My mother passed away back in 1997, and my dad happens to be an immigrant, so um apparently my dad saw it necessary to move back home an to take me with him, after living in America for the past 27 years. So on December 9th, 1998, I left my high school and got on a Mesaba RJ-85 to Detroit, took a KLM SUD to Amsterdam, waited a few hours and caught a KLM MD-11 to Accra via Kano. Me and my pops and my kid sis.
So in Ghana, I live and attend a little boarding school. It was not fun at all. To cut a long story short, after three years of slaving I did graduate and now I’m back here in Pittsburgh.
Kotoka International Airport
05 March, 2002
Check-in for KL590 began at 1500. I arrived at the airport with my little brown suitcase at 14:51. I was the first to check-in. Wow, what an achievement. I just hoped they wouldn’t lose my suitcase. Unfortunately most airlines operating out of KIA (including KLM) are handled by Ghana Airways, normally this isn’t a bad thing, it’s done at many airports in many different countries because the airlines don’t have to waste money building counters and hiring employees while there’s somebody already there who can do the same thing for a fee, but in this case it means that they gave me a real ugly boarding pass that resembles a test printout from my old (1991) Epson dot-matrix. I aIso filled out a card to credit the trip to my worldperks, but I’m still wondering what’s going on, because I still don’t have credit. So I left the airport, disgusted with my ugly pass, and went to say goodbye to my fathers’ family (not very big), put on my clothes, slung on my backpack and trekked down to the airport.
So at 19:31 I go in to get my passport stamped, I was just curious and asked the immigration officer if I could go back out for any reason, and the very professional reply was “my friend, clear off.” Oh well, at least Ghanaians are friendlier than Nigerians. So just like that, I go through the darned security, they made everybody take off their shoes, and a customs guy asked me how much currency I was carrying. I told him 100 bucks and none of their money. So at 21:30 we’re all assembled around the gate one waiting area (there are two gates anyway), and during that period I witness a Swissair MD-11 (HB-IWH)
Photo © Markus Burkhard
, Lufthansa A340, and an Ethiopian 767-260 takeoff for Lagos. I also saw a Ghana Air Force F-27 and an Alitalia MD-11 land from Lagos. A Ghana Airways DC-10-30, 9G-ANA
Photo © Jason Taperell
(DC-10 line number 369) got taxied to the maintenance area alongside its brother or cousin or whatever you wanna call it, 9G-ANC. There were also two DC-9’s, one a dash 30 leased from some South African company to GH, and the other a dash 51, 9G-ADS. Some cargo airplanes-one a DC-8 belonging to MK Airlines (The airline whose 747 crashed in Port Harcourt) and a Memphis Air 707 were parked alongsides.
I looked around the waiting area and saw a variety of people-maybe 215 waiting for the flight to Amsterdam. Some of them were first time travelers looking for a better life in the first world. Some were white businessmen investing in Africa. Some were also black entrepreneurs going to Europe on business, and there were the casual travelers, and of course some children. The crew passed by, a bunch of blonde FA’s and surprisingly the FO was taller than the captain. A lady came on the horn and told us that our flight would be boarding shortly. They passed out colored cards and explained that some would take the front stairs and some would take the rear. I got the front. And so around 21:40, I descended down the steps and walked across the tarmac, and I was pretty happy to see the aircraft, a Boeing 767-306ER, PH-BZB. I was however, expecting PH-BZI, because just that afternoon I had checked www.schiphol.nl to get the reg of KL589 after it took off for Accra. Apparently the site was wrong. Oh well, anyway I got to pass right in front of those PW4056’s. The APU was blazing.
I had reserved 25A, so that’s where I sat. So this young chick comes and sits next to yours truly wearing this traditional dress and looking all nervous. I smiled at her and said “Well I guess we’re gonna be companions for this flight,” and she smiled back shyly. So they close the door, the purser introduces herself, and cranks up the safety video.
