Thursday, November 4, 2004 MCO-IAD
I left from my internship in Sanford at 4:30 p.m. and drove on the Central Florida Greeneway and the Beeline to MCO. It was a rather warm afternoon in the Central Florida area, and I was hoping for a cooler weekend in D.C., my destination. After driving without traffic issues, I arrived at MCO and promptly parked at the “Blue” Satellite lot. The shuttle bus quickly arrived, and I joined a group of pax whom the majorities were flying on WN. I got off at the DH stop, which included FL and TZ. I proceeded to the DH counter, which is right next to FL’s counter. I was surprised to find out DH is located in Terminal A, since the carriers that use Airside 3 use the Terminal B facilities. Since there was no line, I immediately went to the agents, whom were being trained by a supervisor. After the check-in process, I was given a boarding pass with a baggage claim sticker behind the boarding pass. I then visited Zyng’s Noodlery in the food court and purchased Pad Thai to take on board the flight, since it appeared I didn’t have much time to eat (I don’t like to be rushed). After a fifteen-minute wait at security, some associates (including 744BFA, a.net/MyAviation photographer) who I will be joining to D.C. at the tram area greeted me. After conferring with them the flight information, I discovered that the agent swapped my original flight (DH 2106) with DH 2156. Realizing that I only had 15 minutes before the flight left, I told the group I will meet them in D.C. and I hopped on the next tram. After heading over to DH’s gate area (former US gates 41 and 43), I discovered that DH 2156 had been delayed to 7:00 p.m. Since no flight was going anywhere, I decided to sit down and wait until the group I am traveling with arrived, in the meantime observing a lone DH CRJ parked in between the 41 and 41 jetways. Some of the pax in the gate area had a look of tiredness, which had me concerned since the podium board showed that a flight to CHS was also delayed. Interestingly, DH 2106 was not on the board, which will concern the associates whom are supposed to be on the flight. When they arrive, they inquire about the situation at the podium, and the agents stated that the flight will be leaving later than 2156. The agents made an announcement about the status of 2106, and there were moans that permeated through the gate area. The agents also stated that they would be reissuing boarding passes to pax that are on both DH 2106 and 2156. Given the great tumult, some of the pax became confused and approached the podium, but the agents asked the pax not to approach the podium, as they will reissue boarding passes during boarding. Eventually, a series of two CRJ’s showed up simultaneously, one parking at gate 43 ramp and the other pulling up to the gate 41 jetway. The pax had a look of anger on their face, as they believed they will be flying on an Airbus equipment heavily advertised by DH. The pax on the 1st CRJ that pulled up deplaned via airstairs, and were waiting for the gate claim bags to arrive before proceeding to the gate 43 jetway. One female in the gate area was furious over the fact that the flight to IAD will be boarding via stairs and not via jetway. The agent finally spoke over the PA and asked all pax going to D.C. nonstop to proceed to gate 43.
Independence Air Flt# 2156/2106 (Combined Flights???????)
Bombardier CRJ-200 (Originally scheduled as an A319)
Departure Gate 43 (Originally 41)
Scheduled Departure: 6:50 pm (Flt. 2106)
Pushback: 7:45 pm
Takeoff: 7:50 pm
Scheduled Arrival: 8:53 pm
Touchdown: 9:30 pm
Gate Area: 9:37 pm
Arrival Gate A2C
Load Factor: 100%
Photo © Justin Idle
Photo © Justin Idle
Not having a clear understanding of what is going on, I asked one of the agents if this was DH 2156 boarding. She stated it was, and I proceeded to wait in line. I told my associates that they would need to go to the podium, but they decided to wait in the boarding line since they saw some people from DH 2106 boarding as well. Thinking that I would get a new boarding pass, the agent just took my ticket and ripped the coupon portion and bid me farewell. Still in a confused state, I went down the jetway and met another DH agent at the stairwell, and also asked her if I am boarding DH 2156. She stated yes, and I proceeded to follow the crowd that was boarding one of the CRJs. Inside the aircraft, the sole flight attendant and the first officer greeted me. I immediately went to my assigned seat to realize that a lady was already sitting there. She showed me her boarding pass, which was listed as “DH 2106”. I noticed that this was happening to other passengers. I patiently waited in the aisle while other pax were taking their seats until the FA came over to me and asked me to take my seat. I told her that a lady was sitting where I was supposed to be sitting, but then she told me to take whatever seat was open. I decided to sit next to one of my associates, the only open seat left, and relax a little after the confusing start.
