I just recently got back from a monster spotting trip to LAX. 4 mostly sunny days at one of the nation's premier gateways taking pics of damn near everything that came in. Very cool. Here's how my trip went down:
Friday March 9th:
I was supposed to fly to ONT to meet with my buddies who were flying in on jetBlue. I planned on non-revving on an evening America West flight ORD-PHX connecting to ONT. But upon checking the loads, everything was overbooked to PHX. So I decided to go out to ORD early Friday morning and see what I could get on. I got bumped off the first flight to PHX but made onto the first of the day to LAS. The flight was 724 operated by A319 N805AW. I got the last seat on the plane which fortunately for me was 11F, a window over the wing. We pushed back more or less on time, and almost got pushed into a United 737-500 that was sitting behind us (Where was the wingwalker on that one??) We taxied out and made an intersection departure on Runway 32L. Breakfast service was a hot meal consisting of a egg and cheese biscuit, with fruit salad and vanilla wafers. It was good, although small. I'm glad to HP has implemented hotmeal service in coach on their longer flights. I remeber back in the day (a couple of years ago) when you had to put up with a little sack in coach. The approach into LAS was very bumpy as weather conditions were deteriorating. Still it was fun to ride the bumps and hear the gasps of the other passengers as we hit downdrafts. We landed on runway 25R and taxied in for an on-time arrival.
I tried getting on a flight to PHX but everything was overbooked until the evening and it made my connection to for the flight I wanted to ONT iffy, so instead I hopped on the next flight to LAX. This was Flight 2104, 737-300 N331AW. This aircraft was painted in the new colors but still had the old interiors. The insides looked worn and dirty as I settled into seat 3C, the bulkhead aisle seat. I sat down next to this annoying little teenager and across an odd-looking man (whom I had to kick out of my seat). This flight had the same flight crew from my previous ORD-LAS leg on the A319. We pushed back on time and took off from what I believe is Runway 19R (the one next to the Strip). The flight was about 50 minutes long and inflight service was express-consisting of a limited amount of drinks and a bag of peanuts. We flew what seemed a very long approach into LAX which was also a bit bumpy and made a smooth landing onto Runway 24R. After waiting a long time for the door to open (and almost punching out the teenager who couldn't wait to get off the plane) I headed for the hotel to freshen up and then came back to the airport to do some spotting from inside Terminal 1.
I met up with my buddies later and we had a grand time in LAX, with a side trip to MHV to see the parked planes. Great stuff!
Alas, it was time to head back. I got dropped off at LAX and was scheduled to non-rev back on HP 729 LAX-LAS-ORD. The flight is operated by a 757 but I was surprised to see an A319 come into the gate. When I got my boarding pass, I got two seat assignments, one to LAS and one to ORD, so this was an equipment swap and I had to change planes. Oh well. The A319 was N808AW and was only booked to about 50. I got seat 4F, bulkhead window. The captain had a good sense of humor, as in his welcome message said "Someone asked me if I got a good nights rest last night. I have to tell you I'm not really a pilot but I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night". This got some laughs from the pax. We pushed back on time and took off on Runway 24L behind a Northwest DC-10, TWA 757 and Skywest EMB-120. We flew out over the ocean and turned around towards LAS, overflying Palmdale and Edwards AFB. Flight time was 51 minutes so the inflight service was again express. We landed in LAS on 19R (I think) and taxied to the terminal. I then had to hike from gate B19 to A10 on the other side of the terminal.
The aircraft taking me to ORD was 757-200 N902AW, the Teamwork Coast to Coast theme plane. I got seat 5A, another bulkhead window. Although this plane was recently painted on the outside, it still had the tired old interiors. We pushed back on time and taxied out and took off on 25L and as soon the plane lifted off I knocked out and didn't wake up until it was sunrise and we were on approach to ORD. We flew East out to Lake Michigan and turned around, giving me a great view of the Chicago skyline. We made a quick approach to runway 27L and the pilot decided not to use thrust reversers, instead just powering down to idle and rolling down the runway to a stop. We quickly taxied to Gate E12 and I stumbled out into the chill of 25 degree weather-a sharp contrast to the 60 and 70 degrees I enjoyed in LA.
I have flown 22 different segments on America West in the past 2 years and have only had delays/cancellations on 4 of them, 2 of them weather related (including a bad one in CMH I wrote about here) and two mechanical. Not too bad. This trip was flawless, except maybe for the aircraft swap coming back to Chicago but that's no big deal. I am living proof that America West is not that bad of an airline LOL! Or maybe I'm just lucky.