Earlier this spring I participated in the annual NIFA (National Intercollegiate Flying Association) SAFECON (safety...competition?) event. SAFECON is a yearly event where collegiate flying teams from across the US compete in spot landing, navigation, preflight, and various other flight related disciplines. I specialize in the Aircraft Recognition event, giving me lots of time to enjoy the two week long celebration of all things aviation.
This year's SAFECON was held in Salina, Kansas, hosted by the Kansas State University. In this segment of my trip report I will cover my trip up to Salina (via Boston), including MCO-BOS on DL, BOS-MCI on F9, and MCI-SLN on a SeaPort Airlines Pilatus PC-12! I will continue my trip report in part two with two weeks of spotting in Salina, a trip to the Kansas Aviation Museum and Cessna in Wichita, and my return flight ICT-ATL-DAB on DL.
Without any further ado, on to the flights!
KMCO - KBOS
Flight # DL 1102
Equipment:Airbus A320-200 (N327NW)
Scheduled Departure: 19:25 Actual Departure: 19:35
Scheduled Arrival: 22:20 Actual Arrival: 22:35
With the spring semester wrapping up at Embry-Riddle, I found myself with a rare commodity: free time! With about five days between my last exam and my required arrival date in Salina, I decided to take a quick flight up the east coast to visit family and friends in Maine. The limited time-frame ruled out any interesting itineraries, so I settled on Delta's evening non-stop from Orlando to Boston. Despite being operated by the ever-so-boring A320 the flight fit my schedule perfectly, and at a cost of $90, the price was certainly right.
After finishing up my EE335 final at noon I headed home, packed a bag, relaxed for a short few hours, and drove an hour south to Orlando. I arrived at the airport an hour and fifty minutes prior to my scheduled departure time of 7:25pm. There was no line at all at the Delta counter, I quickly printed my boarding pass and checked my bag before heading to the TSA checkpoint.
Welcome to the Orlando International Airport and Hotel.
The late afternoon is relatively quiet at Orlando, I didn't have to wait in line for more than five minutes at the checkpoint. At my checkpoint, the line divided into two lanes: one to the walk-through-metal-detector, the other heading to a "blue cancer box" backscatter x-ray machine. I found it interesting the number of people who were willingly waiting longer in the WTMD line to avoid the nude-o-scope machine (myself being one of them). A TSA agent trying to help the line along asked me to move over to the nude-o-scope line. I responded "No thanks, I'm all set in this line." When the agent insisted, I responded "In that case, I'm going to have to opt-out." After being groped, felt up, and generally made uncomfortable by the TSA (still better than being subjected to radiation and having my naked image reviewed "off site"), I re-assembled myself and headed to the gate.
Waiting for a train to the airside. International arrivals force the train to be guarded and cordoned off, slowing turnaround times significantly
Some Southwest 737s, parked across the lake.
The late afternoon is Orlando's busiest international departure bank, I was surprised to find three Virgin Atlantic 747-400s parked at the airside, as well as a Lufthansa A340-600. In all my travels to and from Central Florida, I had never flown from Delta's Airside 4. Compared to the crowded and noisy airsides used by the likes of Southwest, JetBlue, and AirTran, the relatively empty and clean airside four was a nice change of pace. The lineup of international heavies certainly helped too.
Virgin's Orlando departures, getting ready to head out to Manchester, Gatwick, and Glasgow.
A big Rolls Royce Trent hanging from the wing of a Lufthansa A340.
Looks like a relatively quiet evening in Delta's concourse.
The aircraft that would be serving the MCO-BOS route is one of two A320s scheduled during the afternoon departure bank (among dozens of 757s, Delta's typical metal for Orlando routes). My aircraft was slightly delayed, arriving from LaGuardia around 6:45. There is very little seating directly adjacent to Delta's end-of-concourse gates; a line of "gate lice" had started to form in front of the podium well before the aircraft even arrived. I managed to resist the seemingly magnetic pull of the area around the gate and stayed seated until my boarding zone was called (even boarding with zone 2 I had to push my way through the crowd...)
Tracking my inbound aircraft; oh the wonders of modern technology.
Delta 737-800 arriving.
Finally, my ride up to Boston, N327NW.
