Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Trip Report: From the Mitten to the Golden Coast-Part 4

Good Morning! Let's finally get to the conclusion of my trip, the ride home.

Sunday, August 29, 2010.

I awoke quite early, around 3:30am PST. My flight out that morning to Atlanta was due out at 10:15am PST. I know what you all are thinking now, "why the hell are you up seven hours before your flight!??!" I had some simple math to watch out for. Last year's trip to LA I went through terminal five at LAX for the first time, as Northwest had moved over there from T2 in merging with Delta. That time I also had a mid/late morning departure as well, and the lines for security were longer than anything I have ever seen. Winding through the land-side terminal in a confusing rope maze, then outside down the sidewalk almost to terminal six. It took me well over two hours last year to get through security. A couple weeks before my trip this year I consulted with some travel experts on Flyertalk.com, these are experienced frequent fliers who can usually point out tricks and short-cuts, as well as give you accurate information as they fly all the time. Reports back from those who use T5 fequently did not instill any confidence in me, as it was said to be efficient some days, and a mess others. I prepared for the worst.

My shuttle picked me up at 4:45 as I bid farewell to people, and it wisked me to LAX in minutes. As I walked in the terminal check-in area, it was crowded, but I found an open self-check in kiosk. A minute late with boarding passes in hand, I nervously looked over to the security area....EMPTY! Wow, I was going to have a lot of time to kill at LAX today. TSA took only 10 minutes, and just after 5am PST I was air-side and in the secure area. It seems LAWA (Los Angeles World Airports) and Delta have been working on the issue of increased traffic at T5 in terms of TSA efficiency.

Hungry, I proceeded right to McDonalds and grabbed a McGriddle sandwich and large coffee. After downing my greasy breakfast, with my coffee cooling, I wandered around terminals 5,6,7, and 8. Lots of people watching and plane watching ensued. Terminals 7 and 8 at LAX are used solely by United, and it's interesting to see how they do subtle things differently than Delta. Just as after the merger I watched how Delta did things differently than Northwest.

LAX always fascinates me. It's the second busiest airport in the United States when it comes to international passengers, and it's really cool to see planes from all over the globe, even some very rare and exotic places, converging on one airport. It's also not just a massive hub for one airline, like ATL is with Delta, or Denver is with United. LAX plays host to almost every US airline and is a focus city/mini-hub for American, United, Southwest, Alaskan, Delta, and Virgin America. The variety of languages spoken at LAX is amazing and a testament to the diversity of the Los Angeles region.

LAX in the morning: Our Boeing 767-300 to ATL

T5 in the morning:

Boarding commenced shortly about 9:30 and we had a full flight today.
Delta 101 - Los Angeles,CA (LAX) - Atlanta GA (ATL)
Depart 10:15am PST
Arrive 5:30pm EST
Equipment: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 33A - window
As we boarded as I spotted the little circular device on top of the aircraft that indicated she had been fitted with AVOD in all seats, so I would have my own personal live tv for the flight to ATL. Soon enough, we were all on-board and they pulled the jet bridge back, and we were doors for departure. As is Delta, they played "Delta-lina" as we pushed out and taxied.

We were number two in line for takeoff and had a great view on climb-out as the marine cloud layer was receding.

Santa Ana Mountains

Palm Springs, CA in the middle of the desert.

Out over the moonscape of the Mojave Desert, the hottest place in the United States.

A glimpse of my in-flight entertainment and refreshments:

A smooth, un-eventful flight led us out over mid-Arizona, New Mexico and over the barren panhadle of Texas (below):

Soon after Oklahoma, it clouded over and remained that way for the duration of the flight. We glided into a cloudy ATL five minutes ahead of schedule and quickly de-boarded at 5:30pm EST. I had a couple hours to kill and wanted to stretch my legs, so I wandered ATL again. I hopped on the train below and rode to the T concourse, and then walked the underground passage all the way out to D concourse where my flight to Grand Rapids would leave from. Atlanta Hartsfield, while interesting and extensive to explore, is really nothing too exciting. It's exterior looks like a tin shack and it was obviously put together without any asthetic fore-thought.
Soon enough it was time to get ready to board my ride back home.

Delta 2888 Atlanta, GA (ATL) - Grand Rapids, MI (GRR)
Depart 8:35pm EST
Arrive 10:25pm EST
Equipment: DC-9-50
Seat: 9A-Window
Ahh yes, a night-time flight. Hadn't had one of these in a year. We departed ATL and quickly banked North, doing almost a full circle pass over downtown Atlanta at night (very cool). We then proceeded on our Northerly heading, as the last gleams of light in shades of blue dimmed on the Western horizon over the clouds. The cloud broke somewhere over Kentucky, as I had spectacular views of Louisville and then Indianpolis at night from cruising altitude. Sadly, due to ambient cabin lighting, I couldn't get a good shot of either. We then cruised in over the South Bend/Elkhardt region and started descent over Kalamazoo, MI. Soon enough we saw Grand Rapids appearing on the Western horizon, and a hard left bank brought us in line with the main East-West runway in Grand Rapids. Touchdown occured at 10:10pm EST, an early arrival.
I waited for everyone else on board to get off, and then I approached the captain to see if I could get a picture of the flight deck of our classic airliner, which was nearing fourty, yes 40, years old. Still in spotless condition. To my surprise, our captain said certainly, take a seat and check stuff out! I was given a full tour of the flightdeck!! Complete thrill for someone who loves aviation, and I have to give a really special thanks to the crew of DL2888 for making it happen. True classiness, from start to finish.
Well, that was it. I wandered through the terminal and caught the shuttle to the express lot to my car. Weary and tiredness growing, I drove home and crashed immediatly. These trips always go by far too fast, and I need to shedule them longer.
Delta did a great job once again, and I will continue to fly them in the future.
I will leave you with a photo from DL2888's DC-9 flight deck.

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