For those of you unfamiliar with the website FlyerTalk, one of the popular parts of that site is getting together for meets, which are called DOs. My previous trip report was to the Continental DO in February (http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/142817), and this DO was to attend 3 days worth of activities at Delta’s World Headquarters in Atlanta.
June 24, 2009
Delta Air Lines Flight 1655
Lv Minneapolis, scheduled 505p
Ar Atlanta, scheduled 848p
McDonnell Douglas MD-88
I was originally scheduled on the 640p flight down to Atlanta, but I was able to finish up at work by 3 p.m. I made a quick call to Special Member Services, where I was able to Same Day Confirm onto the earlier flight at 505p. I left work at around 315p and made the short five minute drive from my office down I-494 to Park ‘n Fly and was at the airport by 345p. I had done online check-in prior to leaving my office, so I headed over to the Skyway Security Checkpoint, which (a) never has a line longer than 5 people and (b) doesn’t make you take your shoes out of the bin at TSA. I walked right up to the Airline Revenue Protector (the TSA agent that checks your ID) and was through TSA within 2 minutes – having an approved briefcase makes it a lot easier to run that gauntlet.
I headed to the SkyClub at gate C12 and had a beer (C Club has Summit on tap, while the F club doesn’t) while responding to some e-mails and enjoying the chocolate chip cookies. It wasn’t looking like my upgrade was going to clear – I was number 11 on the list out of about 30 going for 5 seats – the joys of being a Platinum on a U fare on a hub-to-hub route!
I got to the gate at around 435p, and the MD-88 was just off-loading its last passengers. Delta has now moved its mainline flights over to the F Concourse, and we were flying out of F9. Boarding started around 10 minutes later, and I took 22A – fortunately, the middle seat between me and the gentleman in 22C was one of the few empty seats on this flight.
We pushed back about 5 minutes late, and made our way down to Runway 30L, where we took off after a bit of a wait. We passed by 5 Northwest A330s (3 parked at the gate, plus 2 in the hangar by the 30L threshold), plus a Delta 767-300. We took off and headed west, making the turn south over Shakopee. We cleared 10,000 feet, and I promptly took out my laptop, where I was going to use a 25% coupon I had for the GoGo Wireless service. Well, I logged on and it ended up being free on this flight! Both my and my neighbour in 22C both took out our laptops and spent the entire flight using the devices – I spent a lot of the flight on Facebook and FlyerTalk.
Service on this flight was standard Delta coach service – drinks and biscoffs/peanuts, with EATS snacks being offered as well. I simply had a Coke (I thought about using one of my drink chits for this flight, but figured I should save them). Flight time down to ATL was a quick 1h52, and there isn’t much more to report. We began our descent over downtown Nashville, where we got a nice view of downtown and BNA. We flew over downtown Atlanta on our downwind to ATL, where we had a great view of the Georgia Dome, Georgia Tech and the BoA tower. We flew past Stone Mountain and turned around for a landing on Runway 26R, took the bypass lane around 26L and parked at Gate B15, about 5 minutes late due to the long wait for takeoff at MSP.
I headed over to the Courtyard North, checked in and headed over to the Hilton to meet some FlyerTalkers for drinks at the bar there.
The next morning was the first day of the DO. After registering for the event (and we did have to sign a waiver!), we hopped on the bus and took the short ride to the Delta complex. Our first stop today was the Delta Heritage Museum. We walked into Hangar 1 and were promptly greeted with Delta’s first DC-3, Ship 41, staring us in the face. We split the group in half, with my group heading over to Hangar 2 to check out Ship 102, the Spirit of Delta. We walked up the rear stairs attached to the plane, where we walked into the rear of the plane, which had been retrofitted into a conference room. We then walked to the front of the plane, where our tour guide, a former Delta pilot who ended his career in 2003 flying 757s and 767s, gave us a little speech while we sat in the preserved First Class cabin (the same seats that were on the 767-200 when it was retired). Our guide gave us a short speech about the plane and some of the stories he had when flying it, saying it was a great machine to operate. We then watched a 10 minute video about the Spirit, and then checked out the display in the middle part of the cabin, which included safety information, flight attendant uniforms, information about the plane and the history of Delta and had a cutaway of the interior of the 767-200 – let’s just say there’s an awful amount of room above the overheads!
