This report will cover my return travel, from Montana to Washington, D.C., during the recent holiday season. Some of you may recall my earlier trip report covering the outbound journey from D.C. to Seattle and on to Montana; that report can be found here:
I hope you enjoy this report, and as always, I really appreciate any comments and feedback.
After four wonderful days at home in Bozeman, my itinerary called for a return to D.C. I had originally booked this one-way ticket for Saturday, December 27, flying the route BZN
on Skywest/Delta. However, the day before I was set to leave, I certainly did not feel ready to go! I called Delta and inquired about the possibility of changing my reservation to the next day, Sunday the 28th. As I had booked the cheapest possible ticket, which was non-refundable, the agent quoted me a $100 change fee plus a roughly $100 fare difference. Feeling that I should be responsible, I declined and hung up. After all, $200 is a lot to spend for an extra 24 hours. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense to bite the bullet and pay the money. My logic was as follows: 1) I had no future trips to Montana planned, so I didn’t know when I’d be back; 2) Several of my close friends, whom I had not seen in two years, were set to come into town on Saturday; 3) the revised itinerary the following day would give me my first flight on the CRJ-900 instead of my 22nd flight on the standard CRJ. With that rationale in mind, I called back and made the switch. In the end, I had a great last day at home and a beautiful flight on the CRJ-900—in other words, it was worth it.
Date: December 28, 2008
Flight Number: DL
4382 (operated by Skywest Airlines)
Registration: N824SK (cn 15208, entered service Dec. 11, 2008)
Scheduled Departure: 07:40 MST
Scheduled Arrival: 08:59 MST
Actual Takeoff: 07:49 MST
Actual Landing: 08:44 MST
Actual Flight Time: 0:55
Distance: 347 mi/558 km
Seat: 7A (Economy)
Load: Y 90%, F50%
I showed up at the BZN
airport around 06:30. There was no line at the Skywest/Delta counter, so I proceeded directly to the agent. I was given my boarding passes, though unfortunately no window seat was available for the SLC
leg (nor had it been two days earlier when I rebooked over the phone). But I got the next best thing—an aisle seat. I also checked my suitcase, which ended up being 14 pounds overweight due to my ski boots. It turned out that checking a second bag (I had an extra duffel) with the boots was $25, compared to a $90 fee for checking the one overweight bag. So of course I paid the cheaper price and checked two.
Before heading through security, I snapped a few pics of the terminal for this report. Here’s the baggage claim area. The statue is a replica dinosaur skull reflecting the local Museum of the Rockies’ and the university’s renowned paleontology work, as well as the significant dinosaur digs around the state.
And next, some welded geese hanging from the wooden rafters. The artist who created this flock is a long-time local resident and has several pieces around town.
Here I have to politely disagree with an earlier trip report from JAChase, who wrote: “One thing I hate…is the over-done "Western" theme of many of these airports…BZN
for example, just takes it over the top, combine that with an outdated terminal and you have yourself a pretty disappointing first impression of the state.” In my opinion, the BZN
airport looks a bit like a ski lodge (which is a good thing) and reflects a lot of little things unique to the community—granted, something the average tourist probably doesn’t appreciate. I recognize this is a matter of perspective, but I think this airport has one of the more full-of-character terminals I’ve seen.
After snapping those pics, I bade farewell to my mother and headed through security. The line was short but slow-moving. In all, it took me 15 minutes to get through and even though my gate was just a few feet beyond (as are all gates at BZN
), I was one of the final people to board. I quickly made my way to seat 7A on the left-hand side. Here’s the CRJ-900 proof I was looking for—indeed a new experience for me.
The next picture shows a United Express (also Skywest) CRJ
-200 getting ready to push back for DEN
. Nice to see a special livery in BZN
The forward door of our own RJ
closed and we pushed back exactly on time at 07:40. Here’s a view of the CRJ-200, its big brother the -700 in United Express colors, and finally, Northwest’s A320 getting ready for MSP
After pushing pack, our engines—which were way, way, way behind me on this stretched bird—hummed to life. We began our taxi by swinging the nose to the right toward the taxiway; on the way, we passed “Wolfgang” the wolf pup getting ready to make his morning run to DEN
. I have yet to fly Frontier/Lynx, but would like to try them.
