Hello everyone, and welcome, to what is yet another set of flight reports! This one is from Summer 2018 - when I went home for the last part of it (between July and August 2018). New airlines, new airports, new aircraft subtypes, and flying some interesting planes to rekindle some memories. Apologies for the long gap, as is always is with college, things got a little tied down, but here I am back with (hopefully) an enthralling series for all of you!
So then, here we go! Another summer trip. To India! Except that this will have a slight extension to it that’s in a whole new different country. An exciting trip was on the cards. And now most of you would be aware of my rotten luck with some of my flights: be it weather, or mechanical, somethings just did not seem to go right for me. In 2018 thus far (as I write this in 2019…) there have been some minor bumps along the way, but not really anything that needed a complete change in flights. There was the JFK closure due to the storm, but my flight was quite lucky to get there on time, the refueling delays on the way to MSP, and de-icing delays to Newark on the 777, but all of them werent quite impactful. All I hoped for, was one trip without too many significant delays….
…anyway, the India trip. Unfortunately it is almost always to expensive to book a GFK-BOM/DEL/CCU itinerary. FAR-India, too. So it has to be a flight out of a big city, and usually one that involves a layover, because the non-stops charge a premium for how quickly they get there. And I like stopovers anyway. So, to begin with, the international departure point was Miami, and the arrival point was Atlanta.
GFK-MIA/ATL-GFK proved to be very expensive, as is the case with Grand Forks all the time. Fargo proved to be much cheaper, but a return FAR-MIA-FAR with a Delta redemption on ATL-MIA was my best bet. With Fargo, one can access the USB3, and/or their regional arms. All return tickets were priced around $375, but one stood out more than the other(s).
Delta via MSP was a CRJ/A320 combination, United via Chicago was a ERJ/B737/A320 combination, but then there was American. A morning ERJ-175 to Dallas/Ft. Worth, connecting on to a Boeing 777 to Miami, and on the way back a 767 to Chicago, and a CRJ-700 back to Fargo. Awesome - two wide bodies on a hub-to-hub route, pretty short domestic flight(s), a new airport in Dallas, and finally finally finally logging that elusive CRJ-700…. I booked this one, albeit a little apprehensive of the 45min layover in Dallas. I needed no delays, absolutely no delays on the FAR-DFW leg, and if anything hope for a before time arrival. Every minute would help. This is what the itinerary looked like:
With the onset of really tight layovers, something way out of my comfort zone, this trip sees me deal with some very tight (but legal) connections. The first of which would in fact start with this American Eagle flight, with the 45 minute layover in Dallas. And here I am, one who would not take anything shorter than 2hrs (USA domestic) for an answer….
Over the course of the summer I kept a close eye on AA3418: being a regional jet that needed to go back to base in the morning after overnighting at Fargo, this flight would go on time, and maybe even reach before time on several occasions. Very rarely would it be significantly delayed, and being a E-175 which has some of the best dispatch reliability in the skies today, I was confident. A little anxious, but still confident.
AA1195 spent a significant amount of time as a B767 - this would more often than not go out more than 2 hours late, but just enough for me in a hypothetical situation to make check in for the international flight. It then became a 737 for some time, which was on time. And finally, the 777 flight would leave DFW and reach MIA on time, but the return AA1195 would be quite late, for whatever reason.
It was quite the summer as I had a race against time to get my PPL with some struggles, but it worked out to be just fine, as I got my PPL just 4 days before I departed on this trip. That's me! On my first ever solo cross country - such a nervy time, but now it's almost like it is in the back of my head… In the traffic pattern before landing at Jamestown Regional, ND
In other lows we had to say bye bye to Dobby once and for all, as age was starting to catch up and be the better of him. This would be the first time I would not see my little sweetie when I got home, something that I’d always look forward to. Rest In Peace, my boy! Goodbye old friend, and thank you for the memories. You meant the world to us as much as (hopefully) we meant the world to you.
I did however go to Duluth for the airshow which was absolutely fantastic with the Thunderbirds, and to Fargo one evening because President Trump decided to show up, Air Force One was inbound! A great evening spent:
The American Eagle ERJ-175 came in from Dallas, spends the night at FAR before heading back to DFW as AA3418, the flight I'd take:
Bonus : Click here displayhide
Duluth Airshow feat. Thunderbirds:
Bonus : Click here displayhide
Ooohhh, a Piper Seminole! I can relate with it :P
The day before departure N765AN was assigned to operate AA1195 to Miami, but a significant delay (4 hours!) on AA119 to Kahului got me a little worried. I was hoping for a different plane to be assigned. On the other hand, N234JW, a 2.1 years old Envoy Air ERJ-175 made it to Fargo, a touch late. My friend and I drove down to Fargo, with him taking the 5am Delta to MSP, onwards to JFK and then MAD. Checked in to the motel & rested it out for the night, a big day was ahead of me.
