Day 1: DRO-DEN
It all started early one Thursday morning, I was set to fly United Express (Mesa Airlines) from Durango to Denver. Funnies thing, the only class I had that day, Personal Finance, was cancelled for the day and all we had to do was read a chapter out of the book. Being the good student that I am, I packed the book in my carry on. When I was all set, I left for the airport at around 3pm for a 5:50 departure. Kinda early and I kinda regretted it. Kinda.
Operator: United Express (Mesa Airlines)
Aircraft Type: De Havilland Canada DHC-8-202Q Dash-8 N436YV
Flight number: 7039
Scheduled Departure 5:50pm MDT
Actual Departure 6:40pm MDT
Photo © Ryan Richter
I arrive at the airport at around 3pm. Turns out there is a flight ahead of mine, and there is a long line awaiting check in. Go figure, this airport is small and out in the middle of nowhere, but it still manages to put passengers on planes. To check in a bag at DRO, one must present the bag to the check-in agent, then they put the tag on it, and you take your bag over to a small corral where you hand your bag to a TSA agent, they put it on a shelf, open the bag, swab a cloth on the contents of the bag, and put it in an explosive detection machine, all in plain view of the person who's bag is being screened. Once you hand your bag off to TSA, they give it to the ground handlers who take it to the plane, and you walk back over to the check-in counters to pick up your boarding pass. Once I picked up my pass, I walked over to the restaurant inside the airport, got a Coke, and sat down to drink and let some time pass before I cleared security.
Those who know me know that I dress with alot of "metal," that is, chains, belts, spikes, and the like. Now, I took off everything that I thought would beep in the metal detector. Turns out, I didn't take off enough. I got the extra-special "you might be a terrorist" security screening. Full pat-down of pretty much every orifice of my body. Like I always say, this is one of those times where you just close your eyes and remember that it's "For the common good." Riiiiiiiiiight
I cleared security before the 4:20 departure had boarded, and I basically just sat in the terminal. While sitting in the terminal I decided to read a little bit out of the Personal Finance book. Here is a sample of what I read:
Insurance is protection against possible financial loss
You can avoid the risk of an automobile accident by not driving to work
Liability is legal responsibility for the financial cost of another person's losses or injuries
Each day, you face the risk of financial loss due to injuries to others or damage to property for which you are responsible
It's really sad that the above quotes are considered college level material. Only in America!
Finally after a long wait, our flight was set to board. Boarding was uneventful and I got sat down and packed in, got my Digital Rebel out of it's case and was hoping to get some reasonably good late-evening pics, but alas, too cloudy and dark. The flight took off to the southwest on runway 20, and circled north into the cold rainy night.
Light to Moderate turbulence most of the way out until we crossed the continental divide, drink service provided, so I got a Pepsi.
Flight lasted only about 45 minutes thanks to a 75 kt tailwind, and we broke out over the southwest side of Denver, passing over Chatfield reservior then north of Centennial Airport on approach to 16R. This was hands-down the best approach I have ever flown (and I've flown the river visual LGA up the East into runway 4). The aircraft flew past Downtown Denver, completely lit up and sparkling. I never realized the city was so big until I could see it completely lit up under me. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Sorry for lack of pic, it didn't come out.
We touched down on 16R and took most of the runway to roll out. After we arrived at the gate, I asked the flight attendant if I could take some pics inside the cockpit. At first she told me that she couldn't for security reasons, but then she turned around and asked the pilots, who obliged. Apparantly they are visitors to this site. The result was this:
Photo © Eric Daniel Smith
After I deplaned, went out to Baggage claim and met Jason Thacher (Nosedive) and Nabil Sadi (BA). After I picked up my bag, we drove down to the 16th street mall downtown, had pizza and walked the mall, then they drove me home. I saw my parents and sister for the first time in a couple months, and my parents definetly had something to say about my black hair, but they really didn't mind. After I unpacked, I went down to watch Sealab 2021, then went to sleep. Thus ends day 1.
Day 2: APA MEET 10/30/04
Part I: Daytime
Me, Kyle Matson (F9Widebody), and Jason Thacher (Nosedive) met up at Denver- Centennial Airport for a day of spotting. We gave the Douglas County Sherrifs Department their first experience with aviation photographers, but the cop was nice about it and let us carry on. Here is the conversation:
Cop: Uhhhhhhhhhhh You guys havin any problems?
Kyle: No, we're just taking pictures of the airplanes.
Cop: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmm O...K...., Well.... I just saw you parked on the side of the roooooaaaaaaaaddddd.
Kyle: Nope we're fine, thanks
Cop: Soooooo.... You take pictures of Airplanes, what for?
Kyle and Me: Recreation, it's just a hobby of ours
Cop: O....K..... Welllllllllll Just as long as you are on the side of the road............Are you sure you are OK?
Me: Yeah we're fine, thanks
Cop: OK.... Well carry on then.
I wonder if I should have told the cop that my sister is also a sherrifs deputy on the force?
We continued our day of spotting, and decided to drive over to Signature Flight Support to ask for ramp clearance. They told us that a Pilot would be coming back in, to ask him later that day. So we left and drove down to the JetCenter, while Jason left to go pick up an AE1 body from Camera Trader. Me and Kyle mulled around the Jetcenter area for a little bit, taking pics through the fence at aircraft parked and in taxi, but none of them landed on a.net. Eventually we drove back over to the Signature FBO and met with the pilot, who graciously allowed us onto the ramp to photograph his aircraft.
