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TALES FROM THE UPPER DECK LOUNGE

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TALES FROM THE UPPER DECK LOUNGE

Old 12th Oct 2013, 11:55
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TALES FROM THE UPPER DECK LOUNGE

Recent threads about BA Long hauls took me back down memory lane, I don’t often post on PPRuNe but here goes, I hope it’s of some amusement.

This story goes back to 20th October 1975, when I was working in BA central marketing at West London Air Terminal, Cromwell Road, now Sainsbury’s. I had always been interested in Flying Boats and had read of Antilles Air Boats in the Caribbean, and their network of scheduled services in the Virgin Islands. This story is about a trip to see the operation and hopefully get a flight!

At the time I worked in the timetables department so it was easy to get hold of the schedules and plan the itinerary. The plan was to take the first BA New York flight of the day from LHR, and then make my way down to San Juan and out to the islands on Eastern Airlines using a free pass I had applied for.
The outbound journey involved a connection in JFK on to the Eastern San Juan flight, so all depended on me getting a space available/subload seat on BA501 LHRJFK at 1100.

Now at the time, an ex girlfriend of mine was working in check in Terminal 3, so it was handy to have a quiet word with her to find out the chances before I braved Staff Check in in the Ground Floor T3 South Wing. According to her, the flight was well over booked, and she reckoned the only way I would stand an earthly would be if I could get a jumpseat approved.
With the confidence and brazen cheek of youth, aided by a desire to not look like a wimp to my ex, I made my way to the Ops/Crew Control office upstairs. “Sorry to bother you but could I please speak to the Captain on the 501”, I squeaked, half imagining that some James Robertson Justice type would arrive and blast me across the room. Captain Heywood duly appeared and seemed most approachable. I explained what I was doing and that I was desperate to get on his flight that morning and would it be at all possible to have a jump seat? No problem says he, “just give me your full name and when you check in downstairs tell them I have approved the jumpseat for you”.

Armed with this great news, I walked on air down to Staff Travel. “You’ll be lucky”, they said. “We have over 60 staff on the standby list already, and many have higher seniority than you”
At close out, an announcement was made to the effect that the flight was now full, and only one staff was accepted, yours truly.

I made my way to the gate, clutching my precious boarding card, with parallel lines across it and the mysterious “J/S “written in felt tip.
At the 747 aircraft door of G-AWND, I was greeted by the CSD, and waited to be shown the cabin crew fold down seat way in the back of the aircraft that I expected. Instead I was duly escorted up the spiral staircase to the flight deck, this is where my seat was to be, just behind the captain on the left side.
Captain Heywood introduced me to the other two crew members and made me feel so at home, I couldn’t quite believe this was happening to me. “Now I can understand that you will want to see the take-off and the landing, and that’s fine, but to be honest the 6 or so hours in between can be pretty boring, so by all means go back into the lounge whenever you want, have a meal, just relax and feel free to come and go as you wish”
And so it was that after the take-off I moved back into the lounge and did relax, sat back in one of the armchairs and felt like a million dollars. I popped in and out of the flight deck a few times just checking on the progress of the flight, and about 3 hrs. into the flight, one of the passengers started a conversation. He had noticed me going in and out of the flight deck and wanted to know how come I was allowed to do this. Now as airline staff, we were always told on pain of death never to admit to fellow passengers that we were staff travelling on free or reduced rate tickets, this was a very sensitive issue in view of the then very high air fares etc. So what to do, what to say?
Quick thinking, I said that I was a journalist, and writing a story about flying in Jumbo jets, and had a special dispensation to visit the flight deck.

What a coincidence, said my companion, I’m a writer as well, how nice to talk to you, who do you write for?

After a few more minutes of me digging myself deeper and deeper, I pleaded tiredness and said I was going to have a nap to escape. I closed my eyes for what seemed like hours, then opened them. “You didn’t sleep long?”

