Legal Disclaimer: The views expressed in this trip report are my own and do not represent those of my employer, Delta Air Lines. Additionally, while I for work for Delta, this Trip Report will attempt to be as free from bias as possible. Delta Engineering doesn't care what I say about Delta's service, so I might as well be as honest as possible...
Where to begin...
This trip report will serve as the first part of a two-part journey to Köln, Germany. This segment will cover a quick domestic hop in preparation for my trip to Köln, while the second part ( ATL-AMS/DUS-ATL, DL BE + ICE Train And Köln (by KPWMSpotter Oct 31 2011 in Trip Reports) ) will cover the international segments of my trip.
This saga begins in the middle of last week, as I was helping my boss prepare for an airline industry conference in Köln, Germany. An offhand comment from a co-worker led to a serious consideration of whether or not I should attend the conference myself. On Wednesday afternoon it was decided that, yes, I probably should attend the conference (beginning on the following Monday), and I launched into my preparations to get to Köln.
I will delve into the details of my international itinerary in part two of this trip report, but for now I will focus on a quick trip that I had to take before heading abroad. I had not expected to be making any formal business trips this month, so I had left some of my formal dress attire as well as some travel essentials like power adapters back home in Maine after my last trip. I had the option of either purchasing a new suit jacket and various other items, or attempting to make a quick out-and-back from Atlanta to Maine in the 48 hours I had available before my transatlantic departure. Being a true A.Netter, I obviously chose the option which included a ridiculous amount of flying.
Looking at the seats available for standby travel to and from the Northeast, I settled on flying ATL-PWM on Friday night, followed by the option of either PWM-ATL, or PWM-DTW-ATL on Saturday afternoon, depending on the last-minute seat availability. This trip report will cover ATL-PWM and PWM-DTW-ATL, all operated by Delta in Y class. I will also include some photos and opinions of PWM's newly opened terminal expansion - an Airliners.net exclusive first look!
On to the flights...
KATL - KPWM
Flight # DAL 0704
Equipment:McDonnell Douglas MD-88 (N912DE)
Scheduled Departure: 20:20 Actual Departure: 20:25
Scheduled Arrival: 23:30 Actual Arrival: 23:15
After leaving work on Friday afternoon, I rushed back to my apartment and packed just enough to get by for my entire itinerary if need-be. Since I would be flying standby for the entire domestic trip, I wanted to make sure that I would have options available if I weren't able to get back to Atlanta. If I ended up stranded at PWM, I could always get to DTW and list to standby into Amsterdam. With this contingency in mind, I charged forward in my plans to fly more than 11,000 miles over the next four days...
Clothing, computer, folders and paperwork all crammed into one bag. I could have made the whole trip on one backpack were it not for my camera, but my camera was essential equipment for this trip...
Driving into the airport, I came face to face with a 747-400 slowly climbing its way over the trees and buildings before me. I wish I had been able to take a picture, as the low evening sunlight was absolutely beautiful on the aircraft. I interpreted this majestic sight as a good omen and happily continued on to the terminal...
Arrival and check-in was a breeze, I was dropped off by the parking shuttle on the lower level of the terminal, which spared all of the chaos of upper level check-in area. After a quick interaction with a kiosk, I was on my way towards the security checkpoint, seat request card in hand.
I typically make use of the South Security Checkpoint at ATL (turn right after the DL check in counters and keep walking until you hit the TSA), as it is much less crowded at peak hours. Unfortunately the TSA has installed the nude-o-scopes at all lanes now, but it's still significantly faster than the main checkpoint. Additionally, Delta / TSA's "PreCheck" program has been installed at the South Checkpoint, so eligible DL Medallions can pass through security without removing their shoes, jackets, or laptops. Aside from being a Delta or American elite, there is currently no way to sign up for the program. Hopefully that will come later.
My flight was scheduled to depart from the A gates, so I took a quick stroll through the African-artwork decorated tunnel and made my way to the relatively empty gate area. The flight was booked to go out with about 45 empty seats, so I had no trouble finding a seat in the gate area, and had no worries about being cleared onto the flight.
My aircraft pulling into the gate.
