Airline: Malaysia Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Flight Number: 095
Seat: 56A (Was around this area)
Route: Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur via Taipei
Dep: 0115 (Sep 04, 2002)
Arr: 1145+ (Sep 05, 2002)
The Air Canada Airbus A320 was closing in over Las Vegas on it’s way to Los Angeles from Toronto. As expected the Captain announced that the city was on the right and we would be flying over it soon. The lights of Vegas, though from that height looked like a miniature circus display in the late evening light. The fascination of those lights were later replaced with the forest fires in the Los Angeles area. It had now turned to night and the orange glow from the hills had everyone looking out. We were now low over the city, and the lights of downtown Los Angeles in the distance shimmered in the exhaust of the engines. We passed downtown on the right and the little but strong A320 thumped itself on the runway. The start to the long trip to Kuala Lumpur was about to begin.
The family that came to see me during my short transit decided to take me out on a spin of LA. For fear of losing my flight although six hours later, we decided to drive close to the airport area. I marveled at the line of jets in the air descending into LAX. I was more interested in looking outside the window rather than what they had to say :wink: . After seeing a lot of US jets, I could barely contain myself when an EVA Air 747-400 screamed overhead it’s bright strobe, anti-collison and landing lights making it look more like a spaceship. The family gone, I decided to rush back to my gate, still occupied by some other international departure before the Malaysia B747-400 would fill the space. I went to the gates nearby and sat right in front of the nose of a Qantas 747-400, the captains on the flight deck above doing their thing. The First Class section could be seen too through it's windows, of course with tilting my head in all directions, with those sitting near me thinking I was mad. Soon the Australian beast, began to push back, stood parallel to the large glass windows and the white kangaroo against the red tail illuminated by the logo lights began it’s taxi to the runway.
Photo © Paul Paulsen - AirTeamImages
Flashing airport vehicles raced across as other jets pulled out and others filled gates. Still more time for the MH 744 to come to the gate. After touring the terminal, I got the blood flowing through my legs before the almost 14 hour flight, I returned to the gate and noticed an SQ 744 had occupied the gate to the right of our stand. The bird stood dark except for a lone individual who moved inside the lower deck in the business class area. I noticed some movement to my left and I jumped as I saw the top of the MH tail moving behind the terrace of the terminal building in front. She was coming and it was my first flight on MH.
Photo © William Appleton
I so awake now like I just had a good shot of espresso , and before long the Queen was pulling up into the gate. At the same time, quick paced MH cabin staff began occupying the few vacant seats in front of the main check in desk. They were all bright and charged for the flight across the Pacific. They were a mix of Malays, Chinese and Tamils, all smart in their green sarongs and the guys in their green suits. Before long we were boarding and I made my way to the last few seats at the rear. The MH cabin looked bright and colourful and the seat pitch was good. I snuggled in, pulled up the footrest and frantically searched the movies to be shown.
Soon our Captain came on welcoming us aboard. The SQ 744 had also come to life and activity could be seen through it’s many windows as I looked out of mine. We pulled out first and as we now stood parallel to the terminal like the QF jet did, the SQ jet began to push back too. She too was on her way to Taipei but we had the clear lead. As we began our series of turns out of the terminal areas on our way to the South runways I noticed the same EVA 744 I had seen landing earlier in front of us
Photo © Reve
, (sorry towing pic)..wow this was going to be a race after all, with the home based EVA AIR clearly taking over our lead. We were now close to the runway, the EVA AIR jet disappearing out of sight on 25R (or was it 25L), but clearly heard as she raced down the LAX runway and the heavy engines lifted her up and away into the night sky. We took our position to begin our own roll down the runway.
