I arrived at Portland International Jetport, (yes, as in Portland, Maine). The name is somewhat ironic, as we have a beech craft 1900 service to Montreal on an Air Canada connection partner, that is the origin of the name “international,” and I will be darned if I know why it is called a Jetport, I have flown all over the place and Portland has the only “jetport” I have ever seen in the world. Only in Maine. Despite the funny name our little airport actually has decent service. I boarded Delta’s flight 391 to Atlanta, with a 1:45 departure time. This was the first time I had seen Delta’s new uniforms, and while they look much more comfortable and modern, I feel that they are a bit too informal looking. In the past, one could scan the terminal and pick out the airline employees. Now, they blend in well with the other business-casual passengers. I boarded the plane at 1:15, and took my seat in 38A. That’s right, for those of you who have flown Delta MD-XX aircraft, that is in the section of seats on the passenger’s left, that is behind the galley. So you can’t see the cabin in front of you, and you can’t see out the window due to the fact that the engine is bolted right onto the side of the passenger cabin. Whenever I sit back there, I think about the horrible accident in which a Delta MD-88 suffered an uncontained engine failure a couple years back, and shards of the fan blade went into the passenger cabin, killing two occupants. Anyways, once that thought went through my mind, I was very excited to be flying J. The flight was oversold, as it was the begging of school vacation week. I hate flying during school vacation, because of the passengers on the plane. A look around the terminal made it clear that this was going to be a screaming baby flight. We pushed back and were number 1 for departure, as always. Take off was typical for Portland, a quick rotation off the short main runway, with a reduction in thrust for noise abetment purposes. Our captain informed us that according to our current flight plan, we would arrive 35 minutes early, and he explained that our gate would probably not be ready in Atlanta, and that we would have to wait on the ground. While waiting on the tarmac is not my cup of tea, I would rather wait on the ground than in the air. Our cruising altitude of 24,000 feet was reached, and the seat belt sign was turned off. Meal service started, and we all received a sandwich, Pepperidge farm cookies, and coleslaw. One of the better meals I have had on Delta. Once meal service started, we flew into a large hazy cloud mass over Massachusetts. We encountered constant light chop, and the captain throttled up and ascended to 28,000. At 28,000 we were met with constant medium turbulence, at which point the captain told the F/A’s to sit down. We descended back to FL24 and the light chop until we were over Virginia, at which point we came out of the clouds and had a smooth ride until descent. Descent was typical of a large airport, constant throttle jockeying, made more obvious by my close proximity to the engines. About the time slats went down, we encountered some fun turbulence, convective I am assuming, as there was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the high 80’s. After a few stomach turning dives and rolls, we landed and taxied to terminal D. The captain’s predictions were accurate, as we taxied around in circles waiting for a plane to move from our gate. We finally arrived at the gate 10 minutes early after spending 20 minutes on the ground. Not bad for a trip to the world’s busiest airport.
My next flight was flight 426 from ATL to Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Intl. (FLL). We arrived in terminal D, and got to ride the train to terminal A. I was very happy to see that I was scheduled on the flight with the new 767-400. My first impression of the plane was a full view of it parked at the gate. From the exterior, the plane looks like a stretched 763, and you can’t really see the raked wingtips from a head-on view. The flight showed as 20 minutes behind schedule. Boarding began 10 minutes before the revised departure time, so I knew there was no way we were leaving in a timely manner. We picked up our “sky deli” snack in the jet way before boarding the plane. It consisted of water, an apple, potato chips, a Sara Lee sandwich, and Knott’s filled cookies. I have to hand it to Delta on the quality of the food. Although the airlines tend to be turning away from hot meal service on shorter flights, I enjoy the boxed and bagged lunches they pass out. For the most part, they are “real food,” and I would gladly take the over any of the barf buffets served in the “good ole’ days” of domestic airline food. I also enjoy the airline’s adding bottled water to their meals, as I love to have a bottle to drink from during the flight. I was incredibly impressed with the interior of the 764. It had not been retrofitted with the new seats, so it had the top-facing control consoles, and very bad leg room. I know that on paper Deltas’ configuration on the 764’s is comparable to the rest of their fleet, but for some reason the seats are very tight, I think they are the worst I have ever seen. Fortunately, I am not that big, so it doesn’t affect me, but my brother is 6’2’’, and he was squeezing himself into the seat. As other’s have said before, the configuration is fine for the high-density short haul Florida routes that they are being used on, but I think that many people would have a hard time on a DL 764 on some of their west coast/Hawaii routes. The 764 is HUGE inside. In ATL we boarded through a middle door, and given my experiences on 763’s when you board from the middle, there is first class to the left, and coach to the right. On the 764’s there is first class, and another coach cabin to the left, as well as a gigantic one-section coach cabin in the rear. I was in row 24, which is just about the leading edge of the wing. DL’s 764’s are numbered to row 40, unfortunately, I was unable to see first class or how the row numbers were arranged between cabins. The cabin itself is very nice, with the 777-styled ceiling panels and overhead bins. All the interior is a bright white, and the plane looks and feels amazing. There are many bright LCD screens that show movies and the safety briefing. Included in this plane is a neat function that pauses the IFE whenever an intercom announcement is made. And thank God the Delta is moving the position of the F/A call buttons. Someone on this forum has described it as being like a game show. That couldn’t be closer to the truth. All flight you could hear constant dinging, and the majority of the FA call lights where illuminated.
The plane felt incredibly smooth as we lifted off for the one hour seventeen minute flight to FLL. The seatbelt sign was on the whole way due to light chop in the clear blue sky. Drink service was performed, as well as a lengthy trash collection run for the sky Deli Bags. IFE was very good on this flight, we had Delta’s version of CNN, and then clips from Fraser. I have never heard an entire coach cabin laugh in sequence at the punch lines. A neat effect. Approach was beautiful, and I could see the Florida coast and downtown Ft. Lauderdale. Touchdown was smooth, but I noticed a huge amount of flex in the overhead compartments. It was ridiculous; the overhead bins shook and swayed when we landed. I have never seen anything like it in any other plane. I am not talking about vibrating pieces of interior panels like on the old-interior DL 727’s, but rather the whole overhead bin structure was shaking violently. I cannot imagine what it would be like in any real turbulence. Once we turned off the runway everyone started to unbuckle their seat belts as usual. I have flown a good deal, but I have never seen so many people get out of their seats while the plane was taxiing. The F/A’s actually got up and told people to sit down. I noticed this phenomenon in the air. The seat-belt sign was illuminated the whole time, and the whole time people were getting up and walking around. After being on a couple of fun turbulence flights, I respect the pilot’s decision on the seat belt sign. They know what is coming better than I do.
Overall it was a very good trip. One flight was twenty minutes early, one was twenty minutes late. I was very impressed with Delta’s in flight service, especially on these short flights. Everything went smoothly.
My return flight I won’t go into, as it is another epic adventure in its own right. It was my last L1011 flight, and lets just say “4-hour delay because the cargo door wouldn’t close.”