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To Chennai, Mar'12 with a Celebrity Captain!

 
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4485
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:25 pm    Post subject: To Chennai, Mar'12 with a Celebrity Captain! Reply with quote

To Chennai, Mar'12 with a Celebrity Captain!

This trip report can be found at the following URL:
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12196.html

I normally post my trip reports in chronological sequence - the
order in which they happened. At this point in time, I have some
sixteen other reports lined up, as I type in these lines.
However, my latest trip evoked such emotions inside me, that I
just had to post it without much delay.

This was an official trip to Chennai.
The build-up to this trip was terrific. And why was this so?
I had planned to take the early afternoon flight out of Delhi,
instead of the nearly evening one (04:45 pm), to enable me to
reach Chennai while there was still some natural light.
When I set about booking my ticket, I was aghast to see the
afternoon flight chopped from the schedule, with the evening
flight departure (AI 801) pushed back further by half and hour.
As I clicked the flight number to check if at least I could get
an A321 (with the PTVs), I was somewhat surprised to see
`A330-200' written there. Oh, this must be a typographical error,
I thought, they must have meant A320-200, or something like that.
Loads would be light, so one flight was chopped off the schedule,
and the other, replaced with a smaller aircraft. This was quite
understandable. However, there was no choice, since I did not
want to land up in Chennai later than that. I booked it a bit
hesitantly, and decided to select my seat. It was then that
the reality dawned on me. I saw two aisles, and my eyes fell on
row K at the extreme right. Yes, this would be an A330-200, an
Air India wide-bodied aircraft, on a domestic route!
Shouldn't an aviation freak be excited?

No, not quite. Why?
Air India's A330-200s VT-IWA and VT-IWB were somewhat old
hand-me-down planes, which had earlier been in a charter
configuration. There are numerous photographs of the exterior of
the plane, in the new Air India `Flying Swan' livery. Yes, the
planes look gorgeous in the new livery, as many feel.
But the `inside story'?
Some searches on the Internet for good quality pictures of the
inside led me to the following pictures. Where does an interested
person look for pictures of the interior?
http://www.airliners.net
http://www.planepictures.net
http://www.airpics.com
http://www.planespotters.net
http://www.planepix.net
http://www.jetphotos.net
http://www.jetphotos.ch
http://www.airplane-pictures.net
http://www.luchtzak.be
http://www.myaviation.net
http://picasaweb.google.com
http://www.flickr.com

Curiously enough, I was able to get nice pictures of the
interiors only on the first, and the last entry, above.

[Credits for all pictures are with the photographers: I have
merely given links to the pictures themselves, here]

My first stop was www.airliners.net, and its companion site,
www.myaviation.net.
Here is a link to a picture of the new-colour seats:
http://cdn-www.airliners.net/aviation-photos/middle/8/4/9/1793948.jpg
...and one more:
http://cdn-www.airliners.net/aviation-photos/middle/7/7/5/1608577.jpg
The long rear galley:
http://myaviation.net/?pid=01682402
A slightly defocussed picture of the economy class section:
http://myaviation.net/?pid=01985119
The unique under-floor toilet section!
http://myaviation.net/?pid=01985118
I found some nice ones on flickr.com, too.
The Business-class section in the old Indian Airlines colours:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mayankkhanna1987/2355546554/
The business-class leg-room:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mayankkhanna1987/2355516450/
The economy-class section:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mayankkhanna1987/2354713861/

[Credits for all pictures are with the photographers: I have
merely given links to the pictures themselves, here]

