I got up around 6:25 am to pick up SR 103 in Tampa Palms who will be traveling with me on all of the trips. My mother drove us in haste down a construction-plauged Interstate 275 to TPA and we arrived around 7:30 at the Continental Airlines curbside at the Red Area and went inside the building to check-in. The line was empty to our advantage. The ticket agent acting as a "red coat" looked at our tickets and directed us to the E-ticket kiosk clusters. Since me and SR 103 did not know how to use E-ticket, she instructed us how to use the kiosks. I did not have a problem using it but SR 103 ran into some problems. The boarding pass printed out for me but the ticket agent had to go to her podium and print out the tickets for SR 103. She printed out the luggage tags and placed my tag on SR 103's luggage and his tag on my bag. It was too late by the time I looked at the misplaced tags. That will cause a little problem when we arrive into DAL. After check-in we went upstairs using the newly installed escalators in front of the NW counters. We went to the Airside A train area where a security personnel checked the tickets and I.D. The swift train ride took us to the security area, where me and SR 103 went through without incident. We took a look around Airside A and checked out the jetway that Southwest added in place of the commuter gate that used to be there (Gate 17). We then headed to Cinnabon where me and SR 103 had a cinnamon roll. SR 103 went to the Starbucks after placing his cinnamon roll on the table and had a bad caramel coffee experience. Needless to say when he returned to the table after a 15-minute wait, the cinnamon roll was cold and stale. We then proceeded down the escalators to the commuter Gate A-1 waiting area where it will not be long before we boarded the Beech to MIA. The commuter area is very spacious and comes in handy for those banks that Gulfstream has.
Continental Connection Flt. # 9430 (Gulfstream Air International)
Seat 3F (SR 103's seat 3A)
Scheduled Departure: 9:05 am
Actual Departure: 9:05 am
Scheduled Arrival:10:05 am
Actual Arrival: 10:15 am
Load Factor: 17 out of 19 pax total
Photo © James Richard Covington, Jr
Boarding commenced at 8:55 am. The family who was ahead of us were the subjects of a random security search. The agent took the E-ticket boarding passes from me and SR 103 and we proceeded out the door and waited in a barricaded area. The co-pilot of our flight was there to greet us and handed me, SR 103, and most of the passengers Continental Express Gate Claim tags for our carry-ons since the Beech does not have carry-ons. After all of the passengers got to the barricaded area as well as the security agent who conducted the random security search, whom will also be on our flight, the co-pilot guided us to our Beech with a simple "follow me." This morning, there are two Beeches, one heading to Key West, which was loading bags already, and our Beech. We would be the first Gulfstream Beech out this morning. We were greeted with an inviting and spacious cabin which SR 103 mentioned has better legroom than NW's DC-10's coach cabin. There was no cockpit door to my surprising so we were able to get a good view of the cockpit instruments and the front window view. After boarding, the crew played the automated safety annoucement. The engines were started with a "wheeeeee" sound and we started taxiing immediately behind a Continental 737-500, who was parked at Gate A-3 next to us, bound for CLE with a 9:05 am departure as well. As the 737-500 made its way for Runway 18R, we went immediately to runway 18L as the Beech is one of the exceptions to the noise abatement procedures from taking off from this runway. During our taxi we made our way past an America West A-320 parked at gate A-4, various Northwest aircraft parked at their respective gates, and the Southwest Area. We saw the Bear scheme and the Aztec scheme parked at the gates. We past the asbestos-infested Airside B whick looked like a cargo graveyard with all the old, large, abandoned crates there, hell even all the roaches and rats left. We also pass by Airside C which saw a DL MD-80 in the middle colors parked at gate C-38, and a DL Boeing 767-300 in the old colors parked at gate C-39. At the end of the runway we immediately were cleared for a rolling take-off which will start my first time being in the air since January 2000. We took off flying over the entire South Tampa area. To our left was Downtown Tampa, Davis Island, and Harbor Island, and to our right was MacDill Air Force Base, and in the