BZNPilot From Belgium, joined Feb 2006, 257 posts, RR: 3 Posted (4 years 4 months 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 9683 times:
Like clockwork every twelve months, a massive modern-day migration occurs in which hoards of people pile into automobiles, trains, busses, and our favorite—aircraft—to journey home (wherever or whoever home may be) for the holidays. As usual, I took part in this migration, and as usual, I encountered a few unexpected contingencies. For instance, instead of a one-night layover in Seattle, I spent three nights. Instead of arriving home aboard a DHC-8 Q400, I drove into town in a Toyota 4Runner. And instead of experiencing my 22nd flight in a CRJ-200, I enjoyed my first in the CRJ900. Despite the unexpected twists, it was a great journey and a fine end to 2008; this trip and photo report is what I have to show for it all. This post will be Part 1, which will include my outbound travel and a stop at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field; Part 2 will be posted separately in a few days and will describe my return travel. I hope you enjoy the reports, and as always, feedback and comments are very much appreciated. Happy New Year.
My plan involved flying from Washington, D.C., where I live and work, to Seattle on Friday, December 19, 2008. I would then spend the night with my sister who lives across the Puget Sound near Bremerton before continuing on to my hometown of Bozeman, MT the next evening. For this itinerary, I exchanged 20,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles for a one way ticket on Alaska/Horizon from DCA-SEA-BZN (with a 23 hour “layover” in Seattle). My plan then called for 7 days in Bozeman before flying back to IAD on December 27, thanks to Skywest/Delta and a stop in SLC. The one-way return ticket set me back $259. At least all of that was the plan.
Date: December 19, 2008
Flight Number: AS 3
Aircraft: Boeing 737-890 (Winglets)
Registration: N581AS (cn 35188, manufactured 5/2007)
Scheduled Departure: 17:58 EST
Scheduled Arrival: 20:55 PST
Actual Takeoff: 18:47 EST
Actual Landing: 21:53 PST
Actual Flight Time: 6:06
Distance: 2,321 mi/3,735 km
Seat: 25A (Economy)
Load: Y 100%, F100%
I left the office in downtown D.C. at 16:15 on Friday the 19th and hopped the blue line Metro to DCA. I arrived at the Alaska Airlines counter at 16:45, still an hour before my departure to SEA. No one else was in line and two very friendly AS agents greeted me. They quickly tagged my suitcase and handed over my boarding passes; after wishing me a pleasant flight, they directed me downstairs to the security checkpoint. Given this was the Friday before Christmas, I expected to see swarms of travelers and long lines; instead, I walked directly to the checkpoint, and within three minutes, was inside the secure zone. I picked up a bottle of water for the flight and a couple of newspapers and headed to Gate 10. The gate area was crowded and there were no spare seats; but since I was about to spend six hours in a sitting position, I decided to keep my legs moving and made several laps through the corridor next to the gate. At 17:45, boarding began, though the gate agent seemed to be working in slow motion, calling only a few rows at a time and with long intervals between announcements. I finally made it aboard and took my seat, a window at 25A on the left side, around 18:10. Here’s my view of the wing while at the gate.
Standard legroom with 32-inch seat pitch.
The slow boarding process persisted for some time and we did not push back until 18:35. We then made a short taxi to the south end of the field and held short at RWY 01. Those of you who have read my past reports know I am always thrilled with DCA’s north departure and the fun, sharp left turn after takeoff—as usual, I was excited! In the next photo we are turning onto the runway and about to line up on the centerline.
At 18:47, the engines roared to full thrust and the breaks released. As we lumbered down the runway, I couldn’t help but be amazed that AS is able to operate this flight out of DCA given the short runway and long route. Indeed, even from a passenger’s perspective (well, one who pays attention to these things), the aircraft seemed heavy and the takeoff roll long and laboring. The SEA route is the longest flight out of DCA at 2,321 miles (3,735 km), barely outstretching the AS flight to LAX, and with a full load of passengers and enough fuel for the transcon, we used up most of DCA’s 6,869 ft (2,094 m) runway.
As is customary with this departure, we banked left quickly after becoming airborne.
The view of Pentagon City only lasted a few seconds before we disappeared into the thick overcast.
After a few minutes in the clouds, we emerged above into clear skies and smooth air.
