I was unbelievably excited about this trip. I mean a short hop, on an MD-11 for €69! That doesn’t come very often! In fact I was so adamant on getting this flight, that I ‘helped’ my family book a holiday AROUND this flight! Here was the plan:
17th August – LHR
on bmi (see trip report here
We would then have 1.5 days in Amsterdam touring the sights and sounds, and what have you.
18th August – AMS
on Varig MD-11 service (The important part of the holiday
Have a day in Paris touring around, seeing the Eiffel tower, Le Louvre, and then a mad dash back to the airport for the third sector:
19th August – CDG
So this whole trip and my trip the next day at MAN
would be a star alliance fest!
When I mentioned to my mum that we would be on a Star Alliance trip, she told me that the name reminded her of Nazi times, and the whole right wing corruption of the world, and said it was the worst piece of marketing she had heard in a while. When I said the main competitor was ‘Skyteam’, she said “well they sound like a bunch of old men who part own a Cessna’ – hehe good times!
So after a good day and a half in Amsterdam, visits to the Van Gogh museum, Anne Frank Huis, plenty of pancakes, and an hour using the Internet at MacHouse Amsterdam it was time to make our way to Schipol airport. This meant a 20 minute tram journey, starting at the Prinsengracht, and terminating at Station Sloterdjyk, as the central station was experiencing issues after a derailment.
- The Beautiful Prinsengracht in Amsterdaam
So after a hot and uncomfortable journey (well more comfortable than good old Londres) we arrived at Station Sloterdjyk, where we then caught a very old, but fast (sneltren) to Schipol’s wonderful terminal, and I mean that, its one great airport.
It is carved from glass, and looks very futuristic, certainly beats Heathrow’s T1, and puts CDG
to shame which I was going to understand later that evening.
- Schiphol Airport
We had to find some staff to find out where on earth Varig’s check in desks were situated. No problem, they were very helpful, in fluent English, like most people there, and we found out they were based at gate 24.
- KLM Check In
Damn, it was a ten minute walk
but soon enough we were there, and in the long line of no one! I already knew this flight was going to be as silent as an edgy cartoon set in a desert, tumbleweed and all….
So soon enough we were checked in, and assigned row 30 A,B and C, near the back, but according to the seat plan I had, within good view of the wing, and winglet.
Of course, after this, and being at Schipol for 2 and a half hours, I had to check out the spectator terrace. It was very impressive too, puts Heathrow’s attitude towards spotters into the spotlight. It wouldn’t harm for them to have some kind of terrace again, I mean MAN
is the same, lots of aviation enthusiast opportunities all around, I mean its even on their information machines!
So I got some snaps of the KLM ramp, and tried to see our RG
MD-11, to no success, I said to myself ‘please don’t be cancelled’ – this flight was real special to me…
- A KLM 737 Taxiing - seen from the terrace
- The KLM Ramp (or one of them at least.....)
- An A310
We went to the catering area on the spotting terrace, and grabbed a pancake or three, and then decided to make our way to security, and to our gate with 45 minutes till departure. No problems there, nothing nearly as bad as any foreigner coming in and out of London nowadays…
On our long trek down the travelators towards our gate (D3 I think) my sister, being friendly struck up a chat with a pilot, who turned out to be piloting our MD-11 that night. He told us that he really enjoyed the MD-11s, especially when they are empty, as they are a joy to fly!
We waited at our gate, and I got a snap of our jet.
- Our MD-11
They then closed the blinds. A nice touch, as the sun was right overhead, you see even the little touches count. Soon enough we were called for boarding, and my heart started jumping, this was going to be good! My mum and my sister were saying to stop being such a nerd, something they would take back during the flight…
That was it! We were called towards the airbridge, and made our journey through it, a particularly long one, and were greeted by the beautiful, textured metal skin in the RG
colours, with all the rivets, cold to the touch. As we entered, I took in the smells of the aircraft, and checked out first class, and business, and if I must be honest, these sections were disappointing, considering the price some people pay. Y was a short journey, and me took the ‘trek’ to row 30, which, as I thought, had a superb view over the wing, and over the winglets. The windows are so big
on these jets! It was going to be a real contrast a few days later when I toured Concorde at MAN
, trip report coming soon!
