Well it was finally that time of the year where me and my g/f head state side to visit her parents. To be honest i had been really looking forward to going, especially as we had both turned 21 in the last 6months so we were going to Las Vegas, to gamble and drink heavily, but not get married! Anyway more of that to come in a later trip report!
As usual when it came to mention of going to see the "in-laws", i did the usual and spent a couple of days scouring the net for the cheapest fares. Any site that was of british origin was incredibly expensive when compared to their US conterparts. So we decided to book through orbitz, which gave us e-tickets for the whole journey and cut out the problem of getting them sent to us, we also used our american bankcard to pay for it otherwise you cant pay for it on an english card through a US website. Some do, others dont.
Anyway, 30th of March finally came. Me and the missus always have a disagreement when it comes to making our way to the airport, i always want to be there in plenty of time to get the seats i asked for,and of course do some spotting.Im sure some of you out here can relate to what i am saying.
So at 5.30 my alarm goes off, bleary eyed and heavy headed i launch myself into the shower, leaving my better half to sleep until 5.45. Dressed and fed we both wait for the taxi to come to pick us up and take us to lime street station. At 6.25 my other half is messing around upstairs when the taxi arrives, still not ready! Damn it! All wednesday she could have finished packing, she is lucky enough to do a course at uni where she is only in for about 8hours a week and thus has 3days in uni a week. The taxi driver is the usual rough looking type and starts growling and moaning about how its a good job his boot is empty to put all our cases in! "Listen mate! your a taxi driver people occasionally want to get to the trainstation and airport, and occasionally they have luggage! So stop bitching and moaning and load the damn car!" Of course this was all said to myself when i went back in the house to get the 3rd and final case, as i feared he may well have beaten me in a confrontation, he probably had 50lbs on me easily.
Anyway we got to Lime Street station in plenty of time for our 7.14 train to Manchester airport. We were the first people on, and the conductor handed me a paper on his way past! I thought hmmmmm, wonder when he will be coming round with the complimentary drinks service, and will i get the whole can. As it happens the paper was actually from the day before, but some kind soul had left me the Sudoku and the crossword to do in it. So that pretty much took care of 5mins of the train journey. Eventually we were on our way, and nothing major happened. When i get the train to MAN, i have a knack of timing it perfectly for going under the approach path of 24R as a plane is coming in, and no change this time! BA regional aircraft zipped overhead.
Once off the train we made our way across to T2, it has been at least 5years since i have flown from T2, last time was with my grandparents getting on a First choice flight out to Dalaman if i recall correctly. Anyway, it was 8.40 by the time we made it across to the check in area, and i was expecting it to be pretty packed. Singapore and Virgin both had fairly large looking queues, but US was only about 10 people long. I checked the board to see 'US 197 Orlando via Philadelphia. Volunteers Required' Now this brought about a mixed reaction from me, i was intriqued and quite willing to volunteer, but ORLANDO=screaming little brats going to disney for the next 7 hours! (I would have gotten off lightly if it had just been 7 hours, but more of that to come!)
We got in the queue and spoke immidiately to the security agent and got our customs and visa waiver forms, well i did my g/f is a US citizen so she took a customs form and that was it, all questions correctly answered! There were now 6people in front of us, all with kids about the age of 5-10.
We were checking in within 10minutes. The woman took our pasports and our e-intinery and set about typing.
"Excuse me, are you still looking for volunteers and if so what are the terms and conditions?" I said.
"Yes, sir! We are vastly overbooked, but if you are willing to get the flight tomorrow, we can offer $200 or a full nights paid stay in the radisson just down the corridor, and you also get a free rountrip ticket between europe and the US with US for use in the future."
