So it was something like "2006: a NW Odyssey" if you like. Perhaps you prefer "State of the Red Tails." It really doesn't matter, but I wound up flying 8 NW segments in 9 days on NW last week. (Anyone care to guess how I'll be requalifying for Elite in 2007? Ding Ding Ding, you're right!! It's segments.) There are sadly no pics as there was really nothing worth photographing... except perhaps that soccer nose. Anyhow, the plan was a good one to assess NW as it included a trip on NW's bankrupt little brother (XJ), a fortress hub where NW has a token presence (CLT), NW's premiere hub (DTW), NW's home base (MSP), a 'heartland' focus city (MKE), and a city on which NW focuses nominally (BOS). Day 1 was Friday, 24 February, and the plan was CLT-DTW-MKE. NW 3573 would carry me to DTW.
After dodging the usual bunch of idiotic Charlotte drivers, I arrived at CLT about 2:00 for my 4:15 flight. Nothing too unusual to report at CLT... Checkin was painless with a surly NW agent, the security line was long for CLT (5 minutes), and the walk-through explosive sensors were down... again. Still, screening was rather painless, and I was airside by 2:15. I entertained myself first by watching a 9E CRJ push back for the hellish 3 hour flight to MSP (I'll be on that flight in April--sigh), and then headed to Jamba Juice, by far the best concession at CLT. Smoothie in hand, I walked down to the rocking chairs at then end of Concourse D and watched the pax coming off the LH MUC flight (operated by A343 D-AIGS) head down to be inspected. It's a treat to get any foreign-registered birds at CLT, so I was rather pleased. After a walk down Concourse E, where the highlights were a couple of ZW CRJs in the new c/s and an Elliot Sadler 38 car at the sports bar, I wandered back over to Concourse A. Even the novelty of YV CR9s in HP colors has worn off, so the spotting was pretty boring. Nevertheless, soon enough N526XJ arrived. At the time, the UA agent over at A4 was on her fourth call for an electric cart (she announced each time how many it had been), and then the NW agent started. I quickly inquired and found that F was full, but that was basically fine. Soon enough, it was time to board
Operated by Mesaba
Final Assembly of this aircraft was completed in England (the safety card says so; why do I care?)
Scheduled Departure: 4:15 PM
Actual Departure: 4:06 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 6:08 PM
Actual Arrival: 5:58 PM
My boarding pass was scanned quickly, but the line to board extended halfway up the jetway. NW boards by rows from the back of the a/c. It's not hard. No, you cannot get a roller bag into the overheads below the wing. Come on, people. Soon enough, though, I was settled in Seat 5F. I've always thought the seats on the RJ85s are uncomfortable, but there was certainly no lack of legroom at the (non-) bulkhead, and I even got a footrest as I had an F seat in front of me. The door closed a few minutes early, and after waiting for a few straggling bags, we were off.
Taxi down to 36L was quick. On the way, I noticed how dirty my window was. I was almost unable to see out it. Unacceptable. I know XJ is in bankruptcy, but they at least ought to at least clean the darn planes. We waited only for a US 752 (big surprise, I know), and then were off. We needed something like 3500 feet of runway even with a full load. I had forgotten how much get up and go these little planes have. I was impressed. Climb was a little turbulent, but after we got above 10 or 12,000 feet, it wasn't so bad, and the beverage service began. Flight attendants were courteous but not attentive. However, they were much better than the other XJ flight attendants I've had occasion to fly with. XJ ought to take a lesson from 9E.
