First of all, I apologize for the probably excessive number of pictures of cloud formations. On this particular trip, once we got airborne, that’s about all there was to take pictures of. Anything interesting on the ground was just about completely obscured. Then again, I’m not sure if there really is anything interesting to photograph flying over Kansas, which should be called, “The Pancake State.”
As usual, please feel free to comment and I hope you enjoy my latest effort.
American Idol. You know it, you love it. For four months of the year it becomes an American Obsession with tens of millions of people glued to their idiot boxes, watching as contestants from all over America try their luck and get wheedled and needled down through an exhaustive months long audition process that’s pretty well encapsulated over several two hour shows, to twelve or thirteen finalists who then cast their fate to the American public to keep them in the race for the once in a lifetime chance to win a million dollar recording contract. When that sixteen week process is complete a winner is announced and the top ten then embark on a grueling fifty city tour that takes some 74 days to complete. The tour is called Idols Live, and it was the purpose of this trip.
As the Idol season wound down and the tour dates were finally announced, mom and I discovered Idol was coming to Memphis. Of course we had to go and plane tickets were quickly made along with arrangements with my brother to stay in the house he’s currently renting from us. A deal with my boss to repay one of the many favors I’ve done her so I could have Sunday off without having to take any personal time off, which I always save for my annual vacation extravaganza, sealed the deal. Depature day came not long after that.
July Twenty Sixth.
After a long night of working, I schlepped myself to the bus station at three in the morning to get my first surprise. After four years of regularly riding the bus and logging those bus numbers, I was finally going to be able to add bus 1910 to my log. 1910 is one of 71 MCI D4500 coaches that our local bus company, RTD, operates on longer trips from Boulder as well as Denver. The acquisition of 1910 meant I was one step closer to having bus numbers 1901-1933 all on my log. The only missing one now is 1917, but, I’m sure that one will come if I keep trying.
During the hour and a half ride to the airport, I sat in the right front passenger’s seat, so I could look out the front window, and when and where appropriate, engaged the driver in conversation about various different things from how GPS works in terms of tracking a bus to the importance of being on time, as the mostly TSA passengers he picks up on this 318am bus I was on for the second night in a row, only have 5 minutes to get to work from the time they arrive at the airport at 425 am. This time, I refrained from telling obscene stories, probably much to the driver’s relief.
The day before, I had ridden with mom to the airport and at some point told the story of a DUI stop I had participated in during the lead up to my brother’s first wedding. The gist of the story is that I was pulled over at two in the morning, coming home from a strip club with six drunken pilots in my car. Needless to say, the car smelled like a brewery, that officer was sure he’d have a bust.
What the officer didn’t realize was that I didn’t drink and at that point, hadn’t done so in three years, having sworn it off when I got my first hangover, I swore I was done with alcohol, and do far, seventeen years later, I’ve stayed done with alcohol, because it’s no fun to wake up vomiting. I was pulled from the car so scared I was practically pissing my pants, I was run through a roadside sobriety check, did the breathalyzer thing and of course I blew a zero, to which the officer commented, “You know, I could get all you guys for not wearing seatbelts, but I don’t feel like doing the paperwork, so just get the fuck out of here.” I did.
Of course, dropping the F bomb as I told that story to the driver the night before, got me a bit of a scolding from my mother on swearing in the presence of children, and a bit of an uncomfortable reaction from the driver, but, no harm, no foul.
Finally arriving at the airport at 425am, I tipped the driver, thanked him for a great ride, got my rollaboard from under the bus and headed inside, where I passed through security easily, and headed to the C concourse and my assigned gate, C44, a gate I’ve flown out of twice before, once on a CRJ-200 and again on a CRJ-700, both going to Salt Lake City. Since I had some time to kill, I wandered around the terminal, looking at the planes, of course, but with it being dark out, taking pictures was out of the question for me, my little digital camera doesn’t take good night pictures. In residence were the usual WN 737s going here, there are everywhere and occupying every gate that’s not nailed down, an AA 757 shoehorned diagonally into C-39, a rather worn looking DL 737-800, a Northwest 757 and Airbus, and USAir’s America West retrojet, along with three of its USAir brethren in two different color schemes. I had to shake my head, “When is US going to get it’s act together and get the entire fleet painted in the same color scheme?” Probably the same day United does, which will probably be they day they announce they’re both merging with Continental and they’ll have to start once again repainting the fleet.