GROUND, TAXI, AND TAKEOFF:
After the doors closed, the FA came on the PA and apologized for the delay and confusion multiple times. She stated that the delays were due to the rain occurring in the northeast region. After the briefing, the captain came on the PA and stated that we would have a quick flight of approx. 1 hour 30 minutes. He also gave the rundown of the weather at IAD, a cool evening after a day of rain. Shortly, the FA played the safety announcement, which featured political commentators James Carville and Mary Matalin. We started push back, and noticed another DH CRJ waiting on the tarmac for the parking to free up. The CRJ swifty drove down taxiway Charlie, and I observed a CO 757 standing idle on taxiway Bravo. The captain announced to the sole FA that we were about to takeoff and asked her to take her seat. We slowly taxied into position and accelerated for an approximately 30-second take-off roll. We continued a straight southerly direction for five minutes until finally turning left for the northern route. We get a good view of MCO at nighttime, along with the city lights gleaming. There are fireworks going off at one of the theme parks in the distance. I am unsure if it is Universal or Disney World, but I think it is Universal since it was closer to downtown. One can easily point out the Orlando Executive Airport and the Suntrust quadra-pyramid skyscraper in downtown Orlando. Shortly, the city lights would fade as the flight went over the darkness of the rural regions.
Immediately after takeoff, the FA was in the galley preparing various items for the service. When she was ready, she came around the cabin and took drink orders. I took out my wallet since I wanted to order Chardonnay (nothing to go better w/ Pad Thai). When she came to my row, I was about to hand her money but then she turned to another pax and took drink orders from them. Fly744BFA said that the drinks were on the house, but I did not catch the announcement. When I inquired the payment w/ the FA, she vehemently said, “I will get YOU – your Chardonnay.” She never answered my question, but she came w/ the Chardonnay and the cup w/ ice and placed it on the tray table. After the drink was served I began to eat the lukewarm Pad Thai I purchased earlier at the MCO food court. After all of the drinks were served, the FA came around with a snack basket which contained a choice of Stouffers (sp?) Deluxe Cookie Assortment, Sun Chips, “Snyder of Hanover” square pretzels, and Quaker Oats Strawberry Cereal Bar. She let the pax choose from the basket what light snack the pax wanted. After the service, the FA collected the trash and took more drink orders. Various pax were also inquiring to the FA about the Airbus 319, and the FA stated in a brief conversation w/ a pax that the Airbus 319s were delayed for “certification purposes.” Prior to arrival, the FA distributed hot towels to the pax and mints w/ “Independence Air” labeling. Within North Carolina/Virginia was a massive cloud layer, possibly from the cold front, which spawned the rainy day for the D.C. metro area. A descent was in the works as the pressure from the ears was kicking in.
APPROACH, LANDING, AND TAXI TO GATE:
The captain announced that we would be on the ground in 15 minutes. It seemed that we had a quick descent into IAD, given the nose-down attitude from the aircraft that was quite obvious when compared to the cloudbank horizon. The FA handled the final trash collection before the chimes alerted the sole FA to take her seat in front of the cockpit door, facing the pax. There was moderate turbulence in the aircraft as we were in the cloudbank. Soon, spots of the cloudbank opened and one could see the sparse lighting coming from the rural communities. The nose-down attitude was also obvious when compared to the horizon. We finally broke out of the clouds and flew over Highway 50. We crossed the Loudoun county line and the nose briefly lifted to touch down w/ a nose-up attitude on Runway 1L. There was a plane rolling on takeoff from runway 30 as we were gliding in. The plane reverse-thrusted off a high-speed taxiway near the Dulles Cargo Ramp. There were various FedEx A310s parked, along w/ a DHL 727. In the lower visibility, I was able to spot out an AF 772 at gate, UA 772 holding on a taxiway near the northern end of Concourse C, BA 772 at gate in Concourse D, DL M80 & CRJ at gate in Concourse B. There was also a DH A319 parked at Concourse B. There was also a myriad of mobile lounge busses moving everywhere. Eventually the CRJ made its way towards the southeastern end of Concourse A amongst the DH CRJ hub. We parked at the gate and deplaned.
