Aeroflot 101 (JFK-SVO) – Business Class

Aside

I have flown Aeroflot 101 from JFK to Moscow twice, with polar opposite experiences.

The first time was in coach. It was a miserable experience, mostly because my seatmate was very large and took up all of her seat plus half of mine. I was looking at an entire vacant row of seats in front of me, but I could not move to that row because they were “premium” (bulk head) and I had not paid for premium. I would have gladly paid for an upgrade to be able to move, but it was not possible once the plane was boarded. If they’ll take payment onboard for Duty Free shopping, you’d think it would be possible to pay for an upgrade during flight. In any event, it was a VERY long and uncomfortable flight. I learned a good lesson about paying for an upgrade to a bulk head when given the option in the future.

This time, however, I flew in Business Class. This experience was COMPLETELY opposite of my previous jaunt with this airline. In fact, it was the best business class experience I’ve had on any flight, other than my first BC flight (the first time is always the best).

Boeing 777-300ER

Boeing 777-300ER

I boarded the 777-300ER with ease and quickly found my seat, ushered by a gentleman flight attendant, who insisted on lifting my bag into the overhead bin for me. Within just a few minutes I was offered a sparkling welcome coctail (or I could choose juice or water).

There was an amenity kit in the seat with the basic amenities. I forgot to take a photo (sorry!) and I can’t remember exactly what was in the kit, but I believe it was the same basic stuff in most BC amenity kits. I also can’t remember if they offered slippers, but I think they did. I apologize for this missing bit of information… I always enjoy getting a peek at the kits on blogs. ūüôā

Comfortable seat with ample legroom

Comfortable seat with ample legroom

Shortly before takeoff the staff delivered menus to review for dinner choices. I chose the fish option, which wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. The thing that impressed me the most regarding the service on the flight, was that the attendants didn’t wait for everyone to finish something to serve the next course. As soon as I’d finished one course my plate was whisked away and the next course was promptly delivered. This was wonderful because it allowed passengers who eat quickly to move on to the next portion of the flight: sleep!

 

The menu for Business Class SU101

The menu for Business Class SU101

Appetizer: Roast Beef Chateau fresh frisse and arugula lettuce, tomato plum eggplant puree, served with reduction balsamic vinegar

Appetizer: Roast Beef Chateau fresh frisse and arugula lettuce, tomato plum eggplant puree, served with reduction balsamic vinegar

Main course: Grilled Red Snapper with mashed pumpkin and mixed vegetables, served with Cafe de Paris sauce

Main course: Grilled Red Snapper with mashed pumpkin and mixed vegetables, served with Cafe de Paris sauce

Dessert: Chocolate and Hazelnut pudding, served with whipped cream and fresh strawberry

Dessert: Chocolate and Hazelnut pudding, served with whipped cream and fresh strawberry

I am looking forward to my next business class flight on Aeroflot 101 from JFK-SVO. And if, by chance, I can’t score BC and must ride in coach, I will be sure to upgrade to a premium seat so my options to move around to find a more comfortable seat will be much better.

A quick post about my JetBlue experience

I flew JetBlue from Charleston to JFK recently. I was expecting an average or below average product from them because I’ve always thought they were a “budget airline”, but I was pleasantly surprised with my experience. Not only did the seats have way more legroom than any other economy class seat on any airline I’ve flown, they served full sized complimentary snacks! Not the tiny pretzel or peanut packs I’m used to receiving on Delta, but full sized snacks, which you choose from their basket. The snack basket you select from is very similar to the snack baskets on a regional Delta flight in Business Class.

I’m really looking forward to flying with JetBlue again sometime, hopefully in the near future.

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Look at all this legroom (and my groovy pants)!

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In case you need even MORE legroom. But really, unless you’re 7ft tall, I think you’ll be plenty comfortable.

These are the snacks offered in the basket during flight. Yummy!

These are the snacks offered in the basket during flight. Yummy!

Sunrise from the air

I’ve been a bit blue lately. This is probably because I haven’t been flying much at all this summer. It isn’t¬†that I haven’t wanted to get up in the air, it’s just that this summer has been so dog-gone hot!

