Friday, 31 August 2012
I am a big fan of flying on Cape Air. I had a short flight from Baltimore to Lancaster PA in March, and I wanted to log a little more time on the Cessna 402C. With my wife going to Nova Scotia for a few days, I decided whilst left to my own devices I would take a little trip. Ogdensburg NY is about a 4 hour drive from Mississauga, and I would fly to Albany on 9K, take US Airways to Washington National and experience DCA for the first time, and end up in Baltimore in time for the Blue Jays game at Camden Yards.
I stayed the Friday night at a motel on the Canadian side of the Ogdensburg-Prescott bridge. The Bridgewaters Inn in Johnstown was a kinda dumpy spot, but the sheets were clean, and I was minutes from the Ogdensburg International Airport.
In the morning I cleared the boarded in only two questions, picked up a coffee at McDonalds and arrived at Ogdensburg Airport about an hour before the flight. There was a couple already there, and the friendly TSA agent told us the 9K Agent will arrive around 0615. The couple, seeing my cup, went to McD for breakfast, and I just hung out.
FLIGHT 9K1810 OGS-ALB
Plane - Cessna 402C N6879R
Seat - 3B
Distance - 157 miles
After weighing my knapsack and providing my weight to the 9K agent, I sat back and watched the passengers arrive for the flight. There was the aforementioned couple continuing on the Boston, an older lady going to Albany, and another lady to Albany (and continuing on the DCA on my flight). OGS is not much of an airport. It has more in common with a warehouse than an airport terminal, but I suppose it meets the needs of the town. TSA opened up and everyone went through with ease. There is a small waiting room post security with a TV. Five minutes later we boarded the delightful little prop. There was one pilot on the morning, and the F/O seat was empty. I sat in the third row. The flight to Albany was very nice. There were nice views of farmland, and then the rolling hills of the Adirondacks. The cloudcover was very low over the hills, giving the appearance of glaciers. We landed in ALB on time after a very smooth and pleasant flight.
I was quite impressed with Albany International. Classical music is piped throughout the terminal, which is very relaxing, and there is a lot of art on display. I believe the Airport (generally speaking) is a great place for art. I checked in for my next flight, and decided to invest $50 and upgrade to First Class. The flight was over an hour, and I was sure I could drink a fair amount of wine in the period. Also, it was going to be nice to have a bit more space...
ALB has a very nice observation room, and there was a fair amount of activity while I was there. Some UA regional jets, some WN action, some US, and an UPS arrival. I chatted for awhile with a GA pilot about aviation. That was quite enjoyable, as I don't usually have anyone to chat about on the subject... Maybe that is why I started this blog! Anyhow, Ian knew more about engines, but I knew more about the airlines.
FLIGHT US 3443 ALB-DCA
Aircraft - EMB-170 N828MD (Star Alliance Livery)
Seat - 3A (1st Class!!)
Distance - 318 miles
It was time to back into the secure area. The line at TSA was very long, as WN was departing for FLL soon. It moved relatively quickly, and TSA was quite efficient. I picked up a nice strawberry smoothie, and walked around the terminal, but my flight was going to board soon. Since I had upgrade, I wanted to take advantage of the perk of being in loading zone 1! I was offered a drink during boarding and had a cup of coffee. It was a full load in economy, and 1st class was at about 50%. Once in the air I enjoyed two tall glasses of red wine, and the little snack, which was the best party mix I have ever had! I was hoping for the River Visual approach into DCA, but we had the Industrial park visual approach... Oh well. Taxi time was quick and everything was on time. I wandered around the D gates which were bumping at 1300, and exited to the Great Hall. The landside of DCA is just beautiful. It is a treat to see the architecture of the Great Hall. Also a treat was the spotting! There nice views of the runway from the GH, and plenty of activity to view. I watched for quite a while, until I needed to make my way towards Union Station for my train to Baltimore.
The Washington Metro is convenient, but very dark - so kind of spooky. I made it to Union Station an hour before my train boarded, had a bite, bought a book, read the paper, and it was a smooth trip to the Charm City.