Ship 41, Delta’s first DC-3
Ship 102, the Spirit of Delta (and Delta’s first 767)
Inside Ship 102
I then checked out the Northwest exhibit next to the Spirit of Delta, which was a nice display with a good bit of information and some videos about the history of the Red Tail from the North. Next was a display back in Hangar 1 where the history of Delta from the 1920s to the 1990s was chronicled, starting with the days back in Monroe, La. and including information through the Pan Am European acquisition.
Next was checking out some of the historical planes. A great highlight was getting to go inside Ship 41 – something that rarely happens at the museum (once a month or so). The interior was immaculate, with very plush cloth seats (looked much more comfortable than a modern airline seat), with the vintage 1940s Delta logo on the seatbelts. Airplane lavs haven’t changed much since the 1940s – it was pretty much the same size and layout of a lav that you’d find in a modern plane. The flight deck was pretty small and cramped, but still impressive. Honeywell had donated over $200,000 to install update communications devices for when the plane was still flying earlier this decade.
DC-3’s flight deck
Another view of the DC-3
I also checked out the Travel Air (which was the first type of plane Delta ever flew) as well as the Stinson Reliant, which was flown by Northeast Airlines in the 1940s. I also made a stop in the Museum Store, which was in the hull of the first ever L-1011 ever built. I picked up a couple of safety cards (L-1011-500 and 767-200), a few timetables from the early 1990s as well as the hardbound version of Sky Magazine for Delta’s 75th Anniversary.
The Travel Air
Replica of Delta’s original station in Monroe, La.
After spending a couple of hours at the museum, we headed back to the Hilton, where we had a Question and Answer session with Jeff Robertson (VP of Loyalty Programs), Josh Weiss (Managing Director, Delta.com) and Bob Soukup (Managing Director of Northwest WorldPerks and who will lead the domestic FF program at SkyMiles). After a presentation from each of them (Josh’s was absolutely hilarious), Jeff, Josh and Bob all took a bunch of questions – they were even willing to extend the Q&A session past the allotted 2 hour session. I was very impressed with the honesty brought forth in these sessions – they were all willing to acknowledge some Delta shortcomings, and were very honest with us as to why certain decisions were made – some specific numbers were given as to how much revenue was expected due to the fee alignments, why they chose to keep some parts of the FFP the way they were, etc. When the merger came about, Jeff was tasked with lining up Delta’s program, Northwest’s program and choosing what was best and going with it. When Jeff came back with the details and said it would cost about $250 million annually, Richard Anderson came back and said let’s take another look at it and scale down that $250m number. As for delta.com being the new site, it came down to integrating NW’s PARS versus Delta’s Deltamatic. At this point, it’s combining two very old systems that they know need replacement, and at this time, moving over to Deltamatic would be the faster and easier way to go. That being said, they will look at building in some NW features (such as PerkChoice) into the new delta.com next year as they can build in the code. They also had a raffle for some prizes, which included 10 beautiful models of a 767-300, some noise cancelling headphones and SkyMiles – I continued my luck from Continental DO IV and picked up 25,000 SkyMiles at this DO!
A slide from Josh Weiss’ great presentation
Next was dinner at the Hilton, again sponsored by Delta SkyMiles. It started with some hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, followed by a buffet-style dinner, where many of us FlyerTalkers got to know each other better over dinner. Bob Soukup came around during dinner and chatted with each table, which just reinforced what I had known from my several previous meetings with him – he’s an absolute class act and a great asset to Delta.
After dinner, I had some drinks with a few FlyerTalkers before calling it a night. The next day, we visited Delta’s Operations Control Center on their campus. We sat in their command center, where all the executives come when need be. We learned about how Delta deals with weather issues, and that day was a good day for us to watch, as there was going to be weather in the Northeast that day. We learned about how Delta was going to change their flight schedule for that day to minimize customer disruption during the irrops that were going to happen. It was also interesting to learn how weather in PIT can affect a FLL-LGA flight where it was sunny in New York and sunny in South Florida.
