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Flight of a Lifetime! (1/24)

Flight of a Lifetime! (1/24)

Old Feb 3, 00, 4:50 pm
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Thumbs up Flight of a Lifetime! (1/24)

Musical Chairs

SFO was raining cats and dogs the whole weekend, the locals were talking about building arks and gathering animals. I arrived at SFO at 10:30am for the 1pm flight to find a rather small check-in counter with gaggles of bewildered passengers. The scene was borderline chaos. I managed to find the Raffles sign despite their best efforts to hide it. Check-in was quick - two bags and two carry-ons. The lady never asked aisle or window, just assigned 12D (center row aisle). I inquired, but windows are all gone. I got a pass for my girlfriend so she can see the Kris Silver lounge, which turned out to be somewhat disappointing. It was much smaller than either RCCs, and the only thing in abundance was alcohol. I needed to get online, and the 4 stations had 2 in use and 2 out of service. I tried the only other phone with a data port I could find without success, so we rushed to the RCC outside of security. Crowded place! I stayed there until 12:40pm, would have stayed even longer if my girlfriend wasn't pulling me out by my ear. Turns out, boarding hasn't even begun, crew's not there yet! I took the opportunity to ask again about a window seat, and the gate agent gives me 16A. I board, I sit, and another guy shows up with 16A. I get kicked up to 12C, then moments later a lady shows up with 12C. Musical chairs anyone? She gets my original seat and we takeoff into the rain. On the way in I recognized one of the flight attendants from my LAX - TPE trip last Thanksgiving (what are the odds!) - made a mental note to say hello later. I'll hear about this from my girlfriend later, better check the duty-free catalog!

Celestellar Mediocrity

The cabin of the absolutely full A340 Celestar (A343) looks new and clean. The seat is comfortable, but not quite what I was expecting from Singapore. It sports a different cabin than the Megatop. First class has no sleeper suites, and the Raffles seats are not "Ultimo", in fact, they don't even have laptop power, contrary to what the gate agent told me. This was particularly disappointing because I had finally located an adapter for my VAIO and was looking forward to a few rounds of Command and Conquer. According to the SilverKris inflight magazine, only the Megatop has those nice seats, and the only aircraft with laptop power so far are the 747 and 777. Also noteworthy, it was mentioned that SQ will join Star Alliance by April of this year!

Culinary Delights

After takeoff, I enjoyed a nice glass of wine before the meal. The "light meal" composed of smoked salmon with tomato coulis, a choice of 1) grilled chicken in Korean spices, seasonal mixed vegetables, steamed rice; 2) wok seared scallops with pinenuts in hot bean sauce, green asparagus with red capsicum, ee fu noodles with oyster sauce; 3) pan fried escalope of veal in Marsala wine sauce, basket of vegetables, red skin potatoes. I chose #2 as I'm a seafood person. Cream caramel topped with coconut and salad of seasonal fruits completed this delightful meal. After lunch, the FA I recognized came up to help clear trays and said hello. I was later told her name was either Audrie, or Tiffany. Either way, I'm not supposed to remember these things anyway! I bought some skin crème from the duty-free catalog for my girlfriend (pre-emptive strike). Credit cards must be charged in Singapore currency, so I decided to pay cash to avoid the conversion penalty, but both the FA and I forgot about my change! Mental note: follow up with SQ!

Different Point of View

After lunch, I thought I'd ask one of the FAs about a visit to the flight deck. He checked with the captain, and it was quickly accepted! I hurried with my camera and followed him to the flight deck. Very friendly and chatty pilots. I was in there chatting for at least two hours. In that time, I got to see a demo of almost the entire flight management system (engine, fuel, cabin temp and pressure, status of doors, brake temps, navigation, communications, etc), found that we are flying the northern-most route which brought us over Anchorage, into Russia, and later over North Korean airspace. They've got much larger windows up there, and the view was spectacular! It was a ton of fun! I didn't leave until their 6 hours was up, and the second shift kicked in. At that point, I found myself in the galley chatting with the FAs working Raffles class. It was very educational, and gave me quite an insight on the life of a FA, and how passengers are seen by the crew. From what she told me, the sleeper suites create a rather heavy workload, as they take quite a bit of time to set up and take down. By the time I'm done, its almost time for the dinner 2 hours before landing! How time flies! I returned to my seat and caught parts of Double Jeopardy, which looked interesting. Oh, according to the FA, Singapore will join Star for sure, and Virgin (!?) is also considering!

More Food!

