Well, just finished another trip back to the land of the rising sun. The trip started out as a bit of an a.net mini-meet but quite a few people had to cancel in the days leading up to the trip for various reasons. Oh well, ended up just going with a work buddy of mine haha. Anyhow, in my quest to get on all 16 of 16 ships in the DL 747-400 fleet, I flew out to MSP the night before our trip started to I'd have flights available to do MSP-JFK-NRT, MSP-DTW-NRT, MSP-NRT, or MSP-LAX-NRT based on which ships were slated to do which flights. Having been on 11 of the 16, it's getting increasingly difficult to find the last few. Luckily, one of my missing 5 was assigned to do JFK-NRT on the morning of our trip.
Almost misconnected in JFK given the ice-storm and huge delays the morning of out of MSP. Nonrev gods were on my side though, mostly... haha. Also did my first ever TransPac 767 flight... kind of a novelty to fly that little airplane over the big ocean!! Final itinerary:
DEN-MSP: UA E70
MSP-JFK: DL CR9
JFK-NRT: DL 744
NRT-SFO: DL 763
SFO-DEN: UA 777
21 November 2010
Block Time: 14 hours, 15 minutes
747-451, N664US, ship# 6304
Seat: 12A, main deck BusinessElite
Photo © Jjss
November is always one of the best months to nonrev to NRT. Typically the lightest loads to and from the Orient. The trick is usually the domestic flight loads, just getting to the hub and back home after the trip is over. Holiday travel always throws a wrench in that engine.
Anyhow, the morning of the trip starting, I almost didn't even make it to JFK in time to catch the NRT flight. The MSP-JFK was supposed to have a 1hr50min connection time in JFK, so I figured I should have plenty of time even if JFK had bad flow control or anything. Between the ice storm, ramp closure, maintenance on the aircraft, deicing, and parking at the furthest possible gate away in JFK, I had about 25 minutes from arrival to catch the 744 before they closed the doors.
JFK visible below my Comair CR9, on descent. My 744 can even be seen at the far end of T3, boarding already in progress. I think that's the tightest international connection I've ever made.
Luckily once we landed in JFK we had a relatively fast taxi to the gate, no major hold-ups. I got a text from my buddy saying they had already cleared me into BusinessElite so I knew I had to run fast to make sure I got there before they closed up the gate.
Winglet 763ER at T2. For those of you that know DL equipment codes, ship 191 is a 76U, not one of the IGW 76T's.
So, after finally getting my gate valet bags back in JFK, hoofed it over to T3 and the JFK gate. By the time I got to the NRT gate I was pretty well out of breath. The agent gave me my boarding pass for 9D on main deck BusinessElite. I asked if they had any windows available, he said just to change once I was on board. Oh well. I only got one pic of the aircraft itself before going on board since time was down to the wire.
Ship 6304 (N664US). One of my missing 5 of the 16 ships.
Once I was on board I was trying to scope out any good windows. I didn't want to just casually walk up to the top deck then walk back down, so I moved over to 12A which is really my favorite seat anyway. On the 747-400, everyone seems to LOVE the nose section, rows 1-4. Personally, I don't like it at all. Granted there is less traffic, but you can't see the wing or engine from that far forward. I love the furthest aft section on the main deck... best views of the wing!!
Quick look across the main deck BusinessElite cabin before doors were closed for departure.
Luckily, no one was seated in 12B so I had the 12AB row to myself. Got both water bottles
About 7 or 8 minutes after I stepped foot on board, door 2L was closed and we were ready for departure. Yikes... that was way too close. Hope to never have to cut it that close again, haha.
A330-200 ship 3354 next to us before pushback. It was inbound from AMS, outbound to MXP.
757-251 ship 5644 taxiing by us during our pushback. Inbound from BRU, outbound to DUB.
The pushback tug towed us out to the taxiway before we even started engines. After starting all four, we made our slow taxi out to the longest runway at JFK, Rwy 13R. I didn't get a chance to talk to the crew or see our dispatch release before we left but with our blocktime of 14+15 I'm fairly sure our fuel load was just a bit over 300,000#. We were gonna be a HEAVY takeoff!!
Takeoff on runway 13R out of JFK
Our runway performance actually seemed rather quick for as much gas as we were holding. Climb performance was a whole other thing, that was rather slow haha.
