50 hours. Considering my journey started Wednesday afternoon and ended Friday in the morning its was my longest journey.
However Im not conquered by the jet lag and immediately the next day I set plans for the 23rd and 25th to go the spotting deck at Warsaw.
Part 2 coming up. WAW-FRA-ORD and a complete description of FRA security, German spotters with telescopes and US Troops from Afghanistan.