So here is my trip report for my latest flight. I had posted a thread on the gen-av forum (I think) about which airline to chose from Dallas to Houston.
I ended up choosing Conti, two knock out two birds with one stone: flying on the MD-80, and earning miles. I earned about 3200 miles. 500 each way, +1000 for booking online, +1000 for paying with a mastercard, +226 for using my OnePass Mastercard.
DC-9-82 N83870 line 1012 delivered 5-7-82
This flight was great. We departed the gate late, but arrived ontime. We boarded through gate E8 in DFW, right under the new Skylink station. That's a strange deal. You go through the doorway, and then turn left and walk down a hall. Well lit, windows and whatnot. Then you turn right and step onto the jetbridge. You can't see the plane from the terminal. So I got on board and made my way to 25A. Once there, I discovered that the overhead bins were TINY. I had never seen anything like them on an MD-80 or any other type. They looked attractive when closed. But my rollaboard almost wouldn't fit. The stewardess had to verbally encourage me- I had almost given up. She explained that just this one aircraft had smaller overheads, and that I'd need to push harder.
This aircraft had the newer CO seats, with winged headrests- a far improvement from the last CO M80 I rode on. The rear bulkhead was the old square leather (as in, does not meet current fire retardant standards, from what I hear on this website) type. I buckled up.
It was so humid in Dallas that day, about 92%. Sunny, but humid. Granted, it's only 6:30a at this point. It would be sunny later, I should say. Steam was pouring out of the vents. Not the gaspers, but the vents. The man in front of me asked the stewardess (the one who had coaxed me with my suitcase) what it was, and she replied,
"Well, honey, it's ether; we want EVERYONE who flies Continental to be happy!"
We all laughed at that, and then she explained that it was only condensation from the high humidity. The man explained that the plane was junk, and that he had asked the pilot about it and the pilot told him that CO would be retiring it next week. The stewardess agreed. The man asked what the stewardess would do after that point, and she told him that they were already trained on the 737s, etc, so it would not really affect their employment. The three of us made conversation after I explained that I am studying aero engineering. Turns out the stewardesses husband is and engineer for Boeing in Tulsa! So we talked about that a little.
Passenger load was light- I had counted about 40 in the gate, and that seems to have been all that got on.
We pushed back and started up and made our way to the runway. For those of you familiar with DFW, we took off on a southerly departure, on the runway close to the Founder's Plaza area. 17R. Roll was very short with such a light load.
The drink service happened. There's not much else to say about it. I got some GREAT shots while onboard. The sunrise was beautiful. I doubt any will make it onto A.net. Seems that only established photographers can get photos onto this database.
I also took video of takeoff and landing. The JT-8D's were sounding great, as usual. That is a sound that will never again be heard at Continental Airlines.
The flight overall was smooth until approach, which was nothing really rough either.
When we got to the gate, I went to the port aft lavatory. I didn't know where the restrooms were in the terminal, so I figured I'd use it on the plane. Well, that was an experience. OLD. Everything was gray rubber. The toilet flush button had no button- just a metal switch with no cover. There was no mirror- just a gray rubber wall. Truly, bird 870 was more of an old goose. She also had a patch on the left inboard flap. I could never get the rivets that good. But wow- must be way un-aerodynamic to have a patch (non flush mount, I might add) on the wing flap!
After that, I approached the cockpit, and said hello and asked the tail number. The pilot happily replied, "Eight-seven-oh." I thanked him for a good flight in a good old bird. We shot the breeze for a second, talked about MD-80s, school, and he asked if I would like some pictures, and I said yeah, and he cleaned up the office a bit. I took some pics, and he offered to take one of me, telling me to sit down and grab the yoke and fly it a bit. We had fun for a couple minutes, real good flight crew.
Stepped into IAH's new terminal E. It's great! Big, modern, purdy, etc. I like it a lot. Getting around IAH once you've arrived is a nightmare. As hard as I looked, I could not find where I should go to be picked up by my friend. There was the 'limousine' area and the 'private car' area. I took private car to mean 'hired car'. It doesn't. It means "walk out yonder to find yer ride".
Houston was great for New Year's.
The trip home:
DC-9-82 N72821 line 1308 delivered 9-30-86
This was one of the worst, most unpleasant flights I have ever taken. We boarded late. The plane had come in from wherever it was coming from late. I couldn't get the registration at the gate. I could have seen it in daylight, maybe. It was gate C40. This was a reminder that the only nice part of IAH is the new terminal- terminal C is a dump. Anyhow, we boarded, and I was pleased to see life-sized overheads. The flight was sold out. I took my seat, and buckled down, ready for a nice night flight to Dallas.
The pilot eventually came on and said that we'd be held up at the gate, due to weather enroute. Eventually, he came on again to explain our flightpath. Instead of flying due north toward Tyler and then west into Dallas, we'd fly west for 125 miles around the storm, and then north, and then curve back around east into Dallas, making a big C shape. This was estimated to take an hour and a half.