The flight was pretty mundane, and after about an hour, the first officer announced our descent. By this time, it was relatively cloudy, but it sounded like the weather was pretty good at DTW. We broke through the clouds over the St. Clair river somewhere south of downtown Detroit, and I saw an airport on an island-- anyone care to identify it? This was about the time that one of the f/as announced that we had been cleared to land. At the time, we were flying straight north and at about 8 or 10,000 feet-- I think she got kind of carried away. It seemed like the weather was hazy. That's kind of weird for the winter. After a left turn just south of downtown Detroit that afforded an excellent view of the skyline and Comerica Park, we began our approach from the northeast. This was when sitting with an engine 8 feet from my face got really bad. The engine noise during flight, even on takeoff, wasn't so bad, no worse than sitting in an exit row on a 737 or 32X. Once the flaps came out, however, the low pitched rumble was almost unbearable. I saw a company airbus flying in front of us on a parallel approach and figured we'd be landing on 21L. Soon, we had overtaken the airbus, and we touched down on 22L at 5:53. I had forgotten both the high approach speed and the relatively nose-down attitude of the ARJs. Still, though, they land very smoothly. Had I not been paying attention, I might not have known that we had landed. The winds had been announced as 7 knots from the southeast. Judging roughly from the windsock, that was probably a conservative estimate. Still, there was no indication that this was a crosswind landing. 22L is not a normal arrival runway, but it made the taxi very short--especially by DTW standards. No reverse thrust was applied, and we glided off the runway near the terminal and taxied to B4. Even after a brief wait for marshallers, the jetway was in place and the door was open by 5:58.
As I walked up the jetway, a guy asked me where my coat was. I definitely checked it, but I needed it in the brisk Detroit air. The gate was right into the newest part of DTW and I was amazed. A brief walk down Concourse C revealed significant improvement, and the new Worldclub looks absolutely huge. Soon enough, it was down into the psychedelic tunnel (ORD's is better) and across to the European push. At ORD, you can't see this from a domestic terminal. In fact, I got my first BA and AF widebodies, (G-BNWT and F-GZCL, respectively) along with N801NW, an NW 333 headed for Gatwick and D-AIKG, an LH 333 with the soccer nose. As I was writing down the registration of the LH bird, an LH agent asked me if I was flying to FRA. I considered it for a moment, but realized that there are as many Germans in Milwaukee as in Frankfurt. DTW is one of the few American airports (IAH may be the only other one, and they cheat) with service to both LHR and LGW. I also noticed a new Saab farm at A46. I assume this is for the flights to the minor Canada markets. It sure beats the old system (bus).
54 minutes is about the perfect connection time at DTW... enough time for something to go wrong, but not enough time to get bored. With a perfect connection, I walked down to A72 rather than taking the train, and I arrived there about 10 minutes prior to boarding. The agent announced that there would be no upgrades for silvers and that the flight was very full. She called first class boarding around 6:30 and very unprofessionally asked elites to stay back as she would be preboarding us even though there were "like 30" of us on the flight. Soon, she called elite boarding for
N324NB (Bowling Shoe)
Scheduled Departure: 7:02 PM
Actual Departure: 7:05 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 7:12 PM
Actual Arrival: 7:09 PM
I enjoyed boarding with the elites. I was the youngest one by a long shot, and I don't think the agent believed I was elite. With the amount I paid for the long-haul tickets that did it, I don't believe it either. The lady in front of me was actually connecting in MKE. She would be following our aircraft to LAS. The agent, clearly accustomed to people on the second leg of their journey, scanned the second boarding pass on the online printout and could not figure out what was wrong for a couple of minutes.
From the moment I stepped on this flight, I was reminded why I remain loyal to NW. All 3 of the MEM-based f/as (they never announced where they were based, but it was obvious) were kind, funny, and attentive to every passenger need, even on a simple 50 minute flight. More on some of the shenanigans later... It was in fact a full flight, so boarding did take a while. I watched N586NW load for MSP (and yes, 753s are very long airplanes) and saw 2 fire trucks respond to some emergency which was resolved within two minutes of their arrival. I realized that those firefighters have to maneuver pretty deftly in some tight spaces-- props to them. At the end of boarding, a man sat down in 9D, but an agent came and upgraded him, leaving me with an entire exit row to myself. Soon, one of the Y flight attendants came along and left the equipment for the safety demo on 9D. I asked if he was leaving me souvenirs, and we joked about that. We pushed back a couple of minutes late, and the safety demo began. My friendly f/a returned and said something like "I bet you've never seen anything like this before." Everyone around was elite, so we politely chuckled.
