My Own Dreamliner Experience…

A little history of my aviation geekiness…

My interest in commercial aviation started back in 1991, when working in Combustion lab in Arizona State University, on commercial aircraft engines for research.  I followed the evolution of 777 engines and started following all different types of makes and models.  I prefer Boeing planes to Airbus, and Boeing 777 has been still my favorite plane of all.  I can probably identify 95% of commercial aircraft – including model and type of engines, speed and capacities, etc.  I also record every one of my flights (since 2006)… so hope you are convinced I am a aviation geek.

I have been following Dreamliner since its announcement, its features, material, efficiency, battery fires, etc.  Since none of the US airliners acquired these planes (until United recently), I haven’t had a chance to fly on one of these for a long time.  I was almost tempted to fly Air India which has a few dreamliners in its fleet.  So, when I saw British Airways introduced one of its 8 planes on London – Hyderabad route, I had to book that flight for my trip to India.

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On April 18th, when I landed in London from Phoenix (on a 747), I was checking out the gates to see where dreamliners were… spotted a couple.  Took the train to C gates in Terminal 5 and started walking towards the gate… and there it was… this was probably the closest I have been to one.

I knew it wasn’t necessarily a big plane, a more efficient mid-size, long range plane.  Not sure many people recognize it… its 2 distinct features are the different nose and curved wing tips.  I couldn’t wait to board the plane and check out the interior.  Finally after 15-20 minutes wait, we started boarding… I almost had goose bumps stepping into it… almost 2+ years since it has been in service.

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First thing I noticed  how “NEW” it the plane was… almost smells like new car.  Beautiful lighting and colors.   Reached my seat.. first thing I had to do was to take pictures… The seat was similar to other club world seats on British Airways and few enhancements on the controls and entertainment.

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Next, I had to play with the window shades… there are no pull up and down shades.. just the controller to darken and lighten the window.  At its darkest setting, in the middle of the day, the sun looked like moon… and it was really dark, you can still see a bit of outside.  The windows were huge and everything else in the plane got nice updates.  Not sure about the bathroom door though… it is “new slide” and many people are not used to it… including me.  There is no green/red occupied sign on the front… instead a red/green light at top of the door – and people are not used to that either… someone almost knocked the door down when I was inside.  Sensors for flush, faucet and lot of other upgrades.

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My seat was right next to the wing/engine.  The Rolls Royce engine was HUGE… almost as big as the 777 engine.  These engines ran quieter and one of they are most powerful ones out there.  We were going at 640-650 mph during some stretches of the flight.

2014-04-18 14.18.34Finally… the wings.. well, they are made of composite material and resemble close to a bird’s wings.  Well… what I didn’t realize how flexible they were… when we took off, during climb wing really looked like it was flapping… never seen a wing bounce like that before in my life.

The cabin was supposed to be more comfortable for long haul flights… the 9 hr 35 min flight went by quick with a comfortable 4 1/2 hr sleep and couple of movies.  Landed in Hyderabad 3o minutes earlier at 4:20 a.m. –

The experience was every bit as per my expectations and made the long trip to India go by quick.  Now that I finally been on one, I can now say that the dreamliner is now my new favorite plane and looking forward to my next flight on it in 3 weeks.

PS: No, I haven’t been paid by British Airways or Boeing… but I think they should 🙂

Vacationing in Mexico… East Indian Style!!!

Haven’t been able to write anything for more than 2 weeks now… because of two things…

1. Vacation in Mexico (Bucerias) for a week,
2. At home all week (9 days) for first time this year, catching up with life….

So now I am back on the road and starting to reflect on my vacation in Mexico and the fact that I have to wait almost one more year before taking another Mexican vacation….

First time I traveled to Mexico was back in 1997 to Juarez across the border from El Paso to visit the American Consulate to get my passport stamped for visa renewal. I was there for only a few hours, and noticed how “close” to India it looked like.

Then I didn’t get to Mexico again till 2004, to a small town called “Bucerias” north of Puerto Vallarta, courtesy of my Mother In Law, who started going there in winter. She finally moved into her own place there now and lives 6 months out of the year. So I have been there 10 times so far, and realized how “at home” I feel now everytime I go there.

Being from India has its pros and cons when you travel to Mexico.


