Hello all, and welcome to this, my second trip report here on Airliners.net.
Last summer I brought you my last report, my first (memorable) trip overseas on an absolutely breathtaking and world-view changing trip from Kansas to Munich, Germany on US Airways. At the end of that summer, I knew I couldn't rest until I had satisfied my new addition. Fresh out of high school, I sent in my application to American Eagle in my hometown of Manhattan, Kansas. A few weeks later in mid-October, I was on my way to DFW
for a medical appointment, passed, and got the job! I absolutely love it, and certainly not just for the travel benefits, but for the opportunity to work for my customers whom I've grown up with here in my hometown and watching our burgeoning air service grown and thrive.
I do a lot of travelling with AA
, and since I've got the benefits and love to fly, why not exercise them? My job has allowed me to fly to more countries on more flights than in my entire life combined before I got my job. This year alone, I've taken my mom to Paris, traveled to Germany (again!), and to Chile, Argentina, and now Canada. I've visited all the cornerstone hubs and a myriad of outstations in between, racked up the Eagle Embraer series to an impressive 64 flight count, with this year's YTD total flight count at 115 flights, done an inaugural flight (DCA
), and just generally took great advantage of my benefits - I do think I've become addicted.
Anyway, in this report I wanted to cover two unreported-on cities, MHK and YKF
, two still relatively new outstations for Eagle and two which many crews tell me are very similar in dynamic. I had picked up an awful lot of hours in the two weeks before my trip, and I was sure ready for a longer, multi-night vacation and somewhere out of the USA! Canada sounded good, Montreal needs more than just two nights, Calgary (opening up a new transit line I wanted to try) was far to cold, and YVR
flights were full. Besides, I've always wanted to go to Toronto!
Eagle, Fly me away!!
My routing for this trip was to be MHK-ORD
in the afternoon with an easy one hour layover in ORD
, returning from YKF
involving a ride on VIA Rail Canada
to Kitchener and an international arrival at Chicago Terminal 5, a first for me.
Booking/listing was made by me in native SABRE. AA
has a handy nonrev travel app for your phone that lets you watch standby lists and check-in remotely. Fortunately, all the loads for the flights I intended to take looked more than good (Who goes to Canada in the wintertime??) and one of my coworkers checked me in at the counter in some down time before the flight.
Coincidentally, I was also working that afternoon at MHK. The inbound arrival from Chicago, AA
3939 was early. I went out and marshaled the plane in, hooked up GPU power, and allowed passengers off the airplane after welcoming them to the Little Apple. My lead agent allowed me to go through the checkpoint and the TSA
agents, who screen passengers per flight at MHK, allowed me through the checkpoint first. I was through in about two minutes, and made the announcement allowing revenue passengers into the checkpoint. I gave my valet bag to another coworker and began making preparations for boarding the flight.
===Flight AA4257 MHK-ORD
dep 13:25, arr 14:55
Our aircraft today is N834AE
, the same ERD that was hit in the tail by the Eva Air 744F in ORD
back in late May. Its my second time on this airplane, I rode it up to Chicago in February when I last logged it, pre-Eva incident of course. It was the same trip too, the midday Chicago flight, but at that time the flight number was 4258 instead of 4257, which was the inbound flight number. My roommate and coworker super80dfw
also logged this bird on a DFW
-MHK trip in April.
Plane Incident At Chicago - O'Hare 5/30/12 (by Jet13 May 30 2012 in Civil Aviation)
Though the tail is still unpainted, it seems to be in good working order now!
It is actually a pretty heavy load out of MHK today, with students getting out of finals flights have been much more full than our general load factor, which is high anyway. Today there will be about 40 pax, including me. Fortunately, no one has selected seat 1A, and today it will be convenient for me to slide into it just as we close the door. I think the flight attendant thought I was kidding when I told her I was flying out with her!
A photo of me getting ready to close out the flight. I'm just waiting for the cargo weight numbers and we'll be good to go.
And a photo from the podium of the gate area. The current MHK terminal was built in 1997, but a project to triple it's size will begin construction 2Q 2013. Its small for our operation and it simply is too small for any other airlines to begin service. UA
gets floated a lot. Hopefully I'll have the pleasure to handle those flights on the ground here someday.