The demo began and proceeded as normal... until the last part. "Your seat back cushion may be used as a flotation device." The f/a ripped the cushion off of 9D and actually demonstrated. He then commented that he usually finds money under the cushion. The taxi past a dark Smith terminal was pretty quick. All I could see there was a single HP tail, an MQ ERJ which appeared to be in the penalty box (headed eventually for ORD, no doubt), and an NK 321. Up at the old International Arrivals Builiding, there was a Champion 722 and a FunJet 737NG variant. We turned onto 22L, and after a 4000 foot or so roll, we were off. The flight path was very straight, almost all the way to Milwaukee. Service on this flight was orange juice or water, and the f/as made three passes. That was completely unnecessary, but I really appreciated it. I also appreciated the ability to spread out over 3 seats and get a little work (work= trip report writing) done. Cruising altitude was 22,000 feet, but we got up there pretty quickly as the seat belt sign was probably off for a good 20 minutes. Soon, though, descent was announced.
There's not much to say here. Service items were picked up, and f/as passed through. I had a black sweater on, so the f/a verbally confirmed that my seat belt was in fact on, but even that's not too noteworthy. We flew pretty much straight in to 25L. MKE wasn't busy at all. It was a beautifully-executed visual approach, putting us down right on the numbers at 7:05. The taxi over to E65 was quick, and we had arrived. On the trip up the jetway, I noticed that the sign in the jetway welcomes travelers to Milwaukee County. Too bad there's not much there but the city of Milwaukee. I stepped into the rotunda and realized that MKE is the quirkiest airport I have ever visited. The architecture there is so strange. I passed out into the public part of MKE and, not thinking, went down the first escalator I saw into ticketing. At MKE, ticketing and baggage claim are on the same level but are separated by a road. Thus, I had to go up, over, and back down, to get to baggage claim. Bags were delivered fairly promptly, and even without First Class stickers on my bags, I was out of the airport by 7:30. I noticed that NW now prints destination codes in alternating colors (black letter, white letter, black letter) for some flights... not sure why.
Round 2 was MKE-DTW-BOS on Sunday, 26 February. This day would bring the first DC-9s of my odyssey and quite some time in DTW. I arrived at MKE a little after 12 for my 1:40 flight, and checked in without any trouble. I headed up to the aviation museum, which is no Smithsonian, but not bad for a little airport like MKE. There were displays on UA Carvelles (actually really interesting stuff), Ozark, and FL, as well as a lot of models, some military stuff, and a (not surprisingly) large display on YX. Ironically, most of FL's display was devoted to extolling the virtures of the 717, the workhorse of the YX fleet. MKE must see more 717s per capita than any other American airport. I passed through security about 12:45 and saw N8979E floating over the numbers on 25L. The line for security would have been about 5 minutes had they not opened a second lane at the perfect time, but that made it about 2 minutes.
Once airside, I inquired about a bump to remedy the oversold situation, but they had nothing to offer me besides a flight through MSP that wouldn't get me in until after 10 PM. I politely declined. I watched an assortment of AL and YX birds touch down on 25L and entertained myself by watching 4 AL rampers try to get into the bin of a 328Jet... at the same time. The agent didn't show up until about 1:10, but a supervisor and a gentleman who seemed like the station manager soon arrived to assist with dealing with the overbooked situation (they had cancelled an earlier DTW flight) and boarding
N8979E (another bowling shoe)
Scheduled Departure: 1:41 PM
Actual Departure: 1:45 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 3:51 PM
Actual Arrival: 3:45 PM
It was back to my preferred NW seat for this flight: 5F, bulkhead window, lots of legroom. On short flights, it's almost better than F (if it's possible for a Y seat to be better than First). Boarding was fairly quick, and I watched the rampers load bags, a task they accomplished in about 15 minutes. I think NW rampers might be the most efficient in the industry. They are lightning fast. The door was closed roughly on time (and very loudly... I love DC-9s), and we were off to 19R. We waited behind (surprise, surprise) a YX 717, an AL Beech, and an AL 328 jet. Takeoff was brisk though not obnoxiously so, and we made a quick left turn to cross the lake shore near the Milwaukee-Racine County line. Climb was fairly smooth, and we reached our cruising altitude of FL230 as we crossed the Michigan shore over Muskegon.