1. When you are trying to get out of airport, Time Share people don’t mob you… they must think either I am Mexican, or cheap, whatever it is, works for me… I walk right past everyone.
2. Walking in the streets, nobody is notices you.. no vendors, no solicitors….
3. When you ask for “Pecante”… I get spicy food, they don’t feel like they have to hold back for me…

1. Everyone thinks I can speak Spanish… I tried to use my limited spanish vocabulary and they would start full conversations, and I have to say “whoa…. all I know is few words”. On my last trip we got pulled over by a cop and I was in passenger seat and he started talking to me in Spanish thinking I could convey the meaning to the others in the car… and he was quite surprised that I can’t.
2. Well I can’t think of anything else… who cares, you are in Mexico 🙂

When I first went to Bucerias in 2004, I was stressed out a bit… your phone didn’t work, you have to go to an Internet Cafe to check emails (at 56 kbps). Growing up I never had a real vacation where you absolutely do nothing… but over time I realized doing nothing is such a beautiful thing on vacations. Yes, I do work a bit, but I don’t mind the view and the fact that it makes you feel relaxed without worrying about what’s going on.

Lot of people don’t even know where India is in Bucerias, one year, a waiter brought a map and was amazed that I am from other side of the planet and we looked so much alike. I used to think I am the only “East Indian” guy in Bucerias, but on my latest trip we met a couple of gals from Vancouver, who are originally from India. We ended up talking as if we knew each other for a long time…

The most stressful thing on my recent vacation… to decide where to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner… tough life.

No matter where we eat everyday, one thing is certain… we end up at the same place every night for nightcap… Mark’s Bar & Grill in Bucerias. Shout out to Jan and Mark for creating such a wonderful place to eat, drink and be happy…

Here is the link to Bucerias… you should visit some time… Best of Bucerias.

Here is the link to Mark’s Bar & Grill.

Now that was a close call…. my most memorable travel story.

I missed a lot of flights some international, some with long delays and overnight stays, but this story is the one I remember the most.

It happened in 1997, but I still remember as if it happened yesterday. I was working for Motorola then and had a round the world trip that stopped in 6 countries to do training for our software. The last stop was in India on my way back home. I was in Madras (Chennai now) at my Brother’s place along with my parents and had a flight to Bombay (Mumbai) and connecting on Swiss Air to Zurich/Atlanta/Phoenix.

Believe it or not, travel in 1997 was so different, no cell phones (at least in India), security where you can walk to the gate, Smoking sections on planes and lot less airlines. At that time there were only 2 airline options in India – Indian Airlines (Govt Run) and new and upcoming Jet Airways. Motorola booked all my flights and at that time we had business class travel for everyone going international. My flight from Madras was at 6 p.m. – reaching Bombay around 7:45 p.m. and my international flight from there at 1:20 a.m. – so I had 5 1/2 hours layover. I checked in around 4:30 p.m. at Madras and they told me that the flight is delayed by 2 hrs due to late arrival of aircraft (this excuse remains current even now). So I thought that will cut my wait in Bombay, so no issues. Some people rushed over to the last flight from Jet Airways to Bombay and they accommodated a few. My agent said, since my ticket was in First Class, they don’t have an option in Jet but she thought I should make it in plenty of time. My parents and brother were tired of standing, so I told them to leave around 6:30 p.m. and went to the lounge.

7 p.m. – Was notified that flight is now 3 hrs late and will reach Bombay at 10:45 p.m. – still got 2 hrs + to catch my connection..

8 p.m. – The flight is now 3 1/2 hours late – will reach Bombay at 11:15 p.m. – getting a little too close to comfort.

9 p.m. – the plane is here – just a matter of loading people and taking off… everybody is on the plane by 9:30 p.m. – yes, I may make it after all…

9:50 p.m. – why are we not taking off? What? someone is missing? – they have to figure out if he/she dozed off somewhere or went back home..

10:15 p.m. – we are closing doors now – estimated arrival time mid night – 1 hr and 20 minutes – I can still make it right?

10:30 p.m. – why are we still on taxiway? Lots of international flights landing, we are not cleared yet…

10:40 p.m. – finally took off – Captain comes on PA, apologizes for the delay, that was not in his hands.. will STEP on it and get us there as soon as he can.

12:15 a.m. – landing in Mumbai – just barely 1 hour + left… I am now thinking my chances are 30-40% to make the flight – most flights close an hour before take off.

12:20 a.m. – I spot a baggage guy and ask him I can get bags quick since I will try to rush to the international terminal, he asks my bag color/type – disappears into the bottom of plane, comes out in 3 minutes with my 2 suitcases… I still remember his face… what a help!

