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Joyride on the Airbus A340-300 of SriLankan Airlines 4R-ADF

 
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sriramhariiyer
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Joined: 22 Jul 2009
Posts: 49
Location: Coimbatore/Bangalore, India

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:35 am    Post subject: Joyride on the Airbus A340-300 of SriLankan Airlines 4R-ADF Reply with quote



Flying is my passion, while flying a Boeing 747 or an Airbus A340 (variants) is my dream. Given the improvements and advancements in the aviation/aerospace industry in the 21st century, the Boeing 747's and Airbus A340's are slowly towards the end of their life time with airlines. There are more advanced airplanes being manufactured by Boeing and Airbus (777s, 787s, A330s, A350s, A380s, the NEOs, the MAXs etc, etc.), both in terms of fuel efficiency and passenger comfort. Airlines are slowly phasing out the older variants and SriLankan Airlines was no far behind in deciding to phase out their Airbus A340-300s to modernise their fleet with the State-of-the-Art, Ultra Modern Airbus A330-330s (and A350s scheduled in the years to come).

Back in 2014, I already had the great opportunity to try out the Boeing 747-400 of Air India on a very short 30 minute hop flight between Calicut (Kozhikode) and Kochi (and v.v.). I'll narrate that experience in a separate TR! (Just adding the curiosity Wink )

Now with the 747 out of the list, the remaining one was the Airbus A340 series. In the recent years, India gets to see a very limited number of Airbus A340s operated by different airlines. The most common one is the Lufthansa Airbus A340-300 to Chennai. Apart from this, only SriLankan Airlines operated their Airbus A340-300s on one-off's to Chennai, on a not-so-frequent level. So, the best opportunity was to try out UL's A343 on the short MAA-CMB or CMB-MAA sector. I was constantly watching the updates on Airlineroute.net to see the last date of operations of the A340-300, and realised that it would be mid-November 2015!

The Spark of an idea of making the trip!
On September 26, 2015, I was casually glancing through Flightradar24.com when I saw SriLankan Airlines Airbus A340-300 4R-ADF operating the morning UL 121/122 service on the CMB-MAA-CMB sector. All of a sudden, the spark of an idea struck me to head to UL's website to see when the next (possible) scheduled flight of the A343 to India was (before November 2015). After almost an hour of rigorous search on a day by day basis for the next 45 days, this was the result I got -
    October 2nd 0945 UL 122
    October 7th 0945 UL 122
    October 9th 0945 UL 122
    October 24th 1410 UL 128

Permutations and Combinations to get the Best Price vs. Timing of my choice vs. The AvGeek Experience
Now with the dates in hand, it was to decide whether I would be doing the MAA-CMB or CMB-MAA sector (both the sectors quite impossible on the same day). The options I had with me were -

Plan A: To do the MAA-CMB sector on Oct 7th and CMB-MAA sector on Oct 9th. What this meant was a 2 day stay at CMB + visa + other expenses. A quick check on these meant that I would exceed my budget by quite much! Plan A cancelled.

Plan B: To do the MAA-CMB sector on Oct 9th (being a Friday), and take an immediate return flight back to Chennai. Started to look for the fares and it was almost INR 14500/- (USD 225). Again that would be stretching a bit too much on my budget, given that I had just been back after a holiday at Goa with family for the anniversary. So Plan B again stood cancelled, and chances were looking very bleak to make the trip!

Plan C: To take the SG option on CJB-MAA-CMB on Oct 8th evening, and take the UL 121 on CMB-MAA on Oct 9th morning, and take a train to CJB on Oct 9th afternoon. This seemed a good option initially, but again the fares hit my pocket hard - INR 15600/- (SG being very costly on the MAA-CMB sector, and that too a red-eye flight on the Q400!). Plan C cancelled.

