Thursday, September 16, 2010

Plane crazy Flying Day trip summary and Stats

Ryanair 4 flights, 5 countries in one Day, Trip summary

Ryanair often gets a hard time
In the media & some memebrs of the
public over everything from
Extra charges "to its supposed cheap flights" to bad customer service & rude staff and while yes, certain things could be improved the overall concept of the airline usually works getting you for a very low price, safely and on time from A to B, or in my case A to B to C to D to E! 

Yes the crew & staff can sometimes not be the freindlest airline staff ever but considering the pressure there under it can't be easy to smile at every passenger. 
 
Yes it's uncomftable seating, but my longest flight today was an hr 15 with about an hr 35 spent on plane so
It's bareable for that lenght of flight,

Yes there are a lot of extra charges, solution, avoid most if them, travel
light with hand luggage only, pay with pre paid MasterCard, buy nothing
or little onboard.

But overall I can't really fault Ryanaiar,  4 flights in 1 day between 5 different airports in 5 diggerent countries all arriving on time and costing me a grand total of £37+ a £2 bottle of J2O on my last flight!

I don't think there's any other airline in the world where you could make 4 flights in a day allowing you to step foot in 5 different countries for under 40 quid! 

I've been meaning to do a trip like this for many years but must admit despite my love of flying I was a little bit apprehensive about such a daytrip when I arrived at Liverpools John Lennon airport yesterday morning but it turned out to be a fantastic day with many places and effects that I had not seen before from the air despite having made 170 commercial airline flights!

Yes it was a tiring, getting up at 5am after only 3 hours sleep leaving home at 6am and not getting to my accomodation till 9:30pm british time

Was also a bit tediuous at times having to go through airport security 3 times (only at Belfast could I stay airside) 

Airport Security staff wherever you are in the world are programmed to ask, no mobile, coins, keys etc in pockets? And when you say no because you have prepared by putting everything in backpack they then won't beleave you,

In Brussels the security guy was so desperate to get me to take something off that I had to take my watch off even though I had gone through twice previously with no problems! 

I think next time I do a trip like this I will wear a T-shirt saying going through airport security 3 times today, I am prepared, everything has been taken out of my pockets & put into backpack & no I don't have a laptop in there, no I have no belt and NO my watch won't make the buzzer go off!

Will definatelly have to do it again next year, perhaps even do a multi day one, how about the challange of 12 flights in 3 days for under £100! Who knows it could well be possible!

Plane Crazy Flying day Stats

Flights 4

Airports & Countries visited 5

Distance flown 1154miles

Extra miles flown compared to direct flight 386 miles

Mins flying 205 (3hrs 25mins)

Mins arrived in Bergamo ahead of Liverpool direct flight 38

Mins I departed Liverpool before the direct flight: er 660

Number of times I had to go through airport security 3

Number of times security staff diden't beleave there was nothing in my pockets: 3

Culmalitive total of mins late deptarture 15

Culmaltive no of mins late arrivil. zero

Total cost of those 4 flights £37! Yes really including all extra charges, though most of those extras were avoided!

And last but not least the most important stat. No of Beers drunk: 3 yes that is all. honestlly! A Tennants in Prestwick & 2 Leffe Blondes in Brussels, airport beer is just too damm expensive I could have easilly spent far more on beer than I did on the 4 flights AND I had to keep sober just in case O'Leary had sacked any co-pilots yet, as I figured I with my experience I could be more usefull than a stewardess helping to land the plane in an emergancy!

My 4th & final Flight of the day CRL-BGY

Flight 4 Brussels Charleroi - Milan Bergamo CRL-BGY FR4526 Aircraft EI-DCK push back 1945 takeoff 1953 landing 2057 airbourne duration 1hr 5 mins distance 410 miles maximum altitude not known

Another pretty full flight we pushed back about 15mins late my only flight today that would pushback late but we would make up those 15mins as we were quickly onto the runway and airbourne just as the sun was setting. Sunset was earlier than expecting I was hoping it would happen when we were over the alps but the nights are really closing in now as it was I messed up anyway getting the chance to see the sunset from the air by getting my east and west mixed up and ended up sitting on thr wrong side of the aircraft!

It was soon dark but could it was a clear night as lights from various cities shone below.

It wasent long before we were decending towards Bergamo which is 40km north of Milan but we approached from the South right over Milan which looked impressive. 

Then the cabin lights were dimmed for landing and then wow what a view Milan looked amazing all lit up from the air at night, I even saw the San Siro football stadium lit up as AC Milan had just kicked off a champions leauge game there!