It turned out to be a great day of travel. Cape Air was a blast, my four hour layover in Albany went surprisingly fast (thanks for the convo Ian!), 1st Class on the US Airways Express (operated by Republic) was worth the $50, and DCA was a great experience.
Coming back I took AirTran to Boston, and Cape Air from Boston to Ogdensburg with a quick stop in Albany, but that will be my next post!!!
N6879R - Daniel Evans, Jetphotos.net
N828MD - Jim Donten, pbase.com
map - gcmap.com
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
When I was doing a little flying in April, I wanted to check out Long Island Islip Airport, the #5 NYC airport. The obvious choice from Baltimore to Islip is Southwest - after BWI is a Southwest hub, Islip was their main gateway to New York until they started LGA and EWR. However, I wanted a Sunday morning flight, and the first WN flight was in the afternoon. Oh well, I am not going to say no to two segments instead of one, and plus I can add PHL to my log. Also, it was the same price.
Flight US1516 BWI-PHL
Aircraft - N954UW - Embraer 190
Seat - 19F (Window)
Distance - 90 miles
My hotel shuttle got me to BWI quickly and efficiently. There was not much wait for TSA, and no issues there. US Airways is out of the D Gates at BWI, along with DL, UA, B6 and 9K. There was a DL flight boarding to Salt Lake City just before the US flight to PHL. Looking around the gate area, there seemed to be a good load for the early morning flight to Philly. Whilst 90 miles is awfully short to fly, I am sure 100% of passengers were on connecting flights - it seemed like a good chunk of passengers were off to Cancun.
Boarding was smooth, and I was in my window on my favourite narrow body in no time. The fellow in front of my seatmate reclined right away, and the flight attendant did not notice. My seatmate did not seem pleased, and whilst I don't like to tell people what to do, I told Johnny Reclines to move his seat to the upright position until the seat belt light came off. The lady next to me was pleased, and I feel like a saved a life (what if the unforeseen happened, and she was decapitated due to a reclined seat in front of her? that's right, I saved a life...). There is something about super short flights that make them seem to drag. I think when you board you a feeling like you will be off in no time, but 20/30 minutes is still a pretty good wait. There was no service on the short segment. The flight path seemed very twisty-turny, and the 90 mile straight shot probably ended up being more like 150 miles. Approach into Philly was pretty cool, as you go right over Citizens Bank Park, the Wells Fargo Centre and Lincoln Field. We we at our gate in the A pier in no time.
Connecting at PHL would be easy if you stayed in the A, B, C or D piers, but it is a bit complicated if you were going to where most Express flights come from - the E pier. There is a shuttle bus across the ramp, but the line-up was excessively long. I had an hour for my connection, and I would rather not get squished into a bus, so I walked past the D pier, left the secure area, and cleared TSA again at the E pier. My thought process was the line would be short, since the express flights were to connection destinations, not so much O&D. I was right. There was some construction in the E gates, and a lot of people rushing around to catch their connections. A family were let on their connection to Buffalo due to fact that the gate agent actually tried. Amazing how good customer service saved this family's day.
Flight US4481 PHL-ISP - Operated by Piedmont Airlines
Aircraft - N327EN Bombardier Dash 8-300
Seat - 7A (window)
Distance - 129 miles
Boarding was smooth, and the doors closed on schedule. There was a pretty good load - probably about 80%. The flight path on the lovely little DH3 took us straight across New Jersey, over the Atlantic, and a left turn over Central Islip into ISP. Despite the short flight, the was a beverage service, and coffee was enjoyed. The FA was friendly and professional. We touched down in Long Island on schedule, and disembarked on the ramp. There were some WN jets off to Florida at the other end of the terminal. The airport is a cute little terminal, which is suited perfectly for a few connection flight to DCA and PHL, and a modest WN operation. There is a shuttle - a mini-van - to Ronkonkoma LIRR station, which is only $5, and takes a few minutes.
