But finally I found what I was looking for and I booked e-tickets for me and my girlfriend. Here comes the first part of my trip, MUC-CDG-JFK:
09. April 2005
München (MUC) - Paris (CDG)
Air France AF1723
F-GRHZ (c/n 1622), delivered 11/2001
Tempo, seat 18E
Photo © Benny Bartels
Photo © Walter Pietsch
Photo © Ivan Rodriguez - Iberian Spotters
Photo © S.Albrecht
Check-in at MUC was quite fast, after waiting some 15 minutes we were welcomed by a friendly French woman. As I had expected, the online seat choice (row 47 for the 77W) did not work and she tried to give us seats in row 27. No way to accept that on such a long plane and I requested another row in the rear section. Window and middle seat were only still available in row 45 so we took it. Within two minutes we had our boarding passes and we passed through security.
As we arrived at the gate later, F-GRHZ turned in and I was glad there was no delay or anything worse: earlier I had seen the KLM flight to AMS at 13.30 had been cancelled.
Spotting was not very really exciting, but one goody was Southern Air B747-200F N751SA.
Boarding was started on time and very friendly F/As as well as the captain welcomed us at the aircraft door. The cabin was absolutely clean and we took our seats in row 18. Boarding was completed soon but the captain announced a delay of some 20 minutes due to ATC limits. Finally we were pushed back and only minutes later GRHZ lifted off and headed towards CDG.
Board service started after a while and drinks and a snack were served. The latter was a ham sandwich with mustard and eggs, tasted quite good:
Drinks were only served once with no second round for coffee or tea. The remaining flight was uneventful and soon approach to CDG was started. Though it was not the busiest time of the day we turned for while around the area before final descent. After touchdown reverse thrust was heavily used and the aircraft stopped quickly, possibly in order to take an early taxiway off the runway.
Indeed, most terminal position at halls 2A and 2C were empty, only few longhaul aircraft being visible. On the other side it was different, most positions at 2D were occupied, so we got a remote position and deboarded via the famous ADP busses which move up and down.
Spotting at CDG
Hall 2D is under massive reconstruction so after reaching the terminal I couldn't really see many aircraft. So we walked quickly to 2C and went through security again. For the only time on my entire trip I had to get out of my shoes.
Hall 2C was really empty, not many people waiting for their flights. Just like in the past I took a seat close to the Western end and watched incoming and outgoing traffic. Most arrivals and all departures on that side could be followed. Some highlights that afternoon were Aero Services A319 (AF colors), Air Plus A313, Blue Line B734 (op by Islandsflug), Eagle A313, Emirates B773, JAL B772ER, Star A332, TAM A332 and several Axis Airways aircraft.
No problems at all with police or anyone else, as usual, nobody cares about peaceful spotters in France! Merci beaucoup!
09. April 2005
Paris (CDG) - New York (JFK)
Air France AF008
F-GSQD (c/n 490), delivered 09/2004
Tempo, seat 45A
Photo © Red-Phoenix AirPics
Photo © Philippe Noret - AirTeamImages
Photo © Dickson Ching - HKAEC
Photo © K.H. Ng - HKAEC
At around 16.00 all the waiting was over and a B777-300ER was towed to our gate. It was F-GSQD, seen earlier at another gate at the Western end of hall 2A. The baby is really long and after only half a year in service it looked still clean and spotless. Their GE90-115B engines are just huge, especially in comparison to the catering trucks:
After catering was completed, three long trucks with masses of containers and large freight pallets arrived at the gate, and one after another, all the stuff was loaded into the aircraft's large belly.
Unbelievable how much the stretched bird can take, surely brings its owner many € € €s!
Boarding started shortly after 18.00 and the vast number of people standing in row and waiting at the gate indicated the flight would be full. Immigration forms were given out to everyone, but no customs declaration forms - I cannot follow that logic. We had to wait some time but finally we could enter the jetway. However, before reaching the aircraft door we were both taken out again for another security check. Strange that they picked me even that time though I was traveling with my girlfriend. And I can tell there were candidates which looked much more suspicious...
They searched our bags and made a body check again. The location in the jetway is really the wrong place for a security checkpoint because the space is limited and all the other people can hardly pass.