In Accra the standard sequence is to request the weather and runway in use (usually 21) before boarding. When ready startup is requested, after which taxi. There’s no pushback because the 11 parking bays are all away from the terminal. So, we were cleared by tower to “taxi to the holding position, runway 21.” On the way to the holding point the ATC clearance is delivered. The standard one is as follows:
“Accra Control clears [ABC] to [Destination] via [airway or direct routing], climb to and maintain FL, (there are special departure procedures on runway 21) after departure on Runway 21, track 170 degrees magnetic till 4000 feet or crossing the coastline before turning left on course and squawk [30xx] Report souls on board and fuel endurance.” And after that a readback is required to verify receipt.
So KLM five niner zero was cleared to was cleared to Amsterdam via Upper Alpha six zero three and was to climb to and maintain flight level three three zero after complying with the special departure procedures for runway 21. Scheduled departure was at 2210, and at 2213 we lifted off the ground. I saw the wings bank slightly to the left after takeoff to track 170. I saw some landmarks and traffic on the ground and after no time we were turning around almost 180 degrees over the water. Like two minutes later I could feel the 763 lining up with the Accra VOR, where the UA603 begins. After that the sky just got black and I couldn’t see out the window any more. I had got bored already. My usual nosy self noticed some weird name on the Barbie doll sitting next to me’s ticket, so I call it out, expecting her to look at me, but she didn’t really get it. Wow. Somebody who doesn’t know her own name. I finally got her attention and talked to her, and after a while she explained to me how she was on her way to Frankfurt using her sisters passport and how it was her first time flying. I suddenly understood why she was so nervous, and I tell her to be very careful. This is a classic example of how anxious people are to get out of the third world.
Since the flight was red-eye and all, it was very uncomfortable for me and the girl. Seeing that she was very uncomfortable, and being the nice gentleman that I always am, I raised my armrest and let her sleep on my shoulder. She was shy at first but not long after she was lying on my lap asleep, I actually liked it and to tell you the truth I even snuck a couple of strokes while she was asleep.
I mean they cut the lights and all, so what else was I supposed to do? The seats were cramped, some wise white dude had three middle seats to himself, and I was forced to watch while he made a bed, and the movie sucked.
The service was alright, however. That night our flight took us over Niamey FIR, Algiers and through Marseilles, France, then Belgium at FL400 and finally down over the Hague and I forgot which friggin RW at Schiphol at 06:09 06 March.
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
06 March, 2002
It was still dark when we landed. Earlier I had cornered an FA, flirted with her a little bit, and even bought a little duty-free 747 before casually asking about a cockpit visit. I was then told all kinds of stories about how the boss banned them altogether, even on the ground, because of September 11th, bla, bla, bla….
I felt sorry for asking. So after the flight I walked down the jetway, pisssed off and since most of the people were connecting, we all crowded around a monitor. I discovered that my next flight would be NW67 and that it would depart at 1040 at E9. So to kill time, I started in a See Buy Fly electronics shop, saw some nice cameras and GSM phones, and wished I had €500 to purchase a nice SLR digital camera to upload pictures of all the big aircraft I was seeing to airliners.net. Oh well. A Mas 777 landed right after we vacated the runway, and I saw a new 737-806 and –906, quite a few 747-406’s, maybe 12 of them, including PH-BFH
Photo © Ben Wang
with KLM asia titles. There were six 763’s getting inspected in the middle of the tarmac, including PH-BZH and BZD. I saw a lot of NW DC-10’s including N229NW and some 747-400’s. I even saw a Ukranian 737 and a Martinair 763. I saw a couple of BA RJ’s in the other pier.
When I went through the security checkpoint in the E pier, I could’ve sworn that this Dutch security guard was American. He talked just like one.