distance St. Petersburg and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We continued a straight pattern until we reached a cruising altitude of FL170 over the Ellenton Area (got a good view of the Ellenton Outlet Mall and the Ellenton Bridge) where we turned and made a SSE direction. We remained in a straight line until we flew over Naples where the crew turned to a 90 degree heading to line up for our arrival on runway 9R. We descended from FL170 to FL110 and remained there until we flew over the Everglades. The crew then reduced the altitude from FL110 to our final hold altitude of FL040. Descending was very turbulent, and you can really feel it on this aircraft. There was alot of cloud coverage and there was a storm moving towards Miami as I looked outside the aircraft from the left. As we got closer we passed by the Florida Turnpike, Vanderbilt Park, and flew over those townhomes with the Spanish-style red tiles on the rooves. In front of us was the approaching 9R which we were WAY off. The crew was fighting with this landing as we were being hit with turbulence and a moderate crosswind. As we flew over the threshold, SR 103 spotted an Air Canada A321 on finals for runway 12. We touchdown on runway 9R, but not on the center line. We were very close to the left yellow runway border as SR 103 pointed out. The crew immediately veered us closer to the center line, only to veer us once again off the runway and into the taxiway. We got a good view of the right cargo area, where there were various Ameristar 727-200 Freighters and an unmarked Boeing 747-400. We had to hold short for the AC A321 to finish its landing. A USAirways A319 landed after us, and they too had to hold short for the AC A321. After the AC A321 got off the runway, our aircraft and the US A319 dashed across runway 12 to the taxiway, where we slowly taxiied our way to the Gulfstream hardstand area. During our taxi on the left side, we pass an Aerolineas Argentinas Boeing 747-200 at the gate in the F concourse, that was being readied for departure. We also pass an Avianca Boeing 757-200 parked next to the Aerolineas Argentinas. One of the pax onboard our flight would be connecting to the Avianca flight. On our right side, we pass a Northwest DC-9 parked at gate G-15 and an old gate G-7, whose jetway looks like it is about to fall apart any minute. Finally, our aircraft made a swift U-turn into the hardstand parking closest to the Gate G-1 commuter gate and the engines were turned off promptly. Our co-pilot opened the door and stated "follow me folks" once again. As I was leaving the aircraft, I briefly spoke to the female captain named Claire and congradulated her on the landing, only to tell me that the co-pilot named Joe landed the aircraft. I bidded her farewell and went down the steps and shook the co-pilot's hand and congradulated him on the landing. Several other passengers took my lead and did the same thing. Me and SR 103 took our gate claim bags sitting in front of the wing and went inside the G-1 commuter lounge, where we went upstairs via an escalator to the G concourse.
As we stepped off the escalator, we were greeted with a foul rank which permeated across the concourse. Any attempt by MIA to renovate this concourse was noticable, but still needs alot of work. We went up the concourse, passing AirTran's gate at G-2 bound for ATL, another Gulfstream gate G-5 bound for Freeport Bahamas, and a Continental 735 at gate G-8 bound for EWR. The Air Canada A321 that landed earlier had just pulled up to gate G-12. Since we had a little over one and a half hrs. to burn, we sat at the end of the concourse to watch planes land and take-off from runways 9R and 12. During the time, we watch the Aerolineas
Argentinas B742 being towed to a remote stand, an ATA B738 land on 9R, a DHL DC-8 Freighter land on 9R, several ATR-72's of American Eagle take-off from runway 9R, an AA B738 and an AA A300-600 take-off from runway 9R respectively. I briefly made a pit-stop at gate G-10 podium to get a new ticket jacket, as it was falling apart, only to get a stern questioning from the agent. I can't blame the woman since she is only doing her job. The storm clouds moved in around 11:00 am and there was a downpour which drastically cut the visibility. The downpours slowed down to a drizzle around 11:30 am and aircraft were taking off once again. We saw a TAM A330-200 in the new red colors rotate from runway 9R. You can actually see the wing flex as it rotates. By this time, the AC A321 was boarding for its return flight to YYZ.