About 25 minutes after liftoff, the First Officer made an announcement indicating we had reached our cruising altitude of FL360. The flight attendants had already begun their cabin service with the beverage cart working front to back, and the food cart moving back to front. The food reached me first, and I gladly forked over $5 on my credit card for a cheeseburger; I was hungry and also curious to find out what Alaska’s buy-on-board food was like. As it turned out, the burger was okay. It probably wasn’t restaurant-quality, but it hit the spot. And I rarely eat potato chips these days, so the bag of Lays was a rare treat.
With about 50% of my burger already consumed, the drink cart finally arrived at my row. I asked for a sparkling water, no ice, and a Cabernet Sauvignon, the latter of which cost me another $5 on my credit card. I was also given a bag of peanuts. I think the Alaskan artwork on the napkin is a nice touch—just a reminder that AS is slightly more unique than the big carriers.
After the food and drink, Alaska’s “DigiPlayers”—personal DVD players with a selection of movies—were offered for $10, but I declined, preferring to keep occupied with other tasks. I passed the time by writing some Christmas cards to various friends and relatives; I also read for awhile, every so often glancing out at the bright winglet in the otherwise inky sky.
At one point I got up to use the lav. It was clean and stocked with AS-branded hand soap—a nice touch.
On the way back to my seat, I stopped by the galley and asked for another little bottle of Cab Sav—it had tasted rather nice on the first round and I wanted another. Again, I dished out $5, an expenditure I was able to justify given that I was “on vacation.”
Back in my seat, I nursed my second wine and watched the lights of scattered towns come and go as we winged above the upper-midwest. Yep, that’s a speck of civilization just beneath the wing in this next photo.
Another couple of hours flew by (literally) until, about an hour and a half out of Seattle, the attendants came through with another round from the beverage cart. With a couple of glasses of wine in my system, I was ready to wake up a little bit and a coffee with cream seemed just about right. I was also given a little oatmeal bar, which matched the coffee nicely. It’s the simple pleasures that matter.
In the meantime, we had climbed to FL380 high above my home state of Montana. But from there, the stretch over Idaho and Washington State went quickly, and before I knew it, we were on a downward glide toward Seattle. As we neared the city, we made a broad, 90-degree, left-hand turn to the south and assumed the downwind leg for an eventual landing to the north. The lights of the Seattle suburbs lit up the night. Although it is not discernable in this next photo, it was obvious at the time that there was a fair amount of snow on the ground by Seattle standards.
We soon made a 180-degree turn back to the north and the stabilized on the final approach. In the next shot, the line between city lights and darkness represents the southeastern shore of Puget Sound a few miles south of the airport.
Just a few more seconds until touchdown.
We kissed the asphalt softly on RWY 34C at 21:53 Pacific time—a full 6:06 after liftoff (wow, that’s almost the same as an eastbound trans-Atlantic flight). The snow is visible alongside the taxiway in the next photo.
After picking our way slowly across the icy ramp, we came to a halt at Gate N17.
Here’s our route across the country.
Before deplaning, the flight attendant made an announcement welcoming us to Seattle and encouraging everyone to put on their coats for the jetway—the temperature was a chilly 22*F (-6* C). Finally the clear aisle reached the rear part of the aircraft and I made my way off and into the terminal. After a short ride on the underground train to the main terminal, I arrived at the baggage claim and was greeted by my sister and her husband. My bag soon arrived, and after a 20 minute drive, a 40 minute ferry ride, and another 20 minute drive, we arrived at their home near Bremerton.
The next morning, Saturday, December 20, I woke up early to spend time with my sister and to formulate a plan for the day. My QX flight from SEA to BZN didn’t depart until 19:55 and neither my sister, her husband, nor I had ever visited the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field. We thus decided to drive back to Seattle midday, visit the museum, grab a bite to eat, and then arrive at SEA in time for my flight. The first part of the plan went flawlessly and I have many Museum of Flight pictures to show for it. I am aware of several previous posts with photos of the aircraft at this remarkable museum, and if you do not wish to see such pictures again, feel free to skip them. I feel compelled to post mine, however, given the uniqueness of the day. As we toured the facility, an all out blizzard erupted and cast an eerie blanket of snow and ice across the historic, hulking aircraft on display. It was a beautiful atmosphere and an experience I will not soon forget. I will mostly let the photos speak for themselves.
