It had been awhile since my last report—and last trip, for that matter—and I was feeling the urge to get in the air. In addition, my girlfriend was soon to be departing with her friends for ten days of vacation in Ethiopia and I could not stand the thought of sitting idle around the apartment. It was time for me to do some flying as well.
After tracking fares over several days from WAS to a variety of destinations and on various airlines, I decided in favor of a day trip to MKE (Milwaukee). I booked two one-way tickets with a same-day return for June 30, 2009; the outbound travel on Northwest (NW) took me on the DCA-DTW-MKE route, while the return was non-stop from MKE to DCA on Midwest Airlines (YX).
Although MKE may not be the most exotic destination, there were several factors behind my choice and my particular itinerary: 1) I had never been to Milwaukee, 2) I would experience a new aircraft type, the 717, 3) I would fly on Midwest Airlines for the first time, 4) I would get to fly on one of NW’s classic DC-9s, an increasingly rare breed these days, and 5) The fares were cheap!
Finally, this was the first time I had ever flown anywhere simply for the sake of flying. I was not visiting someone, not travelling for work or for vacation, or for any reason other than simply—to fly. I like this idea.
I hope you enjoy my report and, as always, comments and feedback are most appreciated!
My two alarm clocks rang simultaneously at 04:30 on June 30 and I was quickly vertical and into the shower, glad to be on my way. The prospect of flying never fails to get me out of bed, even at the nastiest of hours. I left my apartment in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington at 05:00 sharp and set out on foot to the airport. Granted, I could have driven my car three minutes to DCA and paid $12 to park in the economy lot for the day. Or, I could have paid $8 for a cab. Or, I could have waited and caught the 05:34 Metro train near my building and arrived at DCA at 05:38. But I liked the idea of walking to the airport to catch a flight—indeed, another “first” for me. There are not many airports where one can arrive by foot, and one of the many great things about DCA is that it is very convenient for pedestrians. Here is an image of my early morning stroll toward the airport.
Has anyone ever heard of the company whose logo appears in the next photo? Apparently they are in the aviation business.
After a leisurely, 30-minute walk, I strolled up to DCA’s old Terminal A at 05:30, just as the eastern sky began to glow in tones of orange and pink. Although it is too dark to see the architecture clearly in the next photo, the façade of the original 1940s terminal building at DCA is a classic sight, one that harkens back to an older era in air travel.
I made my way inside the building and, having printed out my boarding pass at home the night before, I proceeded directly to security. I was through the metal detector in less than two minutes. With a half-hour to spare, I grabbed a breakfast sandwich and enjoyed a coffee. I also snapped a photo of the beautiful Airbus that would soon fly me to Detroit. Initially I was disappointed not to have a Delta-painted A320; at second thought, I realized the future of Northwest belongs to Delta and that I should enjoy the grey and red metal of NW while it lasts.
Date: June 30, 2009
Flight #: NW 223
Aircraft Type: Airbus A320-212 / CFM56 Engines
Aircraft Registration: N336NW / sn 3236 (355) / Manufactured 1992
Scheduled Departure: 06:30 EDT
Scheduled Arrival: 08:01 EDT
Actual Takeoff: 06:37 EDT
Actual Landing: 07:50 EDT
Flight Time: 1:13
Distance: 405 mi/652 km
Seat: 20F (Economy)
Load: Y 15%, F100%
My Logbook: 40th flight on Northwest, 27th flight on an A320
Photo © David Marshall
At 06:05, general boarding began and I quickly made my way onto the aircraft and found my seat at 20F, a right-side window. I knew from the seat maps when checking in the night before that the Y load on this flight was extremely light, and this indeed proved to be the case. I not only had three seats to myself, but also most of the back half of the cabin! It was almost as if I had my own private A320, albeit one fitted with coach-class seats.
Although the aircraft was still painted in Northwest colors, the signs of Delta were ubiquitous on the inside. A few years ago, a safety card for a Delta A320 is not something I would have expected to see anytime soon—but here it is.
I also snapped a shot out the window. The CRJ next door was on its way to Indianapolis with a scheduled departure just a few minutes after us.