Despite a slight delay due to the late arriving aircraft and the significant swarms of people pushing to board the aircraft, I made my way onto the aircraft just about on-time. I had selected seat 8A, a window just forward of the wing. Delta's A319s and A320s aren't equipped with any IFE, but the blue leather seats are very comfortable (much more comfortable than the slimline seats on the 737s and the retrofitted 763s in my opinion) and WiFi is available for purchase.
The view from 8A.
After the aircraft was fully loaded we were delayed another minute or two, as the aircraft's APU was inoperative. The air-start cart had been rolled into place shortly after the jet bridge was attached, so it seemed that the ground staff was well prepared for the small hiccup. The #2 engine was started at the gate before pushback, with the #1 being started at the usual time shortly after the tug disconnected.
There was a short line of aircraft waiting at the threshold of 17R. After pausing on the runway for a minute or so (line up and wait, caution wake turbulence from a departing 747-400 heavy...) the engines spooled up and we were on our way down the runway. In the current age of tame, predictable, boring aircraft the A320 certainly fits in quite well; I think I've felt more extreme acceleration onboard a school bus... We used a good portion of 17R's 10,000ft, I vaguely recall seeing a 3000ft remaining sign flash past my window shortly before rotation.
Being passed by a Southwest 737, making its way to the gate at a speed only normal for Southwest.
Just after rotation from 17R.
Turning back northbound.
Rays of sunlight piercing the cabin, turning due North.
After flying straight-out for five miles or so, we were given a turn to the west, back past the airport Northbound. On the ground the sun had set behind some distant clouds before takeoff, but as we gained altitude the sun re-appeared over the horizon, lighting the aircraft with some brilliant orange light. We quickly made our way to the Florida coast and the sun set soon after passing over the Jacksonville area.
Not the dirtiest airline window I've had, not not exactly clean either.
Sunset, climbing to 35,000ft.
The flight attendants were in no rush to complete the evening's snack service; much of the cabin seemed to fall asleep as the sun set. The snack and beverage service was completed quickly and professionally. There weren't any Southwest-esque personalities among the flight crew, but no ex-Northwest "dragons" either; simply a standard, pleasant, but totally forgettable in-flight crew. The standard Delta offerings were given: soft drinks and a choice of Peanuts, Pretzels, or (Biscoff) Cookies. Of course I chose the Biscoff...
(On an aside, who would have guessed that Delta's signature Biscoff cookies are actually a traditional Northern European holiday snack? They're called Speculoos, and are apparently available in most grocery stores... I'm thinking I'll have to bring back a few pounds of cookies and biscoff spread next time I'm in the Netherlands...)
Near the coast of Virginia a large thunderstorm was visible off our left wing. Lightning was clearly visible in the distant clouds, and the whole storm was practically glowing from the hidden lightning strikes. It took a couple of tries with ten second exposures, but I was able to catch a little of the lightning on camera.
Somewhere near Norfolk, a couple bolts of lightning can be seen at the bottom left of the frame.
The two and a half hour flight passed quickly as I studied aircraft recognition slides on my iPad, getting ready for the NIFA rec test in a week and a half. At some point in the flight I opened up and studied my various helicopter presentations. I didn't realize at the time how important those aircraft would be. More about the rec test and my NIFA competition in part two of this trip report. We eventually lined up for a straight-in approach to 4R, landing at a quiet and dark Logan airport.
Downtown Boston, as seen from final approach to 4R.
After landing we made a long and circuitous taxi back to the end of Terminal A where we deplaned into an empty terminal. Much of the building had already shut down for the night, as it was nearly 11:00pm before I retrieved my checked bag. From the terminal, I caught a shuttle to my hotel in Revere for the night before taking the Amtrak Downeaster up to Maine the following day. I've covered the Boston-to-Maine journey numerous times before, so I'll skip ahead three days to Sunday morning, when I caught a bus back down to Logan to continue my journey...
KBOS - KMCI
Flight # F9 0820
Equipment:Airbus A319-200 (N928FR)
Scheduled Departure: 15:00 Actual Departure: 15:15
Scheduled Arrival: 17:15 Actual Arrival: 17:35
Back in March when I was researching airfare, I had initially planned on meeting the rest of the flight team in Wichita, about an hour and a half South of Salina. I had briefly looked at flying into Kansas City (which had much, much cheaper fares to offer from Boston), but decided against it due to the three and a half hour drive to Salina. It wasn't until a day or two before booking my tickets that I realized that SeaPort Airlines flies three times daily between Kansas City and Salina on the Pilatus PC-12! After a quick check of SeaPort's website, I found a $69 one way fare between Kansas City and Salina; well below the price of flying into Wichita!
