Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER
Captain: Bill Englund
Photo © Sam Chui
Photo © Ryan C. Umphrey
I arrived at the airport with my mother at 0515, we stood in line for the check in for about 10 minutes and then we were called over to a business class check in desk, even though we were travelling in economy. Having checked in we proceeded through security where, of course I got searched, to the departure lounge. Here it being so early none of the shops were open until 6, I bought a Daily Telegraph and the book "No Frills" by Simon Calder (a great book btw recommended to all). I had not flown SA)">AA in over 2 years so was looking forward to this flight.
At 0710 we proceeded to the departure gate (18) and got searched again with my entire rucksack being emptied and tested for explosive. Luckily nothing was confiscated and I passed through and got a sat by the window here I could look at the ship N774AN a 777-200ER of SA)">AA. We boarded in groups, I was in set 34H which put me in group 4, we were greeted at the door by the male f/a and shown our seats, which were in the 4th row of the main economy cabin. Looking at the business class seats it didn’t rally seem worth it compared to upper class on VS but the first class seats look sweet, but still not fantastic.
I sat down and got out my book and tuned into channel 1 which had some good music on, (classical my preferred style) we pushed back on time and the Captain (Bill Englund) introduced himself and gave some details of the flight. We taxied for about 30 minutes to 27R where we took off, (lifting off in block 11). During the taxi I saw loads of aircraft but living close to LHR it didn’t amaze me too much, highlights included CX Asia World city 744, VS A340-600 G-VOGE and an Amiri flight 741/2 at the maintenance area.
I'd forgotten how powerful these 777's are on climb out as we climbed very fast but without noticeable pressurisation changes or G forces. Our climb out took us west of London in between Birmingham and Nottingham and south of Manchester. We crossed out over the Irish Sea just south of Prestwick and over Northern Ireland before continuing out over the Atlantic. Once airborne the f/a's very quickly started handing out breakfast, I could choose either French toast or an Omelette, I chose French toast and my mother the omelette. I have an aversion to eggs in general so to me it didn’t look too good; the f/t was really nice it came with some ham and loads of maple syrup (so much it filled the little trough it came in once I had finished!) The meal also came with Orange juice, a fruit plate (Orange and 2 different types of melon (orange and green)) a croissant and cheese and biscuits. Immediately following that a drinks cart came round and I had an apple juice. (But I noticed people who had a coke got the whole can) In my opinion the f/as came round to clear up far too soon, but I wasn’t complaining just I barely had time to finish.
I then settled down to watch the IFE the first film I watched was anger management which wasn’t great but was a good (funny) movie to watch on this flight. With PTV's this flight was great, it really puts airlines like LH to shame without them in Economy yet as it keeps little kids (and bigger ones) occupied for the 7+ hours transatlantic. The MRTC on the 777 seemed good and I had ample leg room.
At about parallel with Reykjavik the fasten seatbelt sign was turned on and remained on for about 2 hours without to much significant turbulence. I then watched the flight map and started typing this report. Once the seatbelt sign had come off I went back and asked one of the f/a's (Tony) if he could give my log sheet to the captain, he in a very friendly manner said "Sure, that’s a great idea" I then sat down to watch "What a girl wants", the second movie on my PTV. This film is essentially the Princess Diaries with another name, it’s not that good. Our route then took us over the southern most tip of Greenland, which was incredibly beautiful with tall mountains and amazing glaciers. Then just before we reached the Canadian coast we climbed 1000 ft to 35000 ft to comply with RVSM airspace I presume. We then flew south of Ungava Bay and over Quebec and Ontario before hitting the US border over the Great Lakes.
This is as good a point as any to mention that between the two meals at all times there was a tray full of drinks, (all the cans plus OJ, ice and water) and a little tray with pretzels in that you could help yourself to at any time. I had three from there, a sprite, a coke and some soda water. I was disappointed as when I flew LHR-SA - California">LAX on an SA)">AA 777 two years ago they had a tray not just with pretzel sticks in, but whole pretzels, cookies, toblerones, M&M's etc. which was sooooo nice.
