Since I am working in Denver for the Summer, I thought I would use my Rapid Rewards free flight that I earned back in April, and come home to Long Island for the 4th of July weekend. Even though I work for a certain Denver based LCC, to try to go strand-by on this weekend would have been a mess. Much easier to get positive space! I also thought it would be cool to try Southwest out of Denver, since I know that they just started ops there. After sleeping in on Saturday morning, it was off to DIA for my 230pm flight.
Saturday July 1, 2006
Flight: Southwest 1571
Dep DEN: 1430
Arr MDW: 1745
After walking through a VERY quick security line, I got on the little DIA train, and went out to the C concourse. Although it was a busy travel weekend, the concourse was pretty empty in the middle of the day. I got to gate C43 at like 1pm, so I had some time to chill and listen to the Ipod before my flight.
Finally at about 2pm, the plane in the new colors shot in from LAS. Sure enough it was a crappy 737-300. I'll admit that Southwest maintains them about as well as possible for an older aircraft, I just find the 700s to be more comfortable. After like 10 minutes they had already started boarding for our flight to Chicago. It was overbooked, as would my next flight to ISP be. I think they finally found a lady to volunteer for the next flight, because I didn't hear anything after the first annoucement. Since I checked in online the day before, I was in the "A" boarding group and got a window in row 14. I could have gotten a better seat, but I didn't feel like waiting on a long line. I love WN, but this is my one problem with them. As a pretty frequent flier, I would much rather have an assigned seat and not have to wait on a stupid line for 20 minutes to get the seat I want. At DIA, there were people literally lined up in the A line for 40 minutes, before the incoming flight even got in from Vegas. I am confident that after WN's experiment in SAN, they will switch to assigned seating.
After being greeted by the usual great FAs, we pushed back at 230pm EXACTLY. I always love what an impecibly timed operation they run at WN. The captain came on and said it would be 1hr 50min in the air to MDW, with a smooth ride. We did the usual Southwest quick taxi out to the runway that points toward the east (any DEN people know which one, I forgot), and made a very quick takeoff behind a F9 A319. We took off straight out and headed directly east for a while. We had some mountain turbulence that is pretty typical when leaving DEN, but that subsided quickly for a very smooth flight to Chicago.
I had the standard good Southwest inflight service, always with a smile! I got a water, peanuts, and those plane crackers that they are serving now. The plane crackers were pretty good actually. The whole route of the flight was covered with scattered clouds below. Here was our exact route if anyone cares:
PLAIN3 MCK J130 PWE IRK MOTIF3
As you probably know, there is nothing really between DEN and MDW. We flew over southern Nebraska, then southern Iowa, and right after we crossed the border into IL, we began our descent into Chi-town, and the captain pointed the plane to the Northeast. The captain said Chicago had party cloudy skies, but the Windy City was very windy. Wind was 15 gusting to 30. He said it would be pretty rough when we got into the surface winds. As we got lower, there was nothing except some light turbulence. One of the interesting things about approaching Chicago from the Southwest, is that there is nothing there at all untill you reach the city. It seemed like we were over farmland, the flaps came down, and then the city was right there. We started bumping around quite a bit and then I could see Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago to my right. We dropped the gear down, and then made a really low left turn, and approached the runway to the west. I noted one really interesting thing when we were on short final. It seemed like the pilots had put the flaps down lower than I had seen it before. It looked like they were down all the way. Then, for some reason, the flaps started moving up and down and making a buzzing noise untill we got on the ground. I don't know if this was a hydraulic problem, or if it was something the pilots were doing intentionally? Could anyone from WN help me on this? Anyway, we ended up doing the usual firm MDW touchdown, and after exiting the runway to the left, we were at the gate in no time. I looked at my watch and it was 544pm on the dot. Wow, again, Southwest has things timed perfectly. Gotta love them.
Again, here was my route of flight, if anyone cares:
Southwest Flight 891
Dep MDW: 1825
Arr ISP: 2125
Since my flight from DEN was right on time, I had a nice 45 minutes to catch my connecting flight to Islip. MDW wasnt too crowded, but when I made my short walk over to gate B7, it was packed! They announced that 891 to ISP was oversold by one person, and that they were looking for a volunteer. After a while, they finally got a person to give up the seat. The flight came in about 25 min late from somewhere else, so it got in and de-boarded super fast. One thing that was interesting was that when we were all waiting at the gate, the captain came on from the gate PA, and told us about the flight time, weather at ISP, and boarding procedures to speed things up. I thought it was pretty cool, as I had never seen anything like it before.
After waiting in line for a little, I boarded the aircraft at 625pm, and took seat 4F. They got that thing boarded VERY quickly, and we pushed back by 650pm, about 25 min late. The captain came on and said flight time to ISP would be 1hr 35 min, with clear skies at the field. Since we left gate B7, we were right at the end of the runway facing west, again I forgot which one it was. After a very short taxi and after waiting for 2 planes to land in front of us, we had a VERY quick takeoff roll and we were off. We made a series of very low right turns to head east. Since I was on the right side of the plane, I got a great view of MDW.
We crossed Lake Michigan and soon enough the drinks were served, again by very friendly flight attendants. We climbed all the way up to 41,000 feet, and it was very smooth for the whole flight. We had a great view of the sunset. Here again is our flight plan:
ELX CRL J554 JHW J70 STW LENDY
It seemed to take us right across Michigan, and into southern parts of Canada. Then across Lake Erie, into Northern PA, then across central Jersey, and onto Long Island. Here is a picture of the flight track:
Now for the cool part. Once about 9 rolled around, and the sun had just set, we were somewhere around the PA/NJ border. The captain came on and said to look for many fireworks around the area. He also said that he got reports of fireworks in the vicinity of ISP. Since it was a crystal clear night with smooth skies, I got to see some amazing fireworks during the whole descent into ISP. It was one of the coolest things I have seen from the air. I could see all these little towns, and their firework displays. We then went over Northern Manhattan, and I got a great view of downtown, with the Empire State Building lit up in Red, White, and Blue. After crossing right about overhead of LGA, we turned toward the Southeast, and I had a cool view of JFK lit up off to my right. Still lots of action going on there. I could see a cool firework show off the coast of Long Island. It looked to be about 5-10 miles east of Kennedy. Anyone know which one that was? Anway, we crossed the coast, then flew over the ocean for a while. We came around and made a series of left turns to line up with runway 24. It was awesome, because I could see a bunch of firework shows all over Long Island. The captain was right, because there were some shows right next to the airport. It got me to thinking, what precautions are taken to make sure that fireworks shows do not interfere with aviation??? Anway, we made a smooth landing on ISP's short runway, and we were at the gate in no-time.
One thing that was interesting, was that I counted I think 5 or 6 WN planes on the ground as RONs at ISP. I had no idea that Southwest keeps that many planes overnight at ISP. I also saw a US Airways Express CRJ. For some reason I thought they only flew Dash-8s into ISP. Could it have been an equipment change? I had heard that ISP was having various terminal problems, but the place looked in good condition to me. The only thing weird was that 2 gates (I think A1 and A2) were roped off. Could this have been part of the problem? Anyway, one of the reasons that I love ISP is that literally 3 minutes after the doors were open I was outside waiting for my ride. Even though it is a farther drive than LGA or JFK ( I live in western Nassau County), it is 10X easier to get in and out of.
Again, I had a great trip with WN. We ended up landing at MacArthur like 20 minutes late, but no big deal. The fireworks from the air was AMAZING, and I hope to see some again when I fly back to DEN on the 4th.