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Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 4:08 am

For those who like reading trip reports, here is mine:

7/29 Richmond-Columbus-Detroit Northwest DC-9-14 N8908E

What a coincidence! I flew on this same airplane 21 years ago to the day when it belonged to Eastern. When I checked in for my NW flight, I was given a different seat assignment from the one I had reserved. I was supposed to be in 18F, but they had made a substitution from a DC-9-30 to a DC-9-10, and it only went to row 17. The only window seat left was in an exit row, so I took it. The plane was spotlessly clean inside and looked brand new. We powerbacked out of the gate and were on our way to Detroit, or so we thought. About halfway there, the captain announced that Detroit was closed due to thunderstorms, so we would circle for a while. Soon he said we would have to divert to Columbus to refuel and wait for Detroit to open. We were there for about an hour and a half. Many other planes stopped there to wait also, most of them parking at remote areas on the field. We parked at a gate at the terminal. In Columbus I discovered that one jetway serves two planes, so they moved it over from the plane next to us so we could get off. Then they moved it back over to the other plane so it could board. When Detroit opened, we powerbacked out of the gate, but the NW DC-9 next to us was pushed back with a tug. I wonder why.

7/29 Detroit to Anchorage Northwest 757-251 N505US

This plane had waited for us, probably having diverted on its way to Detroit also. I was in 21F, which has one window and a wall where the window in front of it should be. Row 19 was mostly all wall, with just a little piece of window, which you couldn't see out of at all if the person in front reclined the seat. So don't accept row 19 if you want a window. Service was excellent and we were served a delicious lunch.

7/30 ERA DC-3 Sightseeing flight. N1944M

This was a fantastic flight, nearly two hours long. The plane has been restored inside and out. Seats are 2 by 2, which makes them a bit narrow, since the DC-3 originally had 3 abreast seating. It would have been better if each seat row was about 4 inches farther forward, because you had to lean forward to see out the windows. Our stewardess, as she was called, used to work for Virgin Atlantic, and was very friendly. We were served drinks, then a kind of rolled-up cookie, then a bag of Cracker-Jacks. I got to visit the cockpit in-flight. We flew around Prince William Sound, since Mt. McKinley was clouded over. This trip was well worth the money. Ah, the sound of those radial engines!

8/4 Fairbanks to Anchorage Alaska 737-790 N619AS

Very nice plane. I was surprised that there we no fold-down screens on a 737NG. This plane flies to Alaska from Chicago with no entertainment system of any kind. But legroom is very generous.

8/5 Anchorage-Kotzebue-Nome Alaska 737-210C N744AS

This plane was a combi in full passenger configuration. I saw this plane the previous day in Fairbanks broken down, resulting in a canceled flight. I was hoping it had been fixed properly. We had no problems.

8/6 Nome to Anchorage Alaska 737-298C N745AS

This combi aircraft had only five rows of passenger seats. We had two flight attendants, which was a high attendant to passenger ratio. Great flight.

8/8 Anchorage-Port Heiden-Sand Point-Anchorage Reeve Aleutian Lockheed L-188C Electra N1968R

This was the best flight of my whole trip. I got the Electra Enthusiast Fare of $100 for the entire trip. During the first leg of the flight, we were given a large plastic bag containing a ham and cheese sub from Subway, and a chocolate cupcake. At Port Heiden, we landed on a gravel runway, and we kept the number 4 engine running because they had no APU. While we were on the ground, the captain took me up to the cockpit and talked to me for a while. I told him that I had read that N1968R had once lost a prop in flight and it had cut into the fuselage. He said he was the flight engineer on that flight and he proceeded to tell me the whole story.
When we landed in Sand Point, I had to get off and check in again, and we were delayed for about 45 minutes because they had to unload the cargo one box at a time, since that particular aircraft doesn't have a large cargo door like the others do. I was watching out the terminal window and saw the captain riding a bicycle around the plane and all around the tarmac. I don't know where he got it. Then he came into the waiting room with his guitar and entertained us with songs he had written, including one he wrote when he was a flight engineer about a co-pilot who had only made about 5 or 6 good landings in the eight years he had worked with him. It was a lot of fun. On the return to Anchorage, we were again served a sub, which I declined because I was still full from the other one. Then the flight attendant brought around a tray full of bags of peanuts. I took one, them she put six more on my tray table. Then she brought me two bags of Cheetos, and then a bag of potato chips. Wow! I didn't need any dinner that night. The whole flight crew was wonderful, and the plane was really great! Seats were lined up with the windows, allowing plenty of leg room. When I got off the plane in Anchorage, I looked up at it and the captain saluted me from the cockpit. It was one of the best flights of my life. But beware, if you go, they don't accept credit cards for this fare, only cash or check. I had to go looking for an ATM so I could pay my fare.

