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UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 1:30 am
by wolfy
Very Interesting Article to share with you guys!  Smile

New York to Hong Kong

When United Airlines Flight 821 rises above the runway at Kennedy International Airport this Sunday morning, it will begin the longest daily nonstop flight in the world, from one side of the globe to the other, New York to Hong Kong.

The flight is planned at 8,439 miles, edging out the next longest contender, Continental's flight to Hong Kong from Newark, at a mere 8,437 miles. (In fairness, Continental did beat United to the punch, starting its flights on March 1.)

To get a United jet weighing 418,000 pounds (and that's when it's empty) all the way from New York to Hong Kong without its touching the ground anywhere in between entails many unusual requirements. Among the most important are these:

The flight attendants must wear very, very comfortable shoes.

The jet must be the largest one in commercial service — a 747-400 model — and it must fly almost directly over the roof of planet Earth, passing close enough to the North Pole to see the elves.

The plane's gas tanks must be topped off, with more than 57,000 gallons of jet fuel, weighing almost as much as the plane itself, about 389,000 pounds. (When it gets to Hong Kong, it is supposed to have only about 5,000 gallons left.)

Fuel must be tested to determine the exact freezing point of the load for each flight. (A typical freezing point, at which the fuel becomes like wax, is about 44 degrees below zero. Near the North Pole, temperatures can drop to 70 below.) The pilots keep an eye on the fuel temperature using an electronic readout in the cockpit. If the plane is approaching what weather forecasters call domes of supercold air, the pilots can speed up the jet to increase the air friction against the fuselage, which prevents the fuel temperature from dropping as fast.

"We literally go blowing right through those domes," said Capt. Bob Whitman, who will be the pilot on Sunday's flight. Chuck Smith, the co- pilot, added, "We don't hang around and enjoy the weather."

United must determine how many passengers and how much cargo it can probably take on each flight, using computers and complex weather forecast models that tell how heavy the plane can be and still make it. United officials expect the passenger load to be somewhere between 270 and 340. "We are the extreme end of the service capacity of these airplanes," said Eugene Cameron, a long-haul flight expert for United. A good thing about the polar routes, which were only recently opened up for commercial flights, is that there are virtually no headwinds near the pole, and turbulence is rare.

Before leaving, the airline must pack in about 7,000 pounds of food and drinks (or 11,000 pounds if meal carts, silverware, plates and other service equipment is included). It must include 2,500 pounds of other amenities, like blankets, pillows and magazines. And 2,700 pounds of water. (Annie Chin-Corio, a flight attendant who will work on the Hong Kong flights, said the airline would probably not need to pack more alcohol than on other long-haul flights because Asian passengers, who will make up a large portion of those taking the flight, usually drink less than Americans and Europeans.)

As the plane approaches the North Pole, the pilots must switch off the automatic pilot and take the controls. This is an extra precaution because even sophisticated navigation gyros must work harder to pinpoint a plane's location near the pole, as longitude and latitude lines converge and all directions become south.

The planes will not fly directly over the pole, Mr. Cameron said. If they did, he said, "the gyros for a second would say, `Whoa, where am I?' " United does not want that to happen. As Captain Whitman puts it, "We don't want the plane flying up its own tail."

The airline must pay Russia about $8,000 per flight — about the price of one and a half one-way first-class tickets, at $5,608 per ticket — for crossing over Russian airspace.

On most of United's long-haul flights, two movies are shown in economy class. There will be time enough (15 hours, 40 minutes, give or take) for three movies to be shown on the way to Hong Kong. For the first flight on Sunday, which gets into Hong Kong at 2:30 p.m. Monday, the sleepless can watch "Red Planet" with Val Kilmer, "Vertical Limit" with Chris O'Donnell and "102 Dalmatians," with Glenn Close reprising her role as Cruella De Vil.

The pilots and flight attendants must bunk down for the "night" — actually, the sun will probably dip behind the horizon for only about 45 minutes, depending on the time of year. There will be four pilots, two of whom will spell Captain Whitman and Captain Smith, the first officer, when they duck into a two-bunk dormitory behind the cockpit to get some sleep. Then, the two relief pilots will sleep — or become what the crew calls "bunkies" — when Captain Whitman and Captain Smith take over again.

The 18 flight attendants will take turns sleeping in their own dormitory, above the aft galley, where there are six small bunks. The flight attendants must change sheets for the next sleeper. They can bring pajamas if they want to.