Boarding was completed promptly and most passengers were on board 15 minutes prior to departure time. Everybody is on board and checked-in, and I get the O-K to close the flight. I close it out, print the paperwork, and carry it out with me to the airplane and slip into seat 1A. My backpack fits snugly into the closet, saving me from finding some bin space in the back. My coworker pulls back the stairs, the engines are started, we are out of the gate 10 minutes early. Pretty standard for MHK given the amazing and motivated crew who work the flights, regardless of early arrival!
We get waved out, and taxi to MHK's taxiway D, and instead of taking A to 21, the captain turns straight onto the runway and backtaxis down to the end 21, turns us around 360 degrees on MHK's wide 150' runway, and I feel the brakes slow us down to a halt. The crew power up our twin rolls-royce engines with the brakes still on, releases the brakes, and we rocket off into the cool, clear, and smooth Kansas winter sky.
Shortly after rotation, we turn left to avoid overflying resticted airspace over Fort Riley, and I am treated to an excellent view of Manhattan, the airport, and the surrounding area. My phone is taking forever to turn on, and I miss a photo of MHK from the air, but the Kaw valley in the dusk is still striking:
Steven Spielberg is peeking out of the 1A bulkhead today. Legroom is okay in this seat, but I prefer 2A or 18A which have space below the seat in front of you to put your feet.
Clouds are floating over Northeast Kansas.
Well forgive me for being sparse on pictures on this leg as shortly after takeoff I declined the flight attendant's offer for a drink and completely zonk out. I've been clocked in at work since 0430 this morning and flying is like therapeutic sleep for me. Unfortunately as Embraers get up to cruise altitude and speed, there is an incredible increase in wind noise in the front of the airplane. Not a problem in the back as the engine drone and vibration cancel most of it out and I find Embraer engines comfortably allaying. Still definitely tired enough as I wake up just as we are turning into the Lake Michigan approach to 27L at ORD
Shortly after I took the above picture I began noticing traffic landing at ORD
from the East. As we descended I noticed the Iberia A340-600 on final to 28, from our altitude it was moving slowly, and it seemed bigger than life as it smoked the mains. I was in awe.
We flew just over Lake Shore Drive and began our left hand turn onto final for 27L and I got a sunset skyline photo. I absolutely love the fact I can leave Manhattan, "the Little Apple," and be looking at the impressive skyline just a little over an hour later.
We touched down and the crew quickly engaged the thrust reverse and the brakes thrust me forward in my seat with great force. We exited just outside the UA
Terminal 1 hub, giving me a view of the LH
343 to DUS
747 to FRA
, and heavy 777s to Asia. We turn left again and taxi past the United Express gates on the North end of the B concourse, I spot quite a few ER4s still proudly bearing Saul Bass' 'tulip' (RIP).
Our flight is on the ground here at ORD
a healthy 25 minutes ahead of schedule. Now a regular occurrence for ORD
arrivals on MQ
from Manhattan, we taxi over to the penalty box off the hold short area for 27L and wait for an open gate. Another company Embraer 145 pulls up next to us.
27L is primarily AA
's runway this afternoon, and from 1A and with this orientation I have a great view of the touchdown zone. I watch three 738s, two 80s, and four ERJs touch down while just one UA
319 and an EV
break the parade of AA
. Over on 27R I watch the UA
charter 744 make final preparations for landing among United Express jets.
While we are waiting, another Embraer joins the gate-wait lineup.
taxis by and gets put in the box adjacent to ours. Its a busy afternoon at ORD
as flights around the Midwest arrive in time to feed AA
's European and Asian departures. On our flight a good number of KSU students are connecting to PVG
, and some others to LHR
, on to BUD
, or CDG
. Domestic passengers are a small minority on this trip.
After waiting about 15 minutes the captain announces they will have a gate for us in about five more minutes. That's fine with me, I get to watch more landings and we're plenty early, but I understand many just want to get to the gate. About three minutes later, we taxi off and around AA
terminal 3 to Concourse G where we pull into G19 at the far end of the concourse.
