It was rumored this year that management might have a change of heart in allowing outsiders into the United Airlines Family Day event at San Francisco Airport on October 9, 2011. Fortunately, a few champions opened up some spots to we uber enthusiasts and I luckily got an invite. I went last year and had a wonderful time… here’s a link to my video summary of that event.
A record 17,000+ wristbands were distributed for this, the sixth annual SFO Family Day held in part to celebrate Fleet Week. I showed up early since last year the line was enormous to get in by 10:45, so I arrived at 10:15 this year and made my way to the event entrance.
There was a dedicated table set up with a sign reading, “Welcome United Customers.” I had a nice chat with the three reps manning the table and expressed my gratitude for them opening up some slots, received my wristband and got into line.
Here’s the activity list and map for the event, both of which you can click into for a larger readable view.
At 11:00am they opened the gates and after a quick bag search, I made a beeline for Hangar #47 where they had tables of vendors, exhibits, merchandise and company-related programs. There wasn’t as much free swag as last year, and most of it was union related (Frisbees, blow-up bat-type things, pins, and other items). There were a couple of tables with children’s toys, models, apparel, key chains and pins, of which I purchased several. I was sad there weren’t any specific “Family Day 2011” pins for sale and I was hoping they’d be passing them out again after the airplane pull contest as they did last year.
Following the National Anthem at the Stage, Captain Andy Allen, Jim ?? and EVP Pete McDonald welcomed everyone to the event and they received the honors of October 9, 2011 being named as “United Airlines Day in San Francisco.” Video of their speeches is included below.
Then it was on to the “show grounds” featuring United and Continental Airlines aircraft, vintage cars, small aircraft exhibits, a children’s play area, food vending, a main stage area with ample seating, and of course the Blue Angels staging area.
They had the retro paint job United A320 on display and open for tours and when I went in, most were lined up to visit the cockpit. Economy was cleared out and I thought it’d make for a funny picture to have me sitting in a totally empty cabin. The guy taking my picture zoomed in, so it didn’t really come out as I had hoped. Besides the previously pictured partial shot of this livery, here’s the vertical stabilizer.
Then I went to visit the Boeing 777 on display. It would later be the aircraft used for the slide deployment demonstration, for which I have on video below. I got the gratuitous picture in front the enormous engine. I’m 6’1” to give you some indication of its size.
In case you don’t want to watch the 7+ minute video below, here’s the short clip of the emergency slide activation:
I got a bite to eat and toured around a bit more.
At 2:00pm it was time to head over to the airplane pull contest and I had a chance to talk with Captain Andy who revealed United will be purchasing Airbus A321 aircraft to eventually replace the carrier’s 757s (or maybe not… worth to read the comments by another United pilot in that post).
Last year the FlyerTalk team won and we were hoping to win again this year. We all signed the waiver forms (saying United isn’t liable for any injury we might incur), went out for our group picture, did some warm-up exercises, and were ready for the pull. Once again, our team won and pulled the Airbus A320 20 feet in only 7.4 seconds. Sadly, there were no pin giveaways after our pull. Here’s our team pic and the video:
Shortly before our group pulled the plane, the United 747-400 featured in the waterfront show doing multiple passes around the city and Golden Gate Bridge took off and I was able to get some video of that appearing below, as well.
At 2:30pm, the Blue Angels made their preparations for takeoff and I stood by watching and left shortly afterwards. For those staying, there was an autograph and photo session available with the pilots on their return at about 4:05pm.
It was another great afternoon and I was thankful to receive an invite again this year. My fingers are crossed again for next year and I’ll certainly reserve Columbus Day weekend just for this event.
Thank you again, United… I had a fantastic time! Here’s my complete video summary of the event: