On Christmas Day, Cape Air and the Lebanon New Hampshire airport announced an unprecedented fare sale running through New Years Eve. In order to qualify for FAA funding the Lebanon airport required 10,000 passenger enplanements logged in 2012. As of Christmas, the airport was projected to fall short by about 40. To achieve the magic 10,000 figure the airport made an arrangement with Cape Air (the only airline to serve the city) to offer additional flights and a huge discounted fare. Between December 26th and December 31st of 2012 all flights into and out of Lebanon cost only $12!
Thanks to this thread Cape Air Offering $12 Fare LEB-BOS Or HPN (by ridgid727 Dec 29 2012 in Civil Aviation) I happened to hear about Lebanon's fare sale just before the major news outlets got hold of it. I didn't hesitate long and picked up the phone to book myself a cheap trip from Lebanon. I booked my flight on the morning of the 30th and found almost everything sold out. The four daily round trips to Boston were sold full, but thanks to some extra flights added for the fare sale I was able to grab a mid-day round trip down to New York's White Plains Westchester airport.
At $12 each way (including all taxes, fees, and even ground transportation into Manhattan if I so desired) the flight was too cheap to pass up...except for the fact that I don't live in Lebanon, or even New Hampshire. My house in Southern Maine is about 100 miles due East of Lebanon, but Maine's unofficial state motto is "you can't get theyuh from heauh" for a reason. In order to catch my $12 flight I would have to drive for three hours each way and pay almost double the fare in tolls and gas...but I'm not one to turn down an opportunity for some flying!
Twenty-four hours after hearing about Cape Air's $12 fare sale I was on the road heading to Lebanon to catch a flight.
Cruising down I-95, only slightly in the wrong direction to get to Lebanon...
Crossing into New Hampshire, only about 100 miles to go now...
After an uneventful three hour drive through the New Hampshire woods I arrived at the Lebanon airport terminal. Parking at Lebanon is free, but finding an open spot was difficult since the lot hadn't been plowed since the recent storms which dropped about two feet of snow on the area. I shoved my car up against a snowbank and headed inside with about an hour an a half to spare before the flight.
Flight # KAP 1086
Equipment:Cessna 402C (N1376G)
Scheduled Departure: 12:30 Actual Departure: 12:30
Scheduled Arrival: 13:49 Actual Arrival: 13:40
LEB's stand-alone airline terminal.
Cape Air's check-in counter.
Lebanon's regularly scheduled flights. Four flights to Boston, three to White Plains. Today Cape Air was operating nearly double the regular schedule.
Walking into the terminal I found it rather busy inside. A number of people were crowded around the two rental car desks, but the Cape Air desk was deserted. I wandered around the small terminal for a while, deciding that I wouldn't bother the Cape Air agents so long before the flight.
While taking some photos of the terminal I ran into the Lebanon airport's manager and asked if they had hit 10,000 passengers yet. Apparently they had passed the 10,000 mark the day before (sad, I was hoping to be #10,000), a whole 36 hours ahead of the deadline. I later overheard a conversation between the airport manager and the Cape Air agents where they were already starting a tally of the 2013 numbers.
Small TSA checkpoint and waiting area.
What's this? NIFA's favorite aircraft recognition sample slide, the LoPresti Piper Swift-Fury!
MOCHA HAGoTDI: Making Our Customers Happy and Having a Good Time Doing It
Through one of the terminal windows I spotted my aircraft waiting out on the ramp. N1376G, a 1980 model Cessna 402C would be operating my flight down to New York. The aircraft sports an unconventional Cape Air livery, decorated with images of buildings, ships, and all sorts of random things. Apparently the aircraft was previously painted in a much more extreme special livery and the current scheme is a hybrid between Cape Air's traditional scheme and the special livery.
Waiting out on the cold ramp.
Eventually I flagged down a Cape Air agent and checked in for my flight. I was also able to check in for my return leg without a problem and received a boarding pass for both. I had expected more surprise from the agent when I explained my 20 minute layover in White Plains before returning, but apparently I'm not the first one to take a $12 joyride this year.
Two boarding passes, printed on flimsy receipt paper stock.
From $219.80? Funny, I'm pretty sure I'm making the trip for $24.00.
With 45 minutes left before departure the terminal started to fill up with passengers. The crowd departing to New York was a mix of college-age students, a few middle-age couples, and another man making the same immediate round trip as I was. As more people checked in I realized that there were more than nine passengers waiting. Apparently the flight to White Plains was being run as a double section, with two aircraft making the trip at the same time. By luck of the draw I ended up on the first flight to depart; the other followed ten minutes later.
A few of the people milling about in the departure hall were local reporters. I boarded before I could be interviewed, but I did end up making the paper. A photographer snapped my photo as I boarded the aircraft, running the photo in this article.
No security check was performed for this flight (the TSA screens the Boston-bound flights since they arrive in a secure area) so boarding began about ten minutes prior to departure.
Walking out to the aircraft.
