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Fri Nov 28, 2008 12:29 am

Over this Thanksgiving holiday, I made a rather extended trip home, stopping in Chicago for a few days for a Model United Nations conference with the rest of the Embry Riddle delegation, before parting ways and heading back to Maine for Turkey Day.

My first flight was early on Saturday the 22nd, flying from Orlando to Chicago's O'Hare with the Model United Nations team. The early departure of this flight dictated an even earlier departure from Daytona Beach, but once the sun rose at the airport, I quickly woke up (airplanes tend to have that effect on me).

Equipment: Airbus A320 (N439UA)
Scheduled Departure: 08:45
Scheduled Arrival: 11:05

Since our delegation was flying in two groups, one group on AirTran at 8:10, and my group on United at 8:40, that gave us a good amount of time to get through United's lengthy check-in line, wade our way through the sea of clueless travelers at Security, and get to the gate in time for plenty of plane spotting.

I was surprised at the number of 757s and A320s at the airside that morning. There was not a single 737 or CRJ in sight. Not that I'm complaining though. I love the 757, and took the opportunity to try to get artistic with some 757 pictures.
The beautiful combination of a Rolls Royce RB.211, and a Winglet...

Our aircraft this morning was an Airbus A320 in the United Airlines new colors, although the interior (as well as all the tickets and gate equipment) were still labled as TED.
The sun rises over our A320.
Same plane, from a not so backlit angle.

About an hour before the scheduled departure, a gate agent approached our group and asked if we would prefer to be reseated in a single area of the plane as a group. We quickly agreed, and were soon glad that we did. Our delegation was reseated to the two exit rows, free of the extra charge that usually goes along with a premium seat.
I ended up with 14E, a window in the exit row. While I'm not usually one to complain about legroom in the first place (I'm just short enough to wedge into an economy seat without too much complaint), this seat was spectacularly spacious. With my original seat assignment being a middle seat in row 26, this was certainly an upgrade.
Ample, ample legroom

Boarding and departure was hassle-free and efficient, and we made our scheduled departure time with ease. After a quick taxi to runway 36R, we were airborne to Chicago.

Channel Nine was turned on for the flight, a very pleasant surprise, so I spent the entirety of the flight tuned in to ATC while attempting to finish writing an essay for school. The ATC didn't make it easy for me to focus on my school work though. There were more planes in the airspace around us than I have ever seen before. Soon after departure I heard ATC giving a traffic advisory for our flight, warning of an AirTran flight 1000 feet above us and at 2 O'Clock. As I watched out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the plane, it crossed directly over our path, 1000 feet high. This set the theme for the rest of the flight, as there were at least a dozen more aircraft that were within close viewing distance of ours.

As we were passing over Atlanta, the captain came over the PA to advise the left side of the aircraft to look down to see Atlanta, and the right side of the aircraft to look up, as another A320 was cruising just above us on the same route. It turns out that this was United's flight from Tampa to Chicago, and it shadowed us the whole way.

Our plane's clone, just above us
The view out the window. Anyone know what the fixture on top of the wing is that looks like a tie-down?

In a testament to how much legroom the exit rows have, a person from across the aisle was able to easily walk down our row of seats to a window to view the plane just above us.

The rest of the flight was more or less uneventful. Drink service was offered, but no food of any kind. I did purchase a $6 Snack Pack, which was about as tasty as preservative-laden airline food can be.
Crackers, Cheese, Pepperoni, Chips, Cookie, Fruit, and complimentary Sprite

Descending into Chicago we flew over a number of snowy fields, but unfortunately the City of Chicago hadn't received any snow itself.
ID The Airport anyone?

Approach and landing were...uneventful. The landing roll came to a rather abrupt end, I assume to make a turnoff for a taxiway, but it was a rather violent stop. It left me thinking how robust the breaks on planes must be, to bring that much mass to such a quick halt.