I tried to get in some reading at the gate, but I could not find a seat nearby my gate which was not under constant bombardment by the CNN Airport Network. Perhaps it just seemed louder due to the relatively empty terminal, but I wasn't even able to hold a phone conversation over the constant noise of CNN Airport, automated gate announcements, security announcements, and other general babble all competing to be the loudest thing in the terminal...
About 45 minutes prior to departure I noticed that the "Cleared List" had appeared on the gate information screen. Upon further investigation, I saw that all of the non-revs (myself, a couple other active employees, and about a half dozen retirees/buddy passes/others) had been cleared. This time I was lucky and was assigned seat 11A, a window seat in the second row after the bulkhead. Typically gate agents will clear standbys into aisle seats, as the aisles are seen to be generally more preferable. In this case, the window was probably the best seat available, with the rest all being middle seats or way in the back. Works for me, I'll take a window seat any day.
Boarding was delayed slightly due to late arriving flight attendants, but because of the light load we ended up pushing back approximately on time.
Looking out the window at the busy A-concourse.
Taxi was relatively quick, down Taxiway Echo, past Delta TechOps, and onto Runway 26L. Takeoff was consistent with most MD-88 departures. Sitting up front the engine noise is almost non-existent, so the takeoff is eerily quiet until the airspeed picks up and the rushing air noise takes over. I've always enjoyed the noise that MD-88 slats make when they retract during the climb, a sort of *shhooooffffp* pneumatic sucking noise. In reality, much of this noise comes from the slats rubbing against the fixed leading edge, which eventually can cause damage to the slat trailing edge wedges, which makes more work for me at TechOps. I don't mind though, it sounds cool.
Climbing over the Atlanta suburbs in the darkness
Seat 11B remained empty, so I was able to spread out, relax, and get some reading done. Drink service came relatively quickly after we reached cruising altitude and I ordered my standard evening fare of Biscoff with Cran-Apple juice (no ice, as the plane was quite cold.) I've found that my drink orders tend to follow a pattern based on the time of day, even though I've made no conscious effort to form a pattern. Orange Juice if for the early morning, Sprite after 10. Coke for lunch and the afternoon, and Cran-Apple when it's too late for caffeine. Pretzels seem to go better in the morning, while Biscoff is better in the afternoon. Peanuts are only a good choice if nothing else is offered...
mmm, Biscoff. I always keep some Biscoff in my camera case, it makes a perfect snack while Plane Spotting too.
After the snack service I settled back into a good book to pass the flying time of approximately two hours.
Landing in PWM we made a straight in approach to Runway 11, stopping pretty short and exiting at Taxiway Charlie where we had about 30 seconds of taxiing before parked at the gate. Being dark out and quite late I didn't take much time to explore the new PWM terminal building. I did notice that we had parked at Gate 3, which I could have sworn was Gate 5 last time I was in Portland, but more about that later...
KPWM - KDTW
Flight # FLG 4113
Equipment:Bombardier CRJ-200 (N8886A)
Scheduled Departure: 16:20 Actual Departure: 16:20
Scheduled Arrival: 18:45 Actual Arrival: 18:15
After a mere 18 hours in Maine I had picked up my things, met a couple of friends for breakfast, had lunch with my parents, and I was back at the Jetport to fly down to Atlanta again.
In the days and hours leading up to my flight I had been intently watching TravelNet to determine how I would get back to ATL. I had narrowed down my options to a 5:10 flight direct to ATL which had 14 seats available, or a 4:20 flight to DTW with 7 seats and a connecting flight with more than 50 seats open. Previously I have seen MD-88s with 30 seats sell down to two seats within a day of the flight, while CRJs with 3 seats will stay at 3 for weeks at a time. Additionally, the standby list on CRJs always seems substantially shorter. Taking into account the fact that I would be accruing an additional leg and more miles flown* I decided to play it safe and take the connection through DTW. In hindsight, the direct PWM-ATL flight ended up departing with two empty seats in First (which could have been mine), but hey, I have one more flight to write about in my trip report now.
