Well, this is *probably* my final TR for 2009 unless I can squeeze another in late December. Hoping for JNB or DKR on DL but we'll see if that works out or not. In any case, I lose my AA flight benefits in December, as well as a significant part of my NW/DL flight benefits, so I thought I'd take a bit of a 'retirement' trip before I'm down to just UA and a watered-down version of NW/DL. Since I seem to live and die by taking trips across the Pacific, I thought what better place than to go to NRT to get in a few last 747-400's.
I did meet a buddy from work over in NRT and we spent one night over there so at least it wasn't one of my patented international quickturns. Since it was the weekend before thanksgiving, most flights were remarkably full and I had to do some crazy routing to b e able to get out east and then back home. Final itinerary:
DEN-FAR: UA CR2
FAR-ORD: UA CR2
ORD-DTW: NW D95
DTW-NRT: NW 744
NRT-LAX: NW 744
LAX-FAT: UA EM2
FAT-DEN: UA CR2
22 November 2009
Block Time: 13 hours, 35 minutes
747-451, N661US, Ship# 6301 "The Queen of the Fleet"
Seat: 12A, main deck BusinessElite
Photo © John Droog
My trip didn't get off to the best start, having to take two CRJ-200's to get out to ORD where I had to spend the night and catch the 744 on DTW-NRT the next morning. That morning, however, DTW had terrible cloud-cover and visibility, right at CAT-IIIB minimums. Given how the DC9 fleet of NW's is certified to only CAT-II, we ended up sitting on the ground in ORD for a bit over an hour and a half, waiting for the weather to clear up enough for us to get into DTW.
Detroit World Gateway. My favorite terminal facility - too bad it's pretty rare when I get out to DTW.
NW341 on 22NOV was initially scheduled to be ship 6308 (N668US) which was coming inbound from MNL and NGO that morning. However, having gone on maintenance in NGO, ship 6308 was nowhere to be seen. I was really nervous that I was going to get ship 6316 - a 744 that I've been on four times previously and I knew was sitting as a ready reserve in DTW. To my huge excitement though, I saw that NW341 was going to be operated with ship 6301 instead - the first 747-400 ever in commercial service, delivered in 1989. NW crews call her "Queen of the Fleet", or just more simply "The Queen".
Ship 6301, "The Queen of the Fleet", at gate A56 in DTW, operating NW341 to NRT
Given the relatively light load in J-class for the flight, the gate agents cleared me about 2.5 hours early. Awesome!! They gave me my favorite seat on the NW 744's, 12A. I was actually hoping or 12K to be on the opposite side of the sun during the flight, but 12JK were already taken by a deadheading 757 crew.
Gate podium at A56 for our flight to NRT
Boarding did begin a bit late but the agents were able to close the flight on time and get us out a few minutes early.
Looking across the cabin, sorry for the glare
Looking forward from 12AB toward door 1L
View over the wing from 12K
View over the wing from 12A
I was pretty excited when I saw that I was going to have 12AB to myself for the flight. Really nice to be able to spread out for the long haul!! Having flown a ton of times previously on NW 744's, it was a bit weird to look out over the wing and see the Delta blue engine cowlings. Guess I better get used to it though.
Widebody lineup in DTW. A332, A333, 744, 744, A333, 772LR, 764
Taxi out to runway 22L, flaps 20 for takeoff. I didn't get the dispatched final fuel weight but I knew our fuel load was north of 300,000#
Turning right to an approximate heading of 020. Interesting we took an initial north-east heading for a transpacific flight.
Having looked at our dispatch release before the flight, I knew we were dispatched on the Trans-Polar "Russian Route", so I was looking forward to getting a few pictures over the north pole at twilight, taken from "The Queen". Was definitely looking forward to this flight!!
Initial level-off at FL320. We would eventually climb to FL400 after stab tank and center tank burnoff.
Initial heading out of DTW on the trans-polar "Russian Route" dispatch
Globe view of our route. The route it displays is inaccurate of our actual routing, going over the north pole and down over Russia, flying into Japan from the north-west
Soup, salad, and appetizer - my favorite part of DL's meal services.
I normally order the chicken for my entree but instead decided on getting the fish - Mahi Mahi. Was very good!!
I had seen it before already, but I watched "Terminator: Salvation" over dinner. Christian Bale is definitely more kickass as Batman instead of John Conner.
Ice cream sundae dessert. I told the FA to go crazy with the warm nuts, she pulled through for me
I had one final quick look out the window before hitting the sack for the next 7 to 8 hours.
The Pratt & Whitney PW4056. I've done 22x TransPac crossings on their wings.
