Ever since I started shooting commercial aviation back in 2003, I really wanted to go visit LAX. The only thing stopping me was that I was a minor and couldn't get a hotel or a rental car to get around. Then in August of this year, I got a wild hair more than ever to go visit LAX. I contacted a family friend of mine there and hinted about coming out there. I was actually able to get a Best Western agent to agree to book me a room at one of their locations. It was in a town near LA that I had never heard of named Inglewood. When I told my family friend I was staying there, he told me he’d rather me stay at his house than have me by myself in Inglewood. I was happy because that was going to save me $300 in hotel costs for 4 nights. So it was set and I booked the flight for $270. Not the greatest price but I didn’t want to do nonstop each way for $250 because I’m an anetter, we don’t like nonstop each way, the more stops the better, right? I opted out to do nonstop going out there just to fly on Song, who I enjoyed when I flew them to NYC in August 04. But coming back I wanted to stop in ATL to get to finally do the 764 on a longhaul versus the normal short flight I took with that plane (MCO-ATL). Also I wanted to get on the 777 again (ATL-MCO).
Finally, the day came. I was so excited. I had never been further west than the Mississippi so everything was going to be a new experience to me.
October 13, 2005
Song flight 2040
Scheduled Departure Time: 7:00am
Actual Departure Time: 7:00am
Wheels Off Time: 7:19am
Scheduled Arrival Time: 9:19am (PST)
Actual Arrival Time: 9:06am (PST)
I had my father drive me to the airport just because I wanted to save some $$$$ by not leaving my car at the airport for 5 days. He dropped me off at the Delta curbside check-in and we said goodbye to each other. He wished me a good time seeing all those Asian heavies and seeing all the movie stars in Hollywood. It wasn’t till then that it really hit me that I was going out west, 2000+ miles from home. I was so excited. I went inside with my two checkin bags (I don’t travel light) and my one carry-on (my camera bag). I checked in using the kiosk, which is so easy. I had my bags tagged and then had to carry them over to the (Sarcasm on) wonderful people at TSA (Sarcasm off). Then I walked over to the security checkpoint, showed them my ID and boarding pass and continued on through. Security was quick and easy, all of 5-10 minutes. After clearing it, I got my bag and shoes and everything else I was temporarily separated with and got onto the monorail to gates 60-99. After the 30 second ride over the terminal I disembarked and saw my plane sitting at gate 74, 6710E. I walked over there and sat at the gate with my other fellow LAX- bound pax and watched the flat screens with CNN on. The top story at that moment was how DL employees may get screwed over with pensions due to the bankruptcy. I could tell the DL employees at the gate were listening but trying not to watch. They kept on getting the flight ready for departure. Finally about 6:30-6:40, I boarded. First thing I did, walk to the flight deck. I had a great conversation with the captain and first officer about the flight, the industry, photography, Airliners.net (which the captain said he visited frequently), etc, etc. I asked the captain if once we landed in LAX if I could get a cockpit shot and the flight plan. He agreed to both. I was very pleased. I took my seat at 26F with no one in the middle seat and an African American gentleman on the isle. I was glad no one was in the middle of us for the next 5 hours. This was I could get a bit comfortable on this 5 hour flight and maybe take a little snooze. Finally the door shut, the usual odd Song safety recording came on, constantly reminding us to BREEEEAAATTTHHE DEEEEEEEP. Anyway, we then started up the engines and made our taxi to the runway. I’ll never understand why MCO picks such odd runways to take off. We were parked directly next to runway 17R/35L which had very few flights on it (maybe 2-3) and they sent us to 36R where we were number 3 for takeoff. Why did we have to taxi on the completely other side of the airport for takeoff? I’ll never know. Anyway, after a 19 minute taxi out, we turned onto the runway with an overcast dark sky over us and light rain drop falling on the window. Non the less, it didn’t make for any good photo opps but I did take video of the takeoff. Finally we throttled up and I was all smiles as we were pushed back in our seats knowing I was going to LAX finally! We rotated fairly soon and climbed north over Orlando. We immediately were in clouds but they were very smooth and a thin layer. Before we knew it, we broke out of them and saw the morning sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean. I had my PTV on the map channel and watched as we turned to 270 and climbed through 10,000 feet. Right about then, the gentleman on my left told me I shouldn’t be using my electronics. I told him we were at 10,000 feet now, they don’t care (assuming he didn’t see me using them earlier since his eyes were shut on takeoff). He said, “Well you were using the video thing earlier. If they catch you, you’re in BIG trouble.” I said, “well thank you sir but I know what I’m doing. I’ve videoed and photographed many many takeoffs and never had a problem.” I then explained to him that the main reason