And then I toutched down for the final time today, 12 and a half hours after leaving Liverpool, well I say toutchdown NOT really true more like smashdown! it was the hardest landing of the day, even harder than the one in Belfast which was understandable due to high winds.  I can usually tell well before toutchdown when we are in for a bumpy landing as as you can feel the wind as you apprach but this approach dident feel windy and upon disembarking my suspicions were cofirmed there was no wind at all, we just had a crap Pilot! Or Perhaps it was one of the many pilots getting pissed off with O'Leary and just wanted to put more wear and tear on his aircraft! 

There was one final treat in store upon disembarking down the rear steps , a Boeing 767 cargo plane was taxing soo close to us that I felt I could almost toutch it! 

Upon reaching the terminal I noticed tht due in half an hour later was the direct flight from Liverpool, that had
departed Liverpool at 1830 11hrs later than I did this morning. That would have been a much easier way to get here but why take the quick and easy way of getting here that  woulden't have been so much fun and woulden't have resulted in me stepping foot in 5 different countries in 1 day, and what a day it was! 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Flight 3 PIK-CRL

I am out of contact with the online world writing this. With Airport wi-fi a rip off €10 for an hour I said no thanks that would buy me 2 Leffe Blondes instead!

So I'm sitting in the Departure lounge at Brusselss Charloie south airport watching planes and on my 2nd Leffe Blonde! it's good stuff despite the price, but you can get it for £1 from Tesco's these days so I think I will refrain from having any more despite it being 2 more hours till my last flight of the day to Milan

Right enough of talking about beer and back to the flying Id better write a review of flight no 3 to keep me awake, tirdess is starting to hit me having been up since 5am on 3 hrs sleep not 2 mention the 6.6% strong Belgium beer Im drinking having an effect so I apologise in advance if there are more than my usual hundred spelling mistakes and grammer erroors in this!

Flight 3 Glasgow Prestwick - Brussels Charleroi PIK-CRL FR7924 Aircraft EI-DAV push back 1330 takeoff 1339 landing 1557 CST (1457 BST) airbourne duration 1hr 18 mins distance 513 miles maximum altitude not known

Unlike the previous near empty flight this flight was tottally full, as we taxied out the 2 women next to me were very chatty and I Ended up chatting to then about this crazy trip Im doing today, They seemed to think it was brilliant what I was doing, great! just as long as they diden't think I was insane!

I was soon airbourne for the third time  today and this time I had my camera to get some nice shots of the Scotish scenery from the air although after 10 mins it clouded over, it stayed Cloudy for about 45 mins just as we were starting our decent I beleave somewhere east of London many thousands of feet below us I saw 2 huge jets which would have been on their final approach to Heathrow. We
Decended across the English Channel and after a very smooth flight made a smooth toutchdown at Brussels Charleroi airport to complete step 3 out of 4 of my Plane Crazy Flying Day!   

My 4th and final flight of the day will take me across the alps to
Milan and as I think the Sun is due to set about 30 mins into the flight I am really hoping to see a spectacular sunset from the air over the alps! 

Flight 2 BHD-PIK

Flight 2 Belfast City to Glasgow Prestwick BHD-PIK  FR1437 Aircraft EI-EKS push back 0950 takeoff 1002 landing 1027 airbourne duration 25 mins distance 80 miles maximum altitude not known

Upon arrivial at Belfast city airport I was told off for photographing the aircraft upon disembarking which made me wonder if I have somehow landed in Greece instead! The airport terminal was very nice however and offered some great views of the aircraft parked up and the runway with the point of takeoff being directly in line with the terminal giving some great views!

It was soon time to leave Belfast however on my next flight, just a short 80 mile hop back across the Irish sea to Glasgow Prestwick.

Our aircraft EI-EKS looked very new shiny and new and indeed on looking it up was just 6 months old, in fact I could well even have seen it when I was at Boeing Field in Seattle back in March as there were 2 brand new 737s awaiting delivery to Ryanair then! 

The flight can't even have been a third full and despite only being a 25min flight I decided to sit in the front row where I could stretch out. 

After a decent crew on my 1st flight The  scottish crew on this flight were typical uptight Ryanair crew you could not understand them as they shouted down the tanoy then I got told off for having my Camera on my lap during taxi, whoops, not to mention the fact that the 2 Stewards were soo ugly, no eye candy there!

We were soon on our way though pushing back 5 mins early, we had a short wait for a Flybe dash 8 to land and wow what a view of it landing as the small aircraft struggled to get down in the strong crosswind!

We were soon airbourne and what an amazing view just after take off a huge bright rainbow spaning Belfast harbour, sadly I had to put my camera away so could get no pics, then I got a nice view of Belfast city center as well before we soared into the clouds.