In¬†my defense, we have also been busy buying a house and moving for the past two months. If I’d had time to fly somewhere for lunch on a good day I may have hopped in the plane, but I really haven’t had anywhere to go or any real reason to use the plane.

I have planned to go flying several times over the past two months, but the motivation faded when I stepped outside into the sauna that has been this summer in Charleston. I thought I’d beat the heat and go fly around in the morning sometime, but I’m not a morning person. My job at a police department requires that we alternate¬†day shift and night shift on a month-to-month basis, and this is my night shift month. Since I’m always most productive at the end of my day, morning is technically the end of my day this month. After considering this I had no excuse not to go for a sunrise flight after work. The weather was actually perfect this morning, as it is many mornings around here.

Hopefully, I’ll squeeze in a few more sunrise flights while I still have use of this airplane.

Live your dash!

 

 

The sunrise over the SC Lowcountry

The sunrise over the SC Lowcountry

 

Flying Business Class on the 747

My husband and I recently took a vacation with my mother and my son. This was a very special trip, so we splurged and practically depleted his frequent flyer miles to get us all on business class on the upper deck of a 747. Let me tell you, it was everything I dreamed it would be. I think I could have slept on this flight if only I hadn’t been so excited!

We wanted to surprise Mom and the kid with the business class part, a secret we successfully kept. Climbing up that staircase to the Business Class section and then seeing our seats was a fun way to begin the trip, and seeing the look on my mother’s face was worth keeping the secret!

The trip included Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, Naples & Sorrento. Posts about our adventures in those cities will follow sometime soon.

 

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I’ve never seen my mother more surprised!

 

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You could see the stress of the previous week melt away.

 

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The food in Business Class is so much better than in Coach.

 

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Cheers to making great new memories!

 

Dessert in Business Class: I'll have one of everything, thank you!

Dessert in Business Class: I’ll have one of everything, thank you!

Turbulence.

Last week I decided to go visit my mother in the upstate. I knew I was in for a bumpy ride on the way up because of a cold front that was coming through, but the forecast was saying the front would push on through. The forecast was right, but I was wrong.

When I woke up the¬†following day to prepare for my flight home¬†I saw that the front had passed, but another was blasting through right behind it… didn’t see that one¬†coming, but I should have. The AIRMETs were calling for turbulence through 4pm, but looking at the outlook charts for the day I knew the turbulence would not be going away at 4pm, but that it would probably only get worse. I started asking around at the airport for pilot reports from folks who had been up in the local area. They all seemed to say it was bumpy, but okay. I decided to take a chance and just go for it, knowing there were small airports all along my route where I could land if it was too much. The tailwind was around 30mph, so at least the flight would only be around 1.5 hours. I got up to my planned altitude of 3,500′ (the most turbulence was above 4,000′) and realized I was in for quite a workout. I made it just about 50 miles before¬†I seriously¬†needed¬†a break. I was being tossed about in the sky, barely able to keep the dirty side down.¬†After I knocked my head on the ceiling¬†during one particularly violent blast I realized I needed to get on the ground immediately.

I landed at¬†the very small Newberry County Airport (EOE), which was understandably abandoned for the day. I thought that while I was there I would get my SCAA passport stamped to prove I was there, but I couldn’t find the mailbox where it was supposed to be kept. The tiny FBO didn’t have much, but it had a planning table, 2 sofas, a water fountain and a bathroom, so I decided to just relax on the sofa and consider my options. Option 1: I could ask my mother to come get me and spend another night with her, but since I was supposed to work at 6am the following day, that option would have lots of people frowning on me…still better than being killed due to get-there-it is. Option 2: I could ask my mother to drive me home to Charleston (a 3 hour drive for her, 2 hours from my current location), spend a few nights with me and then drive back in a few days, dropping me off at the airport on the way. Unfortunately, she wasn’t feeling well and was in no shape to travel. Option 3: I could ask my husband to come get me, a huge inconvenience for all of us, and the weather did have a slight chance for improvement, so that could be in vane (pun intended). Option 4: I could sit it out and see what the winds did later, taking advantage of the down-time to catch up on some reading. I chose option 4, which turned out to be the best option. After about an hour, I¬†felt like it would be okay to give it another go…call it a hunch. I planned a¬†low¬†route that would take me directly over every airport possible along the way.¬†This route has a lot of airports, so I would have the option to land again any time I felt like I was reaching my limit. Luckily, staying around¬†2,200′ was bumpy, for sure, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first leg of my trip. I don’t like “scud-running” because it limits options should something go wrong, but now and then it becomes necessary…. but ONLY with careful planning and a thorough review of all emergency procedures since my friend, Altitude, is left out of the equation.

