Seattle to Anchorage
Anchorage to Seattle
Sunday 1st June 2014
I returned the truck to the airport, happy in that I was now going to remain dry for the rest of the afternoon and also happy in the knowledge that I had enjoyed myself immensly. After 2 days of spotting, my camera batteries needing charging, my arms needed a rest (that bigma is heavy!) and my body needed refueling…. badly.
I headed from the Rental Car center over to the main terminal via the underground walkway. The walkway was pretty neat, they had aerial photos of the airport from the day it opened. Staggered every 5 years or so you could see the changes that were made over time. The airport has become so busy now that it definitely does hold the titles of “Crossroads of the North” and deserves it.
After entering the small terminal, I headed up and to the left to the United check in area and dropped my bag off. Sadly no United Club here in Anchorage so my plans were to get through security and find somewhere to get some lunch. I had found out online that the airport had an “Observation Deck” above the main concourse, which had some Alaskan Native Art in there as well. I was more interested in the view than anything. With my bag dropped off and disposing of the unfinished portion of my water, off through security I went. Premium Security line was empty but as I got there up comes two ladies in Wheelchairs, shutting down my side of the check point. Joy. What it meant was that while they let everyone in the general queue go for boarding pass inspection, I had to wait. Even when they reopened it and called me forward. A lady from the general queue pushed her way in front of me. Whatever
I made it through security easily and with my belongings in hand. I found a place that had a half decent sounding salad and headed up to the observation deck to get some last minute enjoyment while I waited for boarding. The time went by quickly and about 4pm I headed down towards the gate and just as I got there, the aircraft arrived. Love timing it like that! I headed up to the desk to try my luck at another Exit Row and with a smile and a nice kind ask, I had an exit row boarding pass.
I found somewhere to sit in the middle of the concourse, a shot distance from the gate as it seemed that every man and his dog (well no animals, but you know what I mean) were waiting at the gate. It was pretty packed but the seat map looked decidedly empty last time i checked. I rearranged a few things so that I did not have to get up to my camera bag in the middle of the flight (hate doing that, since it is really bulky and heavy). The seats where I was doing that were very unique. They felt more like pieces of art than actual seats, but it was a unique way of looking at something that is required for people to rest and wait.
As I was waiting for boarding it was time for the freighter change over as the current waive left their gates and were replaced by another set. I had packed my camera away, but had the windows not been covered in rain, I may have contemplated pulling it out again. Why not add a few more images to the count.
The boarding area filled once they announced that boarding would begin shortly and the new United boarding area (with sign posted gate lines) certainly does make things easier. The gate area looks far less crammed and feels more controlled. The Gate lice still exist, however they are more handled and kept in line. Something for other airlines to consider maybe?
United Airlines – UA1129
Anchorage to Seattle Tacoma
Boeing 737-900ER (N68801)
Economy Plus – Seat 20A (Exit Row)
Boarding: 1640 (Gate B5)
Push Back: 1706
Take off Roll: 1716 (Runway 25R)
Top of Descent: 2049
Touch Down: 2114 (Runway 34L)
Shut Down: 2121 (Gate A10)
When the boarding commenced for Global Services and those who needed help, it was a while before Zone 1 was called and even then, the difference between Zone 1 & Zone 2 boarding was non existent. Everyone in that line just rushed the boarding door. I hung back in the knowledge that being in Zone 2, still gets me to my seat, still gets me overhead space for the camera bag and still gives me plenty of time to relax.
I took my seat in the first of the Exit Rows (I went up in the 2nd exit row) and tried to settle in as quick as possible. No one was sitting next to me for a while as boarding happened around me, but I wasn’t sure if that was going to remain. I saw that power was working this time, and as everyone boarded around me, I started plugging some stuff in. My camera batteries were running a bit low (for the P&S) and so I decided to give them some power in case I lost the last remaining battery while I was up in the air. Something That just would not do! I kept waiting and soon enough they announced that the doors were about to shut and could everyone take their seat. Not only did I have an empty middle seat, but an empty aisle seat as well. In fact the entire exit row apart from me was empty. SCORE!!!!!!
The crew warned everyone jammed down the back that they could not self upgrade to “Economy Plus” once the flight got to cruise altitude, they had to stay in their assigned seat. This got a few people unhappy but I didn’t care. All you have to do is ask and if they are open, generally you receive. The manual safety demo happened around me and all I know is that I was to busy answering a few last tweets before I had to switch off my phone. We pushed back and started taxiing for the runway. Things had changed since that morning and they were now using 15 for arrivals and 25R for some departures.
