In early July I flew from DC to my hometown of Bozeman, Montana—my second trip home in as many months. The first trip, in mid-May, is posted here: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-fo...ums/trip_reports/read.main/128191/
The purpose of the second trip was to get away for a short vacation and enjoy the mountains. I booked my ticket about a month in advance and paid $477 round-trip. The routing I booked was IAD-MSP-BZN on NW on July 3, returning July 8 BZN-SLC-CVG-DCA on DL. Flying out of IAD is a major pain (I prefer DCA), but I was desperate to experience one final DC-9 trip before they’re phased out of service, and IAD still sees a DC-9 on the MSP route once a day. Also, the rest of my trips this year will be on United, so I figured it was now or never for the DC-9. It turned out to be well worth the trek to Dulles! Hope you enjoy the report.
July 3, 2008
N764NC (appropriately in new colors)
Scheduled Departure: 17:24
Scheduled Arrival: 19:10
Actual Takeoff: 17:36
Actual Landing: 18:47
Flight Time: 2:11
Distance: 908 mi/1461 km
Load Factor: 70%
I left work early at 3:00 pm, met my girl, and we both took the orange metro to West Falls Church, where we caught the shuttle bus out to Dulles. My girl was not going with me to Montana, but was instead leaving an hour after my flight, heading from Dulles to Boston and Cape Cod. We arrived at the terminal shortly after 4:00 pm. I normally do not check luggage, especially for a short trip like this, but I didn’t feel like towing my carry-on suitcase anymore. I went to the counter, quickly surrendered my bag, and proceeded with my girl toward security. We were through within about 20 minutes and headed to my gate, B23, where we arrived about 4:40. Boarding was set to begin in about 15 minutes, so we decided to grab a quick snack of sushi. Unfortunately, it took them 25 minutes to make a couple of California rolls, and I ended up hurriedly kissing my girl goodbye with my sushi in a to-go box—a snack for the plane.
When I arrived at the gate, most of the pax were already onboard. I presented my boarding pass to the friendly agent and headed down the jetway. My first impression as I entered the aircraft was that it looked clean and well-kept. Built in 1976, this aircraft was not one of NW’s very oldest DC-9s, but it does have more than three decades of service and is still chugging away. Not bad! I grabbed a shot out the window of the beautiful KLM A330-203 bound for AMS.
Tight legroom, but no complaints—I was happy to be on a DC-9!
A zoomed-in shot of the safety card.
We pushed back on time and made out way out to RWY 30. After a brief hold, we lined up and began our takeoff roll at 17:36. We accelerated smoothly down the runway before lifting off and climbing out steeply. My impression of this departure was that it was smooth and felt very powerful! Here’s a shot as we climbed out to the northwest. I love those big slats on the front of the wing.
A short time later, the slats retracted and we continued our climb out over the suburbs west of the airport.
A closer-in pic of the wingtip.
We ascended through some puffy clouds and emerged into clearer skies above the hazier undercast.
I love staring at this wing. The lines of rivets on the surface of the wing give it a little extra character, in my opinion.
We leveled off at FL320 and the beverage service began. I paid $5 for a Budweiser, which I combined with the sushi I brought aboard. It was a tasty in-flight meal! No pics, sorry. We continued onward over Ohio and passed over the southern reaches of Lake Erie, just south of the Detroit area. Thanks to Google Earth, I’ve been able to identify the following pic as Port Clinton, OH, close to Sandusky. Kind of hazy, but the shorelines are visible nonetheless.
Another shot as we streaked over southern Michigan.
The eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan soon appeared, close to the town of Douglas, Michigan.
A few minutes later, the western shoreline came into sight. I immediately knew our location when I spied MKE airport.
I was treated to nice views of downtown Milwaukee as well.
Here’s another pic of both the downtown area and the airport just to the south thereof.
Close to Neillsville, Wisconsin, about 140 miles from MSP, we began our descent. The next pic shows the green countryside, probably somewhere between Eau Claire and MSP.
The farmland eventually turned to suburbs, then to city as we passed over St. Paul. The airport soon came into view to the south of us. Here’s a pic of MSP while descending through about 9,000 ft.