8/10 Anchorage to Minneapolis/St. Paul Northwest 757-251 N513US

Very nice breakfast flight. Captain pointed out many sights along the way.

8/10 Minneapolis/St. Paul to Detroit Northwest DC-10-40 N150US

Very tight seating. I sat next to a captain from a Northwest feeder airline who never heard of the Lockheed Electra!

8/10 Detroit to Richmond Northwest DC-9-31 N952N

My window was fogged up inside and it was hard to see out.

Overall, service was excellent on all flights, but the Electra was by far the best!
Fly Eastern's Golden Falcon DC-7B
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 4:16 am

L1011, thanks for that awesome trip report! I have always wanted to fly on an Electra, ever since I was a kid and Air California flew them into San Diego - Lindbergh Field (in the early '70s). And you got to fly on a DC-3 to boot!

I'd love to know a bit more about the sights and sounds of the Electra - what was it like inside, the noise level, and particularly any details about the story of the prop separation from the captain.

You can consider yourself very lucky; there may be vintage DC-3s kept in the air for thill's sake, but the Electra is for sure a dying breed. I've heard Reeve is to replace them sometime soon, meaning there will be no more scheduled passenger flights on Electras in the US.  

Thanks for sharing your experience!  
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 5:04 am

AS does offer personal DVD players with many movie titles on the ANC-ORD flight, but I understand its only in First Class. I agree that the lack of TV monitors is a bit strange.

I've got to fly on one of those Electras again...maybe next summer.

Great report!
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 5:11 am

I am so gald you had a good trip. Now I have the Electra bug. I want to go do the same thing you did.
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 6:45 am

Nice trip report, glad you enjoyed the electra! I came back to richmond from my flight to switzerland the day that you departed. Where in richmond do you live? I live in Bon Air, near Midlothian.
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 6:45 am

I saw the portable DVD players when I was on the AS flights between ORD and ANC and ANC and ORD, and they were really neat!!!

L1011, what all did you do in ANC!!!

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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 7:50 am

Sounds like the trip was great, wasnt the Electra the greatest? I have flown Reeve's Electra many times as well as their 727-023s out to Cold Bay, Port Heiden, Sand Point, etc. That prop separation story is one of the famous Alaskan aviation stories! The pictures of the a/c after it landed are remarkable. Its a wonder the fuselage didnt break in half, I guess this was an incident related to that tragic design flaw that plagued early Electra models. Of course it was fixed and the Electra went on to serve to this day.

A note about Alaska's lack of fold down video units- this from a former Alaska Airlines employee (thats me!). When Alaska was given the option of getting the fold down units in new build 737-400s (before the 737-700s) they declined the option citing expense. We were all dismayed when we learned that the expense was absolutely minimal, something less than $10,000 per aircraft. They also opted to not equip their 737-700s with either the ACARS system or any sort of in seat video or fold down video screens. Last fall they outfitted one 737-400 with in-seat video on a trial basis (this a/c is no longer equiped with the system) and noted in the company newspaper, "Alaska's World" that they were going to see if the passengers liked the in-seat video and study the customer reaction to determine a positive or nagative feeling. My GOD! Who wouldnt like in-seat video! They must have decided that they were either too expensive (I'm sure that was the real reason) or that their passengers felt like in-seat video was intrusive or made the travel experience irritating. I wouldn't be surprised to see that printed in the company newspaper!