I noticed the person sitting across the aisle from me Reading today's indapendant with the headline Ryanairs latest no Frills Idea, Sack the Boss! It was kind of funny to see this during a Ryanair Flight apparently a pilot has had a dig back at O'leary after he suggested doing away with one of the pilots any training up a stewadess in case of Emergancys! You have to wonder how much longer that pilots got a job for!

It was bit of a bumpy flight at times but we soon were over Scotland and the clouds cleared for some stunning views of the Scottish countryside upon approach to Prestwick.

We had a much smother landing at Prestwick as despite still being windy the wind direction meant we landed directly into a headwind.

I have only ever been to Scotland once before, when I was around 5 years old this stay will be just 3 hours before my next flight to Brussels but given the scenery I saw on approach to Prestwick I will have to get back up here oneday soon and explore the country a bit!

We landed at 1030 just 3 hours after leaving Liverpoool, amazing to think that I have been to 3 countries of the Uk in just 3 hours, now if only I could have got someone to drive me to the welsh border at 5:30am I could have done all 4 UK countries in 5 hours something that possibly won't be so easilly possible from November as Ryanair are unfotuneatelly pulling out of Belfast.

So 2 short flight down, 2 slightly longer ones this afternoon to take me to Brussels then onto Milan!

Ps might not be able to post blogs about my next 2 flights today as Im now heading over to continental Europe and out of the coverage of my Iphone data plan, so it will depend on if I can get free or cheap wi-fi

Plane Crazy flying day!

Today, 15th September 2010, I am doing something which most people would regard as torture, but for me is fun, taking 4 Ryanair flights in 1 day between 5 airports in 5 countries, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Belgium & Italy! Booked 6 weeks ago during a crazy sale All for a crazy price of £40! All being well with connections I will arrive in Milan Bergamo at 2055 this evening, follow my progress throughout the day, although updates may end
Once I get to Brussels this afternoon if I can't get free/cheap wifi!

0615
After a taxi costing £3 more than my first 2 flights arrive at Liverpool John Lennon airport, now half an hour later am stuck in a long security queue, nearly at the front now though and still have 45 mins before my first flight departs.

0715 Have boarded EI-DLH for
my first flight of the day the short 35 min hop from Liverpool to Belfast. Right better turn my phone off as were about to depart, speak to you in Belfast!

Flight 1 Liverpool to Belfast City LPL-BHD FR1426 Aircraft EI-DLH push back 0727 takeoff 0735 landing 0812 airbourne duration 37 mins distance 151 miles maximum altitude 24000ft 

Upon boarding the plane the bad news, I was surrounded by Man Utd fans heading home ie miles away from Manchester after only managimg a 0-0 draw last night at home to Rangers given the state of them, most of them had been up all night rather than staying in hotels.

The good news however we were on time and we were welcomed on board by Captain James Cook! I thought he was murdered in Hawai a couple of centeries ago!

After a powerful take off roll due to our light load we banked right and followed the river Mersey along and the clouds stayed away just long enough to give us stunning views all over Liverpool! I had sat on the right hand side of the aircraft hoping to get this view and was rewarded at last amazingly despite all my flights from Liverpool this is the first time Ive got a view of the city from the air!

We were soon into the clouds and over the Irish sea, the sun having not been up for long giving some nice effects shining off the wing. It wasent long before we started desending from our maximum altitude of 24,000ft

Coming into land on finals was VERY choppy we had a strong crosswind, a little kid in front of me who must have already flown quite a bit said this is fun but us the worse landing Ive ever known!

For a moment I thought I was going to have my first ever Jet go-around as the engines suddenly roared up but it was just a power boost to get us safely over the runway threshold and we slammed onto the runway pretty hard,  although Ive had worse toutchdowns in New Zealand. But Captain James Cook did a great job in getting us down safely! 1 down 3 Togo! 

0940 now onboard EI-EKS for a very short 20 min flight 2 Glasgow Prestwick! Speak to you there!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11th 2001 – My first ever flight by myself

Early in the morning of Sept 11th 2001  I boarded a Ryanair Boeing 737-200 at Bristol airport for a short 45 minute flight to Dublin, It was the first ever flight I had taken by myself and indeed also the first overseas trip I had been on by myself.

I ended up amongst the first on the plane and took the very front row opposite the stewardess, I had read about how pilots often quite welcome people with an interest in planes into the cockpit during the flight so I was so tempted to ask the stewardess right in front of me if that was possible, but I was too shy back then to ask!

Little did I know then that was probably my last ever chance to ever visit a commercial passengers Jet cockpit in flight as around 5 hours later the horrors of 9/11 unfolded in New York & Washington & Pennsylvania.

That day 9 years ago today would change the world and flying forever, Its an amazing co-incidence that that happened to also be the day of my first flight and travels by myself, and I think it gave me some extra inspiration to fly and travel as I thought F**k the terrorists they wont win.

