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Monday, March 27, 2017

Boston again... Charming city

December 2016

So this was my second time in Boston. But this time it was a longer layover and a better opportunity to explore more of the city.

Arriving at the end of the afternoon, we went for dinner in Dig Inn Restaurant at Boylston St. Although this is not the typical restaurant (you will probably have to share your table with strangers), the food concept is really interesting and worth a try.

The next day we took breakfast in Tatte Bakery in Beacon Hill District (I still prefer the Thinking Cup mentioned on the previous Boston post...) and started our tour with Trinity Church paying $7 for the admission.

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Trinity Church

This impressive Church was built between 1872-77 and its windows feature a beautiful stained glass collection. The Church qualifies as a National Historic Landmark.



Definitely, this is a richly colored interior!



At the same time of our visit, a choir was practicing.


Our next stop was the Boston Public Library, just in front of Trinity Church.

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Boston Public Library

The entrance is free but don't forget to keep silence!


A nice view of the Hancock skyscraper (240 m high):


And Trinity Church from the outside:


Then we proceeded to the Prudential Center. It was Christmas time so it had proper decoration.


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Prudential Tower

The Skywalk Observatory gives you a unique opportunity to get a 360º view of Boston at a cost of $18 for adults - it's really worth it!

Take-off from Logan Airport

Hancock Tower and Trinity Church






Cambridge



Near Prudential Center you will also find an Apple Store for those who are fans of the brand.

At night we crossed the entire Boston Common and ended up having dinner in Fajitas & 'Ritas Restaurant which we really enjoyed.

Boston Common and its Christmas lights

On day three, I was alone and made my own tour, finding new places that I wanted to explore since my first layover in Boston and getting a more detailed view on repeated ones. My starting point was again at Boston Common with this view to the beautiful Massachusetts State House.


Then I took Winter and Summer Streets through the shopping district of Downtown Crossing.

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Downtown Crossing

Macy's

Plenty of that American feeling

I didn't buy anything actually... I was just enjoying the city. Keeping the same direction and after passing the impressive Federal Reserve Bank building I finally found a view to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

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Boston Tea Party Ships

I was happy to get this photo but next time I really want to pay a visit to this museum and absorb more knowledge about this event that was part of the American Revolution that lead to its independence. I just didn't have time for everthing I still wanted to do this last day.

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

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Long Wharf

I kept walking along Atlantic Avenue and I finally reached Long Wharf that I already knew from my previous time in Boston. But since I didn't have any pictures to share, this time I spent a few minutes taking some photos.



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Quincy Market

And of course it was mandatory to explore again the iconic Quincy Market and the entire Faneuil Hall Marketplace...

Huuuuge Christmas tree

Quincy Market

Faneuil Hall

The other end of Quincy Market

Near the Faneuil Hall we can find Abercrombie & Fitch store and since a good sale was going on, I spent a few minutes looking for something that I liked.

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Freedom Trail

Next thing I wanted to do, was to explore part of the famous Freedom Trail. I started at Faneuil Hall taking the Boston Common direction since I had to go back to the Hotel and get some rest before the flight back home.

Freedom Trail - Faneuil Hall

Curious detail: the trail is marked even on pedestrian crossings!

Crosswalk

Old South Meeting House

Old City Hall

Another perspective...

And soon I reached again my starting point of the tour - the new State House.

Massachusetts State House

If I have another chance to visit Boston, my intention is to take the other Freedom Trail direction towards Charlestown neighbourhood.

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Frog Pond

Then it was time to appreciate the sunset while crossing the Boston Common towards the hotel.


The frozen "Frog Pond" gives place to an ice skating rink during winter months!

Frog Pond


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Central Public Park

While the last sunrays illuminated the park, I took the opportunity for a few more photos of this beautiful site.