And now…entering the Concorde for the first time. How I would have loved to do this when it was active. Still, better late than never.
And sadly…time to exit out the front door.
Next, we moved on to other aircraft that changed the world, though in different ways. The 737, 727 and original 747 were not accessible on the inside—too bad—but nonetheless cool to see up close.
Then we found our way to an incredible and historic aircraft that was open on the inside—Air Force One in 707 form.
Like the Concorde, the 707 is another type I would have loved to have flown on. I can only imagine seeing that wing in flight. In this case, looks like some de-icing fluid would be in order!
Here are some scenes inside the airborne office of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
The Presidential can…
…and the Presidential oven.
A flightdeck cluttered with buttons, knobs, dials and switches…
Finally, it was time to say goodbye to the outdoor displays and move indoors to the main hall of the museum.
The next photo is in the cockpit of the F/A-18 Hornet. The average airline passenger can complain all he wants, but this seat felt like it had a lot less than 31 inches of pitch.
The Blackbird seemed to have even less legroom.
Then we headed for the old US Air 737.
Here are a couple of birds that don’t look like they should be able to fly.
And this next one was one of my favorites.
And finally, the gift shop. I found this ironic considering we were deep in the heart of Boeing country.
Unfortunately, closing time at the museum rolled around and it was time to head for the car. If you’ve never been to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field and have the chance, I strongly recommend that you go! Before leaving, I grabbed a couple more shots of some Boeing action through the perimeter fence.
By the time we left the museum, the blizzard had intensified. While it is not completely unusual for Seattle to receive snow, the impact of this storm was unlike anything the area had seen in years. Still, we plodded toward the airport, me with my fingers crossed that I would be able to leave on my flight to Montana in a couple of hours. Here’s a shot as we arrived at the terminal building.
And here’s a photo from the parking garage before we entered the terminal. Quite the snowy scene.
I arrived at the AS/QX check-in counter and the process went smoothly. My bag was soon slapped with a tag and a boarding pass was in my hand. So far so good. The departures board showed a bit of a delay, with my flight pushed from 19:55 back to 21:11. No big deal, though.
My sister and her husband and I grabbed a bite to eat at the lone restaurant in the terminal that actually seemed to offer food—a sort of wine bar not far from the AS/QX counters. We finished eating around 19:00 and I decided to check to the departures board again to see if my flight’s status had changed. It had, with the original boarding time of 19:55 reinstated. I asked a QX agent if that was the updated departure time and she replied that it was and that I should proceed through security. I said farewell to my sis and her husband, who kindly stated that because of the blizzard, they would not be leaving the airport until they were sure that I was actually in the air. I headed into the secure zone, hopeful that I would indeed get out.
As soon as I entered the C Concourse, my hopes faded. A line of several hundred people already snaked its way to the QX customer service counter; meanwhile, snow pounded the tarmac outside the windows. Upon reaching my departure gate, C2M, a long line of Montana-bound passengers were queued up as well waiting to speak to the gate agent. I observed from the side as the agents processed one upset passenger after another. The story was the same each time—because of the snow, and especially the wind, Horizon had grounded all flights out of SEA “indefinitely.” Most people accepted the news with regret, while a few became somewhat hostile. By this point, the board again showed a departure time of 21:11 along with a flashing “delayed” notice. But as far as I could tell, there was still a small chance I could fly.