Plan D: Go by the avgeeky instinct! Start looking for multi-city option in UL's network (MAA-CMB-BLR/COK/TRV/TRZ/IXM). What this meant was take the Oct 9th UL 122 MAA-CMB, and then do the return on the same day to one of the destinations. Almost all these sectors were priced in the same range as the MAA-CMB-MAA sector (couple of them even higher!). But, then EUREKA! There was one sector (MAA-CMB-IXM) that gave me a ticket cost of INR 9500/-. Eyes opened wide!! What this also meant was the CMB-IXM was on a Mihin Lanka flight. New airline to try out in addition to Sri Lankan. This meant a 3 hour transit at CMB, which was perfect! Plan D GO AHEAD!!! Smile

This almost took me couple of days to narrow the options, and finally I made the booking on October 2nd, 2015 (for my flight on October 9th, that too an international one!!!). My itinerary was as follows -

09OCT UL122 MAA CMB 0945 1110 A343 ECONOMY
09OCT UL2935 CMB IXM 1410 1510 A320 ECONOMY

This also meant I had to plan for my journeys from Coimbatore (CJB) to MAA and the return from Madurai (IXM) to Coimbatore.

The Journey Day
9th October, 2015 0500 AM, I am at Chennai International Airport. I took a bus journey from Coimbatore to Chennai, and reached much earlier than I anticipated. Made the long walk across the old terminal to beat my sleepy mood and get a refresher. Freshened up, and by then it was about 0615 AM, I decided to head towards the international terminal. The international terminal was not bustling with too much activity as this time was a not-so-busy time compared to the night/early morning hours at MAA. Made it through the first CISF checkpoint into the terminal and headed straight to the UL counters (0630 AM).

Check-In
After a few minutes behind 10-15 passengers, I was at the counter where I was welcomed by the agent in a warm smile. He asked me for my tickets and passport. For a second he was quite puzzled. This is how the conversation went -
Quote:
Agent - "Sir, are you flying Chennai to Madurai?"

Me - "Yes, I am"

Agent - "Sir, you have domestic flight connectivity between the two cities. Are you sure you have booked the right ticket? May I know if you purchased the ticket or did any travel agent?"

Me - "Yes I am aware of flights between Chennai and Madurai. Yes, I booked the ticket"

Agent - "Are you getting to Colombo and returning back immediately?"

Me - Yes, that's my itinerary

Agent - "Sir, I've got to check on this itinerary with my superior. Can you please wait for few minutes?"

Me - Sure (I was like WTF! But then, who would do a Chennai to Madurai leg via Colombo, that too an international run? Only a crazy #avgeek like me can do these routings. I was like let me wait to hear what the superior/agent have to say and then i'll unleash my lethal weapon - #avgeek.)


After a few minutes of discussions between the agent and his superior, both of them came and here goes the discussion -

Quote:
Superior - "Sir, are you sure you have booked the right flight? Out of curiosity, may I know the reason why you have taken such a routing?"

Me - Ok, let me explain. I am an "AVGEEK". I am a crazy flight traveller and an aviation photographer. I am crazy, and the main reason for this trip is to experience your airline's Airbus A340-300 one last time (first time too!) before they are phased out in the next few months. I hope I have given you the answer to your question.

Superior - Awesome to hear that sir. We are happy to welcome you on board and we would like to wish you a pleasant flight ahead, sir! The best part was, "If there is anything I may do to make your trip better, please let me know!"

Me - Getting G(ch)eeky here!! Can I get an upgrade to business class??

Superior - Let me check sir! After few minutes, "Sir, we are running a full flight tonight, in both classes. I terribly apologise for the inconvenience here. But if anytime you fly Sri Lankan the next time, I will personally do my best to give you an upgrade!"


I was extremely pleased with the way the superior interacted with me. In a couple of minutes, I had my boarding pass with me. Then I checked if I could get the boarding pass for the CMB-IXM leg too. I was told to collect it from the transfer desk on arrivals. 0655LT, boarding pass received and time to proceed towards immigration and security.



Immigration, Security Check, and some Spotting
Immigration and security check was a breeze (not like what I experienced on my next trip to Singapore!) and I was at the departures area by 0730. Then, the usual routine to see the status of the flight on Flightradar24.com, and saw 4R-ADF already on her way from CMB-MAA. Smile Happiness!!

0850, 10 minutes to touchdown for 4R-ADF, I decided to click some pictures through the terminal wall of her arrival. The arrival lineup was pretty amazing - Silkair Airbus A320 (9V-SLK), UL A343 4R-ADF, followed by Cargolux Boeing 747-400F LX-WCV, followed by departure of TruJet ATR 72-500 (something I had not clicked till date!), followed by Lufthansa Cargo MD-11F (I don't remember the registration!).



0901 - the Airbus A340-300 4R-ADF gracefully touched down on Runway 25 and posed for my camera as she vacated from the runway.