they don’t want anyone using electronics is so that in the event of an accident, the electronic doesn’t become a projectile and hurt somebody. But I said that I have full confidence in this crew, as I had already spoke to them. Needless to say, he shut up after that. We headed west and I tuned on the morning news shows on in NYC talking about all the headlines of the day, DL troubles, floods in the northeast due to heavy rains, etc, etc. We headed west over the Gulf of Mexico and then turned northwest towards MSY as we reached 36,000 feet. I tried to get a look at New Orleans to see if I could see any flooding but there was a thin cloud layer between us and the ground and it made it too cloudy to tell. Around this time, we were treated with a soda, but no snack. I took a Coca Cola and sipped on it slightly. Finally off to my right I saw DFW. That was my first time seeing that airport and all I’ve got to say is, “MAN THAT THING IS HUGE!” I always knew it was a big airport but I couldn’t believe it till I saw it with my own eyes. After DFW, we kept on west towards PHX as I continued to watch the Weather Channel, CNN, Sports Center, and Ellen, which I don’t normally watch but there wasn’t much else. I also enjoyed playing with the wide selection of MP3 songs they had on board. Tons of albums from every genre of today’s hit music and even tons of oldies. I listed to some disco, pop, rock, oldies and then I went back to the TV. According to my map at one point we were over the heart of Arizona. I looked out my window and saw the monstrous Grand Canyon. What a sight! I had always heard other people saying how they saw it from the plane on their way to California before but now I could say the same thing! However, with the awesome sight of it, came the flight bit of turbulence for that flight. It got pretty bumpy too. We climbed to 41,000 feet but it still didn’t smooth out. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky but we sure were rocking. The captain came on, mainly I think to ease the passenger’s nerves and gave us a little sightseeing tour of the scenery around us. It was pretty nice to have a Captain who knew enough and was friendly enough to give us the low down on our surroundings. Maybe he was just getting bored though and needed something to do. Haha. After the bumps subsided, the crew came around again with another soda and no snack again. I had to have something, as I hadn’t eaten all day but didn’t want to pay $5-6 for a bagel or anything so I took a pack of twizlers for $2. It was enough to hold me over till the IN N OUT at LAX for lunch. Finally we began our approach just as we had entered California over the mountains. As we descended, I could spot Ontario airport to our right and the finally the city under the right wing. I then shot this:
Photo © Justin Idle
We began to descend quickly as the mountains were left behind us and we went from about 10000 feet to 3000 in a very short time, note the spoilers up in that picture above. As we got closer and closer, I saw a neighboring aircraft to our right approaching so I figured we had to be on 25L, the same runway the Jetblue A320 landed on just weeks previous. I thought this was pretty cool because I, like many, had watched the entire landing on TV and thought it was cool that I would be landing on the same runway. Finally, I got sight of Airport Blvd, and then flared up and smoothly graced the ground of LAX. I WAS THERE!!!! We turned off the runway to our right and waited for a UA 757 going to JFK to takeoff 25R. We then crossed the runway and taxied to terminal 5 where we shut down our engines and waited for the ground crew to pull us into the gate. This was my first time I had ever had this done before. It was pretty cool. Then the gate attached, the door opened, and the warm but dry air of California poured in to the stuffy airplane cabin that I had been in for the last 5 hours. I waited for everyone to deplane so I could be the last and go visit the flight deck. As I got up there, the Captain handed me the flight plan, I complimented both of them on the excellent flight and then they offered to exit the cockpit to let me get a clean shot:
Photo © Justin Idle
After I got the shot I wanted, I walked back to the L2 door and exited thanking the crew once again. I walked up the jetway and entered the terminal where I turned right and walked to the exit area and was welcomed by a big sign that said, “Welcome to Los Angeles!” I could not believe I was here. I then walked downstairs where I got my luggage very quickly and had a luggage service come pick up my two large bags. So I could be free of them for the day until my family’s friend, Steve, could come pick me up after work. After getting my bags put away, I hopped on the shuttle that was suppose to take me to the main bus terminal near the In N Out but instead I got on the wrong one and went to the green line station on the southeast corner of the airport near Imperial Hwy. After a bit of going around in circles asking people how I get back to Sepulveda, I finally got on the right bus and the bus driver was nice enough to stop right in front of the In N Out and let me off. As I crossed the street, I got my first sighting of the In N Out which was just an unbelief to me and then walked across the street on the other side of the street to begin my awesome time in LAX.
