The first time I ever flew commercial was in July 1993, on Continental Airlines (IND-IAH-HRL return). I was on a mission trip with the youth group of our church; I was 18 at the time. Sorry I don't have any pictures of this trip (it was over 10 years ago, and my camera was packed away in my carry-on, and I didn't think to take pictures of the plane--I wish I had, but I was just starting out in photography). Buckle up and fly with me as I share my first-flight memories!
We arrived by chartered bus the night before the flight and stayed at IND's Days Inn Airport. We were up quite early the next morning to catch our flight.
We were to board our CO 727 in concourse C. I was quite excited when I saw the plane; the 727 looked beautiful in CO's old gold/red/orange striped, meatball livery (the meatball was red, I sort of remember). We soon boarded. As I boarded, I started to turn left at the door, but realized my mistake and turned in the right direction, toward the cabin. I sat in the middle seat on the right side just behind the wing, but I still had a good view out the window at the foggy airport outside. Soon we departed, and before long, I experienced my first ever jet takeoff. It was a thrilling feeling being held back in my seat by the G-forces being exerted on me during the roaring takeoff. Soon enough we broke through the thick cloud layer to the clear sapphire blue sky. On the clouds below I could see the shadow of our 727 as it headed southeast toward IAH. I vaguely remember I had some ginger ale during the drink service. All too soon, we were descending toward IAH. We landed on the runway, and almost immediately the thrust reversers kicked in, making the roll-out really loud and forcing me forward in my seat. That was just as thrilling as the takeoff!
IAH was my first really large airport. The corridors seemed to stretch for miles; after a seemingly interminable hike our group reached the concourse on the other side of the CO terminal to make our connection to HRL. At our gate there was a CO DC-9 in the new colors (at the time, they were still transitioning the fleet to the new colors from the old meatball colors). At the gate to our right was a CO Express four-turboprop-engine DHC-7. We soon departed IAH for HRL. The takeoff was even more thrilling! The pilot launched the DC-9 into the air at a steep angle, while at the same time making a sharp left turn just off the runway. The left wing looked like it might hit the runway! The little DC-9 sure flies like a fighter jet! We traced our way over the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas coastline; this time the sky was clear and I could see for many miles around. Soon we landed at the much smaller HRL (Harlingen--Valley Int'l Airport). HRL was out in the middle of nowhere. The small terminal was designed in a kind of Southwestern/Texan decor inside and out.
My return trip (HRL-IAH-IND) was made 10 days later. This time, both legs were flown on DC-9s. The HRL-IAH leg was flown on a CO new livery DC-9, while the longer IAH-IND leg was flown on a DC-9 in the old CO red meatball colors. The IAH-IND leg was a long, cramped experience for me, because I sat in the very last seat on the right side in the very last row, right next to the #2 engine and just in front of the lav bulkhead. I called this the "coffin corner"--the most claustrophobic part of the plane! My ears were still ringing 2 hours later from the loud roar of the engines; even with my hearing aid turned off, I still nearly lost what residual hearing I have from the roar of the engine I was sitting right next to. This flight segment sort of negatively colored my perception of the DC-9; it's indeed not one of my favorites! It's okay sitting anywhere else, but the worst seats to sit in are those at the rear next to the engines and just ahead of the lavs.
All in all, I had the thrill of my life to date with my first airline trip! To this day, I still have the plastic wings the F/A gave to me when I boarded the first time. These little wings, by the way, have the new (current) CO tail design on them.