Thursday 8th August, 2002
Airline: BMI British Midland
Flight: BD107 (Manchester, UK to Washington D.C.)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200 (G-WWBM)
This was my first experience with BMI and so I was eagerly awaiting the flight after hearing so many good comments about the airline. From the moment of check-in I was impressed. While the rest of Manchester Airport queued in long, muddled lines, BMI’s area had a winding queue that was much more organised and tidy. Before we checked in for the flight, we were greeted by staff at the back of the line where we were given the visa forms for immigration and asked all of the necessary security questions. This meant that the actual time spent at the desk was reduced.
Photo © Chris Sheldon
Photo © Tony Silgrim
When I reached the departure gate in Terminal 1, G-WWBM was waiting patiently, looking as striking and sparkling as ever. Boarding was prompt and I settled into my seat near the back of the aircraft, 33A, and started to read my complimentary copy of the Daily Express. The cabin environment is excellent, with blue seats and an overall airy, light and spacious feel. I selected the forward camera view via my remote-controlled handset that fastens back onto the armrest when not needed. This facility really comes into its own when playing one of the many Gameboy Color games available for free.
We pushed back at 12.45pm on the dot, testimony to BMI’s high punctuality campaign, and the two Rolls Royce Trent engines were started. Once the flaps were configured, we started to taxi towards runway 24R. It always amazes me how quiet the A330 is while taxiing. We held short of 24R where a Dragonair Cargo 747-200 crept in right beside us, almost clipping our wing. I had an excellent view of The Airport Hotel, a pub that sits right beside the threshold where drinkers in the beer garden get amazingly close views of the aircraft. A few minutes later we taxied on for an immediate take-off. The roll was quick and we rotated just over half way down the 10,000ft runway.
Our flight path took us over Scotland and on towards Greenland, where the skies were completely clear, giving us excellent views of the icy topography. The service on board BMI is second to none in economy, with the cabin crew regularly coming up and down offering free drinks. Even before take-off, everyone was drinking water or orange juice—or champagne in ‘the business’. In addition, the food is excellent. Menus are distributed with a good choice for both dinner and lunch. The trays are massive compared to the usual size, with the pull-down seatback trays sliding forwards and backwards as desired. I had Cumberland sausage which was tasty, while my brother can attest the quality of the vegetable chilli bake.
The flight passed fairly quickly overall, thanks to BMI’s excellent in-flight entertainment system. Our descent into IAD began forty minutes out. The winds were northerly, which meant a 1R arrival. It was fairly bumpy on the descent and on downwind we were holding endlessly at what could have only been an altitude of 3,000ft. However, no flaps were set which meant our attitude was quite high. On right base, the pilot selected flaps, and while turning onto final, gear came down and I spotted a United A320 landing in formation with us on 1L. The views from the camera at this stage are excellent, and it is surprising how much the aircraft deviates from the centre line. The ailerons were moving quite drastically as we were on the approach.
The landing was smooth, however, though a bit to the right, and we taxied past a whole host of United 777s to our gate. Now was time for my connecting flight to LAX.
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
Thursday 8th August, 2002
Airline: United Airlines
Flight: UA190 (Washington D.C. to Los Angeles)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
This was my first flight on a 777 and I must say I was totally astounded by its size inside. The cabin was clean enough, although the dark colours inside make it look dingy compared to BMI. Once onboard I could relax after rushing hectically onto mobile lounge buses to get to immigration and back. Once the engines were running, we taxied for take-off. This aircraft is also very quiet, even on take-off, which was very impressive.
Photo © Sam Chui
The service on board was average, with a choice of main meal for dinner. The flight was smooth and the entertainment good, especially the facility to watch VH1. Our descent from FL390 began just after Las Vegas. The weather was clear skies with the wind out westerly, resulting in a 25L arrival this evening. Touchdown was again smooth, and our time on the runway was astonishingly short. We exited down a high-speed taxiway and in no time at all a FedEx DC-10 rotated to my left. We then crossed 25R and taxied to the gate.
Photo © Paul Paulsen
As a final point, both flights were enjoyable, but the service on board BMI was better, though the United was only domestic. I will post the report of the return flights momentarily.