Service was orange juice or water once again, and flight attendants were constantly available, bringing snacks back from F for some of the small children on the flight and making numerous passes through the cabin. The lead f/a talked faster than any flight attendant I've ever had... must have been DTW based. Before I knew it, descent had been announced. We made a fairly standard approach for a DTW north pattern, coming in due east before turning onto final 10 or so miles from the field. We touched down on 22R at 3:33 PM and, somewhat unusually, did not taxi down to Q to go around 4R-22L but rather went up to V and used V and 9L-27R (which was marked as completely closed) to taxi to the ramp. It was a long taxi even by DTW standards, and we had to wait for N401EA before we could pull into the gate. Interestingly, 401EA flew for both Eastern and Allegheny before landing with NW. The door was opened at 3:45. By that time, the rampers had probably 25 bags off and sorted onto carts marked with chalk by connecting destination. For the lack of staff at some outstations, NW sure swarms arriving birds at hubs with ground staff (and 2 or 3 agents usually).
With 3+ hours of transit time, I decided to take my time deciding what I should eat. After an exhaustive search of the north half of A, B, and C, I settled on Fuddruckers in C because of my happy childhood memories of the place. The food was good for airport food, and it didn't have the sketchy-factor of my second choice: Chicago-style pizza (in DTW). I had a really good Chicago-style hot dog in Atlanta once, but the experiences are generally not good. There were plenty of red tails to be seen. The highlight was probably N451XJ (the 500th Saab regional aircraft) as it is readily identifiable. I seem to see this bird every time I spot at a NW hub... surely it cannot be at all three hubs at once. I just must be good. After a walk, I sat down at A49 to get some work done (I actually worked this time). Simultaneously, the train passed over and a DC-9 powered back. It was a pretty exhilarating experience. When N762NC pulled into A51 from ORD, I decided it was time for my pre-departure walk. NW 378 was oversold, so I got to decline my second bump of the day, and one of the people meeting me in Boston called to tell me she was ground-stopped at DCA-- only one word for that: Fantastic. I had a look at D-AIKB (another LH 333) and G-BNWO (surprise, surprise: BA 763) and was very sad that KB does not wear a soccer (football?) nose and then wandered back to A51. I had another encounter with the DTW Fire Department as they were responding to a medical emergency at A49. Soon enough, it was time to board
N762NC (New Colors)
Scheduled Departure: 6:57 PM
Actual Departure: 7:02 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 8:47 PM
Actual Arrival: 9:18 PM
For an oversold D95, boarding was pretty quick. However, the pilot announced that we were waiting for some oil to be added to our right engine, so the quick boarding didn't really matter. I suppose it doubly didn't matter as we were informed that our takeoff slot was at 7:40 due to high northwest winds and only 33L being open in BOS. That makes for quick taxis upon arrival, I suppose, but not for on-time touchdowns. The oil was in quickly, and we were off only a few minutes late. Even better, by the time we pulled into the penalty box at the departure end of 21R next to a company 319, we had been cleared for departure. Wheels were up before 7:20 with an announced flying time of 1:40.
Climbout was smooth if unspectacular over Detroit's southern suburbs and Windsor, and the drink service soon began. I had an orange juice and settled in to get some work done. I decided to forgo the tray table and simply place my laptop on my lab. It's always a little awkward to get the tray tables out of armrests when there is a seatmate to interfere, and so I proceeded without tray table.
The flight was pretty predictable until about 8:45, when the captain announced we were holding west of Boston. This flight was mired with delays, but the captain did a very nice job of keeping us informed. We finally left the holding pattern a little before 9 and flew over the northern Boston suburbs before turning for a lengthy (down almost as far as PVD, though obviously east of there) downwind leg. By the time we turned onto final, the turbulence was pretty significant. We touched down on 33L at 9:09 and had a quick taxi to E2B. The ground staff was ready for us, and we pulled in quickly, but the agent had serious trouble adjusting the jetway, and even after she parked it and the door was opened at 9:18, there was a pretty precipitous step down onto the jetway and then quite a climb up into the terminal.