I liken this gate to K19 which handles the IB
346 and other widebodies over on K, G19 is just Embraer sized.
I am the first one off the airplane with my belongings, and I make my way 3/4 the way up the bridge to wait for the valet baggage. We are there for about 6 minutes. Some passengers to Boston are worried about their connection. We're early, they're going to be fine! My valet is soon retrieved, and I go down G to the rotunda, and to my favorite bathroom at ORD
on the upper level of the rotunda. Here there is a clean bathroom at the top of the "X" shaped stairway with a large accessible stall perfect for changing into some more comfortable travel clothes than my outstation, cold-weather uniform.
I put on a new shirt and sweater and nice denim pants. AA
allows jeans for nonrevvers but only in good condition and without holes or rips. No t-shirts, flip-flops, sandals, or shorts among other particulars. Official uniforms are okay.
After changing, over to the window to see what I can see! Yes, my white-tailed Embraer is there at G19.
Over at H6 is my CRJ to YYZ
, as another CRJ is pushing back.
I like the quiet rotunda, but this space would look so much cooler if it were left open-air with all these large windows and natural light. Instead the first floor of the rotunda looks old and outdated compared to the rest of the modern and bright concourse G.
Welcome to Chicago O'Hare!
They've decorated the main H/K hall for Christmas already and it looks great!
Yes, my Canadian airplane is here ready to take me on my first International Eagle flight. Its a new CRJ-700 NextGen. I check in at the gate, and the agent who is here an hour before departure already working the flight, clears me immediately into 7A. Okay for now, but I check SABRE at another gate later and see 18CD is open. I'll wait and see if any revenue folks need to sit together and ask about it later.
===Flight AA3726 ORD-YYZ
dep 16:25, arr 19:00
Today, its N528EG
, my sixth ride on an Eagle CR7 and my seventh CRJ-700 overall. Its my first time on this registration.
Meanwhile, with an hour left, I go for a walk. I spot my favorite AA
mainline aircraft, the 757! Here two are getting ready to go to MIA
(left) and MAN
I wander about looking for a travelex. I've seen them here before. Shoot I've been to this terminal a hundred times. Nope, not down K, not down H. Maybe near the Macaroni grill? Not today. Oh well. I'll get some Canadian dollars later. Now, I go back to the gate where the agent is checking people's passports. Soon, he's making announcements to board. An assistant gate agent has showed up who doesn't look too busy, I ask her about 18CD and she changes my seat to the back where I've got my own row. Yay!
Now, down the jet bridge where I leave my valet bag and walk through the bright cabin to the rear.
The new CRJs are nice airplanes onboard, and in the back you can appreciate the size of the airplane. Bigger than an EMB for sure!
Legroom here is good, however, on the ERJ the back row of seats reclines. This row, 18CD, the seats are stiff against the rear wall. Luckily I have the seat next to me empty, and I can spread out.
Soon, we're ready to go. As soon as everybody is on board, the friendly flight attendant distributes the customs forms for Canada. They're very pretty!
We push back into the alley, and the engines spin to life. The ground crew gives us a lurchy ride on the push back.
The flight attendant and I talk about the trip, this is her first trip as an ORD
-based flight attendant after being transplanted from LAX
, but she's from Toronto actually. Very friendly and talkative, and we discuss the airline and layovers and Canada as the captain taxis us to runway 4L where we're number two for takeoff. The engines roar to life and we are airbourne after a quick takeoff roll.
gets up to help with the service up front, and so I look at the American Way magazine. This issue features an article about ASU
's newest destination in S. America. The author painted Asuncion as an overlooked jewel with friendly people and interesting sights to see, with folks treating the relatively few tourists very well, and went as far to say it is a "must-visit." Well maybe I will take his word for it and take a nice long 757 ride some day to ASU
! American Way is a great magazine with good articles, but sometimes I feel it is lacking in content. Sometimes just three or four articles and the regular columns, plus ads. Not a lot to read if you fly with AA
frequently, but again it is a twice monthly magazine which is more frequent than UA
and US. I'm not sure about DL
Well the geographic accuracy isn't spectacular in the back but it is still impressive. I e-mailed the editor earlier this year to get MHK put in the correct half of Kansas. GCK is still in the wrong time zone and YKF
looks a little too far South. But its getting better. The map's colors and new design do look good!
