April 15th, 2004
Pan American Airways #871 (I think)
N364PA "Clipper Deschapelles" Formerly an Air Jamaica aircraft.
Photo © Jason Bisson
After spending the night at my uncle's house in northern Mass, we awoke at 6:00 to catch the 8:50AM flight. My uncle gave us a ride to MHT and dropped us off curbside, arriving at about 7:15. This was my first time using MHT and I was impressed from the moment we entered the terminal. Pan Am had a small desk with 2 agents, my dad and I joined the line for check in. Checking in in front of us was the 7:30 flight to MYR, obviously was a lot of people with golf bags waiting checking in for that flight. We waited about 20 minutes until we were checked in and that is when I noticed the first few odd things about Pan Am. First of all, rather than using the traditional key command check in systems used by most airlines, these agents seemed to be checking us in, with a mouse! A plus for the agents, I'm sure! But what was really weird was the boarding passes, they were long pieces of paper that resembled a receipt, and the whole thing was a sticker! Anywho, we quickly breezed through security and walked directly across the hall to Gate 9. Gate 9 is a US Airways gate, US provided all service for Pan Am at MHT. As we sat and waited, the trouble began.
At first, it was announced that there would be a slight delay of about 20 minutes as our aircraft had to fly a quick 15-minute flight from PSM (with passengers), this was a normal part of the route. I decided to take a walk around the terminal. MHT has recently expanded their facilities and has done a great job, the terminal is very modern and well appointed. I saw the normal FedEx DC-10 taxi by on it's way to MEM and I also saw a Transmeridian MD-80 sitting at another US gate. Another unusual sighting included WN's New Mexico 733. After returning to the gate, I noticed that not only was our flight delayed further, but the MYR flight was not gone (it was supposed to leave half an hour ago) because their crew was coming up from PSM on our plane. Then it was announced that the flight was delayed further, until at least 10:00 because Pan Am crews in PSM had OVERFUELED the aircraft and they had to offload fuel. Now, I'm not a rampie or anything, but how in hell could someone be ignorant enough to over-fuel and aircraft? What was even stupider was that the crew for the MYR flight could have been driven up from Portsmouth in about half an hour! Oh well I thought, I guess it was just one ignorant rampie in PSM. So here we all are waiting for our aircraft, when suddenly, US needs their gate back for an arriving A320, so we are moved to Gate 10 (then the DL gate) next door. This is when I did a very stupid thing, instead of following the other passengers, I got up and ran to the right thinking the new gate was another US gate, but then after my dad had met me (he was in the bathroom), he reminded me that Gate 10 was the OTHER way (stupid, stupid). We were one of the last people in line as "Clipper Deschapelles" had already pulled into the gate and people were anxiously waiting at the door to board. No problem I thought, as they are supposed to board the same was as WN (we were 75 and 76 out of 156 seats), but when boarding finally commenced it was complete chaos, the gate agents (who worked for Pan Am not US) made NO effort at all to organize the boarding, they just opened the door and let everyone run in like a bunch of animals! As a result, we were the last people on board, but luckily we found 2 seats together in the exit row. FINALLY we were off! An hour and half late (not bad if not for the screwed up boarding, plus the MYR flight was 3 hours late)
We made a quick push back and taxied to the main runway as the safety demonstration was done. Take off was surprisingly quick and quiet, those hushkits really work! I looked around the old bird's cabin and the seat fabric and overhead paneling was moderately worn, but overall she was in good shape for her age. The width of the seats was normal but the legroom was generous (as the 722 can seat up to 180 in one class). Beverage service consisted of a limited selection and a choice of a single granola bar or a box of Wheat Thins. I grabbed some Wheat Thins and drank an apple juice (they didn't have my usual cran-apple), the FAs were friendly though and smiled most of the time. I sat back and enjoyed the view out the window, I thought about how cool those winglets look on such a beautiful classic airliner. The rest of the flight was uneventful, we were skimming the coastline the whole way down until we started our decent over Daytona Beach. We made a quick decent and smooth touch down in SFB. The captain then took the chance to apologize for the delay back in New Hampshire and we parked at Gate 10 (the same gate number as the gate we used in MHT) in Terminal B.
SFB was a nice little airport, there was 11 gates in the domestic terminal which was shared by Pan Am, Southeast, and a bunch of charter carriers. The international terminal seemed empty. Our luggage took a half-hour to come out. We then got our rental car from Avis and headed to Lake Buena Vista.
April 19th, 2004
Pan American Airways #8
N364PA "Clipper Deschapelles" (Again)
Unfortunately, we only got 2 goods days out of our trip due to the fact that my dad got extremely sick and couldn't leave the hotel room. Oh well, that's life I guess. I called Pan Am the morning of our flight to check if it was on time and the agent said "so far so good". With my dad still feeling moderately ill, we made our way up the Route 417, which has the most toll booths I have ever seen in my life, to SFB. When we arrived at the non-existent check-in line, our mouths dropped when we saw our flight was delayed from 11:30AM until 3:00! For no reason! When we arrived at Gate 11, I saw my old friend Clipper Deschapelles sitting there ready to fly. It seems that there was no crew available for our aircraft. Were we just unlucky? Oh no! After taking a look at the Departures monitor, it seemed that EVERY SINGLE Pan Am flight that day (there was 5 or 6 of them) was delayed significantly! Every other flight on every other airline (including all the charters) was on time! I quickly found out that while SFB is aesthetically pleasing, it is very boring. The only things in the terminal were a tiny gift shop and a fast food place and 90% of the operations out on the field were all GA aircraft. I watched multiple Southeast DC-9s, a Falcon Air 727, a Miami Air 738 (with a British reg), and a JetsGo MD-80 all arrive and leave, there was also a MyTravel A330 sitting at the International Terminal. I also found out how much of a half-assed airline Pan Am is, they did not move the luggage in luggage carts, they loaded it into old Chevy step Vans (the type you see when utility companies are working in manholes) and drove it in that to the aircraft, they did the same thing to cater the aircraft. And get this, they did not use push-tractors to push the aircraft back, they had the cab of the really old Ford tractor trailer truck and they would hook the tow bar to it and back the truck up, that's how they pushed back! As in MHT, the gate staff had NO IDEA what was going on and was completely incompetent. FINALLY our crew arrived from the Dominican Republic and we waited as they went through customs. By this time, the passengers were getting very restless and when a uniformed Pan Am pilot arrived at our gate and sat down, a few people ran up to the poor pilot demanding to know why we weren't gone (it was now past 3:00) the older pilot explained that he was just non-revving back to MHT and he wanted to get home just as bad as everyone else, the poor guy looked like he had a long day. Finally our crew arrived and we boarded at 4:00 (an hour later than we were delayed and thankfully in order this time) and we were quickly off. The takeoff once again was smooth and quiet, and I was lucky enough to board early so I had a good window seat. As the FAs passed out pretzels and a beverage (I had Sprite) I overheard them complaining that they were pushing the limit on how long they were legally allowed to work by the FAA! This tells me that Pan Am must be badly understaffed. Once again, the flight was uneventful and smooth. We touched down on MHT's crosswind runway and taxied across the bridge over the road to Gate 9. We received our luggage quickly this time (as US was handling it, not Pan Am). My uncle was waiting for us at the curb, and we quickly went home.
Well that's it. I was dissatisfied with Pan Am to say the least, they seem like a Tower Air with 727s. The in-flight service is fine, but the management and the ground crews are horrendous, if they want to live, they better do some re-organizing! But all the aggravation was worth it to fly on a 727 for probably the last time!