Friday, October 21, 2005 DCA-PHX
It’s a drizzly afternoon in DC. Low clouds and low visibility are abound, with light drops of rain dotting foreheads every 5 seconds. As I approached the bus stop where I will take the MetroBus, the bus scurries by me as if it was running late, but since I was not at the stop, the bus continues without me. I will have to wait 15 minutes before another bus comes by. When the bus I catch finally arrives at the Crystal City MetroRail subway station, I make my way down a wet escalator (the station entrance is outside) and to the fare machine, where it has some difficulty reading the dollar I have just put in. After I receive my fare card, I hurry down another escalator to the train platform, just as the Yellow train was leaving to DCA. I will have to wait for the next train, which is the Blue train headed down the same area. The Blue train approaches after a ten-minute wait, and shortly after I board, the train dashes out and quickly rises to level ground. The US hangar is clearly present to the left of the train, and we quickly pass a crowded Concourse C filled with various US aircraft before making the stop at DCA. After the two-minute ride, I head downstairs towards Concourse C to a covered pedestrian bridge, with moving sidewalks along the edges. After I arrive at the Cathedral-influenced architecture of the main terminal, I look at the time and realize that I am now running late by mere minutes since I missed the bus earlier. I make my way upstairs to the US ticketing area, where I wait in the E-ticket line for about five minutes. After attempting to print out my ticket, I am needed assistance by an agent, who informs me that I have arrived after the flight is closed in the reservations system. The agent asks me to wait while she prints out a ticket for the next DCA-PIT flight (an override from the flight that was shut out in the system), and informs me to make a mad dash to the gate to catch my current flight. After a brief wait in the Concourse C security line near Legal Sea Food, I proceed through security and head to gate 42, where the final boarding announcement has been made.
US Airways/America West Flight # 1126
Departure Gate 42 (C Concourse)
Scheduled Departure: 4:10 pm
Pushback: 4:25 pm
Takeoff: 4:32 pm
Scheduled Arrival: 5:08 pm
Touchdown: 5:11 pm
Gate Area: 5:16 pm
Arrival Gate B29
Load Factor: 100%
Photo © Tim Samples - CFI-CFII-MEI
I approach the gate agent at the podium next to the gate 42 doorway, and state that I am supposed to be on this flight. Luckily, I did not have to explain to her that the ticket agent printed out a boarding pass for a later flight so I can proceed through security and attempt to catch this flight. The gate agent informed me that the flight is 100% full and I will need to take the seat she assigns me. She hands me a new itinerary with the boarding passes for this flight and I head down the jetway. There is a long line of passengers waiting in the jetway, and I too become part of this line. Other passengers near me are wondering what the holdup is. Shortly, the gate agent who boarded this flight jogs down the jetway with a stack of manual bag tags on her hand, and begins to tag carry-on bags that are too big for the overhead bins. It turns out all of the bins are full on today’s flight, so some passengers will have to check in their larger bags prior to entering the aircraft. She informs passengers that their bags will be collected at baggage claim, not by the planeside as with normal gate claim bags. As I slowly proceed towards the inside of the B734, the gate agent and a ramp agent who has now joined her, observe my carry-on bag and tell me “You’re fine”. I slowly make my way inside the crowed aircraft, noticing the overhead bins are packed as sardines, and take my seat.
GROUND, TAXI, AND TAKEOFF:
After storing my bag under the seat in front of me, I observe outside the low visibility that is still plaguing DC. As I look to the right of the lady that is sitting next to me, I notice the rain stopped, but the ramp was still wet. When the baggage situation was finished, the doors closed and begin a quick pushback. On this B734, there are video monitors on the ceiling of the aircraft, a relic of the late 1980’s and 1990’s when this type of aircraft was used on longer US flights. The safety video was played first in English, followed by an abridged version in Spanish. An engine is turned on, and we taxi towards Runway 1. Along the way, we pass by Concourse B (North pier) where an AA 738 has just pulled up to a gate. At the DL concourse (Concourse B South pier), there are several DL Connection CRJs waiting to collect the next group of passengers. At gate 16, a HP 757 in standard HP colors awaits its next flight to PHX. Around this time, the captain is conducting a spoiler test on the wing, deploying them to ensure its working properly. The aircraft makes a left turn onto another taxiway, hampering the view of Concourse A. An AA M80 appears to have cut in front of us, but then taxies onto a holding pad to let our flight through. The captain announces that we are number one for takeoff, and informs the flight attendant to take their seats. We turn onto the runway to perform a rolling takeoff, and we are gently thrusted to the back of our seats as the plane dashes down the runway, noticing the water runoff from the rain on the window heading in the opposite direction. We lift off after a fifteen-second roll, and immediately perform a left turn, following the Potomac River Departure climb. I only get a quick glance of the Washington Monument and the National Mall before we enter the low-level cloud layer.