Continental Flt. # 291
Boeing 757-200 International Configuration
Seat 11C (SR 103's seat 8F)
Scheduled Departure: 12:10 pm
Actual Departure: 12:15 pm
Scheduled Arrival: 1:50 pm
Actual Arrival: 1:40 pm
Load Factor: 100%(some stand-by pax not allowed to board)
Photo © Joe Fernandez - Aviation Photography of Miami
Our flight started boarding around 11:45 am. This flight was originally supposed to be a Boeing 737-800, but due to new schedule changes, this flight was upgraded to a Boeing 757-200. A Czech woman, who got onboard before us, had to be removed because she did not know where she was going, plus she did not speak English. We did not get onboard until around 12:05 pm. We would push back a little late due to the rain delay. While we were in line, there was a red-coat agent checking the tickets and I.D. of every passenger. An elderly couple ahead of us were the subjects of a random security search. The agent took our E-ticket boarding passes and we proceeded through the second port door, where the jetway was attached. To our left was the BusinessFirst Cabin, with only four rows. I proceeded to my seat, where I will be sitting next to two women, one of whom is a CO flight attendant, in full uniform, dead-heading to IAH. Some of the seats had the winged headrests, including mine. I think there are a nice addendum to the seats. The legroom was adequate for the flight time I would experience. After me and the other woman let the FA sit down in 11A, a child sitting in 12A was kicking the FA's seat. The FA turned around and vehemently asked the mother to control her child. This did not help as the mother spoke no English, only Spanish. The FA and the woman sitting next to me asked me to tell the mother in Spanish. I did, and the mother immediately gave the child a spanking. Meanwhile, on SR 103's front, he would have a very talkative woman sitting behind him, talking about all of her adventures around the world to her seatmate throughout the duration of the flight. About ten minutes after sitting down, the cabin door shut, and we began doing our pushback, with the FA's doing cabin checks. The captain came on the PA, stating that we are pushing back a little late, but he promised us we will arrive into IAH early. The overhead bin TV monitors descended, and we watched a safety film. Unfortunately, our monitor was not working, so a FA can running down the aisle and asked our group if we can see the monitor in front of our current monitor. Everyone replied with a grunty "uh-huh" and she disappeared. The Rolls Royce engines turned on during the final moments of pushback. Soon afterwards, we taxi in between Concourses G & H, turned right to pass a near-vacant Concourse F, with an United 763 parked at the gate. We taxi parallel to runway 30, passing the Concourse E satellite with the usual Americans. We also pass the construction of the new A/D concourse, with 3 American Eagle ATR's in front of the construction. We turn to parallel with runway 27R and observe the DHL DC-8 and DHL 727-200 Freighters parked at the central (north side) cargo ramp. Before we know it, the captain declares for the FA's to take their seats and we are ready for a rolling take-off. The RR engines sing their song and we are in the air after a 15-second roll. We do a 180 degree turn to the left, flying over Interstate 95 and the Hialeah area. We do a by-pass of MIA and then we break clouds. From that point, the FA in 11A closes the window shades and ends the scenic show. After we reach cruising altitude, the FA's whip out the carts for a snack and beverage service. Today's snack consists of a ham or turkey (your choice) sandwich the size of a child's fist, accompanied with a small package of honey dijonaise, a small bag of Lay's potato chips, and a unique Belgian choclate crunch ball with the diameter of a dime. These items were presented in a very small, white plastic tray with the CO logo in front of the tray. I flushed the food down with a full can of Coca-cola. After the FA's collected the initial trash, ContinentalVision was turned on and a FA that looks like Nina from NBC's "Just Shoot Me" went around with headsets for $4, although I didn't see too many people purchasing it. However, a woman sitting next to SR 103 purchased the headsets so she can cancel the noise caused by the talkative woman sitting behind her. I asked the FA to get me a chocolate crunch ball since I was feeling a bit hungry after the initial service. She stated that she would go to the rear of the cabin to see if there was any, and would let me know if or if not, they had it. She never came back. Whether she forgot about it, or she did it out of pure rudeness, I do not have proof. The FA's later happily pop out of the FC cabin with first class meals and go to the aft to eat it and socialize. There were quite a few stares from the coach pax looking at the meals. After goughing down their meals, the FA's went around for the final garbage collection, at the time that the captain announced final descent into IAH. I did not realize how low we were until we broke clouds again. To our left, we pass downtown Houston, which is in the distance. To our right, we pass the town of Kingwood. We also fly over a huge lake prior to landing. After crossing the Eastex Freeway, we promptly touchdown on runway 26 at IAH early, as the captain promised. Reverse thrusts are applied, and we slowly taxi on the runway. On our right side, we pass by a World Airways MD-11 with Sonoma titiles that was on the taxiway surrounded by cops.......uh-oh. After passing the World Airways, we taxi on the taxiway towards Terminal C. We get a glimpse of a KLM 744 parked at Gate D-12 in the distance. We also get a good view of the construction of Terminal E, and the super-jetway located at the end of gate C-48 on the east part of the Terminal E pier. As we approach the southern part of Terminal C, there is an abundance of MD-80's and 737's parked. We park at gate C-35, in between 2 737's.
Thank's to the captain's early arrival, we calmly head to the TerminalLink station to catch the train to Terminal B. As we progress through the center part of Terminal C, we get a good view outside, overlooking the massive construction projects going on now. The TerminalLink station was to the left of the entrance to the North concourse of C, and we can see a huge CO logo on top of a dome in the high, white ceiling above us. We go up the escalator to catch the TerminalLink which we had to wait for. When we finally got on the train, we were whisked to Terminal B. On the way,we saw various CO MD-80's and 737's parked at the gates in the North Concourse. In the distance, there was a CO 777, taxiing for take-off on runway 15L/R. Over the remote stand area in between Terminals B & C, we see various CO ATR's being readied for departure as well as two CO MD-80's vegetating. When we arrive at Terminal B, we go down the escalators to find ourselves a bit confused. We were not sure which "banjo" our flight to DAL would depart from. We finally figured it out when we read the signs (duh!!) that we are to go to the northwesterly "banjo". I find the center area of Terminal B kind of bland, too many walls in a contained area. We head down the walkway to the gate area. We think our plane is not there (as we are looking at the wrong gate as we will later find out), and me and SR 103 sit down outside the gate area in the walkway. When SR 103 goes to the gate area to check on the status, he informs me that our flight is boarding.