Screens in the OCC
Back to the Hilton after the OCC tour, we had lunch before heading to the Technical Operations Center, which are the giant hangars Delta has on the east side of ATL. This was the first time ever that Delta was able to get FAA clearance to drive a bus right up to the front door of the TOC, which was a feat in and of itself!
We were met by the managers of the TOC, where we were given a short speech, and then given a very nice token from Delta TechOps, as well as a bag that had a notepad, ear plugs, and our safety goggles. We then walked through the engine shop, which (like everything there) was huge. We walked past the six different engine shops, then went over to the engine testing area, where one of the 777-200 LR engines was there – let’s just say it was huge. We went into a testing bay which had a 767 engine in there, then went into the test center control room, where they were testing another 767 engine – there was about 3 feet of concrete between us and the engine, and it was just like I was sitting on a 767 taking off.
A 777 engine
A 767 (PW2040) engine in a testing bay
We then headed through the machine shops, where they had the fan blades as well as the machines to make parts. After that, we headed out to the hangars. We walked past a 737-800 that was getting winglets installed (those 737 winglets are a lot bigger than I thought), plus a MD-88, another 737-800 and a 757 in the first bay. The next bay had quite a few more planes, including a 777-200 ER. Let’s just say standing under a 777 made me feel very small – that’s one big plane! There was also a Delta 767-400 in there getting reconfigured with the international configuration – they had rows of new coach seats ready to be installed, as well as the crew rest area that will be going below the cabin floor. Let’s just say that those crew rest seats looked more comfortable than BusinessElite! We also stopped by a 757 in this hangar to get a look inside its wheel well, which has a ton of wires running through it.
A 737-800 winglet
A 777-200 ER
The new 767-400 crew rest area
New coach seats for the 767-400
Landing gear well of a 757-200
Our next stop was TOC-3, which is the paint bay area. There was a 737-800 in there, where we got to head inside the plane and check it out – it was strange being in a completely empty 737. I got my picture taken next to the CFM-56 engine and walked around the 737.
737-800 flight deck
Inside, we had one more stop on the tour, which I sadly can’t really go into details about. Let’s just say my opinions of the subject matter changed quite a bit. We then walked past the parts warehouse, where they have enough parts that they could build seven planes from scratch.
After walking through the TOC, I will never look at that building the same way – it’s a good half-mile long, and we walked quite a bit through it. After learning about all that Delta does in terms of operations/maintenance of its planes, I have a whole new respect for the airline.
After the TOC, we stopped by Fire Station 33, which serves Runway 10/28. We had a great view of operations on 10/28, and the highlight was getting to ride around in one of the ATL firetrucks – we hopped in, took a ride down to the fire trainer, sprayed the water out of the hose and came back – a lot of fun! Thanks to the ATL firefighters who were very excited to have us!
A tour of the fire engines
Fire engine demo
Fire engine standing by as a CRJ passes by
Sitting in the fire truck down by the fire trainer, getting a special view!
That night, the folks from GoGo inflight took us to dinner at Prime up in the Lenox Mall. I must say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed using GoGo on several flights and have had no issues with it whatsoever – a great addition to the Delta fleet. After a brief presentation, we went inside for dinner, which I had a Caesar Salad, followed by a delicious 8 ounce Filet Mignon, and a chocolate torte for dessert. GoGo was extremely generous to pay for this, as well as giving us a free pass to use on a future flight. If you haven’t used GoGo yet, I encourage you to do so (DL and AA have it on select flights) – it’s a great service!
Back to the hotel, where it was early to bed for an early morning at Road Warrior Training the next day.
Saturday morning, the alarm went off way too early, but we had a long day in front of us. We took a short bus ride back to Delta’s campus, where we had a Continental Breakfast before starting Road Warrior Training. We had a brief presentation at the beginning, which included one FlyerTalker learning the details on how to serve a BusinessElite meal, as well as watching a couple of FlyerTalkers attempt to perform Deltalina’s job in the safety video.