After three minutes, we break the cloud layer and into a sky blue atmosphere. When we reach FL100, a video plays alerting that passengers may use approved electronic devices. In addition, the video welcomed Dividend Miles members, Star Alliance members, and offered an extended special welcome to the America West FlightFund members (why not just announce a “most graciously extended special greeting” welcome to the rest of the passengers? [smiley]). After the welcoming, an advertisement was played for FPO (Grand Bahamas) showing all of the beaches and resorts. When the video was finished, I observed the first class pax being served beverages and a light snack. Coach did not receive anything since this flight falls outside the beverage service window. I took a glance at the October issue of the Attaché magazine and read some articles. A kid in front of me (seat 17E) interrupted my reading by turning around and biting his seat. The two ladies sitting to the sides of me were also annoyed by his behavior, and tried to ignore it by continuing to read their respective materials. The bites left goo marks all over the headrest, and I sure felt sorry for the next passenger sitting there on the next flight. While this was occurring, the mother (seat 17F) was completely oblivious to the situation as she was just looking outside the window. I continued to read the Attaché magazine until the kid grabbed a ball with a fox’s tail attached to it from his mother. He started swinging towards the two ladies and me but by this time, the mother caught his erratic behavior and tried to take the ball away from him, but couldn’t. The kid began to scream and cry since he did not want to give up the ball. By now, the kid was annoying several of the business passengers sitting within my vicinity, casually frowning at the mother who is not able to control him. After the quick flight, the captain announces a quick descent into PIT.
APPROACH, LANDING, AND TAXI TO GATE:
During descent, a video was shown on the status of the integration of operations between HP and US. While it was playing, the kid continued to make loud noises and the mother tried to subdue him but to no avail. The passengers continued to look annoyed, but it would soon be over as we enter a cloud layer for a brief moment and them break again, displaying the Allegheny ridges near PIT. Flaps and landing gears are deployed as the captain announces to FA’s to take their seats. The weather in PIT is similar to DCA when we departed, another overcast cloud layer with reduced visibility. We pass by the Beaver Valley Expressway (??) before touching down on runway 10L. We zoom pass a hotel and an empty Concourse E while we decelerate. We taxi off near Concourse A, where the express aircraft is occupying one jetway (yes, even Beech 1900’s were using one gate each). The aircraft loops around Concourse B and slowly approaches gate B29, near the central atrium of the “X” terminal. The engines are shut off and the passengers slowly disembark.
I make my way into the terminal after being one of the last passengers to get off the flight. I head to gate B26 (a quick walk on the other side of the concourse, around the moving sidewalks in the center of the concourse) where my connecting flight will leave. The aircraft is there with a full crowd of passengers in the waiting area, some of which are huddled near the door as if they want to get on immediately. Seeing that the flight will not board for another 30 minutes, I make my way around the famed AirMall, with all the stores one would find in a commonplace mall, but with one important element missing: a multitude of people shopping around. The AirMall was isolated; definitely a ghost of what it once was when US had a full-fledged hub operation at PIT. Near the center of the atrium, there is a huge Independence Air advertisement that shows a pig flying with wings and the FlyI “I” Bubble logo (evidently a pun on the phrase “When pigs fly”). Also in the atrium is an escalator and staircase, which leads to the underground portion of the terminal. I’m not sure if PIT has a tram to shuttle passengers to the main ticketing and baggage claim terminal or if it is a long walkway to the main ticketing and baggage claim terminal. PIT also has a historical airport display scattered around the terminal, showing pictures of the old terminal on the northeast end of the field, in addition, showing pictures of the once-mighty US hub, with mainline planes packed in both Concourses A and B. I passed by Au Bon Pain, contemplating whether I should buy something from there and take it onboard with me or purchase a light meal from the US “In-Flight Café” program. I chose not to purchase from Au Bon Pain since a worker was eating a sandwich at the area where the sandwiches are prepared. Quite frankly, that is not sanitary nor is it polite to the customer whom is deterred by such actions. I made my way to Concourse A to check out the WN operations, which was surprisingly quiet for a peak time. I visited the Three Rivers Travel Mart located next to gate B26 to seek change to purchase the “In-Flight Café” (I’m sure the FA’s would appreciate exact change or I would get the lecture of doom from them). I returned back to gate B26 to notice that first class passengers were boarding.
