This particular trip report is admittedly a bit old as it took place last May. But I am posting it to help get my trip report skills up to snuff. Feedback is welcome since I want to know what you guys are looking for in a flight. Unfortunately, there are no pictures this time. But I hope to post some for my next trips.
Depart: Omaha (OMA), 3-May-02 at 5:25 AM
Arrive: Minneapolis (MSP), 3-May-02 at 6:28 AM Terminal L
Flight: Northwest 1088
Aircraft: MDC DC9-50
Meal Service: n/a
Duration: 1hr 3mn
Distance: 283 mi (455 km)
Friday, May 3rd,2002. I work second shift, so I didn't really get that much sleep before it was time to catch my flight (practically no sleep at all in fact, I just laid in my bed with my eyes closed until the alarm went off. The purpose of this trip was to attend the Star Wars Celebration II convention in Indianapolis and generally it was an excuse to get out of town for three days (a benefit of working four 10 hour days).
I arrived at about 3:50 AM and did not really have any problem checking in as the counters were still being opened up when I arrived. This was my first flight since 9/11, so I decided to show up pretty early because I didn't know what to expect with security check in. All things considered I probably could have tried to sleep in a little longer as the terminal was still locked off with a mesh wall and the security station had not been activated yet. But thankfully, seats had been installed in the hallway leading up to the checkpoint, so I pulled out the laptop and watched a DVD for awhile to kill some time (until the battery light came on) then read a little as well. While I waited, other passengers began to file in slowly and pretty soon all the seats were taken. So coming early was a good thing. Finally the checkpoint opened at about 4:45 am and I proceeded through security without a problem. But I did ask that my camera bag get searched manually as I was concerned about X-rays harming the film. The tech reassured me that it wasn't needed unless I was using over 1000 speed film, so I filed this bit of information away for future reference. At least they were friendly, but this is before TSA took over and it will be interesting to see how things compare next month when I fly again.
Once at the gate, I awaited the time to board. Boarding proceeded smoothly and I was issued a window seat on the left side ("A" seat) of the DC-9-50 I would be flying on. I can't remember how crowded the flight was, but I don't think anyone sat next to me on this leg. Takeoff was smooth and pretty much on time and flight service was also pretty good with drink service. I ordered an orange juice to sip on. The aircraft interior was about what you would expect for a DC-9 and it looked pretty much like most every other DC-9 I've flown on. The day was clear and sunny and I spent most of the flight looking down on Iowa and Minnesota as I hadn't flown in years. Minnesota can naturally be recognized by its many small lakes. Finally, we lined up and landed in MSP. The approach was interesting during descent as I looked down and saw an orange NW Airlink (possibly operated by Mebasa) turboprop paralleling our course, but at a much lower altitude (probably about 7,000 feet). We left it in the dust pretty quickly, and I figure we touched down about ten minutes before it did.
MSP had not changed that much since I last saw it about 15 years ago. I had to cross between concourses to catch my next flight and noticed a few nice looking duty free shops to check out in an area that looked more like a shopping mall then an airport. I imagine that the new security restrictions didn't do much for profit margins as these places probably had a lot of sales from customers that were not flying. But the shops didn't really have anything that interested me much. Minnesota National Guard security was out in force, patrolling the terminal and armed with M-16 rifles. So I made sure to give a pleasant "hello" to them as I passed, in a way telling them that they were doing a good job. I grabbed a quick breakfast from a Burger King in the concourse near where my next flight was departing and had some of the most vile tasting coffee I ever had (needed four packs of sweetener to kill the bitterness). I'm not really a coffee drinker, so I couldn't really compare MSP Terminal L BK coffee to that much else. I needed it for the caffine anyway, which it provided in abundance. I had to eat quick though as I arrived with about 30 minutes to go before departure and they were already pre-boarding the plane when I finished eating.
Depart: Minneapolis (MSP), 3-May-02 at 7:24 AM Terminal L
Arrive: Indianapolis (IND), 3-May-02 at 9:03 AM
Flight: Northwest 500
Meal Service: n/a
Duration: 1hr 39mn
Distance: 502 mi (808 km)
I was issued a window seat on the aircraft's right side, but this one was somewhat ahead of the wing. So I had a clear view down below on my trip. I'm not really that big a fan of the DC-9, as they seem to have less personality then other aircraft I've flown. Plus the 2 and 3 seating arrangement seems to make the plane just feel cramped compared to a 727 or 737 IMHO. But otherwise, the planes do their jobs well. The flight was packed, but oddly, I had the row to myself. I exchanged some kind words with a fellow Star Wars fan (hard to miss with her SW T-shirt and a copy of "Attack of the Clones" in hardback) sitting across from me in seat "B". Departure and take off again were smooth and the sky was still clear, providing an unobstructed view of the landmarks below. I didn't know exactly where we were, but somewhere over southern Illinois (or Indiana) I saw a pair of steam stacks from a nuclear reactor going full bore and a wind farm with about four or five giant electric generating windmills. Drink service by the flight attendants was about average, but they always had smiles on their faces and so did I.
