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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

First time flying on a B747

September 1992

It was almost 21 years ago, the first time (and also the last one) that I flew on a B747. In 1992, I was spending summer holidays with family in Maceió (Brasil), like we used to do every year.

Using airline discount tickets can be a little nightmare when you are stuck somewhere in the world for almost one week waiting for any flight with available seats to cross the Atlantic. That's what happened that year. We were supposed to return to Portugal via Recife, but after a few tries we were told that it would be better to go to Rio de Janeiro and keep trying our luck from there. The usual A310 in the Recife route seemed to be very small for the usual summer demand. The L-1011 (which flew to Rio de Janeiro) had a larger capacity and there were more weekly flights.

We took a domestic flight to Rio but found that all flights were also fully booked. We tried other airliners with ZED agreement and finally after some stressful days we could board an Air France flight to Paris - Charles de Gaulle Airport. For the first time I was about to fly on a B747 but this was not a "normal" one. We were given economy seats in the main deck and it was with some surprise that I saw large and unusual bulkhead just before the real end of the aircraft! In fact, it was a B747-200 Combi model: half passenger and half cargo aircraft. Things seemed to be solved when we boarded the beautiful B747-200 but they were not... The bad news was that the flight would have two stops (São Paulo and Recife) before heading to Paris and it was not guaranteed that we would have available seats for the transatlantic leg and we might have to disembark at Recife... Just imagine the frustration of returning to our initial point!

Fortunately we could proceed to Paris but our seats had to be changed... We were moved... to... wow... to the upperdeck! First time I was flying the mighty and popular B747 and I was given the chance to do it in the place where everybody wants to be in that aircraft. Was it First or Business Class? Of course not... In Air France's layout, the upperdeck was another Economy Class cabin with a six-abreast 3-3 seating (just like a narrow-body aircraft). Anyway, it was nice to spend the next 8 or 9 hours in such a "magical" place.

Here's the (amateur) footage of the landing at Recife:

As our final destination was Lisboa, in Paris we had to change to Orly Airport and take a TAP flight from there. What I remember is flying a brand new (and almost empty) Airbus A320 to Lisboa.

It was a nice approach to runway 35 and after landing we can see the old Aeroflot's TU-154 and Swissair's A310 parked at the airport. Also, during the approach, it is visible the Instituto Superior Técnico (my university) still without its twin towers - construction works began in 1994.

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