The seats are stiff against the back wall, but they are comfortable and have winged headrests.
friend comes around and offers me a drink. I ask for a Pepsi.
"Anything to eat?" she asks
Ah, how about a cheese and cracker tray!
I've been up for a long while and I forfeited food in ORD
to watch the 757s.
The tray comes with a 1oz bag of Ocean Spray Craisins, a "swiss-style cheese food" slice - basically swiss-flavored cheddar cheese which is actually quite good, s bag of three "table water crackers" that go well with the cheese, and the best part, a stick of Walker's "Pure Butter" shortbread cookie - delicious!
I have an excellent view with my dinner-snack.
As it gets darker, I try out the PSU lights, which are very bright on the CR7R!
I talk with the FA
some more about airline news, but soon we notice the engines spool down and the captain announces our descent into the greater Toronto area. The flight attendant got up to clear the service and I took some photos of the approach.
We approach for runway 24L, but first the crew grants me an excellent view of downtown Toronto and the lakefront. I even spot an aircraft on final for YTZ
through the buildings. Its a beautiful evening with just scattered clouds here in Toronto.
We turn left for final, and calmly and smoothly sail down to the runway. As we touch down, I see the Jet Airways A330 begin to turn on to runway 24R for takeoff. Our RJ
turns off the runway and we wait for the A330 to roar above us before we cross over to the midfield area. Meanwhile, a WestJet 737 lands 24L just behind us.
Its a busy part of the evening here at YYZ
. International departures are in full swing. AC
767s and 777s, a KLM 747, British Airways 777, and others are all getting ready to go up, away, and across the pond.
We taxi adjacent to runway 33R, past the midfield terminal, and turn into the Terminal 3 ramp, where we gate at a ramp-level complex seemingly designed just for AA
's numerous CRJ flights to ORD
, and LGA
. We pulled up next to another CRJ presumably going off to NYC as according to our FA
, ours was going right back to ORD
and they get to stay onboard. After going back to ORD
, the crew was doing the late ORD
flight for the overnight there, making for a very long evening indeed at the airline.
They have those awesome ramp-level enclosed jetbridges here. I want one very much for MHK! Also, you can find these in LAX
gated to Embraers.
I lingered a bit on board with the crew and was one of the last off the airplane, into an enclosed-yet-exterior ramp walkway. I easily find my valet bag on the cart - it is the last one from our flight. I am greeted by a friendly agent near the cart, who directs me left through a pair of double doors into the terminal, marked as "Customs/Connections/Correspondences." Yes, I am in Canada, and I am excited!!
The hallway leads me a ways at ground, but soon it is a 360 degree turn around a corner and up a set of three escalators to an upper-level walkway to customs. From here, I spy a beautiful view of my CRJ and the neighbor going to ORD
Judging from the GSE
(and the friendly agent who greets me as I deplane
), it does appear to me American Eagle ground handling here, at least on the ramp for these CRJs.
The upstairs corridor leads you to a central concourse, also with a nice upper-level arrivals walkway heading down the T3
finger. I muse about turning right here and snapping photos of the BA
777 and KLM 747 here at night, but alas, I can see those aircraft in ORD
, and I remind myself I have relatively little time here in Canada to enjoy - I am leaving the country in only a few hours.
So I turn left, through a rotunda, right-turn, and then down. Strange? Didn't I just go up. Okay, down it is.
Down until finally I start to see familiar queues for customs just like any US port of entry. I find my line, have my passport out. It is very quiet this time of night. The connections line is just a little bit longer, but I'm talking to an agent about 4 minutes after entering the area. The woman I talk to is extremely friendly and outgoing - little did I know the American stereotype of Canadians as all-around nice and outgoing people would be proved true.
She asks me the familiar questions - why am I here and for how long. She notes my airline ID
and asks me if I'm enjoying my cheap flights around the world. Indeed I am! Thank you kind customs lady.