Judging by the wind direction (about 10 to 15 kts from the West that day), I figured we were probably going to be making a right hand approach into IND with a southbound downwind leg before turning onto final (landing on Rwy 23R?) with a pass over a somewhat famous Indy landmark. But I was too dumb to have my camera handy before hand as it was sitting up in my carry-on in the overhead bin. It was a shame too as we passed right over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on descent, providing me with a view that one seldom ever sees of that great place. If only it were later in May, I might have seen a couple cars on the track. Then again, I doubt my camera would have caught much anyway as I was a terrible photographer before I got my digital camera this year. Eitherway, that view made the flight choice worth it. Touchdown was uneventful and I waited for the cabin to clear out a little before grabbing my bag. I thanked the flight crew for the approach over the speedway and the captain joked that he could have landed there if I wanted him too.
The terminal at IND was very nice and clean. Baggage claim was on the lower level, right next to the rental car counters. So I picked up my one checked bag (it arrived with no damage) and exchanging hellos and goodbyes with a couple other Star Wars fans. Unfortunately I never had a chance to see them again that weekend as there were A LOT of other fans at the show. I then went to claim my ride from the Hertz counter. The agent there was all business and didn't smile at all, but she got me squared away. And so, I was off to claim my car and enjoy the next three days and two nights at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Indianapolis, and getting lost in a crowd of thousands of Star Wars fans at the RCA Dome and Convention Center. Those details are for another time, but I did have a blast down there.
Depart: Indianapolis (IND), 5-May-02 at 6:25 PM
Arrive: Minneapolis (MSP), 5-May-02 at 8:10 PM Terminal L
Flight: Northwest 1177
Aircraft: Boeing 727-200
Meal Service: n/a
Duration: 1hr 45mn
Distance: 502 mi (808 km)
Alas, Sunday came much too soon, the convention wrapped and it was time to return. I dropped off my bright metallic green Ford Escort rental car at Hertz around 5 PM and went to check in at the upper level of the airport terminal. The lines were rather long, as expected since NW had a flight departing for DTW before my MSP flight did. But luckily I was able to pass the time with a couple other Star Wars fans in the line, including one member of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion (they worked con security in full trooper armor), who had to check in really large trunk containing his armor. Still, the line proceeded rather quickly, especially since they decided to split the MSP and DTW check in lines not long after. The check in staff at the counter was very friendly and the ticket counter rep was really on cloud nine when he explained to me that he checked in Hayden Christiansen (a.k.a. Anakin Skywalker) and Hayden signed a blank boarding pass for him. I said he had a very valuable collectors piece there as Hayden did not sign any autographs during the con. If he had, it would have taken 5 days to clear the autograph line alone I figure. Sometimes it pays to work for the airlines.
With my bag checked, I proceeded to the security checkpoint. There was a long line there and since I had about an hour before my flight left, I decided to wait it out at a snack bar next to the checkpoint and grab a bite to eat. Besides, there were pleanty of passengers looking to grab their DTW flights first and I didn't want to hold them up when my flight was leaving later. I ordered a mini Pizza from the snack bar (I believe the chain was called "California Pizza" or something like that) and it was pretty tasty. The same pizza chain can be found in the MSP terminal as well and they make pizzas that taste a lot like something you can find at Schlotzky's Delis. The prices were pretty reasonable too considering. If I remember correctly, my pizza was a BBQ chicken with Jalepeno peppers (I like hot stuff).
Again I passed the time with a couple other Star Wars fans (I told you there were A LOT of fans that weekend) and we compared notes on our convention experiences. There was one family in the security line with a kid in a stroller who wouldn't stop screaming for a cookie. They just ignored him and continued through the line. I pity the poor passengers that had to sit next to them on the flight back if that kid was still screaming when they boarded. My fellow "lunch guests" also commented on the situation too and we sort of fantisized about how to quiet the kid (Bill Cosby's "Jeffrey" sketch comes to mind). Now I know what you're probably thinking, but the three people I talked to are not stereotypical science fiction geeks. Two were a couple in their late 30s and one was a guy in about his late 20s who worked for a biomedical genetic research firm in New York and also played music as a hobby. This is the type of age diversity you find with SW fans.
While we waited, the security line eventually did thin out. I finished my food and proceeded through security with no problems. The guy running the X-ray machine did back it up at one point when he saw something odd in my bag (a boxed SW toy with a gun handle, batteries and buttons), but he did let it go through with a bit of a smile. Again it will be interesting to see how things have changed with TSA paying the bills now. At no time did I need to remove my shoes. Boarding went well and I managed to avoid the random search at the gate again. Tips for that are to stay clean looking, presentable and keep your carry-ons closed. If you have an open bag, you are likely to get searched more.
The plane for the trip to MSP was a 727-200. I was issued the dreaded middle "B" seat on the left side of the plane. But again I was seated next to a couple other Star Wars fans and there were others behind us as well. This flight was packed completely and probably at least half of the passengers were SW fans. Now when I booked this flight, I didn't know that 727s were quickly being phased out of service by domestic airlines. If I had, I would probably would have savored the flight more. Most of my flying to this point has been on 727s and even though at one time I might have been bored with flying on them, I will miss them as they were a big part of my airliner experience.