Unfortunately, the storm only seemed to grow more intense. Before long, the agents at the gate began telling passengers to line up in the long customer service queue in order to be rebooked. Though the official status of my flight was still “delayed” and not “cancelled,” the chances for departing Seattle, we were told, were almost zero. So, I heeded that advice and assumed my position of, well, probably the 673rd person in line. As I inched forward every couple of minutes, I kept in constant touch with my sister via cell phone, who was similarly queued up outside security in the main terminal. We had an agreement that if she neared her counter first, she would call me and I would leave the secure zone and join her to talk to an agent out front. All the while I was also dialing Horizon’s toll-free number trying to get connected with a reservation agent. Sure enough, about an hour into the line and 45 minutes into my call, a friendly but obviously tense Horizon agent picked up my call. She informed me that because of full flights over the holidays, the earliest I could get anywhere near BZN would be on Christmas Day, 5 days hence. I queried about flights into locales as distant as Salt Lake City. However, the best she could offer me was a flight the next evening, December 21, to Lewiston, Idaho (LWT) some 430 road miles (700 km) from BZN. Desperate to get on any flight, I agreed and resigned myself to leaving the next day for LWT; before leaving the line, however, I let another hapless passenger use my phone to speak to the agent while she was still on the line. The poor girl next to me seemed rather frazzled by the whole ordeal and I think she appreciated the gesture. At any rate, I must say despite the difficult situation, the Horizon agent on the phone was patient, polite, and as helpful as she could possibly be given the circumstances. Also, while we passengers were queued up, Horizon agents came by offering apple juice for the wait. As far as Horizon’s response to the crisis was concerned, I have nothing but praise for the airline and its staff.
Having been rebooked on the LWT flight the next day, I exited the line and headed out of the secure zone to meet up with my sister and her husband (who in the meantime had also neared the front of their line, not that it mattered at this point). From there, we headed downstairs to the baggage claim to find my suitcase, which by this point was supposedly being offloaded with many others from all the now-cancelled QX flights (meanwhile, the minutes and hours had accumulated and it was nearly 22:00). The baggage claim area was pure chaos. Bags from the same flight did not necessarily come out on the same carousels, so Horizon and Alaska agents were tasked with gathering and organizing them by destination city. My sister was the first to spy my bag around 23:00 and we were able to begin the two hour journey back to my sister’s place. Before we left, I grabbed a shot of the chaos. Again, as cluttered as the scene was, Horizon employees went above and beyond to make the situation as good as it could have been.
We finally arrived at my sister’s sometime after 01:00. So, what next? If any of you happened to be following the Seattle storm on the news, suffice it to say that you have probably guessed by now that I didn’t make the LWT flight the next day, either. In fact, flights were affected for days (the evening SEA-BZN flight I was originally scheduled on did not operate for three days). After a purchased Greyhound bus ticket on Monday, followed by that bus being cancelled, I seriously began to doubt whether I would make it home at all. Furthermore, as my return ticket from BZN to IAD was a separate one-way on Delta, the Seattle storm and Horizon’s cancellations were not viable reasons for Delta to rebook or refund my ticket out of Bozeman—in other words, I had to get home to Bozeman by the 27th, or else swallow the cost of that ticket plus buy another one back to D.C. At that point, my father in Bozeman decided to climb in the car and head west to Seattle to retrieve me. I couldn’t believe it! Thirteen hours and 649 miles (1,044 km) later, he arrived at 22:00 Monday night at our planned meeting point just east of Seattle, having driven straight through on constant ice and in blizzard conditions. My sister and her husband said a quick hello and goodbye, and within five minutes, my father and I were off, heading back to Bozeman. We drove straight through the night and into the dawn while crossing Lookout Pass into Montana. Here are a few photos from the long and wintery drive.
Stopping for breakfast in Missoula.
Finally at 13:00 on Tuesday, December 23—three days later than expected—I rolled into Bozeman. What a great sight it was to finally be home for the holidays.
My time in Montana was cut short by the Seattle storm, but the situation had worked out well. I had the chance to spend extra time with my sister, and unlike many stranded SEA passengers, I actually had a warm bed to sleep in at night. And the fact that my father drove a total of more than 1,300 miles (2,100 km) in 26 hours on constant ice is a feat I won’t soon forget. The holidays in Montana were wonderful. And before long, it was time to head back to D.C. and the work routine. But the return trip—including my unexpected first voyage on the CRJ-900—will be left for Part 2.
If you’ve reached the end of this report, congrats and thanks for sharing in my experiences. I hope you enjoyed. As always, feedback and comments are hugely appreciated. And again, happy New Year to all.