Here was an apology of in-flight-entertainment, with common
drop-down screens. Could I expect something in the seats? I had
some electronic text exchanges with a fellow aviation enthusiast
in Delhi, who has flown on an Air India A330-200 before. I told
him that the IFE on the drop-down screens of the old Air India
A310s and B747s was not completely terrible - I have seen some
nice programmes on them, in addition to some eminently passable
ones, though. I had specifically asked him whether it would be
worth taking the return flight on it, given that I would land up
in Delhi, nearly at midnight. He replied in the negative, one
experience would be just fine. The attraction of AI 802 (the last
flight out of Chennai) was obviously the Chicken Chettinad in the
dinner, in addition to the A330-200. However, it would be pitch
dark at that time, and even my analog SLR would give me some
ghastly photographs. Hence, I booked my return flight from
Chennai, as the last-but-one out of the city, the 06:10 pm one,
AI 539. I would perhaps get dinner on that flight too (or at
least, a heavy snack), and PTVs on the A321. He had experienced
the old seats (which had been changed after the planes had come
in from Novair, in a tight charter configuration), in the old
Indian Airlines colours. I also wanted to take pictures of the
wing and an engine from the front, so which seat would be fine
for that? I could not find any seat map for the Air India
A330-200 on the Internet. The only one I found was when I booked
the flight, on the Air India website.
Here is a screen grab of the same:



Yes, I had chosen 08K, and I was told that 08K would be fine for
a good outside view, as well. (He had initially recommended rows
15-18, which would be behind the wing.) I was apprehensive about
07K, since though it would give me lots of leg-room, exit row
seats do not allow stowage of items beside the seat. I would have
a laptop, a laptop cooling pad, and my ubiquitous analog SLR
camera. Moreover, on many planes, an exit row does not have the
window well-aligned with the seat, which would hinder taking
pictures on the flight. Rows 37-41 were where the fuselage
curves in towards the back of the plane, and the floor rises (to
accommodate the standard pellet sizes for the cargo hold).
However, the curve may not lead to good photo opportunities for
me, due to the curvature of the plane.

I wondered if there was any difference in the interiors of Air
India's two A330-200s, VT-IWA and VT-IWB. No, both featured the
unique downstairs lavatory configuration, so I looked forward
(downward, actually) to taking a few pictures of the lower floor
on the plane, near the cargo hold. My friend told me that the
02:15 hours of block flight time would be sufficient to explore
the plane. He told me that the downstairs path was near row
26/26, and the galley is at the back of the plane of for the
Economy class, and up front, for the business class. Row 6 is
where one enters the aircraft. I thanked him for all his helpful
inputs and insights, and was looking forward to the trip!

I had reached the airport well in time. IGI T3 had its nice
floral arrangements, to the left of the Mudras gallery below:



We were scheduled to board from Gate 34A.
This is the penultimate gate on the western
side of the domestic wing. I made my customary visit to the escalator
to the food court, and down again, to see the action at the
domestic Air India end of the piers, which overlooked the
International gates. I was a tad disappointed to an Air India
A330-200 already there. I had come in early, in the hope of
seeing the beautiful plane taxi to the gate, and be able to take
a few pictures. Gate 34 and its environs do not allow one to have
an un-impeded view of the planes around. One nice vantage point
is where one goes up the ramp after the food court, and turns
left. A beautiful Air India A319 was parked there - this was the
`Casual Leave' plane, VT-SCL. SCL@DEL, I thought.



I hurried towards Gate 34A. There were quite a few people there
already. Which would be my ride for the day? This was `WB', the
`wide-body' plane, VT-IWB parked there with her engines spooling
slowly, and looking absolutely resplendent in the afternoon sun.
The A330-200 looks absolutely fabulous in the new Air India
`flying swan' colour scheme. Two aero-bridges had been connected
to the plane, for the boarding.



This was my itinerary:

Set out 14 Mar (Wed) for Chennai from New Delhi
IGIA T3, New Delhi - Kamraj (Domestic) Terminal, Chennai
New Delhi (DEL) - Chennai (MAA)
AI 801: Air India (A330-200) [Seat: 08K; PNR: H4VEE]
[05:15 pm - 07:25 pm]

The boarding commenced quite early, at 04:20 pm, while the
announced time of boarding was 04:45 pm, for a 05:15 pm
departure. I boarded the plane early, as a sea of humanity headed
towards the plane. I looked around, at the seats in the new Air
India ochre-and-vermillion colours. The seats were in the 2-4-2
configuration, which was perfectly acceptable for a good economy
class section on the plane type. The picture below is
looking towards the boarding gate on the left of the plane, just
before row 07.



The next picture is panning a bit to the right, with the common
PTV mounted on the bulkhead separating the Business class
section, from the Economy one.



