A ton more Star MegaDo videos

Sure, it has taken way longer than it probably should have, but I’ve finally managed to get a bunch more videos uploaded.  These are mostly from the presentation on Friday from Thierry Antinori, Lufthansa’s Executive Vice President Marketing & Sales and Member of the Executive Board though the first one is the opening greeting from Lufthansa CEO Wolfgang Mayrhuber.

Enjoy!

Help Alliance check presentation

Help Alliance check presentation

During the charter flights, we held an on-board raffle to raise money for charity. On Friday, November 20, 2009, we delivered the first check from this campaign. It was a check for $3000, given to the Help Alliance, a charity run by Lufthansa staff members. An overview of all Help Alliance projects can be found here. The money raised for Help Alliance during the StarMegaDO is being put to use in a school project in South Africa. FlyerTalkers will be able to follow the status of the project as it progresses, and even participate more directly.

Many more event pictures now available!

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We’ve created a special picture blog of photos from the events. Visit them visit them here:

   http://www.starmegado.com/plogger/

Feel free to click on the pictures and post comments, or select some for downloading.

More photos from the Airbus factory tour

Just a few more photos from inside the final assembly building at Toulouse…

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A party on neutral ground

Following the long day of flights and tours Lufthansa was gracious enough to host us for a night cap in the Tower Lounge near gate A65 at Frankfurt International Airport.  This is one of their newer lounges and it is quite impressive.  It also is outside of the Schengen border control zone.  That meant all 200 of us had to pass though immigration to attend the party.  Fortunately they had warned the border police about our plans so there were a couple guys there ready to work with us.

At that point we were no longer really in Germany from an immigration perspective.  But we weren’t really anywhere else, either.  We were essentially nowhere and having a phenomenal time!

And then, about an hour later when the lounge closed, it was back into Germany and another pass through the border check and another stamp on the passport.  We visited two countries during the day – Norway and France – and did it with nary a glance at most passports.  But to get to a party 500 meters from the gate took two stamps.  Certainly strange, but also a great story.

Star Mega Do coverage in the WSJ

Check it out…

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703808904574529622404278810.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

If you were always on the road and seemed to live on airplanes, would you spend your vacation visiting airlines?

More than 200 vagabond business travelers, peripatetic frequent-flier-mile addicts and aviation enthusiasts did just that last week. Over four days, they traveled from the U.S. to Germany, Norway and France to meet with executives, pilots and mechanics at four airlines—plus representatives of aircraft manufacturer Airbus. The event, organized by members of FlyerTalk.com, a Web site that caters to frequent fliers, even included chartering a Boeing 757-300 to zip from airline hangar to airline hangar.

Plane spotting at Toulouse

What great fun to be at the factory and see the planes from so many carriers all in one place.  And there were plenty to be seen.  Check out some of these beauties:

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This is the plane we were touring in all day:

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Not all the planes on the ground were Airbus, but they were still cool:

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Some of the bigger birds on display:

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Of course, the main focus of the visit to Toulouse was plane spotting of a different kind.  We were there to tour the A380 final assembly line.  We did, and it was amazing.  More stories, video and photos from that soon.

Inspecting the crew rest bunks

As a group of mostly very frequent flyers, getting to go behind the scenes and see the other side of the operations is always interesting.  After all, we’ spend plenty of time on the customer side.  Hitting up the crew side is the next step in the adventure.  So when Lufthansa opened up access to their Technik facility – their maintenance operations – scores of our group showed up to take part. 

Among other things, the group wandered through a couple planes that were in for their regular maintenance checks.  These planes are essentially fully disassembled and then put back together, with various bits replaced and refreshed along the way.  One of the more popular scenes during these tours were the visits to the crew rest bunks.  They may not be glamorous, but they are fully flat, quiet and dark.  Not too shabby.  I could travel like that.  Then again, I’ve been in an overhead bin and didn’t think it was all that bad. 

Anyways, here are pictures of some folks having fun in the crew rest bunks:

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On-board raffle totals

Money raised from the on-board raffle

Money raised from the on-board raffle

We mentioned earlier how generous everyone was during the on-board raffle. The picture above says quite a bit, but I also wanted to provide some numbers to show how remarkable it really was. During the course of the OSL-TLS flight, and the first part of the TLS-FRA flight we sold 1887 raffle tickets. Some people bought three, some 50 or 60. Some people just put money into my hands as a donation and told me not to bother giving them tickets. A few even gave us additional items to raffle off. Not knowing what to expect going into this, I was floored by the response. But that soon led to a bit of worry — that not everyone who wanted to participate would be able to do so. You see, I started selling tickets in the first row, moving toward the back of the aircraft. So many people were buying so many tickets that I wondered whether there would be any left to sell when I finally reached row 50. We had started with a 2000 ticket roll. By the time ticket sales were over, there were just 113 tickets left unsold.


