US Airways #1592
I arrived at the airport at about 1:00, and decided to take it easy and pick up a Mrs. Field's cookie before heading to the gate. I got a chocolate chip one, munched on it, and headed to B15.
The plane was already there being serviced, and there were only a few people sitting there. I sat down and turned on my radio to ATIS. Winds were out of the south, gusting to nearly 30 kts! This means a definited use of 18R, 18L, and 23. I was hoping for a 36R departure, as I wanted to see the spot where I always take pictures...oh well.
Later, on the tower frequency, they said the winds were out of the north, and blowing strong - 20-30 kts. They were bound to change runways soon.
They announced boarding, and we got right on with no delay. Went inside and stared in awe at the A319's panel - pretty impressive. The Airbuses are great - larger seats, more legroom (or so I think) and a quieter ride. I was looking forward to the flight.
As expected, they started using 36R and 36L, so there was a chance of 36R...I was optimistic! Pushback was normal, and the TVs folded from above, and they began their normal safety brief. Now they are promoting their future service to Brussels and Amsterdam on the A330.
Start up on the engines was barely audible. We sat on the ground with the engines running for about five minutes. The captain announced it would be a "tad" bumpy (which means you're gonna get bumpped around pretty hard) and that we could anticipate about 57 minutes.
We taxiied out to the runway and headed for 36R . We taxiied by the expansion of concourse D, and a Delta MD-88 quickly passed us and headed for the same runway. It was a bumpy taxi (but who cares), and there was a large lineup ahead of us. As we held short of the runway, a US 737 shot by us and dropped hard for a landing. Must be the winds! The MD took off slowly, and that put us next in the line.
The power was advanced, and the usual push in the seat was felt. The terminal wizzed by us, and we quickly rotated. The gear went up, and a nice overview of CLT was seen. The bus suddenly dropped down sharply, and we made a right turn to 025 degrees. We leveled off, and the turbulence continued. There were constant air pockets, and the aircraft kept banking. It began to smooth out a bit as soon as we got above 10,000ft.
The captain announced we were at our cruising altitude of 29000 feet, and that it should be smooth until our descent. Food (AKA snack mix) was served. I certainly wasn't impressed, but it would have to do until I could get some real food. I sipped on my Sprite and watched the land begin to flatten as we made our way to the Meril Transition. (Near Raleigh).
Clouds began to form as we made our way near DCA, and they started to thicken. We began our descent, and I knew it wouldn't be a pleasant one!
I was right, as we slipped our way into the dense clouds, it appeared as if it would be a calm ride. Nope, the bus sank and banked and shook, for about 10 minutes.
We broke through the clouds and I could barely make out the Potomac. We were headed for and LDA approach to runway 1. The ride tamed out a bit, and we began a series of turns for vectoring into Reagan. We were still in the fog, and I could barely make out an area of trees and a road. The gear came down, and we broke from the fog. We then passed a series of factories and houses. The river looked quite polluted, too. Lower and lower we went, as we passed over cars, streets, and houses, although the approach was largely over water. The flaps were lowered, and we finally neared the airport. An American MD-80 and a Northwest DC9 were waiting to depart next. We floated for a second over the runway, and *smack* we hit the runway with a bit of aggression. The spoilers came flying out, and I was thrown forward in my seat. I gazed at the terminal ahead, and saw a Midwest Express DC9, an American West A320, along with a flock of US Airways birds. We quickly exited the runway and headed to our gate.
US Airways Express (DBA Potomac Airlines) #4932.
DeHavilland Dash 8
This was my first flight in the Dash, so I was pretty excited. Boarding was normal, and it was pretty damn cold out - winds were about 30kts here as well.
We went downstairs to board a bus (not an Airbus) to take us to the plane. We got off, and headed right for the stairs. As soon as I got in, I noticed the leather seats that US Airways put in their Express aircraft. I took a seat right by the engine and landing gear. Not too bad, I thought. It was kinda cozy. We had a captain that spoke english rather poorly, and it was very difficult to understand what he was saying in the announcements. The engines started up, and the plane started to vibrate. I was greeted by the smell of JP-4. Ahhh. The throttle was advanced, and we quickly taxied. The Dash was much quieter than I expected, but maybe that's because I mainly fly on the Jetstreams (or Junkstreams, whatever you prefer). Well, we taxiied to 19 and held short for an AA 727 to land. We immediately taxied into position, and full throttle - here we go!
The Dash bumped along the runway, and it took off extremely quickly. I was expecting a bumpy ride, and I got it. Up and down, up and down, air pockets at their extreme. We turned west and climbed to 10,000ft.
I'm not sure exactly how high we climbed, but it was in the neighborhood of 15-20,000 feet. Things smoothed out, and we headed south.
The flight attendent got up, and began her service. She was happy to announce that "she had a full range of soft dranks available." She handed out Rold Gold mini pretzels, accompanied with a Coke. The sun sat, and we started our trip over the Shenandoah (Sp?) Valley. Unfortunately, the sun sat quickly, and I was unable to see the moutains in all their beauty.
The Descent was bumpy, and we passed right over Greensboro. All the lights were on in the city, and we were rocked around until we landed. It was really cool, as when the landing lights came on, they reflected off of the prop, adding a nice effect.
We passed over the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and made a turn. The Charlotte skyline came into view, and we lined up with runway 23. The gear was extended, and I got to observe the mechanical action - it was pretty cool!
I love landing at night for one odd reason - I read the billboards, which are lighted up nicely. We descended even more, and passed over cars, a Walgreens, and a Bojangles. We passed over billboards that said AVIS, Who's the Father? (1-800-Thefather? or something), and a Motorola add. Finally we passed over runway 23. As usual, we floated a bit, and a MD-80 was waiting next in line. The wheels met terra firma, and a fairly smooth touchdown was achieved. Heavy breaking was used, however, and we we headed to the terminal.
We taxied to Concourse D, which was a fairly long taxi, and everything was desolate. A couple of Fokkers stood at the C terminal, but that was mainly it.
We deplaned and were greeted with fairly warm weather. We had to go through these makeshift terminals which are actually big trailers connected with the rest of the airport. It's really dumb, and you have to do some walking to get back to the main terminal.
Overall, a nice experience - bumpy rides, but what can you expect in those winds?