With all said and done, I booked a $98 ticket on Frontier, direct from Boston to Kansas City, and a $70 ticket on SeaPort connecting to Salina. This was well under the $210 one-way price to Wichita, gave me a comfortable 3:00pm departure from Boston, and of course checked off the PC-12 from my must fly aircraft type list! Two new airlines, one new aircraft type, an awesome schedule, all followed by two weeks of hanging out at an airport? Sweet!
From Portland I caught a bus directly to Logan, dropping me at the airport 2:30 prior to departure. I was one of the first to check in for the flight (Frontier's only daily departure from Logan), paid the $20 to check my bag, and was handed a rather nondescript paper boarding pass. Much to my surprise, the agent checking me in then picked up a ticket jacket and stapled my checked bag receipt inside! I haven't seen a US domestic carrier provide a full ticket jacket since maybe 2006; I was pleasantly surprised!
I headed through the small security checkpoint (another cancer box, another opt out, another groping...) and found myself in the modern and well maintained Terminal B. I had flown into Terminal B on US Airways once before (http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/203785/?threadid=203785), but I was in such a rush to catch my CapeAir connection that I hardly glanced at my surroundings. Walking out into the terminal I flashes of familiarity, but I obviously had tunnel vision for my Cessna 402 last time I ran through the terminal...
Not a bad spotting spot at all, just a little lacking in variety.
US Airways' surprisingly clean and modern terminal B at Boston.
Frontier's solitary gate at Boston, soon to be absorbed by US Airways' operation.
As I was checking in for the flight, I overheard a couple of ticketing agents discussing finding new jobs at the airport. I thought this was a little odd at first, but after a few minutes I vaguely remembered reading in the forums that Frontier would be discontinuing service at Boston. A quick check of Airliners.net on Logan's free WiFi service and I was able to confirm that Frontier would be axing Boston service on May 16th, a little less than two weeks away. Looks like I got lucky on my timing for this flight! Delta will continue to operate BOS-MCI twice daily on Embraer 175s, and United operates direct flights BOS-DEN, but it will be sad to see Frontier's colorful planes go.
As the scheduled boarding time approached the gate area filled up, but there was no plane to be found. A quick check of Flightaware showed that the inbound aircraft had diverted around some heavy thunderstorms just outside of Kansas City and was delayed slightly. My scheduled layover in Kansas City was 2:15, so I had no worries due to the 15 or 20 minute delay.
I had been unable to select a seat at the time of booking my ticket with Frontier, and a middle seat at the back of the plane had automatically been assigned to me. Frontier's website does not allow any changes to be made to bookings online, and after a 20 minute phone call jumping through hoops I found that I couldn't change it via phone either. Twenty-four hours prior to departure I was able to check in; I found a single window seat remaining un-assigned, in the very last row of the aircraft. Luckily the seat map wasn't showing anyone assigned to the middle seat!
Arriving from Kansas City, N928FR, an Airbus A319-111 with Hank the Bobcat on the tail.
Just short of the gate.
Ground crew swarming the aircraft, trying to make up a little lost time.
The gate agents were very proactive in dealing with the delay, quickly boarding the Summit/Ascent/Mountain-themed-elite passengers and then asking for "Anyone who is not planning on putting a bag in the overhead bin" to board. I hadn't ever heard this tactic before, and thought it was an ingenious way to get people onboard and sitting down quickly. Quite a few people with large duffel bags interpreted the announcement as "Anyone without roll-a-board bags may board" and still stuffed their bags in the bin, but overall the strategy worked quite well. I was soon onboard and crammed myself into the tiny, rigid seat at the back of the plane. It didn't take very long to figure out why no one else had selected this seat...
Row 25, back of the bus.
Surprisingly small TV. Note that there is "No recline this row."
Safety card. Basic, but not bad looking.
Much to my dismay, someone boarded right before the door closed and took the empty middle seat beside me (a non-rev perhaps?). I didn't have much room to move at all in the tight-pitch non-reclinable seat. Being in the last row I was able to fit my jacket beside the seat, but still, it wasn't the most comfortable arrangement. Still, better than a middle seat!