12:30 a.m. – come out of domestic terminal – the only option to get to International terminal is to wait for a shuttle (yeah right) or get a cab… I only had a few Indian Rupees left… Enter Mr. Singh (I don’t remember his full name) – he asks if I want taxi, I said yes to International terminal – he said 500 Rupees – I said, I only have 200, he says, you got dollars? Yes, $20 (equivalent of 720 rupees at that time) I will take you… I said let’s go, told him I have 40 mins now to make it… he said, get in back seat and DUCK… what, yes, duck?. He said, there are about 10 speed bumps between here and International terminal… and he is not going to slow down… ok? I said yes and here we go….

That was the craziest 10 min Taxi ride of my life… Mr. Singh was honking, swerving, jumping speed bumps… and he got me to International terminal at 12:40 a.m. – he said – “RUN, I will get your bags”… I trusted him to follow me, not to take off on me, and started running and I saw him dragging my 2 suitcases behind into the terminal. I reached Swiss Air check-in counter at 12:45 a.m. – 35 mins to take off… then I find out…


No body home. I guess they closed the counters, Mr. Singh arrives, says sorry, that he will wait outside if I needed taxi to take me to a hotel… I go over the counter and find couple of employees doing paperwork in the back. I showed them my ticket and asked what are my options…

12:50 a.m. – The Check-in Agent calls Gate Agent and says “I have a Business Class passenger arrived late from a connection, if I send him in, will you be able to take him?” – the gate agent says – “we will give you 10 extra minutes and close the door at 1:30 a.m. – no exceptions…”

Here we GO!!

Picture this… Me running with my computer bag, The agent with radio and my boarding pass, one of the attendants with a trolley with my suitcases (too late to check bags, so they have to take it to the gate)… dodging the peak passenger traffic at Bombay airport, trying to get to the gate…

1:05 a.m. – Immigration counter – got permission to go through Crew line – #4 in line…

1:10 a.m. – get to the counter, the agent tells the officer, we are in a hurry, trying to get me to the gate… now, this is another face I still remember… he goes, “SO?” He checks my passport, green card, looks at me and says “Where is your Facial Hair? Is this really you?” – I guess I had a goatee in my Green Card and clean shaven at this point… he was in no hurry to stamp on my passport. I had the urge to jump over the counter, the story would have been much more different If I did…

1:15 a.m. – finally at X-ray – again through crew line… will we make it?

1:20 a.m. – security done… wouldn’t you know it, the plane is at Gate 10 and we are at Gate 1 🙂

I don’t remember how many people I knocked down and scared off, it was a last ditch effort run… 1:28 a.m. – at Gate 10… The Gate agent was in touch with us over radio through out and was looking for us to show up..

The guy pushing my suitcases goes down the stairs to get them loaded, I gave him whatever Indian rupees I have left, got to the boarding door.. there is a flight attendant standing at the door and gets my boarding pass and yells to the gate agent who was walking away….


Those words still echo in my ears… was I too young? too Indian? Looked like crap from the running? WTF, I am right here holding my boarding pass…. after the confirmation from Gate Agent, she lets me to the left into Business Class… then I realized I was the only the 2nd Indian looking guy in the entire business class section … ouch!

I couldn’t call till I got to Zurich to notify my family that I actually made my flight… since then I made a few and missed a few, but on that exciting day, a few people stepped up to help me… the guy at plane to get my bags, Mr. Singh, The agent at check-in, the guy running with my bags… I am thankful to all them for not only helping to make the flight, but also for the experience and memories…

Sleeping in different places and time zones….

Part of being a world traveler is the ability to sleep in different beds and timezones as required.  This is one aspect of travel that wears you down… so I had to figure out way to make the best out of it… as I woke up on Feb 1st in India, I looked back at Jan 2013 and realized where I have been… so here it is:

Date Place Slept Time Zone
1 Jan 2013 Scottsdale Mountain +/- 0 Hrs
2-6th Jan 2013 Vancouver, Canada Pacific -1 Hrs
7th Jan 2013 Scottsdale Mountain +/- 0 Hrs
8-10th Jan 2013 Atlanta Eastern + 2 Hrs
11-14th Jan 2013 Scottsdale Mountain +/- 0 Hrs
15th Jan 2013 On a Plane Eastern – GMT + 7 hrs
16th Jan 2013 Mumbai, India Indian +12.5 Hrs
17-18th Jan 2013 Hyderabad, India Indian +12.5 Hrs
19th Jan 2013 Rajahmundry, India Indian +12.5 Hrs
20-21st Jan 2013 Hyderabad, India Indian +12.5 Hrs
22-23rd Jan 2013 Agra, India Indian +12.5 Hrs
24th Jan 2013 Jaipur, India Indian +12.5 Hrs
25-26th Jan 2013 New Delhi, India Indian +12.5 Hrs
27-31st Jan 2013 Hyderabad, India Indian +12.5 Hrs

No Wonder, I feel a little tired at the end of the January 🙂

You call that a Carry-On??