I had never been to United's terminal in O'Hare, and I was pleased by what I saw. O'Hare's architecture has always impressed me, and Terminal One is no exception. Bag claim was quick, and after a 10 minute walk, we were off to Chicago via the CTA Blue Line. (The trip on the Blue Line is a story in itself, involving a line closure for construction, a lengthy diversion to the bus system, all culminating in one of the students in our group leaving their bag on a bus...which we later found out prompted a bus station evacuation when it was discovered. That's a story for another time though.)

After a very successful United Nations simulation, many slices of deep dish pizza, and three nights of far too little sleep, I parted ways with the rest of the Embry Riddle group, and headed for home.
Unfortunately, due to the day's schedule, I wasn't able to find a flight directly to home in Maine, instead I ended up on Southwest, heading to Manchester, New Hampshire. This was my first flight through Midway, my first flight through Manchester, and my first flight in recent years on Southwest. I was pleased by all three.

Equipment: Boeing 737-700 (N479WN)
Scheduled Departure: 20:25
Scheduled Arrival: 23:15

Getting to Chicago Midway couldn't be easier from the Loop. The Orange line on the L, straight to the end. Midway is the end of the line, so there's a large rail depot right next to the terminal. I would have snapped a photo of the rail yard, but I received an odd look from a security guard when I took out my camera, so I decided against it.

I ended up arriving at the airport much sooner than I expected (a full four and a half hours before my flight), and Southwest does not accept checked baggage more than four hours before a flight. This meant I had a half hour to kill sitting next to the check-in line before I could proceed through security. Once I was fully checked in, security was a breeze. Midway had about a dozen lanes set up, split into family, casual, and experienced traveler lanes. At the time I went through, there were only a half dozen people in each lane, and the TSA personnel staffing the lanes seemed much less stressed than I expected. If anything, the TSA was almost pleasant (something I certainly couldn't say about Orlando earlier in the week.)

Midway's airport was much nicer than I expected (and much bigger). Being a Southwest/LCC hub, I somehow had anticipated less well maintained facilities.
The WWII Naval Bomber hanging from the ceiling wasn't a bad touch either.

Midway didn't provide free internet, but for four hours I was willing to fork over the $6.25. Conveniently, the departure gate for my flight was moved to the empty area I was sitting at right as I went to pack up my computer. I boarded with area B28. When I got onboard, the window and aisle seats in the front half of the plane were mostly full. I managed to snag 9E, a window seat right at the leading edge of the wing. By the end of boarding, the plane was just about 2/3 full (very few middle seats were taken) a low load for being the day before Thanksgiving.

Taxi and takeoff was brief and uneventful. About 15 minutes into the flight the FA's came around taking drink orders, and came back shortly with the drinks, as well as packets of Ritz chips and Peanuts. Southwest is still the only airline that I'm aware of that actually offers Peanuts these days.
Chicago's Suburbs at night.
Not bad snack service for an hour and a half flight

Apart from about 30 seconds of heavy turbulence when descending into Manchester, the rest of the flight was totally uneventful.

Upon landing, I waited to leave the aircraft, so that I could see the flight deck and talk to the flight crew. Both the Flight Attendants and the captain were very friendly and eagar to talk to me about Embry Riddle, and flying in general, despite the fact that it was close to midnight, after what must have been a very long day of flying.
737NG Flight Deck.

And that leads me to here, back in Maine for Thanksgiving. I will be flying with JetBlue PWM-MCO on Sunday to get back to Riddle for finals. I'll be sure to have the rest of my trip report online by then.

Hope you've enjoyed my trip so far!
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Fri Nov 28, 2008 1:40 am

Nice report and pictures, can't wait for the rest.

Quoting KPWMSpotter (Thread starter):

Taxi and takeoff was brief and uneventful. About 15 minutes into the flight the FA's came around taking drink orders, and came back shortly with the drinks, as well as packets of Ritz chips and Peanuts. Southwest is still the only airline that I'm aware of that actually offers Peanuts these days.

CO, FL(I think), and DL serve peanuts.
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Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:11 pm

Nice report!

Quoting KPWMSpotter (Thread starter):
Anyone know what the fixture on top of the wing is that looks like a tie-down?

AFAIK it's exactly that, a tie-down. It's for the emergency rafts over-wing exits to get tied down so that they don't slide across the wing.