Continental Express Flt. # 3730 (ExpressJet)
Seat 10A (SR 103's seat 9C)
Scheduled Departure: 2:20 pm
Actual Departure: 2:20 pm
Scheduled Arrival: 3:21 pm
Actual Arrival: 3:21 pm
Load Factor: marginally 50%
Photo © Jeremy Hooper
We walk to the gate area to find no line. SR 103 goes in front of me to board, only to become the subject of a random security search. Our gate is divided up into 2 jetways, B-76A and B-76. The reason we did not see our plane was that we were looking at the jetway of gate B-76A, even though the doors above the gate inside the terminal list it as gate B-76. It was not possible to see the jetway of B-76, as the jetway of B-76A blocked the view. Anyhow, I wait in the walkway area of B-76 and B-76A to wait for SR 103. When his search is finished, we board the aircraft. The first thing I notice about the ERJ is its short cabin door height. Tall people would have problems with this aircraft. I think the Beech has a higher door clearance. I take my seat and I notice my left feet hitting the lower circular part of the wall. That is okay for me on this short flight, but something not to deal with on a longer flight. While the gate claim bags are loading, the main FA performed the safety briefing along with the automated announcement. On our flight there are two FA's, the main one and a gorgeous one in-training. After the gate claim bags are loaded from the jetway, we push back immediately and head for runway 15L. We pass by the new and old ("bango") parts of Terminal A, with new jetways still unattached to the terminal, sitting on the ramp. We taxi down, passing the Continental Express hangar, the cargo ramp with FedEx A300's, 727's, and a DHL 727-200. We also pass by a FBO with a private jet in front. We finally turn to the threshold, passing by runway 15R and going to 15L. We once again are cleared for a rolling take-off and we are in the air within seconds. While passing the terminals, we get a good view of the int'ls at Terminal D, which include the KL 744 Combi, a BA 772, an AF 772, a LH 343, and two TACA 319's . After the airport is out of sight, we break through the clouds as it is an overcast day here in Houston. Our captain advises us that we will fly through good weather today and that he will remove the seat belt sign. Shortly thereafter, a light snack and beverage service begins. The main FA asks the pax to have a drink selection in mind as this is a short flight. She then serves the drinks with the cart, with the FA in-training behind her with a rectangular palmetto tray with Biscotti shortbread cookies. I ask the FA in-training if she will make a second pass with the tray. Her response was "We'll see," and she continued down the aisle. Of course, given the small load of pax, she was able to come around again. I took more of the delicious items. Those things fill you up! A final cleanup is now in the process, as we descend into DAL "Air Force Pilot" style. Although there are no clouds in the area, we get an early preview of what a rodeo feels like, hitting quite a few bumps prior to landing. An elderly woman complains of feeling "gassy" in seat 10C due to the bumps and claims she can't take it anymore (Okay lady, too much info there). Her husband, sitting in 10B, turns to her in disbelief after her public statement. SR 103, sitting in 9C, grows a bit "concerned" about the comment. We pass by the greenlands of Texas, then we descend into the metro urban Dallas area, passing by what I believe the city of Dallas calls the "High Five" grand freeway intersection. We make a very close pass of Downtown Dallas, spotting the Metroplex ball, the American Airlines arena, Stemmons Freeway, the Wyndham Anatole, and the oval-shaped Renaissance Hotel Tower. We fly over Mockingbird Lane before touching down on runway 31R. With the reverse thrusts deployed, we pass the GA ramp on our right side, observing a DC-8 in Saudia colors (it was not labeled), a private 757, and abandoned Legend terminal, and various private jets and GA aircraft. We turn off the runway before passing runway 18/36, and we head towards the main passenger terminal. Looking outside the right window, the eastern-most terminal is the Southwest terminal, with alot of 732's at the gate. We then pass by the central terminal, which, on the right side, is turned into a parking lot. This terminal is old-fashioned looking, still looking like it was still the 60's. The old gate numbers are still attached above the doorways. On our left side, we pass the old, white, "satellite" concourse that is currently in the process of being demolished. We pull up to gate 27, where we disembark and go down the escalators, pass the security area, and go to the ticketing and baggage claim area located below the gate area.