Ever since airlines started charging for checked in bags, this whole carry on situation gotten out of control.  You see people trying to carry as much as they can without having to spend any money… who can blame them?

Now, the so called frequent travelers can check bags for free, but they all bring carry-ons also to “Save time” – I am part of a couple of travel blogs, where I read people saying checking bags wastes them time, they lose their bags, etc.  In 2012, I had one bag delay total of all flights.. small price to pay instead of dragging them everywhere.  I do agree sometimes you have to wait for bag, but I am in no hurry to run to the hotel and sit at bar or rush home to go to bed, so I factor in the wait into my travel.. In fact, I started walking to the baggage claim in Atlanta airport, which can take 10-15 minutes so by the time I get to the baggage claim, 99% of time bags are already there… just walking with a backpack around terminal has set me FREE!!

Now, the carry on bags created problems in other areas…

Boarding – everyone is rushing to get on first since baggage bins seems to be running out fast.  Even in First Class, you see the same, actually worse, they bring on 2 big bags and try to get it in quickly… with my backpack situation, I am more relaxed to board since it fits under the seat.

But the reason I started this topic today was the experience I had at security check point.  If you saw the movie “Up In The Air” – you probably noticed the stereotyping George Clooney does on which security line to choose… in fact, the situation is very real, sometime you have to switch lanes if there a family with 2 kids and strollers… it takes them time to unpack everything and pack up on the other side of X-Ray – again, not complaining, just happens all the time… then this morning, I thought I picked the line that seems to be moving fast, the guy infront seem to be very organized and BAM!!! Not one, not two, not three… count 5 – that is how many bins he needed – between the 2 bags he was carrying he pulled out stuff that reminded me a rabbit out of hat magic trick and then add on the 2 layers of jackets and 2 laptops, even the TSA agent came and asked if all this stuff was his.. never seen that in my travel life before.. teaches me a lesson to not stereotype 🙂

So thinking out loud… will this get better? Nope, it will only get worse as baggage fees seem to generate a lot of revenue for airlines… so patience and understanding are the only way to deal with it.

It may sound like an endorsement (but it is), the best thing to happen to frequent travelers is TSA Pre – In Atlanta I get through this line 2 out of 3 times – don’t have to take shoes off, jackets stay on and Laptop in Computer.. reminds me of old times (pre 2001).. just look forward that being everywhere…

Happy Travels!

The art of airport pickup….

Many of us have done this… picking up someone at the airport.

If it someone that is visiting after a long time, you will park your car in garage and meet them when they come out of terminal.

If it someone you pick up often, you will try to master the “perfect pick up” – you start based on arrival time + baggage pick up time if any, and scoop them up from curb side within 5-10 minutes of them reaching there… seen a lot of people strive for this.

Waiting for my own pickup, I have seen a lot of different kinds of people, different tactics to avoid the cop or airport security person walking the curb side.  These tactics change based on time, rush, weather and car type.

  • Classic looper – keep making loops around terminal until their pickups comes outside and call or wave them… see these guys go around multiple times.
  • The Waiter – will pick the prime spot and wait with car running, until he has been told to move, drive up a bit and push the time limit again.
  • They Are almost here – keep either passenger door or trunk open and look as if they are here… it doesn’t work always.
  • Designated Waiter – leave someone in passenger seat while you go inside – they talk to the enforcer and tell them an excuse, I have seen the enforcer make the waiter call the driver to come out…
  • I don’t care – Leave the car go inside, the enforcer asks whose car is it, looks around, they don’t like to tow or write ticket unless they really have to… and when they reach their patience limit, the driver will come out running and saying sorry, and start to move… and in some cases avoids the ticket
  • And then there is the perfect pickup – Cell phones and Cell Phone waiting lots helped this form … as soon as the bags start coming, everyone gives a green signal to their pickup contact – who is in Cell Phone waiting lot – and show up at the door at the right time, load them up and go… You should see the joy and proudness on some of these pickups..

Probably we have done one or more of the above in our lives, but when you think about it – it is a form of ART and what you do is always the “right” tactic 🙂