Having mentioned on several occasions of two wide body aircraft on one itinerary between Fargo and Miami, the last two flights of my Scintillating Summer 2018 trip took me from Florida back to a smoky North Dakota through Chicago. I was happy to have been on American’s popular E175 morning service from Fargo to Dallas, followed by a 777-200ER between Dallas and Miami. Being on another hub to hub service I was quite excited to find out that the Miami - Chicago flight would be operated on a blast-back-to-the-past Boeing 767-300ER!
My two flights to Fargo looked something like this:
AA2796 MIA ORD 1005 1224 76W
AA3146 ORD FAR 1328 1524 CR7
THE UNRELIABLE 767?
It is unfortunately quite well known that the B767-300ER in American’s fleet has one of the worst dispatch reliability. Often plagued by delays due to technical woes, I had an idea of this while flight AA1195 was operated on the B767 instead of the B777: the flight would more often than not be 45 minutes late, while delays in excess of 3 hours were not uncommon.
This flight was the one I was most anxious about. There would be my planned flight out of Chicago to Fargo, a layover of 1hr04min, or there would be the last one of the day over 8 hours later. I needed to be in Fargo at my scheduled time as I wanted to get back to work. The bills don’t pay themselves y’know… While AA2796 had a decent on time record initially, it got progressively worse over time.
During my time in India, this flight would be the one I’d keep close eyes on: when it departed on time, it would get in Chicago on time. However, if it was delayed it would be impressively delayed. Nothing short of 3 hours, rarely. One time, it departed Miami and taxied right back to the gate. Another time, it took off & landed on time, only for it to be tugged to the gate, a delay of 1hr30min. More hydraulics. I was certain my luck had run out.
WEB CHECK IN
T - 24 hours, web check in. I confirmed seat 30A for this flight since the small cabins up front were not an option, and also confirming the seat on the CRJ-700. No issues here as I was about to leave for my flight to Miami, the MD-88. A quick check on AA2796’s flight status the day before mine: delayed by 2hrs. Ohhh joy!
The evening more I caught up with my sleep, except that it was from 6pm to 2am. Jet lag at it’s finest. I wanted to see which airplane it’d be: N393AN, a 20.3 year old airplane had landed in Miami’s gate D50 from Philadelphia, and it had flown in from Budapest earlier.
Watched some TV, battled my way out of locking myself in the shower, I headed out of the hotel and took the hotel over to the airport. I was at the airport for 0815 hours or so, just under 2 hours to departure. It was fairly busy at the north terminal.
Headed for security next, where a German Shepherd help expedite the line. If anything, I got flagged down for a random bomb residue check on my phone. No worries there. I was airside at 0836 hours, just under 1hr30min to departure. The next hour would be crucial. Walking around I kept an eye on Amercian’s customer service desks, in case a delay was announced and I was so ready for it.
But first, some spotting: seeing as COVID-19 and LATAM’s partnership with Delta have slowed things down for AA there was still plenty to see at American’s south American gateway. Airside wasn’t as busy, then again there were several flights heading out of Miami spread out across the terminal, and over to Gate D50 for me.
N393AN was at the gate, being prepped for departure: catering truck and baggage carts were loading the airplane up, the pilots were onboard in the cockpit. This was looking good.
I walked around to concourse E. Did some planespotting there, once again it wasn’t too busy here either. A notification on my phone. Oh dear, the dreadful delay… or so I thought! Boarding had started for flight 2796 to Chicago O’Hare. Nice nice!
This was going to be a full flight, I joined the line 36 minutes before departure time. For whatever reason, the estimated time of arrival was 4 minutes late, 1228 hours. Being one of the first in the group to board, there was not much of a line in the jet bridge, hooray!
I was onboard at 0930 hours, 35 minutes to departure, to a largely enthusiastic crew. Now I’m not sure if the 767s have been refurbished, at least back in Main cabin but it sure felt like a step back in time, for the 2nd time in 2 days. This would be a full flight, un surprisingly.
I took my seat 30A, a lovely view of the wing and fitted winglet. A random, quick yet heavy rain shower passed by as we were inching closer to departure. I wasn’t going to be at ease till we docked at the gate in Chicago, but I wanted to enjoy this flight as best as I could!