Making our turn to a NNW heading for our Trans-Polar crossing
Climbing toward our initial level-off. Flaps 1 setting, outboard slats retracted. JFK visible in the distance.
After we were established in our climb, the FA's began the in flight service. They seemed relatively new to the 747-400 and after a few comments made, I was able to be pretty sure that they were a PMDL NYC crew. I was rather surprised to see that since, previously, it was almost exclusively PMNW crews to the Pacific since they could work alongside the Orient-based crews while the PMDL ones couldn't.
Cranapple juice and warm nuts. Forgot to order it with vodka.... blah!!
All following captions taken directly from the menu.
A tasting of two appetizers - seared pepper crusted tuna with soubean and seaweed salad and feta cheese with grilled peppers and olives. Served with cream of lettuce soup and mixed green salad with dried cranberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, and pine nuts.
Seared mahi mahi with lemon butter sauce, asparagus, and paella rice.
Delta always has 3 options available for dessert. The fruit and cheese plate, an ice cream sundae, or a 3rd option which is usually cakes, cookies, pies, etc. I usually just go with the classic though and get the ice cream. Can't beat it!! Well.... only chocolate ice cream might be better, haha.
Vanilla ice cream sundae with your choice of sauces, whipped cream, and chopped nuts.
Through dinner I watched the movie "Avatar", one of my favorites. After dessert I usually hit the sack for quite a few hours but I wasn't quite tired yet so I listed to some music and watched the moving map for a short bit.
Globe view of our route and areas of daylight and shadow. Given our rather northerly routing we were skimming on twilight the entire time until descent into Narita when it briefly became daylight again before sunset.
Remixes of Lady Gaga songs on a 747-400. I thought I had died and gone to heaven
After going through the Lady Gaga playlist and a few others I finally hit the rack for a few hours and got some shut-eye.
Last pic out the window before lights-out for me.
Half way through, I happened to wake up in time for the mid-flight snack which *never* happens for me. I'm the type that could sleep through most small wars so I was really surprised I actually was up in time for it. Got a few cool pictures too as we passed over Alaska and down into the Siberia region of Russia.
From the menu: Chilled deli platter with glazed chicken, teriyaki salmon, saga blue cheese, and napa cabbage slaw.
Not as good as the old Northwest days when they used to serve mini pizzas mid-flight. One of the few things DL did *not* improve upon from the NWA days.
Looking down on the frozen tundra in Siberia. I love doing the trans-polar routes over to NRT.
Quick pic of the seat controls before I reclined and caught a few more hours of Z's.
A little over an hour out from Tokyo-Narita, the FA's began the pre-arrival service. I usually get the breakfast option to help me feel a bit more awake after crossing so many time zones but I just wasn't really in the mood for breakfast so I ordered the cold plate option instead.
Flying south toward the coast of Japan.
Again, flying south over the ocean. Was daylight for awhile but the sun was rapidly setting in the west, as seen by the large shadow over the wing.
Pre-arrival meal. From the menu: Roasted pork with lime chili sauce, a vegetable medley, and jasmine rice.
After the FA's collected all the trays and napkins from the pre-arrival service, we began our descent toward Tokyo-Narita. Didn't get any good pictures outside as the daylight was rapidly decreasing and the landing light glare in the window didn't help much either.
Took a few pics of the moving map and our plane on arrival, at least.
Final descent toward Tokyo-Narita
My last picture of the moving map screen before putting it away before landing. We'd go on to pass 6900 miles but didn't quite make it to 7000 miles on the flight.
We landed on runway 31R in NRT which I was completely shocked to see. NWA *never* landed the 747-400 on 13L/31R in NRT. Some bean-counter at DL decided it would be a good idea though...
Ship 6304 (N664US) on a brief rest in NRT after arriving from JFK before continuing onward to PVG for the night.
Good flight though, as always, I really enjoy my time on the 747-400's. Ship 6304 (N664US) was my 12th ship off the list of 16. Now only 4 to go!!
23 November 2010
Block Time: 09 hours, 30 minutes
767-332ER, N1602, ship# 1602
Seat: 4G, BusinessElite
Photo © Markus Hahn - DC10Fan
Had a blast in Narita, as always. One of my favorite places to visit... on a regular basis, at least. Went to the Jet Lag Club and enjoyed some [relatively] cheap Japanese beer. Though, it's a bit more expensive than the last time I was there... the dollar's strength against the yen has really gone down in 2010. Bleh.
