covers what was actually the first leg (within the U.S.) of my larger trip to Asia during the recent holiday season. Very briefly, here is the grand itinerary for all of my travels between December 24, 2007 and January 6, 2008: DCA
followed by MRY
. Ive already posted the MNL
section as a TR
(see the post titled "Manila-Caticlan-Manila For New Years (with pics)"). But anyway, Im going to start now back at the beginning with the DCA
portion, and then try to post the rest of the legs (in order) over the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy!
December 24, 2007
(Washington Natl. to Philadelphia Intl.)
US Airways 2388 (Operated by Republic Airlines)
Scheduled Departure: 13:55
Scheduled Arrival: 15:01
Actual Flight Time: 36 minutes
(Philadelphia Intl.-San Francisco Intl.)
US Airways 650
Scheduled Departure: 16:15
Scheduled Arrival: 9:51
Actual Flight Time: 5:48
I arrived at DCA
at 12:00 noon for my 1:55 pm. departure to PHL
. The airport seemed eerily vacant, meaning everyone had probably already made it home for the holidays. I had done online check-in a few hours earlier at home and had selected window seats in rows that were empty (the more elbow room the better). So with my boarding passes already printed out, and with only carry-on luggage, I headed straight to security. The lines there were minimal, of course, and I passed through quickly. With over an hour to spare before boarding, I walked around the terminal at DCA
, looked at the slew of 737s, 319s/320s, and RJs, and then had a burger at Fudruckers.
After eating, I headed toward my gate and caught a glimpse of the beautiful E-175 just as it was pulling in. I was excited, as this was my first trip on one of the larger Embraer jets (had only been on ERJ-145 before).
Boarding started at 1:25 pm. Zone 1 was called first for boarding, but there were so few people on this flight that apparently no one was even in that zone. They immediately called zone 2, which is what my boarding pass read, and I headed toward the door and was actually the first passenger on the aircraft. I took my seat in 15F, a right-side window. About 15 minutes later we pushed back and taxied to RWY 19. I was hoping for a RWY 1 departure to the north with the spectacular view of the Washington, D.C. monuments, but it wasnt to be. We held on the taxiway for a couple of minutes waiting for some arriving aircraft.
Before long, it was our turn for blast off, and we taxied into position on RWY 19. The take off roll was short and climb-out was rather steep initially. After a half-minute or so, the nose lowered a bit and we continued our climb, heading out to the south.
Soon, we made a big turn to the left and pointed the nose in a northeasterly direction toward Philly. Some nice views of Chesapeake Bay came into sight out the right-hand side.
We leveled off at 11,000 feet and one of the two FAs came on with the standard brief announcement about how it was now safe to use portable electronic devices, etc. She also announced that drinks would be available only upon request, due to the short duration of the flight. I dont think anyone even ordered anything.
Within a few minutes, we started our descent. Over northeastern Maryland we turned more to the east and flew over Delaware and parts of New Jersey, before turning back toward Philly for an arrival to the west.
Shortly before landing, we crossed the Delaware River with New Jersey on the right bank, Pennsylvania on the left, and downtown Philadelphia about to come into view in front of the leading edge.
A few seconds later, we were treated to a nice shot of the skyscrapers.
We touched down on RWY 27 left after 36 minutes on the wing. The flight time was actually a bit longer than it could have been due to the ATC routing out to the east and then back again. The flight path looked like this:
We taxied to the B Concourse and parked. And with that, my first flight on one of the large(r) jungle jets came to an end. It is a beautiful plane and I love those sharp winglets.
Anyway, I only had about 1:15 in PHL
, which was long enough. I wasnt in the mood to check out any of the stores and was still full from lunch at DCA
, so I just walked around the terminal for a few minutes before heading to the SFO
Boarding for the 4:15 pm departure to SFO
began at 3:45. I was again in zone 2 and again one of the first people on board, meaning the flight was rather empty. I took my seat in 18A with the whole row to myself. Very nice. The First Officer made an announcement welcoming everyone on board and gave us the flight time to the West Coast...5:47 from take-off to touchdown.
We pushed back pretty much on time at 4:16 pm and taxied out to the active runway, 27L.
We waited for a few aircraft before beginning our take off roll at 4:29. Climb out was very, very steep. I guess even with all the fuel for a long transcon, all those empty seats and lack of bags gave our bird some extra power.
We climbed straight out for about 5 minutes before making a slight turn to the right, followed a few minutes later by another turn to the left.