US Airways/America West Flight # 161
Departure Gate B26
Scheduled Departure: 6:00 pm (Eastern Standard Time)
Pushback: 6:15 pm
Takeoff: 6:19 pm
Scheduled Arrival: 7:21 pm (Mountain/Phoenix Time)
Touchdown: 7:34 pm
Gate Area: 7:39 pm
Arrival Gate B12 (Barry Goldwater HP Terminal 4)
Load Factor: 100%
Photo © John R. Cushma
As I will board with the Zone 6 group, I had to wait for a good moment to get onboard. As I proceeded through the first class cabin, I observed a lady look around the cabin for a moment, and covertly took a pillow and blanket from the overhead bin in first class and placed it in between her left arm and left side of her body. She continued into the coach cabin to locate her seat. It appears I was the only one to see her actions. To my relief, I was able to find overhead space for my carry-on bag, so I would be able to have a comfortable flight. After I take my seat, I observe outside to notice a shower is occurring. After all the passengers have settled in, the captain announces that it is currently 48 degrees in PIT with light rain, but the temperature should be a lot better in PHX.
GROUND, TAXI, AND TAKEOFF:
During pushback, I observe a US 757 also pushing back, destined for LAS according to the monitors in the PIT terminal. The monitors come down from the overhead bins and play the same safety video as the last flight, only this time using an A320 as the model. I observe a US SF3 and BE1 making intersection takeoffs from runway 10C. W proceed down taxiway “D”, passing by a near-vacant Concourse C. There are two aircraft waiting on the taxiway adjacent to us: a FL 717 and a NW DC9. As we turned onto the runway, I observed an NW A319 or A320 landing on runway 10L. We paused for a moment, then we spooled up and sped down the runway, getting airborne after a 15-second roll. I get a view of a KC-135 area to the south of runway 10C/10R before clouds obscured the vision. We make a gradual left turn towards PHX, during which minor turbulence occurred during the climb up to FL100.
When we reached FL100, the “Please turn off electronic equipment” sign next to the “Fasten Seatbelt” icon was turned off. Like the previous flight, the video welcoming FFP members and the Grand Bahamas advertisement was played. We broke through clouds, noticing a beautiful sunset with a light aqua sky and orange-red clouds from the sun’s reflection. On the engine, there is an orange hue reflecting, almost as if it was part of the livery. The video monitors dropped down again to play “Overture”, a short program advertising today’s in-flight movie, “Bewitched”. A male FA came around with a bag of headsets, offering them for $5. Since I bought my headset I purchased from CO, I did not need to purchase it. As the movie began, the in-flight service is announced, featuring a light “In-Flight Café” buy-on-board dinner (Menu taken from Attaché):
Pepper Turkey Club Sandwich
Freshly baked artisan roll piled high with thinly sliced peppered turkey, smoked bacon, lettuce, roma tomatoes, and Swiss cheese, served with a packet of dijonnaise spread, a bag of Sun Chips, and a white chocolate chunk cookie for dessert.
Sesame Chicken Salad
Crisp romaine and iceberg lettuce topped with diced chicken breast, mandarin oranges, bell peppers, green onions, and seasoned toasted almonds, served with oriental sesame vinaigrette and a white chocolate chunk cookie for dessert.
