G-BOAG now arrived in Seattle
Beautiful, sunny day (but cold!) in Seattle for Alpha Golf's arrival, a rarity for a November on the Pacific Northwe(s)t!
I arrived at the Museum of Flight with my GF around an hour and a half before the scheduled arrival time, thinking I had plenty of time to set up....
Then I hit the traffic jam in front of the museum; I've never seen that many cars in front before. Great, now I have to look for parking! Finally found a "newly created" spot in the 3rd parking lot I checked.
We walked over to the museum, where there was a large holding area for non-VIP fans. Picked up a few souvenirs specific to the arrival, but they also sold a few of the BA calendars & notecards (without the shipping costs that I paid).
By now, it was 2:15, and there was a half hour left before the scheduled arrival. I was checking out my camera, and teaching my GF how to use the video camera function of my PDA.
I heard the occasional ATC message (which was being broadcast on the PA system); oh, it must be getting fairly close. Little did I know how close!
Approximately 2:25, my GF points to the north: "I think it's over there!" "Where?" I asked with a puzzled look. "There!" pointing again. I finally saw the delta shape emerging from the north over the buildings of Downtown Seattle. It grew larger and larger, and I could finally see the distinct shape of the aircraft. As promised, it did a flyover past the museum, then banked towards the sun in the west, and behind a few buildings and mountains.
A few minutes later, it emerged again from the south (which again I did not see until my GF pointed it out).
The graceful bird smoothly landed on the runway amid applause and cheers from the audience. Touchdown was about 15 minutes early at 2:30.
When AG turned around at the other end of the runway, I barely saw the arc from a water cannon as she passed underneath. She finally taxied to where the crowd was standing, and Capt. Bannister & Brodie waved American & British flags from the cockpit.
Waves and cheers ensued.
She passed the crowd and waited on the taxiway for at least 10 minutes. I didn't realize why (until I read bhl47's report). During that time, I looked out across the runway and saw a LONG line of cars lining the fence on the other side, watching the festivities over here. Then, just above them was the freeway: FILLED with cars. The lady caused a massive traffic jam as drivers were craning their neck, trying to catch a glimpse.
Finally, AG started taxiing again, doing a U-turn, and entered the tarmac right in front of the crowd. She was too much forward, and told to reverse. Oops, too far, so move forward. Oops, too far, move back. This happened a couple more times. I didn't mind since I was standing about 10 yards beside those beautiful engines and their noise!!!
Feeling (and hearing) that power is beyond words!
After some more adjustments, Capt. Bannister & Brodie finally emerged from the cabin, as the Governor of Washington and CEO of the museum ran up the stairs. It turns out the early arrival caught the Governor off-guard; he was still on the road south of the museum to watch AG arrive.
Capt. Bannister finally spoke. As mentioned elsewhere, the Canadian government (Go Canada!) granted the lady a supersonic corridor over the largely uninhabited northern parts of the country to achieve a record for flying time from New York to Seattle of 3:55:12! In addition, with the achievement of supersonic flight on this last leg, the flight engineer (sorry, forgot his name!) had one last trick.
As described elsewhere on this board, with the heating of the aircraft, a gap emerges in the cockpit between two panels. Repeating a "mistake" of a prior flight crew member, he left his cap in the gap; with the landing and cooling of the plane, the gap disappeared, and the cap will now remain on board forever, never to be recovered.
A fitting sign-off to the aircraft.
A few more speeches, and my GF and I were frozen. I have now thawed enough to type this up.
I have a few pictures and low-res video. I will try and post when I have a chance, but am working through the weekend, and still need to figure out how to do this, especially from my PDA.
I wish I could continue to see her fly. Having AG here may be a consolation to me, but not for all the others on this board.
It was very cold for those willingly standing and waiting.
I spoke at length to Les Brodie, and he said that the aircraft could have gone on longer, and that they were making a good profit charging business class fares.
But it was the Air France and Airbus situation that did it in.
I heard also that there was a ban on any retired British Airways people flying on these flights.
That may not have excluded an exalted few.
On the ground at Seattle BFI--the comedy
After a beautiful overflight, base leg with Mt. Rainier in the background, and a great landing, the flags came out and all was well... but not for long. This is what it looked like from the front lines...
The Scottish pipers started to play in anticipation of the arrival. But it seems that the aircraft had arrived so early that the Washington state governor was not there to greet the aircraft. So the aircraft, flags waving, moved on a bit from directly in front of the museum, and we waited. The bagpipes played. And played. And played.
At the originally scheduled hour, Alpha Golf trundled down the runway, exited again, and taxied up to the ceremony area, where the aircraft was supposed to be towed in. The pipers resumed playing. Ground staff hooked up the tug, towed it a few feet, but wait! The gate! Gestures from the people by the aircraft... Who was supposed to open the gate for the aircraft? A ground staff came running across the field, punched a button, and the gate opened to allow the aircraft into the ramp area.
Towing resumed, briefly--but then the towbar broke.
Massive officialdom descended upon the scene. They hauled off the tug, and the errant towbar was attacked by what appeared to be a dozen groundworkers supervised by at least that many suits. Loud hammering on metal sounds reverberated even over the engine noise. Captain Brodie's American flag still flew out his cockpit window, but his bemusement with the situation was captured by many a camera.
More officialdom descended, as the towbar repair and reconstruction was not going well. More people cluster around the towbar. Suits walk back and forth across the tarmac. Lots of walkie-talkie communications. I rather suspect that if they had let the technicians get on with the repair rather than attempt to micromanage it--which is really what it looked like--the repair would have been completed much sooner.
Finally, a repair. Tug to aircraft, but the tug's position meant pushing the aircraft back 30 feet before realignment. Finally, and gingerly--this was not a wide entryway--the aircraft is brought through the gate, engines still running, and positioned to face the museum.
Well, after they first pulled the aircraft up, it only took another -three- tries of pushing the aircraft back and pulling it forward before it was positioned correctly. The engines continue to generate plenty of noise for all of us (spectators were approximately twenty feet from the running engines, which was great for those of us who love the sound of Concorde!).
By this time, abilities of the suited / uniformed BA ground staff to keep a stiff upper lip are being tried to the limit.
At some point, power was hooked up to the aircraft and the engines were silenced for the last time.
Finally someone deems the aircraft positioned appropriately. They begin to wheel the stairway towards the aircraft, and... one of its wheels falls off. (Yes, I have photos of all of this.) Some quick-thinking ground staffer drives up in a forklift, heaves the stairway into the air, and manoeuvers it against the aircraft. There was only one heart-stopping moment when it looked as if the stairway was going to topple onto its side... A few more tries to get it into what they thought was the desired location.
Stairway positioned, the forward aircraft door opens very briefly, then closes. Nope, the stairway is not positioned correctly. More gestures and stairway positioning follow.
FINALLY, the door opens, VIPS run up the stairs, and Captains Bannister and Brodie step out into the cool Seattle afternoon, and the speeches start.
It was just unbelievable... but the people of Seattle are utterly ecstatic to have the aircraft as part of their community. And judging from the brightly polished metal of their US Air Force One presidential 707, they'll keep Alpha Golf in good shape. The museum is really quite good.
On a personal note, I've got to add that I wish Captain Brodie had spoken. His face conveyed all--the pride, the experience, the professionalism, the dignity, the sadness, all the emotions of the day. His speech would have been meaningful and heartfelt.
I took one last photograph of him and the aircraft, said my farewells to Alpha Golf, and headed off into the night.