*Note that as a Non-Rev I don't accumulate frequent flier miles, it's simply a personal goal of mine to have flown 240,000 miles (the distance to the moon) by the time I'm done with my Co-Op at Delta...
As noted in the title of this TR, I also took plenty of pictures of PWM's recently opened terminal. PWM has been working on a terminal expansion for nearly a decade now. A new baggage claim opened in 2005, a new parking garage opened shortly thereafter. The new terminal expansion broke ground nearly two years ago, and opened to the public on October 1st. The new terminal nearly doubles the available check-in counter space, adds three new jetbridges, a new and expanded TSA checkpoint, and enables in-line baggage screening (rather than having to drop baggage at TSA locations within the terminal.) The existing terminal building is now under construction for renovation, but I have to say, the newly constructed space is quite impressive. I'll let the photos do the talking...
Driving into the new terminal. Note the new parking structure to the left and the large "Jetport" terminal building at right. The employee parking lot to the far right has a dual purpose, underneath are hundreds of geothermal wells which help heat and cool the terminal.
The access road to the airport travels under a section of the new terminal. On the third and fourth levels are the TSA screening checkpoint and the walkway to the parking garage.
After checking in at the old portion of the terminal you must walk through the areas being renovated to reach the new TSA checkpoint.
The new check-in hall, currently only home to US Airways and JetBlue. More airlines will move over to the new facility as their current locations come under renovation work.
Looking up at the second floor food court, behind the TSA screening checkpoint. Jetport officials advertise the windows as a place to wave goodbye to loved ones one last time before departing.
On the Escalator to security. The new terminal is laid out with the check in facilities on the ground floor, the airside gate area on the 2nd floor, and the TSA security checkpoint on the 3rd.
The wide-open expanse of the TSA screening area. The aircraft hanging from the ceiling was donated to the Jetport by the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Rockland.
Just through security is the new food court area which features a Burger King and Linda Bean's Maine Lobster.
Lobsters are for sale past security, both as meals and packaged ready to take home. I'm sure they cost a whole lot more that way...
PWM's new departure information screens, a big improvement from the 1980s style CRTs previously installed. Not much on the schedule for a Saturday afternoon...
These larger gate information screens display arrival and departure data and also cycle through weather and airport information on the center screen.
Delta's gates are still back in the dull, old terminal facilities.
Construction is still ongoing to update the old terminal's gates and interior. Work is progressing one gate area at a time.
My ride to Detroit pulling into Gate 4.
Our inbound aircraft arrived a couple minutes behind schedule and the gate agent appeared to be in training, so boarding was begun rather late (only about ten minutes prior to scheduled departure.) I was cleared into seat 3A (yay! a window again!) and quickly crammed myself into the seat. My backpack wouldn't fit into the overhead bin, so my camera stayed around my neck, my backpack went in what was intended as my leg room, and my camera case barely fit in the overhead.
Stepping onboard. I was aiming for the Pinnacle Airlines logo (out of frame), which looked to be very freshly painted. Apparently my aim isn't so great when I'm shooting from the hip.
Looking back at the aircraft and the threatening fall sky.
My legs, crammed into the tiny space available on this Canadian Torture Tube.
As we boarded the aircraft, a Delta ERJ-145 pulled into the ramp space behind our gate. This was the 5:00 flight to LGA, which either arrived early, late or was poorly scheduled. As we boarded, the ERJ proceeded to taxi in circles around the airport waiting for our gate to open up.
The inbound LaGuardia ERJ promptly pulling into our gate while we were being pushed back onto Taxiway Alpha.
The taxi to the runway was very, very quick, simply down Alpha to Runway 29 where we pulled onto the runway without so much as a pause. The takeoff was typical for the CRJ-200, relatively quiet and relatively tame (no surge of power to push you back into your seat like on the MD-88.) Flying in the small CRJs reminds me more of flying a Cessna than a large commercial jet; you're just a few feet off the ground, you feel every bump in the taxiway, and it feels like the engines are humming away just behind your head (which they really are...) I'd quite enjoy flying the CRJ were it not for the 53 seats crammed inside, but I think they call that a Challenger, and I don't quite have the money for one of those...