I turn round and consult with the missus, i made the first mistake by saying, "it's upto you?" Alarm bells rang as soon as my mouth opened. I understand that she doesnt get to see her parents very often, but i was looking forward to a whole days spotting and eating at US's expense, plus we could have used the tickets for our visit in the summer of xmas. BUt her brain didnt think like that, wait for it, wait for it. " I have my hair appointment in Columbus tomorrow, so would you mind if we got this flight!!" Damn you woman!!!!!!!!!
The check in agent smiled at me and said not to worry.
With boarding cards for both segments, 30 G&H, and 9D&E( i think it was d&e, anyway it was the two seats in row 9 of the canadair jet) in hand we left and went for food. My better half wanted Burgerking, but there isnt one of those before check in, in terminal 2, so we wandered over to terminal 1. As we went across the final part of the walkway, the US333 came in to land aswell as A BD332.
Fed and watered we wandered around looking for a belt, as i had left mine at home in lancaster before returning to uni. Can you believe there are no shops that sell mens belts in the bloody airport!!!
We passed through passport control which was alot more painful than it should have been, some moron had been on a connecting flight and had done something he wasnt suppsoed to, sio the woman was going mad at him. After going through there. I had another look for a belt, no luck and stocked up on Scotch for the g/f's dad and got water and a book for the flight. Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen, i recommend it.
Gate 208 was where N677UW was parked so wandered down to take a picture.
There were at least 3guys in the cockpit all wearing high viz jackets, so i presumed they had a few tech issues from the inbound flight.
I also wandered along taking pics of other aircraft that were boarding/departing or just looking good.
Barbarella ready for pushback.
Ready to taxi, with our plane being loaded in the foreground.
After taking a few pics it was time to head to the gate, one thing i dont like about T2 is the gates arent reall surrounded by seating, and what seting there is isnt really audible to the announcements when there is alot of people around, so most people just crowd the walk way.
Anyway, the gate was heaving and there was a woman going round still looking for people with flexible travel plans. She never bothered me as i was sat on my own whilst my other half went to get a drink. When she return i said they were still looking for volunteers and i was going to offer, on my own because i could use a free roundtrip ticket if nothing else. So she decided no that her hair wasnt that important and that she would join me. We went to the podium and asked the agent what they were offering.
"$200 or an overnight stay in the radisson, upgrade on tomorrows flight and $400 cheque or a free round trip ticket on US between europe and US, good for one year and can be used the day before you want to fly it" She emphasised.
"Ok, we will take it"
Then she confered with her friend who said they were offloading a party of 5, and that we weren't needed to volunteer, unless they could find a single person to do the same immediately, as they needed to offload 3people, and me and my better half werent enough to make it balance. As it happened they ended up offloading the family of 5 and we made our way back to the hustle for boarding. What a bloody mistake that was as far as im concerned, you will soon see why!!
Est t/o time 12.20
Est time en route 7h6mins
Departure runway 24L
Act t/o time 15.18
Arrival Runway 27L
Est arrival time 14.00
Act arrival time 16.00
Arrival gate not sure, we were at the very tip of the A-west terminal pier.
United miles acquired3425
Load100%, both classes
They called 1st class and premier star alliance people to board at 11.40, and then group 1, turns out the older of the guy checking group numbers was boarding everyone, and it wasnt until the lady putting the ticket through the machine went mad at him he got the idea. We were zone 2, and made our way down the jetway, no paper or water offered like on BMI, but hey i had my entertainment and water anyway. We were met at the gate by a fresh and friendly face who said ' down the far aisle, 2nd cabin and on your left, enjoy your flight.'
We eventually found our seats and settled in for the long haul! The leg room was very nice in economy, im only 5'10 so 34'' is plenty for me.
Everyone was onboard by 12.10. Then the fun and games started. The cabin crew all seemed really nice, and within 5mins of everyone being loaded, kids were pressing the call buttons on the remotes by accident so the same f/a came out each time to joke with the person who had set it off. What did impress me was that blankets and pillows were on every seat.