I am very impressed with the setup CO has here at DAL. Smaller operations tend to be more efficient in my opinion. We wait at the sole baggage claim belt, with other pax. Everyone gets their bag except me (damn you CO). After SR 103 calmed my irate behavior down, we went to the ticket counter where a very helpful agent asked me a series of questions relating to my bag. I had to explain to her that SR 103's tag was on my bag and my tag was on SR 103's bag (thanks to the agent in TPA), so that prolonged the process as the agent was a bit confused. She also stated that these things happen on a daily basis at the DAL station (ummm........that is not good given the small number of flights, especially on a saturday). After she handed me a ticket jacket containing a paper with the tracking number, she promised me that my bag would be delivered to the hotel that same night. She also handed me an overnight amenity kit containing a small bottle of deodorant, a packet with shaving cream, a razor, a small bottle of shampoo, and a small bar of soap. Okay, not bad for my first lost bag experience. After the briefing, we walk down a long, narrow concourse that was once a bright, wide concourse during the 60's. This leads into the main foyer, which is a beautiful high-ceiling facility with a giant compass and a globe as the design on the center part of the floor. To our right was the Southwest Security Area, the Southwest Ticketing Area, and the Baggage Claim in the distance. There was a staircase that lead to the "Frontiers of Flight" museum near the WN security checkpoint. To our left is a long walkway where Delta has its ticket counter. Beyond the walkway is a long void. After finding the taxi stands near the WN bag claim, we take a taxi to the hotel. At around 11 pm, my bags finally arrive and I can change clothes. We will stay in Dallas for the school-paid AAAE convention, as well as an airfield tour of DFW and a visit to the AA C.R. Smith museum.
Thursday, May 23, 2002 DAL-IAH-MEM-TPA
Things must come to an end, as we make our trek back to my home. I get up around 6:15 am and prepare for our taxi trip to DAL. The taxi takes a weird routing to DAL, passing by the Southwest Airlines headquarters. We arrive at an overcast, cloudy DAL around 7:30 am and promptly reverse our earlier trekking to the CO ticketing area. We attempt to use the E-ticket but the machines prompt the both of us to see the ticketing agent. After she attempts to use the E-ticket machine, she gets frustrated and checks the both of us in manually. She correctly places our luggage tags on our bags (oh I observed her carefully) and weighs my bag. It comes in at 62 lbs., much heavier than when I left TPA (thanks to all the free junk typical conventions hand out). I explain to her that I am not trying to break her back, but she tells me that my bag is exceptionally light, given the severely heavy bags she had to place on the conveyor belt on an earlier flight. After issuing our boarding passes, we go through security where me, SR 103, and every pax passing through the metal detector are wanded down regardless of whether the sound goes off. Apparently there is a security personnel in-training, learning how to use the wand. After the search, we go up the escalator where my left hand feels a burning sensation on the handrails. As I am about to get off the escalator, I realize that the escalator handrail on the left side was not moving. Other people getting off the escalator shake their left hand to soothe from the mild burn received from dragging on rubber. As we wait for the ERJ that will take us to IAH, I observe a giant plastic model of a COEX ERJ in the waiting area, next to the jetway, that I overlooked when I deplaned on the 18th. There is also a poster of a FA serving drinks to pax via a tray next to the model. I also notice that CO has in possesion another jetway (gate 26), although I think it is inactive right now. However, when those ERJ-145XR's are delivered and the EWR-DAL route is initiated, I think that gate will become active. Across from the gate 27 jetway is gate 41, with no jetway (bad renumbering job). The tarmac is busy this morning, with various private jets taking off, as well as an Airborne Express 767 (!!) taxiing past us and taking off from runway 13L. Our aircraft arrives shortly thereafter and we have a quick turnaround back to IAH.