Boston Common trees


Good things don't last forever and soon it was time to leave. Definitely, I'm in love with this charming city and I still have so much to see and to explore. But going back home is also a good thing. I agree that there's no place like home. Our "spaceship" assigned for the return flight was the Airbus A330 named after John dos Passos, an American novelist and artist, son of a wealthy lawyer of Portuguese descent.

Airbus A330-200 CS-TOT

Friday, December 30, 2016

My first crossing of the Equator

August 1983

TAP Air Portugal used to have two types of diplomas for passengers doing their first flight or for those celebrating the first crossing of the Equator.

I have this one for my supposedly first flight:

First Flight diploma

But I always knew this was only my first crossing of the Equator and not the first flight. My first flight ever was between Lisboa and Porto (confirmed with my parents) still in the same year I was born! I still have the ticket although not much information about the exact date or even the flight number. The corresponding boarding pass apparently didn't survive as I can't find it in my archive.

Lisboa-Porto ticket

But because of my passion for the L-1011, I always felt more curious about the details of the first transatlantic flight. Although I was confident it was a L-1011, I couldn't rule out the possibility of the flight being operated by a Boeing 707. The L-1011s entered in service early that year. I made my first attempt to figure out what airplane operated that flight based on the 1st August 1983 date. But no evidence was found in the archives of TAP for that particular day.

Some years later I found the boarding pass of the return flight from Recife. The date of it was handwritten on its back by my mother: 01/09/1983. It was when I started putting in doubt the date of the diploma. Hardly my mother would write a wrong date in the boarding pass and I confirmed we never spent holidays one month long in Brazil.

Recife-Lisboa boarding pass

I insisted with my parents to give me more evidence or clues about the real date of my first Equator/Atlantic crossing and it was when our family passport from that time showed up. Analysing the passport stamps I finally found everything I needed for an accurate investigation. Not only the return date was confirmed but I finally had a more plausible date for our departure: 24/08!

Passport stamps

So I only had to pray that the correspoding Journey Logs were in the possession of TAP. I was lucky! And I was also happy to confirm my almost umbilical connection with the L-1011:

Date: 25/08/1983
Flight Number: TP397
Flight Time: 7:15
Tail Number: CS-TEA

Yeah! It was the very first TAP's L-1011, the beautiful TriStar 500 named "Luís de Camões" which I clearly remember of being on board of it some years later - those days, TAP flight attendants used to say the name of the airplane during the welcome announcement so that one was easy to retain even if I didn't care about tail numbers.

CS-TEA postcard

Because of the logged date being 25/08 and the departure stamp having 24/08, I was in doubt if there was a chance of another flight the day previous day which was not found in the logs. But the arrival stamp at Brazil which is almost faded, dissipates any doubt. It was really this flight which departed already after midnight.
It was the 100th entry of the second Journey Logbook of CS-TEA:

CS-TEA Journey Log Book #2

For the return flight the following data was returned:

Date: 01/09/1983
Flight Number: TP396
Flight Time: 7:10
Tail Number: CS-TEB

The tail number CS-TEB was the second L-1011 delivered to TAP and it was named "Infante D. Henrique". It was the last L-1011 flying in Portugal and also the last civil passenger aircraft of the type in Europe.
This flight was found in the 45th entry of the second logbook of CS-TEB:

CS-TEB Journey Log Book #2

Ironically I got this information very recently at the same time I was doing a LIS-REC-LIS rotation! This time it was like this:

Date: 20/12/2016
Flight Number: TP011
Flight Time: 7:40
Tail Number: CS-TOI
//
Date: 22/12/2016
Flight Number: TP010
Flight Time: 6:30
Tail Number: CS-TOG

I was happy to finally solve this mystery. Of course I don't have memory of any of these flights. But I have the memory of many other L-1011 flights with TAP that followed during the 80s and the 90s.