0905 - Cargolux Boeing 747F landed and gave a striking pose



Flight Details

Airline - SriLankan Airlines
Equipment - Airbus A340-300
Registration - 4R-ADF
Flight Number - UL 122
Seat Number - 23A
STD - 1000
ATD - 1010
STA - 1125
ATA - 1126
Flying Time - 01h 15min
Rating - 9.5/10 (4.5 stars)

The departure was from the old terminal at Chennai Anna International Airport and I had to make the long walk to the old terminal. Reached the gate and relaxed for sometime. Boarding commenced at about 0935, and I boarded the aircraft at 0955. The view of the massive port side CFM56-5C3/F engines of the A340-300 welcomed me as I made my way into the aircraft. Made my way through the packed cabin to my seat 23A.



Departure
Pushback commenced at 1010 and soon as we finished pushback, the CFM engines sprung into power, slowly and steadily, one by one. It felt like ages until all 4 engines were spooled up and running at idle power. Then we commenced the taxi procedure all the way to runway 25. It almost took 9 minutes to enter the Runway 25.



1023AM, the engines started the roar and we could feel the momentum as the aircraft started the departure roll. Slowly and gradually the wheels lifted off the ground and we were off!! We almost rotated at the touchdown point of Runway 07 (being a fully loaded flight). The climb was very gradual and slowly we made the climb to our designated altitude. After a few minutes, we slowly banked left to set course for Colombo.




Breakfast Service
Seat belt signs were turned off 7 minutes into the flight, and the cabin attendants sprung into action with the breakfast service. Being a very short flight (1 hour), they had to serve the 300 passengers on board. I received my meal tray at 1033, and the meal consisted of the traditional Sri Lankan food item - Kiribath (Kiribath can be considered a form of rice pudding.) It really tasted yummy!! The meal tray also consisted of a cup of Set Yoghurt, a cup of water (all the way from Al Ain!. Rolling Eyes May be loaded on the previous flight from Jeddah?? Me wonders), and a cup for coffee/tea serving.



Soon after the flight attendants started serving Ceylon tea/coffee option, and I chose the coffee (Damn! I must have tried the Ceylon tea. It really tasted well on my next Sri Lankan flight). Excellent service and commitment from the Sri Lankan crew. Hats off to them.

Time to get acquainted with the crew!
It was almost 1050 by the time I completed my breakfast and handed over the trays. I had some printed photographs of a Sri Lankan Airbus A340-300 that I wanted to personally share with the crew members (both flight crew and cabin crew). I made my way to the galley and started handing over signed copies of the photograph. Every crew member was so happy to see the picture, and I also made the mention to them about the retirement of the Airbus A340-300. They were all so sad to see the old lady leave the fleet and had to say about their memories flying the old lady. I was then handed over a Children amenity kit by the chief cabin manager when I told them about my little one (and, the story behind his name - Harshvardhan [Air India Boeing 747 VT-EGC]).

Then I asked the FA if I could have a can of beer, (yes I saw crates of beer inside the galley), and she was happy to offer me a choice of Tiger Beer vs. Carlsberg. I chose the Carlsberg and I picked up a couple of cans (to beat the hunger during my 3 hour transit at CMB).



Descend and Landing at Colombo
Mission accomplished, got the contact details of the FAs and returned to my seat in happiness. By then, I could feel the engines being reduced to landing power and the nose pitching down. Yes, the journey was almost over!! Sad



1110 AM, we slowly made the descend and made a silk smooth touch down on Runway 22 at 1126 AM. The reversers (also famously known as the hair dryers) kicked in to action immediately once the wheels touched the ground. It was a rainy morning at Colombo given the monsoon season, and a rain shower had just passed some time before, making the runway wet. The hair dryers took care of drying the runway, to some extent Razz

We exited the runway through the second exit and entered the taxiway. As we slowly made the taxi, I was greeted with the sight of the beautiful Qatar Airways Airbus A340-600 departing right in front of my eyes. Had my camera handy to get a beautiful picture of the departure!



Finally, we docked at the gate at 1132AM, thereby bringing my journey to an end. It was time to bid farewell to the old lady, but I had the happiness & satisfaction of flying her before she was off to the desert!

