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Trip Experience- Beijing to Washington Dulles, Air China 777

Discussion in 'Trip Experiences' started by Shawn White, Jun 18, 2014.

  1. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    The long awaited June 17th arrived, and I was finally ready to head off to the airport for my flight to Washington D.C.. To get to the airport, I took the Airport Express Train, and I arrived about 2 1/2 hours early. IMG_0293.jpg GOPR3653.JPG

    After saying goodbye to my dad who came to see me off, I started making my way through the gigantic Terminal 3 to find the check-in desk.

    There was no line at all, and I started to lift my rock-filled suitcase onto the belt to see how much it weighed. Within seconds and before I had a chance to say anything about seats, the person had handed me back my passport with a boarding pass for an aisle seat. I then went on to explain why I really didn't want that seat, and he was obliging enough to discard the first one and print out one for a window seat. I was at seat 55A, which was perhaps a few rows too far back, but it still had an acceptable view of the wingtip.

    After check-in I was surprised to find out that security and customs where much farther into the airport. Unlike domestic flights where you go through security checks right after check-in, the security and customs processing for international travelers was located a good ways in. Instead of walking for a good half hour, we took the little shuttle train to the other side of the airport.

    The security and customs went fine, they just took a really long time. I had packed my bags full with electronics, and I had to remove ipods, batteries, phones, rechargers and power cords, cameras, flashes, radios, etc. The security guards had a great time watching me try to dig out and then repack everything.

    Customs and Immigration gave me an exit stamp on my passport, and then I continued the long walk towards my gate, E31. After looking at my watch, however, I realized that I still had almost two hours remaining until my flight, so I decided to go get some more pictures. Right after security, the terminal splits up like the top of a giant Y, so I walked in the opposite direction of my gate taking pictures. It was a good 20 minute walk to the end, and along the way I was able to shoot several planes, as well as a few restaurants, cafes, and sleeping passengers.
     
  2. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    IMG_0323.jpg IMG_0350.jpg IMG_0354.jpg IMG_0358.jpg
     

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  3. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    When I finally did make it to my gate, I was interested to see that almost all the passengers flying were Chinese or Asian, and only two or three other people were talking in English. Walking through the air bridge, I was once again amazed at the size of the 777's engines. Simply enormous! IMG_0396.jpg IMG_0398.jpg

    We boarded through the entrance near the front of the plane, so I got to walk all through the first and business class, with my GoPro mounted on my head strap.

    I found my seat, and with great effort hoisted my back pack into the overhead compartment, which happened to be totally empty. I split my carry on into three small bags, and I just kept one under my seat with the essential camera gear, documents, chewing gum, and other essentials. Everything else I put in the overhead bin to ensure maximum leg room and foot space. Maybe I am really skinny, but the seats seemed very large for economy class. The seats were plenty wide, and I could almost fully stretch out my legs under the seat in front of me. Even when the seat in front of me reclined all the way, I could still open the food tray with plenty of room to spare.
    IMG_0413.jpg

    Because of the seating arrangement, the seat behind me barely had any window, and I almost two. :) I mounted my GoPro camera on one of them (to film a time-lapse takeoff), and I shot pictures with my Canon out of the second one. IMG_0404.jpg
     
  4. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    We pushed back from the gate a good twenty minutes ahead of schedule, and taxied out to the runway. The sky was extremely cloudy and smoggy, so within seconds of lifting off were enveloped in a white mist. I felt very thankful for instrument ratings.
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    What surprised me though was that the cloud cover continued for a long time. We didn't break out of the clouds until we finally climbed to 40,000ft, about 2 hours later. For the duration of the flight, I was really amused by the announcements about turbulence. I'm guessing that the flight attendant in charge of making the announcements was relatively new, or terrified of flying, and she kept telling us to return to our seats every ten minutes, even though no one had left them yet. Most of the passengers were older Chinese, and several of them appeared terrified after repeatedly hearing her warnings to fasten their seat belts to avoid injury. Except for the times when you're feeling sick or trying to drink tomato juice, I've come to almost enjoy mild turbulence. Besides it just being fun to get that falling sensation, the steady shaking and chop helped lull me to sleep. In between the turbulence they did serve a meal and drinks. I ordered the beef and rice (since I can't tolerate sea food), as well as 7-Up and coffee. Just a note to the coffee lovers who spend hours brewing their coffee and add six different flavors, airplane coffee with creamer will disappoint you.

    Throughout the rest of the flight, I really just sat around, slept, or watched movies. There wasn't anyone to really talk to (aside from the old people behind me who were freaking out about turbulence), and after staying up the night before to watch the World Cup matches (Germany creaming Portugal and USA's scrappy win) I tried to get some rest. Falling asleep on a plane is a skill that few can master, and even though I had a full row to stretch out on a pile of pillows, I couldn't sleep for more than a few minutes. Between a pattern of drifting in and out, however, I was able to get a few hours of cumulative sleep, so I was surprisingly rested once I landed. At one point after waking up in a pitch dark cabin, I creaked open the window and was instantly blinded by the shining light. The sun was shining right at our side of the plane, and for a moment I seriously couldn't see anything. After adjusting to the light though, I discovered that we were just passing over the polar ice caps, and that was one of the coolest moments of my life. You could literally see these large, white ice floats with gaps of water in between, and I got some sweet pictures. IMG_0441.jpg IMG_0460.jpg