About 1 hour and 20 minutes before arrival the f/a's distributed lunch (at 7am Chicago time???) which was a Cheese Salad, Cheese and tomato pizza and some kind of blueberry desert. I had a Pepsi with this (got the whole can) The Pizza was one of the nicest things I have had on board an aircraft recently and the salad was great too. The Blueberry thing was ok but a little to sweet and the fruit in it was unripe.
About 40 minutes before landing (waaay after the food had been cleared away!) another of the f/a's (didn't get her name) came back with my form, she also gave me from the captain the SA)">AA transatlantic pilots briefing and all the captains paperwork from Hazardous goods, to the flight plan, to the NOTAMS, to the MEL of N774AN. FANTASTIC, she also asked me if I had a spare copy of my log sheet as she would like to give it to her son as it was a "great idea" so I gave her my spare, she couldn't thank me enough. One thing that surprised me on our descent into Chicago was how many airfields there were around, in the whole Chicago area, I saw Midway and several others (not Meigs YET). The touchdown was smooth and full reverse was used. We taxied to gate M9. Engine shut down was 14 minutes early. Great! After the flight I went up into the flight deck (my first time on a triple seven) the captain and I must have sat chatting for 15 minutes or so (Him in the F/O chair naturally(!)) him answering all my q's. But of course I didn't have my camera on me so I couldn't take any photos (sods law that it’s in my hold luggage, I dunno why I did that). After that I deplaned and went to baggage claim.
Transit in SA - Illinois">ORD
We must have waited 25 minutes in line for security, as only 5 desks were open, 2 for US citizens, 1 for crew and 2 for non-US citizen including myself. The agent asked me questions such as "When were you last in America? Why? Where? What for? How long did you stay?" which was quite unnerving as I have never had that happen to me before. Anyway after that I spent another 15 minutes waiting for my bag at the carousel.
Once I had got that we proceeded to the Agricultural inspection where once again we got singled out for special treatment and or suitcases were opened and hand searched, (getting keys out, unlocking them etc.) We then walked 15 yards from there to the transfer baggage conveyor belt where (you guessed it) they opened ALL our bags again searched them and tested for Explosive. Having finally got rid of those bags we went to the inter-terminal connection train. We waited about 5 minutes and then one came and we got on it for the short journey to terminal 3. During which we went under a bridge and a United A320 taxied over the top of us. How cool! Once at terminal 3 I went up the escalator from the train station and noticed a message from Mayor Daley (Chicago welcomes you!) well as I hate Daley for Meigs I thought to myself, “well it’s not mutual Mr Daley.” We went through security, where (how did you guess) I was searched and my bag was searched. Once that was done we made our way to gate H3 where our flight to Nashville was due to leave from.
Sector: SA - Illinois">ORD-SA - Tennessee">BNA
Captain: Tom Kleiseth
Aircraft: Fokker F-100
Cruise SA)">FL: 290
Photo © Paul Robbins
Photo © Carlo Bertolini
Having reached gate H3 I sat down and just stared out of the window, being English even living next to LHR, a US airport like SA - Illinois">ORD (or even SA - Georgia">ATL where I was in February) is a sight to behold, more RJ's than you can count and hundreds of aircraft in a variety of colours. Notables to me included a fleet of SA)">AA ERJ's (135/40/45) SA)">UA CRJ's SA)">NW and US BAe146's (didn’t know they were still operating) the compulsory BA 777 (which seem to inhabit every US airport) various European heavy metal and enough United aircraft to fly everywhere in the world. Having done that I phoned my dad to tell him we were SA Czech Airlines">OK and then we started boarding the F-100, this may have been the last flight of mine on an F-100 and I will miss them in one way but I can't say I’ll regret it in others. The overhead bins are tiny and the seats are old. The MRTC though was great with loads of legroom in my seat (16B) but SA)">AA really needs to buck up their act if only 45/98 seats are filled, that’s a load factor of 45%. The one thing I liked was the in seat power supply as I charged my CD player and PDA all on this flight, which, when the UK runs at 240V and USA runs at 120V so I couldn't anywhere else, was great.