Both light meals were offered for $7. In addition, US was also offering an evening SkyFun snack box for $5 (contains tortilla chips, salsa, cheese dip, hard breadsticks, cheese spread, small fruit bowl, and Nestle Crunch Bar- suitable for two people, probably not healthy if consumed by one person at one sitting). The box has trivia and games encrypted on the sides of the box from Cranium Games but I don’t think people really care for those things when they are hungry. Finally, US also offered individual snacks for sale for $3, which included an entire full-size jar of Original Pringles, an energy bar, a king-size Kit Kat bar, and a bag of beef jerky. I noticed people were buying the light meals and SkyFun snack boxes, but no one appeared to buy the individual items. When the cart arrived at my row, I asked for Ginger Ale and the Sesame Chicken Salad. I received the entire can without me even asking. I ate and watched the movie at the same time. When I finished my meal, we passed what appeared to be the city of Cleveland or Chicago (big lake to the right side of the city). The FA’s came around with the trash cart for the remainder of the flight, although no addition beverage service followed. For most of the night, we would fly over clouds. The captain interrupted the movie to inform us that we would cruise at FL340, and that we were currently near Iowa City, IA, and promptly removed the seat belt sign. The flight was uneventful after the movie ended. One hour and ten minutes out of PHX, the captain announce that we are flying over the Rockies, and he anticipated bumps head so he went back and turned on the seat belt sign again. At the time of the announcement, we were 100 miles SSW of Pueblo, CO.
APPROACH, LANDING, AND TAXI TO GATE:
After a brief period, the captain announces that we are 120 miles out of PHX, and descent has begun. He states we are already at FL330. The clouds have since vanished, and a clear night sky is present. Night lights dot the southwest landscape. Spooling up and down of the engines can be heard as we descend closer towards PHX. The lights on the ground dissipate, since we are possibly flying over the barren desert. At 55 miles out, the captain states we are at FL180 and expects an expeditious arrival into PHX. The current weather in PHX is 82 degrees, a contrast to the weather experienced in DCA and PIT. Small airports begin to appear, noticeable by the alternating yellow and green beacon visible from so high off the ground. It’s difficult to make out the runway since those lights are not visible from so far away. When we pass below FL100, the “Please turn off electronic equipment” sign is illuminated, followed simultaneously by landing lights reflecting off the engines. City lights begin to show up, possibly the city of Scottsdale. A chime rang 5 times as we get closer to PHX. We make a gradual right turn towards PHX, and the lights in the cabin dim. Flaps and gear are deployed as we pass what appears to be a mall. The approach resembles TPA or MCO at night- a flat landscape with lights dotted abound. As we get closer, we pass by an illuminated baseball stadium. Finally, we head over 44th street for a touchdown on runway 26. As we taxi off the runway, condensation takes over and obscures the vision. The condensation fragments the street lamps so it makes it difficult to see outside. We taxi past the northern pier of Terminal 3, where a NW 757 in new colors and a NW A320 in old colors are the only aircraft present at that terminal. The condensations on the window begin to disappear, making visibility better. Beyond the NW aircrafts was a cemented area with a taxi sign stating “HOLD BAY”. As we approach Terminal 4, the flaps can be heard reverting back to its original position. An HP A320 parked at gate A11 had a white nose radome, missing the bottom red and green colors. We pulled up to gate B12, next to N661AW, another HP A320.
Upon arrival, I make my way down the concourse, where a bank of mostly express flights was preparing to board on the left side of the concourse. I notice the vast Aztec/Mayan/Native American (????sorry I’m an East Coast person, someone will have to enlighten me on these designs) patterns are abound in the terminal. I proceed down the concourse, past the Phoenix Roadhouse restaurant and the America West Customer Service Desk. At the desk, I notice that “Continental” has been removed from the sign above the desk, but a faint imprint still remained, a reminder of one of the first large domestic mainline partnerships that occurred in the United States airline history. As I look above at the ceiling, I notice a 3rd story portion of the terminal, which I believe is one of the America West Phoenix Clubs. As I make my way towards baggage claim, I notice construction on the ceiling and surrounding shops at the Concourse B and C foyer. I take the long escalator down to baggage claim, and proceeded to the rental car counter to pay for my reservation. I then exit through door 5, make my way across the street, and waited for the rental car bus to arrive.
