Anyway, here, for your reading pleasure is a brief recap of my now concluded tip to New York from LA. For berevity, I'll only recount airplane related activities. I won't get into the partying, visiting, or sight seeing.
Tuesday, October 24:
National Airlines LAX-LAS
Flew on 757 N521NA
Check in was fast. Hardly any line. Great ticket counter crew. Departed on time. In flight service not too shabby, but one F/A was being a bit cranky and barked at a Japanese tourist to shut off his Camcorder while in flight. I found myself wondering what he could've done to deserve that kind of treatment especially as he was being quiet and well mannered, not committing one of those endless series of petty offenses that the FAA always screams about-such as carrying hand grenades on board. The service of drink and cinnamon graham crackers was adequate and a welcome departure from the ubiquitous peanuts found on that route.
Another good flight. Service was better than average, although the food wasn't all that great: beef ravioli. Had the consistency of week old chewing gum, and a flavor that was so elusive as to be indescribable. A heavy dose of salt and pepper gave me raviloli flavored salt and pepper. Probably the best touch was the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies a la Midwest Express. Too bad they were kinda stingy and only gave us each one. Needless to say, upon landing in Newark, my friends tha picked me up headed straight to my favorite pizza place on Staten Island, Genarros, on the corner of Hylan Blvd and New Dorp Lane.
My only other complaint was the sheer fullness of the plane. Leg and hip room were sorely missed commodities. But the flight was smooth, virtually no turbulence, and we landed smoothly and on time.
Wednesday, October 25:
Drove to JFK for the first time. Followed the color coded signs tofind Jet Blue, which was the reason I went there. I was amazed at how large JFK really is. I must've not read the signs right and ended up parking in the garage for the 4E/4W terminal, so I had to hike about half a mile through lots of construction to arrive at terminal 6.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but much to my surprised delight, the dreaded "ticketed passengers only" signage was nowhere to be seen in the JB terminal. I was a bit depessed when after an in depth survey of the terminal, that the only way I was going to get good JB pix was to wait until the afternoon when th sun crawls to the other side of the sky. If you've ever been to Terminal A or B at Las Vegas, or the old terminal at San Diego, or even Terminal A at Newark, you'll have an idea what the JB gate area is like. It's round, faces the wrong way, and the jetways block the windows. Fortunately, I found a spot kind of in the corner were I coul shoot past the jetways, and get some good pix. Also, much to my chagrin, the runway on that side of the airport receives about .0000023% of the action at JFK, which means I found myself staring at an empty runway, all the while the A340's, 747's, 777's, 737's, and 707's were using the other runway. But I did get 3 American Barebus A300's to shoot, which I've wanted for quite awhile.
While there, I walked across the way to the TWA terminal. I burst out loud laughing when I saw it. I would swear in a court of law that they modeled it after the Jetsons. I mean it was probably futuristic looking and modern in 1964, but looks so passe now as to be comical. And of course, they have signs all over the place there telling you how welcome you are-such as "no visitors beyond this point". And of course the dreaded signage I mentioned earlier was found in abundance. For an airline that boasts itself as having the "red carpet club", they hardly roll it out for anyone in JFK. No wonder their business there has been swirling down the toilet for several years. I promptly removed myself from that building.
JB was having some operational difficulties that day, and there were cancellations left and right, which means many of my would be photo ops would not come to fruition. At least not on this day. Plus, there were some clouds rolling in by the PM, so I called it a day early. I returned to Staten Island kind of bummed.
Saturday, October 28
Drove to LGA
Gorgeous, cloudless day. High winds dictated that all takeoffs and landings had to be on the same runway, the east-west one (sorry...don't know headings).
Parked my kiester in the USAirways terminal, and shot about 9 rolls of film in 2 hours. Need I say more?
Takeoff's stacked sometimes as much as 17 planes deep, which meant that they were waiting on the taxiway-in front of me-allowing me to compose perfect shots. They couldn't be moving slower. No blurry, or off center shots to worry about. An airliner photographers dream.
Goodies include the US Shuttle A319+20, Metrojet, USAirways, AirTran DC-9, Midway CRJ, Deltaflot 738. Delta connection Dornier 328, AA Eagle Embraer 135, Delta SLC '02 757....just to name a few.
Sunday, October 29:
Drove again to LGA to get some scraps and follow up shots. Didn't get much as the clouds rolled in about 10 minutes after I got there.
For all you New Yorkers, take a gander at this:
I drove from LGA to JFK via the Van Wyck, drove once around the JFK entrance road, and back across the Belt Pkwy, and was at the toll booths of the Verrazano Bridge in 45 minutes.
Monday, October 30
Didn't visit any airports due to excessive cloud cover, but I did pay a visit to The Airplane Shop in Fairfield New Jersey.
