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CLE-TPA-CLE On Continental Airlines

Thu Jan 04, 2001 8:18 am

Long! But I hope it's worth it!

CLE-TPA: December 24, 2000
Continental Airlines Flight 112
Scheduled Departure: 1950 EST (on time)
Scheduled Arrival: 2227 EST (early, 2218)
Equipment: 737-300 (380 per pilot)
Aircraft Registration: N26309
Seat Assignment: 17C (left side, aisle)

The flight departed Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on time. Runways and taxiways were mostly free of ice and snow but the signs and markers were obscured by snow. The temperature was approximately 17 F (approx. -8 C) and clear below 12,000 ft (4,5 km). My flight was at Gate C4.

After I was seated, several people in front of me and beside me found that they were assigned to the same seats. The flight attendants managed the situation by having everyone else sit down, and then having the double-seated passengers fill in all empty seats. The problem seemed to be confined to Rows 12-17 (but not my seat) and there were apparently an equal number of "missed" (unbooked) seats to the number that were double-booked. A Continental Airlines representative boarded the plane after everyone had taken seats and personally apologized for the difficulty. Despite this problem, several standby passengers were able to board the flight. After all of this, the aircraft was almost 100% full. (I only saw one empty seat when I walked the plane.)

We used Runway 23R at Taxiway Z (full length) with a smooth roll, rotation, and takeoff. I noticed what seemed to be either an optical illusion or perhaps an inertia-induced sensation that the plane had its nose up almost immediately after the roll began.

Since it was dark outside and I was unable to scan or speak with the pilots, I was unable to plot our course until we began our descent to Tampa International Airport.

We were served drinks but no snack (not even peanuts!) twice. The cabin lights were dimmed for the duration of the flight. This apparently affected one flight attendant's ability to see, as she repeatedly bumped into passengers with the beverage cart. No, she was just rude -- even though she said "Watch your elbows" she was moving so fast that there was not adequate time to move before she shoved her way by. I hope that in the future she will learn to use her hands instead of the cart to move people's arms.

Conditions in the Tampa vicinity were clear and cool with the temperature 65 F (18 C). We had a good view as we approached Tampa over Florida's Gulf of Mexico coast. From my view it appeared that we passed over Tarpon Springs, Clearwater and Saint Petersburg, Florida, before turning east over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge at the mouth of Tampa Bay. We then turned north on the ILS approach to Rwy 36L.

For those of you who are not familiar with the "Bay approach" it can be quite unnerving as you can see lights on both sides but nothing more than pitch black directly below (I'm writing of night, of course.) However the conditions were optimal and we "glided" smoothly until we were about one to two minutes from touchdown. Then there was a significant amount of yaw and uneven glide slope until we were seconds from touchdown. The landing consisted of two distinct touchdowns and moderate braking with thrust reversers deployed.

We taxied without delay to Gate A3. While taxying in I saw a Continental Express Beech 1900D parked next to us.


TPA-CLE, January 1, 2001
Continental Airlines Flight 117
Scheduled Departure: 0740 EST (on time)
Scheduled Arrival: 0946 EST (early, 0934)
Equipment: 737-300
Aircraft Registration: N77303
Seat Assignment: 8D (right side, aisle)

Everyone in my family expected this, an early morning flight on New Year's Day, to be almost empty. On the contrary, the aircraft was nearly 100% full. One thing I did notice was that the passengers seemed very easygoing and non-competitive about boarding the plane. I know I was pretty tired.

Conditions in Tampa were markedly different than when I had arrived -- skies were partly cloudy at 12,000 ft (4,5 km) and the temperature was 35 F (2 C). For those of us headed to Cleveland, it reminded us of what faced us at the other end of our flight.

Our flight was docked at Gate A3, where I had arrived eight days prior.

As I entered the airport, walked to my gate, waited for my plane, and as we taxied out, I saw the following aircraft: (multiple) Southwest 737-700, USAirways Exp./Piedmont DeHavilland Dash-8; (two each) Delta 727, Gulfstream International Beech 1990C1; and (one each) Northwest A319 or A320, United A320, Air Canada A320, Continental DC-9-82.

We departed Tampa on Runway 36R, beginning our takeoff roll from the very beginning of the runway. Once again I noticed the sensation that we were "reared back" long before rotation. We continued on runway heading for approximately five minutes before banking slightly left, then harder to the right.

Our pilot was very informative without being a "chatterbox." He laid out our route for us approximately fifteen minutes into our flight. We were passing 40 miles (64 km) west of Jacksonville, Florida, and would pass just east of Athens, Georgia. From there we would pass over Spartanburg, North Carolina, and continue directly to Cleveland. I was able to confirm our [present] location by sighting the Saint John's River to our east.

During our flight we were served drinks and a small breakfast consisting of cereal and a banana. The flight attendants had some difficulty finding two passengers who were supposed to get special meals (I thought I overheard them saying "Muslim meals.") They found one of the passengers only by asking several people what their last names were -- this despite having the passenger manifest in hand. They finally gave up trying to find the second passenger and gave the first passenger both meals.

While the flight attendants were trying to sort out the special meals, one of them shoved the manifest between the edge of the cart and a carton of orange juice. The cart was right next to me and curiousity took over. I saw that there was a passenger count and that the pilot and crew were advised "No security risks are associated with this flight." Thanks, Continental.

At some point I dozed off but was awakened by the pilot when, about fifteen minutes before landing, he announced that we were 27 miles (16 km) southwest of Cleveland. By this I knew we would be landing on Runway 5R. He also told us that "Air Traffic Control has been good to us, and we are first ahead of a bunch of arriving traffic." I didn't realize just how significant this was until we were on the ground.

Click for large version
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Photo © Marc Sauthier

Our landing was very smooth; we came through thick clouds at approximately 7,000 ft (0,8 km) and "glided" (by my estimation) about 1,000 ft (260 m) down the runway before touchdown. We slowed with thrust reversers and moderately heavy braking before taxying off at "the high speed" on Taxiway R.

The runway and taxiways were relatively clear of snow but it was then that I realized CLE was down to only one runway. As we went "over the numbers" I had seen a Southwest 737 and a Continental Express ERJ-145 waiting in line on Taxiway L, and on the other side I saw plows on Runway 5L. I guess ATC was good to us!

We taxied without delay to Gate C2.

After disembarking, I noticed that the aircraft I had just ridden would be making the immediate return trip to Tampa (scheduled departure around 1040 EST).

Respectfully submitted,
Up, up and away!

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