Departure was on time and takeoff was uneventful. It was a lot cloudier on the trip back, but the time flew by rather quickly as I chatted with my two seating companions and occasionally with the people behind us. I also typed some trip notes on my laptop, but admittedly coach in a packed aircraft doesn't leave much room for computer work. Coach in the center seat also isn???t exactly the most comfortable thing in the world, but it does help when you are travelling with companions who share your interests. The captain came on the PA during the flight, telling us the conditions in MSP and concluded with "May the Force be with you" to the Star Wars fans. Naturally we let up a cheer for that.
Eventually, the weather did begin to get bumpy as there was a storm front moving through Minneapolis. Because of the downpour at MSP, we were stuck in a holding pattern for about twenty minutes and the gentleman to my right was concerned that he might miss his connection to Seattle because of this. I reassured him that when weather rolls into a major hub, it typically delays everything evenly and so his flight would probably depart late also, and still be there when we touched down. Our aircraft went ducking through scattered clouds and at one point it got a little unnerving as we flew through a cloud that I???m pretty sure was in the early stages of trying to form into a thunderhead. I felt the plane go through a sudden updraft, followed by a sudden downdraft. My companions weren't as thrilled, but I reassured them and treated it sort of like a roller coaster experience. After a couple holding pattern circuits, we were cleared for landing and although it wasn't raining when we touched down, the entire airport was just soaked. Since it was early May, we were still under daylight conditions, but the sun went down pretty quick after we taxied to the gate.
My itinerary called for a two hour layover in MSP, so I wasn't in a hurry to get to my next gate, even though we spent 30 minutes longer in the air then planned. This time the concourses were right next to each other, so I didn't have to walk as far. But I had a longer wait ahead of me as it turned out my suspicions about the weather were correct and my flight was delayed by another hour with a scheduled departure time of around 10:50 PM. I called the folks and told them when to expect my arrival and proceeded to get a bite to eat. I ate at a Burger King near my gate (possibly the same one I ate breakfast at on Friday), but they were getting ready to close. Because of this I was able to buy a grab bag with a couple burgers for a deep discount and luckily managed to get some drink service before they shut down the pumps. I wasn't as hungry as I though I was, so I only managed to eat one of the burgers and get about halfway through the second one before pitching what was left (good burgers BTW considering the price I paid).
Depart: Minneapolis (MSP), 5-May-02 at 9:57 PM Terminal L
Arrive: Omaha (OMA), 5-May-02 at 11:02 PM
Flight: Northwest 202
Aircraft: Airbus A319
Meal Service: n/a
Duration: 1hr 5mn
Distance: 283 mi (455 km)
Actual departure and arrival times were about an hour later
While I ate, it was storming pretty heavily outside, with lightning flashes occuring pretty regularly. As a result, things were a bit more interesting as there were other aircraft on the ramp that couldn't be taxied into a jetway or get their bags offloaded, since rules stated that ground crew couldn't service an aircraft if there was high threat of a lightning strike. As a result, the flightcrew for our aircraft were at the airport. But, they were stuck on the ramp and waiting for the lightning to clear. There was a similar problem with one of the assigned flight attendants, who was stuck on another plane in a holding pattern over MSP. And so we waited. Finally the storm let up and our flight crew did arrive, but the FA was a no show. There was another flight attendant who was dead-heading back to OMA after working an international flight. But she was at her limit on flight hours, so she couldn't service our flight without permission from her supervisors. She made a phone call and got permission and we boarded the aircraft. We did wait a little longer at the gate since a family coming back from Orlando was late in getting to our flight because of the weather delays. But they made it and we taxied out soon after. I can't remember exactly what time we took off though. As for our new second flight attendant, she performed her job very well, even if she was a little rusty and naturally pretty tired.
I was seated in (I believe) 14A, on the left side of the the A319. The interior on this plane was very clean. The first class seats also looked very nice (too bad I wasn't assigned one). Even the coach seats were comfortable and seat pitch seemed a little bit better then what the DC-9s had. The storms that passed through MSP were part of a storm front that extended all the way down to Omaha and into Kansas (typical Mid-western weather). But when we took off they were already to the east of our flight path, so they didn't cause any weather trouble except for some minor turbulence. I had some great views of the lightning and storm clouds though and above I saw the clearest night sky I had ever seen with tons of stars. At one point I even saw a very rare lightning phenomenon with a blue ball moving up from a cloud rather quickly into the upper atmosphere. This is something you can only see either in an aircraft or in space. I tried to sleep, but I couldn't as this natural fireworks display was putting on quite a show. Drink service was average (i.e. good) and again I had an entire row to myself as the flight wasn't packed (typical for a red-eye to OMA on a Sunday night). Landing was pretty smooth as well and we taxied into a rather quiet Omaha Eppley Airfield. Thankfully my checked bag arrived safely as I closed the door on my first Northwest flight in about 15 years. I'll fly with them again as their service was very good for domestic coach fare IMHO and they handled the delays very well.
Thank you for reading.