This has got to be one of the best flights I had with Air Canada, because not only was the staff great on the ground and in the air – it was also the first time in my life that I’ve ever flown on a 767. The 767 turned out to be much better than I expected, being clean and not as loud as I expected it to be.
Flight AC139 YOW-YVR
Sched Dep 7:30 pm – Arr 9:44 pm
Actual Dep 7:30 pm – Arr 9:19 pm
I took the #97 to YOW along one of Ottawa’s busways, and arrived at the airport well ahead of time, as I usually do at most airports. It was 5:30 pm as I walked into the main terminal at Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW), and I joined a long and snaky line to the Air Canada counter. The line went more quickly than I expected, although a few people did get so impatient that they chose to drop out of the lineup behind me and deal with the unfamiliar monstrosities called express check-in kiosks. The weather was quite nice and warm – a pleasant contrast to when I arrived in YOW from YYC (Calgary)! YOW is a bit small for an airport to serve a city of over a million, even smaller than YEG (Edmonton). Then again, one must understand that Ottawa is only a two-hour drive or a 30 minute flight from YUL (Montreal Dorval), and is about an hour’s flying time from YYZ (Toronto Pearson Int’l). However, it is not a bad airport, and looks like it was renovated extensively recently.
Photo © Felix Sieder
I got my boarding pass at the ticket counter pretty quickly, for the man behind the counter was a fast but pleasant worker. Free of the suitcase I just checked in, I went with my trusty Outbound backpack to a restaurant/bar by the indoor observation deck. I ordered a pint of Carling beer and relaxed, just looking out at the planes, an Air Canada Tango 732 at the gate – and lo and behold, my first ever sighting of an aircraft in AC Jazz colors! It was a BAe 146-200 in red AC Jazz colors, which was probably C-GRNZ. That bird was likely bound for Halifax in Nova Scotia. After talking with a guy in a business suit who sounded like he’d had one too many but not in an obnoxious manner (fortunately), I left the bar and went up the escalator to the domestic security checkpoint.
There was a snaking lineup into security, but not as bad as the one at the AC check-in counter earlier. For one thing, several people who had boarding passes for a flight to YYC were ushered to the front of the lineup, probably because the flight was leaving earlier than scheduled (it does happen, believe it or not). Here I was, holding a boarding pass for the flight to YVR and becoming green with envy at the YYC bound pax! But then again, I’m sure that those who had to go through YYZ to destinations in Western Canada must be jealous of me, as my flight to YVR would be a nonstop one. There were all two or three security checkpoints up and running, so I did not have any problems going through security. Nor was my pack searched manually this time, even with my amazing vibrating alarm clock (See Part One). I usually travel alone, but since I’m an Anglo-Canadian and 30 years of age, I don’t raise any suspicions that security people might have. Not to mention that I always book my flights well in advance – it’s cheaper that way, heh.
I took a walk around, and found that my flight was at the far end of the departures area. The 767-200 was already at the gate, with the cargo doors open, blocking the reg from view. But I did get the fin number (#609), since that’s a good way to figure out the reg numbers later. That turned out to be C-GAUY. Of course, it was not the infamous Gimli Glider, as I hoped it would be, but it was a 762, nonetheless. Still, I wasn’t disappointed, because this was to be the first time I’ve ever flown on a 767. At the departure gates in the domestic wing, there was an AC A319, an AC Tango 732 and three AC 767s, one of them a 763 supposedly bound for LHR later that evening.
The Gimli Glider has #604 as its fin number, and its reg is C-GAUN. I’ll tell you a bit about why it’s called the “Gimli Glider”. In July 1983, as Flight 143 on the YUL-YOW-YEG run, one of the pilots had to glide the 762 after it ran out of fuel at 41,000 feet over Northern Ontario bound for YEG. Apparently, the techs were using imperial measurements when they were supposed to be using metric as a fuel gauge wasn’t working, and so resulted in only half the fuel required to make it from YOW to YEG. The captain had experience as a glider pilot and was able to put his skill to use, landing the plane in an abandoned Canadian Armed Forces base near Gimli, Manitoba, a town by Lake Winnipeg a few hundred kilometres north of Winnipeg. To make matters worse, the airstrip was being used as a car-racing strip – and a racing event was taking place at the time! The 762 came to a stop, with its front gear collapsed, but fortunately, no one was killed, thanks to the pilot’s skill and the fact that people on the ground were able to get out of the way. There were only 61 passengers and 8 crew aboard that flight. C-GAUN was not a write-off, and was put back in service afterwards. In fact, it has been in passenger service with AC until very recently, in which I think this plane may already be retired as of late 2001 or early this year.