Continental Express Flt. # 3723 (ExpressJet)
Seat 8A (SR 103's seat 7A)
Scheduled Departure: 8:55 am
Actual Departure: 8:55 am
Scheduled Arrival: 10:03 am
Actual Arrival: 10:00 am
Load Factor: 100% (mostly business pax)
Photo © Matt McDowell
This morning, we would need a Continental Express Gate Claim tag since our overstuffed bags would not fit in the tiny overhead bin of the ERJ. A businessman ahead of me knew the random search drill, and as soon as an OnePass elite member finished his search, he headed to the desk to get frisked. The agent took my boarding pass and we made our way down the jetway and placed the gate claim bag at the end of the jetway. I was greeted "good morning" by the flight attendant (first time a FA verbally greeted me on these trips so far, and it wasn't just a mechanical smile) and I went to my seat. A caucasian couple sitting in seats 8B and 8C were appalled that there was an African-American pilot flying the ERJ. They were concerned if this plane would actually make it off the ground with him at the controls. What can I say, the U.S. has those kinds of people unfortunately. As I turn my attention from the ignorant couple to the outside window from the left, I see a group of female ramp workers taking the last of the gate claim bags to the rear cargo area. We begin pushing back shortly, and the sole FA acts out the safety briefing along with the automated voice. A quick taxi to runway 13L, reversing our trek from our earlier arrival. As we hold short at the end of runway 13L, I do notice that there is a deep ravine (I would say almost 30 ft.) that separates the airport from a neighborhood in front of 13L. Is that safe???? Well back to the flight in hand, we hold short for several GA aircraft before we take-off and break through the low-lying clouds. We will be cruising at an altitude of 25,000 feet. Today's morning service consists of the same biscotti fare we had before, only this time I did not be so greedy and only took the initial biscotti offered to me , as I had eaten a free breakfast offered at the hotel earlier before I left. I had a cup of orange juice with the biscotti. I did notice that the FA did adhere to other people's request for additional biscotti without a "we'll see" or completely forget about the request. She also went to the back of the plane to converse with some of the pax. As we had ascended quickly, we would also descend quickly. The pilots sank the plane like we were on a roller coaster. IAH was also experiencing an overcast day, as we broke through the clouds prior to landing. We followed the same trek and scenery as we did on the previous MIA-IAH run. We land on runway 26, and slowly taxi off the runway and into the taxiway. We pass Terminal E on our left side, and go over a taxiway overpass, where there is road congestion into the terminal areas. On our right side, we pass a whole bunch of CO aircraft on hardstand. We taxi up to Terminal D, where there is a sole CO 777 at gate D-6 on its way to NRT (the 10:15 am departure I believe). We taxi very closly past a CO 762 on hardstand vegetating, wasting much revenue not in utilization (perhaps replace some of the narrows on domestic runs Bethune????). We turn left on the taxiway to pass Terminal D, and pass the North Concourse of Terminal C. At gate C-16 is a company 764 being readied, on its way to either EWR, LAX, or HNL. We continue our taxi to the other side of the North Concourse, where there are quite a few empty gates. There are several MD-80's and 737's parked. On the COEX ramp area are several ATR's being readied for departure. We pull up to our gate, B-76, where we disembark and wait for our gate claim bags to arrive. After the bags arrive, we head up the jetway, down the B-76A walkway, and out into the waiting area.
To our relief, our connecting flight is leaving from the same "banjo." We have about 20 minutes to burn, so we stand for the time being with our carry-ons (the waiting area was packed). Several ERJ departures leaving from this banjo includes a flight to Zihuanejo, Tampico, Greensboro, St. Louis, Brownsville, and our Memphis flight. As SR 103 was getting tired of the ERJ already, he wishes he was on a NW A320 to MEM across the ramp at the northeasterly banjo. The time approaches as we are to board our MEM flight. Also boarding is the STL flight, who is parked at gate B-81A, while we are at gate B-81. The jetway setup at these two gates is exactly how the gate B-76/B-76A is set up. Let's just say that this is a flight dispatch no-no. The agents repeadedly make announcements that the STL flight was leaving from the left door, while our flight is leaving from the right door down the walkway. The queue line was a mess, and pax were confused as to whether they were in the right line or not, as the two lines somehow "merged." People had to climb over the seats just to get in line. Me and SR 103 stayed far clear of the mess until a line formed behind us, and we were pretty much pushed in line. People were being selected for the random from the "merged" line, not the separate flights. As we approach the counter, there is a woman directing traffic to another agent for the STL flight, as she is the one receiving boarding passes for the MEM passengers.
