I finally had good news on the job front – a third interview, which meant a last-minute trip up to Chicago to meet with my potential employers. Fares were ridiculously high when I checked them two days beforehand, so I ended up having to use Delta frequent flier miles for a DFW
I wasn’t too disappointed; it would be my first time on Delta in almost five years (a welcome change from the gloomy AA
flights I’ve gotten accustomed to) and my first-ever flight on a regional jet.
Saturday, July 12, 2003
Delta Connection Flight 4879
Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Departs DFW 3:05pm, arrives ORD 5:20pm
Canadair CRJ-200 Regional Jet, Seat 12D
Flying time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
I showed up at the relatively uncrowded Terminal E about an hour before departure, and breezed through check-in using the automated kiosk. Once through security, I wandered up and down the Delta concourse for awhile. Delta has renovated Terminal E quite extensively in the last few years, adding new carpet, wall treatments, seats and updated Delta logos. Best of all, it has crisp, clean, modern signage, similar to the signs in the Atlanta airport. The overall effect is a stark contrast to the three AA
terminals at DFW
, which I think are dark, gloomy and crowded.
Most Delta Connection flights use the ‘satellite’ terminal added in the late 1980s, so I made my way through the underground walkway to Gate 23. Most of the satellite gates have telescoping canvas jetties that enable them to handle several RJs at once.
A shot of a few Connection RJs at Gate 23, including the “Texas” theme aircraft:
Boarding started right on time and we filed down the stairs and out into the canvas jetty. It was nice to be out on the apron, surrounded by the sound of jet engines and only a stone’s throw from the active taxiway; an American 777 taxied by as we walked to our jet. Very cool.
I climbed into the cabin and had my first look at the interior of the CRJ. The all-leather seats are a nice touch; however, the low, curved ceiling is claustrophobic, particularly as you’re walking down the aisle. I found my seat at the back of the plane to be rather comfortable, although there wasn’t much armrest between me and my seatmate.
The doors closed promptly at 3pm and the sole male flight attendant conducted the safety briefing. The crew started the engines and we taxied out of the satellite area towards the east runway complex.
A Delta Connection Brasilia parked at the satellite terminal:
Heading north with the DL
maintenance facility across the runway:
It must have been a slow period at DFW
, because there was only one American MD80 ahead of us for takeoff (usually there are whole swarms of them at the runway thresholds.)
Turning onto Runway 17R:
As we began our takeoff roll I got a shot of the American Eagle satellite terminal north of Terminal A. At one point it handled all of Eagle’s regional jets, but those operations were moved to Terminal B earlier this year. It’s now used exclusively by SF340 turboprops:
Takeoff was quiet and very powerful. Although I was sitting right next to the engine, the noise was much less than in an MD80 or Fokker 100. What WAS noisy was the landing gear retraction – a very noticeable thump and whine very shortly after rotation.
Note the American 777 parked in the corner of the above photo. We climbed out over State Highway 183 and the CentrePort office complex, which was once the Greater Southwest International Airport. Today all that’s left is a very short strip of runway:
Our departure path took us south over Arlington, where we turned just after Six Flags Over Texas (visible in the photo below):
We then headed in a lazy circle back over downtown Dallas:
… and sprawling North Dallas, where construction on the new “High Five” freeway interchange was visible:
Over Plano. The massive EDS headquarters complex where my parents work is visible:
Finally we headed north above the new Stonebriar Centre mall in Frisco:
Five minutes after takeoff, we had reached the “frontier” of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, some forty miles north of downtown:
From there we hit our cruising altitude of 28,000 feet over Oklahoma. It was a beautiful day for flying – scattered clouds and only a little bit of the heat haze that usually plagues this part of the country in the summer.
The sole FA
on this flight was one of the most hardworking I’ve ever seen. He made three passes through the cabin offering drinks and snack mix to the passengers, and even made a fourth pass to ask if he could get anything else. He stopped to chat with some of the passengers and even let one of the kids on the plane pass out pretzels for a little while. His smile was genuine and he actually appeared to enjoy his job. If any American Airlines flight attendants are reading this, you could learn a lot from this guy!
Cruising over northern Oklahoma:
The captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard; however, the loudspeaker was very quiet and it was almost impossible to make out his words. Our flight path took us just east of Tulsa and up into Missouri. I’ve flown DFW
plenty of times and usually you pass right over St. Louis; today, however, we took a more westerly route over Columbia and Jefferson City.
Somewhere over Missouri:
We crossed the Mississippi River south of Hannibal/Quincy and flew northeast across the breadth of Illinois. Our descent began just beyond Peoria, which was clearly visible out my window (although it didn’t appear to be a terribly exciting place!)
Starting down into Chicago, passing Interstate 80 and the small town of Ottawa:
Chicago weather was similar to Dallas: scattered clouds and blue sky. It made for a gorgeous approach and landing. We flew a straight-in approach from the southwest to Runway 4R. First came the suburban frontier of Oswego and Aurora:
Then Interstate 355 and Downers Grove:
Spoilers deployed above Interstate 88:
The Yorktown Shopping Center in suburban Lombard:
Downtown Chicago visible over the wing as we head steadily northeast:
Suburban Elmhurst, with Elmhurst College at center:
Crossing Interstate 290 as flaps drop down into landing configuration – we’re only about three miles from ORD
at this point:
On short final alongside the Tri-State Tollway. At this point the camera stopped working, briefly:
We touched down smartly on 4R right on schedule. It felt odd landing so close to the ground – the CRJ really is a lowrider! We made a fast taxi back towards the gate, passing by various heavies parked at International Terminal 5:
British Airways 777:
Back along the T5
flight line, Turkish and Royal Jordanian A340s are visible:
Air France, Aer Lingus and bmi Airbuses:
We arrived at Gate L10, deplaning onto the apron then climbing airstairs into the jetway. Looking back on our CRJ:
To cap off a damn-near-perfect flight, my luggage was waiting for me at the carousel. A round of applause for Delta Connection!