We continued to the northwest, passing a few miles north of the downtown area.
Next we dropped through the cloud layer.
The slats extended and we began a steep 180-degree turn to the left.
Here’s another shot of the downtown area, this time from the southwest. It was a lovely evening in the Twin Cities!
We passed over several little lakes on final approach.
And another lake just before the runway…
We touched down gently on RWY 12L at 18:47 local (central) time.
The spoilers popped up and we quickly slowed.
We exited the runway to the right and headed for gate F1. The aircraft parked and docked and it was time to say goodbye to what was likely my final DC-9. As I exited, I got a quick view of the old-school cockpit—very little “glass” in there. Unfortunately the pilots were already gone and the pax behind me were pushing me forward. I reluctantly stepped onto the jetway and headed into the terminal. Here are a couple pics of N764NC.
And our flightpath from IAD-MSP.
I had about 2.5 hours until boarding for the BZN flight. I walked around in the F concourse and did a bit of spotting.
Here’s N945N, built in 1975.
And N676MC, also built in 1975.
Next I went to the workstation area and plugged in my laptop. Even though I was on vacation, I felt compelled to do a little work and get caught up on email. After an hour or so I decided I’d done enough, so I headed over to the observation area in the D terminal. I hadn’t been up there in about 10 years, and I was glad I went. The views and the sunset were great. Here are some pics.
Looking down the C concourse at the NW lineup.
A classic Minneapolis image.
A DC-9 replacement. Not much history beneath those wings, but also a beautiful looking aircraft!
Here’s what the observation area looks like. It’s pretty sparse, but who cares about amenities when you have planes to look at.
After the sun slipped below the horizon, it was time to head over toward the BZN gate, which was G1. I grabbed some McDonalds next to the gate and waited for boarding to begin.
July 3, 2008
Scheduled Departure: 21:40
Scheduled Arrival: 23:08
Actual Takeoff: 22:02
Actual Landing: 23:05
Flight Time: 2:03
Distance: 873 mi/1405 km
Load Factor: 90%
Boarding commenced about 10 minutes late, around 9:20 pm. Pushback was at 9:50, followed by a quick taxi out to RWY 12L. We were wheels up at 10:02 and climbed out to the southeast. A couple minutes later we made a 180-degree turn back to the northwest before settling on a course toward BZN.
We climbed through a low layer of scattered clouds. Though it was totally dark at ground level, once we left the haze of the lower atmosphere it became clear (literally) that the last light of day was still lingering in the western and northern sky.
We leveled off at FL340. Drinks were served, and I took a water, no ice. Nothing special to report about the cabin service.
Two more shots of the light sliver out the right side.
I passed the time by reading. Close to Billings, MT we began our descent. As we flew over the Crazy Mountains east of Bozeman, a huge thunderstorm flared up, which resulted in a brilliant display of lightening. The flashes were near constant, lighting up both the wing and the landscape below. Sorry, no pics, but it was very impressive. It was also extremely turbulent. In fact, it may have been one of the most severe and prolonged periods of turbulence I’ve experienced. We descended through the mountain pass between Livingston and Bozeman, flew over the town of Bozeman in a northwesterly direction, and eventually made a right-hand turn back to the southeast for an approach to RWY 12. The wheels touched asphalt at 11:05 pm and we were at the gate by 11:10. Interestingly, my trip from DC to Bozeman involved 2 takeoffs and 2 landings at 3 different airports—and all were on RWY 12/30. Anyway, once in the terminal I waited a few minutes for my bag to arrive. In the meantime, my mother also arrived to pick me up.
Here’s our route from MSP-BZN.
I spent the next few days enjoying being home, and especially, being in the Montana mountains.
Here is a pic of the fireworks on July 4, Independence Day.
On July 5-6, I did an overnight ski trip by myself (yes, it’s possible to ski in the summer). In order to reach the snow, it’s necessary to hike quite a ways with skis strapped to a backpack. I also had all my camping gear, so it was a pretty heavy load. This is the area where I went.
Meadows, mountains and sky!
I slept in the open beneath the stars. Fortunately it didn’t rain. Here’s the sunrise I woke up to around 5:00 am.