Just 7 weeks later I was on another plane this time heading to New York!

Friday, September 10, 2010

10th Sep 2002 – Lets go Supersonic!

Ok I’m still bloging about anniversaries, there will be some up-to-date blogs coming soon but today happens to be the 31st anniversary of me coming into this world but also an anniversary of an almost as important event 8 years ago, Flying on Concorde!!

Below is the detailed report I wrote about the flight back in 2002 along with some Supersonic photos!


Concorde Trip Report – BA002, JFK-LHR, G-BOAF – Tues 10th September 2002
  
Prologue - Late May 2002
I had always prided myself on flying to places as cheaply as possible and have flown to Italy & France with Ryanair for £1+Tax flights, but all that was about to chance as in late May 2002, I Came across an amazing deal of flying BA Club World out to New York & retuning by Concorde for £1700

Over the past few years I had started to get interested in planes and aviation and loved flying & Concorde was the ultimate way to fly! £1700 however was still a lot of money to me especially as I was out of work at the time. But was less than a third of the normal price and after searching a few of the limited available dates and finding that my Birthday, 10th September 2002 was one of the available dates for travelling home on Concorde, I just had to go for it!

To finance the deal I took out a Credit card with a 6 month 0% interest Balance transfer. The card company with the best deal just happened to be BA’s biggest enemy – Richard Branson’s Virgin. Thanks Richard for financing my BA Concorde flight!

The Summer months seemed to take forever, but eventually September came and on Friday 6th September I flew out to New York in BA Club World.

Tuesday 10th September – my 23rd Birthday

After a fantastic 4 days in New York I woke up around 5:30 EST (10:30 BST) at my JFK hotel.

Despite having a brilliant time in New York, I had never felt so excited about going home from a holiday! 

I arrived at JFK Airport Terminal 7 around 6:45, walking into the terminal I could only see the BA check in desks for the Subsonic (slow, wont be home in time for dinner) Boeing 747 flight to LHR, due to depart 30 minuets after Concorde.
So I asked the BA rep “where was the Concorde check in” I could hardly believe that that I was asking for the Concorde Check in!

He directed me to the Concorde check in area totally separate from the other check in areas. Fter a short wait was at the check in desk. Having got my ticket so cheap for Concorde, I was getting paranoid and almost expecting them to say, Sorry sir but there’s been a mistake, your only booked on the 747 flight!

My worries turned out to be nothing as I was handed by boarding pass for seat 9D on flight BA002.
I was slightly disappointed that it was a Standard BA Boarding pass, not a special Concorde one, I assume they must have run out of the special Concorde boarding passes.

It was then straight through Security & into the Concorde Lounge. As soon as I walked into the Concorde Lounge, I was pleased to see our Concorde parked up directly through the glass, this was a nice surprise as I had heard that due to the security threat level Concorde no longer parked in front of the Concorde lounge.

I went straight to the window to get a closer look & to try and see which of the 5 operational BA Concorde’s I would be flying on. Looking at the nose gear flaps gave me my answer, as the letters AF were clearly visible.

My Flight would be on Concorde 216, G-BOAF the last Concorde ever to be built.

I was delighted to get this Concorde as it was built & made it’s first flight in 1979 the year that I was born & it was the Concorde on all my Posters at home as it was the first Concorde to be painted in BA’s Chatham Dockyard scheme & therefore was photographed a lot in some fantastic Air to Air shots. G-BOAF was also the first Concorde to be modified with the Safety modifications following the Air France accident and led the way in getting Concorde’s to fly again.

After taking a few photos of my Concorde I sat down and ordered a Bacon Baguette for Breakfast at the complementary bar.

After I had a good look around the Concorde lounge and trying but failing to spot any celebrities, I sat down by the TV showing a New York City Breakfast Show. I remember thinking that in just over 4 hours time I would be in London for dinner.

About 8AM they announced the British Airways Supersonic flight BA002 to London Heathrow would be boarding shortly, Our Captain would be Derek Woodley & our Senior First Officer Jonathan Napier. At 8:05 passengers in the rear cabin, rows 11 – 26 were invited to board first. My seat being 9D I had to wait a little longer to board.

Soon the call came for all the remaining Concorde passengers to proceed to the gate, for your supersonic flight to London walking down the walkway I paused right in front of the famous nose to take a few more photos. Several people were being stopped for extra random security checks, but I proceeded down the jet bridge towards Concorde.

Arriving at the cabin door, I asked the stewardess if she could take a photo of me boarding  kindly did. And she welcomed me to Concorde!

