Anyway, after a great few days in Colorado Springs at the USAFA, I had to return home. I "re-checked" in at the Radisson Colorado Spring North, and after being told 2 days before that a shuttle bus would be no problem, they told me that the one I wanted to get on was full. My flight was scheduled for 7:55AM, and the hotel had a shuttle van leaving at 3,5 and 7AM. I wanted the 5AM, but that was full, so I opted for the 3AM. Anyway, I didn't even get back to my room until 1AM and then had to "re-awake" at 2AM, just so I made sure I would make the van. I was in the lobby at 2:45AM, and the van left just before 3AM, with 4 other people on board. Anyway, we arrived at COS around 3:30AM, and were obviously the first in the airport. There was no one in sight, and everything was empty. I just stretched along 3 seats and took a little nap. Unfortunately, at COS, the DL terminal is scheduled to open up at 5:30AM (where as the AA and it seemed like every other major carrier opened at 4:30AM), but by 5:00AM, a small crowd had already gathered around the ticket area, so I guess they opened a bit early at 5:10AM.
I guess COS doesn't have the "bag" scanners, because everyone in line had to see one of the many TSA agents for a baggage search. They were really professional about it, although had a hard time re-fitting my combat boots into the box.
Security at COS is also very strange. You have to show ID like 3 times before actually clearing security, and then are sent to a different line depending on what your departure flight is. Finally, by 5:45AM, I was in the terminal, and grabbed a bagel and gatorade at the only food shop inside the gate area. I proceeded to gate 2, where the 6:24 (what a weird time) flight to SLC was just about ready to board. The 7:00AM to ATL at gate 4 was preparing for boarding just after the Skywest CRJ to SLC pushed back from gate 2.
One interesting note: UA has a flight to DEN practically every 45 minutes to an hour at that time in the morning, using almost every type of aircraft, from prop to Airbus jet.
COS is an interesting airport, mainly because of it's elevation. I thought for sure that the flight was going to be delayed because it was pooring rain with what looked to be like some heavy windriven rain at 6:30AM. The ceiling was only at about 200 feet and the clouds would just move really quickly.
Anyway, by about 7:00AM, the rain had ceased and the wind died down, and 30 minutes after that it was sunny.
Anyway, by 6:45AM, our Skywest CRJ, in the old livery, was tugged into gate 2, and "attached" to the jetbridge. The guy fueling the airplane seemed to have a lot of trouble getting his line from the truck to the plane, as he kept tugging at the fuel line. He eventually got it in the fuel spot though... Anyway, here's the trip report:
Skywest Airlines Flight 3730
Scheduled Departure: 7:55AM
Actual Departure: 7:55AM
Scheduled Arrival: 10:43AM
Actual Arrival: 10:52AM
Photo © Joe Statz
By 7:30AM boarding had begun, onto our CRJ in the old Skywest livery. Upon entering the airplane, I must say I was impressed. The leather seats were something I would not have expected from a Regional carrier. There was also more leg room than I expected (although it still wasn't enough). The only negative was that the cabin must have been at 100 degrees, as within minutes everyone was sweating. Even the overhead "fans" were blowing hot air. Luckily, once we got the engines started, the aircraft cooled off considerably. We taxied out to the active, held short for about 10 minutes to let some storms clear out of our departure path, and then were airborn. The climb wasn't too bumpy, even though it was in and out of clouds the whole way, and cruise was really smooth. I fell asleep until about an hour out of DFW, and to my surprise, it appeared that East and Westbound aircraft were sharing the same jetway. We were probably around 30,000', and about every 2-4 minutes, another aircraft would fly right by us what appeared to be 1-2 thousand feet either above or below us. I've never been that close to "oncoming" aircraft before. Not only were the companies visible, but the aircraft type, and even the windows on some of the airplanes were. A variety of mainly 737's and A320's flew by, including NWA, Frontier, America West, US Airways.
About 30 minutes out of Dallas, a "wall" of clouds separated the sunny land from the cloudy land, and the captain came on to inform us that there were stong storms scheduled to be in the area, but that we should be able to get in before they arrived. Anyway, the descent was in the clouds the entire way, and I mean entire way. It was not too bumpy on the way down, but the clouds kept getting darker and darker. While still in the clouds, we extended the gear and extended flaps to full, and emerged from the clouds probably about 30 seconds before touchdown.
A quick taxi behind an AA 757 to gate E25, and we disembarked on via the stairs and "tarmac".
