Saturday, September 20, 2014

I go to Amerikaa on the McDonnell Douglas MD-83

As my destination in Mexico, shifted from Mexico City to Monterrey, the travel plan had to be rearranged. The AeroMexico ride from Mexico City to Dallas, my next destination in this trip had to be modified.

Options were explored and there were some great options on United via Houston on ERJ which meant another Embraer and a new type, but repeat for airport and airline. Besides this would not be a direct flight and depending on the rush for immigration, connection time will have to be managed. A quick search resulted in few direct flights on this sector, being operated by American Airlines with MD83. Voila! A new airline and a new type – yet again!

Flight confirmation was quick - AA1272 operated by MD-83 non-stop from Monterrey(MTY) to Dallas Forth Worth(DFW). Aviation is an addiction, one is never satisfied. I did a search again, to check if I can land at Dallas Love Field, since my Lufthansa flight back would be from DFW, so I would touch DFW in any case, but there weren't viable options.

A weekend before this flight, I decided to know more about the MD-83. Last year, I was close to their plant in California, but never got an opportunity to visit it. It was also the first time I had seen the MD-80 series because of its next to NIL presence in ASEAN.

It indeed is an interesting aircraft with great history. I never imagined it would seat so many to be honest, but I am not a fan of 2-3 seating. This would also be my first flight on such a seating. I had only seen this in the SSJ at Aero India in 2011. 

This would also be an experience of the P&W JT-8D powerplants after such a long time, the last I remember was in 2006 between Hyderabad and Mumbai on the rickety Alliance Air B737-200.

Seating Capacity
Fuselage Width
Wow, the MD-83 is longer than the B738. Interesting ride this one will be.

No flight of mine is complete without tracking rotations and in case of American Airlines; it is the most difficult job to do so. None the less I tried observing the pattern and this time around guessed it right!  

American Airlines did not allow seat blocking till web-check in opened and I later realized it did not allow that even after web-check in opened!  Limited seats were available till then and all at a cost. I logged in 24 hours before the flight and it had auto assigned seats to my colleague & me,

11E/F – sadly on the right which was a set of three seats but in premium economy. I wanted to be seated in the rear to get a closer view of the engines.

All the American Airlines MD80 series aircraft are a legacy of TWA and so was my aircraft an ex-TWA bird. Glad to have made it on this flight and aircraft, which are being slowly phased out and replaced with more efficient aircraft in similar seating configuration.

Monterrey airport is located about 35kms away from the city and has three terminals, named A,B and C. With A being used by all airlines except AeroMexico which uses B and VivaAerobus which uses C. The two busiest routes as listed on the web are to Mexico City (from where I came) on the domestic leg and Dallas (where I am headed) on the international segment. The airport has two runways with the longer being 9843Feet (Runway 11/29).

Monterrey stay took us to a lot of places to eat – including Curry Sultan which is the only Indian place in the entire Northern part of Mexico. The locals with whom we went liked it and compared the gravy of Butter Chicken to Mole (pronounced MOLEY) which is a delicacy in Mexico. The way the Butter Chicken was made, I agreed that it was closer to Mole. The place was only 70% authentic. Other places included some Italian food chains and Chilis & Apple bees. A visit to a French café – Le Marche was a total flop, since their entire menu has only Mexican Dishes.

Knowing that taxi’s and I don’t get along well, we had requested the hotel for a taxi at 0515 hours, which came late and amidst heavy rains we made our way to the airport. There was a long queue at American Airlines counter and the check-in machine suggested that we need assistance to check-in, which was promptly available. This was to check our visa and confirm.

Baggage was drop was quick, after we made it to the counter and we proceeded for security. There is no dedicated immigration while departing from Mexico, the counterfoil given at the time of entering the country is attached with the boarding pass and kept by the airline. The passport is not stamped, similar to that in USA.
First view
The terminal is small and with not much of a view. Our aircraft had already landed the night before and parked at Gate 7, from where we would do a zone wise boarding. I noticed that there was a flight boarding to Chihuahua and wondered if the dogs are named after this place and yes it indeed was the case!

Emotional to see this bird
Boarding was announced 45 mins before departure time and before that - announcements were done for some Senguptas and Iyers – I wondered how many Indians are suddenly visible around as we head to the USA. My colleague remarked if zone wise boarding has shifted to Name wise boarding.

Weird arrangement of chairs before boarding
We were in Zone 3 and part of last call. The aircraft looked small, but I was expecting this. The yellow lighting was also on the expected lines but travelling in a vintage like MD-83 would mean ignoring all such things and seeing and experiencing most of the aircraft in this short ride. I was overwhelmed with emotions as I entered the aircraft, only to be interrupted by my colleague who quipped that the aircraft looks pretty much like the State Transport bus which has 2 by 3 seating.

Doors were closed at 0838 in what looked like an On Time Departure. This was followed by a lot of noise, and every time a cool air blast for few seconds. The safety demo followed. The Pilot came on PA at 0851 to announce a delay since APU is not starting and they are waiting for the ground unit to come and start. It was getting stuffy inside the plane. Around 0910 the APU started and was followed by a push back at 0917, engine start and taxi to runway 29 from where we made a memorable takeoff. The climb rate and angle was much more than any previous experience and I will remember it for a lifetime. I would compare that to the MD-11F I have seen so many times at Bengaluru, taking off like a rocket with over 30 degrees climb angle.

Settled in my seat. Volaris A320 which joined in next doors and UA ERJ off to Houston

The new safety card denoting the registered name of MD-83, a derivative of S80 and the menu

Soon we stabilized at FL330, as announced by the captain and the quick drink run started. I opted for Water & Orange Juice. All those who complain about Air India Flight Attendants and other airlines in Indian skies, need to definitely be on such American flights, where things were being dumped on to you and next row was serviced. 

The FA also did not allow people to use the loo since it was a short flight. However, I did manage to make a quick dash to the aisle and walk till the back of the plane to see the 4th emergency exit from the tail, the loo, engines and the galley along with the 4 seats between the galley and the toilets.

Since the flight was absolutely full, there was no way to go near the windows and click pictures of the engine. Descent started at 1010 and we landed at 1034 on runway 36L, one of the 7 runways at Dallas – head quarter and hub for American Airlines. DFW is largest airport in terms of area, behind Denver, in USA; third busiest airport in world by movements and ninth busiest in terms of Traffic. It has direct connections to 205 places! The hub and connections were evident since the FA announced a long list of connections and gates for passengers who are onboard.
You know you are in USA when you see the roads like these. A Sun Country Airlines B737 - Rare opportunity see this airline. 

Immigration was relatively quicker with no forms now and baggage was already rolling on the belt when I reached. Customs was fast too. Dallas has limited public transport and in this case where we are not going for car rental, it’s going to be a challenge.
Memorable Picture

Aircraft Details
American Airlines MD-83
Registration: N978TW / MSN: 53628
Delivered to TWA in Oct’99.Switched to AA in 2001.
Currently in old AA livery
Seating Configuration: 16J, 124Y All of which was full in this flight
STD/ATD: 0845/0917
STA/ATA: 1035/1036

On-Time: 3/5
Website &Check-in: 2/5
Check-in & airport experience: 4/5 
Aircraft Cleanliness: 4/5
In-flight experience: 3/5 
Food: N/A
Alighting & Arrival experience: 4/5  

@Flightradar24 flight history of the flight

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