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Friday 12 April 2019

A Getaway from Asia with LOT Polish Airlines Part 3

Welcome to the 3rd installation of my LOT Polish experience!

This is supposed to be a Boeing 737 MAX flight but as you all know that the aircraft was grounded due to the 2nd crash of this aircraft. The first was Lion Airlines and the Ethiopian Airlines crash forced the authorities to take action this time. My opinion below, do feel free to comment. 

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 

This aircraft, compared to the 737NG has a difference. Because of the size of the engines (larger), the engine needs to be placed in front of the wing instead of below, so that this new engine would have enough ground allowance. The height of the Boeing 737 is lower than the A320, therefore, the Airbus A320NEO has no issue. 

Here is a comparison (Boeing 737NG vs Boeing 737 MAX 8 vs Airbus A320NEO)

Icelandair Boeing 737 MAX 8

Photo: Mark McGrath

Corendon Boeing 737-800 (Next Generation)

Photo: Gerry Stegmeier

Easyjet Airbus A320 NEO

Photo: Andrea Spoladore

About the 737 MAX 8 Accidents

FAA - Federal Aviation Administration (U.S Department of Transport)

Since the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 have the imbalance issue due to the larger engines placing higher on the wing, this would create an aerodynamic issue of the aircraft pushing the nose up in certain condition which will result to the aircraft stalling. Boeing introduced the MCAS system (Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System). This system is to prevent the aircraft from stalling by automatically pitch the aircraft to the nose down position. This 737 MAX aircraft relies on only one of 2 sensors to measure the AOA (Angle of attack).

If this sensor becomes faulty, the pilots get confused and have big issues to solve the problem. For both air crashes, it was a tug-of-war between the pilots and the system. The pilots could use stabilizer control to counteract with MCARs following the steps on the manual, however, if the MCAS insist on its way, then its almost impossible to save the aircraft. This was what Ethiopian Airlines' crew faced before the aircraft went down. 

 According to the pilots who went through the flight simulator, they went through the exact scenario as the Ethiopian and Lion Air crash and had only 40 seconds to recover. This issue occurs when the pilots engaged in the autopilot system. The erratic sensor diagnoses wrongly, auto engaged the MCAS system which forces the aircraft to nose down. Some pilots managed to overcome this issue by disengaging the autopilot system and fortunate for them, the MCAS system gave in.  

The issue with the Boeing 737 MAX is how did FAA certify the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft without knowing much about the MCAS system. This is the question which many of us are wondering. 

For now, Boeing is working on software to prevent these 2 accidents from happening again. This may take a while for the FAA to approve. Even if it gets approved, some of the countries' civil aviation regulators have mentioned that they would do their own checks to ensure the aircraft is safe for flying. The confidence in Boeing and FAA fell rapidly. 

The confidence level for this aircraft with both the public and airlines have fallen. Some airlines are already reviewing their order and Garuda (at this point) are requesting to Boeing to change their aircraft order to something else. They should be in talks at the moment. Many people I know are not willing to fly with this aircraft even when its back on service. As for the flight and cabin crew, I am not sure how much of a choice do they have as this is down to the decision of the airline. I believe there are some who are confident enough to fly the aircraft.

Eventually the aircraft would be fixed and hopefully, a safety issue with this question will be put to bed. This will definitely take some time. There are plane crashes of other aircraft type but this one is significant due to today's technology and how new the 737 MAX is to the market. Furthermore, the weakness of the aircraft has been exposed. This is a wake-up call for both Boeing and FAA, also for the world to know and learn from this. 

What's next for Boeing?

Fixing the 737 MAX problem is a priority. It may take months to get this aircraft certified and things to slowly get back to normal, but there is no quick fix to this ordeal. With Boeing quietly launching the Boeing 777-9X model, the manufacturer and FAA have to make sure that history doesn't repeat on this popular long haul twinjet. Not to worry about the new Boeing 777 as it is completely controlled by the Fly-by-wire system, that means it doesn't use the MCAS system. 

Will I fly the 737 MAX after it returns to service? 

Not for a while, that's for sure. I like to give it a period to see if there are any further issues with the aircraft. The 737 design is a 1960 technology and I strongly believe a newly designed aircraft replacing the 737 NG and Classics aircraft should have taken place instead of continuing using the 737 design but of course Boeing themselves know better. This topic I can go on but let's leave it as it is.

Meanwhile, I like to wish all the victims' family my condolences and may God watch over them.