Given the light load, the Airbus was quickly sealed and we pushed back at 06:25. As the engines began to spool to life, I grabbed a photo of several AA aircraft that had been parked remotely just south of Terminal A for the night.
I also grabbed a photo of this Alaska 737-800 awaiting its next flight to either Seattle or Los Angeles.
Prior to leaving for the airport, I had checked the weather online and noticed a 10 knot wind from the south, meaning that RWY19 departures were likely to be in effect. Sure enough, we began to taxi to the north, past the main terminal, for an eventual RWY19 departure. This was unfortunate, as I love the RWY01 departure to the north because of the spectacular views of downtown DC; furthermore, this was the third time in a row that I’d flown out of DCA with a southbound departure. Oh well, one cannot change the weather! It was a beautiful morning, though, and a great day for flying. The sun was already high above the Potomac River as we taxied toward the north end of the field.
We reached the head of the runway and held short for a minute while this US Airways A319 blasted off as flight AWE2020 to Boston.
Shortly thereafter, we turned onto the runway and I grabbed a nice shot of Crystal City just west of the airport. My building is the one directly in the center of the next photo though, unfortunately for spotting, my apartment and balcony are on the opposite side of the building.
At 06:37, we lined up on the center line, the CFM56 engines roared into action, and we barreled down the runway. Our lightly-laden A320 smoothly rotated and climbed quickly into the morning sky. We continued south over the Potomac River, the city of Alexandria appearing off the right wing before we made a right-hand turn back to the northwest. Below are several photos of this sequence.
As we climbed out to the northwest, the airport came back into view; it is visible in the next two photos on the near side of the river. The long strip of land on the far side of the river is Hains Point and beyond that is the city of Washington, D.C.
As we continued our climb, the flight attendants began the cabin service. Given the light passenger load, they moved quickly. The service was very friendly and exceeded my expectations; although this was a short flight, I was twice offered coffee and once offered a cold drink. While I only accepted one cup of coffee, the flight attendants were clearly going out of their way to please the few of us sitting back in coach. Well done, Northwest. Below is a shot of my coffee, as well as the trademark Biscoff cookies served on Delta (and now on Northwest).
Meanwhile, we jetted over northern Maryland and western Pennsylvania and the clear skies gave way to cloud cover below.
I took the opportunity no passengers in the seats across from me to grab this photo out the far window. I really like this photo for its framing and simplicity.
While I was very much enjoying the flight, the end phase neared and we soon began our descent into the clouds.
As we continued downward the beautiful cloud formations mixed with the soft light to provide stellar views out the window.
As we neared Detroit, the clouds broke apart just long enough to make out the Detroit River, as seen in the next photo—that’s Canada on the right bank.
The overcast soon returned, however, just as the aircraft rolled into a left-hand bank to assume a southwesterly course for the airport and an eventual landing on either of the 21 or 22 runways.
As you can see through the porthole, we dropped into the murk a moment later.
Just as quickly as we entered the cloud floor, we exited its ceiling below to views of suburban Detroit. Below are some shots of that sequence.
The crew glided our Airbus to a silky-smooth landing on RWY21L at 07:50.
We exited the runway to the right and made our way around the southern end of DTW’s McNamara Terminal. I grabbed a shot of this Saab 340 along the way. Even though I knew to expect DL colors on NW birds, it still caught me slightly off guard to see such a paint scheme! It looks good, though, doesn’t it?
After a long taxi back to the northeast to the far end of the terminal, our Airbus docked at Gate A78. Below is a photo as we pulled into the bay.
With so few passengers, I was off in no time. The first thing I normally do is grab a shot of the aircraft on which I have just flown. Here is the machine that carried me safely to Detroit, enjoying a short break before her next blastoff.
This is the route we took from DCA to DTW.
I had an hour until boarding commenced for my flight to Milwaukee, so I decided to stretch my legs and walk the length of the McNamara terminal. After ten minutes or so I reached the midway point marked by the cool water fountain. The next photo shows the water in action with a NW-painted 757 in the background.
I grabbed a Starbucks drip coffee and continued my stroll toward the Milwaukee flight at the far end of the concourse. Of course, I took some photos along the way. Here is a NW beast awaiting its next haul to Asia. As for the dots on the windows—despite their interference with photography, I am of the opinion they are very much a part of the quintessential DTW image!