N745AS- the "African Queen" is one airplane in the Alaska fleet with quite a sordid past. This aircraft is rumored to be composed of the wing assembly of the doomed Aloha (N73711) Air jet that went convertible over the Pacific in 1988 and the fuselage of a derelict 737-200C that was retrieved from the airfield at Kinshasa, Congo. Another version of this story puts the wing/engine assembly of this aircraft being from the British Air Tours 737 (G-BGJL) that burned on the ground in Manchester back in 1985. I'm sure somebody knows. However one of the former registrations for this aircraft is 9Q-CNJ, belonging to either the Government of the Congo or the Government of Zaire. This aircraft is also said to be riddled with bullet holes which can be seen along the rear 2/3 of the fuselage, many small square sheet metal patches in random places. It also happens to be the heaviest of all the 737-200Cs with an abnormally aft CG and a reduced MAX t/o weight despite its heavier operational empty weight. When I did weight and balance on the 737s I would always cringe when 745 came through as I was always maxed out on the FAI-BRW flight and had to carry the most fuel I could as well as balance the frieght up front with the pax and bags, it was not easy! The other 737-200Cs were a piece of cake, 745 was an odd duck indeed!
Topic Author
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Additional Information On Electra

Sat Aug 12, 2000 8:43 am

I forgot to include a couple of things, as I was in a hurry to finish writing the report before I got disconnected, which happens a lot.
When we were ready to take off from Sand Point, the captain said that at first we would fly at a low altitude to look for whales, then climb to 21,000 feet. I thought he was just kidding, but we took off and flew low in figure eights, banking the plane sharply to both sides, so we could see the whales, of which there were many. After about five to ten minutes of this, we went to our cruising altitude.
The aircraft was shabby but clean. Most seats were original Electra seats with high seatbacks and tray tables held up with little chains. Some seats in the left rear were different, with no tray tables. Flight attendants hooked up portable tables to those seats when needed. Some seats were light gray and some dark gray, with little colored designs that looked like wigwams. Our aircraft was configured for sixty seats, although one flight attendant said sometimes they have 84 seats.
Aircraft windows usually have a small date on them, which I assume is the date the window was manufactured. My window said 8-4-59! It didn't have a scratch on it!
The engines sounded like a muffled roar with a slight whooshing sound. When taxiing, they made a distinctive snarl.
Thanks for your replies. If I think of anything else, I'll post it.

Bob Bradley
Richmond, VA
Fly Eastern's Golden Falcon DC-7B

RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 9:39 am

Thanks for the great trip report. These are the best things about this site, IMHO!
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 10:36 am

Great report!
I had just the same experience on the same plane and the same route last year - just as I emailed you about in preparation of your trip. I'm happy everything worked out nice ! The weather at my Electra trip was more adverse, so forget about low flying whale watching, but it was a great aviation experience too.
nobody has ever died from hard work, but why take the risk?
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RE: MEA-707

Sat Aug 12, 2000 10:51 am

I really owe you a lot of thanks for telling me about this special Electra fare. Even though it has doubled since you took it, it was worth every penny and more. If I go back to Alaska before they retire their Electras, I'll do it again. The flight attendants treated me like royalty when I told them I was going only for the flight. At the end, I told them it was one of the best flights I had ever taken, and that they had a lot to do with it. They told me that if you enjoy what you do, it shows, and they really like their job. I am going to write a glowing letter to the airline about them.

Bob Bradley
Richmond, VA
Fly Eastern's Golden Falcon DC-7B
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 11:11 am

Thanks for the report. My first plane ride was in a PSA Electra. I love Electras.
Lexington KY
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RE: Ever Fly On An 880 Or 990?

Sat Aug 12, 2000 11:31 am

I am just a little young to know what the hay day of the first generation jets was like. I did fly on 707s and DC-8s though. Never on the Convair jets. Please, if you've had this experience, tell me all about it.

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Lexington KY
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Electra Retirement And "Whirl Mode" On Electras

Sat Aug 12, 2000 2:41 pm

Does anyone know when Reeve will officially retire their Electras? How many do they still have in service?