Later that day—my backpack.
This is Sacajawea Peak, 9,665 feet (2946 m).
In the late afternoon I skied this chute off the eastern side of the summit of Sacajawea. Here’s a pic looking back up after I reached the bottom.
On July 7 I hiked with my father to the top of this mountain, known as the Sphinx (10,876 ft./3315 m).
Here’s a pic of the nearby mountains while hiking up.
And another shot looking south from the summit. That’s all wilderness, with lots of bears in there!
All too soon, July 8 arrived and it was time for me to head back to DC. My father and I left the house at 11:30 a.m. and arrived at the airport shortly before noon—plenty of time for my 12:59 departure to SLC. I had not checked in online, so I went to the self-service kiosk to print my boarding passes. When I entered the reservation number, an error message appeared and instructed me to speak with an agent. I did, and a very friendly guy behind the counter explained that the inbound aircraft from SLC had struck a bird shortly after takeoff and had to return to the airport. As I mentioned at the beginning of the report, my original itinerary was BZN-SLC-CVG-DCA. But because of the birdstrike, the agent rerouted me BZN-ATL-DCA. My departure time was pushed back about an hour, but my arrival time in DC (coming from ATL) remained EXACTLY the same time I was originally supposed to arrive on the CVG-DCA flight, so the change was no inconvenience at all. In fact, the new itinerary was a lot easier, as I only had to connect once. In addition, I was thrilled to be on the BZN-ATL nonstop route, as I had never before done this flight. The agent printed my boarding passes, I said farewell to my father, and headed toward security.
Normally security at BZN takes 2 minutes or less. Not this time. The place was crowded like I’ve never seen before. With higher capacity in the summer and larger aircraft servicing BZN, it took me nearly 25 minutes to get through security. In addition to my 738 to ATL, there were a bunch of pax booked on UA’s A320 to ORD, UA’s A320 to DEN, NW’s A320 to MSP, and QX’s DH4 to SEA. The combined 400-500 pax were evidently all going through the small security checkpoint at once. After I finally made it through, I grabbed a sandwich and worked on my laptop.
July 8, 2008
N3771K (built 2002)
Scheduled Departure: 13:55
Scheduled Arrival: 19:44
Actual Takeoff: 14:02
Actual Landing: 19:33
Flight Time: 3:31
Distance: 1640 mi/2639 km
Load Factor: 60%
At about 1:15 p.m., the winglet-equipped 738 arrived from ATL and taxied to the gate. I grabbed a shot of the aircraft while the arriving pax deplaned. Looks like it needs a little paint touch-up on the front, but is otherwise a great looking machine!
Here’s the QX DH4 pushing back for SEA.
At about 1:35 pm, boarding began. Once onboard, I took my seat at 17A (exit row) on the left side and was immediately impressed by the nice interior and AVOD at every seat. And of course, there was the plentiful legroom of the exit row.
My view out the window with the great winglets. This TED A320 pushed back a short time later bound for ORD.
A view of the ramp at BZN.
We pushed back at 1:55 pm and taxied to RWY 30. Here we are moving into position.
Our takeoff roll began at 2:02 pm. We rotated smoothly and climbed out to the northwest. Here’s the town of Belgrade shortly after takeoff.
Another shot of Belgrade.
We began a left-hand turn to the south. The runway at BZN came into view, which is visible above the winglet. Interstate 90 is the major highway running through the photo.
We continued to the south over the Gallatin Valley.
A view of the big CFM56-7B powering us upward and outward. The town of Bozeman is visible above the engine.
Soon we reached the southern edge of the valley where the foothills begin to climb toward the high peaks of the Hyalite Range.
Here’s a shot looking back toward Bozeman as we began a left-hand turn toward a southeasterly course.
A zoomed-in shot of Bozeman with the Bridger Range in the background. That’s where I was skiing just 2 days before.
As we climbed out over the mountains we were treated to some nice views of the peaks. Here are a couple shots. Some of the high points in these photos include Mount Blackmore (10,154 feet/3054 meters) and Hyalite Peak (10,298 feet/3139 meters).
Next we passed over the Absoraka-Beartooth Mountains southeast of Livingston.