Following a presentation by one of Delta’s F/A trainers about the various safety aspects of their job, we broke for lunch before heading out to actually use the training equipment.
Our first stop was an overwing exit on the 737-800, which we each got a crack at opening. It was very easy to open – it simply involved reaching up and pulling a bar down, as the exit hatched out and up – no need to bring the hatch inside the plane. We then went inside the mockup MD-88 trainer, where we each got a crack at opening an overwing exit and putting it on the seats, followed by practicing opening the 1L (boarding) door on the MD-88. In an emergency, we were to first assess the situation, then make sure the door was armed and then to open the door and manually deploy the slide. The MD-88 door was very heavy, and required it to be pushed all the way to the aircraft so that it latched.
Me practicing opening a MD-88 overwing exit
After the MD-88, we got some practice on the 757 door (much easier, once the door was opened, it pneumatically opened fully) and saw how the 767 door (in both automatic and manual modes) and the 777 doors opened.
Next was to go to a few more of the cabin trainers. We first went into the hydraulic simulators, where we each took our seats and fastened up as if we were taking a flight. As we were preparing to land, we experienced difficulties and the cabin filled with smoke. Our flight attendant trainers led us to safety, using the same commands they would use in an emergency. We exited rearward, where we went down the emergency slide. Let’s just say that the trip down the slide was very fast – you get some speed going down that.
The slide from the smoke-filled trainer
Our next stop was in the other cabin simulator, where again we were sitting down and all of a sudden our oxygen masks dropped down. After putting our masks on, our F/A trainer told us a few tales of depressurization, such as a plane at cruise can make it down to 10,000 feet (where masks aren’t needed) within four minutes of depressurization – that’s a pretty steep descent.
After the depressurization simulation, it was time for the event that most of us were looking forward to the most – the water ditching. After getting changed into swimwear, we came back out to the pool area, where Delta has a mockup plane ready for ditching. After learning that there have only been three successful ditchings in commercial airline history (a ditching is when the pilot has control of the plane as it enters the water; US1549 is the most recent example), we lined up and waited our turn to ditch. The raft was thrown out into the pool, and we each took a turn jumping out of the plane with our lifevests on and swimming into the raft. Once we were all in the raft, we were tasked with putting on the protective cover, which had three purposes – to collect rainwater, to cover our heads and to be a reflective source so that planes flying over could see us. We struggled to get the cover up, but it got done and it was like a sauna under there – very warm, considering there were 40 people in the raft with a small cover over it.
The ditching trainer
Putting the slide into the pool
Jumping out of the plane
Me getting ready to evacuate the plane
After drying off, we went back to the auditorium, where we got a great presentation from one of Delta’s meteorologists, who discussed how they track weather around the world and file flight plans based on the best possible winds/weathers while trying to keep passengers out of the most turbulence. He brought a couple of North Atlantic weather charts over, which were very fascinating to look at. The depth of detail in these things is very impressive!
Weather maps over the North Atlantic
We also got a tour of the DL F/A training facility classrooms, including the classrooms where F/As learn cabin service – they had a full 767 mockup in there, complete with working ovens, reclining seats, etc. Sure, it was only 2 rows of F and about 4-5 rows of coach, but still, a very good replica of a 767. We also got to check out some of the new NW training equipment, such as A320 and 747 exit simulators, much like the MD-88/737 exits we practiced with earlier that day. We also got some practice time exiting the rear tailcone of an MD-88/MD-90 – it gets pretty tight back there as you exit.
We gathered back in the auditorium, where we graciously thanked our amazing flight attendant trainers for spending the previous eight hours with us. If you ever get the chance to do the Road Warrior Training at Delta, do it! It was such a fun and eye opening experience, and it really hits home that when the F/As say they are there first and foremost for your safety, they’re not lying. Between that, the OCC tour, the weather DL studies and the maintenance, it was a real eye-opening experience that will have me change how I view Delta.
