Scheduled Departure: 0715 EDT
CANCELLED (Aircraft Congestion at PHL)
I checked on my flight the night before and found it cancelled. The customer service representative at USAirways' (800) call center was very helpful in getting me rebooked and I was able to reschedule the CLE-PHL and the PHL-HPN flights with no problem.
US 1168 CLE-PHL
Equipment: Boeing 737-401, N419US (not in Airliners.net database)
Seat assignment: 18C
Reseated in 20A (empty row)
Departure Gate: A10
Scheduled Departure: 1146 EDT
Actual Departure: 1220 EDT
Scheduled Arrival: 1308 EDT
Actual Arrival: 1330 EDT
Arrival Gate: C18 (changed from B5)
The night before my flight, as I rescheduled, I had asked the customer service agent about guaranteed connection time. I was scheduled for exactly 30 minutes' layover time at PHL. The customer service agent assured me that there was extra time built into the flight schedule, especially for flights in and out of PHL.
I needed every second of that extra time.
When I arrived at CLE, my flight was "on schedule." I went straight to the gate with an ETicket (no paper at all) and one piece of carry-on luggage. The departure board actually showed my flight departing early, at 1125, so I ran to the gate expecting boarding to start almost immediately. Well, it turns out that was a mistake on the board. My flight would not depart early, or even on time, because the 1125 should have been put under the late arrival of the PHL-CLE flight that would turn around as Flight 1168.
The gate attendants did a very good job of keeping us informed. As soon as I mentioned the problem on the departure board, they made a PA announcment to tell people that it was a mistake. They told us that our flight was delayed due to air traffic control. I could vouch for that -- watching through one of the large windows across the concourse, I could see planes landing about every minute and taking off every 30 seconds. It was very busy!
Once the aircraft arrived, the gate attendants boarded us as quickly as possible. However the damage was done to our scheduled time -- we left 35 minutes late. As consolation I was able to grab a seat in an empty side, sitting just behind the trailing edge fences.
Flight Route: We departed runway 23R at Taxiway Z (full length). We banked left and traveled parallel to I-80 (Ohio Turnpike) eastbound until Streetsboro, where we turned southeast. We crossed over I-77 at Marietta and the Ohio River, then traveled due east. The next location I could identify was Altoona, PA. From there we followed just south of the Juniata River to Harrisburg, then followed the rail line to Lancaster, PA and traveled roughly 25 miles south of Reading, PA. We followed the Schuykill River and then met the Delaware River at Trenton, NJ. We turned south and followed the Delaware River in to the airport, landing on Rwy 27R.
Conditions were clear with bright sunshine. As we climbed out I was amazed at how large Hopkins Airport really is. Downtown Cleveland looked like a toy city. From 35,000 feet I was able to identify quite a few landmarks including the Horseshoe Curve, Juniata College, the Susquehanna viaduct, and Limerick NPP. Sadly I also saw a huge "scar" across most of the landscape, where trees have been cut down and defoliants used to carve a path for power lines.
I had to run to catch my next flight. I didn't think I would make it.
US 3101 (Piedmont Airlines) PHL-HPN
Equipment: DeHavilland Dash 8-102, N982HA (not in Airliners.net database)
Seat assignment: 3A
Reseated in 4A, empty exit row
Departure Gate: C16, tiedown spot B11
Scheduled Departure: 1338 EDT
Actual Departure: 1340 EDT
Scheduled Arrival: 1500 EDT
Actual Arrival: 1450 EDT
Arrival Gate: 1, middle spot (scheduled 2)
If Flight 1168 had arrived at Gate B5 as I was told in Cleveland, I never would have gotten on Flight 3101. I literally had four minutes to get to Gate C16 (PHL's commuter gate) to catch my next flight. Thank God we came in to Gate C18, which was across and about 50 feet from C16.
As I turned the corner to the gate, I saw my flight flashing "BOARDING." An instant later the screen went blank. That turned me into (near)-psycho passenger and I ran up to the desk, saying "I'm on 3101, my plane just came in!" There were three gate attendants and one of them immediately told me to come behind the desk, where she took my ID and my boarding pass. I could see her computer screen and I had been already marked "not boarded." Luckily the bus to the plane had not left. I was announced to the driver as "the last one for 3101." Then our bus sat for about three minutes until we pulled away. I was very lucky to make my connection.