Here is a picture of Kyle:
And here is the photo he took:
Photo © Kyle Matson
After getting on the ramp at signature flight support, we went to meet my parents at the Chick-Fil-A that my sister works at. We had lunch, I went to get gas, then we drove back out to the airport. After driving back to the airport, we again tried to get on the ramp at the JetCenter, but instead we decided to pay a visit to the Perfect Landing restaurant that overlooks the ramp area and main runways. Not only was the food good, the view was excellent. Not only was the ramp area very active, but our waitress was Georgeous
Kyle took this pic:
Photo © Kyle Matson
Jason pretending he knows how to use a camera
Kyle deciding whether or not one of his shots is plug-worthy
Kyle plugging said shot
Jason spilling his drink
After eating some nachos at Perfect Landing, we went back to Signature where Kyle was parked, and Kyle parted ways. At this point, me and Jason drove out to the parking lot on the southwest side of the field.
After spotting there for awhile, I drove Jason back to his car, and we parted ways for the afternoon and evening. I had plans with my family, we went to see Friday Night Lights. Very good movie, and kinda personal because my dad grew up in West Texas and basically lived that life as a kid. Gave me a new respect. But I digress.
Kyle using my lens on his brand new Digital Rebel
Me using Kyle's brand-new 70-200 f/4L.
Kyle checking his settings getting ready for the day.
Jason doing what he does best.
Part II: Nightshot Magic
After the movie, I called up Greg (USAFhummer) and Jason to make sure the plan was still on. Our goal was simple: Get on to as many FBO's as we could that night to take some really kickass nightshots. Judging by the pics taken, I think it was a success.
We met up at the JetCenter parking lot, where I took this shot through the fence at TAC Air:
Photo © Eric Daniel Smith
After Me, Jason, Greg, Chris (FlyF15), and Kyle met up, we drove back over to signature to see if we could get on over there. Success, they let us on the ramp.
Photo © Eric Daniel Smith
Photo © Eric Daniel Smith
Photo © Eric Daniel Smith
During this time, Jason's AE1 went down when the shutter froze, he tried to warm it up in the Airlock but to no avail, so he was done for the night. Kyle's camera also went down due to cold (we think), but his problem was much worse and had to have his camera shipped to New Jersey to be fixed. My camera was the only one that functioned throughout the night, it seems . It was a great time had by all, however, and I hope to see the shots that Kyle and Jason produced soon.
Left to Right: Jason, Greg, Chris
Kyle wondering what the heck is wrong with the camera, and uttering the ultimate curse: "I think I'm gettin a D70."
Jason kickin it old-school, shooting night with his old AE1 fully manual. I hope it turns out good whenever he gets around to developing the film...
So ends the APA meet.
Day 3: DEN-DRO
And so ends my first weekend home in 2 months of being a college student. My parents drove me to the airport, we hugged, and I went to check in. This was the first time I have used the self check-in Kiosks, I don't fly much. I got checked in, and went over to the A concourse. I called our resident Russian and tried to meet up with him, but he was kinda busy. He did, however, tell me which gate he was on.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you Mr. Alex Kroychik... Driving a Baggage Cart.
Because of time constraints and work, I was not able to meet up with Alex. Instead I had a coke at the McDonalds and watched the boarding of the Lufthansa flight back to Frankfurt, then went on out to my gate at Concourse B.
Operator: United Express (Skywest)
Aircraft Type: EMB-120 Brasilia N566SW
Flight number: 6280
Scheduled Departure 6:50pm MST
Actual Departure 6:50pm MST
This is the aircraft:
Photo © Mario Aurich
Not really any recent pictures of the aircraft, but it was in this livery:
Photo © Manas Barooah
This was quite possibly one of the most interesting experiences I've had while flying. It was snowing, and many people on the aircraft were very nervous. One lady on the phone in the seat in front of me said (and I quote): "I'm not sure if we're gonna make it, we're in a small airplane and we're flying over the mountains in a snowstorm. I don't think we'll make it but i'll call you if we get there." I almost burst out laughing. Really this was one of the times I wanted to use some good old-fashioned Ron White material on her.
"Hey, calm down. This plane is safe. If we were to lose part of the wing, this plane will still take us a long way."
"Oh about to the scene of the Crash!"
Ok, I didn't actually say it, but I really had to hold back. As we taxied into position and hold on 25, the storm had moved in, it was snowing. We sat on the runway for what seemed like forever but was really no more than a minute, then the pilots revved up the throttles and we were off. The runway was good and wet, and I guess we hydroplaned a little bit because you could really feel the rudder input the pilots were putting in. When we got to speed, we rotated very quickly off the runway and climed very quickly into the snowy Halloween night.
The first several minutes of the flight were surprisingly smoothe, even though we were flying through a snowstorm, there were no bumps at all. Once we got up a little bit, however, the plane started bouncing back and forth all over the place. I could see many people around me getting very nervous, but I remained calm. During the bounceing, the lady in the seat next to me asked me if I flew on these aircraft often, to which I replied "Not Really." It was actually my first time on a Brasilia. I must say it was quite fun.
Once we passed over the Continental divide, things smoothed out, the sky became beautifully clear, with an almost full moon out lighting things up. I kind of dozed off a little bit, that prop vibration and constant noise kinda lulls you to sleep. About halfway through the flight, drinks were served, and I had another pepsi. F/A wasn't quite as hot as on the Dash 8 flight, but she was still very pretty.
We made an uneventful landing on runway 20 in Durango, and taxied to the gate. After the prop blades came to a stop, the ground staff gave us the all-clear and we de-planed onto the tarmac and into the terminal. I picked up my bag, walked to my chevy, and drove back to my dorm. It was a weekend I won't soon forget.