Some people talk Concorde down saying it’s very cramped, I did have to duck when entering through the cabin door but once inside I didn’t find it at all cramped, especially as I was used to flying in a packed economy class, however compared to Business or First class it would appear cramped but on Concorde you don’t need all the space of Business or First Class anyway as you are only on board for 3 & a half hours compared to over 7 on a 747.

I took my window seat in row 9D, the last but 1 row in the front cabin, the leather seat was very comfortable, legroom was 37 inches enough room to stretch my legs a little, and the seat was slightly wider than economy class seating.
Looking out my window I was surprised just how small they were, I knew Concorde’s windows were small compared to other aircraft, but they were much smaller than what I was expecting, my hand could cover the entire window.

Despite this with your eyes located in the right position you could still see out of the windows easily. I also had 2 windows from my seat, one directly to my right, and one I could look through if I leant forward a little.

Capt. Derek Woodley welcomes us aboard and describes how Concorde is different from other aircraft, and what to expect during takeoff.
He tells us that we would be taking off from Runway 31L the most common runway for Concorde departures from JFK. To meet the local noise restrictions, just seconds after takeoff we would make a hard banked left hand turn over Causeway Bay, shortly after the afterburners would be shut off causing 2 nudges and a very noticeable decrease in power. The afterburners would be re-ignited once out over the Atlantic to take us through Mach 1. They would continue burning until we reached about Mach 1.65 when they would be turned off, as we would have built up enough momentum to accelerate to Mach 2 without them.

Right on time at 8:30 we pushed back from the gate and taxied out towards Runway 31L, it was a very nice clear day in New York, and in the distance I could make out the Empire State Building, amazing that in just over 3 hours after seeing it, I would be looking down on the Houses of Parliament 3,500 miles away!

We arrived at the holding point of Runway 31L, no other aircraft were using this runway so after a brief pause, the noise rose sharply and we begin to accelerate towards our 250mph takeoff speed, 70mph faster than standard aircraft. The acceleration was very impressive, We were soon up to 250mph  and I was airborne on Concorde! We climbed very steeply at first, The almost immediate bank to the left after takeoff was very impressive, looking out of my window all I could see was the sky, but looking across the cabin to the left I could just see out of the opposite windows looking almost directly down towards Causeway Bay.

Shortly after I could certainly feel the afterburners being turned off, there was a sudden drop in power and our angle of climb and it seemed like being stuck in gear!

We were soon out over the Atlantic Ocean and the Afterburners we re-ignited to take us through the Sound Barrier. Just 15 minuets after takeoff and at 29,000ft we went through the Sound barrier and became Supersonic. However if I hadn’t been carefully following our progress on the Marilakes displays I would have never known. Some people report they feel slight nudges as they went through the Sound barrier, but I couldn’t recall such nudges.

During the next 15 minuets our speed doubled from Mach 1 to Mach 2 and our altitude increased to 49,000ft. Half an hour after takeoff from New York we were heading towards London at twice the speed of sound, faster then a riffle bullet and as Air France did not have any Concorde flights on Tuesdays, & the Concorde flight BA001 had landed in New York it meant we were now higher than anyone in the world the only people higher than us would have been the 3 Astronauts that were on the International Space Station but that isn’t in the world!

With about 85 Passengers on board, 9 crew & the 3 astronauts I could say that on my 23rd Birthday, 10th September 2002 between approx 2PM & 4:30 PM BST I was One of the top 100 highest people above the earth!

During the acceleration between Mach 1 & 2 Champagne & Canap├ęs were served & menus handed out. The champagne was Cattier, Clos du Moulin, a limited edition champagne, limited to just 9157 numbered bottles. (Note still some available to buy here for £51 per bottle), It wasn’t long before we were up to our full cruising speed of Mach 2 or 1340 mph. We climbed beyond 50,000ft and the curvature of the Earth was by now clearly visible, and the sky was a dark inky blue, with a thin sky blue strip visible below. It was very clear below with not too many clouds making the curvature very visible.

By now the outside temperature was - 68 deg.C, however due to the friction caused by flying at Supersonic speeds, the temperature of the nose was around 120 deg C with the rest of the fuselage also being very warm. Feeling the insides of my windows they were quite warm and the aircraft was now around 9 inches (22cm) longer than before due to it stretching in supersonic flight!

As soon as my glass of champagne was empty, it was topped up by a stewardess, shortly afterwards main meal service began with the stewardess’s handing out the well presented meal trays followed by the appetiser being served, Greek Yoghurt with fresh berries and granola.

The main course followed I chose the boring option, English Breakfast, other options included, lobster & quails eggs salad, Lasagne & Truffled chicken breast. The food is served on white bone china designed by Conran, the cutlery was wrapped in a napkin secured with a nice stainless steel napkin ring, but the cutlery itself was plastic due to security since September 11th 2001.