E2B is a mixed-use domestic and international gate, so we had to walk down a lovely windowless corridor to get to the domestic arrivals area. Terminal E is old and mostly international, and the single domestic bag claim was clearly an afterthought. Nonetheless, my bag had come in on NW 374 (even though I had not), so I was able to grab it and be off to Terminal A to meet my traveling companions. The bridge to Terminal A is very nice and I joined them as they awaited the bags that DL (OH, actually) had decided to put on a later flight. Soon enough, we were in a taxi and into the Ted Williams Tunnel for 3 days of merriment in Boston.
Boston is a great town, but one of the nicest things is the proximity of BOS to the city, and although we left our hotel in Back Bay after 8:30 on 1 March, we were at the airport before 9. It was a cathartic goodbye in Terminal A and back into the bridge for me. The checkin level of Terminal E is fairly nice, with numbered checkin positions a la the great international airports of the world. Sorry, y'all, but this terminal is a joke. I quickly checked in and learned that I had been upgraded on both segments. (I was a little peeved to get a bulkhead on MSP-MKE, but I could cope... I'm only silver and am lucky to get any upgrades.) Both flights were real empty, so the upgrades were not much of a surprise. Checkin was only staffed by one lady, and I had gone down to the Elite kiosks which made her real slow to come tag my bag. Strike 1. No first class tag either. Strike 2 Security was painless, although I had to use the big checkpoint down by E6. The only noteworthy thing was an explosives swab of my laptop, but that's no problem.
As I strolled the airside of Terminals D and E (Terminal D is sort of an amorphous entity--I don't think Massport says it exists anymore), I realized that Terminal E is badly, badly in need of replacement. Facilities are scarce, seating is almost nonexistent in several places, and it's just depressing. The E1 gates are somewhat better, but there's nothing to do down there. By the time I sat down at E1A, N352NW had arrived and was apparently having a m/x issue with the right engine. I strolled down to the FL gates (pretty quiet) and watched N574UA be loaded over at C17. Other than a 9E CRJ to MEM (N8884E) and our airbus, Terminal E was (not surprisingly) empty. About 10:00, the pieces of the right engine were picked up off the ground, so it appeared we'd be on time. I passed the time watching a NW employee put gasoline in various ramp equipment and watching a few takeoffs on 33L including, most interestingly, an AA 752 with winglets. Other than that, it was drudgery (AA S80, US Dash, a dark colored 1900, etc.). 2 agents appeared around 10:00, and right around 10:30, we started to board
N352NW (New colors; gorgeous bird)
Scheduled Departure: 11:00 AM
Actual Departure: 10:57 AM
Scheduled Arrival: 1:14 PM
Actual Arrival: 1:17 PM
I boarded with the F pax and sat down in a very spacious Seat 2D. My jacket was promptly collected and an orange juice (in plastic) equally quickly delivered. Boarding and loading were quick and relatively painless, and by 10:50, a ramper was sitting in the right engine waiting for pushback. We pushed a few minutes early, though we sat for a little while directly behind N335UA before heading out to 27. On the way, I saw 4 B6 birds including N178JB and N192JB, 2 of the E190s. I also noted the American flag on the C18 jetway. IMHO, that's a real classy way to remind people of 9/11. After waiting for an MQ ERJ (N803AE; MQ's 100th Regional Jet, according to the paint on the airplane) to land, we were off. The right engine was making the annoying buzzsaw sound that airbus engines sometimes make, but it subsided once thrust was pulled back from t/o thrust a little. The climbout from 27 was spectacular, with excellent views of Downtown Boston and Fenway (important for a baseball nerd like me). Climb was a little bumpy, but once we were up to our cruising altitude of FL 380, the flight smoothed out.
About 40 minutes into the flight, the captain addressed us at length, apologizing for not doing so on the ground because they wanted to get the flight off early. At that point, we were over Albany, and he told us we'd be flying over Syracuse, Buffalo, Chatham, Ontario, Traverse City, Green Bay, and Eau Claire. NW pilots always mention Eau Claire. Winds were strong and east at MSP, so a landing on a 12 seemed likely. He also commented on the new issue of "World Traveler," and then left us to our service. The funny thing was that this plane did not have "World Traveler." That's not too surprising on the first day of the month, but it was kind of funny that the captain said something about it on this particular flight.
