With my freshman year of college now completed, it was time for me to come home for the summer. Although my last final was on Thursday, my flight home was not until Sunday morning, since I had had to book my trip before knowing the exam schedule. This turned out to be a good thing, since I spent from 11 am Friday to 2 am on Sunday awake getting stuff packed away and the dorm cleaned out. I woke up at about 5 am to throw a few more things in my backpack and carry out the last bag of garbage, and just before 6:30 am I hopped in a cab to ride to the airport.
Approaching Terminal C at Logan International Airport, I realized that I had never actually seen the terminal building from the outside. I had always taken the subway to the airport, and the shuttle from the T stop drops you off on the lower arrivals level. The curved roof of the terminal reminded me of a scaled-down version of the main terminal at Dulles. I went into the terminal and found my way to the United ticket counter. There was a decent-sized line for the Easy Check-In machines, but I had checked in online the night before, and only had to check my bags. This was easier said than done. On the LED boards over the counter positions, a couple were marked for bag drop for online check-in, but they had not set up a path amongst the maze of extendable dividers to get to them. Real smart, United. I asked one of the personnel supervising the line how I was supposed to get to the machines, and she let me through the divider and pointed me to an open machine. I checked my rollerboard suitcase and my duffel bag, then made my way to security. The line wasn’t very long, but one of the guys in front of me had several pieces of bubble-wrapped computer equipment in his carryon, so he had to dig through all of them to figure out which was his laptop. Eventually I made it through security and found my way to Gate C15 by about 7:30 am.
First, I set out to find the tail number of the plane operating today’s flight. I was amused to find that, after flying on N531UA and N529UA in March, I would be on N527UA today. Since I hadn’t had breakfast, I stopped by one of the restaurants (Green Leaf something or other) and ordered a coffee and a “New England Breakfast Burrito,” with eggs, ham, potatoes, and red onions. The potatoes were just hash browns cooked to the point that they were almost impossible to chew, and the red onions weren’t even cooked. Disappointed, I headed over to get a Dunkin’ Donuts donut (I figured this was my last chance to get one for the next 3 months) then to the gate. Boarding began at around 8:00, and I noticed United’s new system of having a dedicated lane for priority boarding. I immediately wondered how much it cost the airline to buy one of those red carpets for every gate. I boarded through the non-red carpeted lane as part of Boarding Group 2 and found my way to my seat.
Sunday, May 17, 2007
United Airlines Flight 161 BOS-LAX
Aircraft: Boeing 757-200 N527UA
Dep: 0829 (scheduled for 0830)
Arr : 1136 (scheduled for 1139)
Flying Time: 5 hr. 47 min.
Gates (Dep/Arr) : C15/69B
Seat: Y, 28F
Load factor: 97-99%
Once I reached my seat, I stowed my backpack in the overhead compartment and my newly acquired laptop bag under the seat in front of me (one of my friend’s roommates had left the bag behind when he went home, and my friend didn’t want it). I slid over into the window seat and started pulling out my flight log stuff. A bit later, another guy took seat 28D. He noticed my airport diagrams (for LAX and SJC; I had forgotten to grab BOS out of my pack) and asked about them. I started my, “Well, I’m a bit of an airplane nut” line I usually give to people who ask me about it, when he mentioned that the reason he had noticed them was that he himself was a pilot. In fact, he flew a Gulfstream bizjet based up in Portsmouth, NH, and he was on his way out to Maui to retrieve the jet. I asked him if he had heard of A.net, and although he wasn’t a member, he did know about the site and gave me the tail number of the plane to look up when I got home. The flight attendant announced that the flight was almost entirely full, so I was waiting for someone to come take the middle seat, but I was pleasantly surprised when they closed the main cabin door and no one had taken 28E. We then pushed back and began the 6+ hr. trip to LAX.
The Gulfstream in question
After taking off from Runway 9, the plane looped around to the south as it climbed to cruising altitude. At this point, I fell asleep, thus missing the first drink service. I woke up about 3 hours later, with about half of the flight left to go (it really is quite long, for a domestic flight). According to Channel 9, we were in Kansas City Center at flight level 360, although we soon climbed to 380 to lessen the slight but continuous turbulence we were feeling. I watched the episode of “The Office” that was on, and by the time it had ended the cloud cover below us had cleared up, giving nice views of flyover country. The flight attendants came by for the second drink service. I had a Sprite, along with one of the $5 buy-on-board snack boxes with cheese, sunflower butter, crackers, applesauce, etc. The sunflower butter was quite a nice alternative to peanut butter (especially since I am allergic to the latter). My only complaint is that they need to increase the ratio of crackers to stuff that goes on crackers; I had sunflower butter left over at the end. As we neared LAX, the right side of the plane (including me) got a fantastic view of the Grand Canyon. Descending into the LA Basin, we overflew Ontario International Airport. On Channel 9, ATC seemed quite busy, handling several arriving flights, including Air Canada Flight 797, a number which I was surprised to find still in use given the unfortunate fate that flight met in 1983. We landed on Runway 25L parallel to what looked like a Horizon Dash 8 landing on one of the north runways. After a brief wait to allow a couple of takeoffs from 25R, we taxied to Gate 69B for an on-time arrival. Sitting to the right of us was N522UA, which I had flown from ORD to SJC back in November 2004.
After checking the departure monitors to find the gate for my flight to SJC, I started the long trek from the far end of Terminal 6 to Terminal 8. LAX really needs to install some moving walkways or something, rather than force passengers to walk the whole way. Anyway, I reached Gate 80, where the United Express CRJ was already waiting. After a brief wait, we boarded just after noon via the same 2-lane process.
Sunday, May 17, 2007
United Express (operated by SkyWest) Flight 6493 LAX-SJC
Aircraft: Canadair CRJ-200 N954SW
Dep: 1224 (scheduled for 1223)
Arr : 1330 (scheduled for 1335)
Flying Time: 47 min.
Gates (Dep/Arr) : 80/C3A
Seat: Y, 5A
Load factor: 65-70%
I made my way to Seat 5A and attempted to store my backpack in the overhead bin, only to find that it wouldn’t fit in the CRJ’s rather small bins. Luckily, my laptop bag would, so I stuffed my backpack under the seat and sat down. A woman in her 50s or so took the seat next to me. We pushed back on time, with the help of one of those tugs that lifts up the whole nose wheel of the plane. This was the first time I had seen this tug design used. As we listened to the safety demo, I attempted to engage my neighbor in a discussion of why they put the bag there if “although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask.” She wasn’t too interested. We made our way out to Runway 24L and took off. I got some nice views of the widebodies down at the remote gates as we flew overhead. The flight was short and uneventful. I was somewhat surprised at the lack of United markings on the inside of the plane. Aside from the Hemispheres magazines, there weren’t really any indications that you were on a United Express flight rather than just a Skywest one. We descended into San Jose from the south and touched down on Runway 30L a bit early. We deplaned at Gate C3A using the CRJ’s integral airstairs, which are surprisingly treacherous. After a brief wait for my checked bags, my dad picked me up and gave me a ride home.
Coming in September – Returning to school, SJC-BOS, this time with pictures! And possibly a 777, and a transit through JFK!