The Cessna 402 doesn't have any space for carry-on baggage. All luggage must be checked (one free checked bag, two free gate check bags). My camera case was shoved into a locker in the wing and I stepped aboard the plane. I was disappointed to see seat 1B (the co-pilot's seat) already occupied by a Cape Air employee. I sat down in 2A, right behind the pilot.
Not a bad view without a pilot in the way.
It didn't take long to board all nine passengers (completely full flight) and for the pilot to climb in through his window hatch. A very abbreviated safety briefing was conducted ("tab into buckle, there are three doors, turn off your cell phones"). A passenger jokingly asked if there would be a drink service; the pilot turned to the deadheading employee on his right and jokingly said "My flight attendant here will share his snack if anyone wants something."
The second aircraft arriving as we start up the engines.
Both engines fired up without a hitch. The #2 coughed and died on the first starting attempt, but still sprang to life with a lot less hassle than any Cessna I've ever flown. The two TSIO-520s ran at a gentle rumbling idle during taxi, but sprang to life before taking the runway. The aircraft bucked and shuddered a bit as both engines were run up and the propellers tested. Not more than five minutes after engine start we took the runway and back-taxied to the end for departure.
Taking Runway 36 to back-taxi to the end.
Lined up for departure.
Airborne after a very short ground roll, passing the terminal building.
Climbing over the rolling hills and mountains of Central New Hampshire.
Turning on course, Southbound.
Disappearing into the low overcast.
Breaking out of the overcast moments later, headed straight into the bright winter sun.
Cloudsurfing, slowly climbing up to a cruising altitude of 8000ft.
Leveling off at 8000', the engines remained set where they had been for the climb. As the nose settled onto the horizon I glanced forward at the airspeed indicator and watched our speed build up to around 160 knots indicated. I was surprised to see that this aircraft was not equipped with any form of GPS, so there was no readout of our ground speed (on a standard day with no headwind we should have been making about 170kts, true).
The engine and prop noise remained at a dull roar, just shy of being uncomfortable, but certainly too loud to hold a conversation over. Even though the throttle, propeller, and mixture levers for the two engines remained at noticeably different positions throughout the flight there was not much of the out-of-sync "wowing" that can become so irritating in twin engine aircraft.
Exploring the seat back contents. Safety card.
Apparently the folks at Cape Air have something against classic films...
I hadn't realized that Cape Air has their own magazine. Full of local articles about 9K's destinations.
Cape Air's current North American network.
Regaining sight of the ground somewhere over Connecticut.
I noticed the aircraft's operating limitations printed on the back of the pilot's sun visor.
As we approached White Plains I had to guess about our location and ETA based on my vague recollection of Connecticut and New York geography. As we began descending I noticed some urban buildup ahead and assumed we must be close. Even as we neared White Plains I was surprised at how rural the scenery was; I had assumed that New York's sprawl would be more visible from the air.
Back under the clouds, getting close to Westchester.
Identify This, Airport Edition! Approximately fifteen minutes North of HPN.
Airport in sight, about to enter the right downwind for Runway 34.
We skipped the regular instrument arrival formalities and simply entered a right downwind for Runway 34 at HPN. I later heard our pilot mention that he had cancelled IFR when the airport was in sight, saving almost ten minutes which would have been spent flying the instrument arrival procedure. I suppose that's one of the benefits of flying with a Part 135 operation; the Part 121 air carriers would never be allowed a time saving measure like that.
Downwind, about to turn base.
Pattern altitude feels so much lower to the ground when not at the controls...
Right base, gear down.
Rolling out on final.
Very short final.
We taxied right past the airline terminal and parked on a ramp with some far more interesting aircraft.
Shot of the empty cabin as everyone deplaned.
Close up of 76G's colorful empennage.
As I stepped off the aircraft I started to snap photos of all the cool business jets and private aircraft parked, taxiing, and flying around. A Piaggio Avanti landed on the runway just behind me so I turned to snap some photos, only to hear someone running up behind me yelling "Hey! HEY! HEY! No Pictures! No Pictures here!" Cape Air's ramp agent who greeted the aircraft insisted that photography was not allowed anywhere on the airport, so I begrudgingly obliged and put my camera away as we walked to the terminal.
Only shot I was able to get on the ramp before being yelled at. A Hawker 800, Beechjet, and a Citation CJ3.
Cape Air's operation at HPN is handled by the Signature Flight Support FBO, the same chain of FBO which handled my flight on SeaPort a few months earlier. In White Plains, Cape Air's operation is isolated from the luxuries of the FBO in its own small holding area. Instead of entering and exiting the airport through the FBO's sliding doors, Cape Air's passengers are ushered around to a gate in the fence and walked to a side door behind the main FBO.
About half of the passengers on my flight went with Cape Air's bus driver on the free shuttle to Manhattan. A few other passengers just disappeared, and one remained with me to head right back up to Lebanon. The flight up to Lebanon was again being operated as a double section, this time I happened to be on the second flight (and luckily a different aircraft!) The first flight went out with a full load of nine passengers, leaving only myself and two others waiting for the second flight to be readied.
Cape Air's colorful waiting area next to the Signature FBO.
Artsy photos of Cape Air's Cessnas decorated the walls.
