Seattle to Madison
Saturday 27th July 2013
Early mornings suck, but for the first time in almost 2 months, there was no workout this morning, I was taking a day off. So after the usual morning details and last minute packing stuff away, cleaning up the apartment etc. I jumped in the truck and headed south for SeaTac. The roads were empty (as expected) and within a brief 25 minutes I was entering WallyPark to park the truck up on the rooftop. Gazing at the sunset for a brief second before heading on the shuttle over to the airport this adventure was about to begin properly.
The airport was a bit of a shambles, but the Delta Check in was relatively quiet. There was a line at Check in and I was using the Sky Priority lines rather than self check as I wanted to see if I could get Delta to comp my checked bag. Though not a benefit I should get, apparently a lot of staff get themselves confused and just check it free of charge. I must of lucked out because I got my bag free. Even though to begin with she asked for my credit card, when I handed it over with my VA Gold Card she eventually gave it back. Not sure if she charged it or not, but it did look like she swiped it, I was told there was no charge... we shall see. I had my boarding passes (though they were going in the bag as I didn't want the TSA to draw all over them) and I headed for security. I turned the corner and saw what looked like Hell on Earth.... ahhhh crap! The normal security lines at the South Check Point were huge! Not what I wanted to see at all. But way off down in the distance the priority lane had no one there at all.... SWWEEEEEET! Thank you Delta #2! I headed for the Priority line and was through to a scanner in a matter of minutes. Sadly though I had to go through secondary as apparently something was setting off in my camera bag that looked like a knife. Pfft whatever.
Bag back from the TSA and I headed to the train for the South Satellite. Boarding was due to commence in about 15-20 minutes so I knew it would only be a brief pit stop in the club for a coffee and grabbing some food for the road. The club was fairly quiet but the family that had entered ahead of me was hogging the coffee machine with words like "what button do I push" and "I think I broke it" so I gave up on the coffee notion in the hopes of a Starbucks near the gate, as I had to get a banana anyway (Delta Sky Clubs NEVER have fruit, but United does... funny that). I grabbed what I could, snapped a few photos, even scored some good shots of the Alaska Retro Jet parked at the Maintenance base at the south end and scampered out of the club with some yoghurt pretzels in hand... yum! Time to get to the gate.
Delta Air Lines - DL2314
Seattle Tacoma to Minneapolis St-Paul
Boeing 757-300 (N586NW)
Economy Comfort - Seat 14A
Boarding: 0618 (Gate S15)
Push Back: 0659
Take off Roll: 0723 (Runway 16L)
Top of Descent: 1137
Touch Down: 1210 (Runway 30L)
Shut Down: 1214 (Gate G15)
I got to the gate area and it was in an area that was being refurbished (not sure what for?) but because it was S15 there was no way to get a shot of the aircraft I was flying, which would make finding out the registration tough. Within about 3-4 minutes of me arriving at the gate area the preboarding started. I joined the gate lice in the general vicinity so that I could get down to the aircraft quickly and as soon as they announced Sky Priority i was heading on my way onboard. What greeted me was an absolute score. I didn't realise that the seat I had picked online was literally at Door 2L. We boarded directly in front of my seat. Which is a bad thing really for me, because it meant that I would have everyone almost standing on me while they boarded. Doh! But I got seated quickly and just stuck it out as the entire aircraft boarded right in front o my face.
I tried to get the registration of the aircraft off the flight attendant in my area as he was greeting people coming onboard and there was some lulls in the swarm of people. Fail time for this crew member. First off he told me he didn't know what a "Tail Number" is (it's what american's call the registration) and then he said "Well I know this is a 757-200, but that's it". He had no idea! Because sitting right in front of him was a safety card that said 757-300 and it was definitely a 300 because the aircraft was and endless walk all the way to the back. Sadly some crew just have no idea (turns out I think he was the crew leader as well!). Eventually the door was shut and we pushed back. I could actually open my window at this point (as before all I saw was the endless stream of people coming onboard from the jetway) and then saw that it was dirty. *sigh* Hate the fact that some airlines don't wash their windows. O well, I would just deal with it. The aircraft taxiied out past the Alaska Retro (which must of been just starting up to head towards a gate as the beacon was running and it was under tow) and headed for the north end of the runway. We would be taking off to the south but there was a long taxi and a hell of a lot of other aircraft ahead of us. At one point we were 8th or more in line for departure.
