I woke up around 5:35 EDT somewhere over Lake Huron, after two hours of fitful sleep. It had been fitful, thanks to some loud girls two rows behind me, and because in spite of the added legroom and assroom, there’s something uncomfortable about the J seats on an Air Canada-configured A321 that makes sleeping difficult. The climate control system had run away on us overnight, leading to a moment where I woke up soaked with sweat, and another where I realized I was freezing cold. But it didn’t matter: 5:35, heading east-southeast over the Great Lakes, and the sun was coming up, peeking its way above the cloud deck hanging out around 20,000. It teased us for a while, the top of the disc popping up above the clouds as we traded altitude and angle and it rose in the sky. And then, as we left FL350, it finally rose, exploding in the cabin like a fireball, bathing everyone and everything in its brilliant red light.
Morning in the air — beautiful, even on two hours of (bad) sleep.
Climbout from Calgary was… interesting. I’d never before seen a thunderstorm from 9,000 feet, never mind been in one, and the lightning strobed all around us. Sitting on the ramp at CYYC, at the departure end of 34, I looked out the window at the city, lit in the glare of God’s own flashgun, a dozen within the space of about a minute. I wondered about the turbulance on climb, whether this would be the rollercoaster ride to end all rollercoaster rides, with thermal currents and microbursts and downdrafts and all the other meteorological phenomena hated by pilots… and it actually turned out to be pretty benign, much better than the WJA flight I took last month that was bumpy as all hell going into the same airport on final. A couple of ripples, a few nice thumps, but that was it. By the time we hit the flight levels, the storm was below and behind us.
The flight itself was OK. The service was suitably fawning and the food was surprisingly good, though I think whoever makes the menus at Air Canada should seriously reconsider putting noodles on a guy’s plate in mid-air. I’m not sure there’s an elegant way to eat fat noodles in an airplane, and it doesn’t help that my brain defaults to, “duh, slurp ’em,” which works in Shinjuku, but not in this part of the world. But whatever. I somehow managed to not make a mess, and figured out how my seat worked, and how to make the massage function work properly (result: about as well as any in-chair massage system you’ve ever used, meaning, of course, “not that well”). I think that’s about all that’s worth writing home about. The A321 is, of course, a hilariously uninspiring aircraft from a company with a hilariously uninspiring name that, in the process, manages to capture most of what’s wrong with commercial aviation today. Airbus?? Be serious. This is not a bus in the air, this is a damn airplane. Show a little respect for the thing. You don’t get to see sunrises over Lake Huron at 35,000 feet in a bus.