After five minutes it was over and we arrived at GSQD's door. Again friendly smiling F/As welcomed us on board and we passed through two rows of L'Espace Premiere. It looked nice with beige leather and wood paneling but I guess it cannot match EK's First Class. There were ten rows of L'Espace Affaires and the section even made up all the way to the wing. Then we reached Tempo and the first section included 14 rows. After that "walk" another ten rows had to be passed to our seats. It was a loooong way to go!
The seat cover shows a new design (compared to my last AF B772 flight), with a darker blue and little dots:
Photo © TriplET
Tables also feature another design and a different opening mechanism than usual. Seat comfort is limited - it appears good at the beginning but after some hours the cushion feels hard. Not an improvement over the 772.
Interestingly, the IFE box is located under the middle seat - and it's attached upwards to the left side of the seat frame which leaves some space for the legs. Seat pitch is standard, no improvement.
Of course the IFE system features PTVs but Audio-Video-On-Demand was not available - yet. Most likely F-GSQD IS already equipped with the system, but the software probably has yet to be loaded or updated. The basic menu features of Air France's new AVOD (called "Programme Blue") could be seen on the screen, but when I clicked on them it always said "This feature will be available soon". Here's a pic of the menu options:
Once running the new system will offer masses of entertainment options, including a quiz (aviation history, Air France related questions, geography and aeronautics), outboard camera, games, boutique, many movies and music tracks.
It's said in the inflight magazine that A340 and B777 will be upgraded to AVOD, with 70% of the fleet already equipped - sounds a bit too optimistic. No word about A330 so I guess they have "Programme Blue" already installed. I'm still wondering why F-GSQD's system is not yet fully available, actually even the -200ER on the way home offered more options. Btw, the old non-AVOD system is called "Programme Vert" (=green), while regular non-PTV IFE is called "Programme Rouge".
The flight was full (including Business) and after all passengers were seated GSQD was pushed back. As usual on GE-powered B777s, engine start-up was accompanied by a loud, roaring sound and the cabin was shook by vibrations. But that's definitely more entertaining than on certain hairdryer-engines-powered aircraft...
Within a few minutes we headed for the runway and passed Hall 2E where the collapsed section has been surrounded by a huge wall of concrete.
There wasn't much traffic at this time and we didn't have to line up. GSQD turned in and its GE90s showed their power. Again quite loudly, the engines accelerated the aircraft quickly and with its long wings majestically bending upwards the 77W took off into the evening sky. Hardly being airborne I noticed a shaking left-to-right movement of the tail section. Just turbulence or common appearance on long stretched aircraft (e.g. B753)? Don't know, I didn't notice it again after climbout. After 240 km inflight we reached 32.000 feet which would remain constant for a while. The raked wingtips can be identified even from the rear section:
Service with drinks and pretzels started very soon, with meal service following directly afterwards. There was a choice of beef and saithe, I went for the former. The sauté of beef was very tasty and came along with olives and tomatoes, mashed potatoes and zucchini. The menu also consisted of a fresh crisp vegetable salad with a spicy "Middle-Eastern style" chicken brochette, camembert, apricot fruit yogurt and a tasty plum tart:
After the meal I was really filled up but I missed having a cup of tea, only coffee was offered. F/As apparently tried to pick up the trays quickly, but I took my time.
Some 70 minutes prior to landing a snack was served which was not the greatest culinary delight. The slice of cheese sandwich was very dry and I didn't like the caraway topping. However the cream cheese and two cookies were a good compensation:
Most of the time I listened to music and watched the flight path. There were some minor turbulence after entering Canadian airspace, but most of the flight remained uneventful. The New York area was soon reached and approach to JFK started. It was nice to pass all the endless lights over Long Island, especially on final descent. Unfortunately cabin lights were not switched off.
Landing was rough and followed by extensive use of thrust reverse, the GE90s roared loudly and stopped the 77W fast. No aircraft were visible on my side and until we arrived at the gate at Terminal 1 I only caught one registration - but more should follow later.
Deboarding took a while but we were the only flight arriving at this time and so didn't have to wait very long at immigration. Later we went on the AirTrain to station C and took our shuttle to the Radisson JFK.
Air France certainly improved their service. Ground staff and crews were professional and friendly, food was mostly tasty, cabins were clean and comfortable. IFE not fully available on the latest aircraft is a weakness but that should be solved soon. Flying the B77W is great fun and really impressive, especially on take-off.
More to follow in my return trip report (B772, A318). Watch out for it in the coming days!
[Edited 2005-04-15 10:42:24]