The usual announcements happened just fine, no issues. Just when we were getting in to the ‘whole time of nothingness’ - doors were closed and we pushed back at 1000 hours, 5 minutes before time! Hooray! The next little bit would be crucial - couldn’t afford to get back to the gate for a technical issue…
Both GE CF6 engines were fired up. Flaps being set had the unique sounds of…well perhaps a dentist’s drill. They were slow to be deployed, too. We taxied towards the runway 8R. Blue skies as if no rain ever happened. Bizarre!
We were all lined up with Runway 8R at 1012 hours, just 7 minutes after scheduled departure time. We were airborne at 1013 hours and set a north/northwest course bound for Chicago O’Hare, some small heading changes here and there. It was a bumpy yet fun climb up to 36,000 feet.
Despite the old decor there were the usual pre-recorded announcements, consistent across all the American Airlines flights so far (including the one on Envoy Air). I soaked in the atmosphere - the overhead monitors every few rows, the retro controls on the arm rest. I was happy to be on this flight. Funny enough they were showing Running Wild with Bear Grylls on the IFE. Pity they did not have headsets for this, but that’s alright.
The first officer came around on the PA system with information about this flight - it would be a smooth flight along, avoiding some storms en route, taking us on a westerly course which was helpful because the East winds in Chicago would put us right in course for arrival. Some small cells around Chicago, and 72F weather. Things were looking quite good.
Snacks and drinks were handed out pretty soon in to the flight, however given it was just the one cart for each aisle it was a little slow. The crew did not show any signs of not wanting to be at their job - always a good sign and a positive impression. Water, ginger ale and the cookies. It was 45 minutes or so in to the flight.
Pretty soon we were looming in towards the storms, avoiding them to our side. The clouds were representative of this.
I spent the rest of the time looking at magazines: always entertaining to see the airline info pages.
North America network
American continues to be the largest airline in the world, fleet wise. It was at this point my curiosity of the Embraer E series of aircraft: while the E170/175 counts as regional aircraft, the E195 sneaks in as a mainline aircraft because of the number of seats onboard. Other changes to the fleet since: the 767s are probably gone, MAX 8 grounded, Q100 & Q300 also gone…
About 1hr50min in to the flight I wanted to stretch my legs and visit the lavatory. It was clean, no issues whatsoever. We took a further westbound course over Missouri: we were getting close.
Overhead - looking old!
Wonder what airport this was?
Just under 2hr30min in flight the announcement preparations were done, automated announcements. Nothing too dramatic here, we came down slowly via the SHAIN1 STAR. Did have to cut through some fairly bumpy clouds which was no issue for the B767. Some bumps are always fun! :)
NO holds, we’d be a straight in for Runway 10C. Touched down a little firm at 1201 hours Central, 2hr48min in flight. Taxied over to Terminal 3: we’d be in concourse K along with a Japan Air Lines 777 and 3 other American 787s. Wide body time! We had to wait a little, so we parked on the taxi way for a little bit.
United part of things
A soon to be gone livery
We'd get back T3 K in a bit…
Cessna & Spirit
A voicemail check in the meantime: my flight instructor just got assigned to me, turns out it was the same individual I worked with freshman year in hall government! Hah, what a small world. In the mean time I had a great view of the Etihad & Korean 777s, a Cargolux 747, and by far the biggest highlight of them all: a Cape Air Cessna 402! :D Hey, small light twins are important too.
Just as the wait was starting to get a little long we pulled in to gate K5 just fine at 1225 hours, just 1 minute late. Heck, this was the earliest AA2796 made it in over 3 weeks! Luck was really on my side. Whew!
I had just under 1hr between the two flights, a crucial connection but it looked like I’d make it just fine. I waited for most folk to get off, I thanked the crew and headed for concourse G for the next flight. Yet another successful short-widebody flight!
Despite this on time arrival, AA2796 would head back to Miami but this time with a 45 minute delay. More on this in a little bit….
Overall what could've been a day of frustrating delays given the record turned out to be a fun wide body flight across the USA. On time, decent service, a professional & friendly crew... not a whole lot to add to it!