Well, I figured I'd give this trip report thing a try! I didn't keep as detailed as notes as some, and no decent pictures, but let's see how it goes!
Actual stops were in MCI, for Mother's Day weekend, then onto Detroit for a meeting first thing Tuesday morning. But everything connected through O'Hare, mainly because I wanted to fly the F-100 (although I gave up on the extra miles of doing MCI-DFW-DTW). I'd flown the F-100 long ago when they were new, but I wanted to pay true attention this time.
SJC-ORD, Flight 82, 8:01am
757-200, Seat 22A
We got up at 6:00am, quickly showered and finished packing, then called a taxi to run us over to the airport (there are advantages to living just a couple of miles from SJC). We got to the airport at about 6:50am. I was surprised when I saw massive lines at the security checkpoints -- it was totally contrary to other recent flights I've done from SJC, where 5-6 people was the norm. Turns out that, amongst other things, a ton of people had just been brought over from the customs area and needed to be re-cleared in for their connecting flights. I would have been very nervous if AA didn't have a separate (read: cut to head of line) line for Gold/Platinum/First Class folks. I'm going to miss that next year (since I'm no longer doing the flying I was). Inside, my fiance was looking a bit piqued, so we decided to hit the Cinnabon. Yum!
This was one of those "bistro" service flights, where you get the snack bag on your way down the jetway. Not bad, but somewhat surprising for a 3+ hour flight at 8:00am. I guess at least part of it is so that they can get the inflight entertainment (the movie "the Majestic") started quickly without having folks in the aisle.
The aircraft itself had the old blue interior, which looked, well, old. Legroom, as always on AA (thanks to MRTC) was decent, but the flight was packed, which is never fun, since I end up needing to sit somewhat sideways to avoid banging shoulders with folks.
Boarding was very smooth, and everything seemed normal and on target to push back right at 8:01am, when, at precisely the moment you'd expect the annoucement to arm the doors, we get an annoucement that the forward lav is inop, and an MX person is going to take a look at it. Me, I dig into
ye olde bag and nibble on the raisins.
Finally, at 8:25am, we push back from the gate, to everyone's relief. One the way down the taxiway, it was the usual suspects -- about the only thing that stood out was a WN 737 in bare metal except for the tail, which was still in the old paint scheme. I looked to see if it was the silver Nevada scheme, but it sure didn't look like it to me -- looked like bare metal instead.
At 8:37am, we turned onto the runway and powered into the air, getting the typical great view of the Silicon Valley as we circle about before climbing out and beyond. The ride was very smooth, and fairly quickly the first of three beverage services came by. Being me, and not finding much to excite me about flying in a 757, I sacked out for a while, despite getting the movie for free since we pushed back late. I will say that the start and end of "the Majestic" seemed very cool. Then I nodded off again until we were pretty much at ORD; arrival and touchdown was normal, nothing too exciting. On the taxi in, I saw United's 777UA, which, if not the first 777 they accepted, was the one they used back in the pre-acceptance publicity. Also saw a KLM 747-206 (SUD) Combi taking on its load of cargo.
Flight 2753, 2:48pm, Seat 12F
This was a TWA leg, flown on N922TW. You can really tell the ex-TWA birds in the sunlight -- the grinding marks (or whatever they are) give the bare metal portions a distinct matte (almost white at some angles) appearance. Pushback was on time, but, as usual, we joined the line for takeoff, and lifted into the air at 3:11pm. There was a bit on ongoing light chop, even the F/A's didn't start moving around until we were in cruise. Again, a fairly full flight, and since somehow I had goofed on the seat assignments and gotten us into a row of three instead of a row of two, we had to share the row with someone else. Not an exit row, either, bah.
We had our snack service once we got to cruise, but you could tell the f/a's were rushing a bit, since they'd gotten started a bit later than normal, and we were already less than an our away from MCI.
Descent into MCI and the landing itself were routine, with the usual suspects of UPS DC-8-71F and some of the Vanguard planes (I have to admit I really like the new Vanguard livery).
On the Hertz shuttle over to get the car, I saw what looked like N700ME, which is DC-9 line number two, but I'm not positive. It was definitely a DC-9-10 series, though, and I *have* seen 700ME at MCI on other occasions.
Flight 2764, 4:50pm
MD-80, Seat 21A (exit row)
While waiting to board, spotted a DL727 in the old widget paint scheme. Enjoyed what has become a rare sight these days. Sitting around, as 4:30 comes and goes, I realize that, while I've seen the previous crew from this aircraft leave, I haven't seen a new crew to replace them. Sure enough, our crew is inbound on a flight from ORD on another aircraft, and running late. They finally get in a 4:50pm and speed down the jetway to start getting ready. We start boarding at 5:00pm, and they are hurrying folks along.
