Monday 30th April 2007
Depart 0715 (Actual: 0730)
Arrive 0825 (Actual: 0840)
Airbus A319 G-EUPR
Photo © Gerhard Schmidt
Photo © Klaus Ecker
My alarm woke me at 0415, and I instantly regretting being quite so cautious when booking flights, as my early start was, in all honesty, pointless due to the connection time at LHR. However, as I had booked it in order to fly with a friend, I didn't get much say in the matter!
I left home 25 minutes later, after saying goodbye to my mum and brother, and my journey to Arizona commenced. My dad drove me to Manchester; a journey of about 75 minutes. We parked in Terminal 3 short stay, and made our way to checkin. The line was short, since the line was solely for LHR and LGW flights, and I was soon at the desk. My two bags were checked in all the way to Phoenix, and the agent linked the flights together in the reservations system, which allowed her to print my LHR-PHX boarding pass. I was assigned 16A on the domestic flight, and 27G for the international flight.
I went for a coffee with my dad, and said my goodbyes to him as well, before heading through security, which took a while as I was in a bit of a rush period. However, the line moved fairly quickly, and before long I was through.
As I had booked my ticket only a week earlier, my fare allowed me entry into the Terraces lounge, and so I paid a quick visit for a drink and a newspaper. The lounge was very quiet, no doubt due to the sale of BA Connect.
Very shortly, the flight was shown as 'Now Boarding' on the status monitors, though no gate number was mentioned. I headed to the domestic side of T3, and saw A319 G-EUPR, wearing it's Change for Good decals, which I knew would be operating to LHR.
I was soon boarded, and was dismayed to see the window was too dirty for photos - a real shame, as the skies were clear all the way to Heathrow. With eveyone boarded well in advance of departure time, it was inevitable that we would encounter a delay - the captain announced we should be pushing at 0730.
Once pushed, we taxied to 06L, behind a queue of aircraft. Thankfully, we were allowed to enter the runway at AG1, allowing us to 'overtake' a Thomas Cook 757 and a FlyBe DH8.
The takeoff roll was short, and we were soon airborne and heading south. Very shortly, the crew were released and wasted no time in distributing breakfast - a scrambled egg and bacon roll, which was tasty, and much appreciated! I also had a coffee.
We entered the Bovingdon hold, and had to make three orbits, which was quite annoying as I was desperate for the toilet at this point, and my seatmates were asleep! Still, I suppose my bladder needs the training for those long cross countries...
Finally, we left the hold and were vectored to 09L. The captain informed us that those of us on the left hand side would get an excellent view of Windsor castle, which we did - again, a shame I wasn't taking photos! The approach was a little bumpy, as it seemed the wind was constantly changing direction. We made a firm touchdown, followed by a short taxi to Terminal 1.
We disembarked, and I met up with my friend who had been sat in 5B. We made our way to Flight Connections and then to Terminal 4. The transfer took only 15 minutes, and we were soon in the shopping centre that is Terminal 4!
We now had 5 hours to kill, so we located a bar for later, and went to find a window and watch a few planes (the area near Gate 10 is pretty good). We were joined by a few other members of the course, and so decided to move to the Wetherspoons bar we had sourced earlier. When all 12 of us had arrived, we ate and had a few beers - four of us would be losing our driking rights for the next four and a half months, so needed to make the most of them!
Finally, the flight showed as departing from Gate 9, so off we went...
Monday 30th April
Depart: 1435 (On Time)
Arrive: 1710 (Actual: 1657)
Boeing 747-400 G-BNLX
Photo © Gary Wright
Photo © Fred Gay
Flightplan: EGLL..BUZAD.T420.WELIN.UN57.POL.UN601.MARGO.UN590.SUPIT.UP58.ERAKA..6100 N/02000W..6300N/03000W..6400N/04000W..6400N/05000W..6300N/06000W..IKMAN. .FEDDY..SCAI..LITRO..SCAI..YRL..HML..ABR.KP81A.SNY..FQF..RSK..GUP.BUNTR1 .KPHX
I took my seat, only to discover that the checkin agent had located my friend and I totally seperately from both each other, and the rest of the group! I was actually sat about 8 rows ahead of the rest of the group, close to door 3R - which additionally limited any views I may have had out of the window, as it looked out directly onto the wing.