The flight deck came on bit later and announced we were passing though FL240 on our way, ultimately, to FL380. The air was smooth, the sunset was gold and red, and life was good. As we winged our way west, the left side (my side) was treated to some truly beautiful views. This was without a doubt one of the most blissful moments Ive had in the air.
After leveling off at FL380, the FAs came through and offered drinks. I got a Heineken for $5 bucks and I also asked if they had food available for purchase. I knew it would be a long flight and I wanted to get something, at the very least, to stow away for later. She said they had salads and sandwiches for $7 each. I asked for a salad and she said she would be back with it after drink service was finished. In the meantime, she gave me some pretzels and shortbread cookies to go with the Heineken.
As soon as she was finished serving the drinks, the FA
came back with my salad. She said they were about to go through the plane offering food to everyone else, but she wanted to make sure I got my salad first in case it sold out. It wasnt a very full flight, but I thought it was nice of her anyway--its those kind of touches that make the difference these days, when service is pretty meager back in coach. The salad itself was rather small, but actually quite good. It consisted of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, crackers, lettuce, artichoke hearts, and black olives with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. I also had a roll and butter I had brought from home, so it ended up being a decent meal. Had a coffee for dessert and some biscotti I had brought along as well. Heres what the salad looked like...sorry...its not the best of pics.
I enjoyed the food and beer as we flew west into the sunset. I read a little but mostly stared out the window. Again, the view was just glorious...far too nice to bury my head in a book. After all the flights Ive taken over the years, flying never seems to get old, especially at moments like this!
The minutes gave way to hours and the sky slowly grew darker as the sun outpaced our speed. Although I must say, even 3 hours into the flight, there was still a sliver of light visible ahead in the southwestern sky. The sun was winning this race, but not by much, considering we had actually taken off from PHL
not too long before sunset. Certainly one benefit of flying west.
Exactly 3:15 into the flight, the cockpit announced our position: 100 miles east of Denver. The pilot said that the ride reports ahead were rough, and shortly thereafter, the seatbelt sign dinged into "Dont Get Up!" mode.
About 15 minutes later, the sprawling lights of Denver came into view off the left wing. I took a pic, but even with the camera in nighttime mode, it didnt turn out too well. Here it is anyway.
As we passed Denver, it was interesting to see the western edge of the city marked by the relatively sharp line of blackness that makes up the Colorado Front Range. We crossed the line and headed over the dark Rockies. The flight attendants came though once again offering bottles of water; perhaps they knew that a lot of flying remained and they werent sure if the rough air ahead would permit them to do drink service later on. As it turned out, they finished just in the nick of time, as the cockpit crew was right about the turbulence. The bumps started over western Colorado and grew much, much worse over Utah. At its worst, the turbulence even shook the plane audibly...the aircraft actually screeched and groaned as it was buffeted back and forth in the rough air mass. It was some of the worst (and longest-lasting) bouts turbulence Ive experienced.
Soon the flight deck came on again and announced that because of the turbulence, the flight attendants would be collecting any remaining service items and securing the cabin, even though we still had a full 1:30 to go before landing. The flight attendants did so and we continued westward on our wild roller coaster ride.
Before long, we were over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Even though it was night, a full moon had risen in our six o clock, which was illuminating the snowy peaks in a gorgeous white light. It reminded me of the many nights Ive spent backpacking or hiking at night with a full moon...nights so bright that a flashlight is not even necessary. I kept thinking how great it would have been to be down there, in the mountains...but I was also happy to be where I was with a lovely view of it all, stretched out below.
We soon passed over the western slope of the mountains and the bright peaks gave way to the bright lights of all the towns east of the Bay area. The turbulence finally stopped once we left the mountains and the descent was very smooth the rest of the way. We flew right along the Oakland-side of the bay, parallel to the waterline before lining up for a gentle landing on RWY 28L at 7:17 pm...about 34 minutes early. Taxi in was short, and the plane, already sparsely-populated, emptied out quickly after docking.
Our flight across the country looked like this:
I proceeded straight to the arrivals curb where my lovely girl arrived just moments later in the car. We would be spending the next few days in Monterey before heading off to Asia, and I was very excited for the Asia trip. But for the time being, I was also happy to be in beautiful California. US Airways treated me well and I have no complaints. It was a very smooth (though not literally, due to the turbulence) experience.
Hopefully you all enjoyed this TR
. I will post more of the Asia trip over the next few weeks as time permits. Thanks for reading!!