Arrived at JFK with my wife at the old TWA terminal (the saddle-looking thing), boy does that place look old. I remember being a kid and my father telling me, right after it was constructed, how some famous architect was involved. Anyhow the flashbacks to my youth soon vanished as I was forced to deal with a very nasty TWA agent at the counter. Basically my license name is Pavel and my ticket name said Paul (same name Pavel=Paul depending on the language), I tried to explain and showed other pieces of ID but she wouldn't ley me on, I said "you got to be kidding" she replied with "I not phuqing kidding you!" Wow. Anyhow, we finally made it on the 767-200 in the old crusty TWA paint scheme (red/white) - looked like the plane from that movie airplane, I was looking for Ted Striker. Anyhow, the flight was very smooth not a bit of turb. It was a very clear day and America was laid out beatifully below the entire ride. Almost felt like we were on a ride at Disney - "America from the air." We flew straight into LAX on one of the right runways (forgot which one).
To get to Tahiti we were flying Air Tahiti Nui. I was picturing an old sea plane with chickens and a dead body in the back. I figured if we were really lucky we'd get a 707 with two working engines. Air Tahiti Nui (BTW Nui means 'greater' as in outside of French Polynesia). had only one plane (they have 2 now) so they had to leech-off Deltas terminal. They did have their own counter, actually 3 - 2 for coach and one for business. My wifey and I waited at the assigned gate but there was no plane. I figured we'd be waiting forever for it to arrive when all of the waiting passengers were brought to the exit door, led down the stairs to the tarmac, across the gate parking area to an awaiting bus. Our bus, another showed up after, began driving across the airport towards the Pacific ocean (West). On man is LAX a big-ass airport. It seemed like we traveled forever. Meanwhile I got to see some amazing planes up close from the ground. Needless to say I loved it. We finally reached the far end of the airport where I saw the Airbus A340-200 parked. I was blown away. A beautiful plane with bright blue and green color (colour for you Brits). We climbed the stairs and entered in to a wonderfully theamed interior that continued the Polynesian feel from teh exterior. The F/As were all French or French Polynesian and were dressed like tropical soldiers. Thier attire matched the decor and they themselves were extremely professional and polite and perfectly fluent in English and French. The seating config was 2-22-2. So eight couples to a row. We were on the port side seats 22A and B. When I looked out the window I noticed that the winglet was even painted with a Tahitian flower. No detail was left un-touched. The seats were in almost new condition, and were a million times better than those hunks of crap TWA calls a seat. TWA was a city ghetto bus compared to Air Tahiti's Playboy Mansion with wings (and without the chicks). We taxied to one of the left runways (if you look at the airport coming from the east), everybody was staring at us - we we're the coolest plane on the runway. Very soomth take-off, but we used every last inch of runway (thats okay). We headed straight out to sea fro a good 10-15 minutes, then we banked left to a heading of about 220 degrees. It was CRAZY to see our position on the screen and see nothing but all BLUE, no land in sight. When the map began to show tahiti it was a dot in all the blue. I felt like we were flying beyond the ends of the earth. We kept on a straight line for Tahiti. I guess that's how pilots fly there with no ATC, just point it and hit cruise control. I know, I know "autopilot." We began our descent and began to see the many islands - needless to say they took my breath away. Papeete (PPT) has one runway 10-4. We approached fromthe north east so I expected to land on 10 but nooooooooooo, the pilot had other ideas. We flew right past the airport and then he swung a tight left and put us right on with the centerline. I know because after he leveled out of the turn there was no further adjustment. I was surprised that he turned so quickly after passing the runway - I thought he would want moew apprach time. But we touched down like fresh snow on runway 4 and needed only half the runway to stop. I guess the fuel was the difference. We parked at the gate and they brought out two ramps for people to exit (that's what I'm talking about!). We walked across the tarmac to the main building passing a Hawaiian Airlines DC-10 and an Air France 747. While in Tahiti was jumped islands on Ait Tahiti's ATR-42s and 72s. Going back was just as enjoyable. I must say as an aviation enthusiest and as a well-flown person, I had the best trip of my life. I will never forget the time, the trip of that airplane. To all who can - I say fly it if you can, you will not regret it.
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