Frontier was an early-adopter of onboard satellite TV. The tiny pixely TV screens in the seats appeared to be from the early days of PTVs (well, the early days of TVs period...) I wasn't aware that Frontier charges for use of the PTVs (they are free to those who purchase a higher fare class), and I certainly wasn't ready to pay the $6 for live TV on a tiny outdated screen.
Taxi out from Terminal B to Runway 9 took less than a minute, after holding for traffic departing on 4R we took off Eastbound. Sitting in the far rear of the aircraft is an odd sensation when taxiing, as the world tends to slew past sideways when turning. The last time I sat in the back row of an aircraft was onboard a 737-800. The 737's longer fuselage made any yawing or dutch roll type motions far more pronounced (and honestly a bit nauseating), but I felt no such problems aboard this A319.
Just after rotation from Runway 9.
Climbing to the East past Nahant Bay and Lynn.
Looks as if the wing is sticking straight in the air - certainly an odd perspective sitting so far aft of the wing.
Browsing the in-flight magazine I noticed that "Frontier offers complimentary Goldfish or Animal Crackers onboard." I was surprised, as the brand name snacks seemed awfully high-class for an airline that so far seems to be the master of nickel-and-diming its customers. That being said, I wasn't all that shocked when the flight attendants didn't offer anything more than small beverage offerings in-flight. Returning to the in-flight magazine, I noticed in the finest of fine print that snacks are only available to customers who purchased Frontier's highest fare class.
I found it odd that the Flight Attendants were trying to sell Frontier's higher level refundable fares with the allure of free goldfish and complimentary TV. When I purchased my ticket, the fully refundable option was almost equivalent in price to first class on Delta...
Meager refreshment offering for a 2.5 hour flight. At least they have Dr. Pepper!
Entirely full cabin, as far as I could tell.
About an hour prior to arrival one of the pilots came over the PA advising passengers to use the restroom if required and return to their seats for the duration of the flight. Heavy thunderstorms were still in the Kansas City area and the pilot was predicting a rough ride for the remainder of the flight. One of the flight attendants came over the PA shortly after, repeating the pilot's message and offering some advice: "For any of you who tend to get air-sick, I suggest you keep your vent open for cool air, it's going to be VERY bumpy." As this message concluded, about two dozen hands shot towards the overhead panels and opened their respective gasper vents.
It appeared that the majority of the storm had cleared by the time we hit Kansas City and it never did get very bumpy, but the tension throughout the cabin was quite visible - the flight attendant's announcement had put a lot of people on edge.
Descending into a very grey Kansas City.
We landed at MCI under threatening skies, but with no rain or thunderstorm activity visible nearby. The taxi to the gate was quick and uneventful, I left the plane with almost exactly two hours until my scheduled departure on SeaPort to Salina.
Kansas City's terminal was built with very unfortunate timing - it was constructed in the years before security screening became regular practice at US airports. The airport was designed so that passengers could be dropped off at the curb directly in front of their gate and then walk twenty feet to the plane. The very narrow circular terminals at MCI made sense for all of a couple years until security screening was implemented and the terminal had to be cordoned off into numerous secure areas behind screening. Today, MCI is a pain to connect through as almost every gate is behind its own security checkpoint. In my case, the main terminal's security procedures were no concern to me; SeaPort operates out of an entirely different terminal altogether (an entirely different terminal).
Bonus points to those of you who figured out my Airplane! reference...
Note the curvature of the terminal. Looks cool from the outside.
Baggage claim was located directly adjacent to my arrival gate, and it appeared that there were relatively few passengers who weren't continuing on to Denver, so my bag arrived shortly. A very short walk brought me to the curb where I called a cab and was on my way to the SeaPort Airlines terminal, located at the Signature Flight Support FBO.
The good thing about having such a narrow terminal: airside views from baggage claim!
Half that line is for baggage claim, half is for security...
KMCI - KSLN
Flight # SQH 4113
Equipment:Pilatus PC-12 (N932SP)
Scheduled Departure: 19:30 Actual Departure: 19:40
Scheduled Arrival: 20:30 Actual Arrival: 20:45
Hopping into a cab at the airline terminal, I told the cab driver that I was going to the SeaPort Airlines terminal, at the Signature FBO. He seemed quite confused by this statement, and started programming his GPS for some other airport in Kansas City. I had to state a number of times that I wanted to go to a terminal at this airport and gave him the street address a number of times. Even after a stop to call his dispatcher the taxi driver seemed very confused that I was taking a taxi from the airport to the airport. The trip to the FBO turned out to only be about 1.5 miles, but somehow ended up costing $9... Oh well, I'll pay a few extra dollars to get a trip on a PC-12!