This was my first shot of the trip:
Photo © Justin Idle
What a way to start off the trip. After landing a little after 9, finally at 10:30, my fun had begin. I shot there till about noon, which I then took a break to get a bite to eat at the In N Out. I got a Double Double. Wow was that sandwich good. I wouldn’t recommend eating it often, as you’d probably die from clogging of the arteries but for a one time thing it was good. I then went back to the spot across the road and shot like crazy at all the wonderful Asian traffic I had never seen before in my life. Finally at about 2pm, I decided it was time to go to Imperial Hill. I went to go catch the bus over there but not to my favor, I missed the bus by about 1 minute and the next one didn’t come for 1 hour so I asked a bus driver another way to get to Imperial and he said he was going to Imperial but not down far enough to Imperial Hill. I agreed to get on and at least get halfway there. He dropped me off at the green line station I was at earlier which was on Airport blvd and Imperial Highway. This really didn’t help much because I was still stuck 2 miles east of Imperial. I wasn’t sure what to do now so I just started walking down Imperial hoping another bus going west would come along. Finally, to my luck, an extra bus came, one not normally operated but only during busy times. Thank goodness for this. The bus drove me the 2 miles west and dropped me off right at Main and Imperial right in front of the Welcome to El Segundo sign. I then crossed Imperial and walked up the hill of Imperial Ave. to find the amazing view at the top at Imperial Hill. I was so excited. I was finally at IMPERIAL HILL. I shot for the next couple hours at all the awesome sights leaving and arriving on the 25s. However, disaster struck right after shooting a boring Song 757. The screen was only showing me 1/6 of the shot. The rest was black. After doing some analysis of the camera, I came to find out the spring that hold the sub mirror in the 300D had some undone and the submirror was now not coming up with the main mirror when the camera shot a picture thus blocking my sensor. So after going over to the mortuary behind Imperial Hill, I got a piece of scotch tape and taped the submirror to the main mirror just so I could continue to take pictures for the next few days and so this trip wouldn’t be an entire waste of money and time. It worked however with the submirror not working now, nor did my autofocus. I had to shoot everything from there out in autofocus. It was such an unbelievable hassle. But after thinking I may not be able to shoot anything for till I got home and got this fixed, I was just glad to be able to shoot again. So after 30 min or so of panicking over this camera, I was back to shooting as the sun got lower in the evening. At the end of the day, I was overall pleased with how the day went, with the exception of my camera messing up. Steve came by Imperial around 7pm, which I then met him down at the Pizza Parlor down the hill and we had dinner together and then picked up my bags from the luggage service. We went back to his house in Culver City where I crashed and passed out for the night at 9pm but midnight to me back in Florida.
My work from 10/13/05:
To summarize the next few days so I don’t bore you all too much: The next day I went back to Imperial by Steve driving me and picking me up and I spent from 9am-2pm there and caught some awesome stuff I had never seen before.
My work from 10/14/05:
Then on the 15th, Steve was busy with some stuff so I took the bus down to Imperial. The Metro 220 bus went right from his street to Imperial and Main. How convienent was that? It took 1 hour but it I felt proud of myself that I was able to make it there on my own. I got there around 10-11am and spent the day just at Imperial till sunset time. I met a ton of locals that day and had a great time. I think Saturday was my most enjoyable day there. I then caught the bus home and walked back into Steve’s door at 8pm or so.
My work from the 15th:
That was the end of my photography shooting. Being that this my first ever time in California, I also wanted to see more of LA then just the airport and wanted to go do some sight seeing. It was also cloudy that day so it was perfect to go out that day since the airport wouldn’t have been as much fun. We went to the Mojave Desert, Hollywood, Santa Monica Beach, Downtown LA, etc, etc. It was a ton of fun. Here are some pics from that day:
Unfortunately, I didn’t see any movie stars but we did have a lot of fun. I was glad I got see all that I wanted to.
However, the time had now come, to return home.
