• Feature: Get Real #4: Flying In 707

    Feature: Get Real #4: Flying In 707

    By Jose Octavio

    I have lived all my life in Rio. But today I'm in Brasilia and it is July 1986. At that time I belonged to the technical team of the Brazilian Tourism Authority and the main office was in Rio, however we often had to go to Brasilia to deal with official matters in different levels of the Government. I mean, me and everyone else, federal officials from different states, did the same. By Friday all those, plus a number of congressmen wanted to go back to their states - but consider that a good number of them had their main residences in Rio. Basically, Friday afternoons meant crowded airport and flights, although nothing that compares to now a days.

    On this particular Friday I didn't think of my reservations to go home until it was too late: I just took a taxi and when I arrived at the airport I noticed that there were a lot of people. Herds of people. I rushed to Varig's counter and of course, they were sold out to Rio or any nearby destination. Same with all the other companies. Oh well, I thought, and walked to the bar to relax. When I was on my way, there comes the taxi driver that had brought me from the hotel and he sees me (I must have had a very sad expression in my face) and says: Any problem? Did you get your ticket?

    Next, we were negotiating how much gas we would spend to drive the 1300 km (800 miles) all the way to Rio. He said he wanted to see his family and he would do it for the gas. We went to the bar and took a table, trying to figure out some numbers including the mileage of his thirsty Dodge Dart V8!

    Then, a little miracle happened: Varig announces on the speakers an extra flight, the 707 flight coming from LA had was going to do a technical layover in Brasilia and had many vacant seats, so "those interested please rush to our international counter".

    Zwish out the door I went, my taxi driver (looking very disappointed) says have a good trip and gave me his business card. Got my seat and half an hour later I watch the 707 landing from the bar balcony, a sign of good old times: airports were so much more civilized. The speakers buzzed and it's time to board the PP-VJK.

    1986, and the 707s were aging - not as in "getting too old", but the new turbofans that ran the newer aircraft were a lot more economical and silent. On board of that flight, must have been that a lot of people knew each other or were regular commuters on Friday's Varig flight to Rio. It was pretty much a cocktail party, with the passengers enjoying the great Varig on board service with quality drinks and snacks going. I was sitting on 'smokers' side by a window and enjoying the ride as the 707 took off.

    There were politicians whose families lived in Rio, businessmen and officials like me - most of which knew each other and possibly Varig people, because the flight ended up with a couple of passengers more than there were seats. I only became aware of this when we started our descent on approach to Rio: some guys were still standing or seated in the seats arms, still talking as they put their drinks back as the cart was passed by. No big deal, it was a fine approach with barely any shaking and there was the city, in all its splendorous lights awaiting for us, as the Rolls Royce high pitched turbines became more and more audible on revs down.

    This time, during this approach which is over the city of Petropolis on the mountains of the Serra do Mar near Rio, you clearly see the Guanabara Bay and Rio itself, which is a very beautiful view on a clear night, like this one was. However I was comfortably sitting at a right side window on this flight, and as it descended towards SBGL runway 10 I could enjoy all the great view and the loud clicks and noises from the electrical motors moving the flaps, and the big weee-klunk of the undercarriage opening and locking in place. For me, flying like this, on a 707 was the state of the art fly. The 707 would barely vibrate or move, let alone shake (needed a BIG turbulence to make you feel anything at all). I'm saying this, because I was, before that, used to fly when I was a kid, accompanying my father, usually to Sao Paulo and sometimes to some other State Capital (he was a Lawyer). In these short distance trip but sometimes long trips, we use to fly DC3 Dakota, C46 Curtis Commander and later, Convair 240, 340 and if I got lucky a 440 (which was oh wonder pressurized! But there was still a lot of noise, vibration and shaking, especially on the Convairs. Bad weather and "vacuum bumps" were routine on lower altitude flights, but sometimes they left the cabin door open and you could see the pilots handling the beast. Amazing pilots looking into dozens of instruments and dealing with levers, radios, carburetor mixtures and all sorts of buttons. And then, suddenly, prepare to land. Signs on, no smoking and fasten seat belts: here we go!

