About a flight, a train ride and a Web Services Workshop

When my alarm clock rang on Monday the 14th of February at 6.15 am, I had no clue what I’m going to experience the next 23 hours. To be honest, if I knew it upfront, I would have stayed in bed for an additional couple of hours. But because I didn’t knew, I left my home in Oxford at 7am. As usual, Danny drove me to London Heathrow airport. Traffic was heavy but not terribly bad for a Monday morning. We got a little stoked on the M25 but I had still plenty of time left. After arriving at Heathrow on 8.20am, getting my boarding pass and passing the security checks didn’t took me longer than 10 minutes. So I was sitting in the lounge and was awaiting the boarding call for my BA flight to Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. On Tuesday, I was going to present my “Web Services Competency Workshop” for invited Russian Architects. Therefore I had chosen an early flight to get enough time for immigration and custom as well as getting to the hotel before dinner. The flight was scheduled to leave LHR at 9.35 am and should arrive at DME on 16.30 pm. Unfortunately, it was very windy in England and most of the flights were delayed. So was mine.  We left LHR around 10.30.  The flight was relaxed and I could work on my email backlog. The expected flight time was a bit more then 3.5 hours. After more then 4 hours in the air the pilot informed us that DME had such bad weather conditions that it is impossible to land there. This information came after circling for about an hour above Moscow! He decided to land at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. Which also meant that my organized transportation won’t be available as it was ordered to DME. But this was the least problem I had because as soon as the pilot started the landing approach the flight got more and more pumpy. There was a snowstorm outside and I could see nothing except the vibrating wings of the airplane. After 5 minutes it got worse and I instantly realized it’s not going to be a “normal” landing. Being at least twice a week in an airplane gives me enough experience to tell when there is something wrong. My gut feeling wasn’t wrong! There was a massive gale from the side that moved the whole 767 to the left. And this was the point were the engines started to make an incredible noise and I’ve got pressed into my seat. I was REALLY scared because there was a complete whiteout and I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t know whether we were 10 or 100 meter above ground. Therefore I didn’t know how bad the situation really was, but I realized that the pilot abandoned the approach. After more than 10 minutes of silence we’ve got told that we were very close to the ground when this strong gale hit the airplane from the side. He then informed us that he isn’t going to try it a second time but is going to divert to St. Petersburg; which is actually another 1.5 hour flight away from Moscow. The weather was much better in St. Petersburg and we could land without any problems. We’ve got told that everybody can leave the airplane and arrange its own travel to Moscow or can stay with the crew and fly back to LHR. The estimated arrival time was 1 am. I just called my Russian colleague about my problems and that it was very unlikely that I could make it to Moscow till Tuesday 10am. He agreed and I started to organize my transportation from LHR to Oxford and grabbed a beer from the back bar of the plane when my phone rang again. It was one of my Russian colleagues. He offered me to organize a guy in St. Petersburg who brings me to the train station, buys me a ticket and accompanies me till Moscow; which is actually an 8 hour train ride! So I left the plane, got escorted to Russian custom when they explained to my translator that the border is already closed. After some discussion they let me finally immigrate to Russia. I waited in the arrival hall for about an hour until Sergey collected me. Sergey is working for a Microsoft gold partner called Digital Design. He spontaneously was willing to accompany me on this trip to Moscow. We arrived at the train station after approximately a half an hour taxi ride. Sergey then managed to organize the train tickets for a nice luxury cabin. Because most of the people only spoke Russian, I would definitely had troubles doing this myself. With tickets for the 23.35 train, we had enough time to get something to eat and to taste some Baltic beer (They are actually numbered from 0 to 10). The train arrived and I was very pleased with our cabin. It was like in one of these Spy movies. They preserved their history well. The cars were heated independently with coal. The night passed by like nothing and we arrived in Moscow at 7.10 am. My colleague Oleg awaited us and drove us to the hotel, where I had the chance to take a quick shower. At 9am, we arrived at the event location, just one our before the event started, and this after 23 hours of traveling. BTW: If I had missed the 9.35 flight, the next BA flight managed to arrive on at 8pm in DME…

Many thanks to Sergey: You were the best guide one can wish! I hope to cu again! (“fahren fahren auf der Autobahn…”)


Comments (9)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Сегодня у нас проходит важное мероприятие для важных заказчиков, на котором выст

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great story… you were lucky! I wish you’d missed that 9:35 flight matey. 🙁

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your event! You was great. We hope that you have nice and memorable expirience in Russia and will come back soon!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Andrey, I’m definitly plan to come to Russia again! It was a great experience. The only thing I’m not sure is whether I should directly fly to St. Peterburg or not 😉


  5. Anonymous says:

    I delivered my Web Service Competency Workshop (WSCWS) in EMEA during the last 4 month. It was a great…

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