By this time, thankfully, we were close to descent so I excused myself and went back to the Flightdeck for the landing.
As we descended, I knew enough about the dials in front of me to see the altimeter winding down. Outside, nothing to be seen but thick claggy cloud. All seemed calm and ordered with the crew, so I tried to stay relaxed. The altimeter was nudging 1000 feet now and still nothing visible. Then suddenly a line of strobe lights appeared in the murk, leading away from us, and then, as if by magic, the JFK runway appeared right ahead. My first ever cockpit landing, what a thrill.
The full trip turned out to be a great success, and I got my first ever flying boat rides.
As I said, I hope this is of interest and you enjoy my tale.
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Old 12th Oct 2013, 13:17
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Excellent...even as an ordinary passenger you could still ask to visit the cockpit as late as 1986...maybe later.
G-AWND eventually got blown up in Kuwait at the start of the 'first' Gulf War I believe....here as delivered to BOAC


Photos: Boeing 747-136 Aircraft Pictures | Airliners.net

Last edited by A30yoyo; 12th Oct 2013 at 13:18.
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Old 12th Oct 2013, 13:22
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I enjoyed that, what a lovely story. Shows what a bit of confidence can do, fortune favours the bold, as the saying goes.

No doubt someone will say you were 'lucky'. I disagree - that's not luck, it's the result of a confident approach.
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Old 12th Oct 2013, 15:20
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Flight deck visits were only banned after the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks of 9/11 AFAIK. I got a jump seat ride on Concorde G-BOAD, take off to landing, in August 1999.
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Old 12th Oct 2013, 15:44
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What a coincidence, said my companion, I’m a writer as well, how nice to talk to you, who do you write for?
That would my luck.

Great story.
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Old 13th Oct 2013, 10:06
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The Upper Deck crew member was known as 'Fiddler on the roof'. It was a good little number working behind the bar and dishing out the backgammon sets.I also had the same experience but as positioning crew the only seat available was the Jump seat and the use of the upper deck lounge. No problem for me!
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Old 14th Oct 2013, 16:41
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Not quite an 'Upper Deck Lounge' story, but a 'trip in the cockpit' story ...

Late 70s, family holiday to Malta. I think that this was the 4th time we'd been there as a family; oddly enough I remember all the previous trips out and back (two trips out/back on a Vanguard, one trip out/back on a Trident via Rome), but for this holiday I cant remember what type we flew on to get to Malta. Given the events that unfolded on the return trip, it was probably a TriStar ...

Dad worked for BEA (and subsequently BA), so we were travelling on staff tickets.

Two weeks longing around in the summer sun. Turn up at Luqa for the return flight to London, only to find that we're going to be offloaded due to over-booking. I don't think that any of us were really too bothered. We were given some meal tickets and they said that they'd call us over the PA if they needed us. Upstairs, we sat down to eat, and had just ordered our meals, when our name was called over the PA. They had managed to find us 3 seats, so Ma and Pa stayed in Malta and myself and my two brothers came back to the UK.
The three seats were the two jump-seats in the cockpit, and one of the fold-down crew-seats near the galley. I'm not sue how we divvied-up the boarding-cards, but I ended up with one of the cockpit jump-seats.

The cockpit of the TriStar seemed to be huge when compared to the likes of Tridents and 727s which I used to frequent going to Paris in the 70s. It seems hard to believe, but there were 5 of us in there, nowadays the cockpit seems crowded with just two!
It was a day flight, so we had a good view of the sea and land all the way back. I distinctly remember the pilot pointing out Rome to us off to our right as we flew up the Med. We passed to the east of Paris, which was under a blanket of cloud, but it had cleared-up by the time we got back to Heathrow.

Last edited by Geezers of Nazareth; 14th Oct 2013 at 16:41.
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Old 14th Oct 2013, 22:17
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Awesome stories! I myself haven't had the pleasure of being in the cockpit of an airliner to witness T/O or landing... Great story though, thanks for sharing. It would be unreal if the first time I experience it would be as a FO!

Last edited by Arsenic; 14th Oct 2013 at 22:17.
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Old 15th Oct 2013, 13:09
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Mid-90's. My then girlfriend, a surgeon, gets a secondment to 'reset babies heads' in a Melbourne hospital for six weeks and could I collect her from the airport on her way home. She emerges, after her flight home, with a wry smile and comments that I might not want to give her a lift home when I find out about her flight. Turns out that during pushback on the last leg (LHR > MAN, QANTAS 744) the purser comes over, asks if she is Dr ~ and on receiving the affirmative is told that the Captain wishes to see her. GF presumes it is an onboard medical emergency, when in fact it turns out to be a jump seat invite. Some people get all the luck ...
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Old 15th Oct 2013, 14:44
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Having had trouble getting my ticket for a flight to Kai Tak, due to certain ground LHR staff not recognising an RAF ID (they had only ever seen an Army one before) I finally was allowed to board.