Sunday, October 23, 2005 PHX-DCA
After a day of sightseeing around the city of PHX, observing the reddish-brown landscape that makes up this city, in addition to the mountain next to Sun Devil Stadium (Hayden Butte???), the Aztec/Mayan/Native American art patterns that runs on the sides of the express---ahem….freeways, the outlying mountains that make PHX a valley, and the redrock peaks at Papago Park, it was time to head back to DC the next morning. After taking the Red Mountain Freeway to the northside of Sky Harbor, I arrived at the rental car dropoff along Washington Street, and waited for the shuttle to take me to PHX Terminal 4. It was 60 degrees around 6 a.m., but this 60 degrees felt cooler than a 60-degree weather felt in DC or Florida for that matter. As I boarded the shuttle bus, another passenger complained about the cold weather and put on a sweater. The bus took a swift ride to 44th street and entered through the east entrance to Terminal 4, where everyone on the bus was headed. The bus entered through the departure ramp, and passed under the big “Barry Goldwater Terminal 4” sign. Upon arrival, I entered the check-in area through door 26. At the left-hand side was the US counter, followed by HA’s counter and WS’s counter. These counters were formerly used by CO, where again, the Continental name was removed but an imprint was still visible. The counters were decorated with Halloween items, a contrast to the check-in counters at DCA, where there were no decorations. The agents were calling for passengers checking in for PHL, as the flight would leave before the flight to CLT. When no passengers answered the call, I proceeded to an E-ticket machine, where like DCA, I had problems again. The agent swiftly solved the problem and I was handed my boarding pass. Since I had plenty of time to use up, I toured the check-in area. HP’s (north side of terminal) and WN’s (south side of terminal) counters face each other, and I can only imagine the rivalry these two carriers have at PHX, along with the employees whom have to look at each other for a good portion of the day. It almost seems like the “Charge of the Light Brigade” would occur at any moment. Both carriers also had Halloween decorations. HP also has another set of desks adjacent to the main HP check-in that is dedicated purely to E-ticket check-in. The area appeared not to be busy. The calmness was quickly disturbed by a red coat agent, standing at the beginning of the E-ticket line, shouting “No CLT, PHL, or PIT on US, no Mexico, no Canada!” On the other side of the HP E-ticket check-in was an empty area, possibly an area designated for future ticket counters as there were no counters there, with various equipment and wheelchairs scattered about. I proceeded upstairs to go through security, passing a construction zone where new stores will be opened. Security proceeded quickly after I crossed the bridge, and proceeded to gate B12 to observe the aircraft I would fly on. At that time, US flight 160 to PHL was boarding through gate B13. The aircraft was not visible from the gate area. The television monitors hanging from the ceiling at the gates were constantly showing Hurricane Wilma and Mexico and Florida. Since I was not interested, I went to explore the terminal to make the time go by fast. I take a moving sidewalk to the International pier of Terminal B, hearing the announcement upon stepping, “Please watch your step and hold on to the handrail”. At the International pier, I observed various HP express CRJ and CR9 aircraft, some along the connecter between the International pier and the first pier of Concourse B, and connected to the jetways of the International pier. I arrived just as passengers from a HA 763 were deplaning from HNL (?), mostly with pillows in tow and large Hawaiian-designed shopping bags from the redeye flight. Gates B23 and B24 were gates contained within a glass wall, in order to separate FIS arrivals. I turn towards the first pier of Concourse B and observe that US flight 180 is an Airbus A321. I made my way south over the roadway bridge to the WN and TZ concourse, where I briefly toured the WN area and observed a TZ 738 with winglets at the gate area. I made my way back to gate B12 and passed by a crowd where people were laughing over a bagel a gentleman joked about. Prior to boarding, I looked out of the window at gate B10 to see what appears to be a MyTravel A330 or 757 in the distance on the northwest end of the field.