As we were making our way to the active, the pilots came on to say we were up to 4th in line so should be off shortly and gave the crew their warning to get ready, although he kind of got himself mixed up. His speech went as follows:
"Ladies and Gentlemen this is your Captain Speaking. It seems we are getting closer and there is 4 aircraft ahead of us and one more about to take off, so we should be up in the air shortly. Cabin Crew, prepare the cabin for arrival" *pause* "I mean, Cabin crew, prepare the aircraft for departure.... we are definitely leaving Seattle"
It made for a great giggle as the cabin filled with laughs, and helped to make this an interesting flight. The two cabin crew seated at door 2L looked like they had been around the block (that's probably the nicest way to put it). Although it wasn't just the grannies on this Delta flight, one of the crew was a man, and I heard them talking about retirement and he did say he was 63. I have a feeling the other crew member (female) was way past that age, or at least she looked it. They did well though no matter what. My seat mate had a quick chat and it was suprising that she was allowed to sit at the emergency exit with her arm in a sling and the crew never said or did a thing about it... WTF!
We finally took off to the south, and I do love a 757 for one reason. It was a long slow roll to begin with (which probably meant we were full of cargo) but like most 757's once they get moving and they pull those noses up, it is up lick a rocket. How such a long aircraft can get off the ground so quickly and so steeply I have no idea. We were quickly passing 10,000ft and WifFi went on, but due to no seat in front it meant my laptop was up in the overhead bin so couldn't get to it, or anything really, till the seat belt sign came off. People were already up and moving within seconds of that point and I was suprised the crew said or did nothing at all. Gotta love North American airlines. My last flight on ANA the crew would of been all angry at me if I even looked like I was going to move while the seat belt sign was on. O how things are so different over here.
In the end the seat belt sign was no where near coming off, the service had begun and I had my first cup of coffee in hand so I gave in, I got up off my butt and hit the bathroom. I became one of "those people". I grabbed my bags out of the overhead while I was at it and shoved them by my seat so I could access them. Then it was time to get down to catching up with the world. The tray table was just tiny and barely fit my laptop, but the mission was get myself online, read some blogs (though when I finally got into them, there was only one update since last night) and then do a bit of relaxing. Since my session was free, it was all about doing the stuff online that I don't normally do and not wasting the session. So I sat back to reading through some trip reports on flyer talk while enjoying my peanut butter bagel, some more coffee and some of the dried fruit I had "liberated" from the lounge.
The flight sped by and we must of had a good tailwind as what was meant to be a 3-4 hour flight west bound, is only a 2 hour 40 minute flight today. Awesome! I got a good amount of stuff done and enjoyed my reading time. I was slowly eating my way through breakfast and just chilling out and then all of a sudden the WiFi went down. Well, it was about an hour to go, I had to put my EarPlanes back in, as good a time as any to shut stuff down. So I packed up my gear and instead got the tablet out to do a bit of reading instead. With a book and some more coffee (the male crew member had been drinking it most of the flight and it wasn't half bad) I was a content traveler.
Descent began over cloudy skies (and to be honest I hadn't seen much out the window most of the flight anyway) and it meant I had to pack my gear up and stow it. I kept the tablet down as it was small and could fit in the tiny tiny pocket next to the seat. I kept reading till I had to turn it all off and we started for the final approaches into MSP. We cleared out of the clouds above the Minnesota country side and it was nice to see a very different landscape compared to the PNW (not that I don't love living out there). Minnesota was flat... super flat, and there was a lot of green fields. Then it became light industrial with freight centers and things like that as we got closer and closer to the airport. I couldn't see the airport near me so figured it was out the other side of the aircraft (which it was). We landed fairly gently and there wasn't much of a taxi for us as we headed for the G concourse (where the heavies usually depart from at MSP).
We pulled into G15, almost at the end of the concourse and one good thing about row 14, your usually first or second off the aircraft. I was off quickly and out into the terminal probably before the staff had even thought we would be as the doors to the terminal at the end of the jetway were not even open! I forgot to grab a shot of the aircraft I just wanted to get my butt towards my gate as it was a long long walk. O well, I have plenty of shot of Delta 757s from my tiem at LAX and SEA spotting. It was a nice walk as I trudged along getting the steps counted in the terminal. The walk felt like it was going forever but things started to look familiar around the central concourse area and then I knew exactly where to head. I checked my watch and had about 10 minutes to hit the Skyclub before I would have to get moving again. Plenty of time for a bathroom break, a quick drink, grab a snack and head off. So I did just that!
The club was pretty quiet and I did comment on that to the staff at the entrance and she told me that it was normal at this time of the day as it was just before the International departure guests should start flooding in, but she told me to enjoy it while it lasts. I wouldn't get long but it was still nice either way. Grabbed a quick snack (no biscoffs again! What is with my luck and Skyclubs lately), I mean seriously! I was hoping to grab some for the road as I seriously love those things. I grabbed an apple instead for lunch and some vegies and it the road towards my next flight.