Continental Express Flt. # 3936 (ExpressJet)
Seat 8A (SR 103's seat 7A)
Scheduled Departure: 10:40 am
Actual Departure: 10:50 am
Scheduled Arrival: 12:20 pm
Actual Arrival: 12:35 pm
Load Factor: 100% (mostly Memorial Day pax)
Photo © Michael Glick
We get our gate claim tags for this ERJ flight and head down the walkway to the right door down to the jetway. We place our gate claim bags down at the end of the jetway, and we board our ERJ. I promptly take my seat, and I place my elbow on the left armrest. I notice that there is a sticky residue on the armrest. SR 103 comments that this is a recently delivered ERJ due to the sticky armrests (covered with plastic prior to delivery??). The flight attendant pages a passenger to see the agent. We would be on the ground a tad bit longer, as the STL flight is already pushing back!! (They have a 10:45 am departure.) We push back as the passenger issue is resolved, and we taxi towards runway 27. We are taxiing behind a CO 733 and the STL ERJ flight. The CO 733 turns left on the taxiway and heads towards runway 15R/L for departure. The North Concourse at Terminal C is more active now, with the 764 still being readied, and this time, accompanied by a 777 next to it. We pass by the NRT-bound 777, which was being pushed back. We also taxi by the lone 762 on hardstand. Over in the distance is all those CO aircraft getting their routine fixings done. The STL flight roars down the runway on roll and flies into the overcast sky. We are next for departure, as the female captain advises us of the weather in MEM and holds short. After clearance, we roll by all the terminals at IAH and we take off into the clouds. We turn a quick 180 degrees to our right and we are sailing with the clouds. We level out at FL330 and the female captain removes the seat belt sign, declaring that this will be a smooth flight into MEM. After passing Texas, the clouds disappear and we get a good view of the Southern farmlands located far below. The FA quickly comes around with a rectangular palmetto basket with peanuts on the left side (a blue bag) and pretzels on the right side (a red bag). I take two bags of peanuts, which are plentiful in the bags, unlike some airlines that put only 6 peanuts per bag (no names mentioned.........). I consume them with a full can of 7-Up. A child in 9C is questioning her mother why our flight is not getting a movie and a hot meal. Her mother gives her a stern answer, and the child shuts up for the moment. To our left, we get a good view of the city of Shreveport, Louisiana, observing the downtown area, an air force base, and the regional airport. We follow the Mississippi River all the way to Memphis, where we begin a quick descent into MEM. We pass various barges and showboat casino resorts on the Mississippi, and shortly we are on downwind, making a by-pass of MEM. We turn on base leg approximately over Bunker Hill to turn for finals for runway 17R. In the far distance is a FedEx MD-11 lined up for arrival on 17L. We begin a race between the MD-11 on who will land first. We fly over Plough Blvd. and to our left, we see the FedEx area in full action. I have never seen so many FedEx 727's, A300's, and MD-10/MD-11's in such a congregated area. After passing that, we touch down first, followed promptly by MD-11 on its designated runway. To our left is the Northwest Airlink Area where the Saab 340's park. We also pass by the Delta gates (Concourse C I believe) and Concourse B. There are plenty of DC-9's awaiting their deployment to their destinations. There is a NW DC-10 parked at gate B-38, being readied for departure to LAX. We also pass by our TPA-bound NW 727 parked at gate B-21, surrounded by Gate Gourmet catering trucks at the cabin doors and the baggage carts loading the bags already. We pass by southerly most point of Concourse A, where there are various NW ARJ's being readied for their next departure. We have touched down late today, and as soon as we disembark, we will have to put on our running shoes to dash to gate B-21. We pull up to gate C-13.
We have to wait for gate claim bags, although it is a quick process. We zoom down Concourse A and follow the signs to Concourse B. After entering the main foyer, which breaks off into the "Y" at Concourse B, we dash to the end of the concourse to find our flight already boarding.
Northwest Airlines # 880 (Continental Codeshare #5880)
Seat 11F (SR 103's seat 10F)
Scheduled Departure: 1:05 pm
Actual Departure: 1:00 pm
Scheduled Arrival: 3:45 pm
Actual Arrival: 3:45 pm
Load Factor: 100% (mostly Memorial Day pax and several pax flying down for high school graduations in Tampa)
Photo © Evan McElravy
That has to be one of those few moments in life when your adrenaline kicks in and you can do things you never thought you can do, like zoom down a concourse at 100 miles an hour and actually make it to your connecting flight. Our row area is called after we arrive at the gate, and nobody wanted to get in line because the pax knew the first person to get to the counter will be the one to get randomly searched (with repetitions one does learn fast). Of course the agent encouraged people to hurry up and get in line, only to let the first three people get on board and the fourth one, an old lady, was hit with the random search. Me and SR 103 go to the counter during her search and we are onboard. We are greeted by the NW flight attendants (a good greeting I might add), and I am told to halt by the leading FA, as there is a line in the coach section, with pax putting their carry-on bags in the overhead bin. After the line dissipates, we go past the martini-sipping First Class pax. We enter the coach cabin and I place my overweight bag in the very spacious overhead bins. I take my seat, and SR 103 points out to my that my bag is currently being loaded on the forward starboard