US Airways/America West Flight # 146
Departure Gate B12 (Barry Goldwater HP Terminal 4)
Scheduled Departure: 8:00 am
Pushback: 8:15 am
Takeoff: 8:25 am
Scheduled Arrival: 2:46 pm
Touchdown: 2:50 pm
Gate Area: 2:57 pm
Arrival Gate B2
Load Factor: 98%
Photo © James Richard Covington
The boarding process went quickly. I boarded through Zone 6 and promptly made my way onboard the aircraft, hearing a jazz ensemble play from the PA. As I walked through first class, a woman in the aisle made quick glances from side to side, ensuring that no one (except me) would observe her covertly taking a pillow and blanket from the first class overhead bin, and continuing to walk into the coach cabin. I took my seat in the center, sitting between two men today. At around 7:50 am, the cargo doors begin to close, with the faint hydraulic whine that accompanies it. Three minutes later, the main passenger door closed, but we would sit on the ground approximately another 25 minutes since the captain announced an engine-run test and was awaiting maintenance papers. During this idle period, the safety announcement was played in English, followed by the abridged version in Spanish.
GROUND, TAXI, AND TAKEOFF:
When the test finished, we quickly pushed back and taxied down taxiway C to a taxiway bridge between Terminals 3 and 4 (I’m not sure if it was taxiway bridge S or T). We went over the roadway, made a right turn to taxiway E, and passed the southern pier of Terminal 3. At the end of Terminal 3, there appears to be two doorways on the 2nd level of the terminal (presumably gates), but no jetways were attached to them. A YX M80 was on a hardstand in between Terminals 3 and 2. We taxied by Terminal 2, where a UA 320 in “Ted” colors was parked at a ground jetway adjacent to the Terminal 2 facility. We then taxied by a cargo ramp featuring a CAT 727 and a Capital Air Cargo 727 aligned parallel on hardstand. One can also notice the land that used to house the old Terminal 1 facility. After a quick turn onto runway 7 Left and FA’s are advised to take their seats, we line up and pause for a moment before spooling up and rolling down the runway for a 30-second roll. Upon liftoff, there is a great view of the South Valley region and the Maricopa Freeway (???). The flight makes a slight right turn towards Gilbert/Mesa, and then a slight left turn. After passing the Goodyear Airport (??), the land becomes the typical barren desert landscape with the sporadic water canal.
After passing FL100, the ubiquitous electronics video is played, welcoming the FFP members, although no Grand Bahamas video was played this time unlike the two previous flights. The gentleman in seat 10F seems to struggle with finding a good sleeping position, while the gentleman in seat 10D is reading a book. The “Overture” video was played with a preview of “March of the Penguins”, with an alert after the video that “certain scenes have been edited for content” (yes a G-rated movie was censored). An FA used a cart to distribute headsets, although I can’t see why he didn’t just carry the bag of headsets with him. The meal cart came shortly thereafter, with today’s “In-Flight Café” buy-on-board breakfast (Menu taken from Attaché):
Stagecoach Club Sandwich
Freshly baked buttery croissant filled with thinly sliced turkey ham, sliced pepper jack cheese, smoked bacon, lettuce & tomato, served with a bowl of fresh cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, grapes, oranges, & a packet of mayonnaise.
Blueberry Cranberry Mini-Loaf
Freshly baked blueberry cranberry mini-loaf served with creamy butter, fruit yogurt, granola, and a bowl of fresh cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, grapes, and oranges. [The granola was actually a “King’s Granola Berry Crunch” Bag”.]
I paid $7 for the Blueberry Cranberry Mini-Loaf. I also received an entire can of Minute Maid orange juice. Like the PIT-PHX segment, Skyfun snack boxes (the morning version contains a blueberry bar, a mixed berry pastry, a bag of cinnamon-raison New York Bagel chips, Pepperidge Farm wheat and sesame crackers, Crasins, applesauce, and two triangles of “Swissy” and “Sharpy” cheese- the morning snack box is better suited for two people in my opinion than the afternoon/evening snack boxes) and individual items were also being offered. I found the mini-loaf to be delicious even without the butter, but the fruit bowl was lacking with the majority of the space inside the bowl taken by a fake green plastic garnish. I ate the strawberry yogurt but saved the granola bag for my next flight. At FL350 near ABQ, the captain announces cruise altitude, and states that the routing will take us to ELP, AMA, and Mississippi. Through the rest of the flight, the gentleman in seat 10D, still reading that book, orders Jack Daniels with Coke back-to-back (I think he spent over $50+ in alcohol, let’s just say he ordered quite a bit of them.), while the poor gentleman in 10F just couldn’t find that perfect sleeping position after the meal service. After the censored movie was shown, short-subject films would follow, with the first being a “Crittercam” show featuring Emperor Penguins (as if we didn’t see enough penguins in the movie). A 2nd beverage service commenced during this short-subject segment, where I had water and saved the Spinzels. After “Crittercam”, “Two and a half men” was shown, but an FA interrupts the show to offer applications for the Bank of America USAirways Visa card. After “Two and a half men”, the final short-subject video would be Discovery Channel’s “Wild on the Set”, featuring an episode about the Animal Planet show at Universal Studios. As the flight progresses through the southeast farmland region, the sky is clear with little turbulence felt. When the final video ended, the captain announces that we will be landing in approximately 15 minutes. He announces that to the left of the aircraft is Hickory, NC, a lake called Lake James, and in the distance, a furniture show in High Point, NC (???GSO/High Point area is north of CLT, I presume we entered the pattern way to the north of CLT).