Walking into the FBO, I turned and found the SeaPort Airlines desk right next to the door along the back wall. The sole agent behind the desk stood up and greeted me in a thick Tennessee accent "Hi! You must be Kevin! How did you get here, did you drive?" I responded that I'd just arrived on Frontier and taken a cab over from the airport, wondering why exactly she needed to know how I'd gotten to the airport. She quickly responded "Oh you didn't need to do that! You should have called over, I would have picked you up from the terminal! We have a shuttle bus!" Oh well, it was only $9...
Apparently SeaPort offers free shuttle service from the airline terminals at most of its hubs, despite their website saying the exact opposite. SeaPort's web interface is a little archaic, with hidden and outdated pages scattered throughout the various corners of the website. When I booked my ticket, I swear I read a statement that "SeaPort does not provide transportation to and from the airline terminals at our hubs", but apparently that's incorrect. I'll make note of that next time I fly with them. Bonus points to SeaPort for offering a free shuttle, but they get demerit for hiding the fact so well on their website.
I was one of four passengers booked for the MCI-SLN leg this evening, a predicted 44% load factor on the 9 seat Pilatus. No security screening was conducted, a simple question of "does your baggage contain any dangerous items?" My bag was tagged with a colored cardstock tag with "SLN" written on it and the bag was held behind the check-in counter until the plane arrived. Having an hour and a half before my scheduled departure, I was invited to make myself comfortable, help myself to free coffee or tea, and to make use of the FBO's TVs, magazines, or other facilities as I so desired.
No more crowds here, just...me.
More interesting planes on the ramp too...
SeaPort's check-in desk in the corner of the FBO.
The FBO was more or less deserted on this Sunday afternoon. A Gulfstream III was sitting out on the ramp with a couple of other corporate jets, but I was shocked when I looked out and saw a Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130 on the ramp. I later overheard an FBO employee complaining out loud that the C-130 crew decided not to purchase any fuel, after making use of the FBO's courtesy car to and from the airport for almost a week...
As I sat enjoying the private terminal, the SeaPort agent went about conducting business at the check in counter. Apparently SeaPort's gate agents also double as phone reservations agents and customer service in their free time. I overheard the gate agent repeatedly explain the process of transferring from the MCI airline terminal to an obviously confused customer on the phone. Apparently the third passenger expected to board in SeaPort was delayed on an airliner and probably wouldn't make the flight; even more room onboard for me!
Not long after I arrived the only other remaining passenger checked in - a German foreign exchange student living in Salina who had just flown in from Frankfurt. One more passenger would be arriving with the plane, flying all the way up from Memphis to Salina.
As the departure time grew nearer, the storms around the airport grew more intense. I turned on the Weather Channel on the FBO's TV and watched as storms surrounded the airport. I ended up stumbling upon the season finale of The Amazing Race and watched that instead. The FBO provided free WiFi, so I switched over to watching the inbound aircraft's progress on FlightAware, arriving from Memphis via a scheduled stop in Boone County Arkansas.
Waiting for the plane to arrive, with "The Amazing Race" on TV. Note that the single other passenger has arrived and dropped her bag in an empty chair.
Ominous lighting coming through the storm clouds.
On par for this trip it seems, my aircraft arrived about twenty minutes late. One more benefit of having such a small terminal, I was able to listen in on the ticket/gate agent also acting as dispatcher and communicating directly with the aircraft via radio. The aircraft had about three hours of fuel onboard and was planning to circle outside of Kansas City until the weather improved. Luckily it didn't take long for ATC to find a path around the strongest of the storms and get the PC-12 through.
My ride to Salina, arriving after dodging storms on its way from Boone County, AR.
Shutting down right in front of the FBO.
The aircraft operating my flight to Salina was N932SP, a Pilatus PC-12/45, built in 1998 as C-FIJV before being re-registered with SeaPort in 2008. The aircraft is legally certified to carry 9 passengers, with additional accommodations for up to three crew. SeaPort makes use of a crew of two, despite the fact that the PC-12 is certified for single pilot operations. Even Cape Air's Cessna 402s operate with a single pilot, and those aircraft have far more complex systems than the single engine PT-6 powered Pilatus.