No problem, I thought, except for a bit of turbulence. But hey, it's a Diesel niner- the most overbuilt airplane I can think of.
So we taxied out. We were third or fourth in line for takeoff. The first odd thing that happened occurred while we were on the taxiway parallel to the departure runway. We sat there, and then spooled up the engines. They must have been running at about 65-75% N1 speed. We sat like that for maybe three minutes. The whole time, I am thinking, "Wow, with the airlines complaining about high fuel cost, why are we sitting here, brakes set, spooled up for three minutes?"
We taxied forward and spooled back down. Then our turn came to enter the runway. We entered, lined up, and stopped. This is the second odd thing- the engines spooled up to near takeoff power, I'd say about 85% N1. We sat on the runway, screaming, for 45 seconds before the brakes were released.
With a full plane, the takeoff was less spectacular than it had been days earlier. But not bad. The wheels came up, and the flaps came up.
After less than 15 minutes, we had reached our cruising altitude of FL26. Pretty steep climb.
It had been a nice flight until now. I was chillaxin'. The cabin crew moved the cart to the front of coach and started the beverage service.
Then the real weird stuff got started. Not two minutes after we had reached cruise altitude, the spoilers came up. You could see them quite clearly through the window. And HEAR them. We were dropping- pretty quickly, my gut told me. Turns out, my dad had been following our flight on the online flight tracker- way nifty. He says we dropped to FL130. That's odd. FURTHER, our light path went due north toward Tyler, then west into Dallas- just as had originally been planned, but NOTHING like what the captain said we'd do.
So after we finished plummeting, the flaps came out. Not much at first, just ten degrees or so. I am not real familiar with flap settings on the 80s. But they were extended further and further, until the wing was in a full takeoff configuration. Slats at position 1, and flaps at a good 30-35 I'd estimate. Whatever the number was, you could visually determine that they were in the takeoff position.
Then, the really odd thing happened. The wheels came down. The wind was really howling. Clearly, we weren't at full cruise speed, as you don't extend wheels at cruise speed. But we weren't going altogether slowly, either. Lots of wind noise from the wheels, and lots of vibration as well.
About this time, the first class attendant rushed back to the cattle section, and communicated with the guy and gal giving out drinks. They packed up their stuff and made a bee-line for the tail.
I had decided at this point that we were having some sort of difficulty. Maybe a mechanical problem or a medical emergency. Either way, we were only 25 minutes into the flight, which was to take nearly 90. We were clearly about to make an unscheduled landing.
The attendants ran through about five minutes later, collecting all cans and garbage. The male announced that we would be landing shortly, and put seatbacks/trays up.
Get this- we flew with flaps and wheels down for no fewer than 25 more minutes. I was NOT happy. I could not figure out what was going on. I could see the ground, and knew that we were very low. I should say, low for 30 minutes out. Way below 10000 feet. WHY were the flaps down, wheels down, altitude down, when we were still flying.
The attendants made one last run through. I asked one as she went by, "Excuse me, but are we about to land... in Dallas???" And she got this look and said, "well, I sure hope so..." And I replied, "Well, it's just that the pilot said 90 minutes or so, and it's only been 40..." She said, "Yeah, I know, it surprised us all, we just got the word all of a sudden to clean up!" I and my seatmate were jealous of the front half of the coach cabin that had actually received drinks, as we had not. Oh well.
So we touched down on 17C. We taxied to gate E7, which is a Northwest gate. Odd- Conti has three gates, only one was being used, yet we used a Northwest gate. Must be shared. We arrived just shy of an hour late.
As we deplaned, I approached the F/O to ask the tail number. I was one of the last ones off the plane, no one was behind me. I set my carry on in the galley, and said "Thanks for the great flight," being friendly. He looked at me and said, "The door is right there." Somewhat taken aback, I came out with, "I was wondering if I could get the tail number..." He shot back, "Well why would you want something like that?" The rudest tone I have ever encountered in commercial aviation. I said, "Well, since they are RETIRING this airplane TOMORROW, I was just CURIOUS." He looked into the cockpit, and said, "821, kid." I walked away.
And so ended a really weird flight. Never any significant turbulence. Never any rain.
And I checked the radar when I got home- there was never any storm, either. It was about 400 miles north of Houston, 200 miles northeast of Dallas.
The next day, that same airplane, 821, made the last revenue Continental MD-80 flight, from Dallas to Houston.
I now think that flight 1425 diverted to the twilight zone. Flaps down, gear down, and 45 minutes instead of a scheduled 65 or a predicted 90...
Definitely the twilight zone.
If anyone has any insight, feel free to comment.
AND, if you'd like pictures or video, email me, I'll send them. I have video of steam pouring out of the vents, both takeoffs, both landings, and pushback in DFW. They're all Apple Quicktime.
Lots of pics. Like I said, lemme know.
I still like Continental, and am glad to have flown on the MD-80 one last time. Living in Dallas, I have lots of opportunities to fly AA's Mad Dogs, but not Conti anymore.
And I now have enough miles for a free roundtrip.