US Airways is a perfectly fine airline - both flights were on schedule, and my Aeroplan miles were posted to my account quickly. BWI is a good airport, but PHL could have been much more frustrating. There were too few shuttles, and people had way too much stress to get to their connections. I love an E90 and DH3 - both planes were clean and well maintained. ISP is a nice airport, but if you are going to NYC proper, it is just not that convenient...
E90 pic - Micheal Davis from Flickr
DH3 pic - PHLairport.com from Flickr
Map - gcmap.com
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
There is a place where people from the Toronto area go when they want to save some $$$. An hour and a half from my home is the fine city of Buffalo New York. The shopping is good, the food is terrific, the people are wonderful, and the sports are plentiful. Also, it is a cheap place to get a flight. I have flown out of Buffalo a few times, and have another flight coming up soon.
BUF is located in the Northeastern part of the city. It is very close to the main shopping mall, which Canadians know well, the Walden Galleria. Using the Lewiston-Queestown bridge it is about 30 minutes from the border, and only about 15 minutes from Fort Erie on the Peace Bridge.
Parking is plentiful. There are a few independent parking lots, but the on-site parking is good value. The terminal is small, but efficient. It is a big airport for Southwest, and they have the check-in counters to the right of the entrance. Everyone else (US Airways, Delta, United, JetBlue, AA) are to the left. The TSA line moves pretty well, and I have never had a negative experience with them. Once on the sterile side, if you are flying with US, turn left, and walk for about 5 minutes to your gates. There is a US Airways lounge at BUF. Turning right from security is everyone else. There are moving sidewalks for those who do not care for walking. There are plenty of restrooms, and BUF does a fine job of keeping them clean. Southwest has two gates, and things get pretty crowded in their area. My last flight had fog related delays, and about 5 WN flights got backed up. It was a mess!
There is no Starbucks or Tim Hortons in the sterile area, but there is coffee available. There are some of the usual suspects in the food court, but the best part of BUF is the Anchor Bar. The Anchor Bar in Buffalo is the birthplace of the Buffalo Wing. Whilst nothing truly competes with the original Anchor Bar, it is nice to get one last fix at the Airport - and you can get a bottle of the wing sauce as well.
Taxi time is a bit on the long side for a small airport, but it is nothing obscene. On takeoff you will usually get a nice view of the downtown core. I always get a kick out of flying over a city and seeing the baseball stadium. You get a nice view of Coca-Cola Field.
Taxi time on arrival is minimal. Most gates have jetways, but props don't use them.
I have never checked a bag into BUF, so I suppose I can't comment on the wait time. You do not have to wait long for your parking shuttle, and if you choose to walk to long-term parking, it will only take about 5-10 minutes. There is a NFTA-Metro city bus that goes into downtown, and a seasonal city bus to Niagara Falls NY.
I quite like Buffalo-Niagara Int'l. It is nice and bright, has nice amenities and good ramp views. From the great city of Mississauga I am door to door in an hour and a half, including wait at the border. To save hundreds of dollars, and stretch my comparatively strong Canadian dollar further, it is worth the drive.
You can pretty well fly to every hub on the eastern half of the USA non-stop from BUF. Southwest has the most destinations, but JetBlue and US Airways have pretty sizable operations at BUF. Delta has recently ramped up their LGA service. Don't expect Allegiant or Spirit here anytime soon, as they are 30 minutes north, operating out of Niagara Falls Int'l (IAG) in Niagara Falls NY.
Wings pic: http://www.ratestogo.com/blog/bar-food/
Thursday, 16 August 2012
I think that one of the most beautiful cities in the world is Quebec City. I had been there as a teenager as part of a class trip, and enjoyed the educational side of the city. My wife had been there as a teenager as well. In March 2009 I spent a few days in Stockholm, and as I was walking around Gamla Stan - the old city - it struck me that Quebec was very similar in feel. Since I didn't exactly have the dough to take my wife to Sweden, I could certainly take her to Quebec City.
Flight AC8912 YYZ-YQB (Operated by Jazz)
May 09 2009
Plane - CRJ-200 (didn't record the registration)
Distance 454 miles
Seats - don't remember, in the middle...
