US Airways Express 4219 (operated by Mesa Airlines)
Seat 8F, Emergency Row
Scheduled Departure 5:25 PM
Scheduled Arrival 7:04 PM
Departure Gate: F29
Arrival Gate: 80 or 82 (forgot to notice)
-First modern Regional Jet flight
-First trip to YUL (first time in Quebec as well)
Photo © Michael Licko
I arrived home at 2:20 PM after a long day teaching first graders as part of my senior community study project, and hurriedly threw together a carry-on bag which I had neglected to pack previously. A car came to pick me and my mom up at 3:30 promptly, but we didn’t arrive at Terminal F until about 4:40 due to traffic. Check-in there was predictably deserted, and uneventful, and we found ourselves with boarding passes for US 4219 within moments. The line at security was a bit lengthy, but the delay was minor and inconsequential.
Our boarding passes had 4:40 listed for the boarding time, which seemed a bit early given that this was only a 50 seat CRJ and even on mainline jets 30 minutes is the time listed before boarding. Nevertheless, to err on the side of caution I went over to F29 and observed that there wasn’t even an aircraft in the gate. Now that we knew we weren’t rushed as much, I went to the Asian Chao in the terminal, and got my usual bourbon chicken and white rice to go (the Asian Chao in Term. B/C is much better IMO). I took it back to the gate where I met my mom to observe that there was still no aircraft there. My mom went to inquire the status of the flight, and as she returned, I saw an oddly painted CRJ, whose registration appeared to be N75987 (I only got a passing glance before the angle became too bad), turn into the jetway area and stop because there was no marshaller in the gate. Its paint job was an all-white fuselage with a solid blue tail, and no airline titles on it. My guess was that it had been subcontracted out to another airline using Mesa and was in the process of being repainted to US Airways Express colors. However, in doing some research after I got home, I learned that the aircraft was formerly of an Ansett Australia subsidiary (Kendall maybe?), and hadn’t been repainted into Mesa or US Express colors. The key factors in determining this were the winglets and tail, both of which hint at the AN livery.
I sat and watched as the aircraft remained just short of the jetway, and presently several US Airways employees came up to the window and tried to contact a ramper to get out there, and it took a good 5-10 minutes before they managed to find one and marshal the plane in. The jetway docked and the aircraft was unloaded. About 2 or 3 minutes after the aircraft was emptied, boarding was announced for our flight to Montreal and we were amongst the first on the plane.
As I stepped inside the cabin, I was surprised to discover that I could stand up straight in the aisle, as I imagined the cabin to be much smaller. However, the overheads were extremely small. We took our seats, 8D and F, and I found the seat to be surprisingly comfortable despite its flimsy appearance. Emergency row pitch was comfortable, but my only complaint comfortwise was with the windows. I had heard reports of the CRJ’s windows being extremely awkward to look through for tall people, and this was proven to be true- the top of the window was just about level with my chin.
Our flight attendant today reminded me a little bit of a young Harold Ramis, and he must have been fairly new on the job because he read all the usual preflight announcements from a script, plus his voice was stuttering and quivering like crazy. Pushback was pretty much on-time, with a nearly full aircraft. 3 or 4 empty seats remained, including a set of 2 in the last row.
We taxied out to 9L, and with no delay, made a 27 second takeoff roll for a wheels off time of 5:40 PM. Acceleration and climbout was impressive, but about 20 seconds after takeoff we climbed into a cloud layer, ending any view for the moment. Climbout was to FL 290, and as soon as the 10,000 foot/electronics announcement came on, I took out my computer and watched an episode of “Family Guy” on DVD. My mom got up and took that empty row in the back, so we both had a little bit more space. During the show our f/a came around and offered drinks and pretzels, but I declined. Once the episode was done, I opened my window shade to find a magnificent view of Lake Champlain spread before us. I was able to do a little bit of work on my computer before the prelanding announcements came and I had to turn it off. We descended lower and lower, and before I knew it, we flew directly over the heart of Montreal heading northeast before making two turns to the left, establishing us on finals for 24R at YUL. The aircraft pitched down sharply at that point, enough to the point of a feeling of discomfort, before leveling and flaring. Landing was at 6:40 PM, and we rolled out all the way to the end of the runway before turning off and commencing a moderate length taxi to either gate 80 or 82 in the brand new Transborder Concourse at YUL.
Once we parked, it took 8 minutes for us to get off the plane, which seemed like an eternity. I thought it would have been much faster. The walk from the gate to Immigration and Customs is quite a hike, but formalities were completed without difficulty. We went outside and grabbed a cab to take us to the Hotel Omni, where my dad, who was already in YUL for a business commitment, met us.
Sunday, May 18, 2003
US Airways Express 4219 operated by Mesa Airlines
Seat 8F, Emergency Row
Scheduled Departure 7:35 PM
Scheduled Arrival 9:25 PM
Departure Gate: 82
Arrival Gate: F36
-First Landing on PHL Runway 35
After a day filled with plenty of walking around Old Montreal, we (this time both my parents would be traveling with me) left our hotel via taxi at about 4:40 PM. The cab ride to Dorval was about 20 minutes and on the way I saw my first Westjet aircraft, a 737-800 on short finals at YUL. We were dropped off at the US Airways area of the transborder concourse and made our way inside to discover no one at the US Airways check-in counters.