Rain rushing past the window as we speed down the runway.
Saying goodbye to the Maine coast again after a very short visit. I'll be back soon, but next time will be on a Cape Air Cessna 402. (Yes, there will be a trip report for that...)
Breaking through a high overcast layer which would obscure the ground for the rest of the journey.
Climbout was uneventful, and after about fifteen minutes of flight we had leveled out at our cruising altitude of only 27,000ft. Almost all of my flights on the PWM-DTW route have cruised very low, in the 25-30,000ft range. This may be due to the heavy load for the relatively long (1.5hr) CRJ flight, or it may be to avoid higher airspace crossing through upstate New York, I'm not really sure. Regardless, it can't be very efficient for a CRJ to plow along at FL270 for an hour or more.
Drink service was begun relatively promptly and was entirely forgettable. I say that because I can't remember anything noteworthy which occurred for the entire flight. No annoying passengers, no odd flight attendant personalities, just 1.5 hours crammed into a sardine can with 45 other people...
Typical Delta Connection drink service, soda with peanuts.
In all the time I've spent flying Delta lately, I have to say my primary in-flight complaint has to do with the peanuts. I don't mind peanuts, they beat having no snack at all, but Delta really makes it hard to eat them. Normally the peanut packets have a small slit cut at the top of the pouch to allow easy access. Lately, this notch has either been more of an indentation in the bag, or hasn't been there at all. Since the bags are a tough thermoplastic material, getting at my peanuts have become more and more difficult. Typically I stretch the pouch to twice its size before I manage to tear a hole. I've seen other passengers simply give up and throw them out rather than struggle with opening the bag...
Passing over Detroit we finally broke through the clouds, cruising along the North shore of Lake Erie, over Windsor, ON and Detroit, and landing on what I believe was 21L at DTW.
One of a handful of automobile factories we passed over.
The sprawling suburbs of Detroit / Dearborn.
Our landing in Detroit was incredibly firm. The CRJ typically approaches at a very nose-down attitude, it felt as if we simply rounded out to a flat attitude and planted the main gear solidly onto the runway. There was none of the bouncing/floating sensation you typically feel from other airliners, once we were down on the runway we stayed very firmly planted on the runway. I'll admit I've made harder landings myself in a Cessna, but not by much...
We landed approximately a half hour ahead of the scheduled block time and arrived at the gate 25 minutes ahead of schedule. A ground crew was quickly in place and we taxied in, but the jetbridge was entirely out of position. DTW's small RJ jetbridges are very limited in capability, and apparently operate at a very limited speed. To bring the jetbridge from its parked position to the aircraft door took more than five minutes; it was painfully slow to watch.
We parked at Gate C35, at the very far end of the C-concourse and exited into a ground-level foyer.
My connecting flight was scheduled to depart from A53, a bit of a hike from my present location. Detroit's McNamera terminal features well placed moving walkways and people-movers, so no connection at Detroit should take more than fifteen minutes. After a number of moving walkways and a journey through the drug-induced hallucination tunnel (which someone had unfortunately paused), I arrived at my connecting flight.
More airports need these labels. Down escalators are really starting to bother me, I mean, are people really so lazy that they are unable to even walk *down* stairs?
Detroit's centerpiece fountain. It would have looked so much nicer with a 747 in the background...
KDTW - KATL
Flight # DAL 1013
Equipment:McDonnell Douglas MD-88 (N907DE)
Scheduled Departure: 19:15 Actual Departure: 19:30
Scheduled Arrival: 21:10 Actual Arrival: 21:10
My flight back to Atlanta would be operated by one of Delta's newly reconfigured MD-88s. The new interior modification removes the 2L door galley and replaces it with additional seats, for a 16F/135Y configuration (compared to 14F/128Y previously). As it turns out, I was cleared into the best seat on the entire aircraft to experience this configuration.
Since the flight was scheduled to depart with more than 50 empty seats, there were dozens of non-revs standing by for the flight. The majority of the standbys were retirees or buddy pass riders, so I had no worries about getting a seat. Even if I did miss this flight, the 7:30 was showing more than 100 seats empty...
