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Passing High Cloud: Emirates 777-300ER to Hamburg

The most convenient way of getting to Hamburg is one-stop with Emirates. Perth to Dubai on the A380 was covered in the previous post. This flight review covers the second sector : Dubai to Hamburg on the Boeing 777-300ER.

The incoming flight from Perth had arrived a few minutes early. Lengthy queues at the first security screening led me to seek out another area where I found much shorter queues but no fast track. Never mind, I had plenty of time to the connecting flight. The queue moved speedily enough, although for the first time in a while I was asked to remove my shoes.

A quick check of the departures board showed that the flight to Hamburg would depart from Gate B05. The good news being that I would not need to take the train. Not being a shopper, I made my way to the Emirates First Class Lounge in Concourse B where I could make use of the complimentary Wi-Fi to catch up on emails and the news.

When I entered the lounge the receptionist wrote the departure gate and boarding time on my boarding pass and confirmed that it was a bus gate from which passengers would be leaving. In the lounge proper a member of staff approached and asked whether I'd like to go through to the dining area for breakfast. Having eaten on the plane, I just asked for some water and an orange juice.

Within the lounge there is still the opportunity to make a purchase of wines. Le Clos has gathered a huge range of wines from all over the world and should you not wish to carry your purchase home, delivery can be arranged. Given the prices, who wouldn't be tempted? 😉

While the lounge is pleasant enough, Dubai Airport does not offer opportunities for decent photography from within the terminals. A profusion of girders and stringers, coupled with etched designs on the window glass, conspired to confound attempts at capturing a Boeing 777-200LR in all its glory.

When the time came I made my way to Gate B05. There was a lengthy queue for Economy and the line at the First and Business class desk was moving slowly due to passengers needing their boarding passes to be reprinted and wheelchair assisted passengers and their large families using that lane. Not that there was any rush. At bus gates it has been usual for the Economy passengers to be boarded first and following biblical prophecy, "the first shall be last."

While some might find a bus trip to the aircraft tiresome, it does have the advantage of offering a closer view of aircraft on stands. And we're not talking of your typical airport bus here. Seated in comfortable armchairs, one has good views out of the large windows. Between the seats are benches on which passengers can place smaller carry-on bags, so as not to have to put them on their laps or on the floor.

Along the way, we passed the mainstays of the Emirates fleet: the Airbus A380, including A6-EET that had brought me to Dubai that morning, and ...

...the Boeing 777-300ER . Here we can see A6-EPA, an aircraft that carried me to Hamburg on a previous visit.

But it wasn't all Emirates. There were a couple of aircraft from the United Kingdom. Virgin Atlantic was represented by an Airbus A330-343, G-VGEM Diamond Girl, which was leased for a while to China Airlines.

British Airways was flying the flag with a Boeing 777-200, G-VIIA. Preparartions for departure were just being finalised as I would see this one taxi out a bit later.

On remote stands were several Emirates aircraft including this Boeing 777-300ER, A6-EGA. This aircraft was involved in an engine malfunction and shutdown in September, 2016. While en route to Brisbane, the left engine oil quantity decreased from 16.4 quarts, stabilising at 2 quarts when the aircraft was about 650km northwest of Adelaide. The crew advised the company, followed the non-normal check list and shut down the engine.

A PAN was declared and the aircraft diverted to Adelaide where an inspection found that the left oil supply line to bearings numbers 4 and 5 had fractured and the associated clamp was broken. This incident prompted Emirates to carry out a fleet-wide inspection but no further leaks or cracks were found.

The bus approached the aircraft that would operate the flight to Hamburg. As it did, I was able to capture one of the GE90-115B engines that propel it. A6-EGW was ferried from Paynes Field to Dubai on 10-11 August 2012 on delivery. Configured F8 C42 Y310, it has no crew rest areas.

Flight: Emirates EK59 DXB-HAM
Aircraft Type: Boeing 77W | Seat: 01K
Aircraft ID: A6-EGW
STD: 09:00 | ATD: 09:14
STA: 13:45 | ATA: 13:40

On getting off the bus, I allowed the other passengers to board first and not simply out of courtesy. Doing so meant that before entering the cabin there was time to capture a couple of exterior shots.

