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Beijing - Chicago - Kalamazoo, and Back; with AA and UA on the 747 and 777

Discussion in 'Trip Experiences' started by Shawn White, Feb 5, 2015.

  1. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    This last week I was flying out from Beijing again, this time up to Kalamazoo, MI, to visit the College of Aviation at Western Michigan University. They have one of the best flight programs in the world, and I was flying to take part in a couple different scholarship competitions and events they had. I got tickets with American Airlines the whole way there and back, flying first on a 777-200LR, and later on an ERJ.

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    The skies were beautiful as always, with a classy light grey to contrast the dark grey of the runway tarmac. Spotted a few planes here and there, but I was leaving around noon after most international flights had already left, so there weren't a bunch of cool ones to see, aside from the regular domestic flights.

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    The flight was fully booked, and EVERY single seat was taken. I got upgraded from 48D to 47D, and that was a really nice improvement. I was a whole extra row away from the "lavatories," and the view was epic! Over the 11 hour flight I really started to notice the unique beauty and design of the seat back reclined in my face.


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    It was not a super pleasant experience, but I survived anyhow. The in-flight entertainment on the AA triple seven was not great, but there were a few movies and TV shows to watch. Made it in to Chicago about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, so that was cool. After getting off the plane we all made our way through customs and collected our checked luggage, before we could check back in and transfer to connecting flights. I had a six-hour wait, so I took a nap, ate some taco's, and worked my way through another 120 pages of a book I brought. I also pulled out my Gopro and filmed a time-lapse of one corner of the airport, which actually turned out pretty nicely. ORD is such a busy place, so there is always plenty of traffic moving around. There was a turn-around time of about 35 minutes for the regionals parked at the gate I was waiting by, so that was fun to watch.
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    When I finally got on my connecting flight, an ERJ (135??) to Kalamazoo, I was dead exhausted from not sleeping at all on the earlier flight, so I just sat down in my seat and fell dead asleep before we even left the gate. I woke up when everyone was opening the overhead compartments to get off :) I remember the plane was only three seats abreast, with a 2-1 configuration, and tiny, squarish windows, but I didn't get any pictures of that, so I don't know for sure which plane/model it was.
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    When I was visiting the College of Aviation, I actually got to go up on a flight with a friend who is already enrolled there. He was doing a final review training lesson before taking his instrument checkride, so I got to see him do some pretty advanced flying. The instructor simulated a bunch of panel and instrument failures, had him shoot ILS, RNAV, and VOR approaches while wearing Foggles, and we did touch-and-goes at three different icy runways. Sitting in the back seat of a Cirrus SR-20 is never too fun, especially when the heating goes wacky and it's way below freezing temperature, but it was still a really cool flight. I also really enjoyed seeing how winter operations work, especially with the snow and ice everywhere.

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    I stayed in Kalamazoo for 3 days, and then on Sunday morning (Feb 1) my friend dropped me off at the airport, only to discover that all the flights had been cancelled due to the developing blizzard. The snow was pretty bad, but originally we had both thought that flights would still make it out. I got re-booked for a flight leaving the next morning, with the second leg now scheduled with United, since the American flight only goes every three days. It was annoying to lose an extra day, but I got to stay an extra day and watch the Seahawks fumble away their Superbowl trophy, and that was real fun. Unfortunately, after staying up till about 1:00am after watching that, I had a flight for the next day scheduled for 6:00am. Of course, with my exceptional luck, I set my alarm on the phone which I had set to Chicago time when I first flew in, getting me to the airport one hour later than scheduled. Being that I had only planned to arrive 45 minutes before the flight left... :rolleyes: Thankfully, the second flight was delayed, so I had enough time to make the 3-hour drive in the snow over to Chicago. The snow made driving exciting, but we did finally make it there on time, and I managed to catch my connecting flight. Checking in with United was an experience by itself, and I will just say that it took me over an hour just to stand in line and check my bag. Ahhhh. I kept waiting in line only to find out I was in the wrong line, but there were now signs or anything anywhere, and United staff trying to help kept sending everyone in opposite directions. Chaos. Pure Chaos. After finally making it through the airport though, the rest of the flight was very comfortable! A bunch of people got re-booked or missed their flights over, so our United flight back to Beijing only had about 150 passengers. Not to mention we were on a 747!!!!:D:):D Can't say it is my favorite plane in the world, but I hadn't flown on one for a very long while, so I got pretty excited when I walked up to the gate and found they had changed the flight from the normal 777 to the 747-400 we were now flying on.