As it is, I was excited enough to be on the Air India A330-200. I
got myself comfortable in seat 08K. Unfortunately, while the row
ahead of me (07) had not just better leg room, it also had a
better view outside. The window was not well-aligned with the
seat, and I barely had a view of the outside from the window. The
bright sun coming in from the right side of the plane, also did
not help. Here is what my limited cell-phone camera optics could
make out of the limited view:



Here is a picture of the leg-room:



The leg-room was quite fine for an economy class seat.
For a person who revels in pulling others's legs,
pulling my legs would not be allowed...it would be appreciated!
The reader is guaranteed enough leg space for the same, for a
hardened economy class traveller like me.
The plane was spic and span, and hardly looked the senior bird
that she was. Air India have maintained the plane beautifully.
The carpet, the cabin plastic surfaces, the seat covers - all
were very clean. Seat 08K is well up in front, with a good view
of the business class section on both aisles, Now, my
middle-class economic status, and seniority at my workplace
(read, the complete lack of it - seniority, that is) ensures that
it will always be the plebeian proletariat Economy class for me.
I rest contented with the knowledge that I will perhaps never be
able to purchase a business class ticket for a personal trip, or
be senior enough to enjoy it, on an official visit. The business
class looked extremely inviting. The seats were the usual Air
India ochre ones, with generous width, and some incredible leg
room. These were in a 2-2-2 configuration, with a nice folding
PTV, which some passengers were trying out. This was in addition
to drop-down screens from the top of the cabin, which I would
later see in the Economy section, too.

I had put my laptop, the laptop cooling pad, some reading
material and the DGCA photography permission printouts, and my
camera against the plane's sides, as usual. A stream of humanity
was still coming in to the plane. I noticed a Sikh gentleman with
three stripes on his shoulder, board the plane. He would be the
first officer. My eyes were still searching for a person with
four stripes, the Captain. Who would it be?
This was where the magic started.
Suddenly, I saw a face which looked familiar.
A face I had seen on television, many years back.
Was it really him?
I would have to wait for the announcement from the flight deck,
to confirm my assumption. I was waiting with bated breath.

Till date, I had (knowingly) taken one flight with a celebrity
commander of the (erstwhile?) Indian Airlines, Captain Saudamini
Deshmukh. I recounted that the first Indian Airlines All-women
crew-operated flight was one from Calcutta to Silchar on a Fokker
F-27, with Captain Deshmukh in command. This was circa 1985, I
believe. I took AI 865 on 14 Dec 2011, where she was the
commander. The Wife (`TW') and Junior (`Jr') were on a parallel
Kingfisher flight at the same time (10:00 am - 12:10 pm), and the
former was excited to hear who the commander of my flight was! I
was wondering if we would have Captain Nivedita Bhasin as the
commander of the flight. Captain Bhasin had been the youngest
commander of a jet aircraft in 1990 and before that, she was
the first officer in the 1985 record flight with Captain
Deshmukh. However, I was in for a real treat.
It was even beyond my wildest dreams.
Captain Devi Sharan was in command!
Yes, Captain Sharan, the national hero - the hero of the IC 814
Kandahar hijack in 1999. Captain Sharan was the extraordinary
captain on board that Indian Airlines A300-B4 plane.
I was looking forward to meeting him at the end of the flight,
and requesting him for an autograph.
Captain Sharan made a powerful take-off on runway 29 towards the
west. I was still soaking in the experience. I was still in the
land of the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, and the Rabbit - I
had fallen through the hollow in the tree trunk, I was in
Wonderland.

After the seat belt signs were turned off, the first officer
announced interesting aspects of the route, the fact that we
would fly by Bhopal and Hyderabad. The latter, I knew - in March
2008, our little family unit had done the DEL-MAA segment on IC
439, where were had overflown the Vedic-era airport at Begumpet
in Hyderabad, on our way to Chennai. At that time, he announced
that were were flying at a ground speed of around 950 kmph, at an
altitude of 41,000 feet (did I hear this correctly, or was it 10k
feet less?) The movie playing on the common drop-down screens was
`Aa Dekhen Zara', an extremely forgettable film of the extremely
talented Neil Nitin Mukesh, whose acting in this film was perhaps
the only watchable element of the movie. I usually watch movies
with TW, albeit in a serialised form, at home. TW jokes that
yes, Sumantra loves to watch serials, since I end up watching
movies in some 4 or 5 parts, usually glued to the computer
monitor, during meal-times. I am hardly the romantic kind, who
loves taking his wife out for movies. TW regrets this, and
her feeling has more than an ounce of justification in it.

