A Star Alliance meeting in LAX plus a tour of Boeing's Everett plant were the reason for this trip.
FRA-YVR March 11 Lufthansa A340-311 D-AIGK
As there is no nonstop flight from Germany to Seattle, Lufthansa's daily FRA-YVR service was a viable alternative. My boss was nice enough to give me FSA (First Class seat available) status, and as first class was only lightly booked, I was fortunate to be treated to my first longhaul first class flight ever. The LH A340 has eight first class seats, grouped in an unusual 1-2-1 configuration. While these are not private cabins like on AA, BA, SQ or UA, they also can be converted into flat beds, which I didn't really need on this daylight flight (departure at 12:40, arrival at 14:10), rather enjoying the good food, drinks, service (really outstanding by usual LH standards!) and entertainment program. The flight took a very northernly course, as far as north as Thule in Greenland. Much of Greenland was cloudless, allowing breathtaking views. However, the Rockies were cloud-covered, thus the approach into YVR only allowed limited views. The sluggish performance of the A340 has been often discussed, and indeed, the climb wasn't exactly steep; however I thought that this has also its positive side as one isn't pressed that much into the seat. Anyways, the A340 eventually reached 39,000 feet and a ground speed of 590 miles which is pretty good for a westbound transatlantic flight.
YVR-SEA March 11 United Express (SkyWest) Embraer 120 Brasilia N1105G
Originally our plans was to take Horizon Air, who operates an hourly Dash 8 service down to SEA, but as one of the afternoon flights had been canceled, there was quite a pile-up of stranded passengers. We had ID50 tickets (which qualify as revenue passengers) but no booking, thus the gate agents honestly told us we would have little chance to get a seat that day. Thus we resorted to United Express which has a few flights per day on SkyWest Brasilias. I didn't mind as I've never flown on a Brasilia, and after a three hour wait, mostly in the unpretentious commuter pier for transborder flights that only allows limited viewing opportunities (the main international is just great with its Pacific Northwest decorations), we boarded the Brasilia at sunset, taking us on a very scenic flight into Puget Sound. With realistic expectations of a plane this size and age, I found the Brasilia acceptable, and on-board service (snack and drinks) was adequate and efficient.
The next day we toured the Everett plant, guided by United's rep at Boeing. We mainly saw the 777 assembly line and afterwards drove by the flightline where the finished planes are readied for delivery. What I found most impressive was the sheer size of the facility. Building airplanes is, compared to other industries, still a lot of manual work, and therefore less interesting if you expect to see a lot of automation or robots. But it was still great to walk through all the parts and partly-assembled aircraft, see how the wings join the fuselage and so on. On the Triple Seven line, aircraft destined for MAS, Air China and SIA were in final assembly, while AA, BA and El Al were finished but not yet painted. On the flightline we drove past an unpainted China Airlines 744F, SIA 744 and 777 (9V-SRF), AA 777 and 738, Alaska 73G and 739 (yet unpainted), Braathens 73G, Asiana 763, Air Seychelles 763, Emirates 773 (A6-EMP), Saudi 744 (HZ-AIZ) and 772 (HZ-AKV), North American 757 and Aeromexico 757. Too bad I had left my camera behind (we were told no photos), because for the flightline part, noone would have objected. A visit of the Boeing gift shop and the excellent cafeteria wrapped up the excellent, well-guided tour.
Apparently the 737 and 757 were flown to Everett because Boeing Field is still closed (which we saw upon driving by, a large X across the runway, but some aircraft, namely THY 738, Pegasus 738, Helios 738, Euralair 738 and China Southwest visible - I wonder if their deliveries will be delayed).
SEA-LAX March 12 United B757-222 (forgot to note down the registration, which hasn't happened to me in years!)
After the Boeing visit we headed out to Sea-Tac airport, and luckily some time remained before departure, so I could shoot a few photos from the North Satellite that UA uses, mostly of the Alaska and Horizon fleet. The flight down the West Coast was very scenic, with Mt Rainier on the left, and San Francisco on the right. Also the approach into LAX, circling in from the North and landing on 24R allowed good views. Catering consisted of a snack box with a sandwich, chips and chocolate bar, not spectacular but OK. I noted the larger overhead bins now installed on UA's 757 (and 737 I believe) which also happen to look more modern.
During the next few days (I stayed a little longer than just for the meeting at the very nice Star Alliance Business Center in El Segundo), I spent a few hours around LAX, at the Northwest Cargo parking lot (arrivals on 25L and lineup on 25R, lucky to shoot Air Tahiti Nui's magnificent A340) and the Theme Building, which is not that good for photography but being such a landmark, still worth a visit. I also liked the elevated view from Sandpiper road (if you drive up from Vista Del Mar Ave (Dockweiler Beach) to Pershing Dr), where you overlook the Northern part of the airport.
LAX-FRA March 16/17 Lufthansa A340-313X D-AIGR
A late night departure (at 22:30, this is LH's second daily flight, which will be switched to a Munich service this summer) from a still busy Tom Bradley terminal. While the ticketing hall is very large, I found the concourses a bit disappointing, being narrow and offering little attractions (most of the shops had already closed despite all gates occupied). This A340 was the 2000th off the line and carries special stickers on the belly and near the entry door. Departure from 25R, then turning south, flying a few minutes parallel to the coast before turning east again, passing over Newport Beach. This flight took a very southernly route, passing over Phoenix, Albuquerque and New York, resulting in a long flight time of over 11 hours. But I didn't mind, because shortly after dinner, which I couldn't fully enjoy due to a combination of little appetite and tiredness, I reclined my seat into the flat position and slept for five hours. Breakfast was served some two hours before arrival, even though we landed at 18:40, thus most of Saturday was almost over when I arrived home.
That's all from this enjoyable trip!
I hope to have some photos later at airliners.net.
Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been...