Photo © Felix Sieder
Anyways, back to my flight. I decided to phone my brother in Vancouver to remind him that the flight would be coming in that evening. He wasn’t home, so I put a message in his answering machine. I knew he wouldn’t forget, but I figured it’d still be wise to give him a call. Then I arranged for preboarding as usual, and just waited.
I preboarded and found my seat at 19A with no problem, despite not having been inside a 767 before. You cannot see the movie closest to you – Row 19’s outer aisle/window seats happen to sit astride, not in front of, the lavatory/movie screen section. Fortunately, all was not lost, since I could still the movie screen farther up front in the front part of the Hospitality (economy) class section – that was, if nobody was sitting in front of me, which was the case for this flight. Not to mention that I had a window seat, of course.
General boarding came, and I had a Chinese-Canadian architecture student from Vancouver sitting next to me. He was pretty cool, though he chose to work quite a bit on his iMac laptop most of the time, putting it away only during the meal and descent. Not that it matters, anyways, as I’m usually not much of a talker, and I knew he wanted to get a project finished, so I decided to leave him alone most of the time. The flight turned out to be pretty full – there were very few empty seats left, including both of the seats in front of me. Yow had told me that the YOW-YVR is the second busiest route in terms of pax numbers out of YOW, after YOW-YYZ. This explains why AC is now using 762s these days since the merger between AC and CP.
I wasn’t the only hard of hearing guy aboard the flight – there was a couple with the husband wearing hearing aids sitting in the dreaded middle seats. Apparently, he never took advantage of the telecoil switch on his behind the ear aids to use the IFE. I guess either he was too deaf (no offense here) or either the aids or the IFE didn’t work for him.
The 767 is interesting inside – it feels a bit like a narrow body, even though it is a true widebody. I guess it’s due to the 2-3-2 seating in economy, which is narrower than larger widebodies such as the 744 or the A340. Yow, the A.net member whom I went spotting with the day before, in fact, told me that was what the 767 felt like to him, as he was on them to and from LHR from YOW a few years ago.
Photo © Matthew Lee
I didn’t have any problems using the IFE, along with the telecoil switch on my aids to cut out the cabin noise. That way, I’m able to hear the PAs made by the Captain or the FAs, and the shows, too. As the flight was boarding, there was only one thing I didn’t like about the 762 – there were no overhead fans and it was getting uncomfortably warm inside while the flight was boarding. After the flight took off, it cooled down so I was more comfortable. The seats were a bit hard on the back, but weren’t bad overall, with the winged headrests and all. Legroom was fine, too, even as I’m about 5’9”.
Then AC139 left the gate on time, and taxied to the east end of the east-west runway. Since I was on the port side of the 762, I was able to see where I was spotting the day before with Yow. There were a few parents with kids there watching. The 762 took off very shortly after getting on the runway, and the noise levels in the cabin wasn’t as loud as I expected – more like what you’d get inside an A319/A320, but lower in pitch probably due to the larger P&W turbofans on the 762. It was definitely quieter than inside a 732. Overall, the 767-200 was a better plane than I expected and it was pretty clean. The FAs were polite and in a good mood, so I wasn’t going to worry about the flight to YVR, which would last just under 5 hours.
The only negative thing during the flight was that the cloud cover was practically solid all over Western Canada and most of Ontario, so I didn’t see anything even it was still light outside. Only when the flight was starting to go over the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver did I see anything on the ground. The drinks came, and I ordered a can of Molson Dry beer. I had two cans of Molson Drys, actually. The movie, A Beautiful Mind was on, as well as a few newscasts. The movie wasn’t a bad drama type of show, and it was a diversion from the solid cloud cover below and the guy next me working on his laptop.