- View over wing
I must admit, I was slightly worried about the service we were going to receive, as I have heard some terrible reviews of RG
, varying from ‘They cancelled my flight, and didn’t give me money or hotel’ ‘There was no flight’ ‘No service at all’ etc etc.
We were static on the ground for around 20 minutes, and I took the opportunity to take some shots of the surrounding aircraft on the ramp of the D gates. It was a beautiful evening, so I was looking forward to some good photo opportunities on my dust spot ridden camera!
- Planes taxxing to stand
We started the taxi to a runway (not sure which one) and passed near the taxiway that runs over the motorway, where I snapped an Aer Lingus jet taxiing to the runway also. There wasn’t much of a queue so the pilots were preparing for take off after only 5 minutes of taxing.
- Aer Lingus Taxxing
This, I was really excited about now! The full thrust of an MD-11 with only 35 pax, and 4 bags in the hold! This was going to be good. And suddenly, all three glorious engines tuned up and applied full thrust. As we were quite near #3, the sound was beautiful, and the power, well that deserves its own report.
Let me put it this way: We were airborne quicker than a 737-800. Really, really powerful. And then came the climb! This was the steepest climb I have ever experienced, except on a private plane, we were at our cruising altitude of 32000 feet within about 8 minutes, and were cruising at 880 kp/h, or so the display said.
- On climbout from AMS
, you can really see the gradient we were climbing at
The views were glorious, the sun on the clouds was magnificent, equally so was the tunefulness of the engines, spooling up and down to maintain speed. We were soon through Belgium within a matter of minutes, and the display was reading ’38 minutes until arrival at CDG
’. This I didn’t want to see. I wanted this to go on for as long as possible, albeit not as long as the 6000 mile flight this bird was about to endure after, on its way to San Paulo.
- View during cruise
We were soon served a sandwich (ham, cheese and salad), as well as some orange juice. My mum and sister got two, as they had plenty spare. The service here was very good, far better than BMI
, and far more enjoyable too.
- Complimentary Food
The seat pitch was average, but fine for me, and my sister and mum. Sadly, soon after this service, we started descending, but it was nowhere near as boring as the usual. Every now and again the pilot would cut the engine, and then apply full power, resulting in being forced back into your seat. Fantastic. The descent lasted a good 20 minutes, and I soaked up as much as I could of the feeling and experience that one gets in an MD-11.
The descent was very interesting, and there were superb views over the rural countryside of France, and Paris’s outskirts. We were descending quickly, and I could see the airport! A sharp bank later, and we were lined up with CDG
’s main runway.
- 'Gliding' down the runway
A high approach led to a long ‘glide’ along the runway before slamming down, and what ensued was the most powerful reversers I have every felt. They were so powerful that the camera (a DLSR!) dropped from my hand, we were forced forward in a surge of power, albeit power that was going the opposite way. Luckily I managed to grab my camera and snapped a few shots (blurry because of excessive reversers, and dark). So that was it. My MD-11 experience had come to an end. We taxied not very far, to our remote stand, and disembarking began. I reluctantly left my seat, and made my way out of the door, but not before brushing the rivets for one last time. We then walked straight into the 1970s. Paris CDG
. What a s**thole!
- The loveliness of CDG
Soon enough, we had found the Hilton coach that took us to Paris CDG
Hilton, and we settled down for the night. I, of course, noticed that we had a great view over the port, but it was raining, so the pictures off my 18-55 lense didn’t come out amazingly well.
- View from Paris CDG
We had a great day in Paris the next day, and a good, but very bumpy flight back to LHR
, however I will not post this report, as I have no images.
Verdict and Conclusion:
- What an experience! A light MD-11 performing full power manoeuvres, great service, good food, great weather, low price (all on airmiles too
) I sure do hope that RG
don’t go bankrupt. From what I experienced on this trip, they are a positive point on the many negatives from the star alliance *cough bmi cough*. So, yes, a great trip, and I hope to it again some time. The MD-11 is a truly wonderful aircraft, and the sad days are approaching when they are going to be put out of service, replaced by 777s, and A340s, and the only places we will see them operating, is taking our post and parcels.
I hope you enjoyed my report, please make plenty of comments so I can reflect on it some more.
[Edited 2005-08-22 12:40:48]
[Edited 2005-08-22 12:42:54]
[Edited 2005-08-22 12:47:11]