The meal service started.
Well, technically, this would be a snack on a 02:40 hour flight,
which was not at a meal time. I knew about the Air India
austerity measures related to the food on board, meals would be
served on flights with more than 01:30 hours of flight time, that
too for flights around meal times. The snack started with two
slices of mixed white-and-brown bread
slices cut along the diagonal, to create two wedges, with a nice
cheese spread-based filling inside. There was some shredded black
cabbage and some chopped coriander on the plate beside the
sandwiches. There was a nice coriander-and-mint chutney to go
with the sandwiches, and the main course, along with a sachet of
tomato sauce/ketchup.
The main course had a flattened mince ball, which had
some mashed beetroot, carrot, coriander mash-up held together in
a potato base, fried ever so lightly. Delicious.
There was the usual Air India standard pieces of subtly marinated
boneless chicken skewered over a light flame, for a long time.
I hungrily eyed the vegetarian offering of a passenger to my
left, who had a delicious small round pie. Yes, this was the
very item I had devoured hungrily on my DEL-BLR flight on 19
December, 2011. This had a soft and moist nice baked base,
holding a lovely concoction of molten cheese, mushrooms and
spinach. I craved for this delicacy, but then, had I not been
smitten by `the sins of the flesh', as some of my friends put it?
The dessert was the piece-de-resistance.
This had fine grains of the material that the ordinary orangish
boondi laddoo/modak is made up of, only that the grains are extremely
fine. Bongs refer to it as `mihi dana'. Was it just this?
No, it was spread on top of some excellent
solidified dessicated milk (`rabri', as we Delhi'ites call it).
I was in seventh heaven. This was sheer bliss, as the delicious
concoction melted into the mouth, as I took small helpings of it,
so as to prolong the ecstasy of enjoying this delicacy.
The beverage service started. Air India sometimes serves some
good teas, though at most times, it is some fairly ordinary tea
bag ones. Would I take the plunge, and be the discerning consumer
of `the champagne of hot beverages'?
I went in for the coffee.
But of course.
Since when did I have any refined tastes?
I know that most of the time, the coffee is a very ordinary
instant coffee. So it was this time, but it was reasonably
strong, steaming hot, I had a milk sachet, and the sweet member
of the cabin crew offered me something for my sweet tooth -
another sugar sachet, possibly after noticing how I had polished
my dessert bowl prior to this.

Before any flight, usually the First Officer, or the Captain does
a walk-around of the plane, making a visual inspection of the
exterior, just to see that everything was visibly in order.
I was waiting for the trays to be cleared, to begin my `walk
around' of the plane, albeit of the inside.
The economy class section could not have had more than 3-4 vacant
seats, out of the 255 ones. When the business class section was
not curtained off (during take-off), I was able to count a total
of 14 occupied, which is more than 50% of the total of 24.
What amazing loads aboard a domestic flight, that too, a
wide-bodied aircraft!

The Air India A330-200s (both leased from Novair, if I remember
correctly, which operated them in a very tight charter
configuration) have only two galleys as opposed to the three in
the A300B4. One was for the business class up front, and the
other was a long area, at the rear. I was looking forward to
having a look at the unique under-floor washroom complex. I went
down the spiral staircase, to this unique place. There were 5
lavatories, and an area where passengers could be seated (with
seat belts), waiting for their turn. I was hardly able to hide
my excitement on my second trip aboard an Indian Airlines
wide-body, my last trip being on an A300B4 in February 2003, just
some time before the type was retired. I had done the MAA-BOM leg
on that plane - which was yet another fantastic trip, whose
memories were sweetened by the presence of the Sanjeev Kapoor
food festival on Indian Airlines, at that time. There was also a
crew area there, which was closed.