The meals were then passed out, and it smelled good, believe it or not. I hoped that this meal would taste at least better than the disgusting crap I had for breakfast aboard AC1184 from YYC to YOW. I was pleased to find that it did taste as good as it smelled. The dinner was a roll, which was a bit dry but OK, a surprisingly crispy (and cold) tomato and lettuce salad that I had with ranch dressing. The hot meal was a boneless piece of chicken that tasted like it was basted with honey, which tasted great, and peas and carrots, which were not overcooked. Dessert was a something like a Nanaimo bar, but wasn’t quite that. The dessert wasn’t too bad, either. After the beers and dinner, I had a coffee, black with sugar, as I usually like it. It wasn’t bad, either.
The movie, A Beautiful Mind was on, as well as a few newscasts. The movie was not a bad drama type of show about a professor dealing with paranoid schizophrenia, as after all, it was a diversion away from the solid cloud cover below and the guy next me working on his laptop. There was a passenger a couple of rows ahead of me whose head was blocking most of my view the screen. He was a big, muscular man, so his head was way up. Luckily for me, he decided to switch to a window seat from his original aisle seat with a shorter woman, and so I got a better view of the movie screen.
By the time the 762 was starting to descend, the sun was just over the horizon. The setting sun was coloring the clouds with wonderfully beautiful hues of pastel and golden colors, even though the sunset itself could be seen only from the side opposite of where I was sitting. The 762 then started diving under the clouds, but it was thin enough that I saw the peaks below me shortly afterwards. Snow cover on the Coast Mountains appeared to be heavier than was normal for this time of year, making them look even more beautiful. The 762 then began a turn over Maple Ridge, on the east side of Greater Vancouver. Except for a few minor bumps over the Prairies, the entire flight had been very smooth.
Photo © Matej Sabol
As the 762 descended further towards YVR, it was already getting dark, but I could still make out individual buildings and the coastline easily. Since the flight was coming in from the east, like most flights into YVR do, I couldn’t see downtown Vancouver. But I could easily make out the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal in the distance, as well as most of southern suburbs of Delta, Richmond and Surrey. The 762 made a very smooth landing on the north runway, and taxied quite a ways to the south side of the B pier. While it was taxiing to the gate, I could see what looked like a 744 at the International pier, but it was getting too dark to make out the airline. A few WestJet and AC 732s were present, along with a few 767s in AC colors docked at the international pier on the north side of YVR. As the 762 neared the gate, there was an AC 763 to the left and an AC 744 to the right, looking still enormous in the fading light of day. I looked at my digital watch, and it was 9:19 pm – about 25 minutes earlier than scheduled! Not bad for a transcon flight, especially a westbound one.
Photo © Rob Rindt
I made my way down to the baggage claim area and found that half of the area was closed due to those extensive renovations that have been going on for at least a year now at YVR’s domestic terminal. I wasn’t tired - rather, I felt oddly alert after getting off the flight. Maybe it was the coffee or the beer or both. I waited for my suitcase to come out, but it was among the last out. At least it was still in good shape and untampered. I then had to wait for my brother, who was a little bit late in coming to pick me up, since he had to pick up his fiancée from work in the middle of Surrey, which is quite a commute from YVR, as anyone who’s lived in the Vancouver area will attest. But he was surprised at how early my flight was coming in. We got in the car and went to a BK to grab a bite and then went home to his apartment in Richmond. I had not realized how much I missed the sea air until I got out of the terminal. YVR sits on an island in the City of Richmond, so it’s quite close to the Georgia Strait, which also separates Vancouver Island, North America’s biggest island off the West Coast from Mainland BC.
I stayed with my brother and his fiancée until May 28, and although the weather wasn’t much drier than in Ottawa when I was there, it was warmer. It was even muggy during the last two days I was in the Vancouver area. I checked out the Howe Sound area north of Horseshoe Bay in West Van, including the Furry Creek golf course (very interesting golf course!) although I didn’t play there. Also, we decided to have a look at Vancouver from Cypress Provincial Park, about a thousand feet or two above West Vancouver, for a great view down below. Not to mention that I checked out a couple of sushi places, which Vancouver does have an abundance of!
On the day of departure on May 28, I had to take a cab to YVR, since my brother’s fiancée was working that day, so she needed the car to Surrey and that was the only car they had. I called the cab, and it was at the door in only a few minutes.
To be continued on Part Three…..