The total amount of money collected was as follows:

  • € 1735
  • $ 2035
  • $C 50
  • £ 20

At today’s exchange rate for US Dollars, that comes to just over $4700.

A hearty thank you to all who participated! We will soon be providing more information on the distribution of the money.

Videos from Oslo and StarMegaDo

I’m not a great videographer and probably worse at video editing.  But I have a bunch of content that I’ve been slowly getting uploaded.  Here are a few clips from various bits of the Oslo stop.

 

Tommy777 exits the fast way

At the end of the SAS event they had Tommy777 exit the plane that they were using for the demo.  The fast way.  They popped the back door (2R) and he came sliding down.  Very cool.

Inside the A380 final assembly building

It has been a few days since my last post about the A380 factory tour and most of faculties have finally returned.  You’ve seen many of the pictures already but I also have some video shot inside the factory with Richard Carcaillet, the Director of Product Marketing for the A380.  He talks about some of the details on the final assembly, demand for the A380 and assembly time, as well as the value proposition for the aircraft.

There are also a couple videos from inside the mock-up center.  Airbus uses the facility to show off interior design options to customers from seating arrangements to overhead bins to trim details.  I never thought I’d see eleven different cabin configurations on a single plane but there they were in the A380 mock-up.  Very cool stuff, though sadly no photos allowed inside the mock-ups.  Still pretty interesting.

A “missed approach” at Toulouse

When showing up to a party is is a good idea to make a grand first impression, right?  So what about buzzing the field at Toulouse?  I like it.

Our arrival at the Airbus facility was a spectacular event, highlighted by the expert fly-by executed by the first officer on our Condor air 757-300.  Sitting in the middle of the plane, I knew that we were low to the field and I knew pretty early on that we were long on the approach.  But just now, flying back to Los Angeles, I have had a chance to view a video taken from the cockpit and know just how close we were.

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The voice of the computer counts down the approach.  Fifty. Forty. Thirty. Twenty!

That’s right…Twenty.  Feet, I think.  That’s pretty ridiculous.  And we cruised pretty much the length of the runway at that altitude.

And then the shouts from back in the cabin – sheer excitement as we cruise on down the field so close, yet so very far away from touching down.  Finally, at the end of the runway, an ominous “six hundred remaining” is heard as the end of the runway is clearly visible and we’re very clearly still not on the ground.  And then the thrust of the engines and only clouds and sky visible through the cockpit window as we climbed out and around for our actual landing. 

Yeah, we made one hell of a first impression!

The second movie here is of the actual landing.  Mostly the same except that we actually bothered to stop that time around.  Still plenty of excitement from the cabin.

Fun ‘n’ snow in Oslo

First stop on the trip was Oslo to pick up a few more participants and to meet the folks from SAS who were kind enough to host us.  They provided all the traditional Norwegian fare for us, including snow on arrival.  Walking off the plane in a Hawaiian shirt and making a snow ball was quite enjoyable.

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There was traditional music and dance:

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And there were a bunch of displays set up around the hangar.  The Air Force had a demo of their med-evac procedures on display and we were able to walk around one of the planes, including in the engine cowls and the landing gear areas.  Very cool stuff.

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There was a presentation from the folks at SAS about their airline and the Euro Bonus program as well as two singing performances by one of the flight attendants, including one where the wing of the plane was used as the stage.  Video of that should be forthcoming shortly.

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And then there was the biggest surprise of the morning’s events.  The main organizer, Tommy, actually got to leave the plane via the evacuation slide:

Some others hopped on afterwards, but I am quite certain it wasn’t the same.

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And then our stay in Oslo was complete.  It was off to the de-icing pad and our departure for Toulouse.  Another exciting flight and an even more exciting arrival!

Getting an early start to the day

I’ve never seen so many people quite so happy to be boarding a plane at 5:15 in the morning.  And yet there we all were.  Nearly 200 mostly awake and in a remote gate area of Frankfurt International Airport, ready to climb on board the first of three flights in our chartered Condor Boeing 757-300.

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Plenty of sleepy eyes in the gate area but once boarding started most folks perked up in a hurry.

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Maybe it was that we were giving out lies in conjunction with the first flight’s theme – a Continental Airlines flight from Hawai’i to Los Angeles in the 70s.  Or maybe it was because the excitement all finally just bubbled over.  Who really cares why…folks were downright giddy and it showed in their faces and behavior.

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And the party never stopped.  It would be days before things calmed down.  But it is still before 6am on a Thursday morning in this story and we haven’t even taken off for our first stop, Oslo and a breakfast party with SAS.