There was a bit of chop on the way, as the First Officer
announced the descent, the wheels came down, and we floated in to
the main runway, land-side, not from over the sea! The terminal
buildings appeared on our right, as Captain Sharan made a feather
touch landing. We got a remote stand. All this was completely
secondary for me. My mind was on something else. I went up to the
front office, and requested the lead member of the cabin crew, if
I could meet Captain Sharan, after he was through with his paper
work. The lady smiled at me, and...soon I was on cloud nine, as
Captain Sharan came out. Captain Sharan is a very warm and simple
person, and cheerfully answered the excited volley of questions
the ten year old in me, had for him. He is a storehouse of
knowledge, and explained many nuances of this complex aircraft,
in a way which would be understandable even to a complete
layperson like me. I asked him some questions, such as the pitot
tubes getting iced over, some differences in different aircraft
types, some basic differences in Airbus and Boeing cockpits, all
of which he answered very cheerfully. At the end of a fairly long
conversation, I asked him if I could have one of his visiting
cards, with his autograph on it. He cheerfully obliged!



This is something I will always treasure, forever.
Here is saluting the man, who without caring for his life, ended
up saving so many lives under times of extreme duress, without
enough rest, sleep or any basic amenities, being forced to take
split-second decisions with the entire world looking up to him,
in a state of extreme duress, with a gun held on his head.
Hats off to you, Sir - you are an icon for all Indians.

I reluctantly de-boarded the aircraft, hoping that the moment
would not pass. Waiting for buses in 29 degrees
Celcius/Centigrade was completely retrograde, compared to the
bliss of my trip experience. However, this humid heat was
completely mitigated by the sight of the magnificent aircraft
standing a few metres away from me, on the tarmac. I savoured the
view for as long as I could, before a Neolithic era bus quickly
drove in, and took us to the terminal. As I entered the terminal,
I saw the belt right in front, in action, and my bag coming in
right in front of me. I did not have to wait even a minute. I
rushed off to the pre-paid taxi counter, and took a cab to my
official accommodation. On reaching there, I saw people looking
at me quizzically. Delhi was a bit chilly, so I had a jacket with
me. The temperature outside was 29 degrees Celcius, and the hot
and humid sweltering conditions made me stand out in my jacket,
much like a blue whale, in full scuba gear. The reader would
notice that the comparison was not accidental. I had decided to
go swimming last year, in a short-lived attempt to lose some
weight. As I had excitedly mentioned this to a relative, she
spoilt my enthusiasm in the noble (and much-needed) task. If
swimming could help one reduce weight she said, explain whales to
me. I was dog-tired, but the excitement of meeting Captain
Sharan kept me awake for a while, as I grabbed a quick short
meal, and hit the bed.

The official trip was for a meeting, the venue for which was the
beautiful IIT Madras campus at Guindy. This is very close to
Rajiv Gandhi Salai, and is close to the KasturiBai Nagar and the
Thiruvanmiyur stations on one side, and has the Adyar Snake Park
close-by, on another side. The Anna University campus is across
the road some distance away. The campus is heavily
wooded, and is inhabited by many deer (The `Flame of Freedom'
programme of the Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad in the 1980s had
India's sprint queen P.T. Usha taking long strides, with deer
around her doing the same - this had been shot in the stadium
inside the IIT Madras campus) , and monkeys of many
different kinds. As one of my friends put it, there is a kind
without tails as well, which inhabit the hostels. I belong to the
same kind, he is sure about that, and while I would have loved to
be an alumnus of IIT Madras, he nicknamed me `The Missing Link',
in appreciation of my simian antics, which he says, does not
leave anything to chance as far as evolutionary accidents go.
However, I noticed a very rare white coloured deer, which I tried
clicking from my much maligned cell-phone camera:



I was told that there are only three or four of these on the
campus. I had a dreary meeting in the day, which saw me fall
asleep during it, much to the disgust of those who know me well,
and the surprise, of those who do not. A vehicle was booked for
us at 04:00 pm. We were able to avoid the rush hour traffic, and
reached the Kamraj Domestic Terminal well in time. We checked in
quickly, and were assigned gate no. 1, a bus gate. There was an
interesting Indigo ad nearby, between the security check zone,
and the ground floor gates.