Lovetojetblue From United States of America, joined Jun 2008, 137 posts, RR: 0 Reply 2, posted (4 years 4 months 2 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 9568 times:
Awesome report and great pictures of AF1. The 737 near RA001 is also the prototype 737! The round desk in this picture
is where LBJ's "king chair" that he raised with a button to dominate over others, was located. Obviously, nixon removed the chair
Jetblue: The official airline of Springfield! And Eventually: The official airline of Quahog, RI
RoseFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 8746 posts, RR: 52 Reply 3, posted (4 years 4 months 2 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 9326 times:
Thanks for sharing. That certainly was a difficult time. I work for Boeing and had to walk to work because of all that snow. I pity all those individuals who got stuck. You came just when it got bad. Good for your father though to go through the effort to pick you up.
You're right about AS being a bit different. It has its own level of uniqueness that does make it a different airline. It embodies both the Seattle/Washington atmosphere along with its routes in Alaska.
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
AirlineBrat From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 634 posts, RR: 1 Reply 5, posted (4 years 4 months 2 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 9155 times:
Thank You for sharing your quite unexpected 'adventure'. They happen from time to time and you were a quite a trouper to go with the flow and make the best of the circumstances. Several years ago while trying to return to ACV, I turned a diversion due to dense fog into a wonderful night of food, beer, movies and a bed in an old classroom ala McMenamin's Kennedy School not far from PDX. I got to work around 1pm the next day. Your father definitely wins the Rock Star Award for his marathon rescue from Montana.
I have been to the Seattle Museum of Flight before. What an incredible place. The exhibit that most hit home for me was the large cabinet sized black and white TV showing man landing on the moon for the first time. Not sure if that exhibit is still there or not. I was 4 years old when Apollo 11 landed on the lunar surface. My mother woke me up from a deep sleep, plopped me in front of a similarly sized TV and told me to watch and remember it. I still do.......
I look forward to reading about your return trek back to DC.
I'm leavin on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again....
Quoting AirlineBrat (Reply 5): I turned a diversion due to dense fog into a wonderful night of food, beer, movies and a bed in an old classroom ala McMenamin's Kennedy School not far from PDX.
Good story. Yet again an example that a positive attitude can result in an even better outcome.
Quoting AirlineBrat (Reply 5): The exhibit that most hit home for me was the large cabinet sized black and white TV showing man landing on the moon for the first time. Not sure if that exhibit is still there or not.
I'm not sure if that exhibit was still there. We were a bit rushed for the indoor exhibits because the museum was about to close and we missed quite a lot. Hope to go back next time I'm in Seattle, though.
Quoting JetBlueGuy2006 (Reply 6): Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't Ford, Carter and Reagan all use the 707 and Bush 41 used it for a short time before the 747 came online?
Yep, they all did use the 707, but I believe they used the later models, SAM 26000 and SAM 27000. The AF One on display at Boeing Field, SAM 970, was, I believe phased out of Presidential service after Nixon, but still carried VIPs and the Vice President through the 1990s.
Quoting Gjunnar (Reply 7): What a trip. Great to hear you made it home safely. I liked your positive attitude in that stressful situation. Happy New Year
GSPSPOT From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 2745 posts, RR: 2 Reply 9, posted (4 years 4 months 2 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 8119 times:
Fantastic report and pics! I've been to Seattle so many times, but never when it's snowed. I know it was a pain, but how magical it must have been! SEA is one of my favorite airports, and I'm hoping to have a chance to try AS out, as DL is beginning a new partnership with them this year.
It looks like the Museum of Flight has changed since I was there just last year - one pic appears to be inside a crosswalk - does that go over Marginal Way to the outdoor exhibits?? It's about time they took care of that! I love the Concorde and AF One out there. Wish you could go inside more of the a/c.
I need to plan my next trip to SEA (and get my fix of fantastic Asian fare at Uwajimaya!!).
Hi GSPSPOT, thanks for the comments! Yes, it was indeed a magical scene with all of the snow. Especially at my sis' place near Bremerton--it was beautiful being at the beach and in the snow at the sime time! That was a first for me.
Lovetojetblue From United States of America, joined Jun 2008, 137 posts, RR: 0 Reply 12, posted (4 years 4 months 2 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 7589 times:
Quoting BZNPilot (Reply 8): Yep, they all did use the 707, but I believe they used the later models, SAM 26000 and SAM 27000. The AF One on display at Boeing Field, SAM 970, was, I believe phased out of Presidential service after Nixon, but still carried VIPs and the Vice President through the 1990s.
Jetblue: The official airline of Springfield! And Eventually: The official airline of Quahog, RI