The return trip wasn’t nearly as easy. I showed up at the airport and checked in at the Delta counter, where the agent told me my Delta Connection flight to DFW
would be delayed approximately 30 minutes due to equipment problems in Dallas. That was no problem – it allowed me time to take the train over to T5
and collect some timetables.
(Aside: why don’t more foreign airlines offer timetables at their United States ticket counters? At European airports, there are timetables everywhere. My trip to T5
only yielded schedules from Royal Jordanian, bmi and Swiss. Never mind that there were twenty other airlines in the terminal who print timetables!)
Back at Gate L10 about an hour later, there was still no sign of our CRJ. The gate agent called me up to the podium and said it was doubtful the flight would get out at all. Would I like to be moved onto an American Airlines flight?
In my head I thought, ‘no, not really.’ However, I didn’t want to take the chance of getting stuck at ORD
overnight, so I agreed to be transferred onto the AA
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
American Airlines Flight 2353
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) – Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
Departs ORD 7:30pm, arrives DFW 9:35pm
McDonnell-Douglas MD80, Seat 12A
Flying time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
A little disappointed that I wouldn’t get to return on the Delta flight, I walked over to the people-eater that is American’s Concourse H/K complex. It was predictably mobbed – the daily flights to Manchester, London, Brussels, Glasgow, Paris and Frankfurt were all preparing to board, along with the usual crush of domestic passengers.
I was subject to an additional security screening at the gate (since I was transferring from another airline, that’s the reason I was given). Boarding was about a half an hour late getting started, although the gate agents moved quickly and managed to get everybody on board in about fifteen minutes. Pretty remarkable if you ask me, especially considering some of the morons who pass as passengers these days.
Our MD80 was about 70 percent full and had the new interiors with More Room Throughout Coach. The cabin crew was the usual AA
lot – middle-aged women with tired smiles who looked exhausted after a full day’s work.
Pushback came about a half hour late (at 8:05pm) and we trundled along towards the threshold of 32 Left.
American MD80s resting in between flights:
Two 777s, taking on passengers for London and Paris, respectively:
The takeoff queue was only three deep, which is pretty rare for ORD
on a weekday evening:
As we turned onto the runway, the nightly Singapore Airlines Cargo 747 “Mega Ark” touched down on 27 Left and rolled right by us, bound for the cargo area:
About ten minutes after pushback we turned onto 32L and the engines were brought up to full power; only a few seconds later, though, they were throttled back and we rolled off the runway at the first turnoff. It seems the cabin door warning light was blinking and the crew (rightfully) wanted to return to the gate and give it a look-see.
Heading back to T3
, passing by a swarm of Eagle Embraers at Concourse G:
Looking out towards T5
as we swing around towards T3
. Note the pair of LOT 767s bound for Warsaw and Krakow – Chicago has an extremely large Polish population:
Our MD80 pulled into the ‘alley’ between Concourses H and K, where the crew checked the door and decided the light was just false alarm. After just a few minutes in the ‘alley’, we wheeled around and headed once more for 32L, where the takeoff queue had grown considerably longer.
Rolling past the United’s T1 while in the takeoff queue:
A last look at the ORD
Finally, some 45 minutes after boarding, we roared down 32L into the sunset:
We swung around to the southwest shortly after rotating to avoid noise-sensitive areas, which afforded me a nice aerial view of ORD
Climbing out above the western suburbs, with downtown faintly visible in the distance:
Once we hit our cruising altitude of 31,000 feet, the rest of the flight was fairly relaxing. The FAs began a drink-and-pretzel service as sunset turned to dusk, then to night. About 30 minutes after takeoff I spotted the lights of St. Louis out my window. Lambert Airport was clearly visible, where almost all the gates were occupied. Sad to think that AA
will be paring down their STL
hub so much in the coming months.
From St. Louis our route was much the same as it had been on the flight up, although all I could see were clusters of lights scattered across the rural landscape. It was pretty dark in the cabin; most passengers were dozing or reading quietly, making it feel much later than it was. I love the quiet atmosphere of night flights, especially if I’m on my way home.
After a short hour-and-a-half cruise the engines throttled back for descent. The FAs came over the loudspeaker with connecting gate information (they listed only one flight, a redeye to Seattle/Tacoma.) A few minutes later, a carpet of lights appeared below, and we swung west for the base leg of our final approach.
Being a Dallas native, I saw lots of brightly lit sights I recognized. The minor-league Frisco RoughRiders were playing a night game in their new stadium, and under the glare of the lights I could see the baseball diamond – even from several thousand feet up! We made a steep left turn over Lewisville to line up with 17R, then headed down over State Highways 121 and 114 to touch down at almost 10pm sharp.
In the late evenings, DFW
aircraft usually arrive AND depart on the inside runways, so we were able to turn off of 17R and taxi directly to the gate. I deplaned into a very deserted Terminal C, claimed my luggage, and hopped the bus over to Terminal E to find my car and head home.
The delay and airline switch notwithstanding, this was a very enjoyable trip. The Delta flight to ORD
was flawless – great service, on-time arrival and departure, and a hassle-free experience at both ends. The CRJ is a fun little aircraft, although I don’t think I’d want to fly it for more than a few hours.
The American flight was fairly routine, but I fly AA
so much that the novelty has worn off a bit. The crew on AA
always seem to look so frazzled and tired, and disinterested in their job. I hope things turn around there and they can have a better (and more optimistic) work environment. Until then, the shadow of bankruptcy and labor problems is really showing through in their service.