I recognised the name of the captain and asked one of the cabin crew if he was the same person who was a JP QFI at Linton when I did my basic jet course there.

She went to ask him - he was. I received an immediate invite to join him on the flight deck and sat in the jump seat for almost the entire flight, including landing via the "checkerboard" approach into Kai Tak.

It's not what you know.....

But that one flight made me give up my desire to fly airliners because I knew I would be bored silly after a very short while on long haul - not enough to do for my liking.

Rotary wing stuff is much more interesting.
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Old 15th Oct 2013, 19:00
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Flying back from Beijing to LHR by BA Looking out of the window I thought that the attitude of the aircraft looked very nose up so early in the cruise. I mentioned this to a CA and suggested it was because the cockpit crew had spent all their allowances in Beijing. She passed this comment to the flight deck and I was asked to come up front.
I knew the captain but not that well. He remembered me and also remembered that I had been transferred to helicopters. I discovered that apparently all 747s flew like that one. I was then grilled about the chances of earning extra dosh in China after their retirement. I couldn't give them definitive answers as flying offshore in China I was not directly connected to the Chinese airline system.

As with ShyToirque I got bored after an hour or so and went back to the seatback videos.
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Old 15th Oct 2013, 20:49
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Who was the flight engineer who used to go into the lounge bar and help himself to scotch whilst the loung steward was serving the main meal downstairs? Come on you know who you are!! You got your comeuppance in DEL or was it BOM at a room party. You didn't touch the scotch after that did you!! What happened to your 'hip flask' btw?
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Old 16th Oct 2013, 04:31
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I read in the eighties of a BA proposal to group children with only one accompanying parent on the upper deck (and presumably then other children 'till full). Was this just an idea floated or did trials take place?
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Old 16th Oct 2013, 06:18
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Hey crewmeal,

Take it easy. In my outfit the upstairs steward used to collect our hippys and ensure that the appropriate spirits were loaded therein.

I understand that he had pax to look after in his spare time.
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Old 16th Oct 2013, 09:16
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Good thread.


My ‘Upper Deck Lounge’ experience was flying from Taipei on a CX L-1011 on my first visit to Hong Kong in 1994.

During the boarding I showed the Flight Attendant my lowly PPL and asked politely if there was a chance of sitting in the jump seat for the day landing at Kai Tak. A lovely surprise then to be invited up prior to the start of the descent. A great experience for me certainly. The Captain pointed out a certain Marina and explained how to use a housing allowance to fund the acquisition of a liveaboard boat and also the pleasures of Joe Banana’s in Wanchai I also recall his comment that as the Tristar was about to be decommissioned that he and some colleagues were to attend an Airbus ‘crash course’.

2 years later I relocated to HK from Sydney and stayed there 15yrs having had a fantastic time and mostly living on ‘funded’ boats.

I am very grateful to that Captain for his advice whoever he was and of painting a picture of what a fantastic place Hong Kong was and still is.

Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Last edited by kluge; 16th Oct 2013 at 09:17.
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Old 16th Oct 2013, 09:18
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I've sat on many a jump seat for take off or landing but never the whole flight.
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Old 16th Oct 2013, 12:27
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Flight Deck Visitors

I spent some time as "Flying Spanner" with RNAC. One trip was a charter flight to Nagoya to bring Japanese pilgrims to Kathmandu. (the birthplace of the Buddha) Out bound from Nagoya to Hong Kong the Captain went down the back for a wander and returned with a very pretty young woman, complete with the regulation camera. She had a nice visit to the flight deck, took lots of photos and I opened the door for her to leave.
"Captain, you'd better take a look out here"
There was a queue of camera wielding Japanese pilgrims stretching right down the centre aisle, waiting their turn. We barely cleared them all through by the time we reached TOD for Kai Tak
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