APPROACH, LANDING, AND TAXI TO GATE:
As we descend below FL100, one can observe the green hilly North Carolina landscape. The FA announces we will arrive at gate B2, and goes over a LONG list of flight connections. As she continues to note what gates flights are leaving from, we make a slight left turn. Turbulence is felt moderately as we descend towards final approach. The gentleman in 10F is fully awake and hogs the entire window to look outside, so my view is partially blocked. With what I can see, I notice a major excavation site on approach. We eventually are joined with a US 734 on a parallel approach, passing downtown Charlotte in the distance and an amphitheatre (?) nearby. The plane touches down at 2:50 p.m. and exited near Concourse A. The plane taxies down taxiway E and looped around Concourse B to gate B2. The US 734 on parallel with us arrived at gate C7. The engines are shut off, but we pause for a moment while ramp workers arrive to receive our flight. The jetway connects, and we are whisked off the aircraft.
Since the gate was adjacent to the connector to Concourses B and C, I make my way towards the area, passing the giant curved glass window, with the moving sidewalks just behind the window, and a row of white rocking chairs and plants lined up parallel to the moving sidewalks. I pause for a moment and take a seat on a rocking chair to relax and view the neatly designed central area, complete with a food court with specialized eateries such as Carolina Pit BBQ. After the brief rest stop, I make my way to Concourse C to find several 2 HP CR9’s parked at gates C4 and C5. The gate counters all had marquee messages stating, “Announcing the Birth LCC USAirways”. While dodging the mass influx of pax, I found the concourse to be crowded unlike PIT. I passed Sbarro’s to a crowded gate C8. A gate change was promptly announced and a mass group of pax walked to gate C14 at the end of the concourse. All the pax line up at the doorway to gate C14 as if they’re ready to board, although there was no aircraft there. The gate agent announced that a new plane is being towed from the hangar to the gate (Presumably our original plane had gone mechanical). At 3:25 pm, the plane arrives at the gate, and the crowd of pax huddle at the window to look at the plane, as if they’ve never seen one before. At 3:35 pm, an announcment for volunteers is made due to overbookings. A group of three or four pax make their way to the counter to take up on the offer. During the transaction, I make my way to gate C12 to view a US 333 pull up to one of the gates in Concourse D. The viewing is disrupted by a cluster of gentlemen, sitting near me, watching Sunday NFL using a portable TV. Since there was not much to view anymore, I make I way back to gate C14 where boarding has commenced.
US Airways/America West Flight # 210
Departure Gate C14 (Originally C8)
Scheduled Departure: 3:30 pm
Pushback: 4:16 pm
Takeoff: 4:30 pm
Scheduled Arrival: 4:44 pm
Touchdown: 5:18 pm
Gate Area: 5:21 pm
Arrival Gate 42 (C Concourse)
Load Factor: 100%
Photo © James Richard Covington
Boarding began at 3:46 pm. Like the last flight, the process went quickly, partly because the passengers are aware this flight is running late and everyone wants to hurry up and take his or her seats. I make my way onboard a very HOT aircraft, and I am sweating with all of the winter clothes I have on. For this flight, I will be sitting next to an older gentleman in 21B, who is talking on the phone, and a lady in 21C reviewing notes. At my seat, I look towards the rear left to notice the hangar where the Air Midwest BE1 had its fatal accident. Also, a US 767 in new colors is sitting at the hangar area, although it still has not taken a revenue flight in the new colors.