My trip report

London Heathrow Terminal 2 - Queen's terminal

I am delighted to be departing from this famous terminal, the Queen's terminal. I used this terminal before but that was before the makeover. Now, this terminal looks more spacious and of course, an improvement over the previous. 

Information on terminal 2

Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 is also known as Queen's terminal occupied the site of the previous terminal 2 and the Queen's building. Queen's building is popular for its famous spotting arena, great for photography. An eagle eye view of both runways, it was a place when I witnessed the take-off of the Concorde and enjoy the many exotic airlines that fly to this famous airport. Due to space constraint, Queen's building had to be closed to make way to this beautiful terminal which opened on 4 June 2014. Terminal 2 will be further expanded, taking up some space of terminal 1 (which is due to be demolished). 

Majority of the airlines using this terminal belong to the Star Alliance. The non-Star Alliance members are Aer Lingus, Icelandair, and German Wings. 

The entrance to the Terminal 2 

During my stay in London Heathrow 

I was delighted to catch up with my mum, spending time with her was my priority for this trip, that is why I didn't do any extra flights within Europe. Perhaps I do one in the near future. My sister and her family are living over there, so it was great to catch up with them.

This is Trafalgar Square

Westfield Stratford

Garden at St James's Park

Beautiful architect, don't you agree?

Big Ben undergoing a major makeover 

Typical London Street 

Covent Garden 

Flight route: LHR-WAW

Miles: 916

At London Heathrow Terminal 2 Airport 

Land Side 

A modern looking terminal - hardly recognizable compared to the previous terminal 2

Looking at my flight, the gate would be shown about 30-40 minutes before departure, so it is your responsibility to keep a lookout. 

This is the land side. I got the information on where to check in, not difficult to navigate with the signboards.

It's a good looking terminal

Row A was where I checked in for my flight 

It was quite busy that morning 

Everything is automated, which I preferred. No worries about encountering rude staff which I did on my experience with Etihad Airways about a decade ago. 

You can also choose your seats with this machine. I selected my seat for my 2nd flight (WAW-SIN).

Once you are done with the check-in, luggage tag and boarding passes are issued. 

The automated self-check-in baggage kiosk 

It is easy to use. 

This whole process takes less than 2 minutes.

The machine below is used to recognize your exit of the country. There is no need to go through the immigration procedure (chopping of the stamp) for departing passengers. This saved us a lot of time and possible agony from the stern immigration officers. 

Time to go! 

Checking Flightradar24, SP-LWA was my ride to WAW

Spotted one of British Airways' Boeing 747-400 Retro livery! 

My ride has landed! Sometimes the aircraft display shows no call-sign and route information.

Air Side 

Lots of shops to check out while plane spotting is possible. I managed to spend about half an hour watching the runway 27 Left activity. I saw a lot of new aircraft for the first time. (BA Retro liveries), Virgin Atlantic's Boeing 787-9, Airbus A330-300 and a few others. 

My breakfast (@ Wonder tree)

Typical English breakfast including the drink cost me about 14 pounds. 

It was decent, nothing to shout about.

Once my stomach was taken care of, I went to explore the concourse.

Looks more like a shopping mall, what do you think? 

There is plenty of seating area. Free Wifi is available.

I did another check on my flight's status and my aircraft was assigned to gate A19.

We were to wait at this point. Luckily the passengers behind me didn't use the escalator otherwise you can imagine what would happen. 

Date of departure: 2nd April 2019
Airline: LOT Polish Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 737 MAX 8 changed to Boeing 737-800
Registration: SP-LWA
Gate: A19
Load: 80%
Seat: 27F
Scheduled departure: 1015
Boarding: 0940
Push back: 1030
Take off: 1102
Arrival: 1350
Actual arrival: 1405
Duration: 2 hours 
Departure runway: 27L
Arrival runway: 33


Photo: Fabrizio Capenti

About this aircraft 

LOT's Polish Boeing 737-800 (Leased from AerCap)
Delivered to the airline on 17 May 2017
Configuration: CY 186
Engines: 2 X CFM56-7B26
Built-in Renton (U.S)

Photo: X Pan 

The Boeing 737-800 and ERJ-195 were deployed on this route at this time because of the grounding of the 737 MAX 8. Most of the time, the Boeing 737-800 was used with both the airlines and the chartered 737. 

Once on board, the 2 cabin crew standing at the door seemed to be staring daggers at us, giving me a sense of hostility. Among my LOT flights so far, this set of crew is no doubt the worst. Luckily they didn't serve my row and those around me. I don't have to suffer looking at their unpleasant look. At the end of the flight, I saw them standing near the cockpit door. One of them gave me an unhappy glance and looked away when I looked back. I thanked them but was ignored. Such a poor attitude. 