Even with 50+ empty seats, the gate area was jam-packed with people. The land-side facing A gates have a very narrow strip of seats installed, perfect for an E-170 or DC-9 flight, but anything larger easily exceeds the seating capacity of the area. I ended up waiting in a sound-insulated phone booth alcove, which was actually quite nice...
I had to walk down a couple of gates, but I was able to get this shot of my aircraft through Detroit's dreaded dot-windows.
The very narrow A-gate seating area.
I was cleared into seat 33A, an exit row on the 16F MD-88 variants. All exit row passengers are boarded with zone 1, so I was able to quickly make my way onto the empty aircraft and take my seat. On these MD-88s, Row 32 is directly adjacent to the 2L exit door, and only consists of seats 32B and 32C. These seats have typical exit row seat pitch, similar to row 25 on the old MD-88 configuration. In place of 32A, there is a small bulkhead and a rear-facing flight attendant jumpseat against the door. This gives 33A tons of legroom, with the unfortunate downside of direct supervision by a flight attendant during takeoff and landing. As an added bonus, row 33 is situated with a perfect view of both the engine inlet and the wing. Since the seats are very newly installed the windows are new as well. I would highly recommend 33A on the MD-88s for all your spotting and photography desires. Try to avoid 33B and 33C though, they both have less-than-spectacular legroom...
The Row-32 half-row.
Lots 'o Legroom.
Excellent view out the window. Too bad it's getting dark out.
Pushback was delayed by about fifteen minutes due to a broken jetbridge. Apparently the bridge's auto-leveling feature had failed and the bridge would not move without it active. After ten minutes of waiting, a beat-up white van came racing towards the aircraft, a mechanic hopped out, and we were soon on our way.
All lit up, ready for takeoff.
After less than 24 hours, I was back in the sky heading towards where I started, staring at the darkened ground from an MD-88 window...
The Flight Attendant seated directly opposite me didn't seem to mind my photography out the window during taxi, and she promptly got up and went to the galley as we passed through 10,000ft. Drink service on the new MD-88s starts at the rear, so I quickly had a drink and some Biscoff. I finished up the last of my reading material (Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, a pretty weird book even by Vonnegut's standard...) about half way through the flight. I obliged the Flight Attendant's typical greeting and "sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed my flight..."
Enjoying an empty row, more free refreshments, and the last of my book...
Hope you all enjoyed reading my trip report, for the continuing flights on to Amsterdam, Köln, and Dusseldorf, see ATL-AMS/DUS-ATL, DL BE + ICE Train And Köln (by KPWMSpotter Oct 31 2011 in Trip Reports). Thanks for reading!
Past Reports for your reading pleasure...
ATL-AMS/DUS-ATL, DL BE + ICE Train And Köln (by KPWMSpotter Oct 31 2011 in Trip Reports)
ATL-SLC-SUN & Back DL F, Flying The Brasilia (by KPWMSpotter Sep 5 2011 in Trip Reports)
PWM-MCO, STL-MSP-DTW-PWM +NIFA (LONG!) (by KPWMSpotter Aug 10 2009 in Trip Reports)
MCO-JFK-PWM On JetBlue (by KPWMSpotter May 1 2009 in Trip Reports)
BOS-LHR-BOS + Eurostar (Long/Pics!) (by KPWMSpotter Mar 11 2009 in Trip Reports)
DAB-ATL-PWM & Return On DL (+Pics) (by KPWMSpotter Jan 7 2009 in Trip Reports)
MCO-ORD, MDW-MHT, PWM-MCO (pics) (by KPWMSpotter Nov 27 2008 in Trip Reports)
Flying Into A Hurricane: PWM-MCO W. B6 (pics) (by KPWMSpotter Aug 24 2008 in Trip Reports)
PWM-MCO On AirTran (Pics) (by KPWMSpotter Jun 25 2007 in Trip Reports)
PWM-EWR-SEA-IAD-PWM On CO/UA (by KPWMSpotter Dec 25 2006 in Trip Reports)
[Edited 2011-10-31 15:09:53]
[Edited 2011-10-31 15:11:04]