We waited a moment in the cool, refreshing evening weather while 744BFA’s bag was delivered by the valet service. Afterwards, we made our way down a covered walkway, then down a corridor, which took everyone to the waiting lobby for Gate A2. The waiting area for DH is definitely a unique site to look at. There were many new LCD monitor displays, in addition to new carpeting and seats. We made our way to the mobile lounge dock for Concourse A, and there was one that was ready to depart in 2 minutes. With a full load of passengers, the driver shut the doors and walked to his driving station. We rumbled down the tarmac, and observed an NW A320, DC9, and CRJ parked to the left of the dock. Fast approaching was the behemoth structure that was designed by the same architect who designed Terminal 5 at JFK. The brief ride ended as the lounge drove up and embankment towards the Concourse A docking area in the main terminal. We got off, walked to the left where the baggage signs stated, and went down a “construction maze” ramp to the baggage area. One would note after disembarking from the mobile lounge is the heavy construction associated w/ the project to install an underground tram system. After walking over to Baggage Claim 7, where SR 103 (he took an earlier NW flight) was waiting, I promptly picked up my bag, as it was already circulating on the carousel, and proceeded out to the bus ramp to take the hotel shuttle.
Sunday, November 7, 2004 IAD-MCO
After the brief stay and the history lesson of walking around D.C., it was time to head back to “sunny” Orlando. The shuttle van dropped our group off at the bus curbside area; we headed up the “1960’s-style” ramp up to the baggage area, where we then proceeded up the escalator to the ticketing lobby. We proceeded to a DH e-ticket kiosk positioned perpendicular to the DH ticket counters. After I dropped off my checked bag with one of the attendants, I proceeded to the security checkpoint, which had a short line. I waited briefly as I heard the security message played over the PA over and over again. It sounded like one of those announcements played at a theme park while waiting to get on a ride. After the routine at the checkpoint, we proceeded to the visit the modular concourses known as Concourses C and D, since we had some time to until boarding. After the brief mobile lounge ride, which took us under the bridge of Concourse A (myriad of DH CRJs to the right, NW DC9 and CRJ to the left, DL M80 and CRJ on the other side), we docked at a very sparse Concourse C (several Teds, one UA 757, one UA 767). After finishing the walk-a-thon to Concourse D (AA 738 pushback to DFW, BA 777 pushback to LHR), we decided to head back to Concourse B, but a mobile lounge attendant advised us that there is no link between Concourse C/D to Concourse A/B. We would have to go to the main terminal, and transfer to Concourse B boarding dock, located at the mobile lounge waiting area for hardstand flights. After the lounge docked, we headed towards the NW gate where SR 103 was on a flight headed back to MCO. By the time we got there, he was already on the plane. We continued on to the skybridge, where several picture opportunities were taken (insert pictures here). We continued to the EuroCafe in Concourse A, where I purchased a cinnamon-twist pastry to take onboard the flight. The DH employees are very organized and the ground chaos that everyone talks about in Concourse A seemed nonexistent. I waited in the redesigned waiting area, where eventually the first of the two Orlando flights started boarding. One of the associates boarded the first flight, and we would board the second flight five minutes later.
Independence Air Flt# 2160
Bombardier CRJ-200 (Originally scheduled as an A319)
Departure Gate A1F
Scheduled Departure: 9:50 am
Pushback: 9:50 am
Takeoff: 9:57 am
Scheduled Arrival: 12:04 pm
Touchdown: 11:50 am
Gate Area: 11:54 am
Arrival Gate 41
Load Factor: 30 out of 50 pax (60%)
Photo © Stephen Dobbins
Photo © Daniel Wojdylo
After the agent scanned the boarding pass, I proceeded with Fly744BFA to the aircraft, where a jovial FA and the First Officer was at the door greeting the pax. With all of the passengers on board, the doors closed and the FA welcomed the pax and asked if they were ready to go to “sunny” Orlando. The pax simultaneously mumbled something and then the FA went to play the safety briefing, once again featuring Carville and Matalin. During pushback, there was a child with his mother sitting behind me who waved to the wingwalker. The wingwalker waved back at him (This is the first time I’ve seen a ramp worker make contact w/ a passenger onboard the aircraft).
GROUND, TAXI, AND TAKEOFF:
We headed down the taxiway, in between Concourses A/B and the Main Terminal. There was a concourse attached to the Main Terminal under construction, with ground jetways (most likely for regional jets, but for UA or DH?). There wasn’t much activity in the concourse areas, except the DH concourse. Concourse G also didn’t have much traffic, most likely due to a UA bank that left. We quickly taxied to Runway 30, where a company CRJ was on a takeoff roll. When we got to the runway, the aircraft performed an immediate rolling takeoff. We took an immediate left turn, which is quite noticeable looking from the left side of the aircraft, observing the roofs of the suburban communities that surround Dulles. The flight eventually headed south, with the various views of rural communities within the viewing frame.
