Fr. 15-3-02 AMS-LHR A-319 G-EUPP BA11. Scheduled 11.55-12.10, actual 12.25-12.28 (63 minutes)
I had booked a London Heathrow return to enjoy a weekend in and around Bournemouth, where I would fly on a BAC 1-11 farewell flight and meet Tom, another Airliners.net member to tour some airports. The BA flights were the cheapest, as Easyjet tends to fill up around the weekend.
It also enabled me to collect miles for another tiny part of a future Concorde trip on my Executive Club card and fly their A-319 for the first time (I especially chose this time to get the A-319, as most flights are still the 757).
As I only had hand luggage and an e-ticket, I tried the automatic check in machine for the first time in my life, quite easy as it recognized my itinary after chewing on my FF card (it also works on the credit card). It was quite interesting to be able to browse through a seating map and choose your own seat (although the best seats were already gone 90 minutes before departure). Also the luggage screening and passport check were a quick breeze (same in LHR), as if Sept 11 never happened.
I chose 21F, the last row in the back (the only with windowseats available) and the flight filled up for 98%, the seat next to me (an off duty FA on 21D) might be the only free one. The A-319 and dark blue leather seats looked fresh and modern. The dropdown video screens showed the safety video and had the route planner while en route.
We boarded in time, at around 11.45. Passengers wondered about the 'barking dog' on board, but that's a hydraulic system in the aircraft, F/A's explained. It reminded me of the "bagpipe player" hidden in a certain Dutch train type, something the railway technicians can't get rid of.
Push back and taxiing took quite some time. The F/A's passed with complimentary newspapers.
Took off was powerful but a bit shaky. Only after a minute we came above the murky clouds covering Amsterdam and we saw the sun. Thanks to the flightmap I saw we reached 8.000 meters and flying 800 kilometers an hour already after 10 minutes, and from that moment on, you could feel the power and hight decline already.
While the 5 F/A's (quite a lot for an aircraft this size) came around with drinks (I took coffee and orange juice) and the deli bags. While the snackboxes on my sept 2000 AMS-LHR r/t (with a print of one of the World tail designs) looked more elegant, the contains now were definitely better than 18 months ago. Instead of the earlier tiny dull sandwich, the sandwich now was big and tasteful (cheese and salami). The only other thing in it was a small can of water.
This was actually the first time I actually saw an airline offering better service compared to an earlier flight on the same route (as I witnessed KLM, Lufthansa, TWA amongst others offer smaller or deterioring service time after time I flew them). I guess BA really want to live up to the business full service image they have lately.
Only 25 minutes after TO, we were already above the English coast, flying at only 3000 meters and 480 km/hour. The crew announced we would be in a holding pattern for a while to wait and land. Finally after an hour in the air (including 15 minutes of holding north east of London) we approached from the west (over Staines) into a rainy Heathrow.
We had to have more patience as we had to wait 20 minutes before the gate was available, so we spent 2 hours on board of the cabin.
sa. 16-3-02 BOH-BOH BAC 1-11-500 G-AZMF European Aviation. Actual 11.12-11.48
After a bus trip to Bournemouth in the evening, I met Tom who flew in from Hahn earlier, and the next day reported at Bournemouth airport at 9.30 for the BAC 1-11 farewell sightseeing flight organized by Aeropic (for GBP 40 quite a bargain compared to the 130 GPB sightseeing flights (also 40 minutes) by Ian Allan.
Check in was easy and informal, with a free and nice gold/metal 1-11 tie-pin (unlike my travel mate, unfortunaly I don't like to wear ties). It was clearly an enthousiast/family run organisation, they were happy and proud to hand out a fact sheet about the 1-11, a relatively new one (1972) which flew for British Caledonian, Air Malawi and British Airways and with a modest 44.020 hours. We would probably clock one of the last hours on it as the 1-11s will be withdrawn by 1 April due to European noise regulations and only few UK 1-11s have been sold to Nigeria or South Africa lately, so most will be scrapped. I got assigned seat 16F.
We could board the aircraft through the tail door after a walk over the tarmac, which was fun. The cabin looked quite nice, not that old, with closed overhead bins and dark purple seatcovers.
Unfortunately in a charter configuration of Y104 instead of the VIP fitting it used to fly for years.
While I remembered the sluggish take offs on my earlier flights on Ryanair and Tikal Jets 1-11s, our take off was quite normal, although not like a rocket (or the 319 and 757 take offs I had the weekend). Also, even while seated behind the wing, the engine noise wasn't particularly heavy (it was much louder when we waited on the ground to see the next sightseeing flight take off).
We had the impression the crew wasn't really imaginative in what to do with an enthousiast flight. While on my other sightseeing/ enthousiast flights (on DC-3, Connie, DC-4, Viscount) the crew was fun, talkative and explanative about everything. Now the flight announcements about scheduled arrival time etc. were just like they perfomed yet another mediterannean charter. Also cockpit visit weren't possible (or at least not invited), but 11 sept. might also have been a factor in this.
The crew rushed a standard service with coffee or tea and a biscuit. Hard not to mess up as the tray table could not be set straight, a first sign of the planes due withdrawl.
We flew a sort of 8-shape near the Bournemouth area, besides the isle of Wright, turning over Southampton, passing north of Bournemouth and turning back for the airport. While we saw lots of rain and clouds this weekend, luckily the weather was good when we flew, so we could enjoy the view of the southern english coastline and countryside. I estimate our flying hight at about 2000 meters, as I can imagine the towns might not like a low flying 1-11 (like the DC-3 flights in Holland). Already 11 minutes before landing, the flaps were out. The 1-11 has interesting flaps containing sort of brushes which we could clearly see from our seats right behind the wing. After landing, we could enjoy the sound of the howling Spey engines for another 10 minutes as we loitered on the taxi way waiting for an Eurocypria A-320 leaving, a nice contrast between old and new.
su 17-3-02 LHR-AMS 757 G-CPEN. Sched. 16.10-18.20, actual 16.22-18.05. 44A
After visiting the observation deck and seeing many interesting planes, I had a very convenient automatic check in, another backrow seat as all other windowseats were filled up already.
We had to board through stairs from the platform at the end of the D terminal. Unfortunately it was yet another Union Flag 757, as I hoped to ever fly a BA plane with either World or Speedwings (old) schemes.
Some fellow passengers giggled as seeing the back cabin containing cloth seats compared to the leather seats in most of the aircraft.
As it is one of the newer 757s, the cabin looked OK, but there is no inflight entertainment (videoscreens or soundplugs).
The weather was more clear, so I could see us taking off through the west, turning north. The deli bag contained another very good substantial sandwich, now with mozzarella, roasted mushrooms, tomato chutney and focaccia (I checked the sticker). Flight time was substantially shorter as Amsterdam is less slot constrained than Heathrow so we could fly straight in.
At landing it struck me the 757 makes an even longer impression when it's divided in three cabins, like BA. I wasn't the only one thinking this, as some other passengers who had to walk up front joked the rear was actually still in England and we had to walk through the aisle all the way to Amsterdam.
nobody has ever died from hard work, but why take the risk?