-Air France (Operated by British European) flight 3038
-Toulouse Blagnac to London Heathrow
-Thursday, 4th of July 2002
-Time: 2:10 (Depart 7:30am Arrive 8:40am)
-BAe 146-200 G-JEAX
I got to the airport around 5:30, and the check-in desk had just opened.
Photo © Philippe Gindrat
It was partly cloudy, like in the pic above, there had been thunderstorms the night before.
I was the first person to check in for the flight, and I had about an hour before departure call, so I had a snack, and watched some of the early morning activity at TLS. The Virgin 340-600 was sitting across the field, and it looked great in the early morning light.
7:00 am rolled around, and I made my way over to the gate, and we boarded early onto G-JEAX, throgh the stairs which I thought was fun
Photo © Paul Morley
We taxied out quickly, and the ramp looked cold and grey. An AF 319 was just touching down from Orly on 33L when we began our roll on 33R. The 146's big flaps kind of got in my way, but they were retracted soon after take-off so it didnt bother me.
The seats in the BE 146 were nice wide leather ones, but the pitch wasnt anything special. I was served a nice little breakfast which consisted of Smoked Salmon with toast and lemon, along with cheese and a bread roll, with a small cup of fresh fruit and a glass of orange juice. I enjoyed my breakfast as we climbed over central France, through some nice cumulus that were scattered about, while little towns and villages glistened in the orange-yellow light bellow.
Before long we were over the channel then descending over Brighton. We passed over Gatwick then held between Gatwick and Heathrow for at least 15 minutes. It was an extroardinarily clear day, with only light cumulus dotting the sky around 3000ft. I could see planes everywhere! All around. The TCAs up front must have been over-heating! There were BA aircraft everywhere, but somehow Heathrow Director managed to squish us into the stream of Arrivals. We flew our base and final legs as if we were in a Cessna, tight turns and the speedbrakes were out alot. The flaps on the 146 must have a 90 degree setting (!) because they were pointed straight down!
Soon we came over the threshold of 27R, and with a rather large smash, probably left a permanent mark in the runway . Auto-Brakes must have been at the max, because we braked like mad as soon as the wheels hit, and I was litterally thrown forward! Soon I realised why we needed the harsh brakes, because as we turned off at the first available exit, I saw an AA 767-200 50ft over the threshold behind us!
We sped our way over to Terminal two and parked right in-front of the viewing deck
===============Intermission (On the ground at LHR)=================
I got to the Flight Connection Center without much trouble, only to find a HUGE line at AA check-in. I stood in line for 30 minutes, and after receiving a security interrogation and checking in, I was told I could proceed to the Gate in Terminal 3.
I walked through LHR, something I always think is a voyage in itself, and hopped on the bus to T3. We went right next to the new BWIA A340, it was soo fun to see it up close!
I got to T3, and made my way to the gate, with an hour to kill before boarding. I watched in awe at the amazing number of 777s that taxied around. I estimate there were at least 7-8 AA and UA 777s, and maybe 15+ BA 777s. Aircraft were everywhere, and they were departing in a constant stream from 27L. KLM 767, BA 744 (3), AF320, LH 735, AA777, BA 777, BA 757s... hundreds of aircraft.
-American Airlines flight 137
-London Heathrow to Los Angeles International
-Thursday 4th of July 2002
-Time: 11:25 (Depart 11:05am Arrive 2:30pm)
-Boeing 777-223ER N777AN
Photo © Stephen Tornblom/Flying Images Worldwide
I was Finally able to board this magnificent aircraft. AA 777s are some of the most beautiful planes in the sky. It was sitting there at the gate, and I stared at it through the window. The sun shown through breaks in the clouds, the sky was a deep blue, and all of this reflected down the length of the big Boeing. It was like looking at a mirror to the sky. It looked quite like this:
Photo © Jonathan Derden
Photo © Irving Tjin
As I stood there, I received a tap on the shoulder. I turned and saw our Four-striper standing close behind me, looking very sharp in the full AA uniform. He asked, looking out with me "What do you see?". I replied "A 777-200, ready to return to the sky". He said "Very Good, she's going to take you home." and left with a wink.
I walked down the jetway, and asked to kiss the bare-metal polished surface of our beautiful craft. (Note to all Photogs: If you see N777AN, I have kissed her ) I then proceeded down to my seat, 37J, a window behind the wing, right where I like it . I sat down and marvelled at the spaciousness and comfort in this economy class cabin. Seat racks barely visible, high ceilings, airy and bright, clean, sharp and topped with a generous seat pitch. I must say I was very impressed!
The LCD video screens were big and nice, and the seats had nice winged headrests.
We departed from 27L after a BA 744, 15 minutes late. Soon we were climbing over England, through the clouds up to FL320. Our captain introduced himself as Jim Marino.
I had lunch, which consisted of the following:
-Teriyaki Salmon or Turkey w/ Gravy and Peas.
I took Turkey, and it was ok. I always enjoy meals at FL320 anyway, especially with the sun glint off the wing illuminating my view of the world below.
I shut my shade, because everyone else seemed settled in for some sleep, and decided to watch "Ice Age" which i found hilarious. The Sloth character was very funny, with his eye balls at either end of his head
The rest of the flight was mostley spent watching the Moving map and listening to Music from my CD player. Mostly Moby. I saw the contrails of another plane far away from my perch at our new cruising altitude of 35000ft. I wondered if anyone in that plane was looking at us.
We crossed over North Dakota, and I looked up at the black sky. Its pretty weird sitting up there, Daylight and sun down below, night and space above.
Photo © Jonathan Derden
Soon we were down near Las Vegas, and I saw a UA 757 zip by at our level in the opposite direction. It was crystal clear. I could see 500+ miles. The American deserts streched out before me and I admired their vastness and desolation.
I was served a small snack/Lunch, a pizza with lots of nice gooey cheese, and a drink and cookie. We began to near LA, and started our descent (Probably the Civet4 arrival STAR - later confirmed by our Captain ) Over Civet, which lies about 25 miles from LAX, on the runway 25L approach centerline, the spoilers came out. They stayed out for most of the approach, which a friend of mine, who is a DC-9 captain, later explained as quite normal. Because the 777 is such a low drag, high lift streamlined aircraft, it has alot of trouble getting down. The spoilers on its wing are an effective method of changing its configuration to meet the high profile descents present at many US airports.
Down we went, over MattD's house, East LA, and finally the 110 freeway, which I know is not far from the Outer-Marker for 25L, hence the gear ploping down then. We landed in a smoogy LA, back in my home town, on Independence Day . We were on the gate in no time, and logged a total flight time of 10:27 minutes. Not Bad. I waited to be last off the plane, No reason to rush, and was rewarded with a little time with the Captain
After a quick chat I was off to Customs, where I found out from others there had been a Shooting at the Tom Bradley terminal.
Nonetheless, I got out without much trouble, and was able to take in the sights and sounds of home
Part2 coming soon!