Once I got closer to home the uncomfortable turbulence faded into light chop and I was able to breathe easy for the last 40 miles of my trip. I arrived home bruised and sore, a first for me, but I arrived home safely.

Funny addition to my story: I received a phone call from a couple of¬†friends (James & Matt), literally as I was shutting down my engine, asking if I was available to come pick them up from the upstate. I told them I would have gladly offered a free lift had they called earlier, but I was too exhausted from my saga to fly any more even if the winds were calm. Apparently, James was¬†dropping his¬†Mooney off¬†in Anderson, SC for the annual and Matt¬†followed in his RV8 to bring him home. When¬†Matt attempted to start his plane for the return trip, his starter broke. Terrible timing! Then again,¬†James’ wife¬†‘liked’ my Facebook status saying¬†I was in the upstate for the night, returning Tuesday (the day¬†James was taking his plane¬†up), so he should have just asked me for a lift. I would have been happy to oblige, especially since¬†I would have felt much more comfortable with¬†an extra pilot in the cockpit on that bumpy flight. ¬†Why are people afraid to ask for favors? They ended up renting a car and driving back to Charleston.

This flight was definitely a good lesson and, in my opinion, a good testament of my ability to choose to stop a flight to assess my judgement instead of charging on because I really want to get home. I was fully prepared to stay safely on the ground if I felt the flight was beyond my comfort level. In fact, I did make that decision a few days later when Matt asked for a ride to get his RV8 from Anderson. I wanted to fly so badly that day, but that AIRMET was the same as it was on Tuesday. I knew I could make it, but I also knew that it might push me to my limit again. Fortunately for Matt, I was able to hook him up with another local pilot with a faster plane who was happy to make the trip. Win, win, win.

Math Suks

I recently transferred my Pilot Logbook to an online logbook. This was a fun adventure that let me relive every single flight I’ve ever taken. It’s amazing how much I remember from each flight, even though I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night. I’m kidding, it was a quinoa stuffed red pepper with portabella mushroom and broccoli. Anywho… bad memory for lots of tiny details, but apparently, no detail is too tiny when it’s in the cockpit (as it should be).

(Sidebar)¬† My memory lane began with my discover flight, where I met my instructor, Joel, whom I’d never met, at 5:3oam because I had waited so long that I didn’t want to wait for a day off to go; He was quite¬†concerned about my poor judgement before we even met because of this. Joel had me do pretty much everything, from taxi to, surprisingly, landing! I was hooked when I started the engine and felt the avgas fragranced air wash over my face. It was, and still is, intoxicating. It’s a drug that gets me high, in every way.

Back to the purpose of the post… Shortly after my private check ride I found a very stupid math error in my logbook that, of course, changed everything from there on. Later on I found a total of five more careless errors that affected my totals. All of these errors were minor. They just made me wonder what the heck I was thinking about that had me distracted.

On a serious note, to correct the errors I made one logbook entry with a plus or minus number to reflect the difference and referenced the date of the original error in each of those boxes. Then, on the page of the original errors I highlighted the error and (literally) hash tagged them #MathIsHard

So what was I thinking that had me so distracted? Oh wait… since I make my logbook entries immediately after flying and total them up as soon as I finish a page I can claim that it wasn’t my fault… I was high.

Can’t we all just get along?

Tonight I read an article written by someone I followed (note past tense) on Twitter. This article was an assault on aviation enthusiasts that call themselves AvGeeks and use that as a hashtag. There are plenty of people out there who have returned fire on the author of this article so I won’t bother continuing that fight here. The thing I would like to address is the mean tone that was set by the author, Chris Clarke.