My itinerary for this leg of the trip was as follows:

Set out 15 Mar (Thu) for New Delhi from Chennai
Kamraj (Domestic) Terminal, Chennai - IGIA T3, New Delhi
Chennai (MAA) - New Delhi (DEL)
AI 539: Air India (A321) [Seat: 09A; PNR: Y5M8L]
[06:10 pm - 08:45 pm]

Captain Yadvinder Singh was in command on the `Boyle's Law' A321
VT-PPV. Boyle's Law reads PV = constant, as I recounted from the
nightmarish time I had with Chemistry till my first year. I was
so bad at the subject, that Chemistry has always remained a
mystery for me.) This flight had a nearly full economy section,
with only a very few seats appearing empty. The right side of the
business class (from what I could see from my seat 09A) had four
passengers. Good loads again, on Air India. There were two
Spicejet De Havilland Q400 turboprops visible on the apron, one
of which taxied out in front of us, and took off a short while
before us, as we pushed back. We had boarded from the bus gate 1,
which I saw in the distance from the plane, as Captain Singh took
us to the start of runway 07, and made a powerful take-off
towards the east, and made a left turn much before coming over
the ocean, giving those of us on the left side of the plane, a
nice view of the main runway, and the secondary cross runway
(which had a Kingfisher ATR-72, and a A320 on two sides, one on a
open parking spot, and the latter, in a hangar). I was waiting
for the announcement I looked forward to. Would it be a snack, or
dinner? Much to my delight, it was the latter.

Dinner was served after some time.
I was seated in 09A. I requested for a non-vegetarian tray,
but there seemed to have been very few such trays loaded from
Chennai. (I had overheard the cabin crew asking passengers in the
first few rows about their choice of the meal.) I was not exactly
disappointed - I looked forward to seeing what the tray had.
There was a nice green salad, with four serrated circular
cucumber slices, two circular tomato slices, half a slice of a
fresh small lemon, and half a green chilly piece. The latter was
not hot in any way. This is the kind that TW refers to as `grass'
- what fun is it to have a chilly if it did not set the brain on
fire? I sprinkled a part of the lemon slice on the salad, and had
it with salt and pepper, while I noticed that the dinner had
originated from The Taj Madras. After this nice start to the
meal, I went ahead, and opened the aluminium wrapping on the main
box. A lachha parantha/Malayali barota stared at me, with its
sinful white visage unable to hide the fact that it had also been
prepared with a controlled amount of oil. Good, I thought. As I
opened the main box, the aroma of some excellent long-grained
basmati rice permeated the air around me. This was some excellent
steamed rice done just right - neither was it soggy, nor was it
hard. It also had a nice raisin, which had been lightly fried, so
that it retained its original brown colour, while adding to the
delicious flavours enveloping the small volume of air around my
nose. To my delight, I noticed the dry preparation to the left -
it had finely chopped orange carrot pieces (the kind called
`vilayati gajar' in the north - the somewhat opaque hard orangish
carrot available in the winters), or the smallish
`Nilgiri carrot' found in the mountainous environs of Ooty
(Ootacamund/Udhagamandalam) in Tamil Nadu. Complementing the
orange colour of the carrot slices were finely chopped french
beans (`barbatti' to the Delhi'ite), and embedded in a generous
amount of finely shredded coconut, and lightly tossed with some
mustard seeds (`rai' to the Delhi'ite). It simply melted in the
mouth. I took my time to finish the dish, as I had it with
both the aromatic rice, as well as the lachha parantha. The curry
to the right had a generous helping of tomatoes in a cream-based
gravy, with dal (pulses)-based koftas floating in the thickish
gravy. The kofta is an interesting item, where the item of which
the kofta is made of, is minced, made into a ball after some
separate steaming or cooking, and somewhat lightly fried on
occassion. This was a bit sinful, but I took my time to enjoy
every morsel of the same. The dessert?
This was a delicious rice preparation, known as kheer in the
north, and payasam, south of the Vindhyas. The rice had been
lovingly cooked over a low flame, as the milk gradually lost its
fluidity, and grew thicker. The hint of sugar adding to the
lactose, the nearly solidified milk with the starch contributed
by the rice cooking in it - was superb in itself. However, there
was a interesting twist to the tale. Embedded somewhere towards
the bottom, was a slice of a sweet known as the `balushahi' in
the north, and the `badusha' in Tamil Nadu. Of late the chefs
associated with Air India cuisine seem to have started
experimenting widely with desserts, and the result was a complete
culinary masterpiece. I had eaten to my heart's content, more
than satisfying both my hunger, as well as my hungrier mind.
What would round off a great meal?
I requested for a coffee, and I was not disappointed.
A member of the cabin crew Mr. Mohit, poured out from a newish
stainless steel jar (this is a type not commonly visible), a very
thick and strong dark chocolate-coloured brew, which gradually
imparted an earthen coloured tinge to the milk powder and sugar
mix in my cup, which started from an off-white colour, to a
sinfully dark shade of chocolate brown. This was a very tasty
coffee. Do they still have a coffee brewing machine on board some
of the new A321s? I somehow recount having read about in an
Air India advertisement in October 2007 at least, in the then
in-flight magazine, Swagat.

