How to use it?
Well, since I met up with AirNet members Mirrodie and Stretch 8 at different times last year in the UK, I have said I'd cross the pond, especially as Stretch kindly offered to show me around the closest aviation museum to his home, which happens to be the new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy centre. Had Concorde still been flying, I'd have been over to Mirrodie's turf in my favorite city, New York, before now. I was last there in 2002.
So a long weekend off shift, time to go, use the bookable concession, which usually means getting Club.
24th Sept 2004 / BA217 / G-YMMN
Photo © Kevin Minter
Check in confirmed Club was wide open, so I'm in 15G, not window, not rear facing (which would be a first for me on any aircraft), no matter.
Capt Sealy introduced the crew, including a familiar name, the F/O is ex Concorde, Paul Griffin, adjusted by now no doubt to life on the 'Blunties'.
Pushback was at 11.11, a bit of a queue but we were airborne at 11.32.
Throughout the flight, the crew were excellent, the food was fine, the I.F.E. worked, (watched 'Minority Report' and an episode of 'The Sopranos').
I'll get flamed for this, but I cannot really remember the meal I had! If it had been bad I'd have remembered I'm sure, but plenty of top ups of drinks, for me this was tea and orange juice, the crew also handed out bottled water and Club Packs and were very good throughout the flight, the condition of the Club cabin was good too.
The cheerful and informative Capt kept us posted on progress, apparently a good view was to be had on Manhattan, not that I could see from my seat.
We landed at IAD 13.50, in all a good flight, after taxing we were soon at the gate, after a not too bad immigration wait, Stretch was waiting for me in the terminal.
I was surprised how hot it was, but the air con in Stretch's BMW for the drive to the museum was welcome.
This new facility is fantastic, I was struck by the sheer amount of space, so much history in one building.
Not surprisingly, we spent a long time at the AF Concorde, I may have worked in BA Concorde from April 1997 to the very end, but this was my first time near an AF one.
Let's just say that it reminded me of G-BOAC at the end last year, needing a re-paint and showing the wear of many years service, but the aircraft was in immaculate condition overall, like all the exhibits.
Always fascinating to see a SR-71 up close, I well remember them flying at UK airshows in the 1980s, also the Dash 80 and the first Shuttle and may more besides.
After taking time out from his domestic duties to show me around this world class museum, Stretch dropped me at a Washington Metro station, where I got to my hotel at the Metro Centre in D.C.
During my stay, I also visited the Air and Space museum, I was last there in November 1993.
On Sunday, I took the AMTRAK 212 Metroliner to New York Penn, from Union Station Washington, a pleasant 3 hours on a comfortable train, without the hassle of flying and getting to and from airports.
10 mins out from Baltimore station we passed an airfield, with two lines of USAF aircraft, one of A-10s, the other of C-130s, the gate guard was a Grumman sea-plane, with 'M.D. Air Guard' titles, presumably this airfield was an ANG and civil base as I also saw some biz jets parked.
After settling in to the Mayflower Hotel, off NY Central Park, hooked up with Mirrodie and his charming wife, who took time out from house hunting to meet up and have dinner.
Great to meet again.
28th Sept 2004 / BA178 / G-BNLX
Photo © Paul Langfermann - The Art of Flying Photos
I hate night flights, never can sleep on planes, so this service is for me, worth getting up early for.
I used it in November 2002 to return to LHR after a NY trip that started with a BA001 on G-BOAD. (I did not visit this aircraft on the Intrepid museum, it's too soon, I'll wait until it is properly established, I had a good look around this museum two years ago anyway).
This time I got seat 13A, window and rear facing seat, with an impressive view of two of the RB211 poweplants through my window, pushback was at 08:59, we were up by 09:24.
Another good flight, crew again excellent, a humorous safety announcement by the CSD, "Ladies and Gentlemen, there may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but only one way to leave this aircraft, please take time out to watch the safety video and to note the position of exits pointed out by the crew".
After a right turn over Bangor, Maine, we proceeded on our way, I had a Salmon starter and traditional cooked breakfast main course, again lots of liquid refreshment and an attentive, professional crew.
A later selection of ciabaitter (SP?) bread sandwiches were passed around, with a chocolate cake and more drinks, this was about 90 mins before landing.
Very clear at 39,000 feet, a view of Halifax as we passed over, a reflection of the sky and horizon in the engine nacelles, I watched 'The Day After Tomorrow' and had a relaxing, enjoyable flight.
As so often, in the stack at LHR, but before that a clear view of Ireland and England's illuminated towns/cities, after a nice sunset.
Even so, we got down on schedule and only had a short taxi to T4.
As an employee, I am biased, I also have no experience of recent long long haul on rivals, but what I saw impressed, the front line at least, can do a good job still.
One thing though, this 'BA are stuffy' idea? In all my years, I've never seen it, the crews were cheerful and efficient, yes it's a premium cabin, but even so, this is a myth that needs exploding.