I was initially going to do the NRT-LAX flight since I live and die for the 744. But, it was slated to be ship 6303 (N663US) which I've already been on twice and that was going to be my third flight on her. The LAX-DEN loads also looked pretty bad... pre-holiday load factors. SFO-DEN, on the other hand, UA had substituted a 777 for a 757... so an additional 70+ seats. Nonrev dream!! So, I begrudgingly listed for NRT-SFO. Was looking forward to it in a way though, was my first ever Transpac flight on a 767!!
Observation deck, terminal 1. In my now 14 trips to NRT, I've only ever seen terminal 2 once. Way more used to the UA and DL (and previously NW) terminal 1.
Terminal 1 North Wing departure board. All of DL's Transpac flights can be seen: DTW, JFK, MSP, ATL, PDX, SFO, SEA, LAX.
Before clearing security and heading out toward the gates, my buddy was hellbent to do some shopping for "engrish" t-shirts and other items. I felt like such a tourist, going around to all these shops with him and taking pictures of various items, haha.
A few planes sitting in remote parking. Just cleared outbound passport and immigration. Oddly enough, the A330 was an A332. I was very surprised to see it as A332's were seasonally removed from NRT with the seasonal suspension of SLC-NRT and LAX-NRT going to a 744.
First arrival bank for DL at NRT. Ship 6304 was the first to show, inbound PVG, just about to be towed into the gate. A 75A behind her and another 744 on runway 31L in the background.
6304 (N664US) being towed into the gate. Same ship from my JFK-NRT the day before. That day she just completed PVG-NRT and was flying onward NRT-DTW.
My ship for NRT-SFO just arriving, ship# 1602 (N1602). It landed on the short runway, 13R, so I only saw it taxi over, I didn't get any pictures of it landing on 13L.
When I was checking in for DL58 NRT-SFO, I initially asked if I could be checked in as an S2 (high-priority pass). The agent talked me out of it though, saying it would only improve my place on the list 1 spot and I'd still easily get J-class with an S3 (normal-priority pass). So often I need the voice of reason to talk some sense into me
My 767-300ER at the gate, ship 1602 (N1602)
Despite the somewhat high load-factor in J-class, the gate agents cleared nonrevs into Business nearly 1.5 hours prior, a very pleasant surprise!! Knowing the load was pretty heavy, I didn't want to push my luck and ask for any specific seat, I was just going to accept whatever I got. Luckily, they handed me 4G, a window. I was major pumped!!
Gate 23 for my flight to SFO. Inbound flight pax still deplaning.
I was rather surprised when the agents started boarding the flight 55 minutes prior - for a 763 that wasn't even full. 55 minutes is a boarding time more suited for a 744. Little did I realize though, they wanted to depart early because they knew we were going to lose some time enroute to SFO.
View out the window from 4G while still at the gate. I was floored when, in a few minutes, they wheeled up an air-start unit, meaning our APU was INOP.
Fast-forward toward the end of the flight, I was waiting for the Lav and the captain was waiting with me. I asked him how we were able to do ETOPS with an INOP APU. He said that under ETOPS-120 rules you can fly with APU INOP but under ETOPS-180, the APU must be operating. So, dispatch threw together a flight plan for us in which we were never further than 120 minutes from a divert field for our entire flight NRT-SFO. As a drawback to taking the amended routing, we were going to lose quite a bit of time enroute as we were not going to be able to ride the favorable tailwinds of the jetstream.
Track back to NRT, we closed up 25 minutes early after getting all the pax boarded. Little did I know our INOP APU and ETOPS-120 routing were going to slow us down enroute quite a bit, I was looking forward to a *very* early arrival into SFO!!
Pushback in NRT. A330-300 ship 3317 (N817NW), inbound from SEA, was waiting for our gate.
After push, we beat the the 777 to ATL in line for takeoff. While taxiing to the runway I got to watch the 744's to JFK and MSP takeoff, the DTW bird was already long gone. Ship 6303 to LAX was being towed in to the gate as we taxied away.