I don't know if I've every been in an exit row on an MD-80, but certainly, I hadn't noticed that there's no armrest on the fuselage side. But that's okay, more room for me! While in Kansas City, we called the AA desk and got our seats put on the two-seat side for the balance of the flights that were 2x3, and picked up a window and aisle combo (hoping for an empty middle) on the 737 we were scheduled to do ORD-SJC on. I am fairly sure that's what I had chosen when I booked the seats on the web site, but it was right when AA.com was converting over to their new site, and I think they hosed it, honest!
So at 5:24pm we finally push back. On the taxi, saw one the Trans-Meridian 727's (appeared to have a Valsan conversion kit on it) over on the Vanguard ramp. At 5:32 we lifted into the air and on our way.
As we were going along, I was awake, and watched as we made a 180 turn. "ut oh, here we go" I figure. We do a couple of turns in the hold before the Captain comes on and lets us know we're about 15 minutes away from being released into the ORD area. It'll keep the connecting flight tight, but not impossible, I figure. Although FOOD is becoming a bit of a priority; we hadn't eaten all day, rushing from a baby-naming for a friend to a Mother's Day party (after they had already eaten) and then to the airport.
Fortunately, 15 minutes later, we did get cleared out of the hold. Into the ORD area we went, and back down into the cloud deck. No real chop, but very thick. We didn't break out until about 500' AGL into the rain at ORD, at 6:48pm. We got to the gate at 6:56pm, and headed for our next flight, stopping at the bagel place (very good bagels!) on the way.
Flight 83, F-100, Seat 11A, 7:39pm
By the time we got over to the gate, people were already starting to board, so we just hopped into the line and got onto the F-100. One thing I noticed right off is that the ceiling is lower. Not low enough to actually matter (unless you were maybe 6'4" or so), but definitely lower than on the MD-80. It's also fairly flat, rather than curved like the MD-80. Again, the old AA interior, but certainly up to the job, if a bit faded. The round windows are a trip. Kinda nifty.
We push back at 7:48pm, and get off the American ramp at 7:53. Then, of course, with the rain, we are now number 4,398,205,421 for takeoff. Okay, actually, it was about number 12, but it felt worse. Lots of the typical ORD traffic; BAe 146's, CRJs, ERJs, Airbus and Boeings of all sizes and colors. Spotted the Aer Lingus A330 which will hopefully be taking me on my honeymoon in October.
After waiting about 3,000 years, at 8:16pm, we finally turn onto the runway and lift off into the murk, which, if anything, seems to have dropped lower by now. But after a couple of minutes we are again back on top as the sun is setting.As we start a turn to the north, I get to watch a fairly decent sunset between two layers, which was nifty, although my fiance wasn't as impressed as I was.
Cruise was at a relatively low 23,000' between layers, although, as we turned east, the only way to tell we weren't in the clouds was the lack of reflection from the wingtip strobe. There was some continuous chop going on, and while we nibbled on bagels, the First Officer announced that they wouldn't be turning off the seatbelt sign for the short flight time into Detroit. We did get a beverage and a little snack that we saved for later, since we had our bagels.
As we started into DTW, I could hear the engines spooled down, and then felt the speedbrake deployed -- they really push you forward -- very impressive braking during their use. I guess Fokker had a good idea there -- sad that it's gone away. On landing at 10:05pm, the strangest thing was the actual sound of the touchdown itself -- I've gotten used to the pattern of reduced power, touchdown, and then increased power as the thrust reversers are deployed. Here, we touched down, and then the engines seemingly went silent (since they have no TR's) and it was quiet like a small aircraft on rollout, with the speedbrake and then the wheel brakes applied.
In the mist, we scooted over to the gate and disembarked at 10:08pm, into mist and rain.
Flight 1983, F-100, Seat 11A 6:47pm
We arrived early (yes, I know, how unlike me) to DTW, dropped off the car, and discovered just a few people at the airport. At the counter, I decided to check and see about upgrading on the ORD-SJC leg, since the flight was full, and, well, we were pretty beat at this point (I didn't consider upgrading the DTW-ORD leg because it was short, and, if anything, the F class folks look to have less legroom in the F-100, since it sppears they have the same seat pitch, but larger seats. Also, being on a two-person side isn't bad at all). So arrangements were made, and then we headed down to wait for flight. Security had no line, and we went down into the fine thing that is Concourse A and B at the Smith terminal at DTW. I'd never been in it that I recall (I've been to DTW before, but always on NW), and hopefully the construction they've started will eventually encompass all the facilities on the north side of the airport -- right now, they are a sad, tired pair of concourses that should make folks heads hang in shame.
