StarMegaDo 2010 – New York JFK to Frankfurt FRA on a Boeing 747-400
Join StarMegaDo as we fly from JFK to Frankfurt in the first hop of the transatlantic aerophilic adventure.
We’ve created a special picture blog of photos from the events. Visit them visit them here:
Feel free to click on the pictures and post comments, or select some for downloading.
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:
This is the plane we were touring in all day:
Not all the planes on the ground were Airbus, but they were still cool:
Some of the bigger birds on display:
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.
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.
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.
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.
There was traditional music and dance:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Plenty of sleepy eyes in the gate area but once boarding started most folks perked up in a hurry.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Willi, the Condor Boeing 757-300 chartered for the Mega DO, is enjoying the snow in Oslo.
Pictures courtesy of perlman and nickpiggot via Twitpic.
Wrapping up the first day of the tours here in Germany, our group was treated to a meal by the folks from Lufthansa and Star Alliance. The event was held in the main dining room of Lufthansa’s executive offices just off the airport grounds and we were very well taken care of, to say the least.
Good booze and good food flowed, as did good friendship and camaraderie.
Jan Albrecht was present, along with a number of other executives from airlines and the alliance. They were happy to circulate among the crowd and get feedback from our group, with one of them noting rather humbly that they knew that the FlyerTalk community has a more in-depth understanding of their products than even they do and that they depend on us a good amount to know when things are broken.
A few more speeches, including the very appropriate and heartfelt thanks being extended to the organizers of the event.
Lufthansa had some flight attendants at the event as part of the photo shoot and then to be at the party to show off some of the retro uniforms that they used to use. Quite sharp, to say the least.
Boarding passes being distributed:
John celebrating the fact that he managed to lose and find his passport in the 12 hours prior to the departure from the USA. He had great reason to drink and celebrate, not that we really need good reasons.
Getting ready to head out on the first charter flight now.
Photo courtesy of Perlman via Twitpic:
I’m pretty sure that the Lufthansa folks have never had over 100 passengers show up for the Star Gold boarding line. Yet there we all were, a hundred of us, lined up waiting to board Lufthansa’s flight 405 from New York’s JFK airport to Frankfurt. And we had a ridiculously good time.
We filled up the plane. Literally. We had almost all the seats in business class and a whole bunch in coach, too. The plane was 100% full, plus a couple extras. The Lufthansa employees from NYC coming over to Frankfurt for the event had to ride jump seat rather than even getting seats in coach. There were literally no seats left on the plane.
The good news is that the seats we filled were done so with great fun and excitement. The bad news, such as it was, is that the tailwinds on our flight meant that total flight time was just a hair over 6 hours to get to Germany. That’s really fast. So fast that full enjoyment of the meal service and the Business Class experience and also getting some sleep is really hard to do. Almost impossible, really. But that didn’t stop us from trying.
Here are a few photos from in flight:
And then, before I really had time to understand just how much fun I was having, we were less than 4 hours from arrival in Frankfurt!
Through some means that I have yet to fully understand, one of the folks in our group got access to the flight deck and rode up there for the landing in Frankfurt. Seriously. And he’s given me copies of the photos to prove it!
Yeah, that was our plane coming in for a landing in Frankfurt. Finally, a shot that is often repeated but always enjoyable upon arrival in Frankfurt, the reflection of the plane:
More tours, lounges and incredible fun later in the day on arrival. Those posts to come eventually. Right now I’m too tired and drunk for my fingers to really work any more.
Our flight was early. Almost ridiculously so. We actually circled a bit near London and slowed down coming into Frankfurt and we were still ridiculously early. What we lost in terms of sleep time in-flight, however, was made up for in terms of time spent in the Welcome Lounge arrivals facility in airport.
For me that meant grabbing some food – I slept through the brekkie service on the flight – as well as a bit of a pick-me-up drink. The bar had all the makings available for Bloody Mary’s, including a nice little setup of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, black pepper and lemon. But no Vodka. And when asked the agent seemed dumbfounded that such a thing could even be considered. Alas, I was relegated to a glass of beer instead. These are the sacrifices I’ve learned to make for my devotion to the cause.
We managed to be parked at one of the most remote hard stands which meant a 15 minute long taxi and then an additional ride on buses over to the immigration facilities. We spotted the Lufthansa retrojet along the way. She’s a beautifully painted Airbus A321 and looks just as lovely as the Continental retrojet.
Everyone headed off in their own direction at this point, mostly to the hotels to freshen up and prepare for tours of the Lufthansa facilities or other events on-site Wednesday evening, including a dinner hosted by Star Alliance and Lufthansa.
… with a splash of Continental as well! Thanks to XYZZY for zipping this photo out during the taxi of the Mega DO Express to FRA.
First flight of the Star Mega Do is now done and it was phenomenal. United was nice enough to up-gage the scheduled CRJ-700 to an Airbus A320 so there was plenty of room for our crowd, with a lot of empty middle seats to make everyone rather comfortable. Plus, free snack boxes for everyone on board so that we were all able to have some lunch in the middle of a ridiculously busy day.
Captain Bob Hart, who stopped by earlier in the day to hang out at the RCC with us and chat did a great job keeping the cabin informed on the couple small delays we had and also had some fun with contests and other bits of information shared over Channel 9. Among other things, we learned that the plane used 4900 of the planned 8300 pounds of fuel during the first half of the flight. I was nowhere close in my guess.
And then the seatbelt sign was off and I wandered the aisle of the plane, documenting in great detail some of the many FlyerTalk folks on the flight. Here are the pictures to prove it:
At one point in the flight I was called upon to perform some Flight Attendant-ish duties. Woohooo!
Randy Petersen, enjoying a bit of reading and some quality leg room in the exit row.
And then there was the collection of luggage and the march over to Terminal C to meet up with the Continental folks for the afternoon tours. Randy even pitched in on the luggage schlep. What a guy.
We’re now boarding the 747-400 (D-ABVR, Koln) for the flight from JFK to Frankfurt. More posts to come once we land!
Here’s the aircraft that we are flying, boarding right now. Word has it that the tower will clear this flight as it taxis and takes off as FlyerTalk1. Now, how cool is that?
Designed by Frankfurt architects Hollin & Radoske in a former Frankfurt Airport parking lot, the €30 million, two-story structure is an beautiful appointed space awash in hand-tufted woollen carpets and bespoke designer fixtures. It’s available only to first class passengers or Lufthansa’s elite frequent fliers. Russet shades from B & B Italia, meantime, dull the daylight filtering into the cigar lounge, where some 36 single-malt Irish whiskeys are on offer. Boarding is unlike that at any terminal: it’s done via a chauffeured Mercedes S-Class or Porsche Cayenne that will elegantly whisk guests plane-side.