At 12.55 the captain came on to annouce welcome aboard and sorry for the delay they were having a couple of technical issues in the cockpit! He said there was a sensor problem and they had the option of replacing the part or taking a different route.He said they were loading more fuel for the different route and were goin to look into changing the part whilst doing so.
The cabin crew then came though the galley with water for the passengers, at this point i knew that when the pilot said 30mins and they would update us, we maybe here alot longer. After they had handed out the water i went to the rear galley to ask if i could get a look in the flight deck, but the stewardess said, 'sir, we no longer do that after 9-11.' I was about to ask another guy when a captain appeared and said he was escaping from the cockpit as there were 3 engineers in there trying to fix the bloody problem.
At this point some spoilt brat decided to get out there personal dvd player and put the simpsons on full belt, no headphones or anything. This last 10mins before the f/a said something and it ceased!!
I just went back to my seat and started taking pics of the Syrian 747SP that had arrived in the gate next to us.
Next i snapped a few pics of the 14 cargo bins they were loading onto the travelcity direct 747, and then of the Air Transat 330 and the BD 330 at the gates and pushing back.
Then it was time for the Syrian 747 to push back, an awesome little aircraft.
Then a FCA321 ready to go
Then what i had been waiting to catch a glimpse of was the PK772, all i can say is wow!!!
With only so many pics to take, i decided that as the AVOD wasnt on yet i was going to explore first class, i needed a walk as there wasnt any fresh air, and the aircraft was rapidly becoming an oven! Just as i was about to, the captain came on to announce they were changing the part and it could be 15mins to an hour. But by doing this they should be able to take the overwater route, instead of the longer northern route that they had put the fuel on for.The usual groans went though the plane. I sat back down to snap some more pics. The time was now 14.00.
Next to come in was the 773ER from Emirates, A6-EBH, is what i think the reg was
Anyway i decided to get up and go forward to stretch my legs. When i reached the galley at the midsection, an f/a asked if i was ok, i asked if icould get a look in the flight deck, "sure, i will go ask."he said. He didnt return, but stood at the front of first waving to me to come forward. So i did. One of the capt's was in the galley, i shook his hand and he motioned me forward. There was another capt sat in the left seat and an f/o sat in the right, both were mid 40's/early 50's. The capt was reading the Wall St Journal and the f/o was eating peanuts. They had the flight plan up on the FMC, which showed 24L as our dept runway and then a left turn slightly after departure, and then a straight flight for as far as the had on the FMC. I asked what the sensor was they were changing. 'A heater probe' came the reply from the Capt.But only after the f/o had said they were changing the main landing gear and that everyone would soon feel the plane being jacked up.
"like the Pitot you mean" i asked and he said thats the one. I was about to ask to snap a couple of shots when 3 engineers came in, to make quite a party and say it was 'test time' So i said my goodbye's and watched as the capt moved his seat so the engineers could access the panel beneath and behind the capt's seat. If anyone could enlighten as to what exatly is down there, whether it is just electronics or you can get down there, it definately didnt look big enough for the guy who was doing most of the work.
I returned to my seat to tell my other half that we would soon be underway. It was 14.30. Most of the kids were pretty restless by now. The bloody spoilt little girl in the seat next to us across the aisle was celebrating her 8th birthday, her mum,dad and bro were sat in the centre 4seats of our row, and her grandparents were sat further back. But she kept telling her mum to 'get out the wy as she wanted the aisle seat as she was fed up of climbing out, and when could she start opening her presents' She had the whole collection of 'bratz' dolls, i heard her mum teling another mother heading for disney, oh and we got her and ipod and blah blah blah, and we are doing diney and new york, blah blah blah. You could see the other mum's eyes glaze over with boredom as she ranted about how much materialistic crap they had bought their daughter.
How i was wishing we had taken the bump at check in!!! NOt only for the people around us doing my head in, but also because i was now down to a probable 90mins max to make my connection in PHL. Having heard mixed things about immigratin there i really wasnt too optimistic. The ontime arrival would have given plenty of time.