Next, I headed up to the ExpressTram platform above the main floor to grab some shots of the terminal and the train. As you can see in the photo below, the train still sports the characteristic NW red, though the NW logos have been removed. Seeing that actually made me feel sad about the disappearance of NW. After too many bad experiences, I had at one time refused to fly NW. However, the airline eventually won me back and I have had nothing but positive experiences over the last couple of years. And regardless, all can agree that NW is an airline with a long and impressive history. I think the absorption of the NW brand is cause for reflection and for admiration of its long history as this era draws to a close.
Speaking of eras, the time of the DC-9 in America is also in its twilight and the opportunity to fly on this antique machine is a main reason I booked this specific itinerary. As I approached Gate A15, I was thrilled to see this seasoned veteran waiting to take me to Milwaukee.
Incredibly, this aircraft, a DC-9-40 series, was built in 1968! To put that in perspective, when this plane rolled off the assembly line, Lyndon B. Johnson was President of the United States, the Berlin Wall had only stood for 7 years, and the internet was still at least a quarter-century from becoming a mainstream concept! I had yet to be born by 13 years when this aircraft began its life, and here it was, still flying the skies over the Midwest. Stunning.
Date: June 30, 2009
Flight #: NW 1725
Aircraft Type: McDonnell Douglas DC-9-41 / P&W JT8D Engines
Aircraft Registration: N760NW / sn 47288/369 / Manufactured 1968
Scheduled Departure: 09:25 EDT
Scheduled Arrival: 09:36 CDT
Actual Takeoff: 09:41 EDT
Actual Landing: 09:30 CDT
Flight Time: 0:49
Distance: 237 mi/381 km
Seat: 14A (Economy)
Load: Y 100%, F100%
My Logbook: 41st flight on Northwest, 9th flight on a DC-9 (first on a -40 series)
Photo © Bruce Leibowitz
Boarding commenced shortly after 09:00 and I made my way down the bridge. As I entered the aircraft—I’m not joking—I noticed a sort of “old airplane smell.” While the interior furbishing is obviously more recent than the 1968 airframe, there was nonetheless a distinct, dusty odor similar to what one encounters when entering an antique store. Very cool. I found my way to seat 8A on the left side of the aircraft; for whatever reason, NW deems 8A to be a special seat worthy of an extra $10 fee, which I had paid the evening before when I checked in. Unfortunately, all the free window seats were already occupied when I had booked my ticket and, not wanting to miss the window on what may be my last DC-9 flight, I gladly coughed up the $10. I settled into my seat, snapped a shot of the safety card just for the heck of it, and then gazed out the window at the sturdy old wing. Next to us was a longer but younger DC-9-50 already sporting DL colors.
The aircraft soon filled to capacity, the forward door closed, and we pushed back a few minutes ahead of schedule at 09:20. There was no mistaking the point at which each P&W engine roared to life—what a sound! We then began the taxi out to RWY22R. The next photo shows us plodding along, the flaps extended to takeoff position.
At 09:40, we turned onto the runway, the engines screamed to full thrust, and we powered down the centerline.
Even with a full load of passengers, this old machine had some strength left in it and the takeoff felt powerful and fast. We climbed through the first layer of broken clouds before making a broad right turn to the west.
The cabin crew soon made an announcement that due to the short flight, a beverage service would not be offered. Fair enough, the flight time was only 49 minutes so I was not surprised, nor did I really want anything to drink. Still, I could not help but recall a KLM Cityhopper flight I once took from AMS to BRU. We were in the air for a grand total of 19 minutes and still received a pastry and an orange juice! I know that comparing U.S. domestic service to European service is not really valid, but the KLM Cityhopper example is proof that it is indeed possible to serve something on a short flight. So, to me, NW’s rationale sounds more like a convenient way to achieve some cost savings. And hey, I am fine with that if that is the case.
We continued to the west over a very cloudy Michigan and I gazed out the window. Look at all the rivets in that wing!
Before long, I heard the engines throttle back and we began our descent. Meanwhile, the clouds broke over Lake Michigan and I got a glimpse of the water.