Dinner began with satay, which I didn't find too tasty. It was followed by drunken prawn with golden salmon roe marinated with champagne and mixed salad. A choice of 1) chicken and Jack cheese cabbage roll in barbecue sauce with corn relish and creamy polenta; 2) beef fillet with Korean bulgogi sauce, leafy greens with cauliflower and red capsicums, and steamed rice; 3) wok seared sturgeon fillet with oriental preserved black bean and jalapeno pepper, leafy greens with pumpkin, lotus root and carrots, egg noodles with oyster sauce. I chose #3, per the recommendation of one of the FAs; an excellent choice!

Clear to Land

At about 160 miles from SEL (according to the captain), we began our descent. The same male FA that led me to the cockpit earlier approaches and tells me the captain has invited me to go up for the landing. By the reaction on his face, my smile must have gone beyond my ears. Quickly pack and clean up, put on my shoes, and I must have skipped all the way to the flight deck. The same flight crew from the first part of the flight has returned for the landing, and I hopped into the jumpseat while the captain explained how to work the seat belt and adjust the seat. The view outside was SPECTACULAR! The clouds have been wiped out by a high pressure system over Seoul, and the sun was seconds from setting. Twilight over Seoul at 10,000 feet is something I'll never forget. I just kept quiet and out of the way during this critical phase of the flight. The copilot landed the aircraft manually, and there was nothing but professionalism in that cockpit! After touchdown, we were directed to our gate by a "follow-me" vehicle - this was apparently standard operations at certain airports.

What a way to end an absolutely delightful flight!
Indurain is offline  
Old Feb 3, 00, 5:03 pm
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Great trip report! And isn't this what a good flight is all about!

And I can certainly relate to the Duty-Free pre-emptive strike. Wingless gets pretty ticked at all of my travels and nothing soothes the savage beast (just a metaphor, Wingless) like a bag full of Lancôme!
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Old Feb 3, 00, 5:37 pm
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Fabulous trip report, Indurain. I am so jealous, esp. the flight deck visit.
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Old Feb 3, 00, 5:42 pm
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What fun!!! I really enjoy that kind of flight when everyone is really "on your side"!

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Old Feb 3, 00, 5:44 pm
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Old Feb 3, 00, 9:31 pm
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Great report!!!

I have always been curious as to whether they actually do the landing by ILS or by hand. Also, how do they actually do the taxi, by left & right brakes?

[This message has been edited by Empress (edited 02-03-2000).]
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Old Feb 4, 00, 12:06 am
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Empress, the A340-300 has an autoland feature that "does a better job than we do," as explained by the captain. It was a clear evening into SEL, that's probably why they went manual. During the descent, altitudes and headings were entered into the FMS by hand (provided by approach control) while the computer did the flying. After turning final the first officer took the controls while the computer kept giving altitudes in a synthesized male voice. At the word "minimum," the first officer says "landing" and the captain responded with "visual." It felt like a much harsher landing, because the seat had almost no padding, and when the nose gear came down, we were all bouncing in our seats. Taxi is done with one hand on the throttle and the other on nose wheel steering, they don't use the rudder pedals.

QuietLion, how did you make that animated green smiley face?
Indurain is offline  
Old Feb 4, 00, 10:56 am
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Indurian, I have visited the cockpit on several international flights and loved it... BUT NEVER up there for the landing... I'm sooooooo jeleous!!!

[This message has been edited by geo1004 (edited 02-04-2000).]
Old Feb 4, 00, 11:10 am
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Empress: In Europe it's common practice to use the autoland system of the aircraft. In the US it's very rare and only a few airports are certified for it. In the US, pilots will hand fly an aircraft on an ILS during bad weather and during good weather they'll mainly rely on visual cues and runway lighting.

They steer the aircraft on the ground via a small steering wheel on the port side. I believe the wheel gets locked out above a certain speed, at which time the rudder controls come into play.
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Old Feb 4, 00, 11:28 am
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OK, I am totally green with ENVY.
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Old Feb 4, 00, 2:29 pm
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The endorphins must have been skyrocketing! I'm sooooooo jealous, but smiling for you at the same time!

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Old Feb 4, 00, 2:29 pm
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I was fortunate to once fly SCL - LIM - PTY - SJO in the cockpit of an A320. The captain chose a different landing technique for each of the legs, to enable me to appreciate how flexible the airplane is. Definitely the best seats in the house!
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Old Feb 4, 00, 3:53 pm
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Fabulous trip report. Makes my trip yesterday to Omaha look pathetic!

I was invited into the cockpit of a KLM 747-300 during flight from MSP-AMS a few years ago as we flew over Greenland. I took a ton of pictures while the sunset behind us illumiated the beautiful landmass below. I was in their chatting with the crew for about an hour, my wife was wondering if I was ever coming back to my seat!

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