I highly recommend that all of you pay that place a visit someday. I had to call and ask directions. It sits in an anonymous industrial building off the main highway on a small street.
Let's just say that if I went there with $2000 in my pocket, I would've left without a dime in my pocket!
It's not a very big place, and they just moved in-so a lot of stuff was still in boxes, but the folks there were nice, and let me rummage through it all. More models, Gemini jet's, tie tacks, books, etc than I've ever seen in one place!!!!!
I ended up only buying some Gemini Jets. But I did get a business card, and now that I know where it is, I can either go there again, or dispatch one of my freinds to go there and get me stuff.
Tuesday, October 31:
Drove to PHL. Cloudy in New York, but cloudLESS in PHL.
Drove mainly to get USAirways pix, which I did get, except for the A330. Try as I may, it was simply not possible to get it at the terminal.
Also, discovered that AirTran once again moved to the very far end of the D terminal, which spelt out that I would not get any pictures of them-which ensured that someting I would want would show up...namely an old 737 in the old, original AirTran livery...which I helplessly watched come and go.
Of some consolation was the American 727....
Wednesday, November 01:
Another beautiful, cloudless day in New York City.
Didn't need much. Drove up to LGA one last time, with one picture in mind: The AirTran 717.
I waited for the 1100 arrival in the food court overlooking the C gates that it parks at. It showed up on time. Just as it pulled in, the light and angle were perfect, and I shot about 20 pictures in about 30 seconds. Thank God the arrivals and departures at LGA are so slow and deliberate.
After that, I hightailed it down to JFK, and arrived just in time to catch the 1230 trio arrivals. Again, I was ecstatic as each one of the three were one of each of JB's tail liveries. I did an entire JB livery shoot in less than 10 minutes. And the sky was sooooooo blue, which made for even better pictures than I got earlier. No haze in the background.
Thursday, November 02:
Was dropped off at EWR at 0600 to catch my 0750 flight. I was kindly informed that there would be a delay of about an hour.
My first thought was: "how the hell can you blow the first flight of the day?"
Then I realized it was actually an inbound red-eye from LAS. So I languished in the moribund lounge that is Newarks Terminal A. As per typical airline protocol, no reasonable explanation for the delay was offered. They could've at least tried to blame it on the Time Change, but not even that was offerered.
Finally, N526NA showed up, and we boarded.
After a lenghty stay on the taxiway, we departed and were westbound for Las Vegas. For the most part, the servive was again good-except for this one very paranoid looking female f/a. As per usual, I rode in the very back of the plane. I actually relocated myself to the very back-row 33 to have all to myself-so that 1) I wouldn't have to share, and 2) the couple that occupied the othe two seats of row 31 could have that row to themselves.
Anyway, getting back to the schizoid f/a, every time one of them entered or left the aft galley-and I do mean EVERY time, she would slam (not pull) the curtain shut. It made me wonder if she was slipping cyanide tablets into the food and didn't want to be caught.
The meal service consisted of an egg and cheese omelette, which I must say was a lot more flavorful than the Chef Boyardee ravioli served on the way up. Awhile later, the cookies were passed out, again, with a limit to one per passenger.
About a third of the way across, we had some pretty severe turbulence. Fortunately, it soon subsided to a smooth ride the rest of the way.
I also managed to collect a couple of safety cards, and 2 bottles of water that I plan to add to my memorabilia collection. If you have never seen them, they have a transparent portrait of one of their planes stickered onto the bottle, and when held up to the light, they are very neat little trinkets indeed.
Anyway, Captain National did manage to get us into LAS with about one minute to spare to catch the connecting flights to LAX and SFO. As we pulled up to the gate, I sprinted from my seat to try and get off ASAP. I got up to about row 20 before everyone else stood up. The paranoid F/A made a final announcement-directed at me-that it's dangerous to stand up while the plane is still moving. I know the announcement was meant for me personally because she told a full 757 that "the gentleman that was seated in the back and rushed the cabin before the seat belt sign is turned off-that is a very dangerous thing to do and is disrespectful to the crew".
That jolted, humbled and startled me...for about 3 nanoseconds......
I literrally walked off of one plane, and right onto the other. I've heard of tight connections, but 45 seconds....sheesh!!!!!
N523NA was waiting at gate D1. I boarded, found my seat, and we flew uneventfully on the 40 minute final leg to LAX.
Even though I enjoyed my trip, I was very glad to be back home.
So, here's the Matt D rating on National on a 1-10 scale, 10 being fantastic, and 1 being hopelessly mediocre:
Ticket and gate agents: 9
Flight crew: 7+
Aircraft cleanliness: 9-
Aircraft mood: 8
Punctuality (outbound) 10
Punctuality (inbound) 3
Overall rating: 7+