I went and perched in this lazy chair in a waiting area, when my airplane, N672US,
Photo © George Polfliet
or something along that line, as I’ve forgotten the exact reg, pulls up into the gate from Mumbai. A couple of hours later, boarding started and I moved to the back of a very long line trying to get past “security.” Maybe 25 minutes later, I finally got to the front of the line, only to get gypped by a WBC guy who just showed up at the rope. God, money talks. This security guy finally took me into the corner, tooks my passport and questioned me. He apparently didn’t understand how such a young guy like me could get $900 to buy an airplane ticket. So he calls his boss over, some blonde guy with a sharp dark suit on with a screwed up fast accent. He introduced himself, and fired his set of questions at me. At some point I got really irritated and he saw he wasn’t going to get further, so he apologized for the delay and sent me on my way. I was like the last person to get through the security. So the line to board inside the gate was just as long as the line for security, there must have been 400 people out there, and they said it wasn’t even fully booked. Finally I got to the front, presented my ugly pass and got on the 747-400 and proceeded directly to 21k, the first row after WBC. I sat next to this middle-aged white guy reading a paperback novel. The interior of the airplane looked old for a 747-400, and it was almost like a no-frills airline. I don’t think they painted the outside since they took delivery, either. We taxied out to the RW, whichever one it was, and held short while we watched some 737 lift off in the drizzle in front of us. It was cool as all hell seeing the thrust of the engines kick up water, but I bet that the little Fokker waiting in front of us thought nothing of that puny 737. They were all waiting for the big 747 to take off. I could see the intakes of those PW4056’s suck in water as the EPR’s increased gradually. As we started to accelerate, I could see the Ethiopian 757PF (ET-AJS)
Photo © Sven De Bevere
slowing down on a taxiway—I don’t know if to watch us or what. We finally lifted off at 10:46 and turned out over the north sea. The Captain said because of the jet stream, we had to go way north of the trans-atlantic track or it would slow us down. So we cruised over the British Isles and and the coast of Iceland at FL370 and then climbed to 390.
The FA’s were some old ladies and some gay sounding guy, and another tall slinky dude. They showed like two movies and fed us. Luckily 21k is right behind the lav, so there’s plenty of legroom. The highlights of the flight were when this dude from Tennessee came and sat next to me and told me how his ticket was real cheap, around $400 for 4 days RT, and how weed is legal in Amsterdam, how he talked a hooker down to $25 in the red-light district, and that all the stuff he did in four days would get him like 10 years in America. The other one was when over Newfoundland this KLM SUD flies abreast at a lover altitude leaving a nice contrail for like half an hour, after which it got lost???
The lav on NW 67 was real small—even the 767 lav was bigger. NW67 went by uneventfully, and I guess we landed at 13:29 on RW04 or something like that in Detroit.
Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport
06 March, 2002
I went through immigration and declared my little 747 with customs. They say the World Gateway is supposed to process 8 747’s at a time, but my luggage took 50 minutes to show up—I even figured they lost it. I even got sniffed by a customs dog because I was standing there for so long. After that I put my bag back on the line for my connecting flight, and a national guardsman was standing at the security checkpoint. Of course, because of the damned convenient world gateway, they had closed the gate. Hell, the last time I was in Detroit it was faster. This black guy took me aside and took a little handheld metal detector and guess what set it off? A damned piece of candy. Yeah. So he made me take my kicks off and everything, looked through my backpack, the works. After that, the gate agent, an oriental lady with an accent, walked me to the airplane and told the captain everything was alright. I got a couple of nasty looks from the passengers for holding up their flight, but screw them, it wasn’t my fault.
It was alright though, NW1579 a DC-9-10. I was in 6A. We took off RW21R at 1507 EST. At that time, by looking down I realized that northwest has too many DC-9’s. There was no entertainment whatsoever on that airplane, but it was fun enough looking out the window at FL210. I even got to see the buildings of downtown Pittsburgh and a couple of places I know. They gave me OJ and pretzels, and 35 minutes later we landed on RW27L at PIT. And finally my long trip of 24 hours total, 17 actual flight time came to an enc. Thank you for your time, and your comments are welcome.