    Later on, as we crossed into Greenland and Canada, I also really enjoyed seeing all the glaciers and lakes that seem to dominate the two countries. Until we crossed into the US, I never saw a single city or road. Some of the mountains and rivers though, were really amazing.
    IMG_0452.jpg
     
  5. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    IMG_0485.jpg They served a meal and then a snack once we were about two hours away from landing, and this time I chose the chicken and noodles option over the pork and rice. In my opinion, Air China's meals aren't as good as say, Emirates or Etihad, but they are much nicer than most other airlines I've flown on like United, AeroSvit, China Southern, etc. IMG_0481.jpg
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    Flying into D.C., there must have been really little traffic or something, because we were cleared for a straight-in approach, and there was delay at all. About five minutes before landing we flew over another airport which I haven't bothered to identify on a map, and when were just minutes away from touch down, we flew over the Potomac river, which was pretty cool to see. I don't remember how smooth the landing was, (because I was shooting video and pictures from two cameras at the same time) but it was a smooth deceleration and quick taxi to the terminal. Earlier I had asked several times about visiting the cockpit after the landing and they had said "maybe," but once we finally landed the lead flight attendant said that it would not work out. I guess I'm not as charming as I used to be when I was 11 and 12. *Sigh. On the way back I will have to pester them a lot more... IMG_0501.jpg
     

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  6. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    A friend had told me that Dulles is huge, but to me it didn't seem big at all, and over half of the gates were empty. They also had these weird "people moving" buses, that seemed rather inifficient. They drove around normally, but once they got to the building, they cranked and elevated themselves up to the same level as the entrance. One would think that using a normal bus and a pair of stairs could be cheaper and more efficient, but... IMG_0524.jpg

    Because I had been out of the country for so long and didn't have any exit or entry stamps on my passport, I was worried that customs and immigrations might give me some trouble, but as soon as they saw my U.S. Passport, they cleared me through in about five seconds and welcomed me home. For the Chinese crowds behind me, it was not as easy, but I guess it's a fair trade for all the checks I have to go through when coming into other countries.
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    The baggage handlers were taking their time, and I got to the baggage claim a full 15 minutes ahead of my luggage. When it finally came though, my suitcase was just the second one out!
    I made sure to check for any damaged straps or scratches (to file claims right away in case of damage), but I was satisfied to find that it was all fine. I made my way out of the terminal where I met up with family, and then began a scenic drive through VA, MD, and PA. The change coming from Beijing, a city of over 20million people, was quite shocking, but I enjoyed it. Seeing the perfectly-kept lawns and picturesque hills was nice, and we passed through several historic areas, some from the Civil War. Overall, it was a great flight, and there were few things to complain about. Looking forward to my time here in the summer, visiting family and different schools.
     

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  7. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    Note:
    -The laptop I'm currently using is about 5 years old. It doesn't have any memory or graphics, so editing pictures from RAW to jpeg is a real pain. Also, I don't have lightroom here, and the program I'm using seems to do weird things to the picture's colors. Also, my GoPro videos are too high graphics to view on my screen, so I can't post a lot of the snapshots right now. I will try to edit them into the article in a few days.
    Thanks,
    Shawn
     
  8. Lord Leighton

    Lord Leighton Hangar Gold Member I

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    Good job Shawn! Enjoy yer summer at home!
     
  9. Everett 757

    Everett 757 Hangar Silver Member VI

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    A really great job of posting your pictures, and the narrative of your trip! Thanks, Shawn. I hope your summer visit is a really enjoyable one for you.
     
  10. Art Troutman393

    Art Troutman393 Hangar Bronze Member V

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    Very informative, Shawn. Welcome - and thanks!
     
  11. Lee Ferrara

    Lee Ferrara Administrator Staff Member

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    Great report!!
     
  12. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    Thanks everyone, and glad you liked it! Might get a few more reports in the next week or so. I'll be flying up to MI with Delta. If only I could edit my GoPro videos though:( My laptop can't view 1080p.
     
  13. Lord Leighton

    Lord Leighton Hangar Gold Member I

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  14. Biggles

    Biggles Hangar Bronze Member III

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    Congratulations on your report and especially your pictures. I keep carrying a camera but invariably forget to use it!!
    Bad luck with the cockpit visit. I was lucky enough to get several visits to BA B747 cockpits on SFO/LHR trips, but that was pre 9/11
    (damn those terrorists).
     
  15. David Barnshaw

    David Barnshaw Hangar Gold Member I

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    Thanks for sharing your flight with us Shawn.:)
     
  16. Lord Leighton

    Lord Leighton Hangar Gold Member I

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    You can see the 747 cockpit inside the whole front section of the very 1st one which was donated after retirement, when ya walk the 2nd floor walkway to it in the Smithsonian's Udvar Hazy Aviation museum just outside of DC.
     
  17. Everett 757

    Everett 757 Hangar Silver Member VI

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    Thanks for sharing that LL. That will be a 'must see' for me when I go to the Smithsonian Aviation museum.
     
  18. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    I actually visited that just yesterday!
     
  19. Shawn White

    Shawn White Hangar Silver Member I

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    I finally got the video edited! Here it is:
     
  20. Biggles

    Biggles Hangar Bronze Member III

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    The whole trip squeezed into 2 minutes ! Well done. You got all the important parts covered.
     

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