IFR to JFK on a 747-400 – as a bloody passenger!

It all starts at YVR. The Vancouver International Airport is one of my favorites worldwide. Not that getting to it is so easy, though, but the completion of our new Canada Line skytrain will solve that issue. YVR is nested on the oriental side of Richmond, last island in the Fraser River delta. Approaches are done from or into the Straight of Georgia on the 08L-26R and 08R-26L parallel runways. On a clear day, the Greater Vancouver aerial scenery is grandiose, with the Vancouver Island, the North Shore mountains, the Cascades and Mt. Baker, the Gulf and San Juan Islands and the Seattle area all clearly visible.

And then there’s the terminal’s aquarium. Any place with an aquarium wins me instantly, I’m that weak. Fishies!

December 6th was a perfect autumn day. Deep blue sky, snow on the mountains, some low clouds over the water but nowhere else. The Cathay Pacific flight on its easternmost leg of the Hong Kong – New York run took off towards the west and climbed straight ahead for a while until turning around and heading east. Sadly, I had left my camera in my carry-on, out of reach, and missed the beautiful views of Vancouver gliding under the left wing. But I did manage to get it a little later and caught our stunning overflight of the Cascades.

On an almost almost empty plane, I had 5 seats to myself towards the back of the main cabin, on a front row with leg room. We were cruising at 39,000 feet with a tailwind, just below the speed of sound. The food was very decent, wine kept pouring, then coffee, and the 12 video channels kept me entertained and happy. Of course, being happy was easy. I was going to Brooklyn.

When we finally began our approach into New York’s JFK, I had the camera in hand and decided to experiment a little with low light and movement. Bare with me, the last  pictures were taken at 1600 ISO with the heavy grain that implies and through an aircraft’s thick double window. But as the giant plane slowed itself down to its landing configuration, gradually losing speed while gaining wing surface, its back arched in the dark sky like a eagle aiming for its pray, wings wide open, tail low and eyes focused, I caught myself staring in awe at the city spread below and the million lives modestly unfolding as we went by. I steadied myself against the glass and shot continuously, attempting to render the contrast between our fleeting passage up there and the ocean of microscopic events that lay underneath.

One of them, though, would soon take on macroscopic proportions. It already has. Marie met me at the Arrivals gate and instantly, we were airborne again. No need for wings this time, but plenty of height and the best soaring…