I arrived at MSP via ATL on AirTran (wanted to ride a Boeing 717) and checked in. Due to the time difference, I was also able to check in for my return flight. I got to the gate area and saw N225NW being readied for its last trip to Amsterdam.
|N225NW at MSP for its last flight to AMS|
After a bit, N240NW showed up.
|N240NW arrives at MSP to be turned around for its final run to LGW|
We boarded (full flight) and I was in seat 26B. It's probably been fifteen years since I've been on a flight over six hours and since most of the flight would be in the dark over the ocean, I assumed that a window seat wouldn't be all that desirable. Wrong. The moment I glanced out the window and saw the DC-10's massive wing, I knew I should have gotten the A seat. Fortunately, my seatmate didn't mind my reaching over her to snap photographs when there was something worth looking at.
The takeoff was simply amazing. I don't know if the DC-10 actually climbs appreciably faster or more steeply than other jetliners, but it was quite a rush.
It's probably been fifteen years since I crossed one of the oceans and given some of the venom I've seen directed at Northwest Airlines, I was expecting eight hours of hell. Instead, I had a really great time. The (economy) seats were comfortable, the food was palatable, the flight attendants were friendly and helpful, and the cabin interior looked to be in good shape.
About two hours into the flight, it was announced over the PA that the northern lights were visible on the left side of the plane. What ensued was a massive rush as people who appeared to be asleep suddenly snapped awake and scrambled towards a window.
Most people slept. I'm a night person, so I stayed awake and worked on a paper for school and didn't pay attention to whatever was being shown on the screen.
We landed and the captain announced that next time an Airbus would be flying the route and that was really all of the recognition that the plane's retirement got on this leg.
Then it was time for Stump the Stern British Immigration Officer:
SBIO: Where are you flying in from?
SBIO: Are you traveling with anyone?
Me: No, just me.
SBIO: And what is the purpose of your visit?
Me: I'm in transit. Just passing through.
SBIO: Where to?
Me: Ah, Minneapolis.
SBIO: Very good-wait a minute! (Suspiciously) Where did you fly in from?
SBIO: And you're flying back to Minneapolis.
Me: Yes, that's right.
SBIO (long pause, looks confused): Why?
Me: I like planes and the flight I was on was the last DC-10 flight on that route.
SBIO: Was anyone else on the plane doing that?
Me: Probably, but I don't know if anyone was.
SBIO (by now more amused than confused): So you like planes?
Me: Oh, yeah.
SBIO: Was that the last DC-10 flight ever?
Me: No, just on that route with that airline.
SBIO: Do you have your return ticket? May I see it? (checks ticket) So you flew in from Minneapolis and now you're flying from Gatwick back to Minneapolis in a few hours. I guess you could go have some breakfast or something. You really should stay longer next time. (shrugs and stamps passport) Very good! Thank you!
Time for breakfast, a temptation to buy cartons of duty-free cigarettes because I could, and then through security where I learned that the British don't care if your 3 oz. liquid toiletries are in a resealable one-quart freezer bag, they're not getting on board. Tossed a bunch of stuff, went through security, went to the market and repurchased everything I'd tossed.
I went down to the gate where I'd been a few hours before and I learned another thing about British airport security: since I'd checked in for this flight at a kiosk a few thousand miles away from Gatwick, I hadn't been asked the proper questions or had the proper sticker applied to my passport. I was pulled aside, they called my name in, and I was allowed to board.
I slept most of the way back. We got a good view of the tip of Greenland and about an hour before landing, the flight attendants came around with ice cream, which was a great way to end the flight.
|Ice cream for breakfast on NW LGW-MSP|
After we landed in Minneapolis and the passengers disembarked, I snapped a photo of the economy cabin. I told the purser that I'd picked that flight to get a ride on a DC-10 and asked if I could look at the cabin up front (meaning the business class cabin). He enthusiastically called up to the captain who let me look in the cockpit.
|Cockpit after N240NW's last flight for Northwest|
|Flight engineer's station after N240NW's last flight for Northwest|
The entire flight crew seemed very proud of their aircraft and I was grateful that after all the time they'd spent on the plane that they were willing to take a few more minutes to humor me.
Got shooed off the plane and headed off to the folks at Homeland Security who, though they didn't resort to alternative interrogation techniques, took a somewhat dim view of what I'd done and we had a chat filled with exchanges like:
Officer: "So you took this flight just to ride on an airplane?"
Me: "Well, to ride on *that* airplane."
Officer: "So you like planes?"
Officer: "So you flew to London and back just to ride on a DC-10?"
Officer: "Are you a pilot?"
Me: "No, I just think planes are pretty neat."
Repeat for about ten minutes.
The next day I was in Mexico City (via Miami on AA and AM) and the day after that I was in Los Angeles (via Guadalajara). After what I received when I returned from LGW, I expected a cavity search, but apparently flying one-way from Miami to LA with a single night in Mexico and only one small piece of luggage doesn't arouse any suspicion. Whatever.
Anyway, the DC-10 flights were amazing and I had a great time.