Social media is a wonderful tool for promoting both businesses and hobbies, but especially hobbies. The community of folks who have met via Twitter is a wonderful group of people and I have come to think of them¬†as friends. I’m not offended that someone thinks the term is derogatory, but I am offended by the way he refers to the people who use the hashtag. We all have the goal of promoting aviation and encouraging young aspiring pilots to follow their dreams and drink the aviation Kool-Aid. Is there really any need to insult a fun and open group of aviation enthusiasts with the same goals just because someone is concerned that they may look like a “geek”? Come on, it’s just a term used in jest. Get over yourself and play nice. The sandbox is big enough for anyone who wants to play.

If We Weren’t All Crazy We Would Go Insane

Ever feel like all the pieces of your life are floating above your head? Like all you have to do is jump up to grab them and put them in their place? That’s how I feel these days, except the pieces are just out of my reach and my legs are sinking in quicksand.

My husband has a wonderful new business opportunity and I couldn’t be more proud of him or happier for his success, except that my happiness is shadowed by a black cloud that seems to be hanging over my head.

This sounds like I don’t have good things happening, which isn’t true at all. I have quite a few great opportunities going for me and more right around the corner, if I can relax and focus enough to grab them. To name a few:¬†*I’ve been planning and preparing for my commercial check ride for months and I am finally ready to take the practical exam, except that just thinking about the exam makes me see myself failing and in¬†giving up on my dreams because of it, because I don’t think I’m strong enough to survive a failure of that magnitude. *A job I’ve been wanting for over 5 years in the police department where I work will be available for me to apply soon, but I keep digging myself into a hole with someone who I just can’t seem to find an ounce of respect for. *The relationship between my son and me is finally becoming what I’ve always hoped it could be. There are quite a few other things I should be celebrating every day, celebrating them and reaching for these opportunities that are in my sight and there for my taking….

Unfortunately, every single thing that is good in my life is shadowed by the cancer that is eating away at my father’s body and the fact that he doesn’t understand that he can make choices that could cost him or afford him years.

I’m so good at evaluating, understanding and communicating my emotions, so why can’t I stop pushing¬†friends and family away? I hope that¬†when I¬†crawl out of this black hole, and I will, I can repair the damage I’ve done to any relationships I’ve¬†hurt.

I need to go flying, where everything is all about freedom and feeling and living in the moment.

Sometimes not owning is better than owning.

What’s better than owning an airplane? Long-term leasing an airplane.

I recently entered into a partnership on Piper Cherokee 140. The owner has lost interest in flying and has a new family, which is where his financial interests now lie. Since I (and a partner) would like access to an airplane, we are making the payments and paying the insurance on the airplane in exchange for having full access.

So far, so good. I flew the plane to Greenville to visit my parents for the weekend last week and the plane flew wonderfully. This past weekend I flew with Shon, my partner in this venture, to Sumter for the Breakfast Club Fly In. Shon will soon be having his Biannual Flight Review and will fly more regularly. I hope we can find an easy schedule to split the time without too many conflicts.

One of the things that is nice about renting planes is that someone else has to take care of maintenance issues. There’s already a crackle in the radio that needs to be repaired, and since we are taking responsibility of the airplane it is up to us to have these issues taken care of. We will need to find a way (and time) to get it over to Charleston Executive Airport for repairs soon.

This is still better than owning and it’s WAY better than renting.

Getting Complex

Friday I scheduled time with an instructor and the flight school’s Piper Arrow to begin working on my complex endorsement, a requirement for the Commercial Pilot Rating. The weather looked great when I headed to the airport, but after an hour of ground school for the airplane some dark clouds started rolling in. We did some more ground school on preflight procedures and the weather continued to deteriorate, with thunder beginning to rumble. The storm was within about 20 miles, which is a little too close for my comfort zone even if we were going to stay in the pattern, so we went back inside for more ground school. We decided to err on the side of caution and save the flight for another day. I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to flying, but it was still time well spent because the ground school was required anyway.

I am really looking forward to getting my complex endorsement and flying in that Arrow!!