Well, here's my third TR on a.net now. Most my whole family is going to be out of town this Thanksgiving, so I had planned on taking a trip to Europe to spend the holiday. The loads across the oceans were fine, but the flights getting to the hubs were totally full. So, no Europe for me. As a bit of a "consolation" to myself, I decided to head out to LAS and try to nonrev on a Champion 727. I have no way to check loads on Champion, so the whole trip was really a shot in the dark for me. It turned out great though, because I got two flights on the three-holer, both with excellent window seats aft of the wing!! Also, this trip was my first time ever riding WN, both DEN-LAS and the return, LAS-DEN (both 733's). I enjoyed the people from WN, and the cabins were quite nice, but I totally HATE the boarding process. As a nonrev, they make you board dead last - something I'm not disagreeing with, it's just a pain in the neck. Anyhow......
15 November 2007
Seat: 28F, Coach
Photo © Chad Thomas - Jetwash Images
I got to LAS with about a 1hr50min window to connect. So, I went to the check-in area in terminal 1, only to not find any Champion check-in desks or kiosks. So, I checked this airport info map, which said that Champion was now in Terminal 2, the international terminal at LAS. So, after a short walk, I got over to terminal 2. There was no line at check-in, which was really nice. The CS agent typed for awhile, then asked "window or aisle??", which surprised me a bit, considering it's very rare when nonrevs are given seats at check-in as opposed to the gate. So, crossing my fingers, I asked if there were any window seats available aft of the exit rows. She looked for a bit, then answered in the affirmative, giving me a boarding pass for 28F. WooHoo!!!!!!!
N293AS sitting at T2- Gate 7 in LAS.
Champion still boards their aircraft using the older method of calling row numbers, and called for rows 25-33 to board, of which I think I was first in line as I was so excited to get on the old 727!!! 28F is pretty far back, but the view was awesome.
Sitting on the ramp in LAS - view from 28F
Boarding was completed relatively quickly, and we were finally on our way. Hearing the old JT8D's start up was awesome.... and loud!! We taxied to the runway, and held-short for quite some time, 3-4 landing aircraft before us. Then, we started our takeoff. It was actually quite interesting, as the crew began spooling up the engines considerably early in the turn onto the runway, throttling up the whole time. It's hard to describe, so here's the video of it:
Takeoff was pretty long. One thing that is incredibly unique about the 727 is the delay between rotation and when the main gear leave the ground. I counted at least 6-7 seconds that we ran on the main gear before they finally lifted off. You have got to love the roar of the old Pratt motors though....it was definitely loud in the back!! The rest of the flight was very uneventful - I did stay up for the whole thing though, wanting to "absorb" every moment aboard the 727!! The cabin service was excellent, and the FA's were very nice and professional.
Cabin, seen during cruise at FL330.
Before I knew it, we were at top of descent, for what turned out to be a pretty sporty approach into TUL. In addition to some pretty good bumps, the crew was maneuvering around a lot, in addition to some fairly rapid descents.
Full speed brakes, on approach into TUL
It's probably normal, but on landing, the 727 seems to carry a lot more power than most other planes. Of course, this could just be because the engines are considerably louder and just sound that way, I'm not sure. Landing in TUL was pretty rough. I talked to the pilots later, and it turned out that was the FO landing, who laughed and said "Yea, I'm in a landing rut right now!!" Anyhow, here's the landing in TUL:
Taxi to the gate was relatively short. Since I had never been to TUL before, I was paying close attention to the layout of the terminals, where we were parking, etc etc. As it turns out, Champion is ground-handled by Delta (ASA) in TUL. I checked my watch, and saw I had about an hour and a half until the 727 turned back out to LAS, so I decided to leave security and go check in for the flight and see if any seats were available on it.
15 November 2007
Seat: 27F, Coach
Photo © Danny Fritsche - Airplanespotters
Seeing as our plane parked at a Delta gate, I went to the Delta ticket counter outside of security. I told the agent that I was hoping to nonrev on the Champion flight back to LAS, and asked if there were any seats available. He gave me a puzzled look, and said "we can't nonrev on Champion". That came as a bit of a surprise to me, so I pulled out my paper ticket passes for the flight and handed them to him, to which again he gave a puzzled look and said "No shit?!? I didn't know these existed..." So, the CS agent still had no clue how to book me on the flight, as he didn't even think it was possible to nonrev on Champion at all. So he printed me a TSA checkpoint pass, and told me to speak to the CS supervisor at the gate.
N293AS sitting at gate A30 in TUL
The CS supervisor at the gate was very helpful, and quickly listed me for the flight and gave me seat 27F....one row forward of my previous seat. Again, boarding went relatively quickly, and I was one of the first on board the plane.
Cabin of N293AS, configured with ex-NWA 727 coach seats.
There was a bit of a hold-up in later boarding, so I decided to ask to see the cockpit. All the pilots were very nice and easy to make conversation with. I told them I was working on my instrument rating, and asked what all is required to get hired on as an SO at Champion. They all seemed to laugh in unison, and the captain replied "have a pilot's license and be human". Apparently, Champion seems to be hiring quite a lot right now, with minimum time required to get hired on as an SO. I'll DEFINITELY put my resume in with Champion when the time comes, I'd do anything to get to fly one of those glorious old birds!!
Cockpit of the 727. The FO is writing down our IFR clearance to LAS.
Reluctantly, I finally went back to my seat. Before I did though, the captain jokingly asked if I'd be taking pics of his landing in LAS, to which I replied "yes, and I'll be grading you too"
Takeoff out of TUL:
Again, the flight was relatively uneventful. It was the same cabin and cockpit crew from the flight to TUL, and again they were very nice and professional in the cabin service. One of the FA's recognized me, and asked "weren't you just on the last flight?!?!". I'm sure they don't get travelers like me too often, considering they are technically a charter airline!! For being 2.5 hours enroute, the time seemed to pass very quickly. The TUL-LAS leg was especially fun, as everyone was having a great time on board in preparation for arriving in LAS!! Champion probably made $1,000 dollars off all the alcohol onboard sales that flight, it was nuts!!
Flaps 30 on approach into LAS
The landing in LAS was incredibly smooth...very well done!!! Now, maybe it was a combination of being a vacation group and the collective liquor intoxication working together, but I don't think I've ever personally heard people clap after a landing!!! Then, the FA made a great PA, which raised quite a bit of laughter. The landing....
As I walked off the plane, I said "great landing!!" to the captain, who just smiled and said something like "well, I was under pressure from your video camera!!"
In closing, both flights were amazing!! A fantastic airplane, and just a joy to fly with Champion. Great cabin crew, great cockpit crew, and just a great airline.
All comments appreciated!!