Finally, with the sun beginning to rise, it was time to head back to C-44 and attend to the purpose of the trip, going to Memphis.
1 Delta 1898 757-232X N641DL Departed C-44 Arrived T-8
Pretty impressive for a 22 year old airframe. N641DL was delivered to Delta in 1988 as the 202nd 757 off the line, she has since worn all four color schemes plus the Song colors. The result here is the best I got and the last of several attempts none of which seemed to work. If you’re blinded by the spot of sun in the background, I apologize.
I was mildly disappointed at getting ship 641, I’ve been on this one once before, back when she was in the original widget. At least, I told myself, it’s not a duplicate, the last time I flew her, I was going from Atlanta to Denver, so this gets added into the log as an add on to the previous flight.
Boarding was predictably boring, with zone after zone being called, Zone one first class, Zone two elites, Zone three the rear of the coach cabin and zone four, the front of the coach cabin. As with my other three flights, this one would be packed full.
N906DA, one of six Delta MD-90s I’ve flown aboard. She’d be operating the 730am Atlanta flight from C42. Behind 906 are two CRJ-900s, one from Delta going to Salt Lake City and Memphis, the other from Northwest going to Memphis nonstop.
9206 again, a better view.
With a completely full load we pushed from the gate on time and made our way to the runway.
Our flying time was a short two hours and twenty three minutes and as soon as we cleared ten thousand feet the entertainment system was turned on. Headsets were sold, two dollars got me a dinky set of earbuds. Mostly I watched the excellent flight mapper, following the track of our flight as we passed over Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and down into Atlanta.
I also tried out Delta on Demand’s music option, finally finding a CD I was interested in, Nirvana’s unplugged album, only to discover that I could not make the songs I wanted to hear play. It seemed like it should have been as simple as clicking on the song and it playing, but, I guess things are never that simple. After a few minutes of trying to make the audio work and failing, I gave up and went back to watching flight tracker. As for tv and movies, well the movies were out, as we were told by the flight attendants that the pay per view portion of the programming wasn’t working, so no movies and I think as for tv, nothing they were offering picqued my interst, so I just stuck with the flight mapper.
At cruising altitude over a sea of clouds
"There's a hole in the clouds"
Us Engulfed in the clouds.
Parts of the wing appear to be turning green. I’m guessing this is some kind of oxidization, I suppose that makes sense considering this is a 22 year old airframe. It could be something, it could be nothing, it’s just something I noticed.
Flying between layers of clouds
Soon we began our descent into Delta City, where, thanks to our arrival twenty minutes early, I had a comfortable amount of time to make my connection, which was good because as soon as we landed and parked at the gate I re-discovered one of the reasons why I hate the south, no one was in a hurry. Everyone was taking their time, lollygagging around, and generally moving at a snail’s pace. I thanked the powers that be over and over again that I didn’t have a tight connection, as I’d have surely missed it as slow as this crowd was moving. For the record, my other pet peeve with the south are the people, usually young men, who block the aisle, holding everyone up, as they assist an elderly passenger with their hand baggage, then let them walk ahead. When I’m trying to get off a plane, with an often tight connection, the elderly be damned, get your own stuff and hustle, don’t hold up the rest of the plane just to be a gentleman. Okay, enough of my disdain for the south.
Sitting at T-7 was N718TW, one of DL’s 757-200 transatlantic ships, doing a domestic turn for a change.
N641DL in all her glory, she looks great in the new “Above and Beyond” scheme.
With some extra time to kill, I headed for the A concourse, searching for a smoking lounge and finding one in the third level bar above the centrum. I always like smoking lounges with flight line views.
N960DL, an MD-88 gets ready to push back as N177DN, a 767-300ER waits for a domestic turn at A-16
N177DN resplendent in the new colors.
N960DL ready to go.
Having gotten my nicotine fix, I walked down to my assigned gate, A-29 to see if my Barbie Dream Jet on Steroids was in, she was.
N195PQ, my ride to Memphis.