Service in F started with pretzels, nuts, and a drink, just like on short flights. Lunch, though, came next and blew me away. It was an antipasti plate with salami, two kinds of ham, pepperoni, olives, tomatoes, some sort of cold rice dish, and mozzarella cheese. This came with a salad which consisted of a variety of chopped up vegetables on a lettuce leaf, a very soft roll, and a molasses cookie. This was possibly the best meal I have ever had from an American carrier. Nothing fancy, but everything on that plate was of extraordinarily high quality. About that time, the captain announced that we were over Niagra Falls. On the starboard side of the plane, I missed Niagra Falls, but I got a great view of YTZ, YYZ, and the city of Toronto instead. I headed back to the Y lav, and saw that Y was about 30% full. F/As were very attentive, refilling drinks and making their presence known.
Descent was announced around 12:45 Central and was fairly straightforward, bringing us in straight west before turning back to head in to 12L. Touchdown was at 1:08, and taxi over to F10 was fairly quick. The agent took a while to arrange the jetway, but I was off by 1:20. 352NW continued on to SFO, while Flight 779 continued with an aircraft change to LAS. I decided to walk the long way over to C6 and headed down Concourse G. I hunted for my favorite Saab (451XJ) and did not see it. I did, however, see N407XJ which looked absolutely stunning in the new colors. I guess the other highlight was N823AW, a HP bird which had come in as Flight 757 from PHX but was, in fact, not a 757 but a 319. I should point out that I was again impressed with MSP. Every time I am there, there seem to be more quality shops and restaurants, and despite its somewhat awkward design, it is a breeze to navigate unless, like a lady I ran into on the tram, you don't realize that you can't take the tram all the way to the B gates. I have not tried the light rail yet, but that sounds like it works very well too.
I made my way over to C6, and N590NW arrived from SFO around 2:15. I was able to hear the NEW US AIRWAYS!!! board over at C9 for LAS, which was reasonably interesting. The new US Airways apparently boards with group numbers. That had to be explained to the nice people. As I sat, I got to listen to another DC-9 powerback at C5. They're much more fun when on the airplane. I also watched takeoffs on 12L. It's MSP, so unfortunately, there's not too much that is interesting. Not even FI anymore... About 3:45, we began to board
N590NW (Another Gorgeous Silver Bird)
Scheduled Departure: 3:26 PM
Actual Departure: 3:25 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 4:36 PM
Actual Arrival: 4:22 PM
I sat down in my bulkhead seat and was almost immediately offered a drink. The first thing I noticed was lack of a cutout for feet in the starboard bulkhead (there is one on the port side). That made legroom a little squished, but it was still pretty good. My coat was hung up soon after my glass of water arrived. I was a touch disappointed that we boarded through 1L as it made things a touch chaotic in the F cabin, but it's not the end of the world. Load was about 100 in coach, and F was full, so boarding didn't take too long, and soon enough the door was closed and we were off. The safety announcement featured flight attendants demonstrating with recorded audio a la CRJ or ERJ. Taxi out to 12L was quick, and there was no wait to depart. I wasn't so impressed with the 753's runway performance, but once we got off, we climbed like a rocket. Soon, the captain (who introduced himself by name as the Captain on 779 had done) announced that we had leveled off at FL250 and that we would go higher but for turbulence higher up. Normal cruise for a DC-9 on this flight is 190 or 210. Still, it was fairly bumpy and the seat belt sign remained on.
Service was the standard snack mix and drinks, and soon the captain announced descent. We flew straight in to 7R and landed there at 4:17. It almost felt like LAHSO as thrust reverser and brake use was liberal, and we turned off just before 1L-19R. We taxied over to E65 and stopped, and a bunch of F pax began to move toward 1L... too bad we would be deplaning through 2L. The jetway was quickly positioned, and we were off. There's not too much to see on the way to the baggage claim at MKE, though for the first time during the week I saw other NW birds: a 320 headed back to MSP and a DC-9 off to MEM. 590NW continued to (surprise, surprise) DTW. Maybe it is a focus city after all. Bags were delivered within 15 minutes, and mine was the 6th or 7th off despite the lack of a priority tag. I'm glad NW rampers pay attention. I guess the lady at BOS was somewhat redeemed.