Anyway to the flight, once everyone was on board we pushed back 5 minutes early and taxied for 20 minutes to rwy SA)">9L. We lifted off (not a no flaps take-off unfortunately) and flew out over downtown Chicago, we made a right and flew parallel to Meigs (so sad what Daley did to that place) before climbing up to FL290. The f/a's started serving and I got a small packet of pretzels and an OJ, it appeared that the First Class passengers got the same so I was quietly happy. I read my book on the flight as there was nothing else to do and handed my Log sheet to the f/a who came back with it about 10 minutes later, no freebies this time though.
The f/a's on this flight were quite unfriendly which was a stark contrast to the 777 flight where they bent over backwards to help you. We approached SA - Tennessee">BNA and touched down on rwy 02C and had a loong taxi to the gate where we arrived about 2minutes early, SA - Tennessee">BNA certainly seems to be a SW home as there were 4 of their a/c on the ground with one taxiing out, more than any other carrier. I like the way how SA - Tennessee">BNA still calls itself an international airport, I can't imagine how many international flights they get per week but it can't be many. Gone are the days when SA)">AA flew LHR -SA - Tennessee">BNA direct, who knows, BA will probably start it up soon although there isn’t much business traffic to SA - Tennessee">BNA. After the flight I went up into the flight deck and had a short chat with the captain, it was a sharp contrast from the 777 flight deck as it was TINY. The captain said he was very sorry to see the F-100 go as it is a really nice a/c to fly; "kinda like a fighter jet" was what he said.
Any how baggage came very fast and we were out of the airport within 10 minutes of leaving the aircraft.
ZO25 SA - Tennessee">BNA-SA - Oklahoma">TUL
Aircraft: Dornier 328-300 (Jet)
Captain: A Gessert
Crz SA)">FL: 310
Photo © Felix Leach
Photo © Paul Robbins
Photo © Danny Fritsche
After a fantastic stay in Nashville where I visited my grand parents and had great fun going to the Atomic energy museum in Oak Ridge, the space centre in Huntsville and shopping for prices about half that of those in the UK it was time for me to move on to the second part of my holiday.
I got to Nashville airport about 1 hr and 45 minutes ahead of my flight to Tulsa. I said good bye to my parents and grandparents after check-in, which was uneventful I then went through the security checkpoint where a nice lady red carded me (SSSS on boarding pass), basically this means all my stuff, my tickets passports rucksack etc gets covered in red circular stickers which I think I counted as 17 in total, (they were obviously enthusiastic.) so I went through and beeped the metal detector and so was searched and my rucksack was completely emptied and thoroughly searched by the SA / RCSS), Taiwan">TSA as was my suitcase at check-in, the agent who searched me cannot have been more than 20 years old. I then walked to the gate, sat down and took in the view, a Midwest express Do328JET was boarding so I got a good view of it, I also saw the Tennessee ANG, which seemed to solely consist of C-130's from what I could see at SA - Tennessee">BNA. I got up and bought a magasine from the newsstand, but resisted the temptation to buy any tacky and expensive souvenirs.
Photo © Felix Leach
Finally the Do328JET of Great Plains hove into view over the hills and touched down on the runway, taxied to the gate and started disgorging passengers. The tail is so cool with the paint that changes colour depending on the way that you look at it. I was exited to see it, I took several photos and much to my relief was not asked to hand over my films. Finally the time came for me to board the plane and I made sure that I was last to board and I stepped out onto the steps of the terminal to pause and take several photos of the Do328JET that stood before me, I hope they come out SA Czech Airlines">OK. As I stepped onto the plane I was struck by how small it was, however it was really nice, with 2-1 seating I sat in 8A on the left hand side (one seater side) the aisle was wide and spacious and the seats were on a slight raised platform above the aisle. The seats were wide with good legroom; I’m 5'10 and had no problems all grey leather which impressed me greatly.