I pass through the counter with a smile, then its into the international baggage claim area. No bags to claim, but I spy a travelex. As seems to be a trend, the friendly agent exchanges my $125 US into $110 CAD with no fee. Its a poor rate, but she gives me some coins which will help me for my $3CAD fare for the bus to the train to the streetcar to downtown.
After giving my customs form to an official, its through frosted-glass doors and into Canada.
No where to find the bus? I've researched this a lot. I mean, I'm visiting Toronto for the excellent transit - getting away from the airport shouldn't be that hard now, should it?
Out the doors - I spy a uniformed parking/taxi wrangler. Not wanting to bother him much, I wait a minute, and then ask for the "Airport Rocket" bus. The kind man looked almost too excited to answer my question, and he directed me to door B12, a good ways down the terminal. He thanked me for visiting Canada. How nice! Thank you, good sir!!
I walk down to B12, I spot an Eagle captain whose face I know from passing through MHK. I say hello. While the AA
crews get to stay here at the Westin at T3
, he's on his way to a hotel much farther away.
I find my way to the bus stop. An airport express bus is just pulling away, but its okay, they run every 10 minutes. Another won't be far away. Above me is the cable-driven airport transit. One of very few public "cable car" systems in operation worldwide. It makes quite a racket when it runs, and frequency doesn't seem to be that good.
The arrivals area of T3
is very hectic even as it is a quiet part of the day for heavy arrivals.
The "192 Airport Rocket" bus pulls up just 8 minutes later, its onboard and the way to Kipling Metro staion for me!!
Its a quick ride, partly on highways, and partly on a city street. There is just one stop between here and there, and soon its off the bus. What's really really really neat and innovative here is that when you arrive, you are already in the fare-paid zone of the station. No need to show your transfer to board the train, since the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission, the city's municipal transit operator) allows free transfers systemwide! Just step right off the bus into the presumably well-daylit concourse, down an escalator, and onto a waiting train towards the city.
A poor photo of the above-level concourse at Kipling station.
Its one of the older trains for me tonight to shuttle me into the city. Still clean, well-lit, and well configured for as well-patronized of a system as this.
I take the train to Dundas West stop, where Google transit has shown me an easy connection to the streetcar to King and Spadina, where my hostel for tonight is. Awaiting me at the top of the stairs (again inside the fare-paid zone) is the 504 King Street Streetcar! Toronto is the only city outside of Europe, besides Melbourne and Hong Kong, to still maintain and use a large network of streetcars, and again another reason why I am here.
Its a nice ride in a full tram to King and Spadina, and I am at my hostel finally! The exterior of the tram I just got off:
My bed for tonight is $30, including a drink coupon and breakfast, at least an $8 value. So not bad at all! The hostel is relatively quite in the off season, and I have just one roommate in my eight-bed dorm, an adventerous backpacker from Manchester who has taken three months off work to visit Thailand, Australia, and N. America. Toronto is her last stop before returning to London on British Airways, and she asks me questions about her luggage allowance. Always happy to help!
The beds are okay here, and while the guests are sparse there is good company in the hostel bar and games of pool to be had for one "loony," what the locals here call a dollar coin because of the Canadian loon on the backside.
A group of us went out both nights from the hostel, though Tuesday and Wednesday nights just aren't very popular no matter where you go! I just got a kick out of exploring the city, which I did a lot of in my limited time there. A few pictures of my excursions:
Streetcar riding at Spadina
CN Tower picture-taking.
Building oogling 2.0. Toronto is experiencing a huge building boom - and some are calling it "Manhattanization." I love it! Man I'd like to live in a building like this in a neighborhood this close to Union Station.
Beachgoing. (Beautiful and cold!!)
Train-plane-and-building spotting! (my favorite thing!)
I did the CN Tower thing. Some photos. Its pretty neat!
They're renovating Toronto Union Station and the new trainshed is going to be epic! I like trains & transit, if you didn't notice.
Out with some hostel friends.
Two mornings later and after a couple drinks and good food, it is time to return! I absolutely loved my trip!