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    We got delayed quite a bit because a few passengers were missing from the flight, even though their bags had somehow gotten transferred on. Then once they finally found the passengers who happened to be on the whole time (and just didn't understand their Korean names being called by the United flight attendants) one of the loading vehicles outside stopped working, so we had to wait a bit for them to drive over a replacement.

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    By this time though, I was already pretty relaxed an comfortable. I had a full row of seats to myself, I was flying on the 747, and there was snow everywhere that made for really cool pictures. So didn't really mind or even notice the delays that much. The first officer announced that we were like 7th in line for takeoff, but somehow ATC cut is in front of the others and we took off in front of the rest of the crowd. The planes behind us were all American Regionals though, so maybe the guy in the tower was a United fan or something:D
     

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  2. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    Since the -400 is an older model, none of the seats had individual entertainment systems, but they gave headphones to tune into the audio channels for the movies playing on the larger screens overhead, which was just fine. I actually enjoyed the movie selection on this flight way more than the options they had on the AA flight earlier. Above you can see the 3-4-3 seating layout they had, which normally can pack a whole bunch of people in. This flight though, I got 3 seats to myself, so I made myself a giant tower of pillows and went to sleep; I managed to stay asleep for almost 8 full hours of the 13-hour flight, which was a first. Normally it's impossible to get any rest, so it was really nice to be able to land awake and rested, without a jarring headache and aching neck.
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    While taxiing I also saw the new 737 winglets, and those are kind of cool. I'm not actually sure if I like them more than the traditional ones, but they look interesting. Kind of fierce and scary, like they are talons or something clawing at the wind... It was a neat spotting anyway.



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    Also passed by Lufthansa's 747-8i. I would be very interested to know how a flight experience on there compares to the one I had. The stretched fuselage, stylishly curved wing tips, and the unique engines are distinguishing markers that set it apart from the older series, although you definitely notice them either way.
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    The airport coped pretty well with the snow; in the background you can still see them trying to clear the remaining parking and taxiways.
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    We touched down in Beijing on runway 01, and it was a pleasant change from the blue skies and pristine white back to the more noticeable, soupy grey. I had my GoPro filming a time lapse again, but somehow the files got corrupted, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to use any of those.
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    Overall it was a great time, and I enjoyed the chance to do some more traveling. The blizzard definitely made things interesting, but it was all good in the end.
    Thanks for reading!
    -Shawn
     
  3. Drjohn

    Drjohn Hangar Bronze Member II

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    Nice write-up. Thanks
     
  4. Lord Leighton

    Lord Leighton Hangar Gold Member I

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    Good Job Shawn! My brother flies a Piper Archer out of AZO. The Beacon Club just off the airport between the 5 end of 5/23 and the 6 end of 6/27 is a great place to grab a nice juicy steak if ya know a member or are certain type of frequent flyer. WMU does have a highly touted aeronautics program indeed (Most operations out of Battle Creek now). Another lucky guy hangars and flies a real real nice F4U Corsair at AZO also. I have about 22 inches of snow sittin outside. Got 4 more after you left the main blizzard. :)
     
  5. Edward Jeszka

    Edward Jeszka Hangar Gold Member I

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    Well done young man. Hope you are successful in your quest for a scholarship. Good luck.
     
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  6. Everett 757

    Everett 757 Hangar Silver Member VI

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    Thanks for posting this, Shawn! I always really enjoy your trip experiences, and the way you put in photos with good descriptions! Best of luck to you in obtaining a scholarship!
     
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