The flight deck soon made an announcement that we would be landing on time in Milwaukee and that the latest weather report called for partly cloudy skies, winds out of the west, and a temperature of 65* F (18*C). We then began a broad left turn to the south for the downwind leg of an eventual landing to the north.
After flying the downwind, we made a 180-degree turn to the right to head back toward the airport. We descended into the clouds, quickly popped out beneath them, and continued our final approach toward MKE, as shown in the next series of photos.
We landed nicely on RWY01L at 09:30.
After exiting the runway to the left, we taxied to the DL/NW gates at Concourse E at the southern end of the terminal. We came to a halt next to this Chautauqua ERJ-145 getting ready for its hop back to Cincinnati.
As I was near the front of the aircraft, I was off within a couple of minutes. Once in the terminal, of course, I paused at the window to get this shot. Forty-one years old and still looking good!
Here is our flight path from DTW to MKE.
With 6.5 hours until my flight back to DC, I had plenty of time to head into the city to have a look around. I grabbed a bus schedule and proceeded to the pick-up curb.
Here is a shot of the MKE control tower while waiting for the bus.
The ride into the city took about 30 minutes and cost a reasonable $2. I got off at the Wisconsin Avenue stop and spent the next 3 hours wandering around the downtown area. My impression from my brief stay was very positive. Milwaukee seems like a nice city. Below are just a few photos from downtown. The weather was cloudy but fortunately it did not rain.
The convention center, named for Milwaukee’s hometown airline.
I covered most of the downtown area, as well as the “Riverwalk,” by 13:00, so I decided to head back to the airport. I wanted to have plenty of time before my 16:00 departure in order to have lunch, visit the small museum known as the Mitchell Gallery of Flight, and just generally check out the airport. The ride again lasted about 30 minutes and the bus dropped me off at the same curb from which I departed. I headed into the terminal and quickly found the Mitchell Gallery, where I spent about 20 minutes. While this museum is small, it is interesting if one takes the time to study the items and read the signs.
I found the display in this next photo kind of neat. The models of the Graf Zeppelin II airship and the NW Boeing 757 are built to the same scale (1:36) and are positioned next to each other for the sake of a size comparison. Given that the 757 is not a small aircraft, one can really get a sense of the enormity of the Zeppelin.
Following my visit to the museum, I made my way to the restaurant/bar and grabbed some lunch. I decided to go with some “local” faire and, as this region was heavily settled by German immigrants, that meant bratwurst, sauerkraut, potato salad, and a beer. It was pretty tasty—even the sauerkraut.
I finished eating and then headed to the Renaissance Book Shop in the main terminal. I was very impressed with this shop, which is not the typical airport bookstore. It has a fair number of used and antique books for sale, including an excellent assortment of aviation and airline-related literature. I highly recommend it if you have time to spare at MKE.
Date: June 30, 2009
Flight #: YX415
Aircraft Type: Boeing 717-200 / Rolls Royce BR700 Engines
Aircraft Registration: N913ME / sn 55176/5126 / Manufactured 2003
Scheduled Departure: 16:00 CDT
Scheduled Arrival: 18:50 EDT
Actual Takeoff: 16:26 CDT
Actual Landing: 18:55 EDT
Flight Time: 1:29
Distance: 634 mi/1020 km
Seat: 8A (Signature Seat)
Load: Signature Section 20%, Saver Section 100%
My Logbook: 1st flight on Midwest, 1st flight on the 717
Photo © Ryan C. Umphrey
At 14:45 or so, I headed to the security checkpoint; the line was quick and I was soon in Concourse D, the Midwest Airlines part of the airport. I grabbed a few photos of the local metal—here is a nice lineup of 717s.
And here a good-looking Republic ERJ-170 operating as Midwest Connect. Actually, I should phrase that the other way around. Given the recent acquisition of Midwest by Republic Airways Holdings, I should say “Midwest Connect operating on behalf of Republic.”
This nice Great Lakes Beechcraft 1900 was also parked on the ramp awaiting its next jump to somewhere nearby.
Eventually, I made my way to Gate 44 for my flight to DCA. Here are a few shots of my 717 waiting for the jaunt to the nation’s capital.
I was happy to see they were not forgetting the cookies!