We kind of felt bad when we left our home. My sister surprised us with a visit, after we had already booked tickets. She was fine to explore T.O. on her own, so of to Pearson we went. As we chilled in the lower level gates - usually only props down there, but our RJ was down there - the skys turned very dark. The winds picked up speed. It was very ominous, and then the lightning and hail started. It was a spectacular storm, which, of course, delayed flights. Anyhow, we were only about 30 minutes behind schedule when we loaded. We expected a bouncy flight, and when the FA was introducing herself, we also expected no service... After the first 20 minutes, the air smoothed right out, and we had a nice cup of coffee!
Public transport is pretty much non-existant at YQB, so we took a cab into the city centre. We dropped off our bags at our little hotel inside the city walls. The weather was pretty chilly, especially compared to the weather we had been having. We had a great day exploring the city within the walls, and had two Quebecois staples to eat - poutine at Chez Ashton and a nice quarter chicket at St-Hubert. The next day didn't have much nicer weather. We took in some more of the waterfront, and in the afternoon took the city bus out to the Aquarium. I enjoy an aquarium, and we timed it well to see the walrus being fed. The seals were active and having fun, and it was a nice way to spend the afternoon. I tried to call a taxi afterwards, but since we in St-Foy the cab company I tried wouldn't come out that far. Not knowing any other cab numbers (I only put one in my phone from one stopped at a red light...), we walked about a kilometre along the train tracks to the Via Rail station in St-Foy, and were able to get a taxi from there. We ate at a restaurant near the airport and then made our way to the airport proper.
Flight AC8925 YQB-YYZ (Operated by Jazz)
Plane - CRJ-200 (didn't record the registration)
Distance - 454 miles
Seats - 1 D&F
I quite like Jean Lesage Airport. Security was a breeze, and I loved all of the windows. I found a comfortable chair overlooking the ramp where I could watch all of the runway activity. Everything was running on time, and our flight was no exception. We had the front row. Being quite a bit heavier then then I am now, I didn't really care for row one, as the improved leg room was cancelled out by the lack of hip space... Anyhow, I don't remember much about the flight, so I guess that is a ringing endorsement!
We had a terrific couple of days in Quebec City. I love the Province of Quebec, and whilst my wife does not speak any french she enjoys being there as well. YQB is a terrific airport, which could use some better public transit connections, but is otherwise perfect.
Photo - World News (wn.com)
Map - gcmap.com
Monday, 13 August 2012
When I moved out to Calgary for a year, one thing I was looking forward to doing was visiting the province of Saskatchewan. In 2010, I had been to 9 provinces, and Saskatchewan remained as the sole province I had not been to (I still have not been to any of the Territorties...). I decided to take advantage of an okay seat sale on Air Canada and WestJet and go to Saskatoon for a weekend. I picked the first weekend in October, as there were a few hockey games to catch, and I figured the weather would be good for walking around.
Flight - Air Canada Jazz 8582 YYC-YXE
Aircraft - Bombardier CRJ-200 (Didn't record registration)
Seat - 3F (Window)
Flight time - 0930 - 1030
I arrived at YYC early for my flight to YXE as I wanted to use one of my lounge certificates. I earned Prestige status from Air Canada in 2009, yet hadn't used any of my certificates. Although it was too early for alcohol, I did enjoy the atmosphere in the Maple Leaf Lounge. My flight in a CRJ-200 to Saskatoon was nothing particularly interesting. It left on time, and arrived on time, which is really all you can ask of an hour long regional flight. I was quite excited leaving the plane because i) I had to use the bathroom and ii) I had checked off my tenth province.