"I sleep like a baby," said Patricia Suhoza, who will work on the Hong Kong route. "It's very cozy."

En route, the pilots must rely on 11 flight charts, the most that Captain Whitman and Captain Smith have ever used. On flights from New York to Tokyo, for example, they generally use four. In the cockpit of a 747-400 the other day, they unfolded one North Pole map to show the route they would take Sunday. They had to point off the map to show where New York and Hong Kong would be.

Because of contractual rules, the pilots who fly the route will end up working only 12 days a month. They will fly from New York to Hong Kong, then from Hong Kong to Singapore, back to Hong Kong and then back to New York, with rest stops between each flight. They will do this route once again and then not fly again until the next month.

Captain Smith stressed that this only sounded like a comfy life. "Boy, when you get back home, you have to hang upside down in the garage for a couple of days before you're normal again," he said. "You don't operate any heavy machinery."

Some things won't change. Captain Whitman and Captain Smith will still be carrying their plastic coke-bottle- lens gag glasses, the ones that make them look like Jerry Lewis in "The Nutty Professor." For a laugh, they like to pull them out of their jackets, put them on and say, "These are our landing glasses."

By RANDY KENNEDY, NY Times, 30/03/2001

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 1:38 am
by airsicknessbag

Is this as long as a nonstop Europe-Australia would be?

Daniel Smile

UA821 Flight Path

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 1:43 am
by wolfy
In case if you are interested!  Smile

RE: UA821 Flight Path

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 3:50 am
by STT757
The new Boeing aircraft could make this route and cut three hours off the flight.

RE: UA821 Flight Path

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 4:36 am
by Guest

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 4:42 am
by ILUV767
this is very interesting. Very interesting.

Reaching far corners of the earth

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 9:20 am
by ishky15
Does anyone have the loads for this flight? Gordon Bethune has said that the loads for JFK-HKG are below 30%. Is this one of those routes in which United is battling Continental and then fails in? United has already pulled out of JFK-GIG and JFK-CCS, both of which Continental is achieving high loads.

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 9:29 am
by Republic
Keep in mind that the CO 98/99 is EWR-HKG-EWR-HKG, while UA821 goes on to Singapore. Perhaps this is why UA chose the 744 over the 772?


RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 9:41 am
by ILUV767
Ishky15 wrote:

Does anyone have the loads for this flight? Gordon Bethune has said that the loads for JFK-HKG are below 30%. Is this one of those routes in which United is battling Continental and then fails in? United has already pulled out of JFK-GIG and JFK-CCS, both of which Continental is achieving high loads.

I checked those loads earlyer today...put it like this. They are good for non-reving.

fly U N I T E D

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 10:36 am
by cba
CO doesn't have any weight restrictions on the 777 on the EWR-HKG flight do they?

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 12:32 pm
by TonyBurr
Thanks for the article. It was really very interesting.

UA821's Load...

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 12:35 pm
by wolfy
I just checked the load for UA821 on the 1st of April, the flt is half empty in Y class with 75% full in Y class, same as UAL820 on the 2nd of April from HKG to JKF, again half full in Y class. Is it because of the weight restriction or they just didn't sell enough seats? On the same day CO99 is about 70% full on April 1st and 70% full on the 2nd of April on CO98!

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 12:46 pm
by Republic
On a side note, Just Planes reported in its News Section on Tuesday that Cathay is expecting several months delay on its HKG-JFK service, as it is still seeking government approval to overfly Russian airspace.


RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 4:22 pm
by Guest
Sorry, Wolfy, but your info is incorrect. CO 99 on 01Apr01 is over 80% full, and CO 98 on 02Apr01 is almost 80% full (I've been keeping an eye on these flights since they were launched, looking for a chance to non-rev in BusinessFirst, but so far BF bookings have been rock solid)



Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 4:27 pm
by wolfy
Hahaha maybe you are right! I'm just trying to give some figures and info for fun for those who really wanna know, by the way I geuss maybe we used the diff system to check that's why we got diff figures!  Smile The number 70% I gave was only based on the seats assigned, but of course, there are always lotta ppl who booked on that flt but without seat assignment! Too bad I dun have access to CO's system! CO is such a wonderful airline!  Smile
Thx for ur info and correction! Peace! Big grin



RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 4:36 pm
by chepos
We will have to wait a little longer to find out who really will win this battle between UAL and Continental . As Continental hasnt been flying this route for a very long time and UAL is just starting . We will have to wait and see what the airlines report in the near future.
Pierto Rico

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 4:43 pm
by Guest
I think they could coexist. Keep in mind that a fair number of pax on the CO flights (especially at first) were CO frequent fliers who took advantage of CO's 25000 mile HKG promo. I cannot speak for UA, but I know that CO is committed to HKG. We just opened up a RES center there, complete with a revenue accounting and sales office, and we hired several Chinese speaking flight attendants. I think both routes will be profitable for each carrier.


RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 9:30 pm
by seven_fifty7
Aren't newly-launched routes typically "less than full?" It usually seems to take some time for loads to increase, due to passenger word of mouth, perhaps.

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2001 11:31 pm
by RayChuang
I think CX's delay in gettting the HKG-JFK route is more than just negotiating with the Russians on overflight rights. There's also the issue of CX not likely to start this route until they get the A340-600's being leased from ILFC starting the late fall of 2002; using the current 747-400's or A340-300's flying HKG-JFK non-stop would impose too much pax/freight restrictions.

In short, CX may be taking their time getting the rights until the A346's arrive.  Smile

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2001 9:17 am
by flyguy1
Cathay can also judge whether to start this flight, based upon the loads at UA, and CO. Will CX keep the one-stop 744 through YVR, along with a non-stop?

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2001 10:00 am
by RayChuang

I think CX for now will still keep their HKG-YVR-JFK route.

The reason is simple: there is a substantial Chinese population in Vancouver, BC, and they do appreciate being able to fly directly to HKG without having to transit through SFO or LAX.


Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2001 10:15 am
by wolfy
Actually, with CX, there are twice daily non stop from Vancouver to Hong Kong, one CX 839 and CX 889, one operates only between Vancouver and Hong Kong, the other one CX 889 operates to NYC via YVR. So I guessthey might drop the CX 889 after they have the transpolar flt. In fact the fly between only YVR and HKG on CX 839 is only with A343 aircraft, which means they actually do not have that much ppl travelling on that route for now, while the other NYC flt is with B744.



Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2001 11:38 am
by Flyer123
I just want to clearify that CX 838/839 use both 747 and 343 because i was on a CX's 747 flying from HKG to YVR on Mar 26.


Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2001 12:18 pm
by CR-J
That's true. The reason why they are now using A343 is because the insufficient ridership during winter season. Starting mid April until early September, almost every flight that CX operates between YVR and HKG will get overbooked. They will change back to B744 in summer I believe. If not, the overbooked passenger would get mad even easier in this case. American Airlines, a One World Member cannot help CX on this route anyway. If CP is still here, they would be able to get relief, but now.
CX889/888 is a more famous rather than CX838/839 though, because of the time when the plane travels.

CX 839

Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2001 3:26 pm
by wolfy
Yeah thx guys for the info, you guys might be right coz they often change the aircraft for that flt, I'm outdated!  Smile

UA821 Flt Status

Posted: Mon Apr 02, 2001 4:16 am
by wolfy
Flt status for UA821: (In-Flt)

Planned depature time - 10:50AM
Actual departure time - Late at 11:27AM at Gate 27

Planned arrival time - 2:30PM
Estimated arrival time - Early at 2:23PM at Gate CHK

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Mon Apr 02, 2001 3:31 pm
by ryu2
I guess this post is really for tech/ops, but since the topic was already started, I wanted to continue the discussion. Does anyone know what polar track they were using? CO used Polar 2, and it looks like (from the NY times map) that they were as well, entering Russian airspace near Khatanga.

(If you want to see the actual tracks, and a whole bunch of other technical info like reports from several demonstration flights, go to

If someone here is actually flying this route in the future, either as passenger or crew, and can get or ask the crew for a copy of the flight plan with the waypoints and post it here or at some other site, that would be great. I would love to fly this route in 747 PS1.

RE: UA821 JFK-HKG Non-Stop

Posted: Mon Apr 02, 2001 3:53 pm
by Airbus A3XX
The flight has just landed at 2:26PM


Posted: Mon Apr 02, 2001 4:47 pm
by wolfy

Thank you so much for giving me that site and ur info! I loved it!!! If u have any other info on transpolar flts, it'll be really appreciated if u can tell me! Big grin