Then had a nice tart for desert & Cheese & Biscuits and this was followed by a cup of tea & some very nice Belgium chocolates.

After the final course was cleared away I was delighted to see Concorde Gift packs being given out, as I had heard they were not always handed out anymore, this made up for not getting a proper Concorde boarding Pass. The pack included a nice Stainless Steel Concorde pen, Stationary and the Concorde Supersonic Certificate. We were told we would be able to go into the Cockpit after landing to get the Captain to sign it.

I got out of my seat and went to explore the Supersonic toilet, which was very cramped, no joining the 12 mile high club here!

After my supersonic toilet breakI then took a walk into the rear cabin and found a pair of empty seats to sit in for 10 minuets or so to get the view from over the unique delta wing. I was surprised how well you could see out over the wing, as due to the small wingspan you still got a good view out below.

We started decelerating while I was sitting here and I suddenly realised that I hadn’t had my photos taken yet by the famous mach displays. By the time I got my photo taken we were down to Mach 1.47 and 54,000ft but at least we were still Supersonic.
 
Deceleration was actually much more noticeable than acceleration, we also dropped in altitude very fast until just off the English coastline when at 29,000ft we became subsonic once more. For a while we were still faster than any other passenger aircraft at a speed of Mach 0.96 as we flew towards London.

As we got nearer to London we begin to slow down more, and started to get a bit of turbulence as we descended through the clouds, we would approach Heathrow from the East so we would be flying over London on our approach. I soon spotted the Millennium Dome, and we had some more fantastic views over central London including the Millennium Dome, London eye & Houses of parliament.

I could feel that the approach was unlike any other aircraft I had been on, the front of the plane was significantly pitched up all the way along the approach path, while on a standard aircraft the nose is only pitched up in the final seconds. This is because Concorde has no flaps so gets its stability at low speed from its delta wings.

We approached runway 27R, All other aircraft were landing on 27L that evening, but Concorde had to use the North runway as the South runways was having re-surfacing work done and was not suitable for Concorde movements so the departing traffic on runway 27R was temporarily halted as we made our final approach.

The landing was very impressive, the reverse thrust was very powerful & noisy & we had pulled off the runway just 30 seconds after touchdown.

We taxied towards terminal 4, and had to wait a few minuets to cross the South Runway as this was in use with all other aircraft landing, while we were waiting Captain Derek Woodley announced some facts and figures about our journey.

Our flying time from takeoff at JFK to touchdown at LHR was 3 hours & 24 Minutes, in which we had flown 3700 miles giving us an average speed of 1088 MPH.
Our top speed was 1340 MPH and out maximum altitude was 56,800ft

We crossed the runway and docked with our gate at Terminal 4 at 5:23pm 2 minuets early & 3 and a half hours ahead of the BA 747 flight that departed New York just 30 minuets after us!

I joined the small queue to visit the Cockpit, I was surprised how cramped it was in the Cockpit and amazed by the number of dials & switches. I introduced myself to Captain Derek Woodley and First Officer Jonathan Napier who signed my Concorde Story Book & my flight Certificate. After a quick chat I had left the cockpit to let some other passengers have their turn. I took a couple of photos of the cockpit, before leaving the Aircraft. I looked back at G-BOAF hardly believing that she had just flown me from New York to London in just 3 hours & 24 minuets. The speed continued as my suitcase was waiting for me at the baggage claim & I was straight through Customs and into the Terminal 4 arrival hall within 10 minutes of leaving the aircraft!

For me the Concorde Experience was worth every penny of the £1700 I spent and my 23rd Birthday will always be a day I’ll look back on as one of the best days of my life & will Probably always be the most incredible Birthday I’ll ever have!

Epilogue - 2003


On April 10th 2003, 7 Months to the day after my flight on Concorde British Airways & Air France announced that Concorde would be retired. The last BA Concorde flights would be in late October. There had been much speculation in the media the previous weeks that Concorde’s days could be numbered, but I was shocked to hear that Concorde would be retiring so soon. I was glad more than ever that I had took my opportunity to fly on this great aircraft, as many people who have wanted to will never get the chance.

Following the retirement announcement I decided I wanted to see as many Concorde takeoffs & landings as possible before the end of October. Living 130 miles away from Heathrow I couldn’t go there as often as I’d have liked but at least 10 times in the following months I made an 8 hour roundtrip Coach journey to Heathrow and got to see many spectacular Concorde takeoffs and landings.

A few months later it was announced that during Concorde’s last week in service it would make a farewell tour of Britain. Once the dates were announced I decided to follow it around on the first 3 days of the tour, to Birmingham, Belfast & Manchester, I then flew to Heathrow for the final 2 days on Concorde in Commercial Service.

