I checked in with my somewhat secret reservation and got my seat request card for flight 9944 to Charlotte. The TSA agent checking boarding cards was curious, but seemed not to care too much. After clearing security, I made my way to the southern end of the T gates where both DC-9s sat - N782NC at T2, and N779NC at T1, preparing for departure. I presented my request card to the gate agents, who just opened the boarding door and sent me down the bridge! Cleared and off to the races!
I got to the plane and found the party was well underway - the crew organizing the handover to the museum had received a volunteer flight attendant from Delta's ATL base, Patricia Ringness and she was buzzing about telling stories from years past aboard DC-9s while she passed out beverages and snacks. I stepped into the cockpit to talk to the pilots, CA Scott Woolfrey and FO Joel Schrader (who had flown us on the final revenue flight as well). Joel sent me back up to the gate to print extra dispatch releases - turns out they were his gift to me! He knew how much I liked flight paperwork from the flights the day before, and I couldn't thank him enough. Captain Woolfrey came out to the cabin and gave a brief history of the airplane after discussing emergency procedures - our aircraft, by the time it reached Charlotte, would have flown 76,104 hours and 71,537 cycles. He added that the aft pressure bulkhead is rated for 110,000 cycles, which meant that if Delta flew the airplane full time until they were required to ground it, it would be in service until the year 2032.
Most of the other passengers for the flight had selected their seats already, and all of them were in the four rows of First Class and the first few rows of economy. I scoffed at their selections and dashed back to row 24 - the Men's Tees of DC-9 seats, for you golfers out there - and set up shop. Two cameras, audio recording app, and notepad ready to go! Enjoy the pictures, videos and commentary.
The portal to history... or a party. You decide.
The flight crew preparing the old lady for her final voyage.
FO Schrader performs the preflight check on his oxygen mask.
Patricia tells us stories from the Braniff and Muse Air days
The cabin of N779NC, from the rear jumpseat (with everyone aboard)
The cabin from row 9
My digs. The best seat in the house - a great view and great surround sound.
PUSHBACK/STARTUP VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-12jUnr6tbM
Leaving gate T-1 behind
Legroom view (notice the brand new safety card - a lot of those mysteriously went missing after we landed)
The taxi out, passing Korean Air's A380 loading up for ICN.
An iconic sign with an iconic wing
Holding short, waiting for word that flight 9960 was indeed pushed back and taxiing. Their dispatcher had trouble getting in touch with their destination airport, TVF, which encumbered their release from the gate. Not a chance wed let them be the last ones off, however.
TAKEOFF VIDEO - SHORT VERSION: http://youtu.be/kbdWcIHOsBA
TAKEOFF VIDEO - EXTENDED VERSION: http://youtu.be/SzP3HT7f2tA
Cruising through northeast Georgia - a week later this would be covered in snow and ice.
Cabin in cruise
Starting the descent into the Charlotte area. Our flight time was supposed to be 33 minutes, but I think Captain Woolfrey decided it was too nice a day to stop flying so soon.
The door that soaked a few unaware flight attendants with de-icing fluid (pressurization seals the door, but the cabin isn't pressurized during the spray of glycol)
The flight attendants from the final revenue flight the day prior signed the wall of the galley for posterity.
Captain O'Nan jokes with the passengers before landing. He was instrumental in coordinating with the museum in Charlotte for the handing over of the aircraft.
Getting closer and closer to the end of the line for this old gal
GO-AROUND VIDEO: http://youtu.be/4wX6h2pdPZk
LANDING/WATER CANNON SALUTE VIDEO: http://youtu.be/Lr5M5XdYAYw
Deplaning for the final time
Sure looked (and sounded) to me like she was crying as she spooled down for the final time.
Hey, why not?
The original plan involved deplaning through the aft airstairs, but apparently no one on the ramp in Charlotte was properly trained on lowering them - since they can only be released externally.
Saying the final goodbyes to her.
Captain Woolfrey's autograph on the panel
...and FO Schrader's
This was about half of the welcoming committee that included media, airline employees, friends and family of those involved.
Drip drying in the sun
Our ship's older sibling, the DC-7 dressed as Eastern's Clipper Atlantis
The flight crew disembarks to greet the crowd
A portrait with ship 9870. Taken by Jason Wade.
The cake (we couldn't tell what the ship number was of this one) provided for those in attendance.
Captain O'Nan giving a thankful speech
Joel, Patricia and Scott cut the cake, wrapping up a fantastic but bittersweet occasion.
I hope you all enjoyed this trip through history as much as I did, and don't worry - it's ok to shed a tear or two for the lovely lady, the DC-9.