To address the funny noise question... I am an FO on the RJ85 with Mesaba and that noise you're hearing is probably the flaps being deployed. They do make an awful strange noise, like a train whistle or almost a high pitch roar with the flaps go from 0 to 18 degrees and vice versa. The normal procedure for the airbrake is for deployment at 100 feet, so unless you're under the flight path at 100 feet, that's not what you're hearing. Otherwise the engines are VERY quiet, so that isn't the noise you're hearing either.
True, the RJ85s are owned by NW and leased to XJ. The 69 seat issue is due to the scope clause in the pilots contract. We were wondering the same question whilein England at the factory for training and the best we could come up with was a huge marketing scheme. Which really is a great one, roomy coach seats and the only RJ with first class. Which, since the avro is wider than the DC9 makes for a comfy cabin!
Glad you like the chubby... I do too!