One passenger disembarked at Kansas City, as she left the terminal I overheard her raving about how excellent SeaPort's service is, how she never wanted to fly a normal airline again. The two pilots and one connecting passenger came inside as the aircraft was fueled (luckily the lightning held off, otherwise the ramp would have been closed). I listened as the first officer picked up an IFR clearance to Salina over a handheld radio in the FBO. After fueling was complete and the pilots finished their Coffee, one of them asked "ready to go?" and began walking out to the aircraft.
Following the flight crew out to the aircraft.
Baggage already stowed in the aft compartment, about to board through the 1L door.
The ticket agent had already stowed the two checked bags in the rear of the aircraft, so we were ready to go as soon as everyone was onboard. No boarding passes or documents were issued, seating on the aircraft was not assigned. I was the first onboard. I took a brief look around and sat down in 1B, directly across from the entrance door and right behind the cockpit. SeaPort's aircraft are pressurized, but don't have room in the ceiling for dropdown oxygen masks. Emergency oxygen bottles are stowed underneath the seats (where you would normally find life jackets), so no carry-on luggage is allowed to be stowed on the floor. SeaPort allows passengers to carry on luggage, but it must be held in the lap or buckled into an empty seat. I held onto my camera case until everyone was seated, then buckled it into the empty seat right behind me.
Not a bad view...
The legroom onboard was ample, although I did have a hard bulkhead in front of me, between my seat and the cockpit. The cockpit had only a curtain rather than a door, and the curtain remained open throughout the flight. While the view was great, it wasn't quite as awesome as my flight in the right seat on Cape Air earlier in the year. Otherwise the seats were very comfortable, the windows relatively large (not Gulfstream big, but certainly larger than your average airliner), and the cabin very quiet. The first officer gave a very, very abbreviated safety briefing ("That's the door, buckle your seatbelts, please don't get sick.") and turned around to get going.
The engine was started with the flip of a few switches and ran, sounding a bit like a muffled vacuum cleaner, with the feathered prop tips beating the air like a helicopter blade. The prop lever was thrown forward and the plane surged out of the parking spot. The captain toyed with the prop lever, bringing the prop in and out of feather as we taxiied. The 1200 horsepower PT6A-67B felt like more than enough power to launch the plane into the air, even still at idle power on the taxiway. The long taxi out to the runway was accomplished at a brisk pace, exaggerated by the fact that I was only sitting two or three feet off the ground in the small aircraft.
Taxiing out to 1R.
As we sat holding short of the runway the sun dipped behind the storm clouds, casting the whole airport into a dusky shadow. After a US Airways Embraer landed we took the runway. No announcement was given to the passengers, we simply rolled out onto the runway, lined up, and applied power. After the initial surge of power the acceleration was smooth, the takeoff roll much longer than I expected from a Pilatus (still only 1500 feet or so...) After rotation the captain kept the plane relatively level, climbing to only 50-100ft above the runway. As the end of the runway neared, we pulled up smoothly, entering a steep climb into the low clouds around the airport.
Holding short for a Republic E-170 to land.
Lined up, about to go.
Staying low, building up speed before climbing into the clouds.
Ducking in and out of the clouds.
The storms around the airport were dissipating and the clouds were scattered. With an impressive climb rate of 2000 or more feet per minute, it wasn't long before we leveled off at our filed cruising altitude of 20,000ft. Our airspeed, altitude, and other readings were easily confirmed on the flight instruments, visible through the open cockpit curtain. The Pilatus has an interesting cockpit. The engine instruments are all displayed on a digital MFD, but the flight instruments are traditional steam-gauges. Interestingly enough, some of the "steam gauges" were actually digital readouts displayed on their own screens, an odd combination of round dial and glass cockpit.
The safety card, some assorted papers, and a generic air-sick bag were located in a laminated pouch on the bulkhead. All other in-flight entertainment was provided through the cockpit door and out the window...
Safety card, front.
Safety card, back.
As we climbed higher the sun became visible again, actually rising above the clouds as we climbed and went west, making some brilliant colors in the sky.
Brilliant colors, technically from a sunrise...
Sun setting (again).
Last traces of daylight, begining our descent into Salina.