I was gazing out the window when something blew into view, that probably shouldnt have.
It was pretty windy, and it took the guys ages to get the first one back on his trailer, probably coz he was pushing them into the wind to load them on, instead of having his truck at the other side to se the wind to lever them on, everytime he gave the final push to get it on the wind would rock it back at him, to which he would dash outta the way to avoid being squashed. But then his friend came to help him.
Well finally the BA engineers van drove into the distance and the captain came on to apologise about the delay again, and to say we would be able to take the quickest route. So with the Pitot now operating we were ready to finally close the doors.
The Travelcity Direct 747 was ready to go.
Well we pushed back and made our way to the active where we were number 3 for take off behind the EK773 and a Jet2 737.
Flaps set for take off, concorde, BY762 and Jet2 737 can be seen in the background
Entering the active
Nose wheel airborne
I must say for a fully loaded A333, and an over compliment of fuel, i could have been convinced at the time that we had a couple of booster rockets strapped to the wings, coz that airbus went like a rocket down the runway.
Then i saw something i have never seen in flight and that was the voritces coming off the wing. Now with Mrs Starflyer being a nervous flyer, i said look quick to which i got a punch in the arm and told to leave her in piece. I only wanted to show her the vortices. The fact that the wings were flapping in the wind, or is it an airbus thing that they actually do flap to give extra lift?!?!
Spot the vortex
Flaps still deployed getting us up into the thick cloud that had covered the northwest for most of the morning
Getting close to the cloud
Can you see the wing? Only just!!
The cloud was really thick and the plane was really bouncing around, which was good because the captain kept the seatbelt sign on for the first 90mins or so which kept the kids in their seats, but alot of them were knackered already from running round the plane for the first 3hours!
AVOD was started and US were trying to make up for the plane being broke, so they were giving everyone free headphones and not charging for them. I must say that the only good thing about it is that it is AVOD, the games werent there, or i couldnt find them. There wasnt a camera! Although there was a good tutorial on arriving into PHL, which i watched.
Food was churned out almost immediately from the seatbelt sign going off. It was cheese tortellini, or chicken and potatoes. I have always gone with chicken, but i decided to try the veggie option. All i can say is never again!! Never ever. I have been unforetunate enough to have tasted cardboard, and the food brought back the bad memories!!
Although everything else was good, the toblerone, caramel mousse, bread, biscuits,crackers and cheese were all nice, and a full can was offered to drink.I don;t know what the age policy is for alcohol on Us carriers but now im 21 im not really going to find out that i cant have a beer whatever.
Meal service was quickly followed by tea and coffee. Then cleared and everyone left in peace.
I tuned back into AVOD, and watched 2episodes of the simpsons and an episode of friends and joey, i have never watched joey, and probably never will again.
Then it was back to out of the window. We were approaching the north american coast, and finally we could see below the clouds, as they dissapated.
Now i remember reading someone else's TR and them saying about being able to seee the contrails of your own aircraft, well its true. I saw them on ours, although my photo's don't quite do it justice.
Well it was time for the sandwiches to come round, which consiste of cheese and ham or cheese and tomato. I passed on both, i wasnt keen to try anymore food in a hurry. A full can was offered along with snack mix and a mini twix. As i am sat gazing out of the window i suddenly almost soiled myself at what sounded like gunfire! Nope spoilt girl, or spoilt retard girl as she should now be called had failed miserably in her attempt to open her snack mix,and i t had more like exploded in the fit she had throw trying to open it. Snack mix rained all over the cabin, the banging sound was the savoury pieces hitting the plastic interior! A few heads popped up towards the front of the cabin looking for a culprit! I was waiting for the full scale food fight, but it just didnt materialise!