N679DL, one of the many 757s with just overhead entertainment. Thanks to my time here on A.Net, I’ve learned to recognize that if there’s a “bump” on the roof that means PTVs, no bump, no PTVs.
N814MH, a 767-432ER, heading to Techops maybe? Or just heading to a gate for a domestic turn.
N718TW on her way to who knew where. This ex TWA 757 was next to us as we pulled into T-8.
Finally, it was time to head back to the gate for Memphis
2 Delta 861 CRJ-900NG N195PQ Departed A-29 Arrived B-11
Once again, we had a full load, 76 passengers bound for Memphis, including a large group from a Jackson, Tennessee Baptist church on their way home from St. Thomas, where they had done mission work, and all resplendent in matching blue teeshirts. Boarding was as normal and I descended the jetway to the Dream Jet. The ride back to Memphis, I knew, would be a bit bumpy, as we had passed by a large cloud formation on the way into Atlanta that looked to be pretty much parked over Memphis. We’d have to fly through that cloud formation to get to the airport.
The leather bounds blue seats were comfortable with ample legroom. My only complaint about the CR9 is the placement of the seats. They need to move them about six inches forward so passengers don’t have to lean forward to look out the window. Overall, the ride was comfortable and short.
A-27 and A-25 wait for their next arrivals.
Once everyone was crammed in, the door shut and we were underway for the short trip to Memphis. Service, provided by one male and one female flight attendant, consisted of beverages and Biscoff cookies or peanuts. I’ve come to expect this on short flights, but I still remember the days when a flight this short would have gotten a full meal service on a 727. One thing I do like about the CRJ-900 is that it feels much sturdier than the CRJ-200. On the CRJ-900, There’s no eerie feeling as I wonder if the plane will stay in the air as there is on the CR2. While I don’t mind the CR9, I don’t go out of my way to fly on them, and in fact, I prefer the CR7, which doesn’t have the same “Seats positioned next to blank walls” problem the CR9 has.
Clouds from the vantage point of the CRJ-900. As I suspected, the flight did get bumpy as we approached Memphis and had to sink down into those clouds for approach and landing. The airport itself, however, was clear of weather.
Soon enough we were descending and landing at Memphis.
One sign of the ongoing progress in the DL/NW merger is DL’s presence at two gates on NW’s main B concourse, B-9 and B-11. I would imagine, with DL having moved to B, that high A at Memphis is now a ghost town, as I think all the other airlines at Memphis use C, while Northwest uses the Low A gates for their express operation.
A Freedom E145 sits at B-9 as we arrive, I’m guessing it’s going to Cincinnati.
Once we arrived, the push was on to get my rollaboard from the overhead and follow my fellow passengers into the terminal. Now that I was here, I had to call mom and eric to come pick me up, as they don’t just sit and wait at the airport.
N769NC, a Northwest DC-9-50, in the new DL paint scheme. This plane was originally delivered to North Central back in 1978, was merged into Republic, was merged into Northwest and now is being merged into Delta where it will probably spend the rest of its days before being sent to Victorville. Given the lifespan of the DC-9, that’ll probably happen in 2027 or thereabouts.
Mom, Eric and the girls picked me up and, following some errands, we went back to the house for a while before going downtown for Idol, for your interest, or not, some house pictures.
The neighborhood. The house is in a district of Memphis called Harbortown, located on Mud Island, near downtown Memphis.
The house itself. Mom picked this place after seeing five other properties and it was love at first sight. The architecture is very much done in the modern cape cod pill box style.
The Pool, looking towards the pond behind the house.
Looking towards the front door, behind the black wall is the kitchen.
The livingroom, minus furniture except two eames chairs that have been in the family since the 1970s and none the worse for wear thanks to my father’s meticulous pride in them.
The red dining room wall. The living room and dining room are actually one large room.
Upstairs are three bedrooms.
My niece, Izzy, who’s now eighteen months old and into everything.
Following a short respite, we were off again with the girls in the care of a babysitter and heading downtown for Idols live, held at the FedEx Forum, a rather cavernous arena that normally serves as home for the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team.