We slowly made our way along the icy A taxiway to the northwestern end of the field. Without pausing, we crept onto the active runway, RWY 12. Here’s a photo lining up on the centerline.
At 07:49, the engines quietly hummed to takeoff thrust and we began moving down the runway. The takeoff roll was smooth, though not exactly powerful-feeling. We gently rotated and began our climb over the snowy fields. Here are a few shots of that sequence.
The aircraft soon made a right-hand turn to the south; the east end of the Gallatin Valley and the town of Bozeman came into view off the left-hand side.
Here’s a view of the Four Corners area looking south along the road toward Big Sky Ski Resort and the Spanish Peaks.
Next, we began to enter some overcast just as we approached the foothills of the mountains.
A few seconds later, however, we popped out of the clouds and were treated to a spectacular sunrise. These moments really define why I enjoy aviation so much—such a sight is beautiful from the ground as well, but there is something extraordinary about experiencing such colors and textures while directly in their midst.
As we continued our climb, we encountered another layer of high clouds. This layer seemed to slope gradually upward, our aircraft continually skimming the top even as we ascended.
Soon we broke away from the cloud layer altogether. At the same time, the sun, too, topped out above the clouds.
The windows on these NextGen CRJs are much improved over their smaller counterparts of the past. Every aspect was spotless and fresh, the aircraft having just entered service a couple weeks earlier.
Below are two more photos as the sun crept higher into the sky.
Thirteen minutes after leaving the icy runway, we topped out at our cruising altitude of 31,000 feet. The two flight attendants began their quick and efficient beverage service. Given the early hour, I opted for a cup of coffee with cream. Although airplane coffee would seldom pass muster in a coffee house, it always tastes good to me. Perhaps the flavor is enhanced by the view?
The flight attendants also offered a snack—either cookies or pretzels—while apologizing for not having a more breakfast-appropriate option. I declined, as did most of the other passengers. Content with my coffee, I leaned back and gave my camera a much-needed rest.
After a 20-minute cruise, we began our descent into the clouds. Here’s a photo of the winglet and wing slicing through the murk.
Following a solid ten minutes in the clouds, we dropped out over the snowy landscape near Ogden, Utah. Here’s a photo of Hill Air Force Base looking southeast down the length of RWY 14.
And here’s a shot of the ramp area with some aircraft much faster than ours.
The next photo shows the snowy Wasatch Range. I wish I had my skis and the time to stick around.
We continued our gradual descent over the frozen salt ponds north of the airport.
Salt Lake City’s downtown area also came into view.
We floated over the perimeter fence, and at 08:44, gently touched the frozen asphalt of RWY 17. In my many trips through SLC
, this was my first arrival on RWY 17, the eastern-most runway, near the general aviation facilities.
We exited the runway stage-right and began our taxi west and north toward the terminal.
Here’s a shot while passing the B Concourse. And I always thought of SLC
as a DL
I also snapped a pic of the giant hangers just north of the terminal.
We picked our way across the snowy ramp toward the C Concourse before coming to a halt at Gate C11. This was my first time on a Skywest flight that parked at the C gates—the smaller CRJs always park at the E Concourse. And as you’ll see in the next photo, Skywest is also using the B Concourse.
Once at the gate, the engines spooled down and the forward door opened. As I was relatively near the front of the aircraft, disembarking was quick. Once inside the terminal, I was able to grab a shot of the aircraft. Its length is not as noticeable in this head-on shot; still, what a beautiful machine.
Finally, here’s the FlightAware map showing our route from BZN
Date: December 28, 2008
Flight Number: DL
Aircraft: Boeing 737-832 (no winglets)
Registration: N396DA (cn 30378, manufactured 2000)
Scheduled Departure: 09:35 MST
Scheduled Arrival: 15:34 EST
Actual Takeoff: 09:50 MST
Actual Landing: 15:14 EST
Actual Flight Time: 3:24
Distance: 1,821 mi/2,931 km
Seat: 28D (Economy)
Load: Y 100%, F100%
My layover at SLC
was short (listed on my itinerary as just 36 minutes), so I proceeded directly to the D Concourse for my flight to Dulles. I did stop ever so briefly along the way to grab a shot of the ramp action.
