Here is the report of my first trip to England. It was my first 777 trip! Plus my first BMI
trip as well.
The purpose of my trip was to visit King's College London (where I had been accepted to begin my bio-medical studies in the fall of 2004) and to visit a craniofacial genetics research doctor at the Univ. of Manchester, UK.
Wed. 7 May 2003: FWA
(United Express CRJ) & ORD
Mom dropped me off at FWA
on this overcast, grey day and bade farewell to me at the security checkpoint. The CRJ flight to ORD
was uneventful and unremarkable, except for the always-awe-inspiring airborne view of the city of Chicago! I arrived at ORD
terminal 2 and made the most of the several hours of layover time I had (my ORD
flight would not board until 5:50pm). I spent most of that time roaming all 3 interlinked terminals watching all my favourite widebodies at the gates and on the field. I took a few pictures as well. Finally I made my way to Terminal 1, exchanged my money for UK pounds, and headed to gate C16 via the colourful, neon-lit subterranean tunnel linking concourses B and C.
United Flight 928, my first ever Boeing 777, sat majestically at gate C16 awaiting passengers. Boarding would be through 2 jetways, one at door L1 and the other at door L2. I took a picture of the plane (what I could see of it was the rear fuselage, tail, and left wing; the rest was obsured by the two jetways). At 5:50, Flight 928 boarded. I boarded through jetway 2 and made my way to my row near the trailing edge of the right wing. I had the right aisle seat in the centre section of that row. Boy was I ever awed by the beautiful, sculpted interior of the 777! The overhead bins were very spacious, but disappeared completely into the ceiling when closed, becoming part of the curvaceous sculpted ceiling. I stowed my new aluminum briefcase and took a photo of the cabin from my seat. The F/As spoke in an English accent, so apparently they were British station staff operating on the return flight from ORD
. I think the plane was full or nearly so, it appeared. Soon we pushed back from the terminal and began to move toward the taxiways. But we stopped--and sat there for over an hour! There was apparently some major storm to the east of ORD
, and the captain elected to wait it out. He shut down the massive engines and told us over the PA system that we should feel free to get up and move around if we wished. I sure did!
After the hour's delay we finally departed ORD
and began our long, overnight Great Circle route to LHR
. By that time (about 7:00 pm or so) the sun was starting to set over Chicago. It was dark by the time we reached the coast of Canada. For dinner I chose a pasta dish, salad, roll and butter, dessert and ginger ale. To entertain myself, I did a bit of reading in one of my craniofacial surgery books and one of my Tom Clancy books, as well as a bit of browsing on the seatback PTV in front of me. What I found most fascinating was the FlightView channel, where I could track the progress of the flight by following the little plane on the screen tracing a path across the ocean. By that time, it was late at night. However, I could not accurately tell time, since the change through so many time zones messed up my sense of time. I tried to get some sleep by curling up into various positions, but it's nearly impossible to sleep sitting upright in a coach seat. Since the cabin air was dry, my eyes were sticky and dry (the fluid between my eyes and eyelids had thickened up due to lack of moisture). This is the same feeling I have encountered in countless recovery rooms as I have begun waking up from my frequent surgeries!
Before long, the sun began rising over the North Atlantic as we neared England. Sunrise always is awe-inspiring and beautiful from the air. The flight tracker channel helped me track the descent into LHR
. From my aisle seat, I could get a glimpse of the coast of western England as I ate my breakfast. Approaching London, our plane was "stacked" into a racetrack holding pattern.
We made one wide, complete oval track over London as we lined up for LHR
runway 27R (I believe 27R is the south runway, near Myrtle Avenue, right?). It's easy to get 27L and 27R mixed around, being parallel runways. We landed with a thump, then a roar as the huge engines reversed thrust. It was about 9:00 or 9:30am. We taxied to Terminal 3 pier J. As we neared the terminal, it occurred to me that we would be parked at a jetway gate (on both my previous trips to Europe--MAD
, we had deplaned via stairs). I got up, took my camera and briefcase out of the bin, and headed out of the 777 through the jetway. I noticed the jetway was a little different from US jetways, in that the inside walls and outside walls had curved corners and edges. Terminal 3 was very plain and functional inside. As I made my way to the main part of T3
via the corridor link, I stopped to take a photo of the UA
777 through a window. This time I got the whole plane as it sat there at its gate. I made it quickly through immigration, waited a while for my blue Samsonite suitcase at baggage reclaim, breezed through the green channel at customs, and made my way for the Tube station for T1,2,3 for my long ride to my hotel in central London.