The 744 is a huge jet and once the engines began their roar, the overhead bins rattled and shook gently just as all the occupants did as the mammoth beast increased in speed. The cabin lights were dimmed I could see the winglet of the jet, stretched out and upwards in the dark, which looked like a palm held face up bent at the wrist demanding all that saw her go, to stop and take note. I felt a strange feeling in my gut as the wheels lifted off the runway, and the super heavy bird left the ground. So different from the A320 that lifted so lightly and quickly off the runway from Toronto. We continued over the waters below and after sometime, turned right and moved in a northerly direction. It was all dark outside, while the cabin lights were now turned on and I could see my own face in the glass window as I tried to see the darkwaters below. The cabin service began and the friendly MH Cabin staff moved around the cabin, smiling at every passenger as they began the beverage service. We were having dinner when I noticed we were close to San Francisco when the 744 began to turn left as it began it’s long crossing over the great body of water called the Pacific Ocean. I thought we would continue north fly south of Alaska but it was clear the crossing was going to be from this point , and the map as the flight progressed proved it to be just that. It was going to be one long night flight, and I opened the double folded page of the Malaysia Airlines route map to see the red line connecting Los Angeles with Taipei. Very soon the lights turned out again and I put on my headset and began to watch the movies. Some 6 hours had passed and I recall thinking another 7-8 more to go…!! I think I watched more movies on that flight than I would have seen in six months at a theatre. The In fight selection was not that good, but I had to kill time. Moreover it was not Video on Demand as on some carriers, but the charming and helpful FAs of MH make flying with them worth it. What seemed like a night that would never end, actually did end as the first signs of dawn appeared as a dark orange line in the blanket of darkness outside. At the same time the galley got active again, even though the FAs were going around with drinks and snacks during the flight, quietly asking those who looked to them in the dark if they needed something, while trying not to wake those who were asleep. The cabin lights came on and the smell of breakfast filled the air. The nocturnal creatures that had slept for the past 8-9 hours stirred out of their blankets and blinked as they made their way to the lavatories. I got nice and ready for breakfast hoping they’d start close to my row. And they did.
We were soon approaching the Japanese coastline as the last of the trays were distributed and the quiet cabin came to life with clinking china, crinkling foil and smell of coffee . It began to get bright outside the cabin but it was a dull grey nonetheless. We were now flying alongside the Japanese coastline and closing in near to Tokyo. The trays cleared and the cabin now alive, the captain came on to say we were soon approaching the Island of Taiwan and would be beginning our descent shortly. The weather was cloudy and there was slight turbulence as we began descending into the airspace of Taipei. We were over the northern tip of the Island nation and the flaps began to descend, the engines quietened and we reduced speed. He continued flying past the Island and then banked to the left circling as he made his way back to the coast. We started coming in lower and bits of Taipei appeared and disappeared through the clouds, as the waves crashed on the shore some thousands of feet below. The wings of the jet would appear and disappear through the clouds too, shaking as the jet descended lower and lower. We were now pretty low when he banked hard to the left, the winglet bending down low to touch the earth, before it came back up as soon as it went down. Within seconds under very dull grey early morning skies, the jet touched down and the overhead bins rattled again as the wheels made contact again with the earth, and the spoilers and reverse thrust were deployed to slow the jet down. We passed two United 777-200s parked away from the terminal area, making me wonder two (?), as we turned to come into the terminal area. We had landed at Taipei’s Chiang Kai Shek airport and passed some EVA AIR ,China Airlines planes before parking alongside a Cathay Pacific 777-300. I stared out of my window my jaw wide open as I marveled at the length of the plane that stood in front of me. I could not believe it’s size and it was the first time I ever laid my eyes on a 777-300, and was lucky to be viewing it from so close. It was a long wait inside the terminal that smelled horrid like a pesticide had been sprayed. I just wanted to board the plane and found a nice corner that did not smell, till the boarding announcement began. A new crew had taken over the plane, and proudly welcomed us back on board the 747-400. The aircraft had been cleaned and new pillows and blankets in plastic wrap were neatly place on the seats. The jet began to pushback and the cabin crew moved quickly around the cabin checking for seat belts fastened and seats in the upright position. We had by now taxied halfway to the end of the runway and I could hardly believe my eyes when I heard a roar and saw the SQ 744 climb out into the dull greyed morning sky. The Singaporeans had beaten us after all.