My mom went over to AA and asked if anyone was around and if they could go get a US check-in agent, and a man came out moments later and checked us in. Oddly enough this flight had the same number as the outbound flight to YUL...something which I couldnt figure out...anyone have any ideas as to why??? He also handed us a US Customs form, which had a spiffy new design. The hike to and through US Immigration and Customs seemed nearly as long as the walk upon arrival, but we made it through smoothly and with no problems whatsoever.
Security wasn’t a problem either, and we entered the concourse and decided to grab a bite to eat at the sit down restaurant located just past security. Meanwhile, one of my dad’s coworkers, who had been in YUL for the same business commitment, along with his wife, joined us for a snack, as they were on an outbound flight about an hour before our own to the States. I was hungry, so I had 2 Caesar salads while my parents split two somewhat smallish pizzas, which helped to kill the time since we had far too much of it. While eating I let out a minor gasp as an NW DC-9-30 in the new livery taxied by, marking the first time I saw it in person…I have to say that I don’t like it on the DC-9 at all.
Once we finished eating, our friends scurried off to catch their flight, and we meandered our way down the long walk to Gate 82, where it was practically deserted. A US Express ERJ-145 was pushing back from Gate 80, and that was just about it for activity for quite some time. I took out my computer and started typing up the TR, while waiting for our inbound aircraft to arrive. Slowly but surely I saw a small army of ground crewman surround the gate, and at 6:45, CRJ-200 N75993, painted in normal US Express livery, taxied into view and parked at Gate 82. I looked around the gate area, and there was maybe 7 or 8 people there tops, so it seemed our flight home would be pretty light load-wise.
At about 7:00 the agent called for boarding, and my mom raced to be the first on-board…she is one of the most impatient people in the world and she just has to be first onboard for some reason. My dad was kind enough to stay behind and wait while I packed my stuff up. We went through the jetway and onboard the aircraft, each taking our own row since the aircraft was clearly empty for the most part. I took the emergency row again on the starboard side, 8D and F. As it turned out, there were only 11 passengers on the aircraft, and we were the only ones to spread out and get our own rows. We stayed at the gate until about 7:20 or so, and then pushed back and commenced taxi. Our f/a this time was clearly more experienced and completed her tasks without even a passing glance at a script, including making sure that I was ok to sit in the emergency row. Our taxi took us between two terminals and right past two AC A330-300’s and onto runway 6R.
After a 27 second roll, the aircraft lifted off at 7:37 PM from 6R and began a powerful climbout. It was a clear day in YUL, and we were treated to a phenomenal view of the city as we gained altitude. As soon as the 10,000 foot announcement came on, I took out the computer again and continued typing the outbound TR. Before long a drink service was offered, along with a bag of pretzels, band I decided to get a Coke, no ice, as usual. The cruise altitude for the trip was not announced, and before long I felt the nose tip over and the slight and brief weightlessness sensation signifying the top of the descent. I packed all my stuff away and glanced towards the galley for a moment. There, I noted that one of the visible cabinets on it had “Ansett Australia” on it, in the famous Ansett font, again leading me to figure that this aircraft formerly belonged to one of Ansett’s subsidiaries.
The captain came on and announced that we were 125 nautical miles north of Philadelphia, so I tried to get comfortable as I stared out the window at the earth and the gradually darkening sky. Within minutes I was able to identify East Stroudsburg Airport located 70 nm due north of PHL, and shortly after that I was able to pick out the cooling towers of the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant 26 nm to the northwest of PHL. Our descent path was going to take us in close proximity to my town, so I switched to seat 7A at that point to see if I could pick anything out but it was getting too dark unfortunately, and I was only able to pick out a local mall and Exit 25A of the PA Turnpike which is about 5 miles from where I live.
The aircraft continued on a south heading, passing west of Philadelphia proper and the airport slid off our left hand side as we continued our descent over the Delaware River into New Jersey. I was able to observe an airliner landing on 9R, and I now knew that we would be landing on Runway 35, the main commuter arrivals runway at PHL with a length of merely 5,450 ft. Our descent continued south into New Jersey, followed by a 90 degree turn to the left on a base leg, at which point the gear snapped down loudly and suddenly, scaring most of the passengers. About 4 miles south of the airport, the aircraft banked again on finals and pitched down in yet another steep final approach, sliding back over the Delaware River and over the numbers for runway 35, where touchdown occurred at 8:45 PM. The rollout took the entire length of the runway, and included some strong braking to get us stopped in time.
It was a brief taxi to gate F36 followed by yet another lengthy wait on the aircraft as the jetway and aircraft were prepared for arrival. Baggage service was fast, which wasn’t much of a surprise, and our bags were first off the belt, but with only 11 passengers (and most had gate checked their bags in YUL), the odds were pretty good. We found our driver for the trip home and set off back home, concluding a fun and enjoyable weekend in Canada.
Thanks for taking the time to read this report…as always questions and comments are more than welcome. My next report will come in August when I take ATA out to college PHL-MDW-DEN…it will be my first trip on ATA...after that...dont have anything special planned really..