Sadness & happiness in a matter of few minutes
Sadly, for me on this flight, I was denied photography of the cabin (I was told they needed special permissions from the airline to be able to click pictures) Sad I was dejected, but the next few moments made me completely get back to business/happiness. I got an invite from the pilots to make my way into the cockpit. I had larger size printed pictures for the Captain & First Officer, and handed it over to them. They were extremely pleased to have a picture of the aircraft they have been flying for few years. In fact the captain was enthusiastic to ask me if I had any pictures of the arrival at Chennai. I responded affirmative and would share the pictures when am back home. Few minutes of chatter in the cockpit, exchange of business cards and thank you's, I asked for an opportunity to click a picture of the cockpit. The crew were happy to let me go ahead and take the picture. In fact the captain himself told me to take a picture of the throttle quadrant since he felt the upcoming years would not see a throttle quadrant with 4 levers (quad-engined aircrafts)! Indeed he was right.




Photography rights done, I made my way out of the aircraft, bidding farewell one last time to the old lady.





Walked along with the crew towards the arrival/transit area. 1153 AM, I am at the transit area, ready to collect my boarding pass for the second leg - CMB-IXM!

Finally, a dream come true experience for me to experience the Airbus A340 and the hospitality of Sri Lankan airlines crew. Both did not disappoint, and I already had my money's worth!

Stay tuned for my next TR on the CMB-IXM sector on Mihin Lanka (what a vast difference from Sri Lankan Airlines.....)
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Regards,
Sriram Hariharan
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4426
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When an ace photographer shares not just his pictures, but wonderful trip reports with us, what do we get? Pure magic, and unadulterated bliss.
Couple that with an av-geek experience. Nothing beats this.
Sriram, thank you for yet another lovely trip report!
It was nice of you to start with your lovely JP picture of the bird you were on!
It sets the tune for the entire experience.
The planning part is something most of us would be familiar with: the options, and the optimisation!
The conversation with the agent and his supervisor, was also lovely.
If you take copies of your lovely work and hand them over to the crew, would they not like it, or feel honoured! I can only wish I had such wonderful talents as you do. Your description is so lucid, that I can visualise almost every moment of your trip report. Lovely!
The cockpit visit must have been wonderful: those pictures are beautiful!

The kiribAth with kithul jaggery: Mmm...we have seen pictures of this Sri Lankan delight in Jishnu's trip reports as well. Nice! However, three Carlsbergs to beat hunger isn't exactly my way of things Smile Booze is booze, and I love my booze, but not to beat hunger.

Wow: you have also done the CCJ-COK sector: perhaps the shortest B744 flight, and that too, on a refurbished Air India B744! Do I not envy you? Smile
We look forward to both the return, as well as the hint you have given us, of yet another impending trip report. And did I forget to mention your Air Carnival inaugural, which you got all of us excited on, with your lovely pictures on the WhatsApp group?
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sri_bom
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Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 2365
Location: Singapore

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a fantastic report on the quads and thank you for posting in great detail.

I am sure you must have enjoyed the look on the UL staff face when they saw your itinerary. Also impressive that for a one hour flight you got a small meal served.

The cockpit pictures were great and very kind of the captain to ask you to take the shot of the levers, it is sad but true that most quads will end up with cargo operators

Killing hunger with booze is not my idea either as it gets me quite tipsy…

Sri_Bom
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yatrik
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Joined: 08 Nov 2012
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic trip report Sriram ! Only an #avgeek can do something like this. Imagine a few years down the line, you have a look at your passport and see that you only have India EXIT and ENTRY stamps for this trip, so you basically left the country did not enter any other country and came back !

Great set of pictures and nice research to find the A340 schedule for MAA !

Cheers mate !

Looking forward to the AI 747 TR !
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stealthpilot
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Going through options/combinations/permutations of how to get where .... a necessary headache known all too well by plane geeks Wink
Nice cabin pictures, the 340 wing looks wow from those angles.
Any larger pictures of the QR 346?
Thanks for the great TR!
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jbalonso777
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ahhh Magam Ruhunapurua!

Great memories onboard this aircraft - it was my first flight on the Airbus A340! Sad that its gone now, all a history Sad

Thanks for sharing this report, and with great images!!

Lovely stuff from SriLankan Airlines, and I'm glad you were impressed by them, they work wonders on this short route, too.

Regards
Jish
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