I have never been a fan of the Dash-8, probably because my first Dash-8 flight nearly ended in disaster. Once aboard, I was able to take an entire row to myself which was nice because I still had to catch my breath. Then I realized that the lav was calling, and I asked the f/a if I could use it before we departed. She allowed me to do so, as well as another passenger. Thank you, Ms. Sierra!
Out of 37 seats, 22 were occupied, so most people had a little extra breathing room. After reseating myself I sat directly under the leading edge of the port wing. As we taxied out, there was a distinct side-to-side oscillation of the entire aircraft. I knew there were winds, but I would suspect that some of this oscillation was caused by out-of-sync engines. We departed Runway 35 behind a Boeing 737.
During takeoff we had loud and heavy vibration of the aircraft. Our pilot then told us (over the PA) that he had been flying along the East Coast all day and we were going to be flying through an unstable air mass. Therefore we would not be given beverage service and the seatbelt sign would remain on for the duration of the flight. He was somewhat apologetic and explained that of the two routes -- over the Poconos or over the Atlantic coast -- he chose the one he thought would be less turbulent, over land.
Flight Route: We followed I-476 (NE Extension) to Allentown, PA, then turned east-northeast following the Lehigh River. We crossed the Delaware River approximately five miles south of Easton, PA, then traveled north-northeast over New Jersey. At about this time the turbulence caught up with me and for the first time in years of air travel I actually thought I might get sick. The air was cool coming down from the vent so I just stopped looking out the window for a while. When I was feeling more comfortable I looked out and had absolutely no idea where we were -- crossing over a mountainous area full of dammed reservoirs. I thought we were in the Catskills, but it turns out this was the northeast corner of New Jersey which I have never visited on the ground. The next identifiable landmark was the interchange of I-287 and I-87 (New York Thruway). We crossed the Hudson River south of the Tappan Zee Bridge, entering Westchester County over Dobbs Ferry. We crossed the county to New Rochelle and turned back north over Long Island Sound. We landed on Rwy. 34.
After landing, we turned off and stopped dead on the taxiway. Apparently our pilots had flown so well that we arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule, and there was an aircraft still in our gate. We sat with the engines idling (much more quietly, thank you) only about 100 feet from the gate. Finally we taxied in under power, but after we stopped and the f/a opened the door, the ground crew told them we had gone to the wrong gate! They were nice enough to let us get off anyhow, and I finally felt much better.
Conditions continued to be clear with bright sunshine. I saw ABE airport about 10-15 miles away, very clearly. It's amazing how big airports appear from the air! I saw lots of reservoirs. As we approached and crossed the Hudson River, Indian Point NPP stood out on the bank, and Croton Point was quite visible. Traffic was flowing smoothly on the Tappan Zee Bridge at the time. The College of New Rochelle was right underneath the wing as we crossed over the Sound shore.
US 341 HPN-PIT
Equipment: Fokker F-28-MK0100 (F-100), N886US
Seat assignment: 16A
Departure Gate: 1, right spot
Scheduled Departure: 1829 EDT
Actual Departure: 1829 EDT
Scheduled Arrival: 1919 EDT
Actual Arrival: 1919 EDT
Arrival Gate: B40
Photo © Marc Sauthier
Finally, a flight that was on time, and I didn't have to run for it! I had scheduled this leg in part because of the equipment, my favorite, the Fokker F-100. I think it is a very nice plane and I will be sad to see USAirways phase them out of their fleet. This aircraft remains in the silvery USAir color scheme.
I got a double treat because an American Airlines F-100 was parked at Gate 2. My plane was full so I was able to stop on the tarmac (we walked out and used stairs to get to the plane) and take some photographs of both F-100s. There was also a Continental Connection Beech 1900D parked nearby.
