Anker was there, and he’s feeling hungry. Our intrepid Chief Analyst was on board Icelandair’s first flight to Portland on Tuesday (19 May).
On Tuesday 19 May, Icelandair launched twice-weekly services from Keflavik/Reykjavik to Portland in Oregon using its 757s. Portland joins nine other US destinations and four Canadian destinations in the airline’s North American network, which is set to expand still further with the recent announcement of flights to Chicago starting in March 2016. Joining the inaugural flight to Portland was anna.aero’s Chief Analyst Ralph Anker, a keen explorer of North American cities. With Icelandair’s network focus on enabling timely connections between Europe and North America, the airline’s 757 spent the night on the ground at Portland before making its maiden flight from Portland back to Iceland on Wednesday 20 May, to connect with the airline’s morning wave of flights to Europe. Route celebrations included two cakes, two water arch salutes in Portland (one on arrival and another one on departure), live music, speeches and balloons.
(Ralph would like to thank Icelandair for making this trip possible and Port of Portland for their assistance, in particular Michael Raucheisen, Icelandair’s Marketing & Communications Coordinator in the US and Kama Simonds, Media Relations Manager – Aviation at Port of Portland.)
Flight FI665 to Portland was the last of the day at Keflavik/Reykjavik Airport on Tuesday 19 March. The service will operate twice-weekly this summer, outbound on Tuesdays and Thursdays, returning on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Cake #1: This relatively simple cake was produced in Iceland for the first outbound flight. Pieces were offered to all passengers on the inaugural flight.
It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it! anna.aero’s resident, self-confessed chocaholic gave the cake 10/10 for taste.
The weather in Iceland for the airline’s first service to Portland was not ideal, but at least all passengers boarded using the nice, dry, glass airbridge. The aircraft operating the inaugural flight was TF-FIU (Hekla Aurora) which earlier this year received a special northern lights-themed paint scheme.
New routes are celebrated in many different ways. Icelandair offered all passengers on the first outbound flight a commemorative baggage tag.
One of the bonuses of flying from Iceland to the US West Coast is that the route takes you over Greenland. On a clear day this means that passengers get some spectacular views of the country from 38,000 feet. Observing this amazing landscape is one of the many ways to keep yourself entertained on the seven and a half hour daylight flight from Iceland to Oregon.
The northern lights theme was continued inside the aircraft as well with some clever, animated lighting.
Touchdown in Portland! Bang on schedule flight FI 665 landed in Oregon. Hmmm. I wonder what happens next …
… Of course! A traditional water salute from the airport’s fire department. anna.aero has many pictures of such welcomes taken from outside the aircraft, but pictures taken from inside looking out are rather less common.
The inaugural return flight: Portland – Keflavik/Reykjavik on Wednesday 20 May
If your name’s not on the list then you’re not coming in. Oh, your name IS on the list Mr Anker. Please, have a special invitation to the inaugural route celebrations at Gate 12D.
Reykjavik: between Reno and Sacramento, at least alphabetically. Icelandair Flight FI 664 was on time.
Gate D12 was the location of the first departure. There was food (Icelandic hot dogs) and drink (blue punch), balloons and plenty of media interest.
Iceland sings the blues. There was live music at the gate performed by guitarist and singer Brynhildur Oddsdóttir, from the band Beebee and the Bluebirds (whose latest album “Burning Heart” is available now).
anna.aero’s Chief Analyst (right) grabs a quick word with Birkir Hólm Guðnason, Icelandair’s CEO. According to the airline there were over 150 passengers on the first flight, many of whom were unaware until they got to the gate that it was the first flight on the route.
Cake #2: This one was made by local baker Laurie Clarke (see www.cakesportlandor.com) and features a volcano, a representation of the northern lights and an Icelandair 757. The base section was a chocolate and raspberry concoction while the upper part was filled with lemon buttermilk and lemon curd. The fuselage of the 757 was apparently filled with Rice Crispies!
Yum! Anker enjoys his second slice of aviation-themed chocolate cake in two days. Now, where’s the nearest gym …?
Helping to cut the celebratory ribbon were: Geir H. Haarde, Icelandic Ambassador to the US (centre); Bill Wyatt, Executive Director of Port of Portland (second from right); and Icelandair management, including their CEO (with scissors) and Michael Raucheisen, Marketing & Communications Coordinator in the US (far left), who was wearing a special tie featuring the design of the iconic old Portland Airport carpet, which is currently in the process of being replaced. Now that’s attention to detail!
The weather in Portland was warm and sunny for the first Icelandair departure. Anker points to the airbridge that he would be using a couple of days later on the airline’s second flight back to Iceland.
Time to say goodbye. Portland Airport’s fire service also decided to celebrate the airline’s first departure at 15:40 on Wednesday 20 May. This neatly demonstrates the key issue of photographer location for taking great ‘Arch of Triumph’ pictures. anna.aero was standing downwind and managed to get mildly moist even though we were at least 50 metres away. However, the Portland Airport photographer, who clearly knew a lot more a about local wind conditions, was much better positioned.
Any aviation enthusiasts who ever find themselves in Portland with a day to spare should hire a car and head south down I-5, then 99W and then 18 to McMinnville (about an hour’s drive away in total from downtown Portland) and visit the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. It’s the home of Howard Hughes’ amazing 1940s flying boat, the so-called “Spruce Goose” (even though 90% of it is made from Birch, but I guess the “Birch Bird” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it). Among the other star exhibits are an SR-71 “Blackbird” and moon landing vehicles. Meanwhile, outside you can see a MIG 29, an F-14 and yes, that is a 747 on the roof of a building acting as the launch point for various water slides.