I rented a car for the weekend (a Hyundai Elantra), made my way into the downtown core. I parked in a pay lot near the mall downtown, and went for a stroll. It was quite windy, but temperatures were fine, around 16 degrees. The parkland along the North Saskatchewan River is very nice, and it was a pleasurable stroll. I poked around some of the downtown shops, and bought a couple of books at a used book store. I had a food court lunch at the aforementioned mall. One thing that struck me was everyone seemed to have a piece of Roughriders gear on. The Green Riders were playing that day, but on the road, and the team plays out of Regina... They have themselves a cult following (not in the way a movie has a cult following, but more literal...). Anyhow, I visited the Western Development Museum after lunch. It is a nice museum. I had visited Heritage Park in Calgary not much earlier, and I found the two to be pretty similar. I went North, checked in at the glamorous Motel 6 near Credit Union Centre, and made my way to my first hockey game of the trip.
I saw one and a half Junior B games in Saskatoon. The first was a match-up between the Ochapowace Thunder and the Saskatoon Quakers, at the Harold Latrace Arena in Southwest Saskatoon. Ochapowace was the better team, and I had to leave early, but the Thunder won with ease. I was excited to go to the Credit Union Centre. It is a big arena for junior hockey, seating over 15,000. The hometown Blades were playing the cross-Saskatchewan rival Regina Pats. The crowd was a bit thin, but it was early in the season. The Blades had a good regular season in 2010-2011, and they had little trouble with the Pats. I had a seat in the upper bowl on the blueline, and had a nice angle for the game. I would love to see a game there with the joint packed. The Memorial Cup should be a lot of fun there in 2013.
On Sunday morning, I went on "Prairie Drive 2010". I drove a triangle route from Saskatoon west to Biggar, south to Rosetown and Northeast back to Toon Town. I was surprised that it was not all flat, like I would later experience in Southern Saskatchewan. The terrain was very interesting. Biggar is a neat little town, with the slogan "New York is big, but this is Biggar." Really, that slogan, and being the hometown of Sandra Schmirler (the great curler) are the town claims to fame. Forty-five minutes south is Rosetown, which is a bit bigger, and has a very wide main street. I had a hot hamburger sandwich for lunch (it seemed like a good small town meal). Once back in Saskatoon I caught another game at the Latrace Arena, this time between the Saskatoon Royals and the Southern Rebels. I was quite impressed with the calibre of the Prairie Junior Hockey League. It isn't as good as the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League, but I am biased.
Aircraft - Boeing 737-700 (Didn't record registration)
Seat - Don't Remember
Flight time - 2130-2230
Quickly departing the arena, I made the ten minute drive back to Saskatoon Airport. My flight was scheduled for 9:00 pm-ish, and I arrived at around 8:00 pm. Note to future travellers from Saskatoon – if arriving for an evening flight, I suggest that you arrive having eaten. The canteen shuts down at 8:00. I took WestJet back to Calgary, and the inbound was about an hour late arriving. It is awfully frustrating when the flight scheduled to leave after you boards and departs before your plane arrives. Oh well, I did get a personal best in 'Nature Park', the Tetris like game on my cell phone... Our flight was doing a point-to-point journey, and had originated in Ottawa, stopped in Toronto, came to Saskatoon, on to Calgary, and I think was on to Kelowna or Abbotsford afterwards. There was a good load on board. Everyone on board just wanted to get to Calgary, and the flight itself was fine.
I enjoyed my visit to Saskatoon. I found while living out that I didn't really like a lot of places, but I liked Saskatoon. It seemed like a very livable city. Credit Union Place is a nice arena, and would be a great place to see a game when it has over 5,000 in attendance. The PJHL has a nice brand of hockey. Air Canada Jazz provided a smooth trip Northeast, whilst I was less impressed with the late WestJet arrival/departure.
Photo - stadiumjourney.com
Map - gcmap.com
Saturday, 11 August 2012
Taxi time - After touching down, you will not be sitting on a taxiing plane for long.
Wait for luggage - This is not a major worry into YSB. By the time I had the key to my car, my bag was on the belt.
From the city - When I was in Sudbury in May, the gas station between the airport and the city was being renovated, and I had to buy gas in Sudbury proper. The needle on the gas gauge didn't move in those 20 kilometres... There is minimal traffic heading out towards the airport, and 20 minutes will get you from downtown to the airport.