Boarding was already underway when I arrived at Gate D12, so I queued up and soon found my way down the jet bridge. The gate next to mine was boarding the SLC
flight—I felt a bit envious toward the lucky folks flying into DCA
, and I was not looking forward to the trek from Dulles all the way into town. But alas, Dulles had been considerably cheaper. At any rate, I found my seat, 28D, an aisle seat toward the rear. Unfortunately, the flight was completely full, so there was no possibility to find an empty window. Here’s a photo of the legroom situation.
Also, this was one of the older 738s in the Delta fleet and had not been fitted with AVOD at every seat (nor did it have winglets). Oh well. Here’s the view down the aisle. Given my position, I don’t have any pictures out the window.
We pushed back exactly on time and taxied out to RWY 16L. There was no wait to take the runway and we were soon in the air and on our way. About 15 minutes into the flight, the Captain welcomed everyone onboard and announced our flight time (3:24) and altitude (FL310 initially). The beverage and buy-onboard food service also started. As I hadn’t had time to pick up a snack at SLC
, I was hungry. Plus, I was curious to try Delta’s meal options. I debated between the smoked turkey sandwich, chicken salad, and hummus with pita chips and veggies, all of which were available for $8. The price was a bit steep, I thought, but as I mentioned, I was curious. I opted for the hummus and veggies, and was pleasantly surprised. The veggies were fresh and crisp and the hummus was actually excellent. It was certainly on par with an appetizer in an actual restaurant. I also forked out $7 for a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon—in my opinion, too expensive, especially compared to the $5 price on AS
. Determined to get something free, as well as something with which to wash everything down, I also asked for a sparkling water. The flight attendant also gave me a couple packs of peanuts. All in all, it was a nice snack.
At one point I got up to use the lav. It was clean and stocked well enough (considering this was a domestic flight in coach).
The movie offered on the overhead screens was Wall-E. I watched on and off and also passed the time reading. A few hours flew by (literally) and we were soon descending into the Washington area. I caught a few glimpses out the window at the snowy Shenandoah Mountains, but again, have no pics to show for it.
We touched down on RWY 1C at Dulles at 15:14 EST after a flight time of 3:24—exactly as the Captain had earlier indicated. After a short taxi, we parked at Gate B74. Deplaning took some time given my location toward the back. Once inside the terminal, I was able to grab a shot of the aircraft; notice its larger British Airways cousin parked in the background.
Here’s the FlightAware map showing the route from SLC
Anticipating that I would arrive at the baggage claim well ahead of my bags, I was not in a huge hurry to leave. Here is a shot of the interior of Concourse B.
Admittedly, I was also a bit bummed to be back on the east coast (I’m definitely a western guy). This next shot helped me feel at home, though—the Montana flag.
After 10 minutes or so, I headed toward the mobile lounge and onward to the main terminal. I arrived at the baggage claim just before my bags did—good timing. After a 45 minute wait for the Metrobus to Rosslyn, only to find out that the bus was far too small to accommodate the long line of would-be passengers, I investigated the possibility of taking the Super Shuttle. In the end, I called my girl (who had arrived at DCA
from California approximately the time I arrived at Dulles) and pleaded with her to come pick me up in the car. She agreed. While waiting for her to arrive, I made sure to pick up a rose for her as a thank-you. Thirty minutes later, we were heading back home.
All in all, I really enjoyed my flights back to DC. The CRJ-900—especially as mine was brand new—was a pleasure to fly on. The sunrise over the mountains was spectacular, and I was mostly pleased with Delta’s service, even if the vino was a bit pricy.
I hope you enjoyed this report and thank you for reading it. Also, for those of you who have read my reports in the past, I promise (most likely) that I won’t post any future reports involving the DC-BZN
route. This is, I believe, my fourth—my goal has been to highlight the various airlines and route options that exist for this trip. Having said, that, I think I’ve now covered most of the possibilities. Thank you for sticking with me, and I hope my writings over the last year have not been too repetitive. You can expect a SXM
report in the future, as well as possibly another Europe report this summer.
Best wishes to all,