Now, the good news is that down at the end of the B concourse, where our gate was, you could sit and get a fairly decent view of the NW ramp and aircraft taxiing around. Spotted an NW 727, a KLM MD-11, and even the Spirit MD-80 in the new, pixelated scheme. While we were waiting at one point, a fairly strong cell moved overhead and poured rain down on us -- and clearly messed with traffic, as the lines grew longer and longer for aircraft -- planes were stack out in the east-west taxiways, literally lined up so that they'd taxi all the way west, then back all the way east, then south to the threshold for takeoff.
Somewhere around 5:45pm the crew for the flight arrived. About 10 minutes later, they, and I, are wondering where our aircraft is. Finally, they get word that the aircraft is only a few minutes out. At 6:30pm, the F-100 taxis up to the gate. They hustle everyone off the plane and get us ready for a quick boarding, since they don't want people to miss their connecting flights. At this point, having forgotten about the hour time difference back to ORD, I was thinking that we might be cutting it very close on our flight. But since I knew that our flight overnights in SJC, I was too worried and figured that they would almost certainly hold the flight. We pushed back at 7:15, and, after waiting in line for a few minutes, took off at 7:30pm.
Cruise was again low at FL240; but the ride was decent and we actually got a couple of minutes to move around (although I didn't bother). We landed to the west, with the pilot doing a couple of cool S-turns on final (for spacing, I assume), leading to a smooth (and again, oddly quiet) touchdown. We got to the gate at 7:32pm CST, which, had I been correct about timing, would have made us already very late for our next flight. But, instead, we had enough time to stop by Mrs. Fields and grab a couple of cookies, since we had been told that this was a 'snack' flight and we didn't want to take any chances.
Flight 597, 737-800, 8:15pm, Seat 3A
We boarded on time for this flight, and I was pleasantly surprised by the new F seats. They appear to be about an inch wider than the older seats (for comparison, I've flown F in both MD-80's and 757's, and A320's (insert obligatory NW bash here) in the past year). Two other things I noticed -- first, that the actual shape of the center console as been contoured, and now includes the headset jack and the audio controls on the top, which is nice, and secondly, that there's a gap of several inches between the fuselage and the armrest. And, of course, the nice little wings.
One other nice thing about the bulkhead seat is that you end up with your own little screen in front of you, instead of having to look to look to the drop-down monitors in the center aisle. I'm really surprised that AA didn't go to some form of seatback screen for their F seats. I was also surprised that there were five full rows of F class! We actually had two flight attendants for the front cabin!
Prior to closing up, we were offer wine, orange juice, or water. We actually got the doors closed at 8:11pm, pretty amazing! And there wasn't much of a line --or maybe it didn't seem as bad from F class -- but we lifted off at 8:25pm, with an announced flight time of 4 hours, 8 minutes, at FL390.
As I mentioned, we weren't sure what the 'snack' service would be, so we'd brought our own cookies. The last time I'd done a 'snack' in F, it was on that (insert bash here) NW, and it truly was a bag of peanuts.
Well, there were nuts here as well, but they were nice and heated, and plenty of refills if you wanted. The nice mix, with cashews and pistasheos (sp), and pecans. So I figured, well, that's not so bad. But then they came over and asked if we wanted a mushroom pizza or chicken quesadilla for our snack! Prior to bringing out the 'snack' hot towels were provided to wipe off the salt and nut residue. I took the opportunity to get up and move around for a minute. Man, for a 737, this thing just goes on FOREVER! It's like a 757 as far as length goes... I know, it's not really as long, but it's not what you expect from a 737! I can only imagine what a -900 must be like.
We both had the chicken quesadilla, and it was very nice, with decent guacamole on the side. Red and white wine was offered. One thing that was odd was the fact that amongst all the real glasses and plates, that we had plastic utensils. Ah, well.
Following the food service, as "the count of Monte Cristo" started playing, I cranked in the left wing on my headrest, and seriously crashed out for about two and a half hours. I woke up with about 40 minutes left in the flight, and was again offered some additional coke and some nuts. During the descent we picked up some light chop (actually, I understand there was chop over the Rockies, but I slept through it), but the skies were clear as we turned onto final at SJC. Landing and rollout was uneventful at 10:32pm. But before you think it was truly perfect, worry not -- we had to wait five minutes for the gate agent to show up and bring the jetway over to us!
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it!