Spotting from the hotel at ATL.
Being an AvGeek since I could walk, and currently a private pilot, I have always wondered if I could fly a real airliner. I always felt confident that I could, but that little part of me wondered if there truly was anything special I lacked; could I safely land one if I had to? I’m sure many of you have thought about needing to take the controls of an airliner to save the day and I wanted to put my skills to the test. Of course, not in a way that would actually put people in harm’s way.
I recently decided to make the journey from Boston (BOS) to Atlanta (ATL), where I thought I could test out my skills. The quick flight of two-and-a-half hours (depending on winds and approach) from BOS into ATL passed very quickly. My son and I arrived in Atlanta just as dusk approached. Our first stop was checking into the Renaissance Hotel. We booked the “Aviator’s Package” — yes, an AvGeek’s dream hotel. They handed us a cool bag with a bunch of airplane goodies as well as passes to the Delta Flight Museum. They then directed us to our room on the 10th floor corner, which overlooked the approach end of 26R and the Delta maintenance parking area.
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-200 – Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC
Eating dinner, courtesy of room service, out on the balcony listening to the hum of jet engines, jumping up to snap pictures of the next beautiful airplane either landing or departing, and just overall enjoying the ATL evening activity, dusk turned into night and the bustle continued. The tower was lit in a really cool blue/green color and the sea of airplane navigation lights was like staring into the night sky looking at stars.
“Ah, I’m sorry, you’re gonna have to get out of the car,” the Delta Air Lines security guard said as he peered farther into the window of the Uber I had taken to the northern edge of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Distracted, as I had been staring at a 757–200 beautifully adorned in Delta’s classic widget livery until about five seconds prior, I could only muster a perplexed, “uh, okay.” There really was no sense in arguing with the guy. I acquiesced, slightly annoyed, thanked my driver, and hopped out of the car.
Classic Widget Delta 757 – Photo: Jake Grant
I stayed mad for, oh, five seconds at the most. You see, at the Delta Flight Museum, the exhibits begin in the parking lot, a stone’s throw from both arrivals on the northern runway 8L/26R into Delta’s biggest fortress hub and Delta’s brick castle of a headquarters down the street. Due to the preservation efforts of Delta’s 80,000-strong workforce, the museum’s outdoor exhibit highlights a trio of classic airliners; the 757, a Douglas DC-9, the short-haul workhorse for the better part of four decades, and the first Boeing 747–400 built, with a display plaza being pieced together around the Queen of the Skies.
DC-9! Woo – Photo: Jake Grant
A note on the plaza: I ended up taking my tour before it opened at the end of March. It’ll definitely be worth a visit by any Atlantians or folks with long layovers. The 747 and the plaza taking shape around it were primarily funded by Delta employees. This is a recurring theme of the Delta Flight Museum. The inside of the 747 is an extension of the two hangars full of Delta relics across the parking lot. This writer certainly intends to check out the finished project when he gets the opportunity.
I’m not a particularly frequent flier. In fact, aside from a brief job hunting period in 2015 that saw me leaving SEA for a different destination each week for three weeks straight, I haven’t flown on commercial airliners more than twice a year ever. With that in mind, it was an interesting contrast when I booked my Delta Air Lines tickets for PAX South (a video game fan convention) with a route of FSD-MSP-ATL-SAT in economy to get there, and SAT-MSP-FSD in first class on the way home.
My trip planning had been determined by two main factors. The first was that the outbound routing gave me two legs on the MD-90. I love the DC-9 aircraft family, and will happily grab any opportunity to fly on them, particularly as they’re becoming increasingly rare in the fleets of major carriers. The second factor was my returning connection. When I booked my flight, I was only going to have a forty-five-minute layover in Minneapolis. I hoped that booking myself into seat 1A would ensure that I could make my connection, no matter how many terminals apart my two flights were.
When life gives you lemons, make champagne – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
Delta Air Lines likes to call itself the “the on-time machine.” Heck, they even filed for trademark protection of that term. Indeed, the airline does have a statistically high on-time performance and completion factor. But what happens when your flight is one of the minority that does get delayed? And what if I actually wanted it to be delayed? Weird, right?
Recently, I had to fly from San Jose (SJC) to New York City. San Jose is one of those oddball cities where the flights back to New York are lacking; just one non-stop exists, and it’s a redeye, which I won’t do. This meant I could get a little creative while booking. I settled on a one-hop journey through Salt Lake City, which would be my first visit to Utah.
During the booking process, the Delta website prompted me several times to upgrade to First Class. For $120, I would be upgraded on both legs of the trip, which isn’t such a bad deal considering I have paid nearly that much for Comfort+ domestically. I took the bait and selected my new seats, expecting to fly on a beat up ex-Northwest Airbus A319 and one of the older Boeing 737-800s with seatback entertainment screens.
The morning of my flight, I was minding my own business, watching TV in my hotel room when I suddenly got an email, text message, and app alert from Delta. Here we go, it’s the delay notification carpet bomb. My flight from San Jose to Salt Lake City was suddenly delayed three hours, meaning I wouldn’t have a chance at making the connecting flight (the last of the day) to New York. It was time to get creative if I wanted to get home.