Love that big engine, still powering us up and away.
We leveled off at FL350, the seatbelt sign went off, and I sat back and enjoyed the ride.
I also checked out the AVOD system. This was my first experience with Delta’s system on a domestic flight and I must say I was quite impressed. There was a great offering of live TV, a ton of music, and some games that I didn’t play. And of course, the flighttracker, which is my favorite “channel.”
Live CNN. Even at FL350, the latest news about Obama vs. McCain is readily available.
Below is the Weather Channel, also live
The beverage/snack service began. I had a Diet Coke and a pack of crackers. Nothing special, so no pics.
We plotted along, passing over Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, Nebraska, and Missouri. Here we are over north-central Missouri.
At about this point in the flight, we entered an area of high overcast clouds.
A zoomed-in pic of the winglet.
We eventually climbed to FL370 and left the clouds behind. Some thunderclouds began to build in the late-afternoon sky over northern Arkansas and western Tennessee.
Over northeastern Mississippi we began our descent, picking our way through the building thunderclouds in a series of turns.
Eventually we entered the rough air and gray skies below.
We arrived in the ATL area north of the airport before turning due east for the downwind leg for one of the west runways. After a 180-degree right-hand turn, we were soon on short final for RWY 26R. Here we are passing over the interstate.
And over the threshold with an MD-88 lining up on 26L.
We flared and touched down gently on 26R at 19:33 eastern time after 3:31 on the wing from Bozeman. All in all, it was a beautiful and comfortable flight.
Here’s our route in its entirety.
July 8, 2008
737-832 (no winglets)
N3736C (built 2000)
Scheduled Departure: 20:20
Scheduled Arrival: 22:15
Actual Takeoff: 21:09
Actual Landing: 22:37
Flight Time: 1:28
Distance: 547 mi/880 km
Load Factor: 70%
I only had about 10 minutes until boarding began for the DCA flight, and in addition, I had to take the subway over to the A concourse. I did manage to stop quickly at a kiosk and grab a sandwich to go. I arrived at gate A07 with boarding well underway. Here are a couple pics of the aircraft—without winglets, but still good-looking!
I was among the last to board and took my seat at 12C, an aisle seat toward the front of the coach cabin. Unfortunately all the window seats were taken when I was rebooked on this flight earlier in BZN. No big deal though, as it was nighttime anyway and at least I had an aisle seat. We pushed back about 8:30 pm and entered the long queue of aircraft waiting in line for a RWY 27R departure. After nearly 40 minutes, we were wheels up at 9:09 pm.
We climbed out to the west initially before making a left-hand turn to the south, then east, and finally, on a northeasterly course toward D.C. Despite the thunderstorms in the area, which produced some lightening flashes outside the window, the ride was quite smooth. We leveled off at FL370 and passed over northwestern South Carolina while heading toward the Charlotte, NC area.
There was no AVOD this time, so I read my book for awhile and perused the SkyMall catalogue, which is always entertaining. The beverage/snack service began and I ordered a wheat beer for $5 plus a pack of crackers. Combined with the sandwich I brought aboard, it was an okay meal. The Leinenkugel’s beer was delicious!
Over central North Carolina, we began our descent. We passed close to Richmond, Virginia before turning a slight left and heading north toward D.C. The woman in the window seat in my row closed the shade for most of the approach, so I lost track of our whereabouts. However, I was able to look out the right-side window shortly before touchdown and spied the lights of the Pentagon, which meant we were doing the River Visual to RWY 19 at DCA. We landed firmly on the short runway at 22:37 and braked heavily before exiting to the right and taxiing back to the B Terminal.
I was off the plane within a few minutes, and having not checked luggage this time, proceeded directly to the arrivals curb. I called my girl who made the short drive from our place in nearby Crystal City, and was sitting in our living room by 23:00.
Here’s our route from ATL-DCA.
All in all, it was a great trip! I got to spend time in the mountains, and also got to experience the DC-9 for (perhaps) one final flight. I also got to fly a new route for me, BZN-ATL, and experience DL’s nice AVOD in the 738. Both Delta and NW did a good job.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed. Feedback always appreciated.