And then it was time to return to CLT on Sunday, 5 March. I arrived at MKE about 11:40 AM and walked right up to a kiosk. Nwa.com had said that there were luggage only kiosks at MKE when I checked in, but that proved not to be the case, so I got kiosk boarding passes. The kiosk did not print out my bag tags, so that had to be done by hand, but the agent was incredibly nice and efficient. I went over toward Concourse C and saw an EV CRJ arrive from ATL and N837HK load up for ORD. I think it was the first ERJ I have ever seen with airstairs, but it was hooked up to a jetway. Security was quick (big surprise, I know), and when I got to E66, a slightly delayed DC-9 was pushing back for MSP. NW had decided to use 1 gate of their 7 for flights today, so just as it was pushed back, N760NC arrived from DTW to operate 1724.
N760NC (Old Colors)
Ship 9851 (However NW comes up with thoseï¿½)
Scheduled Departure: 1:41 PM
Actual Departure: 1:37 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 3:51 PM
Actual Arrival: 3:48 PM
I entertained myself by watching a parade of DC-9 variants on 7R along with the occasional AL Beech or DoJet and yes, the HK Embraer too. It seems that all three generations of -9s have incredibly loud T/Rs, but that's not the end of the world. As soon as 760NC pulled up, though, I began to watch the turn. The pilot flying apparently thought he was going to a lower-numbered gate, as one of the rampers had to wave frantically for a good minute before the bird appeared. Ground power was attached, and the strollers were off within seconds. The GPU started with a larger than normal belch of black smoke, and soon the pushback tug arrived from pushing back the MSP flight. Turnaround was quick and painless, and right about 1:10, boarding began.
I arrived at my seat to find a fellow in it. He had 5E, so I sat down there. This flight was fairly full, and as a result boarding was fairly slow. Still, the door was closed at 1:37, and we pushed back shortly thereafter. The safety demonstration began, and in 5E, you have a pretty good view of the demonstration, performed on this flight by a nice enough female f/a. As it always does, the instruction card came and went, the seat belt came and went, and the time came for the oxygen mask. She dropped it from the panel directly in front of me and hit me in the face. My seat mate and I had a good laugh, and the f/a apologized profusely and suffered some good-natured ribbing later in the flight.
Taxi out to 19R was quick. I don't think I even saw another plane during our taxi, and sure enough we had a rolling takeoff followed by a quick right turn toward DTW. Flying time was announced as 42 minutes, pretty typical for these segments. The limited drink service then began. It's funny. The flights to DTW and MSP are nearly the same length, but somehow the short nature of the flight does not preclude a full drink service on the way over to MSP... must be something about YX. Anyway, I ordered orange juice and gave the f/a the opportunity to throw that at me. She declined.
Soon enough (and after a pleasant chat with my seatmate), descent was announced. The captain mentioned that it had been snowing heavily in Detroit earlier but said that the weather was good. He said we'd be landing on 21L, not surprisingly. However, as descent began, it became clear that we were following the exact same path as we had a week prior, and were in fact approaching 22R. Indeed, we glided in, had to apply a little thrust right at the end to make it to the runway, and touched down at 3:33 PM. Taxi route was also identical to the previous week, with us heading up to V to cross 4L-22R and then using 9L-27R to get to the terminal. We waited for an XJ Saab (N436XJ) to land on 22R, and proceeded to the ramp where we parked at A55 at 3:45 PM. I think the pilot was thinking of taking a job with AA if things with NW don't work out. He surely taxied slower than usual for NW. The door was opened quickly, and I was off by 3:50. 1724 continued to SDF, though the aircraft was off to ATL.
There's not too much interesting to say about the transit. I headed down to A9 on foot and saw a lot of red tails... in case I forgot that I was flying through DTW and not ATL. I went to the PB&J place in the south food court for dinner and got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It costs $3.49 and it's scrumptious-- can't say that about all airport food. About 4, I strolled over to the gate where N770NC was just arriving from BNA. Soon thereafter, I thought I saw the friendly flight attendant from my previous flight arrive to work our flight. I was right.
