Disclaimer: I had to take along my crappy backup 2 megapixel camera due to a problem with my usual equipment, so I'm posting the pics at slightly less than their original 1024 resolution. Apologies to those without fast connections, but I've tried to accommodate those who still wish to view by breaking the trip's pictures up into two posts. Enjoy.
All Nippon Airways #007
From: San Francisco (KSFO/SFO)
To: Tokyo Narita (RJAA/NRT)
Meals: Lunch, Pre-Arrival Lunch/Snack
Dep (Sched): 1050
Dep (Actual): 1045
Arr (Sched): 1505
Arr (Actual): 1435
Load: Approximately 15 seats still open in Y
Registration: JA710A, 28279/302 del 9/20/00
As this was my first trip from the US to Japan aboard ANA (have flown them around Asia), I was plenty excited, even with the camera trouble. Have previously flown from the west coast to Japan and beyond aboard NW, AA, and CX and was interested to compare - needless to say the results were definitely up to expectations.
9:30 am, checked-in and ready to go in SFO's gorgeous international departures hall. Check-in was a snap, and despite not having a seat assignment prior to arriving, the agent was able to give me a window on the starboard side of the aircraft, behind the wing, as soon as I requested it.
making my way to gate G95 having whisked through security with my airport ID badge
the usual morning bore of all united, all the time action on the ramp
all settled into my seat in the clean smelling and overall immaculate economy cabin and ready to go as we push a few minutes early with the help from friendly UA and swissport ground handlers. fortunately for me, I was seated out of view of the FA's jumpseat and was able to make use of my camera against the JAA's absurd policy against digital camera use below 10K.
ten minutes later, after some rather brisk taxi blazing, holding short of 28L as two parallel heavies lumber in over the approach lights. after all the racing around the airport, I was surprised that the flight crew waited for the purser to finish her lengthy post-takeoff clearance announcement before giving the big PWs a healthy dose of fuel to burn.
w/the usual T7 departure, we put the heavy 744s to shame, rocketing off 28L and climbing out over south city like we've got somewhere to go
crossing the coast, a quick bank to the right to intercept the track for MOLEN
saying goodbye to home as the city by the bay quickly moves out of view
drink service began immediately after the 10,000 foot cabin chimes, with smiles and typically polite japanese service the order of the day. after coming through the aisles three times to serve drinks, our friendly FA's returned with the lunch service - I chose the teriyaki pork w/vegetables and a potato + ham + shrimp salad over a seafood selection due to my reluctance to trouble an FA with any inquiries about maguro - my one and only food allergy.
I did bother them for plenty of complimentary Kirin though
after lunch, I chatted for awhile with my row-mate, a friendly homemaker in her 40s from chiba who spoke some decent english. then it was time to settle in and enjoy the movie selection, including Wimbledon, The Forgotten, and an excellent Japanese film called Thirty Or So Lies - too bad the western movies were only mildly entertaining. I did make sure to utilize one important feature of ANA's AVOD - their customer satisfaction questionnaire - I had made up my mind about this flight before we were halfway across.
speaking of which, there was nearly continuous cloud cover for four hours, which meant no pretty pictures of the Aluetians this day. that was okay though - we were making great time due to unseasonably light headwinds
by about 1300 JST we were served a light afternoon meal with choices between noodles and soup or a large salad - I chose the latter but was too busy chatting with my row-mate to snap a photo.
shortly thereafter, the cabin crew came around again to clean up and prepare us for our early arrival. we swung around the coast to line up for a long straight in to runway 34L and made landfall for a second time here as we received our clearance to land
there's no aileron or spoileron deflection in this photo, but don't take that to mean it was a smooth last few miles - in typical narita fashion, we received a few good bumps all the way to the threshold
after a great flare and touchdown and firm braking, we exited about 2/3 of the way down 34L, as those of you familiar with the airport can tell from where we're turning off in this photo - I figured the winds had the guys up front coming in just a bit hot
so now I had arrived, and had three hours to kill before my connection to Osaka Itami. the domestic check-in at Narita was rather troubling - my small suitcase carry-on was scanned by security, but the ANA employee checking boarding passes allowed me to go through without removing my backpack. I asked her if she was sure, and she waved her hand saying, 'go ahead, it's okay'. luckily, there was a second security check before gaining access to the actual gate area.
having never made a domestic connection at Narita, I was unsure what to expect - but JAL and ANA certainly have a bizarre set-up there. With nearly all passengers coming off of other inbound international flights, you'd think they would have a larger lounge - several flights go out between 5 and 6:30 pm and with most of them heavies, the moderately sized lounge and cramped waiting area for connecting shuttle buses on the floor below seemed distinctly unjapanese in its poor planning. nonetheless, the time passed relatively quickly and we took the buses out to the aircraft promptly at 1720. the ride took around 5 minutes, taking us past gate 64 to the remote parking area adjacent to the east end of Terminal 2.
All Nippon Airways #2179
From: Tokyo Narita (RJAA/NRT)
To: Osaka Itami (RJOO/ITM)
Meals: snack and beverage service
Dep (Sched): 1755
Dep (Actual): 1802
Arr (Sched): 1915
Arr (Actual): 1904
Load: Approximately 30-35 seats still open in Y
Registration: JA8098, 25207/870 del 8/2/91
As we disembarked from the quick shuttle I was pleased to see that my quick ride to Itami would be aboard a 747-481 that had just come in from Frankfurt a couple hours earlier. I had a hunch that the birds used for the connection flights to Osaka were likely international arrivals that were routinely overnighted at Itami and it turned out I was right. The cabin was immaculate with not a single indication that I was aboard a 14 year-old long hauler
and after taking it all in, settled into my seat with only three other people in my row of 10, all of whom were in the middle. unfortunately due to some late incoming bags we were delayed several minutes past our scheduled departure, but the captain came over the PA to personally apologize on behalf of ANA (!) and we were quickly pushing back and on our way. I snapped a quick shot while there was still a sliver of daylight
engines were quickly started and we made the long trek toward runway 16R as I enjoyed the quiet hum of the GEs and the forward external camera view displayed on the cabin monitors. takeoff power was applied on the roll off the taxiway and we were airborne in less than 30 seconds. I had never been on such a lightly loaded 747 before and the sensations were incredible - the acceleration and climb remained strong for at least 10 minutes after takeoff, and by the time it was over, the brilliantly lit urban expanse of Tokyo was passing out the window.
The flight was fully staffed and within minutes the attentive FAs showed up to serve snacks and beverages. By the time they were done, the captain announced we were beginning our descent and less than two minutes later came the large power reduction and lights of Nagoya passing below. We made a turbulent pass over the mountains surrounding the Shigi VOR and on down into the neon night world of Osaka's extensive subcities. I had never been to Itami and was expecting quite the spectacle on approach and was not at all disappointed. Reminiscent of the good old days of Kai Tak, I stared transfixed as the 744 wing passed over a procession of billboards, elevated roads, factories and apartment blocks seemingly all the way to the touchdown markers. With a light flare and perfect touchdown, the pilot flying applied generous reverse thrust and we were to the gate ahead of schedule. Tired and with another hour of ground travel to go, I was nevertheless already excited about my return trip a week later