At the door, a cheerful "Welcome back, Mr Smith," before being shown through to my suite. Each seat was taken, so the crew would be kept busy on today's flight.

The usual pre-departure drink was offered, the choices being champagne, apple or orange juice. I accepted an orange juice and settled in for the flight. The counter held the array of in-flight balms and snacks and I set the ICE display to "Today's Flight", where it would remain for the duration of the journey.

A pair of slippers and an eye mask were provided and magazines and newspapers were offered. As I was heading to Airbus in Finkenwerder, it seemed apposite that the morning's edition of the Financial Times should have an article about the future of the Airbus A380.

The cabin crew rushed about carrying out the tasks necessary to secure the cabin for take-off. From the flight deck came words of welcome from Captain Alejandro who introduced the FO as Mohamed. We would be flying at 34,000ft and the expected weather in Hamburg was showers. Very different to conditions on the ground in Dubai, where visibility was hazy and the temperature was 38°.

Pushback was at 09:14. While the pushbar was disconnected and the final checks were made, the safety video was shown and I followed the advice to read the safety card in the seat pocket.

From our position on the taxiway I had another view of Diamond Girl, this time from the rear, and I saw that Speedbird was taxiing out.

Golf Whiskey commenced taxi and along the way a number of aircraft were landing: first was an Airbus A320-232 with Indigo since June 2011 and registered as VT-IEF.

Air Algerie was next to arrive. 7T-VJV is an Airbus A330-202 powered by 2 GE CF6-80E1A4 engines. It has been in service since 26 January, 2005 and is named Tinhinan.

Now in SpiceJet livery, the next aircraft was originally ordered but not taken up by Delta as a Boeing 737-832 . In was introduced to service by Air Berlin in February 2005 and five years later was with Blue Air. Re-registered as VT-SGJ and named Cumin, the 737-86J(WL) came to SpiceJet in December, 2010.

In front of Concourse A was the ironically named Reginald Ansett. This Airbus A380 has been with Qantas since 31 January, 2011. It was originally configured F14 C72 W32 Y332, however in 2013 the number of business class seats was reduced and it is now F14 C64 W35 Y371.

Another A320 landed and reverse thrust was applied to its IAE V2527-A5 engines. VT-IER has been with Indigo since March 2012.

Meanwhile an old acquaintance (Phyllis Arnott) was moving out.

Golf Whiskey approached the runway: A6-FEN was holding position. This Boeing737-8KN(WL) in its cheeful livery has been with flydubai since July 2014. As the 777-300ER that I was on commenced its take-off roll I was able to snap one more aircraft. Unfortunately, I couldn't make out the rego (could be VT-AXJ or VT-AXU, maybe) but the distinctive livery and script shows it is with Air India Express.

The Boeing thundered along the runway and lifted into the haze that is common at this time of day.

As we headed towards the gulf there was an announcement that on today's flight, the crew came from fourteen countries and spoke twelve languages. A short video about Emirates award-winning ICE was shown. The complete video can be viewed below but there was an ICE guide in the suite pocket. Among the options on ICE are movies, TV shows and music channels.

There wasn't much to see as the aircraft flew over the Gulf towards Iran. Clouds, clouds and more clouds but without the dramatic shapes they sometimes form. The purser came by to introduce himself, bringing the menu and wine list. On offer were not one but two champagnes as well as a good selection of reds and whites. I settled on the Château Pontet-Canet, a 2007 Pauillac.

The bottle was brought and shown, a taster was poured and, receiving the nod, the glass filled. Enjoying a sip, I completed the cryptic crossword in the paper before then turning to the menu. So much to choose from. What to have?

I was tempted to choose the beef roulade with potato dumplings and red cabbage but finally decided on some fruit, cheese and crusty bread rolls. The table was laid and a wonderful array of cheeses was presented. Some people rave about caviar. Others prefer a good burger. Me? Give me a cheese board and I'm perfectly happy.

As I ate the clouds thinned a bit and the ridges and valleys of the Zagros Mountains came into view. The country though this part of Iran is really impressive. Some of the major rivers have been dammed to provide water for towns and irrigation.

Spotting that the cheese board had been eaten, the crew cleared the table before bringing a hot cloth and a box of Godiva chocolates. Emirates had previously offered Godiva and then, for a while, a Swiss brand. I quite liked the latter and I note that having reverted to Godiva, the box contained four individual pieces rather than the previous two.