Photo © Sam Chui
Photo © Kun liang
Photo © Sung-Yang Tong
We reached our position at the start of the runway and soon ourselves were lifting up to the skies above. I turned in my seat and saw the terminal passing to my left and some China Airline planes moving below. We had barely climbed for a few minutes before the jet began to rock from left to right and up and down . We were caught in a terrible turbulence of heavy clouds as the sunlight danced in and out of them, the jet desperately fighting itself through. The wings bent and moved up and down like a bird trying to take flight, and the engines shook so badly it looked they would break and fall. The 744 wings are really wavy in such conditions. A lady in the seats in the middle row in front of me, put the hood of her jacket on her head and held the arm rests her head bent low in prayer I think, her eyes probably shut. If she could only see the smile on my face
Finally the jet stabilized as we broke through the clouds leaving the tops of them outside my cabin window within arms reach, the sun dancing down on them. We continued to climb up the clouds now way below us as we progressed South west over the South China sea. Normal activities began in the cabin. It was now all bright and nice outside and it was a relief to finally see the sun again, after what seemed like forever of an unending night. With some fours hours more to go, I asked an FA if I could get a passenger comment form. She said she would be back with one. She returned without one a little later a look of concern on her face as she bent down towards me her hands neatly folded over her thighs as she said to me, “Sir, is everything okay with the service? Did we not meet your expectations” :cry: or something to the line of that. You should have seen her expression that broke into a smile when I told her that it was in fact to compliment the service, my first on MH. She returned smiling with a silver tray in hand with a pen and comment form laying on it, her right hand extending the tray, the left hand bent behind her, bending forward as she handed the contents to me. She brought her hands together now holding the tray downwards after I took the contents, and she bowed gently a couple of times, smiling the service had met my expectations…me in Economy Class. That wanted to make me write ten comment forms… Made me think what Business and First must be like.
We were closing in towards the Malaysian coastline in the direction of Kuala Lumpur, our final destination. I definitely wanted to photograph the Petronas Towers from the air if we passed over them on the way to the airport. I caught the attention of a really friendly FA who just wouldn’t stop smiling. He came to me, as I called him and still beamed from left to right , his already chinky eyes getting even smaller. I asked him if he knew the approach into KL and if we would fly over the city . He continued to smile at me, though I could tell he had never heard a question of that sort before. He kept the smile and told me he was not sure and would see if he could find out. He came back and replied that it would be from the North, not the answer I was expecting. Soon we were over the green hills of Malaysia and it was a clear day except for some clouds in the distance. I continued to look out for the city and jumped when the captain came on the air and said that passengers on the right would very soon be having spectacular views of downtown KL. I was on the left!!! I unfastened my seat belt ran to the back, across the galley area almost frightening the same FA who sat in the seat by the lavatories. I looked for a seat and found one, jumped in and looked down at the beautiful sight that was KL. The Petronas Towers and the Menara Towers even though small from our height, looked wonderful as the sun shone on the big glass structures. I thought of Sean Connery and Katherine Zeta Jones swinging on the cables between the buildings of the Petronas Towers in “The Entrapment”, of course they did it at night. I clicked away and soon we left downtown KL behind. The FA returned to my side and could finally understand my craziness as he said to me “Sir, you did get to photograph the Towers?” “Yes, I replied” and he walked away turning back once more to smile before disappearing. The jet descended lower and began some gentle turns, the flaps extending as we passed some colourful mosques and another structure what I later learned was a palace. After one more sharp bend to the left, taking the wingtip on the right where I sat up against the blue skies for a few seconds as he made the turn to line up with the runway before it gradually descended back to meet the horizon. We were now some minutes from touchdown on 14R and I set my camera again to catch some of the airport. The jet screeched onto the tarmac
Photo © Charles Falk
(sorry this pic is of a plane landing from the south) and the KLIA Tower passed just over the wingtip as the Pan Pacific hotel passed by too, where I was going to stay during my transit stay in Kuala Lumpur. The beast had reached home, and like a tame animal slowly progressed to the terminal building passing many more Malaysia Airlines tails of B744’s, B-777’s, A330’s and B-737’s. The Impressive KLIA terminal building looked very welcoming it’s fancy layout pleading with us to leave the aircraft soon, like most of us Los Angeles passengers did after the long, long flight. I was in Kuala Lumpur
[Edited 2010-10-18 20:35:51]
[Edited 2010-10-18 20:36:37]
[Edited 2010-10-18 21:08:44]