The broader context was a trip (driving) up to Winnipeg from Hamilton, to go house-hunting (successful) and also to see to business at U. Manitoba (also successful). Within this was a flight out from Winnipeg to Vancouver, to give a paper at a conference. The choice of flights might seem a little strange, at least to non-plane people, given that there's non-stop service on mainline AC and direct and connecting service on WestJet, but here's what passed for the thought process behind it:
i) Aeroplan member, so AC or AC Jazz the airline
ii) wanted to fly a Dash 8 again, as really enjoyed the YUL-YFC-YUL trip on those planes in March
iii) wanted to fly a Fokker F28 at least once before they're retired
iv) didn't want to fly a 737-200 as had already done that in January (YHM-YWG-YHM on WestJet)
v) would be nice to visit an airport that i'd never been to before...
So, off we go, on AC Jazz from YWG to YVR and back, connecting in YXE (Saskatoon) ... I've divided this report up into two separate posts, as otherwise, the length would be rather deadly...
Segment 1: YWG-YXE, 9 May 2002
Airline etc.: AC Jazz 8305, Dash 8-102, C-GWRR, fin #: 851
Sched.: 14:10-15:10 / Act.: 14:09-15:11 / In Air: 14:22-15:08
Photo © Matthew Lee
A rather late, and nasty, spring snowstorm hit Winnipeg this morning; it was much calmer by the time I drove out from downtown to the airport at 12:15, but the walk in from the economy parking lot (pole I) was still not fun: cold; strong wind whipping the snow around; deep slush and puddles of water to dodge on the ground. A good day to be leaving town, in other words. The flight was shown on the monitors as leaving on time, which was a good sign – various others were delayed. Check-in using the express kiosks was quick and easy; pity the people in the very long line-up at the standard counter. By this time it was close enough to 13:00 to just have a quick walk through the departures level, get a newspaper, book, and Tim's sandwich for the flight(s), and head for security. No problems there, though I was reminded yet again, as I stood there staring at my laptop, of how slow Windows is in firing up and shutting down... Then more wandering around until time to board; the old-fashioned way again -- out onto the tarmac and over to the plane. The weather had cleared up remarkably by now – still heavily overcast, but no more snow, and could see across the airfield.
Boarding was finished just before 14:00. The flight was about 3/4 full; 7C was empty, so I had plenty of room. Engines started at 14:06, pushback at 14:09, and a long taxi to the end of Rwy 36 began. After another long wait for traffic – including a Medevac departure – with engines throbbing and plane vibrating, we finally took off at 14:22. The usual announcements soon followed: flight time would be 1 hour 46 minutes, planned altitude was 24,000', the loo was equipped with highly sensitive smoke detectors, and anyone caught smoking would be asked to leave the plane immediately... Given the weather, it was a surprisingly smooth take off and climb, with only a few little bumps. We were right into the clouds, and stayed in them a very long time. Snack service began around 14:29, getting to my row quite a bit later. I had my usual gin & tonic ($5, but worth it) with a bag of crisps, and my sandwich. By 14:37, hints of sunshine could be seen up above, but it took until 14:51 to break out of the clouds, if only for a few moments. At 14:56 saw the ground for the first time since departure, but we were soon in cloud again. After a few more minutes, we were finally clear of this; broken clouds all the rest of the way. Not that there was much to see on the ground – it was all very brown, and very flat. Nothing for it but to keep sipping the drink and reading the paper... and set the watch back one hour.
At 14:45, we got the announcement that we were about 95 miles out of YXE, still at 24,000 but getting ready to begin the descent. Winds were out of the NW, and light chop was expected on the way down. The seatbelt sign came back on at 14:54, just as we were getting into the tops of the clouds. There was indeed light chop on the way down, as well as a few good jolts and dips, but the cloud layer ended up being fairly thin. Wheels down at 15:05, touchdown on Rwy 33, after a straight-in approach, at 15:08. A good firm landing, left gear down first. At the gate by 15:11; in the terminal a few minutes later.
Reconstruction is very much in progress at YXE at the moment – just the small waiting area was available, made even smaller by the work. As I didn't feel like going through security again, I didn't go out into the terminal; anyways, the wait for the next flight wasn't to be too long. A pity, though, that there's so little to see out of that waiting area – lots of glass, but a jetbridge does a very effective job of blocking the view, as does the AC counter on the other side. Can see a sliver of the airfield out of the side near the customs doors, but that's nowhere near enough!
Segment 2: YXE-YVR, 9 May 2002
Airline etc.: AC Jazz 8487, Fokker F-28, C-FFCR, fin #: 146
Sched.: 15:50-17:05 / Act.: 15:51-16:52 / In Air: 15:58-16:47
Seat: 8A (exit row)
Photo © George Polfliet
Pre-boarding began, and essentially ended, at 15:32; then it was our turn. This time boarding was by a jetbridge; some people took a wrong turn and wandered out the doors onto the tarmac though, before they were brought back to where they were supposed to be! The exit row seat was nice – ample legroom made up for 8B being occupied. I've certainly noted the grumbles on here about cramped conditions in the F28, but no complaints from me (but just wait until part 2). This was a pretty full flight; maybe an empty seat was lurking here or there. Pushback was at 15:51, followed by the engines firing up and the taxi out to the runway, 27 this time. Rotation at 15:58, climbing back up into that broken-cloud-layered sky. At least there was sun to be seen here, and it had certainly been warmer than Winnipeg.
The climb through the clouds was continuing at 16:05, when we got the usual announcements: planned flight time of 1 hour 55 minutes, at 28,000'. At 16:13 the seatbelts sign went off, beginning what was to be a very smooth flight. The snack service also began now; this time I settled for just an orange juice, as I pondered just what it was the engines reminded me of. Again, i've noted the comments here about the noise levels; I didn't find it all that bad (maybe the gin from the first segment was still having an effect?), just different. Perhaps the best description would be a blender on warp speed on the climb, and a demented hair dryer on the cruise. Highly technical writing, this!
The scenery below continued brown, and flat. At 16:45, had an announcement that we were just passing over Calgary, at 28,000. Time to set the watch back another hour, and look forward to the scenery changing. It soon did, as we started passing over the Rockies: trees, snow-capped mountains, deep valleys, etc. There were still some clouds below, so every now and then the ground would disappear from view.
The descent started at 16:28; the mountain scenery continued as before. A very smooth touchdown soon followed, at 16:47 on 26R, after a pretty well straight-in approach over lush greenery. We were at the gate at 16:52, after a brief wait for the ground crew to guide the plane in. The little I saw of the airport on the way to the baggage claim was indeed nice; spacious seating areas, lots of glass, nice views out over the airfield and surroundings. The bag was out very quickly; then out to a taxi and the hotel. What a change from Winnipeg! Lush green foliage everywhere, flowers galore, and certainly no need to be wearing both a thick jumper and a heavy trenchcoat...
To be continued...