Below, the landscape continued to change. Beyond valleys with villages, there were multi-coloured flats with white sands and pink lakes. A causeway across the lake linked Urmia with Tabriz, skirting Islami Island via Gamichi.

Another appearance at the suite door, with the question, "Would you like anything else? An espresso, maybe?"
"What a good idea! Yes, please."
First a small table cloth was laid and then espresso was brought with a plate containing some biscotti and shortbread.

The peak of Mount Ararat could be seen in the far distance as we passed from Iranian into Turkish airspace.

Time passed and below us were the brilliant blue waters of Lake Van. This endorheic lake at 1,640m (5,380ft) in a region of harsh winters, does not freeze over completely due to its high salinity. The region has a rich history, having been under the sway of Armenian kingdoms and the Byzantine and Seljuk empires.

It became a bit glary so I lowered the internal blinds on the windows. About an hour later, when I opened the blinds again, cloud was beginning to reform. It also became a bit bumpy as the Boeing approached the Black Sea coast between Varna and Constanta.

I began to feel peckish, so I had a look through the menu before pressing the call button. Almost instantly a friendly smile was at the door. I chose smoked halibut carpaccio.
"Would you like some wine with your meal, Mr Smith?"
"No, thank you. Some water will do but I would like a cognac once the meal is cleared."
"Certainly."

Once more the table was laid with silverware and fine china, a basket of bread and a salver with condiments. The fish with its mango and avocado salsa and coriander dressing was delightful. When the table was cleared another box of Godiva chocolates was brought with the requested Hennessy Paradis. By now we were crossing from Hungarian into Polish airspace.

The cabin crew remained busy, attending to the needs of the full First Class cabin. The flight continued, at times passing over areas of dense cloud and at other times views of the country below appeared through the cloud.

In clearer skies it is often possible to identify the towns being passed but I confess, were it not for the display on ICE, today at times I would have been lost.

The Captain announced that we were about to commence descent into Hamburg where we would arrive a few minutes ahead of schedule. As we came down through the clouds, the cabin crew tidied up and secured everything for landing. I switched the ICE display to camera and the scene ahead was not all that pleasant.

The approach was from the northwest for a landing on Runway 23. There was some buffeting as we passed over Raakmoor and past Langenhorn Markt to line up with the runway. By now it was evident that Hamburg was experiencing some Schietwetter: the kind of weather where you wear sun tan oil to assist the rain flow off one's skin. 😉

On screen things didn't look any better. Visibility was poor and only the runway approach lights stood out against the grey surroundings. Quite soon we were passing over Zeppelinstrasse, just metres from the ground. A slight bump at 13:35 as the Boeing 777 landed and reversed thrust to assist with breaking. Golf Whiskey slowed to exit the runway at Mike and taxi along Lima to the terminal.

On a stand stood a Boeing 747 that I would get to see closer a couple of days later during a visit to Lufthansa Technik. Through the rain I could just make out some business jets parked in the General Aviation area. Among them was N885WT, a Gulfstream G550 registered to Qualcomm and G-GILB, a Cessna 510 Mustang with FlairJet.

As Golf Whiskey followed the "Follow Me" car, passing aircraft from Air Berlin and Germania, the works on the apron became visible. Part of project being done in stages, the work involves not only replacing the surface itself but also new pipeworks, drainage, cabling and the installation of a Follow the Green system.

Meanwhile on the ramp the ground personnel were waiting with chocks ready and the airbridge was being prepared. The aircraft came to a complete stop at 13:40 and soon the door was open. Before leaving I thanked the crew for their various kindnesses during the flight: one had even given a bag of goodies to take with me.

Being the second passenger to reach passport control and there being no queue meant that I was out in no time. Fortunately I had not checked in a suitcase because that week there were complaints of considerable delays at Hamburg Airport. I quickly found the driver of the waiting car and we were soon on the way to the usual address. By now the weather was clearing. At least I would be able to go for a walk after all that sitting.

Both sectors of the journey to Hamburg had proven to be very enjoyable. Inflight meals and amenities available were of a good standard and the crew were welcoming, friendly and proactive. I really couldn't find anything to fault.

In my next report I will describe a brief trip to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport with KLM. Feel free to join me.