Last weekend I couldn’t stay at home, but rather had to go to Frankfurt to do some flying. I spent Saturday in the simulator and Sunday in Manchester…
I got up at 3.30 am on Saturday morning to take the first flight to FRA, as the company was letting me practice my flying skills in the simulator. Twice a year we are doing some extensive manual flying in the simulator to stay fit. There are two more simulator events every year, but these are check rides and not used for actual training. During our so called “Refresher”, we shoot some Raw Data Approaches (without autopilot or flight director) and do VFR traffic patterns with strong crosswinds – great fun on a heavy aircraft! Despite that we are also pracitising different flight maneoveurs. There are new topics every six months so that we get to fly many different scenarios and procedures over the years. This time it was “Stalls”, a reminder of the tragic loss of Air France 447 over the South Atlantic…
After staying in Frankfurt over-night, I checked in at the Lufthansa Cargo base at 10 am on Sunday morning again for my next flight duty. Well, it was only a dead-head flight to Manchester, were I would be sitting in the passenger compartmentto enjoy the view outside. The flight from Frankfurt to Manchester is a Lufthansa flight, but is being operated by bmi, an agreement that is ending in October 2012 after bmi was bought by the British Airways group (actually called IAG – International Airlines group that also incorporates Iberia of Spain). We were taken by taxi from the cargo base to the terminal, were we quickly checked-in our luggage and went through security. As we got to gate B32, boarding had just started and we were taken to the aircraft by bus. Today’s flight would be operated by an A320 in Star Alliance colours (reg. G-MIDX), quite ironic if you take into account that their new owner is in the oneworld alliance. I quickly chatted to the pilots, two real English gentleman and great chaps to talk to! After many months of insecurity about their jobs, they are feeling quite safe with British Airways. They will be given different contracts compared to the regular BA staff, but that is much better than loosing a job!
The cabin crew was very welcoming and friendly – a great example of British hospitality. There must be at least one flight attendent that speaks German on the flights to Germany, so the local guest would not feel too akward that they ended up in a bmi aircraft, instead of flying Lufthansa. The interior was held in a light grey, with very comfortable brown leather seats that looked very similar to the old Lufthansa seats that are now being phased out. Actually the whole cabin looked like a Lufthansa aircraft with colours slightly changed.
Even though the aircraft was parked on the eastern apron in front of Terminal 2, we had to taxi all the way back to the western end of the airport to depart off runway 07C. That however offered a splendid view on the terminals and aircraft during departure! Once airborne we were heading north first and then further north-west, but there wasn’t much to see as clouds covered most of Western Europe. Once reaching the higher flight levels, the stewardesses asked the Business Class passengers what they would like to drink and eat and noted it down on paper. Only few minutes later did they reappear with the meals and drinks ready, delivering it to each passenger individually. As a passenger I really like this procedure as it is way more pleasant than getting your food straight from a trolley, it simply is a different impression and feeling. On recommendation of the cabin crew I selected tortellini for lunch that were served in a tomato sauce (with pieces of tomato) with a hint of garlic. A little feta salad and desert accompinied the pasta, together with a big slice of warm puppy sead bread straight out of the oven. The dishware was elegant and the couplery designed by Robert welch. It was a true feast for the short 1,5 hour flight, at least compared to other airlines in Europe.
During our smooth ride the captain once again made a short announcement and in due time we started our descend to Manchester to land on runway 05L. The weather was rainy. I had initially planned to visit the Airport Viewing Center to take some photos, but then decided to stay in our hotel instead.
After a few good movies I paid the local Indian restaurant a visit. Our hotel pick-up was planned for 0.30 am, but then changed to 2 am and then again 3 am. The hotel staff woke me up at 2am just to tell me I could sleep another hour… Once at the airport we were again delayed. The rains had not stopped and this heavily delayed our departure! There must not be any water in the aircraft, as it can run into our electronics compartment and do some serious damage. Extreme care has to be taken with every pallet that is brought into the airport. But somewhen we made it and after 1h15 we already landed back home in Frankfurt.