Not being sure whether photography would be allowed (at most concerts it’s strictly forbidden, as is any kind of tape recording or videography), I didn’t bring a camera inside, and it was just as well, from our vantage point at the far end from the stage, the view of what was going on on stage wasn’t that good.
The show itself was good, each of the top ten was introduced in the order they were eliminated from number ten down to the winner. They each sang three or four numbers. Also thrown into the mix were group numbers and duets. For me, of course, the highlight was Adam, he’s my favorite and the unofficial winner as far as I’m concerned. His first number was a soul pounding rendition of Whole Lotta Love by Zeppelin, followed by a couple of mellow songs, including his signature version of Mad World, and he wrapped things up with a David Bowie medley.
My biggest complaint wasn’t the show itself, but the people in my section. It was like they had no pulse. When I go to a concert, I like to get up, jump around, sing along, generally I expect to stand and move for the entire show. Not the case this time, people just sat, like they were in church. No excitement, no jumping up and pumping fists. There was no energy. But, Adam’s version of Whole Lotta Love made the whole experience worth it. The show was three hours long from start to finish, then it was back to the house and time for some sleep, I’d be up early tomorrow, as mom and I headed home, albeit on different airlines. With a long layover in Atlanta, I’d be able to do lots of spotting.
The day started with my brother waking up late, which put mom in a bit of a tizzy, as she had a nine a.m. flight, so we were a bit rushed as we packed our bags and the girls into the car, they were going back to their mother in Collierville while my brother was heading to Columbus for some Air Force time, as he’s in the reserves, biding his time until 2011, when he can officially retire with 20 years in. Once we got mom’s bag checked and I got mom to her gate, I got some breakfast and went for some more spotting.
A line of CRJs wait for their daily assignments at the A concourse.
A “Delta” DC-9-50 near the base of the B concourse. I must say that the new DL paint scheme looks good on the DC-9, it really brings out the long lines of the DC-9-50 in good way.
N8986E pushes back. This DC-9-31 was originally delivered to Eastern, presumably went to Southern and ended up at Northwest via the merger with Republic. Who’d have imagined that 40 years after delivery, she’d end up flying for Eastern’ arch rival, Delta?
3 Delta 1028 Memphis-Atlanta N934DL MD-88 Departed B-11 Arrived B-23
By the time I finished wandering around the B concourse, the plane was just coming in, a bit delayed, and the waiting room was packed to the point that there really wasn’t a good vantage point for getting a picture. Soon enough, we boarded, once again, the plane was full to the brim, but at least this time, I was on the two side of our MD-88, so only one person to climb over incase nature calls. Once everyone was onboard we did the standard push back, taxi and takeoff thing, with the flight attendants coming through with buy on board, I had a coke and Biscoffs and watched the clouds.
After a short flight, we were back in Atlanta, and with almost four hours to kill, I found a smoking lounge, got a nicotine fix, then went to the E concourse, not sure what to expect, since 1 in the afternoon isn’t a big time for international departures.
No matter what, concourse E, with it’s plush carpet and luxury hotel feel is my favorite of all the concourses at Atlanta, not to mention, all the exotic metal that comes in from, well, all over.
747-4B5 HL7493 getting ready for her nonstop to Seoul. You don’t realize how big a 747-400 is until you’re face to face with one.
N1200K waiting for her flight to Dakar and Cape Town.
My first time seeing a 777-200LR in person, Ship 7103 taxying to Tech Ops to wait for her next flight. I can’t get over the size of those engines.
N803NW will be going to Rome later, I flew this same plane two years ago from Minneapolis to Amsterdam on the way to Africa. The A330 looks great in the new Delta colors.
N662US, the number two 747-400, getting ready for her Tokyo flight.
N155DL being catered, interesting that they’re using the number two boarding door on this ex-Gulf Air 767-300, is that a common occurrence I wonder?
By the time I finished wandering, I had walked all the way around the E concourse, stopping here and there to take pictures. A check of the monitors revealed boarding time was getting close, so I headed back to concourse B for my Denver flight, and did some more wandering around. One thing I find interesting is the way Delta is letting some connection flights use the mainline B concourse, during my walking around I saw some Ejets, CRJ-900s, CRJ-700s, even CRJ-200s using what would otherwise be mainline gates on the A and B concourses, of course, Delta also uses the terminal gates and gates on concourses C, D, and E for their flights. Another interesting thing I discovered was the addition of actual, RJ sized jetways on their side of the C concourse, it’s about time!
