Entering the ANA 777-300ER Inspiration of Japan first class cabin – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter
Airline: All Nippon Airways (NH)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Departed: Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
Arrived: Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Class: First Class
Seats: 1D & 1G
Length: About 14 hours
It seemed to happen every day for two weeks – I’d glance out my office window in Denver at about noon, just in time to see the contrail of a high-altitude widebody fly by. Being the diligent AvGeek I am, I would check out my flight tracker phone app to find out what I just saw. The answer was the same every time: ANA Flight 173 – from Houston to Tokyo. It felt like I was being teased — I had first class tickets booked on that very flight for our upcoming trip. Seeing that plane in the sky, day after day, was just rubbing it in — today’s not the day. But that day would soon come.
Flying this route was actually somewhat of a last-minute change to our itinerary, in which Bangkok was our final destination. We had initially been booked trans-Pacific on United’s Global First service from Chicago to Beijing; however, a very short layover in Beijing combined with United’s poor on-time performance on the 747-400 was making me nervous. I had been keeping an eye on alternate routing when I found first class award availability on ANA and Thai Airways via Houston and Tokyo about three weeks prior to the trip. Yes, please! The Houston-to-Tokyo route is new addition to ANA’s North American offerings, having just kicked off service in June.
Airbus Beluga 1 sits in the morning sun
Living in Seattle, I get to see the Boeing Dreamlifter quite often. It is an odd-looking plane with an attitude that I just love. I had never been able to see its counterpart, the Airbus Beluga, and when I heard it was going to be attending Hamburg Airport Days, I was excited to get my first look.
When entering the event, I looked around and couldn’t find it, but I was assured that the plane was there — somewhere. I figured that it is not exactly the type of aircraft that can easily hide.
Sure enough, as I turned a corner… there it was. One big, bold, and beautiful plane. Not like supermodel beautiful, but a sort of beauty that… well, only an AvGeek could love.
The view from the main cargo deck, into the crown at Hamburg
As I walked around and took photos, I was asked by my Lufthansa hosts if I had any questions. “Yes, can I tour the inside?” Being the gracious folks that they were, they said that they would see what they could do. Knowing that it might be challenging to find an Airbus representative and arrange a media tour at the last minute, I kept my expectations in check. Of course I was hoping for the best.
Shortly after, I was told that we could tour the plane, but it had to be quick (like five minutes-quick). I was asked if I was still interested, all I could do was grow a big grin and say, “heck yes, let’s do it!”
One of at least three Sukhoi T-50s climbing as part of a flight demonstration – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Every two years, the Russian government hosts the MAKS Aviasalon to showcase to the world the best and brightest of the country’s aerospace industry. I was able to attend the trade days, which are reserved for industry officials and foreign delegations to observe, try out, and negotiate sales of various aircraft, systems, and armaments in a unique environment. After three days, the business events of MAKS 2015 had concluded, and the results were pretty lackluster in terms of orders.
The show did not disappoint, however. With a large range of aircraft on static display, including examples of the Russian armed forces’ latest and greatest in their inventory, as well as multiple examples from Rostvertol, two Sukhoi Superjets, a Tupolev Tu-204C, and more, the show was sure to impress any AvGeek.
The Mikoyan MiG 1.44 technology demonstrator was displayed for the first time – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
One of the highlights of the show was the public debut of three types that have never been displayed previously. These were the new navalised version of the Kamov Ka-52, the Ka-52K, and two older aircraft: The hydrogen-fueled Tupolev Tu-155, and the Mikoyan MiG 1.44.
Both of the older aircraft were a bit special. The Tu-155 was a highly-modified version of the Tu-154, with one of its engines replaced with a hydrogen-fueled experimental engine. The Mikoyan MiG 1.44 was an attempt at a fifth-generation fighter by MiG, and it only flew three or four times prior to being grounded due to funding and government disinterest in the late 1990’s.
One of the pilots cleans the windshield of this three-engined beauty
When I got the invite to head to Hamburg for a few days to check out Lufthansa Technik, I was interested. When I saw that part of the trip involved flying on a Junkers Ju-52 that was built in 1936… I was sold.
The Lufthansa Ju-52 sits at Hamburg Airport
Over the years, I have been able to fly on many airliners, but most were built in my lifetime. I haven’t had the privilege on flying on any real classic aircraft like this, and given that it is a three-engined, well-maintained beast, I just couldn’t help but be giddy.