With the flight more stabilized, the FA started the drink service by asking the pax what they wanted and wrote it on a sheet. I asked for orange juice to complement my first meal of the day. The jovial FA gave me an Ocean Spray Orange Juice in a container that looks comparable to those Egg-beater containers that have a serving of two whole eggs (open the aluminum flap). After the beverage service, the FA came around with the light snack selections, which were the same items as the previous flight. I grabbed a strawberry Quaker Oats cereal bar and ate it, in addition to the cinnamon-twist pastry I purchased at the concourse. After a moment, the FA came around with more refills, and I asked for more orange juice. During the course of this flight, I would be able to spot the cities of Richmond, Charlotte (and Douglas International Airport near downtown), Columbia (SC), Savannah, and Jacksonville. The cloudless atmosphere allowed for viewing of many miles into the horizon. After passing Savannah, the FA came around to collect the trash and hand out hot towels. The captain came on the PA and stated that we should have an early arrival into MCO, with descent slowly taking place.
APPROACH, LANDING, AND TAXI TO GATE:
The plane started to stabilize at a lower altitude when passing Jacksonville (downtown and multiple airports in the distance). The aircraft was creeping closer to cross over the shoreline. We pass St. Augustine, and finally cross over Flagler Beach/Palm Coast/Bunnell area, heading towards the OMN (Ormond Beach) VOR inbound on the Bithlo Seven STAR. Over the Daytona area, one can observe the International Speedway (U.S. 92) and Interstate 4. In the distance lies the town of Deland. The FA quickly distributes mints at this point, and collects final trash soon afterwards. While the plane is descending at a faster rate, 744BFA points out at a DL M80 that is several thousand feet about us (Place Picture here). After clarification from the flight status display online, this aircraft was headed to MLB, also on the Bithlo Seven STAR (shared by MLB and MCO). With the aircraft getting closer to the Orlando area, the town of Sanford approaches. Tomoka Farms Road can be clearly seen. SFB is also clearly visible. We maintain the southerly heading until spotting the Central Florida Greenway, Downtown Orlando, Orlando Executive Airport, Colonial Drive, and finally MCO. We end up on downwind with MCO in full view. With the FA returning to the front of the plane to take her seat, the plane takes a gentle circle towards the airport, never losing sight of it. We fly over the subdivisions that lie southeast of the airport. When the plane lines up with runway 36R, all of the flaps and landing gear comes down. From my vantage point, I can only see runways 17L & R, and barely Airside 2 & 4, but the visual becomes better as we get closer. We fly over the Greeneway, then the forest which lies to the south of the runways, and we touch down gently on the runway and taxi off near the U.S. Airways section of Airside 3. We make our way towards the DH gates, but had to hold while a US 767 (possibly going to CLT) taxied in front of us. After the heavy cleared, the plane positioned itself on gate 41. The FA thanked us for flying DH, and promptly opened the door after the aircraft was stationary and the engines shut down. The agent working the jetway had to adjust it several times, but finally got it attached to the CRJ. When we deplaned into the jetway, gravity was kicking in as we made our way towards the gate area, since the jetway’s angle was swooped low relative to the location of the aircraft.
At the gate area, we realized that the associate who was on the flight that left five minutes before us had not arrived. We waited briefly until his aircraft arrived at one of the staircase ramp positions for gate 43. When he arrived, we headed towards the tram to the baggage claim area for DH, and DH clarifies with a million signs around Airside 3 that state “Baggage Claim for Independence Air- Please use Terminal A” . When we arrived at the main terminal, the signs once again were there to greet us, but the effect worked well, as the pax made their way towards Terminal A baggage area and not Terminal B. At baggage carousel A7, the monitors above still stated our separated flights as “Independence Air Flight 10”, the original flight. The bags made their way through, and I took my bag and headed downstairs to take the satellite bus to the Blue Parking Lot.
-So, what ever happened to the other MCO-IAD flight that was leaving within 20 minutes of us? It’s a mystery up to this day.
-The ground situation at MCO was a rocky start to my first experience w/ DH, but I found a major improvement w/ the operations at IAD. I’ll take the MCO situation as a “learning curve” experience, as it was their only 2nd day of 15-flight operations. In addition, the weather from IAD played a part in the delay.
-The DH gate area at IAD (Concourse A) definitely has a unique design.
-The mints and hot towels are a great addition, but all of these items contribute to the cost level that the airline has. It would not have bothered me if they did not exist.
-The employees were friendly and courteous (rocky start again for the FA on the MCO-IAD leg, but she became nicer progressively).
-Hopefully Mr. Skeen can prove me wrong that he can keep this airline afloat given the cost level of the airline, in addition to the fuel costs that have hit all carriers.
[Edited 2004-12-25 18:15:40]