After I had sat down the door closed and the f/a came through offering the "Tulsa World" which was as good a newspaper as we were going to get, I then gave the f/a my Log-sheet after which she said “Well I’ve closed the door now, I’ll give it to him when we land, where are you getting off,” as this was a three stop flight (SA - Oklahoma">TUL, SA - Oklahoma">OKC, Albuquerque,) I said Tulsa and she said SA Czech Airlines">OK. We then chatted about how many miles I’d flown and she suggested I buy a logbook, I said what a good idea however I didn’t think I would and future experience proved me right. The safety demonstration then was done and we taxied out from stand C13 to runway 20C and took off. It wasn’t an incredibly powerful takeoff but it wasn’t bad. This was my first time on a Do328JET and so I was quite excited, it was a smooth ride and pleasant. We cruised at FL310 and the service started, she made an announcement about how we had 48 Krispy Creme doughnuts and only 15 passengers (out of 32ish seats once again NOT a good pax load), and how the freshly squeezed orange juice was great. When she got to my seat (8A) there was no orange juice and I had a chocolate doughnut and an Ice-tea (a rarity on flights). Why other airlines can’t offer this on all flights I won’t understand, (aside from BA with the All Day Deli which is sooo nice).
Soon we were descending from FL310 into SA - Oklahoma">TUL where we landed on 18L, it was a very smooth landing so I was pleased, during the landing roll we passed some F-16’s of the SA Czech Airlines">OK ANG and a 757 in the SA)">AA maintenance area. We had a 5 minute taxi to stand 52 (I think). Here I went to get off and the f/a told me to take a seat in the front row while the captain finished filling out my log, a few (8 or so) other passengers got off at this point. The captain came and sat down next to me and talked to me as he was filling in the log however as the aircraft was going on to SA - Oklahoma">OKC he was a little rushed and so he did not fill in all the details, (arrival stand no. f/o name etc) however when he had finished, he then walked me from the aircraft to the gate, chatting as he went. I had a great conversation with him and was very pleased. I collected my luggage from the carousel, (5) and found my Godfather and left for Bartlesville.
Sector: SA - Oklahoma">TUL-SA - Illinois">ORD
Captain: Dick Schwartz
Cruise SA)">FL: 330
Photo © Jonathan Derden - SPOT THIS!
Photo © Justin Stephenson
Having had a fantastic time travelling all over SA Czech Airlines">OK seeing the Sooners win (37-3) and doing some sightseeing, it was time to fly home. Early on the day of my flight I telephoned SA)">AA to make sure my flight was still on (as many had been delayed for up to 8 hours as storms had been ravaging that part of the country) and the (female) computer on the other end said that it was scheduled to depart on time.
I arrived at the airport about 1 ½ hours before departure and was checked straight through to London, I wasn’t asked however if I packed my bags etc. which struck me as being slightly odd. I said good-bye to my Godfather before I sailed straight through security (for the first time) and arrived in the departure area with just over 1 hour to go. I found gate 25 which I was due to depart from and there I saw the captain checking in for the flight. There I asked him if he was the captain for 1392 to which he replied yes. I then gave him my log-sheet and started chatting to him; he printed me off a copy of the flight plan etc. and we talked for about 15 mins before he said that he had to go to the bathroom before the flight and that he would catch me on the plane. I then phoned my parents to tell them I got to the airport ok, and then I viewed the movements at SA - Oklahoma">TUL. There were many F-16’s of the SA Czech Airlines">OK ANG, an SA)">AA (ex TWA) MD83 going to SA - Missouri">STL, the latest ZO flight arriving, a SA)">NW Rj85 and a few others, Deltas gates were empty.