While boarding was scheduled to begin at 15:30, the inbound aircraft had arrived a few minutes late into the gate. In addition, due to several disabled passengers on our flight who required extra assistance getting down the jetway, general boarding was not called until 15:50. I finally made my way down the tunnel and into the crisp and classy cabin of the 717. The “old aircraft smell” of my previous DC-9 was not to be found. Instead, this modern descendent of the DC-9 carried the tantalizing smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the onboard oven. I think Midwest is really onto something good here! I quickly found my seat at 8A, a large, leather “Signature Seat” on the left side of the aircraft. Again, I had paid extra for this seat, as every window seat in the “Saver” section was unfortunately occupied at the time of my booking. The cost of the upgrade was $35—not too cheap, but still worth it to have a window on my first 717 flight, not to mention the extra comfort. Here are some impressions of the area around my seat.
Yes, it is indeed a 717!
So far, I was impressed with the nice cabin and the leather seats on this great little jetliner. The one downside? The windows were covered in a thick layer of grime and my view was quite poor as a result. I knew I would not get any remarkable photographs on this flight. Apologies in advance for the less-than crisp photographs that will follow.
Despite the late boarding, the aircraft was quickly sealed and we pushed back from the gate not too far behind schedule at 16:10. The engines hummed to life—much quieter than those on the DC-9 earlier that day—and we began to taxi to the south for a RWY01 departure to the north.
At 16:26, we rolled onto the active runway and, without stopping, the engines revved to takeoff power. We smoothly rotated and climbed out to the north. Here is a shot of the left wing as we left the airport behind.
Within a minute or so of liftoff, we banked hard to the right and the downtown area of Milwaukee came briefly into view alongside the shore of Lake Michigan.
After a 180-degree turn to the south, we climbed above the overcast and proceeded toward Chicago.
I played around with the camera a bit and tried to capture some shots of the window frames—I like that concept, as you may have noticed.
Within 20 minutes of takeoff, the flight attendants came through the aisle with the renowned Midwest cookies. As expected, they were hot, fresh, and gooey. Each passenger was given two.
A few minutes later, the beverage and buy-on-board meal service began. I had originally intended to sample the meal offerings, but given my late lunch of bratwurst and beer, I was not hungry enough to justify purchasing a meal, though the chicken caesar salad (available for $11) looked quite nice. I instead settled for the cookies and free beverages. I took a lime sparkling water and a cup of coffee, the latter of which tasted excellent with the cookies. I was also pleased that the sparkling water was La Croix, one of my favorite brands.
After finishing my cookies and drinks, I passed the time with a little reading.
Meanwhile, we jetted eastbound over a cloudy Ohio.
The minutes flew by and the flight deck soon announced we were beginning our descent. The pilot also mentioned that we would fly the river approach into Washington and that those of us on the left-side would get a nice view of downtown D.C. Yes!
We soon headed downward, all the while picking our way through a line of thunderstorms perched west of the Washington area. The ride grew moderately bumpy and I watched through the blurry window as the wing flexed with each jolt.
Upon exiting the clouds, the runways of Dulles came into view.
We then banked to the left and assumed a northeasterly course to intercept the Potomac River. The next photo shows the Potomac reflecting the evening sun.
The forward slats of the wing deployed and we then began a right-hand turn back to the southeast to follow the river toward DCA.
We soon passed over the Georgetown area of Washington, DC.
The Watergate Complex—the circular structures in the next photo—then came into view along with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Next, I spied the Lincoln Memorial and the western end of the National Mall. It really is astounding how close this approach is to the DC landmarks.
With less than a mile to go, we banked steeply to the right to line up with RWY19. The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial came into view in the next two pictures.
Just a couple hundred feet above the ground, the wings leveled and we screamed over the turf of Gravelly Point. Hey, there is the path where I go running!
The 717 slammed onto the runway at 18:55 EST. I heard several of the passengers gasp at the rough landing. I am not an airline pilot (unfortunately) but in my opinion, any landing on RWY19 at DCA is a good landing; with such a tricky approach and a relatively short runway, a feather-light touchdown cannot be expected here.