All seemed well until about 4:45, when the agent announced that our third f/a had arrived down at A 70something 15 minutes prior but had not yet arrived at our gate. Still, the walkaround was done, and the rampers were well on their way to having bags loaded, so it didn't look like we would take too much of a delay. They had made an announcement for volunteers, but it sounded like they had found enough to remedy the overbooked situation. It was, however, a very full flight. The f/a arrived around 5 and boarding started shortly thereafter. NW is a little inconsistent with how they handle exit row boarding, but on today's flight, she asked for exit rows right after boarding F. I headed down the jetway
N770NC (Old Colors)
Scheduled Departure: 5:15 PM
Actual Departure: 5:25 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 6:55 PM
Actual arrival: 6:59 PM
When I got into the forward galley, I discovered that I was right about the flight attendant who had dropped the oxygen mask on me working this flight. It was a bit of a shame, as I had told her on the last flight as I was deplaning that she has one last shot then to throw something at me. I guess I was wrong. I had reserved Seat 5F for this flight but had been hoping to get over to the other side of the plane in order to avoid the sun. When I checked in for the second time, I found myself moved to 8F, and moved back to the exit row for some legroom. Exit rows are pretty roomy on the DC-9s. Part of the armrest is on the exit door, and that's a little annoying, but it isn't as bad as having the whole armrest molded into the wall. The exit doors do weigh 42 pounds, which is a bit interesting as it's 10 pounds more than on the airbii... gives you an idea about how Douglas built airplanes.
For such a full flight, we actually loaded up fairly quickly, and powered back only about 10 minutes late. We headed over to Y to taxi the whole length of 4R-22L and taxied at a fairly quick pace, watching a WN bird and various company traffic take off. Once we got to the end, we had only to wait for N268AV, a U5 320 no doubt off to somewhere warmer than Charlotte, and a landing 752. N801NW, second 333, waited to depart behind us.
The takeoff roll was fairly quick and the climb fairly steep. We followed I-475 and then I-75 roughly, hitting the clouds around Toledo. Soon, the beverage service began and we leveled of at FL330. The captain announced that he anticipated arriving only about 5 minutes late, welcome news considering the delay we had taken in Detroit. He mentioned south winds at CLT, which certainly help to shorten up the flight. Sadly, the fellow over in 15F decided to keep his window shade open the whole flight... so much for avoiding the sun.
Exit rows on the 9s are pretty loud and cold. Especially at altitude, a lot of cold air gets in, and the noise is noticeably greater here than up toward the front. Nonetheless, they definitely beat regular seats. Anyway, service was fairly quick and the flight attendants pretty standard (that is, worse than I had at other points on this trip, and around 6:35, descent was announced. The captain had said we'd be flying straight in, and he even got the runway right this time. Soon enough, downtown Charlotte came in to view, and we floated over 18R at 6:53 PM, taking some 8200 feet of runway for our float, very flat landing (almost no flare), and lengthy rollout (despite thrust reverser use). Taxi to A6 was quick, and the door was opened at 6:59. Checked bags arrived around 7:25, abysmally bad by most standards, but superb for Charlotte. And just like that, I was back where I had started.
Much to the chagrin of many here at a.net, NW actually delivers a pretty good product. It's not flashy and it's not B6 or F9, but flights are, by and large, on time, service is good, and the product is certainly predictable. XJ, on the other hand, needs work. I've never had a good experience with XJ. While it's somewhat true that my status on NW keeps me flying them, I can also count on NW to deliver consistently. To me, that's far more important than meals or IFE. I've had occasion to fly UA domestic F a few times, and I can say without a doubt that NW's service trounces UA up front. NW also has the nicest hubs (by far) of any American carrier. Transiting in DTW, MSP, or MEM is really no trouble at all. It's interesting, though. NW employees at the hubs and in the Midwest (MKE, ORD, MDW) have much better attitudes than do those at outstations like BOS and CLT. Just a quirky observation... there's probably nothing to it. I wish all NW employees the best. It's a good airline, and I hope for the sake of those of us who do a lot of flying on NW as well as for the employees' sake that NW pulls through.