Keep Climbing & Don't Stop - 48hr DL Marathon
Posted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 11:54 pm
Keep Climbing & Don’t Stop - 48hr marathon with DL
48 hours, 5 sectors, 1 airline!
This is how I spent Monday through Tuesday, 6 - 7th December 2010. Why? Because Delta.com said I could.
Well, there’s more to it than that….keep reading if you want to find out more.
Genesis and Planning
The idea for this trip was borne out of a tradition, which goes back over 13 years now. Me and my very good friend, who is also a sometimes A,net lurker, always undertake a US domestic trip involving flights whenever I come to visit him in Florida. We actually “met” through “Airliners” magazine, back in 1991, when I was living in Australia and he was living in New Jersey, so we’ve known each other now for nearly 20 years and I have come to regard him as the brother I never had…but that’s another story.
Needing a Florida fix after nearly 18 months since I was last there, I made arrangements to be in Florida in early December. Once travel dates were confirmed, we set out planning our domestic adventure. I’ve not flown on the 757-300 before and my mate has not yet sampled Delta’s 737-700, so we narrowed our choice to a Delta itinerary. I also wanted to go to PHX, having not seen the airport in the daytime, and I’ve seen some great pictures taken at Sky Harbor Airport.
After numerous emails, and for my mate, lengthy calls with Delta reservations, we opted for the following trip. This one would be different however, as it extended over 2 days yet involved no hotel accommodation stops, other than a row of seats in a departure lounge! Were we crazy? Probably.
Summary of flights
MCO-MEM 6 Dec 2010 320 DL2864 726a - 835a
MEM-PHX 6 Dec 2010 320 DL1675 922a - 1154a
PHX-ATL 7 Dec 2010 73G DL1646 1250a - 620a
ATL-DTW 7 Dec 2010 772 DL1005 815a - 1020a
DTW-MCO 7 Dec 2010 753 DL1805 535p - 815p
Here’s how it looks on the map.
This would give us a number of hours spotting in PHX, before taking the redeye back to ATL, to board a 772 (which I understand is not overly common on US domestic sectors these days) before spending a few hours in DTW, and then heading back on a B757-300 to MCO.
Part 1 - To Phoenix via Memphis with BBQ on the side
Flight Time: 2hrs
After an ungodly start to the day at 445am, we dragged ourselves into my mate’s comfy orange SUV (this is Florida after all) and headed north toward MCO. It was still very dark outside, and cold (by Florida standards), however the day was forecast to be clear and sunny. A 45 min drive ended in the MCO short term carpark and we grabbed our meagre possessions, and headed down to the terminal.
I needed to print out boarding passes, whilst he (a loyal DL supporter) had already checked in using his mobile phone. Boarding passes for the first two sectors in hand, we decided to head to the gate, having explored the landside of MCO many times over the years. I was bracing myself for the early morning security chaos that always seems to reign at most airports and MCO was certainly humming with activity at 615am in the morning. Surprisingly security was quick, and painless, although I seemed to spend ages putting myself back together again at the other end - I put it down to the early hour of the day.
A short monorail journey later, we were at the Delta gates, where both of us were in dire need of morning coffee. Seemed like everyone else felt the same way, and the Starbucks was doing a roaring trade in lattes, muffins and other assorted breakfast items. Grabbing our supplies, we headed for Gate 77, where DL2864 would be leaving from today.
Greeting us at the gate was N359NW, being prepared for the 2 hour hop to Memphis, along with quite a large number of passengers.
Flying to MEM was significant for both of us, as it was at MEM that we spied our first A320 in DL colours back in January 2009. Now we’d be flying on one there. Made sense really.
I decided to have a short wander around, and watch the amazing sunrise that was unfolding. A couple of Delta overnighters were the main subjects. To accompany, background music was in the form of Christmas specials - including a particularly interesting rendition of “I Saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus”!
Here’s a flying pencil, B757-300, looking particularly gorgeous on this Monday morning.
A smaller brother with winglets at the adjoining gate
Surrounding gates were boarding DL flights to La Guardia, Atlanta and Minneapolis.
Boarding commenced on time and passengers were greeted at the door by a flight attendant who looked very smart in DL’s current uniform.