The time came for boarding however as I had booked such a good seat before my trip (window, as close to the front as possible) I was in the last group to board (group 6). I got to my seat (11A) and sat down, luckily (for me) there was no-one in 11B and only one other person in the whole row, 50/138 is a load factor of just over 36% not good at all and very surprising. Why have a mainline MD do the route when you can’t even fill an Eagle CRJ-700. We pushed back 7 minutes early and started the engines. We taxied to runway 18L, on which we took off. During the taxi I saw a BAC1-11 registration N17MK?? Does anyone know why it was there? It was painted in an all white colour scheme but still had everything attached (engines with hushkits etc) I assume that it is grounded now as it is too noisy?
As I was sitting so far forward in the aircraft that take off was very quiet, we whizzed past the line up of F-16’s, the SA)">AA maintenance hangars where there were 2 MD-82’s (1 SA)">AA, 1 ex TWA) and a 757. After take-off we banked left and I got a view of the airport before we disappeared into the thick clouds. As we climbed the f/a’s started their service. We were offered a drink and some pretzel sticks. I had a Pepsi (whole can) which was the same as every other Pepsi I’ve ever had.
After they cleared away the drinks I plugged in my CD player to the in seat power supply and listened to music. The seats on this MD-82 were great, they were about the same as the seats on the 777 aside from the fact that they did not have PTV’s. That was great and I was very pleased, the pitch even seemed about the same as on the 777, add to that the fact that the seat next to mine was empty, this made for a great flight. The flight continued at FL330 and luckily the weather seemed to be ok so we did not have to continue to any of the alternates listed on the flight plan (SA - Wisconsin">MKE and GRR), however as I could not see the ground for all of the flight (aside from the first and last 400ft) I could not follow the flight plan. The f/a’s came round collecting up the service items and offering some more pretzel sticks to those of us who wanted them, before the captain turned on the fasten seat belt sign to start the descent. The f/a’s then made an announcement that they would come around collecting all the rubbish and could we please give it to them to save them clearing out the plane on the ground. Most people seemed to oblige, this is a good idea as it saves the people on the next flight finding used tissues etc. in their seat back pocket. They also announced the gates for many connecting flights, including those for London, my final destination. This is the first time I’ve had this on an SA)">AA domestic flight and I think it is a great idea.
The landing was as smooth as ever, and thrust reverse was not used on the roll out from 04R. We taxied (slowly) from 04R to stand H3 (same one as I left Chicago from.) As I left the aircraft the captain handed me my log-sheet but said that unfortunately I could not see the flight deck as the aircraft was going on to SA - New York">LGA straight away and he didn’t want a delayed departure. I didn’t totally believe him, but I respected his wishes and just said thanks, and left.
Transit in SA - Illinois">ORD
I stepped out of the jetway, and looked at a screen to check my connecting flight; it was shown as being on time (18:15) and leaving from gate K12. I was surprised at the ease of the transfer here, as I was half expecting to have to go back on the train to terminal 5; however I guess that is for SA)">AA international arrivals only. The aircraft must be towed from terminal 5 to terminal 3 during the day before the evening departures. It means that SA)">AA’s rolling hub, works much better with everyone leaving from the same terminal. It was a long walk to K12, but even as I had a transfer time of over 2 hours, I like to find where my gate is before I go walkabout. I located it and then wanted to go to the toilet; I found that the nearest toilet was the one I used before departure just next to H3, so a trekked all the way back there before going to look around the shops that SA - Illinois">ORD airport has to offer. The K/H concourse at SA - Illinois">ORD doesn’t have much in the way of shops; I found, only a food court, a billion WH Smiths (far worse than the ones in England IMHO), a book shop and a gadget shop. I found a good book in the book shop called “Around the world in a bad mood, Confessions of a Flight Attendant” very funny and recommended for a little light relief on any Long Haul flight. I then sat at the gate, reading my book and watching the goings on around my flight which I could now see.
