Friday, March 25, 2005
-BWI continued from MDW
Departure 9:00 PM
Arrival 10:10 PM
Depature Gate at CLE
Arrival Gate at BWI
Aircraft N383SW, "Arizona One"
Boarding Group A, Seat 1D
I dutifully arrived at the airport about two hours before my flight and breezed through CLE
's security checkpoint in five minutes. Since I am on a walking regimen for exercise, I rented a SmartCarte for my two (but awkward) bags and headed out to Concourse C. I stopped for a shoe shine, which I had never done before, and then decided to walk Concourse D instead of the full length of Concourse C since I had a lot of time left.
I imagine I must have been a strange sight, a visibly overweight woman walking and jogging through the tunnel with a half-empty cart only to do a complete circle through Concourse D and then return through the tunnel 45 minutes later. I thought "what the h*ll, at least I'm trying" and just had fun with it.
While I was out there I spent a short time talking with a cleaning woman... We chatted about payphones and the logic of non-sequential numbering. She was taking a break because she was done cleaning and had some time before her next round began.
At about 8:10 PM
, I headed out to the end of Concourse B only to find no mention of my flight at the gate. We were assigned to Gate B10 and I stood in line behind another anxious guy who was also booked on Flt. 2546. The gate agent told us our flight was delayed and that there would be an announcement shortly. Within two minutes they were making announcements. Our flight was delayed in Chicago but according to the agent the airline was going to switch aircraft to cut the delay.
I decided to walk another circuit of Concourse B, which at 8:30 PM
on a Friday
is empty except for those waiting at the very end for Southwest flights. The United, Air Canada and Delta gates all showed flight times and numbers for Saturday morning. I stopped at the Cinnabon stand which was dark but the cashier was still sitting there. I jokingly asked her if she could still sell me the box of regular Cinnabons sitting on the counter and she jumped up. I bought them and took them back to the gate, where I intended to share them with other waiting passengers.
Another announcement was made for passengers waiting to fly to Nashville (BNA
.) Their flight was also delayed... since well before ours. The flight was CLE
and the plane was still in Tampa (TPA
) trying to get out from thunderstorms... apparently having two stops, at RDU
, before arriving in CLE
for the southbound departure. They were given estimated times, all ending with "arriving in FLL
at 5:00 AM
." There was at least one couple who were supposed to get on a cruise at 8:00 AM
on Saturday morning. Unfortunately their delay did not have a happy ending: as my flight departed, the flight attendant told me that she had heard the gate agent announce the plane coming for that flight would leave CLE
but the crew would time out at BNA
. Anyone going to MCO
would be staying somewhere much farther north that night.
Back to my own story... I parked myself behind two other people at the Boarding group A line. They were college students and were chatting with another college student parked at the head of the group B line. We all ended up telling stories and joking with each other, watching each other's bags when someone had to go to the bathroom or get a drink, etc. The woman ahead of me in the group A line started to get hungry and I gave her half a Cinnabon. The three of us in group A promised the woman in group B that we would save her a seat. Such camraderie! Eventually I pulled out my scanner after the gate agent announced our plane was in range. I didn't hear it come in, but listening to various transmissions helped pass the time.
We boarded and the three of us took row 1. The guy and gal took 1A and 1B and saved 1C; I sat in 1D and then offered the other two seats to several people, not knowing how full the plane would be. Eventually a young man and his older female companion took up my offer. Meanwhile, I still had 3 Cinnabons left in my box and I decided to give them to the flight crew. I recognized that they couldn't eat before we arrived in BWI
, but I thought it would be a nice treat for them, since they were visibly tired having been delayed on their own last flight of the night. The flight attendant accepted the box with cheerful thanks.
Takeoff from Runway 6R was quick and smooth with only one ExpressJet ERJ ahead of us. We were off the ground in less than 5000 ft. and climbed through the clouds with minimal turbulence. We punched through at about 10,000 ft. and had a mostly smooth flight with a few mild jolts. Service consisted of cups of soda, and bags of peanuts and pretzels.
The man who sat next to me conversed with me in both Spanish and English throughout the flight. His story was interesting and he asked me lots of questions. As the flight neared its end, he lamented that we wouldn't be on the same return flight. I guess he had as much fun as I did. His companion slept through the entire flight.