Our flight looked to be quite busy and it turned out to be 100% full in Y once the front door was shut, around 10 mins before the scheduled departure time.
Not surprisingly, N359NW is an ex Northwest bird, however there was no trace of NW anywhere on the aircraft, other than the registration! Seats were all DL blue leather, and pitch was acceptable for this short flight. The seat was also quite comfortable and soft (unlike the 73G seats - more on that in the next chapter).
Side on seat view
The view from seat 19A with another ex-NW aircraft next door.
The safety demonstration was done manually - there are no screens or personalised IFE on these ex NW aircraft. Passengers on today’s flight seemed to be a real cross section of American society - young, old, casual travellers, families, business people.
48 hours of adventure begins as the sun rises over a couple of baggage containers
Trundling along to our departure runway, safety demo done, crew seated, passing a gaggle of Southwest 737s at their gate and we’re ready to go.
Good bye Orlando til tomorrow
We rotated past the Open Skies B757 that was in MCO having operated a charter flight a few days previously. You can just make it out to the left of the winglet.
Gaining height fast - it was going to be a lovely day for flying, at least over Central Florida.
Delta decided to treat us to an amazing view of downtown Orlando and surrounding area, including Orlando’s Executive Airport. Thankfully I was the best side of the aircraft for pics, and although the woman sitting next to me must have thought I was bonkers mad taking photos, the view was too good to miss.
Lots of lakes in Central Florida
Downtown Orlando glowing in the early morning sun
Closer view of downtown Orlando - The City Beautiful
Commencing a gradual left turn over Orlando Executive Airport, with downtown Orlando at the top of the picture
Still turning, and climbing
Looking back with a distant view of MCO
Our flight would take us west and north of Tampa
And then out over the Gulf of Mexico, before starting a north westerly track toward Memphis.
Back over land over the Florida panhandle, passing over Apalachee Bay, heading toward Tallahassee
The captain made a short announcement welcoming all onboard and gave us some flying information. Our cruise height would be 36,000ft and weather in Memphis was scheduled to be sunny and calm, similar to the conditions in Orlando.
Passing near Tallahassee Regional Airport (TLH)
Closer view of TLH
Continuing our journey northwards to MEM.
Around this time, drinks service began. Delta’s napkins now carry the line “Keep Climbing” which inspired the name for this trip report. I opted for an orange juice and pretzels.
The flight passed smoothly, and I snoozed or looked out at the window. Hardly any clouds meant some nice views over Alabama. We tracked to the east of Montgomery and then close to Birmingham. Passing over the north-eastern tip of Mississippi, I soon felt the aircraft starting its descent into Memphis. This was confirmed by the 3 year old girl sitting in the aisle seat in my row, who repeatedly kept telling her mother (seated next to me)
“Mommy, we going down, mommy, we going down…are we?”
Cabin was secured, and we commenced a very smooth descent into MEM
Flaring for landing
We landed on 36R. Hello Memphis - now Delta territory
Delta Connection CRJ900 greets us as we taxi to our gate
MEM seems to be RJ heaven - apart from a couple of NW Airlink tails, everything else here is DL, DL and more DL. Our first flight was over. On time, friendly and great weather for flying - pretty good start to the Delta marathon.
We had next to no time in MEM as our connecting flight was departing less than an hour later, and as we got closer to the departing gate, we could see and hear that it had already started pre-boarding. Of course, that did not mean there was no time for what makes MEM famous (at least in our eyes) and there’s only one word (or perhaps 3?) to describe it - Bar-B-Que!
A quick stop for a snack, although at this time of the morning, I questioned my friend’s purchase of pork….but when in Memphis, some say it’s gotta be done? A few nibbles later (by him), and we were at our departing gate for the next instalment to Phoenix.
Memphis has really changed since I was here last time in January 2009. Back then, it was all NW and we managed a DC9-50 flight to DTW which for me, was my first DC9-50. What a great flight that was, particularly as I was seated right next to the engine. Now it’s all Delta…
Flight Time: 3hrs40mins
N363NW at Gate B5, getting ready to fly us to Phoenix
Registration check…yep it’s N363NW
We were soon onboard and this was the view from 19A of MEM’s distinctive terminal architecture. Once again, this flight was going to be busy, and most of Y looked full. Good for Delta, bad for me - as no chance of spreading out on one of the longest sectors in this 48 hour marathon. My seatmate was a stereotype blonde lady in her 30s, who was actually quite pleasant.