GROUND, TAXI, AND TAKEOFF:
The doors closed at 4:08 pm, and we pushed back at 4:16 pm. There was no safety video as this 734 was not fitted with ceiling monitors, so a manual safety demonstration was done (in English only, of course). During taxi, I notice a LH 340 sitting at the corner gate of Concourse D, waiting for its next shipment of passengers to MUC. The plane taxies along taxiway Romeo and crosses runway 5 (which is in operation today). We pass along the North Carolina National Guard hangars where there are plenty of Hercules military aircraft scattered on the ramp. After the quick taxi, we turn onto runway 36R for a rolling takeoff. The takeoff roll lasted 15 seconds, and along the way we pass several DHL aircraft and the Jack Roush 727. At liftoff, we make a slight right turn, passing the main CLT terminals and what appears to be construction north of Concourse E, the US Airways Express concourse.
After the landing light instruments retract at the edge of the wing, the FA announces approved equipment are now allowed at FL100. Along the route to DCA, we pass a mall, a small airport (with runway markings 2/20), and an auto racetrack. The captain announces a quick flight to make up for the lateness of approximately 45 minutes. The coach FA’s, and elderly male (definitely had to be in his late 60’s), and a middle-aged female began a hastened beverage and pretzel service. I was quite surprised since I was not expecting anything on this short flight (as experienced on the DCA-PIT flight). I had water and a bag of Spinzels. I ate the King’s granola snack bag from my previous flight and saved the other bag of Spinzels. Along the way, we pass some typical small brush fires and small GA airports. After everyone was served, the FA’s made a quick dash around the cabin, collecting the trash as descent had already begun.
APPROACH, LANDING, AND TAXI TO GATE:
The captain announced that we were 38 miles south of DCA, and we would be landing to the south (Mount Vernon Visual Runway 1). The airbrakes are deployed to slow down, once it returns to normal position the plane “jumps up”. The plane enters the mouth of the Potomac/Anacostia/Delaware (???) Rivers and pass over a medium-sized highway. The weather in the Alexandria area is clear with high visibility, in contrast to the weather experienced on the way to PHX. The landing light instrument on the edge of the wing deployed, and we made a rather steep descent. The high-rise apartments in Alexandria begin to show up. I also notice the George Washington Masonic Building, and various barges on the Potomac. In chronological order, we quickly pass the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (where construction of another bridge is currently taking place), Old Towne Alexandria, a factory, and the Potomac Yard Shopping Center before touching down hard at 5:18 pm. We also decelerated very hard and taxi off at the end of the runway. A YX 717 waiting at runway 1 was cleared to takeoff after we taxied off. DCA was not busy today as it was the weekend, with very few aircraft on the ground, such as an AC E75 parked at gate 27. We arrived at gate 42 and walked down a near-deserted concourse, in contrast to a crowded one that I experienced on Friday, October 21.
Since I did not check in any bags, I proceed out of security, and make a left towards the DCA MetroRail Station within the lower level “cathedral”, passing all of the shops which either were deserted or had one or two customers. I also notice the AC E75 at gate 27 through the large windows in between the north pier of Concourse B and Concourse C. I take the bridge to the station, and notice the entire right side of moving sidewalks is closed for repairs. I pay for my fare card, head up the escalators and wait for either the Blue or Yellow Line. At the station, the weather was fair, not too chilly but not too warm either. When the train arrives, I board to find a trainload of Redskins fans, apparently going home after a football game. The train then takes me to the Braddock Road Station, where I disembark and take a bus to my home.
-I was expecting worse for this trip, but surprisingly it ended up better than I had expected.
-PIT was definitely one of the main highlights of this trip. The AirMall is a unique concept. It’s a pity that there are so many empty gates lying around.
-Is there a monorail that travels between the A/B/C/D concourses to the main terminal at PIT?
-For my first Buy On Board experience, I was very pleased with the food served, although there should be more fruit and no “plastic garnish” within the fruit bowl for the breakfast service.