We landed at BWI
and taxied without delay to the terminal. The ceiling was low and because I don't know the area well I can only guess that we came in from the north.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
-CLE continuing service to MDW, STL
Departure 7:10 PM
Arrival 8:25 PM
Departure Gate at BWI
Arrival Gate at CLE
Boarding Group B, Seat 1F
I arrived at BWI
at 5:15 PM
and after checking one bag I went to the observation gallery. To this day I think BWI
's observation gallery is one of the best I've ever seen. Unfortunately the piped in ATC wasn't working (post 9/11 disconnection perhaps?) but I did have my scanner. About fifteen minutes later I caught the attention of a little boy who was watching all of the planes and trying to name the types. He asked me what the planes were and once I figured out who he belonged to (his dad was only a few feet away) I started pointing things out to him. Then his dad told me who they were waiting for and I picked up the flight on my scanner. I waited until about 6:15 PM
, when the late US 382 (737-300) finally arrived from PHL
, before I headed down for my gate.
BIG mistake, I thought, once I realized that the large group of people waiting at the concourse entrance were NOT, in fact, waiting for arriving passengers... They were my cohort waiting to be screened for Concourse C flights. I walked around the zigzag area and then saw that the line went up the ramp... and down the hallway... to within 50 yards of the Concourse D security area. After asking and finding out that there was no connector between Concourses D & C, I resigned myself to keeping my position in this line instead of risking the walk to Concourse B where I might have possibly gotten through a little faster (or not.) Luckily TSA
had noticed the steadily growing wait and opened every available screening lane, which vastly improved the speed of the line.
As I waited, I found myself in front of a student from Univ. of Missouri-Columbia, who was taking a non-stop flight on American Airlines. He also tutored Chemistry and we chatted about Missouri, my dreams in years past to move either to Kirksville or Kansas City for graduate school, and the lost cause of passenger service to Belleville's MidAmerica Airport. As I got to the zigzag part of the line, there was a Southwest agent pulling people out of line who were on flights departing prior to 7:00 PM
. She had arranged expedited screening with the TSA
and put them through an alternate line. Later on I saw a man on crutches get the same treatment. It was nice to see TSA
cooperating with the airlines and helping those who would be uncomfortable standing for a longer wait.
I successfully made it to my gate in time and got the third spot in the Boarding Group B line. The Group A line stretched back into the seating area. We boarded our plane on time but were informed by the captain that there was a deadheading flight attendant who needed to get to CLE
, and we would wait for her. At the time of our scheduled departure her plane was just about to land, and then she would need about 10 minutes to get through the airport once at the gate.
This was the first time I ever encountered a Southwest flight attendant who seemed even remotely "uptight." I took my seat, asked to use the lav, went back to my seat, and had barely finished fastening my seatbelt when the f/a pointed at my duffel bag and said "you have to put that under your seat." The door wasn't even closed. I looked up at him, half flabbergasted and half annoyed, and said, "I know. I'm just getting one thing out and it will be stowed." Whatever. He didn't bother me during the rest of the flight, so I forgive him.
We departed BWI
approximately 20 minutes late. Departing from Runway 15R in the rain, we took off in less than 4000 ft. (estimated by the "runway remaining" numbers I saw out the window.) We climbed into what seemed an almost endless cloud bank... One that must have extended from 2,000 ft. well past 10,000 ft. Eventually we punched through and I could see stars, and what was that flashing light outside? Oh, three flashing lights... an Airbus in parallel flight above and two regional jets below off our starboard. Eventually the Airbus "drew back" and then made a left turn crossing over us. The regional jets faded below as we continued to climb to cruising altitude. As time passed I kept my face glued to the window and saw several aircraft pass us in the opposite direction and one more cross above us.
We descended back through the clouds and even before entering them our pilot had put on the anti-collision lights. It was interesting to see the changes as we went through different pockets of extremely dense cloud followed by an "open patch" of snow-filled air and then back into clouds of varying density. No matter how dense it got, I could still see the starboard engine and leading edge.
We came through the clouds at between 7,000 and 10,000 ft. over the Cleveland/Euclid/South Euclid cliffs area, with the void of Euclid Creek below. We were probably flying directly over Woodland Avenue (OH 87/US 422) to downtown Cleveland and at this point I engaged the woman sitting next to me, pointing out the downtown skyscrapers. She seemed interested in my descriptions, so as we continued to fly over the I-490 and Clark Avenue corridor I then pointed out the triangle of main roads which defined the area where I live. We turned southwestward and flew by the airport on our downwind and I pointed out the runway where we would land (the hold short warning lights at the taxiways clearly defined the otherwise dark runway from our angle.) We made a wide, sweeping U-turn (no square base leg) over Middleburg Heights and Olmsted Falls (take that, you NIMBYs!) Just as we lined up for the runway I saw another aircraft cross in front of us.
We landed on runway 6L
(the other aircraft must have taken 6R) and turned at the high speed taxiway Kilo. We held short for a moment and our flight attendant had to remind some people that we were not at the gate. That became obvious to those of us on the right side when an ExpressJet ERJ thundered by in rotation off 6R. There was another one lined up at the hold line, but they continued to hold while we crossed and taxied straight in to Gate B11 without delay.