Editor's Note: Fellow airline geek Dan Webb asked me to be a guest blogger on his Things in the Sky aviation blog. Here's my entry in its entirety. When the article was published last week, the Air France flight 447 accident had not yet occurred. Some readers might find this relevant as I made a similar trip in 2000, LGW-GIG, in which we experienced pretty extensive turbulence.
With Dan heading to foreign shores for his long-overdue holiday, I’m pleased that he asked me to pen some musings about my own experiences as an airline geek and how this passion is still very present in my life – just as it was over 30 years ago when I was a make-believe-airline-creating child in a small Texas town, desperate to hop onto a jet and fly anywhere that was far away from the Lone Star State.
This month marks a significant milestone in my airline travels, in that I’m making my first roundtrip, South Atlantic crossing between South America and Africa. Over the years, I’ve crossed numerous times between North America and Europe, and unless I consult my flight log database, I’m unsure how many times I’ve actually crossed the North Atlantic.
Back in 2000, I was lucky enough to cross from Europe to South America on a BA 747-400 with a LGW-GIG-GRU routing. And in 2007, an SAA JNB-IAD trip on another A-340-600 filled in the “Northwest to Southeast” gap for me.
I’ve also made numerous Europe to Arica trips, so until this month, the only Atlantic crossing that eluded me was the coveted Southern routing.
This month, I did it! As I type this blog entry, I am on board SA222, an A-340-600 (ZS-SND), en-route from Johannesburg (JNB) to Sao Paolo (GRU), where I will connect on to JJ8004, TAM’s A-320 service to Buenos Aires (EZE). Our flying time on the Atlantic today is 9:58, and, sadly, I’m seated in the main cabin. The flight, however, is only about 2/3 full, so I have a window seat with an empty seat next to me. Two weeks ago, I arrived in Africa (JNB) from Buenos Aires, also on SAA in economy, but on a virtually-empty A-340-200, which afforded me 4 seats together for a poor-man’s-lie-flat experience.
I must admit that these flights don’t feel much different from similarly-timed US-Europe flights, but if I look around the cabin, I don’t see any Americans or Europeans. On this particular flight, it appears that most passengers are either African or Brazilian. And on the EZE-JNB flight, the passenger manifest consisted mostly of Argentine or Chilean football groups.
Now that this particular dream of mine is fulfilled, my friends and associates are asking, “What’s next, Jeff?” I’m pretty sure that next great crossing will be from Africa to Australia across the Indian Ocean (something like JNB-SYD), or it might even be a full Southern-Hemisphere circumnavigation, which will nicely complement my prior Northern routings.
But, for now, I’ll just bask in glory or my self-imposed, Savvy Navigator of the Southern Cross(ing) title!