We pushed on time, and taxied to 09R. We didn't have long to wait at all, and were soon lining up. The engines were spooled, and before long we were rotating, though we used up quite a bit of the runway! One unusual thing as we climbed out was the visible flexing of the airframe - the overhead bins seemed to be moving totally independently, though once we were climbing steadily this stopped.
The in flight entertainment was switched on, and I was surprised to see that it was touch screen - this seemed a little pointless as it had very limited functionality; though perhaps the screen had been upgraded in readiness for BA's AVOD upgrades which are being rolled out across the 747 fleet. However, shorty after this, the system had to be reset as the system wasn't functioning properly - I was having problems with both the sound, and the menu access. The reset fixed this, however.
A drinks service was offered first, and I chose a Heineken, which was served with some Worcester Sauce pretzel bites - which were delicious, and very moreish! As I enjoyed my beer, the movies began, and so I watched Casino Royale. Incidentally, I did see Richard Branson's face - perhaps BA put the scene back in? The meal came round while I was watching the film - The choice was a chicken curry or a vegetable risotto. I chose the curry, which came with a bread roll, salad, large slice of strawberry cheesecake and a mini KitKat Chunky. The meal was exceptionally good, with the cheesecake being a personal highlight!
As the flight wore on, I browsed the entertainment. The only other film that interested me was Men In Black, however the video seemed to be damaged as the sound was intermittent, and the picture quality was poor. Instead, I watched several TV programmes, including Little Britain, the Catherine Tate show and Extras. The selection was quite wide, with 18 channels of video, and a further 18 of audio, plus some games and a moving map. The games were fairly basic, and were also infuriating to use as the controller was fixed in the seat, however the games were orientated to use the controller lengthways, which was both confusing and uncomfortable!
The crew were excellent throughout the flight, bringing round water and fruit juice regularly. Additionally, the galley was opened so that we could obtain alcoholic drinks and also snacks and nibbles throughout the flight. The senior first officer also paid our group a visit, though as I was alone couldn't join in the discussion. He did, however, extend an invitation for us all to visit the flight deck after arrival.
As the flight dragged on, I exhausted the IFE system, and chose to read a book and listen to music. I also chatted to the lady sitting next to me, who was very interested in our course, as were many other people on the flight - we were fairly obvious, as we were all wearing bright pink shirts with our 'callsigns' on them. Every time I queued for the toilet or galley, people would ask me why I was wearing a pink shirt (it wasn't my choice of colour), and everyone took an interest in the course.
Finally, we started our descent into Phoenix. Our route took us to the north of the city, flying parallel with the extended centrelines of the runways, until we turned around to intercept the localiser for 09R. Again, I could hardly see out of the windows, so hardly knew when we were about to touch down. Once we landed, we used most of the runway to roll out, meaning we had a long taxi back to Terminal 4! Finally, we arrived at our stand, and were marshalled in by a guy standing on a scissor leg platform.
I stayed in my seat in order to let the rest of the passengers off, before the rest of my course joined me. We then made our way up the stairs of the aircraft into the Upper Deck. We were greeted by the captain and senior first officer, who gave us a quick tour of the flight deck, and allowed most of us to pose for a brief photo oppurtunity!
Once we had all visited the flight deck, we left the aircraft and headed for passport control, joining at the back. The queue was fairly long, as not only had the LHR flight arrived, but also two US flights from Mexico. We were waiting a while, though it did have the benefit of giving our cases chance to make it on the belt.
Finally, we were all through, and the pink-shirted mob headed through customs and onwards to meet Ed, the head of operations at OATC. Soon, we were on a coach headed to GYR - a journey of about 20 minutes. We finally arrived, ready to collapse!
Overall, I have nothing but praise for BA - their service was excellent, and I was particularly appreciative to the crew's efforts to invite our group to the flight deck, as both the purser and SFO offered us a visit at the end. I couldn't fault them for the flight, and things can only improve when AVOD comes online across the fleet.