A delta connection Ejet on the B concourse.
N671DN, my ride to Denver, a non-ptv equipped 757-232
4 Delta 1907 Atlanta-Denver N671DN 757-232 Departed B-32 Arrived C-42
Finally, it was time to stop wandering around and loiter near B-32, my departure gate. Once again, the flight was packed, every last seat was taken. Coming onboard, we were greeted with the CRT monitors hanging over our heads as we hastily packed our carryons into the overhead bins and I slid into my seat.
A Delta Ejet sitting between our 757 and N681DL to it’s right.
Forecast: Partly Cloudy.
Forecast: Mostly cloudy. The cloudscapes, however, were beautiful, not so sure the weather under those clouds would be considered beautiful.
Sometime during this cloud viewing fest, the flight attendants came through with buy onboard, once again, I didn’t buy anything. I had my usual coke and Biscoff. The flight attendants also came through selling headsets. Frankly the movie being shown didn’t sound particularly interesting so I forewent the headset and enjoyed the scenery instead.
I like the contrast of the clouds and the crop-circle type landscape.
Periodically throughout the flight, the bumps would hit us, occasionally bad enough that the flight attendants would have to take seats. Then the air would iron out and they’d be released to continue their service. It seemed to be this way all the way to Denver. Soon enough we began our descent, that’s when things got interesting. Lined up on final, I’m looking down at the ground below and I can see these huge clouds of dust pluming up. We were hit by the wind. All of a sudden we were swinging and swaying, battling a substantial cross wind. We continued our descent and touched down on our right landing gear first. The plane seemed to tilt to the right, giving everyone moment to pause, almost wondering if we were going to end up on our top. We stayed like this precariously a moment then the left gear hit terra firma and everyone breathed a big sigh of relief, we were home safe. All I can figure is that we must have really been fighting the wind. This is what gives me great respect for pilots, having to fly day in and day out in all kinds of weather conditions, with cross winds, in rainstorms, even sometimes in snowstorms, and when the passengers are all getting off wringing their hands waiting for their heartbeat to calm down, the crew is calm and collected, waiting to do it again.
N671DN, sitting at C-42 after our arrival.
With an hour to kill before I caught my bus home, I took my time and ambled to the A concourse, where I gandered at the massive LH A340-600, D-AIHF, ironically, the same one that took me to Frankfurt last November, a trip that turned into a fourteen hour odyssey because the plane came in from Frankfurt only to have the nosewheel steering fail, so, she had to be towed from the runway to the gate, all 600,000 pounds of her. As if that weren’t complicated enough, it started snowing steadily to the point that by the time we got onboard, at nine p.m, the slow was sliding off the fuselage onto the wings in huge clumps. This necessitated a trip to de-icing, so add another hour, afterall, it aint easy to de-ice a 247 foot long airplane with a 200 foot plus wingspan. When we finally got underway to Frankfurt, it was eleven p.m.
Finally, after sneaking a peek at a CO 757-300 at gate A-45, and realizing how tiny the 753 is in comparison to the A346, I headed up the bridge towards the bus. My ride to boulder was MCI D4500 fleet number 1932, one I had been on four previous times. We followed the ebb and flow of traffic from the airport to Boulder, picking up and dropping off passengers along the way and putting up with sometimes crazy traffic. The trip ended the way it started, at the Boulder bus station, as I waited for mom to pick me up and excitedly watching wave after wave of arriving and departing busses, not to mention had the unique experience of watching a bus have to back from it’s parking space halfway into the cross street behind the station, because a maintenance truck was behind the bus in front of it. That was a cool spectacle and a neat way to end my whirlwind trip to Memphis.
Well, once again, thanks for reading and please feel free to comment. Once again, i apologize for so many pictures of clouds, but this time around, that's about all there was to photograph, clouds and more clouds.
You can look forward to more trip reports once i take my second RTW trip, in November, until then, keep the shiny side up!
[Edited 2009-08-05 01:33:29]