Captain Singh made the plane land like a feather on the new
runway 29, as we glided in from the east, and made it to an
aero-bridge. I was able to catch up with the cockpit crew near
the mudras gallery. Captain Singh was taken aback when I asked
him, `Captain Singh, AI 539?'. I expressed my admiration for the
incredibly smooth landing he had just executed. He gave a shy and
sweet smile, and said thank you, as I walked towards the baggage
claim.
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Links to my previous TRs, in reverse chronological order:

15. Marble Rocks, Marbles Rock; Jul 2011
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12157.html

14. The Fish-Eye Beckons! Madurai, on Air India. Jul 2011
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12136.html

13. To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 3: Monino!
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12091.html

12. To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 2: The Central Museum
of the Armed Forces
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12016.html

11. To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 1: The Overall Trip
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11717.html

10. The City of Lakes: Mother's Heart, Heart of the Motherland
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11556.html

9. Mostly Indoors, in Indore:
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11533.html

8. Inter-metro Shuttling on AI: DEL-BOM on AI810, BOM-DEL on
AI888
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11449.html

7. On the cusp: DEL-BOM on IC863, BOM-DEL on AI660
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11160.html

6. DEL-BOM on IT308, BOM-DEL on IC166
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10986.html

5. DEL-MAA on IC439, MAA-DEL on IC802
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10809.html

4. DEL-PNQ on IC849, PNQ-DEL on IC850
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10510.html

3. DEL-MAA on IC429 (A321), MAA-DEL on IC7602 (CRJ7)
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10401.html

2. DEL-NAG-NDC, NDC-BOM-DEL on G8
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10169.html

1. IGI T3, AI 314 DEL-HKG and AI 311 HKG-DEL
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10018.html


Last edited by sumantra on Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:35 pm; edited 1 time in total
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jasepl
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report Sumantra, thanks for sharing !

I flew the 321 recently and had a generally good experience. Report coming up soon !
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Spiderguy252
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hell yeah I would've been excited! Anything other than the boring 737s/320s on a domestic route, with a celebrity captain piloting me through. Why not? Very Happy

Great report anyway, thanks for sharing. I've flown one of these birds back in 2006 on KWI-BOM-KWI when they were with KU. Can't quite remember the reg, but the configuration back then was terrible (3-3-3, if I recall) and I couldn't wait to get off the admittedly short flight - 4 hours or so.

Though it's great to note that AI has thankfully changed the config and the interiors.

And to think IC was going to use the prior avatar on where was it? Australia? China? Laughing
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me111993
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

just one word - AWESOME!

Its a treat reading your reports!
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot, Jason, Varun, and Rishul!
All three of you: it has been quite some time since you filed a trip report!
Jason: I guess this would be your first trip report on an Air India A321, and perhaps the first one on this forum, in the business class.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are they ( AI ) using A330 in the trunk routes ? That will be good in some respect as runway congestions will be reduced!
A point to remember; Capt. Durga Banerjee was a IC cmdr. in 1960s. She used to fly newly inducted B737 on CCU-Assam and Del sector. Recently I have flown with Capt. Indrani Singh in my Del-CCU trip in A320.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
Are they ( AI ) using A330 in the trunk routes ? That will be good in some respect as runway congestions will be reduced!

