March 22, 2003
United Airlines #774
Los Angeles (LAX-Gate 71A) - Oakland (OAK-Gate 7)
I arrived at LAX 2.5 hours prior to the 6:25pm departure time. As I arrived at the airport, I spotted Virgin and Air New Zealand 747-400s. I also saw a Delta 737-800 on final approach to 25L. United has gates in terminals 6, 7 and 8 - my flight departed from terminal 7. After stepping into the terminal, I used the e-check-in and checked one bag. This bag was later inspected and screened by the TSA. The security was very evident with numerous police officers stationed throughout the terminal. I spent the next hour walking through terminals 6 and 7 to do some spotting. I saw UA63 (767-300ER) push back for HNL. I also observed numerous other American, Delta and United aircraft arriving and departing. Finally, boarding started at 5:55pm. My seat was assigned as 20A, but it was clear that the flight was not very full. As I boarded the aircraft, I asked the flight attendant to visit the cockpit. I spoke with the pilots for about 10 minutes regarding issues such as climb speeds, assumed temperature and the route. Our cruising altitude was FL280 and our route started with the Gorman 3 Departure with the AVE transition. Later, I took my seat at 18A after seeing people already seated in my original seat. There were no more than 50 aboard. All passengers were seated within 20 minutes of departure - we waited for the bags to be loaded. We pushed back from gate 71A at exactly 6:25pm, tail north. We taxied to the top of the alley and requested taxi clearance from LAX ground. The controller instructed us to taxi to runway 25R via taxiway Bravo. As we approached the runway threshold, we monitored LAX tower who told us to "taxi full length." Then, we taxied into position and waited for "traffic crossing downfield." We were cleared for take-off with an initial altitude of 3000. Upon initial contact with Socal Departure, we were recleared to 9000. Minutes later, we turned right to a heading of 310. However, our climb was stopped at 9000 for some reason. We contacted Socal Approach who told us "higher in 6 miles." Thus, we stayed at 9000 for an extended period of time. Finally, we were cleared direct GMN VOR and to FL230. Los Angeles Center ultimately cleared us to FL280. Snack service commenced, and I asked for ginger ale and three snack bags. The flight attendants were very courteous and the food was satisfying. After checking in with Oakland Center, we were cleared direct PXN and for the MARVN 1 Arrival, NOT the PXN 2 Arrival. We began our initial descent with clearance to FL240; then, we were told to cross CATTY at 13000. The speed breaks were deployed twice during the descent. As we approached OAK, Norcal Approach told us to "depart CATTY on a 260 heading to intercept the runway 29 localizer." 'Allegro 584' (727) and 'FedEx 3207' (DC10) were in front and behind us, respectively. The skies were broken at about 3000. We commenced our final approach and checked in with Oakland tower. We were immediately cleared to land following the Allegro 727. After clearing the active, we taxied to gate 7. I saw 2 United 737's parked on the ramp but no other aircraft!
Notes: All technical information and radio transmissions are courtesy of United's channel 9 feature. I'm still curious why we were held at 9000 with Socal Approach for such a long time. Also, I find it interesting that the TRACON callsign has been changed from Bay to Sierra and finally, Norcal Approach within the last year. The pilots and controllers are clearly confused. 'FedEx 3207' checked in and called the controller "Bay Approach." The controller acknowledged the transmission with "Sierra Approach" and later corrected himself to "Norcal Approach." Thus, all three callsigns were used within two radio transmissions! Also, I was surprised to see us depart runway 25R at LAX. Most Gorman departures depart 24L...meaning south complex aircraft taxi via the north route to 24L. Finally, the PXN 2 Arrival was the old STAR to OAK from the south. Within the past year or so, they introduced a new STAR, the MARVN 1 Arrival. This new arrival is much more time-consuming, but it keeps OAK arrivals lower...away from SFO arrivals. I was surprised to see my flight originally file for the Panoche arrival. However, I expected to hear the Oakland controller reclear us via the MARVN arrival.
I don't submit many trip reports. All comments are greatly appreciated. Thanks.