cargo door. I look outside, and sure enough, it is my bag. Well, at least my bag made it this time. I believe it is one of the last bags to make it onboard. After everyone is settled, the safety announcement is made by the leading FA, and acted out by the two FA's who will be serving the coach cabin today. Then, a very talkative captain comes on and chatters our route and his previous routing from MCO to MEM, and decides to give us a tour of "Southern Hospitality" (?????!!!!) After that is complete, we reverse-thrust our way out of gate B-21, and taxi to the 17R hold point. The CO ERJ that took us to MEM was taxiing its way back to IAH. We taxi behind a DC-9 all the way to the runway. We hold for a moment where the NW Saabs park, and we see the special "racecar checker flag" scheme on the Saabs. I also notice that the Saabs are named (Spirit of Kansas City, Spirit of Panama City, etc.) After the Douglas takes off, we turn to the runway and begin our roll. After a 28-second roll, we are airborne. (I believe that was the shortest roll I have experienced on a 727.) We take off over Horn Lake and we continue our climb to FL280. The service starts with the two FA's each grabbing their own drink carts and serving the pax. The first FA starts the initial pretzel and beverage service, while the second FA serves the second round of pretzels and drinks. I drank a Sprite (no full can given, but the 2nd FA was giving refills) and I gave the pretzels to SR 103 since I dislike them. I was feeling a bit starved, but I would reward myself with a meal when I arrived in Tampa. Once upon a time, this route did serve a light meal in both cabins. Man would it have come in handy now. After the pilot blabbered about the cities of Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama, I decided to give my trash to the FA and doze to sleep in this rather spacious 727. I think there is more legroom on the 727 than on the CO 757. I also notice that the cabin has a "widebody" look. I assume that is because of my vantage point from where I am sitting, plus after flying on such narrow aircraft today, it is a refreshing change. About 20 minutes before we arrive into Tampa, I wake up, watching the FA's hurry up with the cleaning. I can see out in the Gulf of Mexico, a giant cargo ship, probably on its way to the Port of Tampa. It isn't long before we approach land, observing Honeymoon Island, Clearwater Beach, St. Petersburg Beach, and a good portion of Pinellas County. We bypass the Clearwater Executive Airport and PIE. I can see the empty terminal and UPS DC-8's at PIE from a distance. We fly over the Courtney Campbell Causeway as we on downwind with TPA. The people on the left side of the plane get a good view of TPA, as I hear from their comments. We also fly over the Howard Franklin Bridge and the Gandy Bridge before turning on base leg. As I look back, I can see the slats being deployed. On base leg, I can see MacDill Air Force Base. As we turn on finals, the FA's are still rushing around the cabin, making sure everyone's seat belt is fastened and checking the overhead bins. Outside, I get a crystal clear view of Downtown Tampa and the Islands to the south, Westshore Plaza, Interstate 275, and International Plaza before touching down on runway 36L. We bounce twice very hard, and the overhead bin on the left side near the bulkhead opens from the impact. We pass by a vacant Airside F, once occupied with a whole bunch of USAirways and MetroJets pre 9-11, with now just a couple of Americans and USAirways Express Dash-8's parked at gates 80, 81, and 82. We also pass by the new Airside E. Construction is coming up nicely for that airside. We pass by a vacant Airside D, no airliners present at the moment, but a JetBlue A320 will show up shortly. As we turn towards Airside C, I can see that a Delta 757 landed behind us. This was the LAX flight that just landed. At Airside C is the usual DL 767 carrying "Southern Hospitality" people back to ATL. We taxi by the eyesore known as Airside B, and then we pull up to our airside, where there are various Southwest 737's readying for their next departures. We pull up to gate A-10 and disembark, with the main FA bidding everyone farewell.
We get on the train, and go down the escalators to the Red Area Baggage Claim, where I would find my slightly damaged bag coming through the conveyor belt..........(damn you CO again.......). My mother was in disbelief when she saw they bag, claiming that she put lots of money on it and that the airlines should take care of bags better (sorry, she doesn't know any better). And that about ends this trip, hope you like the longer-than expected trip report!!
- I highly recommend the Beech flights. The cockpit part was especially nice.(However, you may want to wear socks with sandals or your feet may become frostbitten.)
-I should have eaten something in MIA. Those "lunch snacks" are not filling, although I give credit to Bethune for realizing the importance of keeping such in-flight amenities. Consider eating something prior to a flight until the airlines reinstate larger portions and additional items to the "snacks."
-A suggestion for the "forgetful" FA is to write down a passenger's request, so it won't be forgotten.
-I also recommend the ERJ flights. Good window view without having to climb over so many people to use, say, a lavatory.
(On the longer ERJ flights, you may want to sit in the "B" column, as your foot may get in the way of the circular airframe in "A" and "C.")
-The waiting areas in the "banjos" should be expanded.
-CO should move their MEM operations to Terminal B. It could have saved my bag from the "high-speed baggage tug fly-off."
-Adding additional moving walkways at MEM would be nice.
-Not bad for my first NW experience, however, they could have offered a choice between peanuts & pretzels.