What amazing generosity

3M1O0303-1There were a ton of different things going on throughout the week designed to make sure that our group had a great time.  One of the highlights, however, was the charity auction that was held during the trip.  After having each spent a whole bunch of cash on getting to Frankfurt and in booking seats on the charter flights, I don’t think that anyone really expected the level of giving that was seen.

Even before the raffle started the charity was apparent.  Members from around the globe contributed a variety of prizes, ranging from airline amenity kits and sleeper suits to Windows 7 Ultimate.  We had signed copies of the final United 737 flight manifests and a bunch of autographed hats from Captain Denny.  And some cool electronics, too.

Raffle tickets were purchased in US Dollars, Euros, British Pounds and Canadian Dollars.  And there were a LOT of tickets purchased.  Several hundred tickets were sold and we raised almost USD $5,000!  Handing out the prizes was great fun, as was announcing where the money raised is going to be distributed.

Part of the money is being contributed to FlyerTalk’s kiva.org lending team.  That group has lent out over $15,000 thus far and the donations from our trip should have that pushed up over $20,000 and beyond in a hurry.

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The other part of the money is being donated to the Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund.  Captain Dahl was a pilot with United airlines and was working as the Captain of flight 93 on September 11th.  He loved to fly from a very young age and was able to make a career out of it in part due to a scholarship he received to attend flight school.  In his memory family and friends have established the fund to provide similar scholarships out to aspiring pilots.  Give our love for travel we felt that it was an appropriate way to help further our ability to have this fun.

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What a pretty plane!

Just a couple photos here of the gorgeous Condor 757-300 that we chartered for the day.  Good times!

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Double-decker excitement

The A380 is simply huge.  There is no other way to describe it.  And the reception we received from the folks at Airbus and the tour that they provided was huge as well.

I wrote the above more than 5 hours ago in an attempt to be witty, smart and informative.  In reality what I am is drunk and exhausted.  Therefore there will be no more text in this post.  Look at the pretty pictures and enjoy.  Hopefully I’ll get more than 3 hours of sleep tonight (unlike the last three) and there will be more coherence in the morning.

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Braving the snow in Oslo

Everything on the trip thus far has been incredibly well prepared theme-wise.  The visit to Oslo and SAS was absolutely consistent with this expectation – we landed in a light snow!  It was chilly outside but the hangar was plenty warm with good fun.

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The SAS crew put on a great show, including a traditional dance troupe and one of their very own flight attendants who is also a quite good singer performing a couple tunes.  She actually used the wing of the 737 as the stage for one of the performances; I’ve got video of that to post later.

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There was a quite informative demonstration by the Norwegian Air Force of the processes they go through for evacuating soldiers.  They had one of the planes configured inside with stretchers rather than regular seats and even a couple demo patients there.

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As part of the safety and patient evac demo they popped one of the emergency slides and Tommy got to ride down it from the plane.  The rest of us were only able to pretend but we still had some fun with it.

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And then our time in Oslo came to an end.  The band played on but we boarded the plane again and headed out to Toulouse.

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I just worked beverage service for a 90 minute flight

And I’m exhausted.  Seriously.

2Q2H0842Sure, I’ve never actually had to do it before so remembering things like the stirrer sticks for the coffee service or making sure I actually served everyone who asked for a drink – sorry again, guys – were things that I really think that I’d do better with a bit of practice.  Still, it was a bit of a humbling experience realizing that it was actually a bit of a challenge to sling a few drinks out to the 50 passengers I was responsible for.  And the real flight attendants were working at least 50% of the cabin, plus doing the actual meal service.

I’m sure I’ll being seeing pictures galore in the coming days and weeks of me working as a flight attendant and drinking on the job.  After all, I had well more than my fare share of Sect on the fight, and a bit of vodka, too.  So it wasn’t really a truly honest effort as to what it would take to serve the cabin.  But it was close, and it was definitely more work than I expected.

But it was also a TON of fun.  I was walking the aisle clearing glasses from the business class cabin while we were on the active taxi-way.  I was trying to figure out which pedal locked the cart and which released it.  I was walking the aisle closing the overhead bins and turning off the call button lights.  It really was a ton of fun.

Oh, we did do the safety demo work, too.  That was fun.  It was harder in that I didn’t have a demo seatbelt to use – I just took the belt off of the seat I was standing next to at the time – and the announcements were done in German, which made it even more challenging.  Still, we all managed to do the demos and arrive safely so no real harm there.

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2Q2H0854We were also fortunate to have with us some coffee brought along specially by a member of the tour.  Vince Mills runs Kena coffee in Hawaii and produced a special Star Mega Do reserve blend for our flights.  As I understand it the coffee was delicious.  So, again, sorry to the few guys who I never made it back to with the cups of coffee.  My bad.  If you’re interested, check our Kena Coffee.  I’m pretty sure he’s got plenty to share with the community.

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