Terminal - YSB is a beautiful little airport. There is ample room at the check-in desks for Air Canada, Porter and Bearskin. The hallways are wide and bright. There is plenty of room to sit pre and post security. A nice feature is a model AC 747 in the arrivals area.
YSB is one of the better small airports I have been to. I had plenty of time before my flight, and did not get bored. The Authority does a great job keeping the airport maintained and clean. The Restaurant is terrific. I had a great experience, so much so that the next time I need to go to Sudbury I will fly again, rather than drive the five hours from Mississauga.
Air Canada Express - Toronto YYZ (DH1, DH3, DH4)
Bearskin Airlines - Ottawa, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, North Bay, Kapuskasing (SW4)
Friday, 10 August 2012
Review: Spirit Airlines LGA-DTW, April 29 2012
Aircraft: Airbus A319 (N505NK)
Seat: 19C (Aisle)
Flight time: 1655 EDT – 1825 EDT
After spending a nice spring day strolling around the borough of Queens, I arrived at LaGuardia Airport. I walked to the airport from the Woodside train station, and really got to see the real NYC. Spirit flies out of Courcourse B in Terminal B. I had heard that this is an unholy combination, and it is. Sprit shares this concourse with AirTran, Southwest and Frontier. It was a busy, busy place with a lot of stressed out leisure travelers. I ate a mediocre sandwich in the Frontier waiting area, as the Spirit waiting area was very crowded. There were some delays on the Spirit flight to Dallas, but Southwest was a good neighbour, and Spirit could use one of their jetbridges.
When boarding time approached for the flight to Detroit, I found a comfy spot to sit with my coffee and took in the crowd. It looked like it would be a pretty full flight. The Tigers were playing the Yankees that weekend, and a lot of the people on the flight enjoyed the series. I’d say the average age on the flight was 27. As I was waiting for boarding, I was listening in on a delightful conversation between some ladies visiting NYC from South Carolina chatting with Spirit ground staff. I must say, Spirit has some excellent staff at LGA. They were very professional with situations such as paying for carry-on bags, and helping customers that missed their flight because they thought they only needed to show up at the gate at the departure time… Boarding started earlier than I expected, and was handled very efficiently. Spirit gets a bad rap for charging for carry-on, but most people knew what was up. I think only two people were stopped at the gate to pay. I used a small carry-on, which NK allows for free. We departed on time, and with minimal taxiing, and a reasonable wait for take-off made our way to the Motor City.
On board, I quickly realized that I had made a mistake. I was going to pick up a newspaper or a magazine for the flight, but thought, nah – I’ll read the in flight magazine. I didn’t know there was no magazine on board. Even RyanAir has a magazine! Anyway, the cabin crew was robotically efficient. I bought a bottle of water on board and relaxed. The guys behind me had just reached legal age, and I did enjoy listening to their breakdown of their weekend in Brooklyn. Leg room was a bit tight, and since I am only 5’9, I imagine that anyone over 6’0 would be in agony.
The flight was smooth, and took more-or-less the same route as gcmap.com suggests it would. We landed a few minutes early, and it was only about 10 minutes between deplaning at the McNamera Terminal at DTW to getting in my car parked on the Big Blue Deck.
Reasonable expectations are important when flying on a ULCC. You won’t get a free drink, but the Buy on Board pricing is the same for drinks as in the terminal. You won’t get much legroom. You will get a nice price, your flight will be operated as safely as any other American carrier, and if you know what’s up, you’ll be happy with your experience. It ain’t Emirates.
I am looking forward to my next NK flight. I am on the inaugural BWI-DFW flight on September 6, 2012. My ticket had a jaw-droppingly good price, and I am rather excited to take my first Inaugural flight.
PHOTO CREDIT: By Culpano on wings900.com
MAP CREDIT: gcmap.com
Wednesday, 8 August 2012
FYI, since I have been recording my flights (starting in 2007) here are my stats:
11 days 23:49
**I record my stats on openflights.org
What does this look like?
11 days 23:49
**I record my stats on openflights.org
What does this look like?
A little busy, I know... Future maps (Thanks to gcmap.com!!!) will be easier to follow...