I did briefly wake up mid-flight to get a picture of us flying near the north pole. It was an oddly serene moment - not a sound on board the airplane, just really the sound of the engines humming in the background, looking down on the total desolation of the Arctic 40,000 feet below.
North pole at twilight
A more accurate map of our routing. About 9 hours into the 12.5 hour flight.
A bit chilly outside
The FA's started the arrival meal service about 1.5 hours out from NRT. DL now offers both a breakfast and a lunch option. I was hoping to get the lunch cold-plate but they were out when they got to me, so I had the french toast breakfast instead.
Breakfast service. Not bad french toast, for being on a plane.
Landfall. Northern coast of Japan below.
Upon landing, I was shocked when I heard the FA's PA. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tokyo-Narita. The local time is 3:15pm, we are one hour early."
The Queen, ship 6301 (N661US), in NRT after arriving 60 minutes early from DTW
Despite my remarkably short time in NRT, I had a good time as always, showing my work buddy around the town.
Watching sumo wrestling in the smallest hotel room I've ever stayed in
Popular crew hangout in NRT - Jet Lag Club
24 November 2009
Block Time: 09 hours, 40 minutes
747-451, N663US, Ship# 6303
Seat: 12A, main deck BusinessElite
Photo © David James Clelford [Airplane-Pictures]
After only one night in NRT it was time to head home. Given how it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the domestic loads were especially tight. Loads out of LAX weren't too bad though, so I listed for NW302 on NRT-LAX.
The Queen (6301) arriving from MNL, and my plane (ship# 6303 / N663US) to LAX, just arriving inbound from HNL before being pushed to remote parking to make room for an inbound A332.
6301 being pulled into the gate in the alley. It was turning outbound on DL800 to ATL.
Since we got to the airport really early, my buddy and I spent quite awhile up on the observation deck of Terminal 1 before going down to clear outbound customs and passport control.
Ship 6303 (N663US) for my flight to LAX being towed back to the gate from remote parking. NW/DL 75A in the background in remote parking.
There was quite a long nonrev list for the flight to LAX but I was #1, luckily. I waited to hear my name called for seat assignment.... which was never made. I eventually went up to the podium where they, again, gave me my favorite seat of 12A.
Not even close to the size of the GE90-110B's but still an impressively large engine.
When I was waiting in the gate area, I was surprised to see four pilots walk up with the crew. I remembered that during the fall with peak-intensity jetstream winds, the westbound LAX-NRT is blocked just over 12 hours (currently at 12:05), which puts it into a full double-crew on blocktime. Makes it nice for the pilots though, flying 1/2 instead of 2/3.
Again, I was excited to see that I'd get 12AB to myself for the flight back home across the ocean. I'm pretty sure 12AB and 12JK are considered undesirable seats and it's rare the elite FF folks book them. Lucky for me at least, it's my favorite place on the plane!
Climbout from Tokyo-Narita to initial level-off of FL340.
Seasonally strong jetstream winds pushing us eventually to a Mach 1 groundspeed.
Route for our flight back home... Mid-Pacific routing.
Just after takeoff, the Captain made a PA for the FA's to remain seated as the aircraft ahead of us had reported continuous light with occasional moderate turbulence on the departure out of NRT. It wasn't bad, but it was a fun ride!!
Slightly different view of the winglet and engine from my flight over
Having loved the fish on the flight over I was going to get that again for the flight home, but they were out of the fish option when they got to me so I just ordered my standard chicken entree instead. It wasn't the best I've ever tried, but no complaints really.
Soup, salad, bread, and appetizer
Chicken entree. Pretty good but nothing to write home about. I think I liked the green beans the best, they had this light italian dressing on them.
After dinner, I fell asleep for the rest of the flight. I think that's the hardest I've ever slept on a plane, sleeping clear through the breakfast service and everything, being woken up only by the Captain's PA of flying over SFO and will being our descent into LAX shortly.
Mid-Pacific route dispatch.
Sunrise over the coast of California, San Francisco off the left wing.
Landing in LAX was beautiful - bravo to whoever was at the wheel at the time!! I was happy to see we had arrived 25 minutes early at 740a local... until the FA's made a PA saying that customs does not open until 800a local, so we'll all have to stay on board the aircraft for the next 20 minutes until CBP opens.
I cleared customs pretty quickly, only 12 or 13 minutes. I had quite the fiasco getting home though, eventually making it back on a couple of UAX flights, and yet another GD CR2.
I did, however, capture this in LAX that caught my attention:
787-8 parking lines at the gate
Well, that's about all I've got for now. Until next time, hopefully bound for JNB or DKR!!