The final Commercial Concorde flight was On 24th October 2003 and I was at Heathrow to watch the final 3 Concorde’s land at Heathrow airport, one after the other on runway 27R the same runway that I landed on Concorde on 13 months earlier.

My Concorde, G-BOAF making her first flight in over 3 weeks was the 2nd of the 3 to land, after making a special flight over the Bay of Biscay with BA Staff, Celebrities & people who had worked on Concorde.

G-BOAG operating the final commercial Concorde flight, BA002 from New York was the last to land. Chief Concorde pilot Mike Banister was at the controls while my First Officer Jonathan Napier was alongside him making him the last ever First Officer on a commercial Concorde flight.

Then on 26th November was the Final BA Concorde retirement flight. My Concorde G-BOAF had the honour of being the final Concorde to grace the skies anywhere in the world, as she retied to Filton where she was built 25 years earlier. I was there to watch her make a flypast, before making the historic final ever Concorde landing.
 


Some more souviners from my flight the, menu, boarding pass, baggage tag & coaster.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

8th Sept 2000 Atlantis Go For launch!!

It's 10 years ago today since seeing my first & only Space Shuttle Launch, just 2 days before my 21st Birthday - The ontime launch made for a fantastic early Birthday present!

Having just arrived in Florida the previous afternoon we were up at 3am to drive to the Kennedy Space Center, now that may sound crazy when you have just arrived and suffering from jet lag right? Well actually it worked out perfectly as Florida being 5 hours behind the UK 3am meant we were really getting up at 8am and as we had gone to bed early Florida time anyway it actually meant we totally skipped jetlag by out bodyclocks still being on BST!

We were on our way to see the launch of NASA’s 99th Space shuttle mission, STS 106 and had tickets to take a coach far nearer the launch pad than the public can get in their cars!

The bad news however though was walking out of our hotel to the car it was drizzling, and we just seen on TV the local news were only giving a 30-40% chance of weather being acceptable for the shuttle launch.
Undeterred we drove there in our fantastic rental convertible we had treated ourselves too, we thought lets go in style and also if we get stuck in, as the Americans would say “some bad ass traffic jam on the highway” at least with the roof rolled down we could still have a great view of the launch!

We needn’t have worried as had a very good journey to the Kennedy Space Center the only worry being the weather however upon getting out of the car upon arriving it wasn’t raining any more and I even noticed a star, however as it started to get light it was still very cloudy, enough to potentially scrap a launch.

We showed our tickets which we had ordered a couple of months ago and spent a small fortune to get them shipped to the UK by UPS as NASA would not send them to us by normal post, and boarded the coach to the launch viewing area about 7 miles away from launch pad 39B, unfortunately 2 miles further away than 39A that is used for most launches but due to a busy schedule they had to use 39B for some launches and it was still the closest you could get unless you were media, NASA employee or knew the astronauts!


Upon arriving there was still 2 and a half hours to go till launch but things were looking much better weather wise the thick clouds gradually started to clear! We looked around trying to see the shuttle and for a while were looking at totally the wrong launchpad, one that was much closer but turned out to be one of NASA’s unmanned rockets on the pad, we eventually noticed the shuttle Atlantis in the distance, while listening to live NASA communications of the astronauts getting strapped into Atlantis!

It wasn’t long before it was less than an hour to go till launch, weather had become a Go and all systems on the shuttle at this stage were a GO!

Keeping every finger and toe crossed as the next hour ticked down, Excitement really builds during the final 9 mins of the countdown and despite the weather now being a go for launch this is the most crucial stage of the countdown where so many systems are checked and any one minor problem discovered could still potentially scrub the launch for the day.

Even during the final minute I was keeping everything crossed for a launch knowing that until those solid rocket boosters were lit it could still be scrubbed, especially as I remembered an old school friends disappointment when he was at this very viewing site in 1993 and the launch got cancelled at T- 3 seconds after the main engines had ignited but before the boosters.


Everyone joined in with the final 10 seconds countdown and then zero WE HAVE LIFT OFF!!
Massive cheers went around as Atlantis climbed, at first silently into the sky, it would take several seconds for the sounds of the launch to reach us, the brightness from the launch plume was incredible and something TV pictures can not do justice, and then came the earth shattering noise & rumble of the powerful rocket carrying 7 humans and heavy cargo into Space! It wasn’t long before we then heard the double clap of the sonic boom as Atlantis broke through the Sound Barrier. (Something I never would have dreamed at that point that I would do myself in exactly 2 years and 2 days time, but on Concorde not the Shuttle!)