TIS Canon EOS 50D, Canon EOS 5DMkII, Sigma 50mm 1.4, Canon 24-70 2.8L II, Canon 100mm 2.8L, Canon 100-4
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Sat Nov 29, 2008 4:28 am

Quoting COERJ145 (Reply 1):

CO, FL(I think), and DL serve peanuts.

hmm. FL had pretzels instead of peanuts when I flew with them last year. Continental had the same a year prior. Do airlines selectively serve peanuts, depending on whether or not someone onboard is allergic?

Quoting ANITIX87 (Reply 2):
AFAIK it's exactly that, a tie-down.

Ah. Makes total sense. Seems like that would create quite a bit of drag for it's "worst case scenario" use.

Thanks for the comments guys.
I reject your reality and substitute my own...
Canada Mike
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Sat Nov 29, 2008 4:40 am

Quoting KPWMSpotter (Thread starter):
The view out the window. Anyone know what the fixture on top of the wing is that looks like a tie-down?

Can't speak with 100% certainly for the Airbus family, but on 737s, there is a rope tucked into the window frame at the overwing exits. In a ditching, the idea is for the first person out to grab the end of the rope from its recess and attach the hook at the end to the eyelet you see on the wing. Should give the pax something to hang on to when waiting for rescue  white 
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Mon Dec 01, 2008 2:17 pm

I also recall that little part on the wing being an attachment point for life rafts in order to properly inflate them. Though it could also be a static discharger....grounding the plane in the event of a lightning strike.
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Mon Dec 01, 2008 7:20 pm

Since I'm sure you've all been waiting on the edge of your seats for part II of my trip it is!

Upon returning home, I had a traditional Thanksgiving feast with my family, caught up with old friends, and did traditional Thanksgiving-y stuff. But more importantly: I went to the Jetport to take pictures!

It seems that while I've been gone, people have become a little more paranoid about the airport. After a half hour or so of sitting by the fence with my camera, a Police cruiser pulled up behind my car, and an officer approached me for identification. He didn't hassle me beyond checking my ID and asking what I was doing, but he did ask that I promptly move along. I suspect that someone phoned the police about "suspicious activity" on the abandoned road by the airport, and they simply were checking to make sure I wasn't dealing drugs or doing anything that's actually illegal. Overall I can't complain...I still managed to get a few good pictures out of the trip. (the setting winter sun seems to be timed perfectly for photographing the 16:00 departures at PWM)
Continental Connection Dash-8 Q400. This plane is really really quiet, if you couldn't tell from the name.
Just another RJ. I've grown to miss the ERJs. There aren't many of them in Daytona.

Now, on to the actual flight.

#B6 1149
Equipment: Embraer E190 (N279JB, Indigo Blue)
Scheduled Departure: 11:55
Scheduled Arrival: 15:05

The Sunday after thanksgiving didn't seem to be a very good day to fly for anyone. Arriving at the Jetport, check in was quick and painless, with only two people in front of me at the JetBlue counter. But when I reached the security line it was clear that things had turned south for a whole lot of people this afternoon. The security line snaked around the building because only a single screening checkpoint was open (mid-morning is supposed to be a slow hour at Portland). While waiting in line, I overheard a Continental gate agent made an announcement about an already delayed flight, saying that there may be up to four hours of delay for the unlucky passengers headed to Newark.

While the security line did pick up with the opening of a second checkpoint, announcements such as the Continental delay were unfortunately frequent. Since my aircraft was inbound from New York JFK, I feared a delay of my own, but luckily the E190 made an appearance only 15 minutes behind its scheduled arrival.

Traffic at Portland was nothing spectacular, PWM's usual mix of RJs, Dash 8s, and Business jets. Still fun to watch though.
CRJ Pulling Out
Just after the Falcon landed, the active runway changed. While the Falcon is back-taxing after landing on 29, the Hawker is taxing for departure on 11.