And if anything, I had a sleepless night. What if a technical snag did show up delaying us? What if I got rebooked on to a flight that made me late for the international connection? And how would I pull off an ambitious plan that I was bent on pulling off? I had an early start ensuring I reach the airport at least 1.5 hours before departure. In the meantime, a quick check on FlightRadar24 showed that the international flight was inbound and making great time. Took an Uber to the airport, just fine. The sun rose quickly on this summer day, Fargo airport was bustling. Not as many people in line at American, but Delta and United were busy.
Sun rises up to a busy morning at Fargo
CHECK IN & SECURITY
Check in itself was quite quick, taking less than 4 minutes, and on this occasion I got stock American Airlines boarding passes - one for United, one for American, and none for Delta for they stick to the toilet paper mall receipts for a boarding document. Remember the last time I wanted stock boarding passes? Yeah, that went really well…
Security was quite tightly packed. I noticed the weather and there was a storm over Kansas & Oklahoma, right on our route. A bit of a diversion then it seemed like. In fact boarding was so packed one person on the 0535 flight to Chicago was stuck, and saw the door close in front of them, missing the flight. Was later re-accommodated on the Dallas flight, which was interesting to see.
Took me over 35min to clear security, but in the meantime I saw N234JW be pulled in from a remote bay to Gate 3. The ground staff got in to action preparing this plane to Dallas. BEAUTIFUL morning light shining off of N234JW
I did some plane spotting - in the morning there was quite a few planes around: the 2 United CRJs to ORD & DEN, another one of the mainline Delta Airbus - this was the 6am A320 to MSP, etc. The jet bridge didn't seem to work, interesting…
The 2 Skywests - one at the back has departed for Denver
Delta operate a mainline flight or two to Fargo: A320, B717, A319, B737-800/900ER, and very very rarely a B757…
This was a nervous time for me. All or nothing. I needed everything to go on time from here on. A quick bathroom break later, I took a spot by Gate 3. Watching. Hoping everything was on schedule, and it sure looked like it. First officer did the pre-flight check exterior routine, and so far so good.
FARGO'S TSA THE BEST, PERIOD
And it is small airports like this that make you really appreciate the niceness of people. A TSA agent came up to me while I was taking some pictures. My face dropped, I was pretty sure that I had landed myself in some form of trouble. Surprisingly, it was nothing, just a pleasant conversation of what a beautiful day it was, and the sunlight falling right on N234JW’s fuselage making for a lovely orange hue. And things about planes, of course.
Skywest to Denver delayed, by about 25 minutes. Something I cannot afford….
Quite nice to have this boarding pass :)
Everything started to look really good - boarding was called 28minutes before departure time, and people lined up in an orderly fashion. I took my spot and headed down the jet bridge, onboard 0641 hours with 17 minutes to departure time.
Two flight attendants on this one - Donald in First Class (and I suppose the purser), and Alison back in Main Cabin. The RJ filled up quite nicely & quickly - benefits of a small airport, I guess. I took my seat 15A - it wasn’t the most comfortable (surprisingly!)
ONBOARD - SENSE OF HUMOR?
The pursuer was an interesting one: ‘ladies and gentlemen, please stow your baggage up in the overhead bins, or under the seat in front, please have your laptops away for now….. you know the rest’. The welcome announcement followed ‘Does anyone want to go to Miami Beach?’ Some people cheered onboard, playing along with the joke… ‘Hey that’s my destination today!’ I said to my seat mate… Purser went ahead to say ‘Does anybody want to go to Dallas?’, as some raised their hands. ‘One… two… three…. Okay, we’ll go to Dallas, but you could get to Miami from there’. Oh, I know I would! One way to get your passengers’ attention right?!
A quick announcement from the flight deck (lasted about 10 seconds) stating it would be a mostly smooth 2 hour flight over to Dallas. And pretty soon, doors closed and pushback at 0653 hours. 5 minutes before time, for every minute was important. GE CF34 engines fired up just fine, and we taxied to runway 36. Winds were calm, but for whatever reason it wasn’t runway 18 (because that way it is pretty much straight down south after taking off).