Just over 2 minuets after launch at an altitude of 150,000ft (28 miles), 4 times higher than a commercial aircraft and travelling at 3200 mph the Solid Rocket boosters separated from the Shuttle


Over the next 6 minuets Atlantis would continue on her 3 main engines accelerating to 17,500 and reaching Earth orbit, but sadly for us once the boosters had gone it was just a tiny dot on the horizon and soon went totally out of view.

So it was back on the coaches and half an hour later back at the space centre we were able to watch live NASA pictures and communications of Atlantis & the 7 astronauts in zero gravity, now successfully in orbit somewhere over Europe, and it was so amazing to think that you have just seen that ship and 7 humans leave the planet with your own eyes from just 7 miles away from you!
















We had a look around the Kennedy Space centre visitor centre for a few hours including the impressive full size space shuttle mock up before sadly we had to leave as our convertible car we rented had to be returned in a few hours back in Orlando, we had an fantastic drive back on the highway with the roof down, exciting but not quite as exciting as a Space Shuttle Launch!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Jumbo Anniversary

It’s 10 years ago today, a whole decade since I made my first flight on a Jumbo, a British Airways Boeing 747-400 from London Gatwick to Orlando, Florida!

It was also the first plane I had been on since I was a child aged 7 and came just a few days before my 21st Birthday.

There’s not doubt looking back this would prove to be a monumental occasion as without doubt started my enthusiasm for both planes & traveling and over the next decade I would make 168 commercial aircraft flights (sectors) travel around the world twice, fly supersonically on Concorde, and fly over Antarctica on the new biggest plane the Superjumbo, Airbus A380 on new years eve 2009.

Heres my review of that first Jumbo flight that I wrote for my old website as a 21 year old along with a load of pics.

After an extremely good journey we arrived at Gatwick airport parking by 6:30AM. And were soon at the check in desks before they had even opened.

We were right amongst the first people to check in which was great as I was so eager to make sure I got a window seat out the way of the wing which I did!

We then had 3 hours to stroll around the airport, getting some breakfast, Dad buying duty free and watching planes take off & Land.We eventually correctly guessed which jumbo plane was ours and at about 10:45 entered the plane called the city of Gloucester.

We took off slightly late at 11:35AM and were soon rapidly moving over Southern England. Looking at Map display on the seatback TV we flew over Southampton, and very close to Glastonbury before heading down to Exeter and over Dartmoor! For the first time the clouds below cleared and I could see Dartmoor extremely clearly even reservoirs and tors bringing back childhood memories of family trips to the moors when we lived in Devon, I enthusiastically pointed out to Dad where we were flying over but he was fast asleep!!

We left England flying over Newquay and headed out over the Atlantic Ocean.
For a while it was extremely cloudy again but once they cleared all you could see was the blue sky above and the blue sea below with the odd white clouds and waves.

Finally after 5-6 hours of crossing the Atlantic I could see land, Newfoundland. I was amazed that it was made up of about 50% Land and 50% Water due to all the inlets and lakes, with hundreds of bridges linking the land together. I could see the odd few small towns, but overall it was very desolate.

Heading now South West we eventually reached Mainland USA entering over the very Northeast of the country. we soon saw many cities, very square fields and Highways.

I then noticed that according to the in flight display map we were getting near New York and I was looking out for it, I then saw a massive city in the distance which I thought must be it, when the pilot came on the radio mentioning that it was indeed New York.

A little while later we flew over Atlantic City a narrow but long city and with a golden sandy beach stretching for miles and miles.

At last after around 9 hours flying we approached Florida and we gradually started to descend. We flew along the East Florida coast before reaching Orlando and circled for a while around the city, giving us a good view of it and then we finally touched down at around 3:30 EST (8:30pm BST)

Despite it taking 9 hours I really enjoyed this flight my first in 13 years, some of the views from my window seat were spectacular and it’s just a shame most of the flight home was in darkness.

Tomorrow the decade anniversary’s continues with it being 10 years since the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis, STS 106 the first and only Space Shuttle launch that I've seen at Cape canaveral which launched right on time just 18 hours after we landed in Florida! Check back then for a review and pics of that launch!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Welcome to my new Blog all about planes & Flying!

Been meaning to start a flying blog for a while now and Tuesday 7th September is the 10th anniversary of my first ever Boeing 747 flight which without doubt is when I starting getting interested in planes so decided now is the time to Launch the blog!

I’ve also got my recent Airbus A380 flight from London to Paris to write about and on 15th September I will be making 4 flights in 1 day and briefly visiting 5 countries including all the countries in the UK, (except Wales unless I can find someone crazy enough to drive me to the welsh border at 5:30am!) Belgium and Italy.

Check back on Tuesday for my first proper flying entry, a look back on my first Boeing 747 flight 10 years ago.