The area around Gate 10 (JetBlue's sole gate at Portland) was surprisingly crowded this day. Passengers from a pair of US Airways flights at Gate 11 filled the available seats, so I simply stood at the window.
Indigo Blue makes its first appearance
Pulling into Gate 10

For this flight, I was seated in 3D, a window seat at the front of the aircraft. Even though the flight showed nearly full when I checked in online, there were very few people up front. The forward flight attendant had all of row 1 to herself, and the row in front of me was only half empty. I was lucky, and 3C was empty as well, so I had an entire row of my own. (the back of the aircraft was almost entirely full.)

I tuned 3C's in flight TV to the airshow map, and mine to A&E, and settled in to watch the movie "My Cousin Vinnie" (great movie, I recommend it. It's twice as funny on TV, because all of the profanity is edited out, leaving really awkward pauses in the dialogue)

Sitting forward of the engines in the E-190 is certainly a different experience than being in the back. The famous "buzz-saw" sound of the CF34s that is clearly audible on the CRJs or on the A-10 is much higher pitched on the E190, making more of a "buzz" sound than a buzz-saw.
The most photographed lighthouse in the world: Portland Headlight, in Casco Bay.

Just south of Maine, we entered clouds, and did not leave them until we were below 5000 feet in Florida. There were some slight bumps for the first hour and a half of the flight, but nothing to prevent the Flight Attendants from taking drink orders, delivering drinks, and then snacks. There was a limited selection of food for this flight...instead of JetBlue's full spread, we just had Terra Blues, Cookies, and one other item to chose from. I went with the oh-so-generic chocolate chip cookies.

The rest of the flight got very rough. Being in clouds in moderate chop for an hour or so isn't the most pleasant experience. I've never felt nauseous on a flight before (except maybe in the back seat of a Cessna for a cross country, but that doesn't really compare), but this flight left me feeling a little queasy. Upon arriving in Orlando, the flight attendant greeted the ground staff with "Tell the cleaning crew they're going to need something heavy-duty."

The landing itself was smooth, despite landing into the tail-end of a thunder storm. I have yet to experience a rough landing in an E-Jet, even when landing in the middle of Tropical Storm Fay earlier this year. Maybe it's something to do with the landing gear...

Taxiing in, I noticed a JetBlue A320 parked at the LiveTV hangar, without titles or the LiveTV dish installed. Is JetBlue selling more of their planes?
The naked JetBlue A320.

Deplaning wasn't anything noteworthy, although the baggage claim was slightly chaotic, as there is no clear signage for bag claim assignments, and one of jetBlue's carrosuels was under construction. Either way, I had my bag in under a half hour, and was off to catch the shuttle bus up to Riddle.

That brings my adventures to a close for this week, although, tune in in 10 days, when I'll be flying with Delta up to Maine, riding Delta's mainline metal in Portland!

Hope you all enjoyed reading this!
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Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:45 pm

Is this a US 757?
Those are normally for trans-atlantic travel. But most of those flights are seasonal. hmm.
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Mon Dec 01, 2008 9:00 pm

Quoting TheGMan (Reply 7):
Is this a US 757?

Yep, that's a US 757. Don't remember where it was departing to though.

I saw a couple of American 757s with Winglets in Orlando as well.
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Tue Dec 02, 2008 12:47 am

Oh how I miss PWM...

being stuck in Florida really bums me out. Great report, and great to see photos from Portland.
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Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:04 am

Quoting KPWMSpotter (Reply 8):
Yep, that's a US 757. Don't remember where it was departing to though.

I saw a couple of American 757s with Winglets in Orlando as well.

Probably CLT or PHL.
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Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:10 pm

That's a GREAT report, with excellent pictures! My folks live on Goose Rocks Beach in K'Port, so I know the area well.

You landed at Manchester about nine hours after the United 747-400 dropped in for its short visit here, doing the troop charter from Des Moines. That was quite the event, as brief as it was. But we documented the whole thing...landing, video of its take-off, and even pictures from inside the cockpit.

Although I'm not 100% certain, I think I've been on Indigo Blue before. It would have either been between Boston and Raleigh or between Boston and Orlando, but the name sounds familiar. I log every single one of my flights and I will check my log book tonight.

Chris / MHT

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