The culprit just stole her mums and failed yet again to open the packet, instead chosing me and my girlfriend and the two people in front of us as the 'exclusive victims' of her next attack. Now i didnt mind this as its only food and it only treads into the carpet after 300people trapse off the plane, and leaves it looking like a refugee site for the next people on the flight! Stupid! If your mental capabilities do not stretch to opening the bag, ask someone or do without!! However the mum and daughter sat in front of us werent that impressed. The girl had been looking under the weather for most of the flight. This flyby fooding was just the stimulus to cause her to vomit! Just like something out of the exorcist! The majority went in the vom-bag, but also all over herself and her mums hands! This went on for the rest of the 90 or so mins left of the flight! The f/a brought about 6/7 more sick bags during the flight!
we had been joined in the distance by another aircraft that was our wingman for about 20mins.
well it was finally time to start our descent into PHL, and to be honest i couldnt wait to get off the aircraft. Between getting pelted with food, eating cardboard and smelling half digested stomach contents my exit from this beast coudn't come fast enough!
Getting down low with flaps deployed
Downtown, freeway and sports stadim clearly visible
The naval yard
The start of 26
Queue to depart 27L and bisecting runway
More company aircraft waiting to go
A small touch on the joystick corrects a sudden draft of wind
Touch down, spoilers and airbrakes deployed to slow us down, thrust reversers were used.
Turning off the runway we had landed on.
UPS DC8 over by their hangers, only the tail colouring tells that it is UPS, all other markins have been scrubbed, this aircraft landed in an emergency earlier in march. Kudos to the crew for the doing there job and dealing with what must be a situation that all pilots must dread.
We pulled in quickly to the gate as we couldnt really have been closer to our gate fro mthe end of the runway. The f/a's made an annoucment that ops had made sure we would all make our original connecting flights and that if not alternatives were all in place, and to speak to the reps in baggage for further help.We pulled in next to a 767 in the new colour scheme, very nice indeed, cant wait to see a 330 in those colours. Over the wing tip you can see the tail of BA772.
Well let the fun and games begin, me and my better half agreed that i would run like hell to get to the immigration, as she would have no problem being a Us citizen. Then we would meet in baggage. I quickly spoke to an f/a who said that immigration would likely be busy as we were well into the mid aft and most international flights were in or jsut getting in. It was 16.00.
Off the plane i ran like hell, i can cover 100m in under 11seconds, unforetunately it was alot more than 100m, but my brisk walking pace was well above most people on my flight. When i got to immigration there were no queues for the US citizens and about 12people in everyline for the visitors. I was waiting about 10mins when i saw my g/f heading into the hall. I hadnt moved yet. The couple at the front had filled in their forms wrong and so we tucked in at the front quickly trying to rectify this while the officer dealt with someone else.
I saw my g/f walk straight to the front of a queue and start waving me over!!
YYYYESSSSSS. The officer had agreed to let her partner through as he wasnt busy and we were in a rush. Done in under two minutes! Into baggage, on belt 6, i think. The hall was chaos, i said to my g/f to go check with the agent about making our flight. She returned in under a minute saying, the guy had no idea! Useless, talk about one hand knowing what the other was doing. This was the general consensus fro mall the passengers, alot of people shouting bout not knowing what there new flight numbers and times were.
We picked up our bags and joined the customs queue. What a joke, absolutely ridiculous! There was 1 guy fro visitors and one for nationals. The queue was huge in under 5mins. Then the US airways representative told everyone to use all booths. So it looked like they were making progress! Our cases were pretty quick coming off. The queue looked to have diminished, nope wrong! All that had happened was a ruck had formed and everyone was trying to get to the front from all angles.The US agents were telling people to get in the right queues. Nothing, no-one obliged. So they just got on with it.