Takeoff was rather quick, at least compared to what I was expecting from a 763 carrying enough fuel for 5100 miles. It was also my first time on a GE-powered DL 763, my previous flight was on a PW-powered bird. Lot of 'firsts' for me on that flight.
Climbout after takeoff. NRT runway 31R/13L below - two UA 777's taxiing toward their gates.
Initial climbout from NRT was VERY turbulent, moreso than I'm used to out of NRT. Several times the Capt made PA's asking FA's to return to their seats for very rough air ahead. Got quite the ride for awhile!!
Climbing toward our initial level-off.
After takeoff we tried several different altitudes to avoid the turbulence. The Capt made a PA saying that aircraft higher than us were reporting continuous light chop with occasional moderate chop. So, we stayed a bit lower for awhile, about FL280 or so for a bit. ATC finally gave us a bit of an amended routing, more toward the north of our filed Mid-Pacific flight track.
Deviating course to the north to avoid the rather strong turbulence.
FINALLY a calm cruise altitude!! Initially FL320 for the first part of our crossing.
After we finally reached a safe and smooth cruise altitude, the FA's began their dinner service. I brought out the PTV hoping to find TOP GUN among the AVOD lineup but came up short. Ack!!
Main menu for the AVOD system.
After the late night in NRT, it was all I could do to keep my eyes open through the meal service. Once I finished dessert, I was out like a light until descent into SFO. All captions taken from the menu:
A tasting of two appetizers, grilled rosemary shrimp with daikon and pepper slaw and goate cheese mousse with tomato and olives with cream of onion soup
Mixed green salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, and almonds. Served with balsamic vinaigrette or bleu cheese dressing.
Pork and shrimp stir-fry with chinese soy sauce and egg noddles.
I was actually going to get the fruit and cheese plate for dessert but the FA's didn't have it immediately available on the cart when they came by. Not wanting to cause any extra trouble I just got the ice cream sundae again with raspberry sauce and chopped nuts.
Vanilla ice cream sundae with your choice of sauces, whipped cream, and chopped nuts.
And just prior to catching some Z's for the next 7 hours, I looked out the window for a bit as we made our crossing of the Pacific.
Sunset over an overcast Pacific Ocean.
After getting a solid 6-7 hours of sleep I woke up in time for the quick pre-arrival service into SFO. I was rather surprised to see that only a cold breakfast was offered on a flight north of 5000 miles while most JFK-Europe flights on DL have hot breakfast options and those are only 3000-4000 miles, tops.
Moving map, about 1 hour out from SFO
From the menu: Seasonal fresh fruit and yogurt served with assorted breakfast breads and preserves.
After the trays were collected by the FA's, I waited in line for the fwd lav near the cockpit. I got to briefly talk with the captain who told me about our ETOPS-120 flight plan. I also found out they were all DTW-based 757/767 pilots. Were flying NRT-SFO that day then the next day were flying SFO-DTW on a 757.
Sunrise over the Pacific, reflecting off our GE motors.
Final pic of my map screen. We'd go on to hit 5300 and almost 5400 miles enroute. A bit of a course deviation for our ETOPS-120 flight plan.
Slats down and speed brakes up for our final descent into a rather typical overcast and low-vis San Francisco morning!!
True to form with all my 767 flights, the landing was quite rough. Just something about the 767, it doesn't seem an airplane that's easy to get a good landing in.
Clearing customs went rather quick and painless. Just waited about 4 hours for my connecting flight to DEN, the 777 that was subbed in for a 757. Ended up getting a row to myself in EconPlus, so quite the enjoyable final flight for the trip!!
Rainbow over the SFO airport after a bit of rain and fog.
Final impressions... DL does have a good product but there are things they can always improve upon that NWA did, indeed, do better than them - hard as that may be to believe for them. Hot mid-flight snacks would be a huge boost, as would be hot pre-arrival items. Like I said, the lions share of their ATL-Europe flights are much shorter and still have hot breakfast served pre-arrival. NRT-SFO and NRT-LAX, both well north of 5000 miles, should have hot food items served on arrival.
Beyond that, I can't wait to see the 747-400 with the new lie-flat BusinessElite and brand new Y-class product. She'll be a beautiful, beautiful machine. As for me... 12 down, 4 to go. 6309, 6311, 6314, and 6315 are my last four. 2011 will be a busy year!!