As we descended into Salina we flew through a couple of clouds. I watched the leading edge of the wing as we flew through the clouds and watched as a thin layer of rime ice formed on the leading edge. The first officer must have noticed too, as the de-icing boots quickly inflated. The PC-12 is equipped with pneumatic boots, rubber bladders that are inflated with compressed air from the engine. As the rubber bladders inflate, the ice breaks off and falls away. Apparently there are two distinct boots on each wing, an inboard and outboard. I wasn't able to get my camera ready soon enough to catch the inboard, but the outboard boots soon inflated too.
As the nose was pushed over the prop controls were left in their cruise position, allowing speed to build up. While we had been cruising somewhere near 170kias, I noticed the airspeed indicator go as high as 215kias in the descent. Despite the speed, the weather, and the icing the cabin remained quiet and very stable - in my opinion the ride was smoother than on the A319 I'd been on into MCI.
Outboard de-ice boots inflated.
Descending through 14,500ft, airspeed spinning up to 210kts indicated.
As we broke through the clouds around Salina the sun had set fully, lights dotted the flat landscape at irregular intervals. Seemingly out of nowhere, the airport's lights appeared in front of us, on final for Runway 35.
Final approach to runway 35 at SLN.
We floated down the runway for a ways (not a problem in Salina, the runway is 12,000ft long..) and touched down gently. The air carrier terminal is a stand-alone building in Salina at the South side of the airport. A gate agent met the arriving plane and popped the door open. A covered walkway led to the small but well maintained terminal (plenty large enough for the maximum 27 passengers a day that the airport handles...)
Salina's tiny air carrier terminal.
Not a bad looking plane at all...
Taking one last look at the Pilatus.
Walking the long covered path to the terminal, the flight's two other passengers in front of me.
The three checked bags on the plane were brought up to the terminal on a wheeled cart. I paused briefly to watch the plane start back up and taxi off to a hangar for the night. Turning around, I found some of my teammates waiting for me right outside the curb. As much as I wanted to hop back on the PC-12 for another awesome flight, I had to get to work, I had an aircraft recognition event to win...
Stay tuned for Part II of this trip report, including two weeks of spotting in Kansas and my flights back down to Florida on DL!
Delta Air Lines:
Delta provided consistent and predictable service. The plane and the airport terminal facilities were clean and professional, and the staff I interacted with were pleasant and efficient. While there was nothing special about the flight, it got me where I needed to go for a decent price and on-time. It's hard to compare a domestic A320 hop in coach with a PC-12 flight anyways...
Despite initial problems with Frontier's website and booking engine, my first experience on the airline was not bad. Frontier certainly doesn't pretend to be a full-service or classy airline, they make it very clear that they want the passengers to buy-up, be it with TV, snacks, or higher fare classes. I didn't have any problems with the service (the plane was cramped and the snack was meager, but that's typical of domestic travel these days), but there was nothing to make it stand out either. Not having flown them before, I honestly was expecting more (with such a cool livery they must be an awesome airline, right?), but honestly, Frontier is just about on par with everyone else in the domestic US market.
SeaPort was awesome. In my brief experience, I can't really fault them on anything. Their website and online booking system could use a substantial overhaul, but at the airport and on the plane there was absolutely nothing wrong. With a staff to passenger ratio of 1:3 or better it's hard to screw up, but I'm still quite impressed. SeaPort's terminals were well stocked with amenities and well maintained, no security and no TSA pat-down wins points with me, and any plane with a single engine and a propeller out front is going to be better than an A320 or 737. Since SeaPort only flies the small EAS routes, they really have to win over customers with service and comfort - they certainly did that. At an EAS-subsidized price of $70 one way, I can't think of a better way to get to Kansas...
Past Reports for your reading pleasure...
A Domestic US Sampling MCO-PWM-DAB On CO & US (by KPWMSpotter Apr 12 2012 in Trip Reports)
FRA On DL Business Elite + Amtrak & DL Domestic Y (by KPWMSpotter Jan 6 2012 in Trip Reports)
Maine For Thanksgiving On US And Cape Air! (by KPWMSpotter Nov 29 2011 in Trip Reports)
ATL-AMS/DUS-ATL, DL F + ICE Train And Köln (by KPWMSpotter Nov 1 2011 in Trip Reports)
ATL-PWM-DTW-ATL, DL Y + New PWM Terminal (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)
I reject your reality and substitute my own...