October 17, 2005
Delta Flight 1488
Scheduled Departure Time: 9:40am
Actual Departure Time: 9:38am
Wheels Off Time: 10:00am
Scheduled Arrival Time: 5:00pm (EST)
Actual Arrival Time: 4:54pm (EST)
Steve’s wife drove me to the airport Monday morning, dropping me off in front of DL’s ticket counter around 7:45 am. I said goodbye and thanked her and told her to thank Steve again for me for letting me stay with them and showing me such a great time. I grabbed my bags and went inside and checked in. After getting my bags tagged I dropped them off to TSA and headed to terminal 6 where my flight was leaving from. After waiting in line at security for a good 30-40 minutes, I got through finally and got to my gate to see the massive 764 being pulled into the gate. Finally around 9:15, we began boarding. This flight wasn’t anything special so I won’t go on for too long. We pushed back a couple minutes early and then were pulled out of the apron area a bit where we started up our engines. We then taxied to runway 25R which took a while but we finally got there. We held short a bit and then turned on and immediately started rolling. After a bit of a long roll out, we got airborne:
Photo © Justin Idle
This was my final goodbye to the place I spent so much time at that trip, Imperial Hill. What a great time that place gave me! We then continued out over the ocean and then make our left turn to head east:
Photo © Justin Idle
We leveled off at 41,000 due to the expected storms up ahead but it wasn’t high enough to get above. So, we all onboard had to sit through about 45 minutes of nonstop bumps. It was nerve racking to say the very least. Just as everything would settle and everyone’s nerves would go back to being normal, we hit more bumps. Everyone was kinda on edge for those 45 minutes. Finally it ended and we were greeted with a perfectly smooth and clear flight following that storm system. The movie, “The Honeymooners” was played. Not a bad movie. I enjoyed it. We also received our snack pack. It consisted of a package of 2 oereo cookies, 4 crackers, and thing of cheese to speak on the crackers, a plastic knife, and a box of California Raisins. We also got a soda. About an hour before landing in ATL, we got another snack service which consisted of your choice of Animal Crackers, Pretzels, Peanuts, or Sun Chips. I went with the Animal Crackers and another coke. We then began our decent somewhere between MEM and HSV, both of which I saw below us. Here is a shot I got of FTY on our decent:
Photo © Justin Idle
We then flew directly over downtown Atlanta and then made a right turn to line up with 26R with a DL 757 on the same final for 27L. We make a GREASER of a landing, like all 767 flights it seems, and then made a left turn off the runway with the Flight Attendants welcoming us to Atlanta, GA where the current time was 4:45pm. We then taxied to gate T3 where we parked and shut our engines down. Being I picked a seat near the rear, it took quite a while to deplane. Finally about 20 min later I got off and had to head straight to Concourse E to get on my 777 flight which was to leave in 25 min. I hopped on the monorail and rode it straight to E where I got off and walked to my gate to find the plane almost done boarding.
October 17, 2005
Delta Flight 161
Scheduled Departure Time: 5:50pm
Actual Departure Time: 5:50pm
Wheels Off Time: 6:10pm
Scheduled Arrival Time: 7:24pm
Actual Arrival Time: 7:16pm
I immediately boarded but still made time to go visit the flight deck since I didn’t visit the 764 flight deck. The crew was very friendly, not quite as talkative as the Song crew days previous but still very nice. They agreed to give me the flight plan which pleased me. I took my seat in 49J on the fully packed out flight to MCO. I was seated with two unfriendly businessmen so we didn’t talk at all. We pushed back and taxied over to 27R to my enjoyment because I knew being seated on the right and taking off from the south side of the airport guaranteed me a nice shot of the terminal. Sure enough it did. We taxied and were #7 for takeoff. However, it went by pretty quickly. We finally got on the runway at 6:09 and immediate throttled up that monster! We got off pretty quickly and I got my shot:
Photo © Justin Idle
I was very pleased and then put the camera away for the rest of trip since the setting, glaring sun was in my face. I just watched the sunset and listened to my CD player as the flight attendants came around with soda and a small snack, which I don’t remember what it was, sorry. We climbed to FL370 but were greeted with winds that brought us turbulence so we descended back down to FL270 where we found smooth air. We flew south to Ocala and then southwest over my home town of Apopka and then turned south towards Disney/Kissimmee area. Finally we turned left towards the airport and lined up with 35R. We landed and then tuned left off the runway to taxi to the gate. It took us about 10 minutes to get to the gate due to 35R being out in the boonies. We finally docked with the gate and shut down the engines. About 10 minutes later, I got my flightplan and deplaned, missing California but glad to be home. I met my dad at the baggage claim and got on the road back to Apopka, FL where I had to be back at school in 12 hours. Ugh!
Overall, Delta provided excellent service to and from LA. They got me there safely first and foremost and I very much enjoyed the crews on all the flights. The only thing they have room to grow in is FREE snacks on board the MCO-LAX flight but I know that’s Song and they don’t give free snacks so it’s kind of a lost cause suggesting it. Anyway, DL did an excellent job and I’ll definitely use them again on my next trip out west.
I hope you all enjoyed my very length trip report. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me or ask in a reply. As a matter of fact, if you read all of this, please rewards my tired fingers by responding. Thanks so much!