The front door was closed and we were soon pushing back for the flight to PHX.
The safety demonstration was again done manually. The crew on this flight were also friendly, perhaps more friendly than the first sector up to MEM. All flight attendants on this flight were female and none below the age of about 45 yrs.
Passed this beauty on the way out
Cockpit crew welcomed us aboard and gave some flight information as we were taxiing to the runway. Waiting for a couple of DL CRJ200s to depart, it was soon our turn.
Farewell Memphis, thanks for the short stop and BBQ! (In all, we were in MEM for just over 30 mins!)
Departing on 36L, I was hoping to get a nice view of the downtown area of MEM (the airport is located to the south east of downtown).
My hopes were dashed, as we very quickly made a sharp left turn soon after departure so there were limited views of the downtown area. Bugger. It’s just at the top of the wing photo below.
Shortly after, we passed the mighty Mississippi River, although by now, I had the sun shining directly through my window, which made pictures very difficult without reflections. Bugger again.
We set course for Phoenix, heading now almost due west and it wasn’t long before we were flying north of Little Rock - the city centre able to be seen on this clear day.
The flight thereafter became very routine as we continued westward over Oklahoma. We’d unfortunately been hit by a fairly brutal headwind by now, which was hampering progress. Making our way above the Great Plains below and into Texas, the cabin crew commenced a drinks service, which consisted of the same choices we’d had on the run up to MEM. This time, instead of pretzels, I opted for the cookies and a coke, so voila, morning tea was served with a smile over the flat expanse of northern Texas at 34,000ft.
View of circular fields presumably before passing into New Mexico
Gradually the landscape below began to change from flat fields with sparse settlements, to more rocky with the ground looking a lot more earthy and red. I guess by now, we were well into New Mexico, and perhaps, even into Arizona. It would have been nice to have the map showing on this flight!
Midway through the flight, we had a couple of bumps - large enough to warrant the captain activating the seatbelt signs…..to which nobody seemed to take any notice of. Passengers in front of me continued to get up and head to the lavatories. The crew did nothing. I thought this was quite a contrast to flights I have been on in Europe or Australia. When the cockpit crew says “sit down”, that’s what it means and for good reason (to me anyway). When the seatbelt signs were activated again an hour or so later, this time one of the flight attendants announced “Everybody - seat belts on” and most people remained seated.
After just over 3 hours, we started our descent into PHX. We ended up approaching the city from the north east.
A few approach pictures of our arrival into Phoenix
Getting closer with PHX spotted under the wing
Thankfully I happened to sitting on the right side of the aircraft to be welcomed by amazing views of the huge valley within which the City of Phoenix sprawls. The jewel in the crown (at least for this a.netter) was the amazing downwind view of Sky Harbor Airport. It really stands out.
The view from seat 19A
Close up of PHX
About to commence several left turns
A series of high rise buildings were sighted, indicating the downtown area and just after, we commenced several left hand turns to bring us into alignment for a westerly arrival into PHX.
By now, I was rejoicing as the sun moved around and I had no reflection in my window to cause havoc with pics. Our approach into PHX was spectacular, as it was smooth.
Phoenix suburbs Part I
Phoenix suburbs Part II
Phoenix suburbs Part III
Here’s a sequence of arrival shots, which took us right over downtown Phoenix. This was about as close to any downtown area as I’ve ever been in an aircraft and the views were amazing.
Passing the US Airways Center
Chasing our shadow to the runway
Flaring for Runway 08
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Phoenix, the time is 1225pm.”
A short taxi later, and we were at our Gate in Terminal 3 and parked next to another DL sibling. That ended our second sector for today, and we’d now spend a few hours on top of one of the parking garages atop Terminal 4 catching some of the avia action.
I was not disappointed - the views were great and the traffic was constant although the last time I had passed through here (in the night), it was all America West Airlines - sadly no more. It’s US Airways everywhere, and when you’re done with US Airways, there’s always Southwest.
A final glimpse of N363NW having flown us safely from MEM.
END OF PART ONE
PART TWO FOLLOWS