DFW is also an interesting airport as the terminal curves the whole way, and is not that bright inside. Most of the DL gates used the same "Check-in" area, and there were about entrances/exits to the main area. My next flight was scheduled for 1:00PM, so after a quick lunch, I headed over to E17 where the flight to ATL would begin.
Delta Flight 1066
757-200 "Soaring Spirit Olympic Paint Scheme"
Scheduled Departure: 1:00PM
Actual Pushback: 1:20PM
Actual Takeoff: 2:30 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 4:23PM
Actual Arrival: 4:58PM
Photo © Jeremy P. Irish
This was the worst part of the trip. Our 757-200, which by the way was in the Delta Soaring Spirit paint scheme, didn't even pull into the gate area until 12:15PM. Boarding started at 12:35PM, but because almost everyone on board brought a carry-on suitcase with them, took forever. It was so backed up that they started calling row by row, instead of rows by rows. By 1:05PM, about a 1/4 of us were still not yet on the plane. Because I was so close to the front, I was one of the last to board, only to find some guy in my seat. He had 28F, and backed things up even more because he had to get all his stuff and move back to 28. Finally, by about 1:15 we were ready for pushback, and by 1:25 we were right next to the runway.
Unfortunately, the capt came on and said we were #21 for takeoff, and because they were using 10 mile departure distance, it would be at least an hour. They cut the engines, and showed Delta Horizons, which was pretty boring. We were allowed to use our phones and electronical devices, as well as use the lavatories. At 2:30, we started the engines again, and taxied out onto the runway and were off to ATL. The climb was really quick, as we levelled off at "initial" altitudes probably of like 5,000' and 10,000' for about a minute, and the pitch seemed higher than normal. This was probably all because of the weather around Dallas. About 10 minutes later we were at 36,000'.
For some reason or another, the 2 hour and 23 minute flight turned into an hour and 30 minute flight, and we arrived in ATL on runway 9R only 30 minutes after our scheduled arrival. I still only had 30 minutes though to get from A04 to T02. Deplaining was done via the middle exit, and within minutes I was in the A concourse. Interesting to note that the A concourse housed most of the ATL-Florida flight, including MCO, FLL, most flights with 763 and even a 764.
Delta Flight 871
Scheduled Departure: 5:30PM
Delayed until 6:00PM
Actual Departure: 6:15PM
Scheduled Arrival: 7:53PM
Actual Arrival: 8:38PM
Photo © Joe Statz
Well after running from A04 to T02, I arrived only to find that there were still about 200 people around the T02 area. After looking at the gate board, I saw the flight was delayed until 6:00PM, later finding out because of heavy winds in NYC. (BTW- Not one of the Delta monitors had the flight delayed until 6:00PM). You always know when you're on a flight to NYC, just because of the people at the gate. It's always a nice thing..lol...
Anyway, boarding commenced at 5:45PM, and was pretty swift, for the 80% full flight, and by 6:05PM, we had the boarding door closed, but still had about 3 "tins" of cargo to load. We pushed shortly after they were loaded, and the taxi out to 9L was quick, but unfortunately, because of our late depature, we had to be "re-slotted" or something, and had to wait on the taxiway for 15 minutes. Finally, we spooled up to 9L and took off towards the Northeast. There were no clouds in sight, so the ride up was really smooth. The captain informed us that our routing was pretty much straight up to VA, then along the coast into NYC. The weather in NYC was overcast but really windy. LOC31 was in use, an approach which is rarely used, and used usually after strong storms and the such.
At about 8:00PM, we entered the clouds above NJ, and about 10 minutes later emerged just to the West of Sandy Hook. A couple of right turns took us just to the west of Coney Island and JFK, over Brooklyn and then Queens, at an altitude of about 4,500'. NYC at night is unlike any other city in that it is so populated and so lit up, even outside of the city. There were numerous helicopters below us, and I even saw some JFK traffic arriving 31L/R and departing 31L. We flew just to the east of LGA, and then began the series of right hand turns over the L.I. sound, and then over Nassau County. The aircraft in front of us (you can see it because the LOC approach basically does a loop back into LGA) was an AA MD80, and the aircraft behind us looked to be a Dash-8. Very cool approach into 31, as you go right over Flushing ,and the infamous "dock" where some of the best LGA pics are taken from (see below). Taxi back to the terminal was quick, and by 8:45 I was on my way back to the city.
Photo © Tom Turner
Overflew the dock into LGA.
In all, the return trip was alright, although only having one hour of sleep, and being cramped in every flight with some long delays were really what made the flights bad. DL service was the norm, just the cup of drink and trail mix, nothing that great (although Skywest had a pretty good Oatmeal cookie).