Yes, Air India is flying the A332s VT-IWA and VT-IWB on the DEL-MAA and DEL-BLR routes. From what I have seen on this one trip (and heard from others), loads have been very good, on the average. The domestic passenger has never had it so good, with regard to widebodies. On the DEL-BOM route, there are the two flights AI 349 and AI 102 on 777s, and DEL-HYD and DEL-ATQ also have the 777s (as a part of the Chicago and Toronto flights, respectively). I do not know about the overall economics, though the A332 should not do too badly on these 2.5 hour `long' domestic routes. I hope Air India is also taking advantage of the cavernous cargo space on these long haulers.

sabya99 wrote:

A point to remember; Capt. Durga Banerjee was a IC cmdr. in 1960s. She used to fly newly inducted B737 on CCU-Assam and Del sector. Recently I have flown with Capt. Indrani Singh in my Del-CCU trip in A320.

Yes, I know, Sabyasachi, though you have a typo in the former's name, above. While I have never been lucky enough to fly with Captain Durba Banerjee, my mummy has flown on an F-27 with her in command, in the 1960s. You have been lucky to fly with Captain Indrani Singh! Interestingly, I am flying DEL-CCU tomorrow, on an A320, but on AI 764. Will we have a celebrity captain on board?

On a lighter note, since this trip made me a 10 year old again, I can claim more brownie points than you, as far as the celebrity status of the Captain goes. `My Daddy The Strongest' Wink
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra, I still could not remember well ,is it Durba or Durga ? But I could recollect the news report I read about her in a Bengali news paper in 1960s when I was a school boy. Yes, she was probably the first Lady Cmdr. of B737.

I also think AI should use A330 in DEL-CCU sector as the traffic demand is endless.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice TR as usual, sumantra!

Also, will inform Capt. Sharan about his ardent fan and the TR. I'm sure he will be thrilled!
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
is it Durba or Durga ? But I could recollect...Yes, she was probably the first Lady Cmdr. of B737.

The first name is `Durba', I am sure of that. My mummy, too. As I wrote, she has flown in an F-27 with her in command. I guess she was as excited as I was, albeit half a decade back Smile
Captain Banerjee was India's first lady commander of a plane (the first commercial aviation pilot, too?). I remember watching the Doordarshan programme on her, when she retired in the late 1980s. She was a commander on the A300-B4s, then. Captain Saudamini Deshmukh was the first lady commander on a B737.

sabya99 wrote:
I also think AI should use A330 in DEL-CCU sector as the traffic demand is endless.

Sabyasachi, I am not too sure of that. DEL-CCU has always had good loads, at least on the business-hour flights (I have generally taken the 5pm flight out of both DEL and CCU, and the 7am flight out of CCU). However, there must be a good reason behind Air India putting the A332s on the longer (2.5 hour) metro flights, DEL-BLR and DEL-MAA. They are not even putting it on the DEL-BOM segment, which has so many flights, and most of them go quite full. There may be a cargo angle to it, as well. The other wide-body flights on the 777s are `international connectors' on the DEL-HYD and DEL-BOM routes.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Optimus.Prime wrote:
Also, will inform Capt. Sharan about his ardent fan and the TR. I'm sure he will be thrilled!

Thanks a lot for your appreciation, Captain! I really wonder how Captain Sharan handles such adulation, and so many fans - he is a national hero!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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abhigopal
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice Report - Thanks for sharing.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent report, fun to read! I'd love to try the 330s on domestic sectors too - hopefully will get a chance soon.[/code]
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your kind words, Abhishek, and Nimish! Nimish: I hear that the A332s will now be used exclusively for domestic operations, for some time at least.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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stealthpilot
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

iv never done a 330 domestic, very nice TR!

A fellow anetter is flying BOM-BLR on an AI330 next week .... I should tell him to do a TR Razz
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot, Captain. Yes, I would love to read a BOM-BLR trip report on the A332!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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