Thurs. 15 May 2003: MAN
A330-200) & ORD
(United Express CRJ):
After almost a week in London and two days in Manchester, I left for home. I got up early enough, but the bus I took to MAN
from central Manchester took a long time to get there. I made it there just in time to check in for my flight to ORD
--after a bit of delay, straightening out my scheduled routing with the BMI
ticket agent. The gate area in Terminal 1 was crowded. As I waited for boarding, I took a photo of the beautiful blue-red-white BMI
Soon we boarded. As I boarded, I was handed a complimentary bottle of water. I found my window seat in coach on the left side, over the wing. Another surprise: a printed menu for coach, in the seat pocket in front of me!
Also, I saved the complimentary BMI
amenity kit (and still have it to this day).
We departed at about 11:30 from Terminal 1. My seatmate was a husky, big-bearded guy, who would appear to be a biker from most people's descriptions.
He was a very friendly chap, and we spent plenty of time on the flight talking about our lives. He was going to the USA to go fishing in Florida, and I talked to him about my interest (and personal experiences) with craniofacial deformities. I don't exactly remember what lunch was, but I do remember using the printed menu to choose my lunch! I also took a photo of the A330 cabin from the rear lav area. Just like on the UA
777, this plane had a flight-tracker programme on the seatback IFE screen. Besides talking, I also did some more reading up on my craniofacial surgery books and also read the notes that I had taken from my own research on Treacher Collins syndrome while I was in Manchester. I also had some literature from King's College London to read, as I would be attending there from Sept. 2004 on. Plus, the doctor I had visited in Manchester had given me signed copies of some of his articles on his finding the gene for Treacher Collins syndrome (incidentally, that's the syndrome I was born with, so I have a very deep interest in the research into its genetics).
The sky was bright and clear over the Atlantic, and I could see nothing but ocean below us. We made landfall over Labrador and northeastern Canada, and soon, we were descending towards Chicago over Michigan. (It was still early afternoon in the US). The Chicago skyline was as awesome as ever. We made a circular track as we lined up with one of the runways at ORD
always looks as impressive from the air as on the ground. We landed with a thump and a roar as reverse thrust kicked in on the A330's twin engines. At Terminal 5, for the second time in my life, I made the now-familiar trip down a series of escalators to the beautifully skylit immigration hall, breezed through, collected my big blue Samsonite (higly visible amongst all the black bags on the carousel), and breezed through customs to the United recheck desk to check in for my onward flight to FWA
. I rode the train from T5
to check in with United Express. I departed ORD
on a CRJ, having walked outside in the sunlight to board the CRJ via the integrated airstairs. I made it into FWA
about 5:00pm. I stayed late into the night at FWA
, since my mom told me she would be late picking me up that night after an event she was attending that evening. So, I had supper in the airport restaurant and sat near the checkpoint, watching arriving passengers pass me by on their way to baggage reclaim. A friend from IPFW, my campus in Fort Wayne, sat and talked with me a while as I was reading more of my research notes from the trip. It got so late at night that the airport was actually shutting down around me! The TSA
security people closed up the checkpoint, while the last stragglers arrived on the last late flight. FWA
is a small, sleepy regional airport, so it does not get much action outside peak hours. Finally Mom arrived about 11:00 pm to pick me up.
I had shot up 5 rolls of film from the trip. A large number of the photos were of my flights to and from England, as well as an entire day spent spotting at LHR
from the visitors centre on Bath Road. Lots of 747 and 777 photos are included in my photo album of my trip to the UK!
A year later (18 Sept. 2004), I finally headed to London for school! That will be the subject of my next exciting trip report! Keep an eye out for it.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14)