If they don't want to be on board, please resign. I am sure there are many younger applicants out there waiting to replace them.

Anyway, the other 2 crew working at the rear were not so bad. 

Priority seats (With red headset)

The bulkhead row has more legroom space, together with the emergency row.

Standard Economy Class (Blue headrest)

I had a chance to choose this emergency window seat, but I chose the normal window seat instead. Kind of regretted it to be honest. Luckily, the flight was only 2 hours. 

The old Boeing cabin of this 14 years old aircraft 

Legroom space is quite tight 

The rear had vacant seats. Some managed to score the whole row for themselves.

From my seat 

Tight legroom space for a 6 foot 4 person like myself

Complimentary drink and snack are offered on these European flights

Window shot photos 

Our flight was delayed due to the heavy traffic. Captain made an announcement and updated us on our route and weather ahead. The audio system wasn't good as I missed out some key information like the weather. He mentioned something about turbulence along the way.

Once we pushed back, we took quite a while to reach the threshold of runway 27 left. It was raining at that time so the movement on the runway was slightly slower than normal.

We took off with a bit of turbulence but nothing bad. Flew through some clouds like a ride on a bus hitting the hump numerous times. 

Once clear of the clouds, the seatbelt sign was turned off and for the rest of the cruise, it was non-eventful. 

Racing with British Airways A319 to the threshold

I wished I had taken more photos.

Can you see the British Airways Boeing 747-400 in Landor livery? 

Finally out of the clouds. 

Weather (below) looks great right? Can't say the same for flying. 

The closer we got to the ground, the worse the turbulence it got. The crosswind was quite strong when we started our descend. I was sleeping at one point and I was woken up by the jolts. Coffee was not needed at this point. Aircraft rattled while we battled against the strong wind. This was a test for the pilots who did a magnificent job. We touched down safely and taxied to our assigned gate.

Shaking side-ways at this point of time

Phew! Glad to be on the ground 

I spotted WizzAir's Airbus A320 and A321 and Enter Air's Boeing 737-800. 
WizzAir is in my list to try. 

The first sight of Enter Air's 737 for my log book

Parked beside this Tokyo bound 787-9 

The late arrival has nothing to do with the airline. 

Thanks for the ride, SP-LWA! 

My rating: 

App experience (to check-in): 5/10
London's Queen Terminal experience: 8/10
Airport Staff: 7/10
Check-in experience: 9/10
In-flight service: 2/10 
Cabin interior: 8/10
Cleanliness: 8/10
Aircraft condition: 8/10
In-flight snack: 6/10
Seat comfort: 6/10 
Overall rating: 67/100

Turbulence level: (Descending towards Warsaw): 4/10 (10 being the strongest)


My experience with Terminal 2 was better than the in-flight service. That's for sure! Whether the crew were tired or not, they have to be professional. Whatever it is, this won't stop me from flying on the airline's shorter routes. 2 bad crew doesn't mean the airline is bad. There is always good, bad and ugly side of people in all industries. 

Between the ERJ-190 and Boeing 737 service on the Warsaw to London sector, which do I prefer? I would go for the London City Airport route if I am rushing for time. London Heathrow is ideal for me when I am not in a rush and have time for plane spotting. Among all the airports visited so far, London Heathrow gets my vote for being the most interesting location for plane spotting. You get a huge variety of airlines and aircraft types from all around the world. Maybe not so much of the aircraft types today due to the strict regulation. 

As for the 737 MAX issue, airlines are demanding for compensation from Boeing and rightfully so. Norwegian, China Eastern Airlines and other 737 MAX operators have to re-structure their network in order to minimize the cancellation of flights. The worst hit has to be Southwest Airlines, operating a large number of 737 MAX 8 and do they have enough space aircraft to cover? I don't think so. Furthermore, this Low-Cost Carrier does not interline with other airlines, meaning it cannot transfer passengers to other airlines without paying the full fare for the stranded passengers. Lots of headache for the management of the 737 MAX operators. 

Hopefully, lessons are learned and more importantly, strict protocols are followed especially for new aircraft types. I rather they take longer to certify the aircraft than to rush the process. 

Thanks for reading! 

Stay tuned for my last part of my LOT Polish experience. I will give an overview of my thoughts of this airline and my long haul experience on the 787 Dreamliner.

For my part 1 (SIN-WAW), click here
For my part 2 (WAW-LCY), click here
For my part 4 (WAW-SIN), click here


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