I read about the early problems with the Electra. Apparently, there was a problem with the wing spars and uncontrolled pitch oscillations from the propellers which could actually lead to wing failure. There were a few in-flight break-ups of Electras in severe turbulence. The problems were fixed, and the Electra had a pretty good service record after that. I am not at all surprised the Electra managed a safe landing after losing two engines, having the fuselage partially chopped, and with flight controls frozen. Lockheed made tough planes, for sure, as evidenced in the L1011 and Electra both, as well as the C130 Hercules, which uses the same powerplants as the Electra.

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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 2:52 pm

Allison 501's???

Same as on Convair 580?
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Sat Aug 12, 2000 10:48 pm

That's what I love about Alaska--
flight crew singing in the lobby and riding bikes!
Flying patched-up planes shot up with bullets...

100 years from now, prop planes and jets alike will be obsolete, and everyone will fly in solar-powered blimps--except in Alaska! There, some guy will still be duct-taping his Super Cub and strapping a moose to his pontoons!

Fly on Alaska!
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sat Aug 12, 2000 11:23 pm

And that Dustweek is why I love this state so much  

Now if we could just get rid of the federal government up here I would be truely happy.

Hey L1011, What was Moose doing being an FE on the L188. When I was working there he was sitting sidesaddle on the 727 and had been for some time. I can't remember Was it Williams or Williamson who played the guitar.

Anyway glad you had a good trip.....Doesn't sound like you mad it out to Elemendorf.

DTW Woodsboy.

I have never heard that story about 745 even when I worked for AS back in the summer of 94.
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RE: L-188

Sun Aug 13, 2000 4:16 am

I can't remember the captain's name. I wish I could. But he also said he flew the company's last YS-11 service.
I didn't make it out to Elmendorf because I didn't have a rental car until I got back from Nome a week later. But I was staying at the Holiday Inn on Fourth Avenue and I could watch the jets flying by from there. That was the day I took my DC-3 flight and one of the passengers jokingly suggested that we fly over Elmendorf in formation with the jets and people would think we were part of the show.

Bob Bradley
Richmond, VA
Fly Eastern's Golden Falcon DC-7B
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sun Aug 13, 2000 6:06 am

Great report, Bob!!

You're a lucky guy. I would kill to fly the Electra and DC3.

Thankyou for sharing your story. It was great.
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Sun Aug 13, 2000 8:21 pm

A great trip report Bob! It was a really great time for you, being able to fly in those 2 classic planes and enjoying every moment of both flights. It just goes to show what a fascinating world we live in. (And a small one - I have family in Richmond, namely in Glen Allen and near to Regency Square.)

A great report. Honestly the reports are the best feature of this website. May this trip live on forever in your mind as memories, Bob.

Hop to it, fly for life!
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Mon Aug 14, 2000 5:55 am

Bob, was this a vacation trip? How much does a vacation like this cost? Was it part of a package or did you select those destinations seperately? That sounds like an exciting trip. How did you like the loooonnnngg days up there?
Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens
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RE: Bruce

Mon Aug 14, 2000 6:57 am

Yes, this was a vacation. My Northwest flights from RIC to ANC and back were free, using 25,000 frequent flier miles. The most expensive parts of the trip were hotels and rental cars. I only used rental cars to drive from Fairbanks to Haines and my last 4 days in Anchorage. The rest of the time I relied on hotel shuttles, which are free, and a taxi in Nome, which was $5.00. This was not a package. Everything was done separately. I don't like to be tied down to a group tour. Occasionally I'll book a short tour, like I did with the Alaska Railroad for a trip to Whittier and a five-hour cruise of Prince William Sound. I also took the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Fairbanks, and the rail fare was more than my Alaska Airlines flight back to Anchorage.

Bob Bradley
Richmond, VA
Fly Eastern's Golden Falcon DC-7B
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RE: Alaska Trip Report Including Electra And DC-3

Mon Aug 14, 2000 10:51 pm

Very nice report. Two classic props and some classic jets in one round trip!

I'd be surprised if 745AS has the wing assembly of the Airtours jet given the ferocity of the fire on that very sad morning.

Also, the comments re: the CofG are very interesting. Why is this jet so different. Does it have any odd flying traits?
L1011 - P F M

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