That night for dinner, about 7-8 of us decided to head over to ATL to eat dinner at One Flew South, the new restaurant on the E Concourse. After a bit of a hassle trying to get 7 Platinums (and a Gold) gate passes (and yes, we said that if we didn’t get them, we would each purchase full fare tickets on the 930p flight to Orlando to get through security), we headed over to the E16 Crown Room to have a few drinks, where we met up with a few more FlyerTalkers who joined in the fun.
777-200LR to BOM outside the Crown Room
Having some drinks in the Crown Room (I’m the second from the left in the blue golf shirt)
After a couple of drinks, we headed over to One Flew South, where eight of us had dinner. I had the Fish and Chips, which was very good – I’d highly recommend it. Many people got some sushi and gave it two thumbs up – if you’re ever passing through ATL, I’d recommend stopping by for dinner – it’s one of the best airport restaurants out there, and is definitely at the top of the list at ATL – it’s in a class by itself there. It really didn’t feel like we were eating at an airport – it was a bit weird having to go out into the terminal and walk past the late Heathrow flight to get to the bathroom.
After dinner, we headed back to the main terminal, where I took the shuttle over to my hotel for the night, the Westin.
June 28, 2009
Continental Airlines Flight 756
Lv Atlanta, scheduled 640a
Ar Houston-Intercontinental, scheduled 848a
I got to ATL around 530a, after taking the 520a shuttle to the airport. I had done OLCI the day before, so for the second time in 12 hours, I passed through the First Class/Elite checkpoint and headed out to the D Concourse, where I waited for the President’s Club to open at 545a. I was the only one there this morning, and enjoyed a quiet breakfast before heading out to catch my flight out of D6. We boarded and there was some seat shuffling on this full flight, so we pushed back a few minutes late. We taxied up to Runway 26L and immediately took off, as we zoomed by the massive TOC. Flying time was around 1h50 this morning, and for most of the flight I slept after having not gotten a lot of sleep the previous few nights. I think breakfast was served, but I wasn’t too hungry as I had eaten in the PC. I woke up on approach to IAH and we landed on Runway 26L and taxied down to E24 past Hangar B (the site of me winning the 250,000 miles in February) – I couldn’t help but smile as we taxied past. This was my first time in the E gates (I had only ever used the A gates at IAH). The terminal is absolutely beautiful – one of the nicest international terminals out there – it definitely rivals DFW’s Terminal D. I spent much of the layover at the President’s Club in Terminal E, catching up on some e-mails and recapping the event on FlyerTalk, before I wandered around IAH for a bit. I headed through Terminal C, then went over to Terminal B, where I had some donuts at a store there and checked out the (infamous) Gate B84 – the massive holdroom that is similar to the “beautiful” CVG Concourse C. I headed back to Terminal D, which was pretty quiet and not impressive, before going to E23 for my flight to MSP.
June 28, 2009
Continental Airlines Flight 1816
Lv Houston-Intercontinental, scheduled 1125a
Ar Minneapolis, scheduled 208p
Boarding started a bit late, but fortunately there weren’t many problems (as the plane had come in from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, as that country had endured a coup that morning). This was my first time on the 737-700, but it wasn’t too different than the 737-300 I had just been on. I boarded with the EliteAccess call and took my exit row again – I love these exit seats with a missing seat in front of it – plenty of legroom. We taxied out to Runway 15R, where we took off after an ERJ-145. We turned right (and got a distant view of downtown Houston) and headed north. Flight time was around 2h15 today. This flight was nothing special again – I skipped the movie (Mall Cop) as well as lunch (turkey or tuna sandwich) but did have a Coke on the first drink service (I skipped the second one). We flew up to Dallas, and then pretty much followed I-35 straight up to MSP. We came in from the South, then swooped around and landed on Runway 30L. We taxied into E3, deplaned and I was back at my car within 20 minutes of getting off the plane.
Hope you enjoyed the long read! There are a lot of pictures of this event at www.easyvictor.org, including more of mine (under mersk862’s photos) as well as photos (and some videos) from quite a few other FlyerTalkers.