We quickly exited the runway to the right and taxied to Terminal A, the same terminal from which I had departed on NW some twelve-and-a-half hours earlier. Here is a photo as we pulled into the gate.
I was off the aircraft within two minutes. Below is the requisite post-flight picture of the aircraft docked at the gate. I really like the sharp blue, white, and gold paintjob.
Our route from MKE to DCA looked like this:
I left the secure area of Terminal A and decided to take a walk to the main area of the airport, Terminals B and C. Along the way I got another glimpse of the 717 that had just brought me from Milwaukee.
The next photo shows the main hall running through the old Terminal A. Although there were a few Delta Connection aircraft resting there today, I tried to imagine the bygone days of propliners parked outside those windows.
As the weather was nice, I decided to forego the Metro and once again walk home, albeit via a different route. I headed through the main building to the far north end of Terminal C. From there, I continued outside past the north hangars and the airport administration buildings toward the Mount Vernon Trail, the same running path I spied from the air just prior to landing. One reason I love running on this trail is that it provides great views of the action at DCA. As I intercepted the trail just beyond the perimeter fence, I grabbed this shot of an idling US Airways A319 waiting for departure. Note the dome of the U.S. Capitol building just above the fuselage.
Here is a final shot of the airport as I walked along the path back toward Crystal City.
Within twenty minutes I was home. I grabbed my computer and a cold beer and headed to the balcony to start this trip report while my memory was fresh.
It had been a perfect day and it was great to get back into the air. I enjoyed all the flights, and it was fun to experience a new city, a new aircraft type, and a new airline—plus an old airplane, the DC-9. Furthermore, all of my flights were right on time and the weather even cooperated by allowing me to check out the city of Milwaukee without getting rained on. I was also impressed with my Midwest experience. It really is a little different than other airlines—sort of like Alaska Airlines, in my opinion, in that it has a little extra character.
Thank you for coming along on my travels. I hope you enjoyed this report as much as I enjoyed writing it.
P.S. On second thought, there is more. When my girl returned from Ethiopia on July 5, I found out that she had been sweet enough to indulge my nerdy airplane obsession by taking MANY aviation photos for me during her travels. And as it turns out, her photos are great—she is quite the trip report photographer! So, what the heck, I will post some of them here as well. For your information, her route was IAD-LHR-CAI-ADD-CAI-LHR-IAD on United and Egyptair; she also took a number of domestic flights on Ethiopian Airlines between ADD and LLI (Lalibela), GDQ (Gondar), and BJR (Bahir Dar). I hope you enjoy these final pics and thanks again for reading my report.
The photo below shows the massive left engine of an Egyptair Boeing 777 high above the Mediterranean enroute from LHR to CAI.
The meal offerings on the LHR-CAI sector were beef or chicken. My girl chose the beef, which was apparently not as good as the chicken that her friend ordered.
Once in Addis, my girl grabbed a shot of this interesting, airplane-themed building. Not sure why there is also a portrait of the space shuttle over the entrance.
A couple of days after arriving in Addis, she and her friends were off to Gondar. Below is a shot of the ramp at ADD before their departure.
The flight from Addis to Gondar was on this nice-looking 737-700.
Here’s another shot of the aircraft after landing in Gondar.
No jet-bridges here—there was a walk across the tarmac from the aircraft to the terminal.
A few days later, my girl and her friends flew from Bahir Dar to Lalibela, this time on a Fokker-50. Here’s her boarding pass…she really did a great job of documenting all of this stuff that, to be honest, she finds far less fascinating than I do! She was really sweet to do this for me.
Here’s a shot of the aircraft.
After deplaning in Lalibela, she saw a great opportunity for a photo and asked the pilot if she could take one. He replied “okay!”
Here’s another view of the Fokker-50.
Apparently the tower at Lalibela was under construction?
Entering the terminal at Lalibela.
A few days later it was time for my girl to head home to DC, again via CAI and LHR. The next photo shows some pyramids while on approach into Cairo!
After landing, she got a glimpse of the cargo ramp at CAI.
Midwest Airlines—just not the one that serves cookies and flies to Milwaukee.
Egyptair Airbus and Boeing, side by side.
After deplaning, my girl grabbed this shot of the machine that carried her from ADD to CAI—nice new paint scheme!