    As time passed, I got used to Constellations, Caravelles and Electra II before stepping into a 707. It's like riding a noisy Volkswagen bug, shaking on the road, with poor brakes and etc., and then being thrown into a 2000s Cadillac and getting used to it. No more bugs for me!

    On the other hand, now they put you in even smoother planes, real wonderful machines, but the comfort - oh well, we big guys won't ever forgive this: comfort is gone. The airports are super crowded, you have to stand in a line forever and the seats! Oh man, the seats. If I could shrink 40% each time I fly I wouldn't say anything but today's seats really take all the fun out of flying.

    Although I didn't know anyone on board, I could hear chatter, and it was about Varig getting rid of the 707s - to be replaced with more modern aircraft (mostly 737s - international routes were being handled by 747s already). But one of the 707s would still be in business serving FAB - the Brazilian Air Force. The exact one we were flying, PP-VJK was going to fly back to Boeing to be overhauled and become FAB 1 to serve the President.

    But history wouldn't allow it: in the last month in service the VJK crashed on approach to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, this accident being a total loss. Because of this unfortunate event, Varig honored the sale by delivering the PP-VJY, which was a little newer, to the Air Force. This sample was overhauled and served the President for several years, and it was nicknamed - after its age in years - the "sucatao", in Portuguese "the big junk". The nick was given by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1998-2002). This PP-VJY Boeing 707-345C has the serial number cn 19842 and it's in service still today as a regular Air Force passenger transport. The next President, Lula, would authorize the purchase of a brand new Airbus 320 on his second term, after being re-elected (2006), thus replacing the VJK.

    So, it became a part of my FSX activity to fly trying to reproduce some of the flights I was on, and I started with this flight, since I had become a great fan of the 707, with its maneuver capacity, typical high pitch turbines and all the modern features that for me made flying a lot more comfortable than before with everything happening in the right time and almost no surprises. But I also had good kicks with the fast Electra II, one of the nicest planes I used to fly in real life (a little more adventurous than the 707 on FSX). For those who remember, there was a bar on the back of the cabin, about where the rear door was. Oh man (and I smile). Here's a video as well:

    Jose Octavio
    Ron Blehm
    [email protected]

    Tags: get real

    1. Johan_Dees's Avatar
      Johan_Dees -
      Very nice read, keep them comming sir!
    1. victor6's Avatar
      victor6 -
      stupid video
    1. trad's Avatar
      trad -
      Be sure to watch the next installment... "Bill Smith Sues for Copyright Infringement" or "The Aussie Tanks the Yank".
    1. roachpc's Avatar
      roachpc -
      Very nice recall,.....and, I learned something about flying into a country and city that leads me now to go and explore it. Yes, flying commercial carriers from the 60s' into the early 90s'.....really WAS fun.
    1. swanny's Avatar
      swanny -
      Quote Originally Posted by trad View Post
      Be sure to watch the next installment... "Bill Smith Sues for Copyright Infringement" or "The Aussie Tanks the Yank".
      Sorry TRad (and I know who you are) but Mr. Smith gave his blessing and signed over his "Copyrights" long before publication. Furthermore, if you were able to zoom in without any blurring on the GET REAL Newsprint photo you'd see that I give Mr. Smith and his FS Novel, "GET REAL, a Flight Simmer's Tale" full credit for the title inspiration. Nice try though!!
    1. trad's Avatar
      trad -
      Quote Originally Posted by swanny View Post
      Sorry TRad (and I know who you are) but Mr. Smith gave his blessing and signed over his "Copyrights" long before publication. Furthermore, if you were able to zoom in without any blurring on the GET REAL Newsprint photo you'd see that I give Mr. Smith and his FS Novel, "GET REAL, a Flight Simmer's Tale" full credit for the title inspiration. Nice try though!!
      I appreciate your attention to detail and your recognition of my efforts though I simply couldn't pass up an opportunity to needle Messrs Smith and Blehm. ;-)
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