Peeking into the hangar next door. I see a Cirrus SR22, a Lear 55, a Challenger, and a King Air. Not bad company I'm in...
The same ramp agent who had yelled at me for taking photos was preparing the flight's manifest and weight and balance. She seemed rather flustered by having to work two flights in close succession, and she snapped at a couple passengers who were hovering too close to the podium for her comfort. It took a few extra minutes to sort out whether there were three or four passengers for this flight; apparently one person had disappeared after checking in. Eventually we boarded, about ten minutes late and one passenger short, making for a very empty plane.
Flight # KAP 1085
Equipment:Cessna 402C (N2714M)
Scheduled Departure: 14:10 Actual Departure: 14:25
Scheduled Arrival: 15:25 Actual Arrival: 15:53
Sneaking a quick shot of the tail while the ramp agent wasn't looking.
I was hoping to snag seat 1B, next to the pilot, but the other round-trip flyer grabbed it before I had a chance. I settled on 3B, one row aft of my previous seat and on the other side of the plane. Since the flight was so empty everyone was allowed to carry their hand luggage aboard, giving me access to my longer lens to spy on the flight instruments this time!
Speaking of interesting aircraft, that's an airworthy Lockheed Jetstar! Wow!
Settled in for the trip, one row back and on the opposite side of the plane.
The airline ramp next door is starting to look busy.
My seat from the way down, empty for this trip.
Engines fired back up, taxiing out.
The engines were started up again without a hitch (I'm still shocked at how easily the 402's engines start compared to smaller Cessnas...) and we taxiied right back out to Runway 34 where another engine run-up was performed. We held short of the runway briefly for landing traffic (a Gulfstream 450) and were soon underway to Lebanon. Total time on the ground in New York? Exactly 45 minutes.
Holding short for landing traffic.
Lined back up on Runway 34, rolling.
Quickly into the air once again.
The bustling airline terminal, glad I don't have to deal with that mess. The Cape Air FBO is just to the right, under the vintage control tower.
Lots of corporate jets parked at the NetJets hangar.
Spying on the instrument panel with my long lens.
Climbing at 1000ft/min while still making a ground speed of 102kts.
View out the left side.
View out the right side.
Cruising now at 7000ft and about 155kts.
Obligatory leg room shot. The seat in front of me folded forward, Russian-style.
Climbing back above the clouds for the rest of the flight.
The flight up to Lebanon was totally uneventful. The engines droned on while I played with my camera taking some nice shots of the sun setting around the clouds. I was tempted to jump over to the left side of the plane to take some better wing-view shots of the glowing sky, but the pilot had specifically asked us in the safety briefing to keep our seat belts fastened throughout the entire flight. (No seatbelt sign on this small plane. There was an overhead vent, light, and supplemental oxygen port though).
Wow, this cowl has seen some abuse. Count the riveted-on doublers.
View out the back through the C402's distinctive rear windows.
Descending for some more cloud surfing with the setting sun.
This aircraft was equipped with a Garmin 430 GPS unit, so I was able to follow along as we flew the GPS/RNAV 25 approach into Lebanon. We flew direct to the initial approach fix ("ULAKY") before descending on a straight-in path to Runway 25. The approach brought us a bit further North of the airport than a straight-in visual approach would have, but I certainly didn't mind the extra time aboard the airplane (though much longer and my ears would have started to protest the constant droning of the engines).
On approach to Runway 25, dancing in and out of the cloud tops.
Back below the clouds it's again a grey winter day.
Breaking out of the clouds, runway in sight (although a little high on glideslope).
Short final, still a little bit high.
We felt rather high throughout the approach, but the aircraft quickly slowed and dropped when the landing gear was extended. The touchdown was one of the smoothest landings I've felt in a long time, somewhere between a glider landing in cut grass and a full stall landing in a Cessna 150. Regardless, it was pretty smooth. We were soon taxiing through piles of grey slush headed back to the terminal where I'd set off just a couple hours before.
Pulling back into the terminal, just a couple minutes behind schedule.
Looks like 76G beat me back to Lebanon by a few minutes.
One last look at the aircraft before retreating to the warmth of the terminal building.
The same ramp agents met the aircraft and opened the door; they didn't look very surprised to see me again, I think day trippers had become the norm at Lebanon at the end of the year. I retreated out of the cold, packed up my camera, and walked back out to my car. Three more hours and I would be home in time for New Years. As I packed up my camera, I realized that I had witnessed the first sunrise of the year 2012 from aboard a plane (a Delta 767-400 on my way to Germany), now I was witnessing the last sunset of the year from aboard an aircraft as well. Either I fly too much, or my life is awesome. I think both.
Cape Air: Cape Air is a great little airline. Small planes, small airports, and personal service make an excellent business model for the aviation enthusiast. Cape Air's ground staff in White Plains were less friendly than I expected, but I suppose it's hard to expect small town charm in the big city. Regardless, for $12 a flight you can't really go wrong. I just wish the fares were this cheap all the time...
Thanks for reading, everyone! Hope you've enjoyed the TR!
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