Sector: SA - Illinois">ORD-LHR
Captain: Not Known
Pax: Not Known, (but not a full flight)
Photo © Ryan C. Umphrey
Photo © Red-Phoenix AirPics
I did not have any luck in catching any of the flight deck crew before this flight, however boarding was announced. I boarded and made my way to my seat and sat down, continuing to read my book and looking out of the window. The last bags were being stowed at this time. After all the baggage doors were shut there was an announcement saying that an angle of attack indicator was broken and therefore we had a delay of 1 hour while the techies came to fix it.
I guess it must have been fixed because about an hour later we started to push back from the gate. I was drowsy by this point as I had been on the go all day and it was currently 0100 in the UK so I was not paying too much attention to the route we took to taxi, but I think we eventually arrived on 27R (can someone confirm?) and powered off into the night sky. I had the meal but I honestly don’t remember what it was, I do recall however that it tasted good. I then used the Lav. and gave my log-sheet to an f/a at the back. One of the f/a’s came past noting the TWA T-shirt that I was wearing (75th anniversary one) and asked how I got it, I told her that my aunt had worked for them for 39 yrs as an f/a and had just (July) been furloughed. She said she was sorry but said that she should get a huge pension, (How little she knew,) I resisted the urge to have a rant at her and then she noticed the book I was reading (the one I picked up in SA - Illinois">ORD) I wrote down the ISBN no. and told her which shop I got it from. I then tried to sleep for the rest of the flight, I was however unsuccessful and only fell asleep about 3 hours before landing. I woke up as they were serving breakfast, pancakes, they were good although I felt that the breakfast was a little sparse as they only offered a yoghurt and a roll with it, not enough in my opinion.
It was about this time that the f/a came back to my seat and told me that the captain was very sorry but he had lost my log-sheet, (how?), and did I have another one I could give him? Of course I had given my spare to the f/a going over the other way so had no spare, I was bitterly disappointed. I would like to take this point to mention the f/a who had been chatting with me, she was one of he best f/a’s I have ever had serve me, it is people like that who make me doubt my feelings for SA)">AA as the sky Nazis. We touched down on 27R after a beauty of an approach over central London after a few turns in the hold at BNN. I passed right over my house and took loads of photos of the whole area where I live which was really cool.
We taxied in and parked at gate 314 (I think) and deplaned. At that moment I was too tired to ask for a cockpit visit so I just smiled and began that loooong walk from the outer concourses at T3 at LHR. My bags came soon after I had passed through customs (always better when you have the passport of the country you are entering.) I walked through to the arrivals where I met my parents who lovingly came to pick me up, and drive me back home in west London.
Photo © Felix Leach
What a trip it had been.
Post script, Great Plains airlines folded in January 2004 shortly after announcing a massive expansion and with only $40 in the accounts. It doesn’t look like they are going to resurrect themselves now and so this is probably the last trip report on them in these forums. It is a shame as they were a quality outfit and one of the best airlines I have flown on, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I wrote most of this report on the go and just the last flight was written after (on 1-4) so the detail there is lacking- I apologise. If anyone can help me track down data for AA66 on 31-8/1-9 I would really appreciate it. Were you at SA - Illinois">ORD then? Did you know what rwy I took off from etc? Mine is only a guess from a photo. My next reports will be STN-SZG on FR and BA LGW-INN when I’ve finished writing them(!)
Hope you enjoyed the read.
PPS if you enjoyed this report I might be encouraged to write reports of the standard of the AA66 report above on the following flights:
VS/SA LHR-JBG-PLE/CPT-JBG-ULU-JBG-LHR (Oct 2002)
MON LGW-ALC-LGW (Mar 2003)
DL LGW-SA - Kentucky">CVG-SA - Colorado AND CURRENT: Denver - International (DEN / KDEN), USA - Colorado">DEN-SA - Georgia">ATL-LGW (Feb 2003)