As we taxiied down towards the 25R threshold, we passed a lot of the smaller regional planes belonging to Pen Air & Era … I mean Ravn Air. Past all the small turbo props and then it was into the smaller local freight operators. This is where the interesting stuff lives. NAC and their 737-200s & DC-6s. Even a number of DC3s and one lone Convair. Alaska is always fun for this kind of thing. We turned onto the active and held in place for a minute or so. I could hear it in my head. United Eleven Twenty Nine, Runway Two Five Right, Winds 150 at 10 (at least thats what it was the last time I was listening in on the scanner a few hours ago), Cleared for Takeoff. The pilot would respond and then you could hear the engines spool up. Brakes still holding and then let the baby fly!!!
Take off roll was spirited and before we had even passed the South Hangars of Lynden Aviation and the Alaska Air National Guard we were airborne and climbing. Wheels up, flaps up, we climbed out and away from the airport and turned towards Seattle. Not much to see out my side of the aircraft, but hey… I couldn’t complain though, I could have just moved to the other window and I would have it all. No one to blame but myself.
My attention from that point, as we climbed up through the cloud base towards the blue sky, turned to getting my self situated in what was to become my little encampment. Out came my devices and I took over the power ports (both of them) to get my phone back on power to stay juiced and to change over the batteries as one of them had the top off it needed. I distributed all my gear as needed and settled in for a comfortable, spacious flight home.
By the time we were a decent height, I pulled the laptop out to do some work on the trip reports and just generally sat back and relaxed for the flight. It took quite a while before they switched off the seat belt sign (not that anyone cared or paid any attention to it) and the pilot annouced a flight time of 2 hours 53 minutes home to Seattle.
Service commenced just after this and the crew were slow but methodical in getting the drinks out. Sadly I did not get more than a cup this time (how I got the whole can before I don’t know) but the smells coming back to us from the front of the plane were just not fair. At one point all I could smell was coffee and made a mental note to have one later to give me a bit of a pick me up before I got in the truck.
While the flight cruised on, I read my book and decided it was time to finally get that coffee. I headed to the back of the plane to get the coffee & everyone looked so unhappy down there. All jammed in 🙁 But hey, that could have been me, so no complaining, no making fun right? With coffee in hand I headed back to my seat and I had barely settled back in when they did a rubbish run through the plane. Knowing that they would collect all my stuff, I ended up downing the coffee fairly quickly (it wasn’t that hot at all) and figured that it would be good while it lasted. I “enjoyed” my coffee with a Protein bar that Heidi had made me pack (and it came in handy as a dinner replacement), although this one was far from tasty.
We got a pre descent warning from the pilots somewhere over BC and as we started descent, we had just passed Vancouver off to the left side. I wasn’t sure if it was Vancouver to begin with, but it had to of been it. The city is fairly obvious from above and the man made island for the airport is really distinguishable. I kept an eye out the window on descent as we seemed awfully high passing Everett and that meant we were heading for a southern arrival, heading down towards Tacoma and turning north back towards SeaTac.
As we passed over downtown the sun was setting with beautiful red & orange tones and I spent a good amount of time trying to get the perfect photo. I think I did, but not quite sure. We turned as expected right over the Port of Tacoma and were vectored in for a 34L arrival. How do I know this? We were hugging the coastline from Tacoma, up over Federal Way & Des Moines. So much that we flew almost over Heidi’s parents place and over Burien where she lives at the moment.
Touching down about 15 minutes early we had a long taxi from the top of 34L and we held for the 34R runway to clear. What passes me by out the window? An Alaska 737 with Split Scimitar Winglets. Damn! Not fast enough… that and the light was fading. Yep, that’s my excuse, light wasn’t great.
We pulled into the gate 9 minutes early and since I had no one else next to me (or even at the end of the row) I was quickly up and moving. Though we had to wait to get lot off, I was off the aircraft pretty quickly and by the time I had made the long trek from A10 to the baggage claim, the baggage carousel had just started moving. Thinking that I was going to get a repeat of Friday night, I was shocked to see my bag first on the belt! That has not happened in a long long time. Since my bag was first on the belt and I did not even break stride to grab it and turn around headed for the car park. I was out of the terminal in minutes rather than the usual 20-30 minutes it takes.
I was waiting for a shuttle longer than I had to wait for my bag, but pretty soon I was at Wallypark, paying off my bill and then jumping in the truck to drive home. I was looking forward to some sleeeeep!