Lined up with runway 36 at 0701 hours and a long take off roll followed as the loaded ERJ-175 took to the skies at 0702, then banking all the way around, overflying the city of Fargo while doing this. Climbed up to 30000 feet because of our South/Southwesterly heading avoiding the storms which were clearly visible in the distance.
FedEx, and shadows
INFLIGHT - THE SHOCK, THE SURPRISE, THE NERVES….
The robot did their announcements, I fired up the American Airlines app just out of curiosity. For whatever reason the app showed that we were estimated to land with a 35 minute delay, meaning I wouldn’t be able to make the connection. And if anything, I was already booked on AA2206, the 6pm departure that would get me to Miami an hour after the international connection had departed. There was nothing I could’ve done to get over this. Paranoid, I bought a WiFi package which for what its worth, worked perfectly. I kept tracking us on FlightRadar24 and we were estimated to touch down 30 minutes before time, assuming no congestion. I anxiously kept an eye on the phone’s compass app to make sure we were turning south-southeast as quickly as possibly so that way I knew we were making the straightest route to Dallas, without deviating much off of course. Forgot to take a screenshot of this, sadly…
Most passengers were asleep given we all had woken up quite early. Service itself was quite weird - the flight attendant serving us, Allison, had no expression on their face whatsoever, and there wasn’t a cart rolled up, they’d just walk back and forth to and from the galley at the back. I got myself some apple juice from this strange service. The 2nd round of service were the biscoff cookies, but these were handed out a long time after drinks…
It was also a typical summer flight as well, with bouts of turbulence at different points, but quite uneventful anyway. We were making great time, and once the storm was behind us American’s app decided that we were finally back on track and on schedule, we’d make it to Dallas much before time. My main concern now was that my seat was probably given away on AA1195 - I did not ‘create a boarding pass’ on the app when the option was given to do so for AA2206, the 6pm departure. I was hoping this wouldn’t mean anything, and that I’d make it just fine… That being said I do appreiacte the detail in AA’s phone app in charting out the walk from Concourse B to Concourse A, gate B18 to A23X in particular.
Seat pocket contents
Hint for the slight extension to the India trip: It is a country/destination mentioned on here - which one could it be?!
DESCENT & ARRIVAL
Trying not to be very nervous or anxious, I got myself some shut eye, only to feel the aircraft drop a little bit. Yes, descent had commenced, the American Airlines app reading that we’d be reaching 20 minutes before scheduled time, works for me! Cabin was prepared, trash collected, etc etc - we came down nice and slow towards Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. I found it rather bizarre that we were cleared to Runway 13R - instead of 18L/R. The latter were always used previously, but 13R is further away from the terminal(s) so a longer taxi. Every…minute…counts.
A parallel-ish approach
Anyway, a smooth touchdown at 0913 hours, we taxied off quickly
But held short of 18L/R for traffic to depart. This was costing me time, but I knew I would be just fine. Hopefully…
I could see the Emirates and Qantas A380 in the distance, at concourse D. And a Minnesotan establishment…
Nice to see a MD-11, too!
Eventually continued our taxi to concourse B - and by Golly is that a cramped concourse! Fairly certain there were about 50 gates and all the RJs had to perform a 90 deg steep turn in to line up with the gate. Some planes had to be assigned a gate, but we docked at B18 at 0929 hours, chocks on, 11 minutes before time.
Everyone disembarked pretty quickly, I knew I had to find the inter-terminal train which would take me to Concourse A.
Chopping through the crowds I was quite nervous. What if the seat was given up? I got on the train, and hoped I wasn’t booted off of AA1195 to Miami…..
Fargo - FAR
Dallas/Fort Worth - DFW
A fascinating flight, is the FAR-DFW American Eagle service. Originally lobbied by companies in Fargo to find an alternative to Chicago for a layover on to a South America bound flight, Envoy came in with CRJ-900s, before upgrading it to the ERJ-175 and it has been successful. A fun flight. Not ideal given that the app decided to rebook me (although I hadn’t accepted it), but this flight was everything you’d expect from a regional: on time, efficient, no hassle. The crew well, after the initial fun with the announcement both of them were quite robotic. I have seen worse (and got flak for commenting on it here) but not bad. The seat wasn’t that comfortable, but the WiFi was quite nice and of decent speed. All in all, this flight was quite alright, nothing too bad at all!
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