L-1011 wing photo

I know my first flight ever was in September 1982 (staff tickets were open tickets). Probably on a Boeing 727, another great trijet and also one of my favorite aircraft types. But I guess I will never be able to sort it out!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Another flight to Luanda just before Christmas

December 2016

It's amazing the way time flies together with you. I really don't care about it. While in my twenties one year felt like an eternity, today 10 years look like it was yesterday. Maybe it's an age thing or it is just the consequence that I'm having a great life. When things are good the sense of time contraction contradicts the Lorentz transformation which says for a fast moving object you experience length contraction (true, because in aviation we shorten distances for those who travel) and time dilation (not true at all!). And this also means that after so many years since I left university I still know how to be a nerd!... and yes, I know I fly too slow compared to the speed of light to experience any of those phenomena :) And because I'm getting younger in spirit, I really want to return to university in the medium term.

But it is amazing to realize that it was 9 years ago that I first flew on a A340 to Luanda, although in very different circumstances. And the funny fact that I finally had the opportunity to know one of the crew members of that flight that I clearly remember. And the airplane... the  same tail number, CS-TOA. Coincidences...

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Lisboa-Luanda

When flying on the good old A340, I feel like flying on the wings of my own history. In 1987 or 1988, I was a little boy when I first heard my dad telling me that TAP would buy a new four engined aircraft from Airbus. Since I always loved airplanes (I don't recall any period of my lifetime when that didn't happen) it was important news for me. Despite the L-1011 being my favorite (and it still remains!), as an airline brat I wanted my airline to have the biggest and most modern airplanes of the market. It was a pride thing, common to every airline brat.
TAP took delivery of its first pair of A340s in 1994 (they're going to complete 22 years of service within the next few days) and the first time I was near one was in 1996 inside our main hangar at Lisbon Airport. With my father's retirement that year it was difficult for me to get on board the brand new acquisition and it was only in 2007 that I managed to fly on a A340. I was only 5 years old when TAP announced their order for the new long haul flagship. I was far from imagining that they would become four of my flying offices. They're old now and many of my colleagues hate them (mostly because they don't have bunks). I love them... I love vintage aircraft! I really can't repel my aviation enthusiast side.

Our flight to Luanda, despite some turbulence over the African continent, had nothing special to tell about. It was a night flight arriving at Luanda early in the morning. Some photos I took already at "4 de Fevereiro" International Aiport:



B777-200ER D2-TED

Tarmac view

I spent the whole day sleeping because I didn't have opportunity for a decent rest in the previous afternoon just before the flight.

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Dinner at Luanda

I took the opportunity of this layover to have dinner with a good old friend now living in Luanda. The restaurant Zen It Esplanada Lounge in Talatona was the chosen venue for our dinner. Very good food although expensive... like almost everything in Luanda!

One very strange thing for us born and leaving in the Northen Hemisphere is to see Christmas decorations set in a warm summer environment. It just doesn't make sense! But of course everybody deserves the opportunity to celebrate the Holy Season and the hotel where I stayed was no exception.



After dinner I had the very difficult task to fall asleep again considering I woke up around 5 pm, local time... Fortunately our pick up time was a decent one, at 7:55 am.

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Luanda-Lisboa

Soon it was time to return home. There's no better feeling, believe me! Again, CS-TOA was the airplane for our flight. Just before boarding I witnessed the engine start-up and taxi-out of a beautiful and also veteran MD-11F flying for Western Global Airlines.

Western Global MD-11

MD11 vs A340

TAP Portugal A340

N513SN

This MD-11 was previously owned by Nordic Global Airlines, the cargo branch of Finnair that ceased operations in 2015.

About our flight, not a single seat was left when boarding was complete. It would be a demanding flight but we are there for that! No significant turbulence this time but we had to help a little kid that was feeling sick and fevering. His mother was worried about the inherited sickle-cell disease and the fact that we were inside an airplane pressurized to a level well bellow the atmospheric pressure at sea level. Fortunately everything went fine until the end of the flight and he got proper assistence from a paramedical team upon arrival.

Cabin photo after everybody got out!

Time for a deserved rest at home.