If you live anywhere in the South, youâ€™ve likely heard the old joke that says “whenever someone dies, they donâ€™t go to heaven (or that other place), without connecting in Atlanta!”
Having spent 14 years living in various southern cities and connected through Atlanta more times than I care to remember, thereâ€™s no doubt the scene at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) the other weekend is one that wonâ€™t soon be forgotten.
A peak into an empty “C” gates at ATL, thanks to an airport worker who allowed this pic while the door for employees was open.
Recently, I needed to take a number of flights for family reasons, and in the current coronavirus climate, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My adventure took meÂ through one Delta mega-hub (Atlanta ATL) to another (Minneapolis MSP), where typically the flights would be full. However, this time they were only about 25 percent occupied. The ATL to MSP flight, usually an A321 or 757, had been replaced by a smaller 737-800.
No passengers and just 2 pilots occupy the “Plane Train” level at ATL below the C gates.
Atlanta currently has multiple concourses closed with fully sheetrocked walls and security doors to allow only airport and airline staff to enter. The â€œCâ€ and â€œEâ€ terminals were just empty shells. TV screens packed with flight info now had just a couple active monitors.
BONUS: Feeling the impact of COVID-19 on the US Commercial Airline Industry
The food court in the E terminal had just one restaurant open: McDonaldâ€™s. They were so happy to see anyone that they gave me 10% off my McDouble — that 20 cents will go far someday, I just know it! You know itâ€™s bad when even airport concessions start discounting prices.
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. Â 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? Iâ€™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.Â 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 “Aviatorâ€™s Package” — yes, an AvGeekâ€™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.
A beautiful day and location for a run – Photo: John Huston
It is said that if youâ€™re running around on the fifth runway at Atlantaâ€™s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) youâ€™re having a very bad day. Either your plane has just crashed or youâ€™re about to be arrested and sent to jail for a very long time.Â Orâ€¦ maybe thereâ€™s something else going on that has the makings of a very good day.
I had the opportunity to run The Mayorâ€™s 5K on the 5th Runway at ATL on August 27. The race is an annual fundraiser for the United Way of Greater Atlanta, hosted by Mayor Kasim Reed and sponsored by Delta Air Lines among others. Itâ€™s the one day a year where mere mortals, like me, can be out there laying down shoe rubber in the same place where the big jets lay down tire rubberâ€”without getting arrested.
On your mark… – Photo: John Huston
This is the third year for the race. I hadnâ€™t heard about it until recently, but once I did, there was no way I could resist the chance to participate.
There was one sort of catch, however. The race had to be over and the runway completely cleared by 8:00 a.m. You know, so the planes could land and stuff. Which means things began very, very early.
Watching the CNN Airport Network at JFK – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
When I was growing up, I would have long layovers at airports. Typically looking outside at the planes would entertain me, but I also always made sure I had one of the TVs, hanging from the ceiling, in view. I could sit and watch the CNN Airport Network for hours and be good.
It was my mainstay of personal entertainment at the airport for many years. Of course there wasn’t too much competition back then. Today, I rarely even notice the TVs anymore. With having multiple personal devices and free WiFi, the competition for my attention has become fierce.
CNN headquarters in Atlanta
When I was recently making a trip down to Atlanta, I decided to reach out for a tour of the CNN Airport Network operations and learn a bit more about their station and how it works. I also wanted to see how they are working to stay relevant, with all the other options out there. I went in without many expectations, but I have to say I walked away with quite a few surprises.