Headed along the F concourse towards the next gate and when I got there, people were still coming off the aircraft, not a good sign as we should of been boarding literally the moment I arrived. It did give me time to do a few things, like catch up on emails and stuff that had come through while I was in the air prior to arrival and make a few tweets. I did get a decent shot of my next aircraft and then just waited. I did approach the counter to see if I could get a better seat (figuring the flight was full) but they told me it wasn't and then put me in a AB seat pair with a blocked adjacent seat. Thank you Delta! Though the system crashed right as he went to print my new boarding pass, I could sympathize with this and I was happy to wait a few extra minutes since I wasn't going anywhere anyway. My old seat ended up going to someone standing next in line at the counter trying to adjust the seats for his family of 5.
Delta Air Lines - DL725
Minneapolis St Paul to Madison
McDonnell Douglas MD-90 (N948DN)
Economy Class - Seat 23A
Boarding: 1255 (Gate F8)
Push Back: 1324
Take Off Roll: 1335 (Runway 30R)
Top of Descent: 1357
Touch Down: 1413 (Runway 36)
Shut Down: 1417 (Gate 7)
I boarded once they called Sky Priority and headed down the jetway towards what would be a new aircraft for me. The MD-90 is an ellusive aircraft in Australia (all of the MDs are) so I figured that getting myself on them when I can is a good idea. This Mad Dog looked good on the inside and I could swear it had been refurbed recently as it looked slick. The nice new Delta slim line seats were in evidence and that could not be laughed at. Even the overheads looked like they had been refitted as they just looked awesome.
I settled into my seat and wondered if I was really going to end up with a blocked seat next to me. The crew were pushing hard to get us out on time so they were trying everything to get people seated. Near that family I had given up my seat for up front a lady was causing a bit of a ruckus and blocking the aisle. That didn’t last long as the crew member settled her down in an instant with the words “it’s a 32 minute flight, perhaps you should just deal with it”. The cabin laughed and the lady had been put in her place. I mean seriously why bother for a 30 minute flight.
We did push back eventually and it wasn’t all that late, but I had a feeling this schedule had been padded pretty big if it’s a 32 minute flight with an hour block time. That’s what happens in the hub cities, when you spend half the time taxiing or on the ground, they put in major block time. We had a fairly quick taxi over to 30R as the take offs were dueling at that point in time. It was RJ central on our side though, with CRJ after CRJ after CRJ heading for the runway. It was finally our turn in line. No real view out my wet window though, till we got rolling at least.
Another rocket ship take off and it is slightly wierd to not see any engines when your sitting over the wing. A great view as we took off with a 757 adjacent to us, though I am pretty sure I missed the perfect shot as we both banked away. This was going to be a quiet flight though as the crew announced that this was a short flight so service would only be offered “if required”, which is code for “we can’t be bothered”.
I settled in to eat my apple and snacks and did not even see the crew at all during the flight, it was as though they did not exist. The trash sat on the seat next to me till we were almost into Madison past descent. What suprised me was how quick those MD’s could descend. It felt like the pilot was throwing it around. Speaking of the pilot, the Captain had the most amazing sounding Pilots Voice. He had that voice that you expect all the pilots on TV to have. That voice that just had that iconic sound, it is hard to describe but it just commands authority and calmness all at the same time. As we headed into MSN on finals he gave his farewell speech and it was long winded but I didn’t care. It was also the first time I had heard a pilot ask everyone to say thank you to a service member, like himself. He must of been in the Air Force because he had said his rank was Lt Col and I was tempted to go up and hand over one of my cards. I held back though.
As we came into Madison I noticed something off in the distance as we turned off the runway. I saw a giant silver tail. It looked awfully familiar, I wasn’t sure if I was mistaken or not but I could of sworn it was FiFi. FiFi the B29 Superfortress, the only one in existence still flying, was due to be in Osh later in the week, but to see it here... Awesome!! It was it and I made the decision right then and there to 100% go and see it no matter what. We pulled up to the gate and by the time the aircraft emptied out enough for me to get out, it had been long enough for me to confirm via the web that it was in fact FiFi and she was on the opposite side of the airport to me.
Madison airport was suprisingly modern looking and the first thing that caught my eye wasn’t the store filled with cheeseheads but more the actual nice looking concourse. This tiny airport in the middle of no where in the midwest was way better than Seattle! So not fair. I headed down to baggage claim but saw the car desks first with no one around. Figure may as well get my car keys first since there is no emerald aisle. I spotted my rental contract already printed ready to go from my side of the counter, and within 2-3 minutes I had the keys to a Chevy Equinox in hand. Which is pretty good beause that is the kind of car I wanted. I was hoping for a small SUV for the week so that I had space to spread out my crap when commuting back and forth to Osh. Plus the hatch would make it easier getting the gear out when I needed it.
Keys in hand, bag in hand after about 10 or so bags came off the belt and I was headed out into the Car park to find my car. I did get lost as I hadn’t listened to the directions properly and found the Equinox way way way way way out the back of the rental lot. Farewell Madison Airport... time to hit the road!