Once through,about 10mins later we dropped our cases at the belts, i like the arrangement for this in PHL,simple quick and effective, we went like hell to the security, now remember when i said about the belt! Well by the time i got there my jeans were round my knees, and my boxers on show to all the germans that i had smashed out of the way as they were too ignorant to move, even when i asked in german, they wre walking 4/5people wide down the corridor, i apologise in hindsight, but have consideration for other people trying to get somewhere fast! Oh, and don't think putting your towel on the sun lounger at 6am will stop me from stealing your sunlounger!!!
Security queue was short when i got there, but the ignorant woman co-ordinating had no manners, or sense. Welcome to the city of Brotherly love said the banners. Everytime i looked at them all i could see was 'welcome to the city of b##lsh#t love.'Not one person had been civilised since leaving the plane. Maybe it comes with the job description. 'applicants must have no social skills, be grouchy as hell and an ability to yell at someone who is actually doing nothing in order to cause more chaos.'Well it took 30mins to get through security. The woman at the front was elderly and constantly dancing to herself and tlaking jibberish whilst doing her dance that wouldnt have looked out of place in a Britney video, however she would have being plump, short curl grey hair and looking like oscar from sesame street.
After clearing security, it was 16.45 and our flight was boarding at 17.15. We jumped on the shuttle bus. However the guy, who was driving manageed somehow to lock his security card inside thebuilding, so he couldnt leave without it, so we had to wait for thenext bus driver to open the door to let him get it. bizzare.
Once on the bus we set off across the apron. I snapped a couple of pics, my faourite is of N781WN, or New Mexico 1. Also a United A320,with a rogue engine cowling.
The United aircraft looks like it could do with a bit of a clean!
Once inside the building we ran like hell to the gte, to find our CRJ600 waiting, but delayed due to technical issues which actually translated to them changing a light bulb in the cockpit.
Est dept time17.40
Act dept time18.30
Arrival gateB25. i think
Est arrial time19.26
Act arrival time20.10
Number of United miles gained500
Load98%, 1 empty seat
The interior of the 600 was very nice, after a brief mix up where a couple thought we were in their seats so they sat in the wrong seats twice before actually bothering to look on their boarding passes.
The f/a was a young guy, he was fun, and went thru the cabin asking people sitting in the emergency rows if they could read the card and then confirm they could perform the required actions in an emergency.
Once loaded we went on a mammoth taxi, not in distance but purely the sheer volume of traffic in the queue, we taxied over to 27R, i saw 3 767's go, two in new colours, 2 330's a couple of 757's and numerous 320's and 737's of US. Not to mention a couple of WN 737's and united 737's.
Once on the runway takeoff was swift and powerful with a couple of blasts of side wind, and wake turbulence. Once ariborne a drink service was offered, pepsi, and a full can at that for me. I didnt take any pics because it was dark and i was more concerned with trying to stay awake.
But the landing was textbook, i would have been proud of it anyway.I havent made one that smooth for a while.
Once off the flight, we met the in-laws and went to luggage, 2 out of our 3 cases turned up, one of my again, for the 3rd time in succession hadnt made the flight. Its always me??!?! Anyone else find their cases have a phobia of getting on a plane? I filled out my form and the case arrived later that night on the 10.30 flight from PHL, delievered to our house in worthington.
I actually really enjoyed my flights with US, and would happily do it again, but next time im taking the free tickets if they are offered!
The food wasnt great but then aircraft food i think is only designed, unless you are first class, to stop you from gnawing the leg or arm off your seat mate!?!
There aircraft were clean, not so much on time, but as a spotter i dont mind. It's part of the journey.
Friendly and helpful crew were a delight, and i will be writing to commend the f/a on our flight for her work. She really enjoyed her work and it showed whenever she spoke to the passengers.
Good job US, i hope the merger works for the crew and the companies involved!!!
Please feel free to comment,ask or answer any questions, i have no apologises for length.Unless your on dial up.Sorry. It is my trip report. I hope you enjoyed it.
Can anyone shed light on the alternate route we would have taken if they hadnt fixed the pitot?
Las Vegas from CMH and back is next to come!! Keep an eye out!