We departed Runway 34 after waiting about ten minutes for arriving and departing aircraft. I watched a USAirways Express (probably Piedmont) Dash-8-100, followed by a private Hawker-Siddley, followed by a United Express (probably ACA) Jetstream 31, landing in front of us. Between the Hawker and the Jetstream, the American Airlines F-100 departed for ORD/RST. Several other aircraft apparently landed behind us on Runway 29.
Noise abatement is the law when departing HPN, so after we reached about 5,000 ft. (roughly over Hawthorne, NY) the engines cycled down until we crossed the Hudson River over Ossining. Conditions were 55-60 degrees on the ground, hazy with overcast at about 10,000 ft. We had minor turbulence as we passed through the cloud layer. We cruised at 26,000 ft, according to our very friendly pilot, Jim.
Flight Route: Since there was an overcast I could not see the ground during most of the flight. However, as we departed we went over the Kensico Reservoir, passing just upstream of the Kensico Dam, Valhalla, Pleasantville, Briarcliff Manor and Ossining in a wide arc. We crossed the Hudson River from Ossining to Stony Point and then went into the clouds.
As we descended, we passed about 5 miles north of the Three Rivers confluence (Allegheny, Monogahela, Ohio) in Pittsburgh and continued relatively straight to Runway 28R.
We turned off the runway at B4, taxied back on B, and turned to the tarmac at C3. We taxied around the west side of the airport, where I saw an Atlantic Coast CRJ, Northwest DC-9-30, AirTran and TWA 717's, a Ryan 737-200, and USAirways A319, A330, 737-300, MD-81, and several other F-100s.
US 4395 (Chautauqua Airlines) PIT-CLE
Equipment: Saab 340A-004, N340CA
Seat Assignment: 8F
Reseated in 6A (empty)
Departure Gate: E11
Scheduled Departure: 2106 EDT
Actual Departure: 2120 EDT
Scheduled Arrival: 2204 EDT
Actual Arrival: 2205 EDT
Arrival Gate: A12
Shown in old paint scheme, this aircraft has since been repainted in the blue and gray scheme:
Photo © Stanislav Strokash
Conditions in Pittsburgh were deteriorating as we prepared to board the aircraft. The temperature hovered around 40-45 degrees when I disembarked from Flight 341, but by the time I boarded 4395 there were snow flurries. This was not, however, the cause of our late departure. It seems that our crew had flown into PIT on a different aircraft, and had arrived late, and USAirways in the mean time tried to assign a different crew to our aircraft. Then our crew showed up, and the replacement crew left. I applaud USAirways' effort in this case, but we still left late, so did it really make a difference?
I was excited to board my first flight on a Saab 340. I found the aircraft somewhat more cramped than the Dash-8 but it was still comfortable since I was on the port side, where there is only one seat per row. I was able to take this seat, different than the one assigned, because there were two empty seats and I called the change first!
We departed runway 28R after about six other aircraft in line, and at least three arrivals. When we turned onto the runway there were at least four aircraft behind us, including another Saab 340, a Dash 8, and a 737, all USAirways aircraft.
Pittsburgh must have created its own climate because almost immediately after departure I could see stars and the ground was also clear. Our pilot announced that we would have 45 min. flight time, which indicates there is some extra time built into the schedule for this flight. We cruised at 10,000 ft. Our pilot announced when we were 25 miles out from CLE, and within a minute or so the lights went on. Right over downtown Cleveland there was a very large mass of cumulus cloud. Conditions at CLE were winds from the west at 30 mph and 45 degrees.
Flight Route: Since it was dark I had difficulty identifying our exact route. When the pilot announced we were 25 miles out, I was able to discern our position over Interstate 77 headed north. As I-77 took a more northwesterly course into the city, we continued north over the near eastern suburbs and crossed the Lake Erie shore over Bratenahl. From there we followed the Lake Erie-Engel-Foord approach path to Runway 23L. Once again I could feel the wind really pushing us as we descended from 1,000 ft. on down. Even the child sitting in front of me was nervous about how we pitched and yawed all the way in. We did land safely, and turned off at H.
Thus ends the report.
PS Let me just say that this experience, combined with my last experience at PHL, has convinced me NOT to make close connections at PHL. In fact, I'd rather never go through PHL again.