This trip report is a recollection of my 1st A.net outing, a day not to forget and definitely not the last.
I had made the decision a while ago to be at LHR
for the 1st visit of the A380, whenever that would be. Reports earlier in the year suggested that the weekend of 29th/30th April was looking favourable, but with no confirmation forthcoming, coupled with rumours that it wouldn’t happen that weekend purely because it was a Bank Holiday (and therefore it would be far
too busy) made me hold back from booking a flight. Anyhow, a few weeks later, browsing the Non-Av forum, I noticed this thread…
A380/Green Man Meet 18th May (by Steve7E7 May 1 2006 in Non Aviation)
This was looking more promising! Then came confirmation from BAA, that lunchtime on Thursday 18th May would be the time and date. Decision made, I'm going. However, it wouldn’t be until Monday 15th that I would actually book my flight. Too late for a flight to LHR
- nothing left that would get me there for lunchtime - so with baited breath I checked the LGW
flights. Not too much to choose from, but luckily my preferred flights were available. Hence I ended up with:
BA8070 07:05 NCL
BA8079 21:40 LGW
As the week progressed, the A.net meet gathered momentum and I thought “What the heck. I’ll stick my name down”, followed shortly by “OMG! What have I done”? I confirmed my attendance on the forum and was immediately offered help in the form of a ‘meet & greet” from Steve7E7. I was looking forward to this.
Wednesday 17th May, 2100hrs:
As I normally take the kids to school, I had to make alternative arrangements for the morning school run. Suffice to say, me and the missus had a free night (very rare midweek) so what better way to spend it than in the local for a few beers? So much for an early night and a clear head!
Thursday 18th May, 0445hrs:
Beep, beep, beep, beep… damn alarm clock! Stand in shower for 10 minutes, taxi booked for 0530, plenty of time. Taxi turns up at 0515, bye-bye breakfast. Who’s idea was it to go to the pub last night?
Got to Newcastle just after 0530, an hour and a half before departure. Oh well, I always did like to arrive early. Armed with my e-ticket I approached the self-service check in machines thinking, “At least I’m the first here, I’ll get my choice of seat”. Wrong!!! I was lucky enough to get one of the last few window seats available.
Offered the choice of checking in for my return journey I opted to do so. Perhaps I’ll get delayed getting back to Gatwick and there’ll only be naff seats left. Wrong!!! Nearly all
the seats were already gone, but I did manage to get another window seat.
As it turns out, while boarding I noticed I was one of the few people to have a ‘proper’ boarding pass. Most others had a sheet of paper. I’ve since learned you can check-in online. Damn frequent flyers!
So I ends up in seat 16A onboard BA
735 G-GFFG, three rows from the back. Our departure slot of 0705 comes and goes, no sign of the door closing, then comes the Captain over the PA. No slots at Gatwick, 40 minute delay! Great! All that pre-planning to catch certain trains straight out the window! Then he goes on to explain that it’s fairly breezy at LGW
and to expect some considerable turbulence on approach and landing. WooHoo! That more than makes up for the delay!
Eventually we depart, a nice English brekkie, then it’s time to descend. The guy sitting next to me in 16C (16B is free) can’t get his tray to stay up so he calls the flight attendant. She can’t get it to stay up either so the guy is relocated somewhere behind. The flight attendant promptly returns with a couple of large orange/yellow stickers reading “DEFECTIVE EQUIPMENT” and sticks the tray back in place.
The Captain explains that we will be taking up the hold for about 10 minutes before continuing our approach. Throughout the pattern I could easily see a Northwest DC-10 and BA
A320 below and above us. Then we leave the stack and drop into the clouds. This isn’t too bumpy, I thought. Turning left onto final for 26L, I catch a glimpse of the DC-10 a few miles ahead of us. Shortly we are crossing the threshold… then
things get bumpy! A wing drops, the engines spool up, are we going around? Then the engines are throttled back again and it’s time to put this sucker down. Touching down fairly hard and with the nose pointing to the right, a dab of left rudder gets the thing straight and we are hanging in our straps. It’s amazing how much sideways movement you feel when you’re sitting near the back! I was later to learn that a few arrivals diverted that morning due to the unfavourable wind conditions.
My first time at Gatwick and we park in stand 551 at the North terminal, right under the air bridge! Onto the monorail across to the South terminal and the train station to catch a train to Central London. Because of the delay, I could now get a cheap day return for £9.50. Compare that to £25 return on the Gatwick Express! No seats on the Southern service to London Victoria, but it was fast and almost non-stop, so no complaints really. A tube ride to Hatton Cross and I’m almost there.
It’s just before 11am and there are already a few spotters congregating in the car park under the 27L approach. Are any of these A.Netters? I didn’t have a clue who I was coming to meet.
I’d decided that I would make my way to The Green Man pub (TGM) and having identified it on Google Earth (you can even see the picnic tables in the beer garden) the night before, I set off in that direction. Within 5-10 minutes I was sitting in aforementioned beer garden with a nice cold beer. The only problem was… I was all alone. There were a few other people sitting alone who quite frankly didn’t look like ‘enthusiasts’, and certainly not the makings of a meet! Hmmm!
About half a pint after my arrival at TGM a small rabble arrives and promptly disappears inside. A few seconds later the same rabble re-appear in greater numbers and sit at the next table to me. Listening in to their conversation (feeling like a right snoop!) I could hear certain keywords like “Kazzie” and “Myt332”. I’d heard these names before. I let them finish their introductions before I plucked up the courage! I needn’t have worried. It only took a few minutes before the drinks were flowing and my camera ‘borrowed’.
Nice camera John, it looks just like mine, did you take any good pics?
Of course I did, and here they are:
Kaz & Tom
Throughout the morning at TGM, countless journalists and pro’s came across and asked us for the best locations to photograph the A380 that day. So I guess a lot of the pictures you saw in the papers the next day were partly thanks to A.Net members!
The press men:
With the time after 12 noon we decided it would be a good idea to get our butts over to Myrtle Avenue.
However, thanks to Steve7E7, that didn’t stop us ‘socialising’
We even spotted another A.Netter amongst the crowds (SmithAir747)
While it was Kaz’s turn to borrow my camera
Kaz being warned that she wouldn’t be allowed to take photo’s standing in the middle of the dual carriageway
Air traffic were kind enough to bring a couple of 744’s in on 27L for shooting practice (or to provide accurate wind assessments as we later discovered)
Time for the real thing
Then back to The Green Man to continue the festivities
We then piled into some cars, off to another bar, shot some pool (got beat by Hannah), then it was time to think about leaving. I got the tube into London with Steve, who promptly pulled the last two cans of Strongbow from his rucksack before we ended up in another pub in the capital waiting for our trains.
Back at LGW
, my flight was delayed once again and was the last flight to leave the North terminal that night at around 2220. As mentioned earlier, I was booked into a window seat, this time 23F, but as I was one of the last to board, I found a friendly enough looking couple sitting in 23E & F, so opted to take the aisle seat, where I promptly fell asleep, missing the departure and in-flight drinks, and was woken abruptly as our B734 G-DOCB landed back at Newcastle.
So thanks to everyone I met there, for making it such a good day out. And to those of you that have yet to attend a meet, or are thinking about it. Just do it!
Flying is the second greatest thrill known to man... Landing is the first!