Growing up and working in the airline industry has given me many opportunities to experience different aspects of my aviation passion. There are two experiences that will remain etched in memory. Both are similar in nature, yet completely different.
My father was a Captain for Midwest Airlines for many years and I started my aviation career at Midwest as well. Starting at the end of 2008, we had to park 19 of the 25 Boeing 717-200′s we operated and return them to Boeing. At that time, my dad was asked to fly the first 717 to be returned from Milwaukee, WI to Victorville, CA. Victorville is where we ended up parking all 25 airplanes at the end of Midwest’s life.
The day that first 717 (N927ME) left our fleet, was the last day of my Information Technology job at Midwest due to downsizing. My leader worked with Flight OPS and I was able to secure a ride on this flight as the only “passenger.” I was excited, yet sad for this day. I grew up with Midwest Airlines, earlier known at Midwest Express Airlines and I hated seeing us downsize. The day before our retirement flight, I was at our Hangar facility working on my last project and snapped a picture of 927 with the Midwest titles and logos painted over in blue paint.
The next day, my Dad and I drove the 10 minutes from our home to the Midwest hangar. Soon after our co-pilot arrived, we were ready to go. I boarded the aircraft with my dad and we shut for forward boarding door. This flight was a repositioning flight that fell under different rules and regulations. Therefore, we were able to fly with the cockpit door open and I was able to sit up front on the jumpseat. It was my first time flying with my dad up front on an airliner. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. We were pushed back out of the hangar and started up the engines. After getting clearance, we taxied to runway 1L and took off on a very early, dark and rainy morning. N927ME left its hometown, Milwaukee WI. I was able to capture some beautiful photos en-route. Some of these photos remain the best aviation photos I’ve taken thus far.
All too quickly, our four hour flight came to an end. We started our descent and my dad configured the airplane for its descent and landing into Victorville. We lined up with the runway and the co-pilot extended N927ME’s landing gear for the last time as a Midwest flight. We touched down and taxied over to an area where other airplanes that have been retired were parked. It was sad seeing our airplane amongst the others. Although a sad experience, it was exciting to be part of an opportunity to retire an airliner.
We were greeted by a shuttle and were driven over to Los Angeles (LAX) where we flew home to MKE.
As time went on, I became a Southwest Airlines family member. I’ve met so many great folks here and many know my passion. That’s one of the greatest things about working at Southwest. You are able to share your passion with your co-workers and beyond.
Recently, I was lucky enough to be part of something even more exciting than retiring an airliner. A passenger spot opened up for me on a brand new 737-800 delivery from Boeing. Instead of saying goodbye to an airplane, I would be saying hello!
On September 5, 2012, I met our flight delivery crew at the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel in Seattle, WA. Boeing provided a shuttle to King Field (BFI), where all Boeing 737 deliveries take place. Soon after our quick shuttle ride, we arrived at BFI and walked up into the Southwest Airlines conference room at the Boeing Delivery Center. Today, we were to take delivery of N8320J, Southwest’s 20th Boeing 737-800. The conference room windows overlooked the delivery ramp, where N8320J was parked.
Boeing provided a catered breakfast for everyone and walked us down to the Boeing store afterwards. Inside the store, one can purchase models of most Boeing airliners, t-shirts, pens, coffee mugs, stickers and much more. It was pretty much an airline geeks dream store.
Once we finished shopping, we walked back to our conference room and finalized the delivery paperwork and our flight release. Our delivery flight would take us from Boeing Field (BFI) to Paine Field (PAE). PAE is where Southwest installs WiFi on the 737-800 models. Flight time was eight minutes, cruising at an altitude of 4,000 feet. I only had one other flight that short and low on an airliner. It was a flight operated by Midwest Express Airlines from Milwaukee, WI (MKE) to Appleton, WI (ATW) on a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 in 2002.
One of the pilots took us on a walk-around of our new -800 prior to departure and showed us many different aspects of the 737. If I had to pick, the most interesting part of the walk-around was seeing the inside of the wheel well where the landing gear retracts into. It was pristine. He said that these wheel wells will never be as clean as they are now due to de-icing fluid, and general runway/ramp contamination during inclement weather. During the walk-around, I was able to capture a few photos of our brand new 737. It is amazing how shiny these airplanes are when they are freshly painted.
Just as amazing as the exterior of the airplane, the interior was quite beautiful. The Boeing Sky Interior combined with our Southwest Evolve Interior makes the cabin look clean and professional.
Following our walk-around, we boarded the aircraft and shut the forward entry door. This flight was a repositioning ferry flight which allowed for the cockpit door to be open. Our Captain invited me to sit up on the cockpit jumpseat for the flight. We pushed back from the delivery stand and started up our engines. We waved goodbye to the Boeing folks and taxied over to Runway 31L. Since we only had five people (including two pilots) on an airplane that seats 175 passengers and not a lot of fuel, the airplane was very light compared to its max capacity. This allowed for a very fast takeoff. We departed BFI on a northerly heading and quickly climbed to 4,000 feet. As soon as we reached our cruising altitude, we began our descent into PAE. The crew configured the airplane for landing and lowered the landing gear. Those 8 minutes flew by (no pun intended) and our flight, very quickly, came to an end. I took some nice photos during the eight minute flight. The below photo shows depicts the clear and picture perfect flying day we had for our flight.
As an airline geek, our arrival into PAE was exciting. We taxied by many Boeing 787 Dreamliners awaiting delivery to their respective Air Carriers. We made our way over to our parking stand and the pilots shut down our engines.
Similar to the Midwest 717 retirement, a shuttle was awaiting our arrival. We were driven over to SeaTac International Airport (SEA) and thus completed the delivery of N8320J.
Many folks don’t get to experience these types of flights and I felt honored to be part of both. These are two one-in-a-lifetime opportunities I surely won’t forget!