Thursday, September 13, 2007

Viva! Day Five

In The Hot Nevada Sun

Up at 6:15 (PDT), down to the continental breakfast at 7,

Room for Breakfast

session one from 8 – 9, and session two from 9:15 – 10:15. Back up to the room to finish packing and check out,

View from a Precipice

then back down to the lobby to meet the others at 11. Took a cab back to the airport, and strangely it only cost $15 ($5 each) this way, when the cab from the airport was around $27 ($9 each). I think we got screwed on our way out, and thus my reluctance to use cabs.

I had checked in from the hotel, and since I didn’t have any bags to check, went right to Gate D40. I should’ve stopped for lunch, but I was waiting for Bill and Cynthia, who were checking in and checking luggage, and thus taking longer. I was able to get caught up on work e-mail and some instant messaging. I saw that my “Dot Org” photo has already been marked as a favorite by 12 people. I’m pretty jazzed about that. It turns out Bill and Cynthia ate without me. Now I’m hoping someplace decent will be open at ATL after 8 when we get in.

The plane is a 767-300, and is quite full. I’m in 42G next to a window, aft of the right wing. We took off from runway 25R at 13:11 PDT. There’s a woman a few rows back who is evidently not fond of flying. On take off and climb out she’d let out a shriek every time we made the slightest bump up or down. Take-off from LAS is a little challenging because 1) we’re in the high desert where the air is thinner, 2) the 100F low-humidity air is even thinner, 3) we’re in a fully loaded 767-300, a trans-Atlantic capable plane with enough fuel to cross the country (read: heavy,) 4) there are mountains not too far past the end of the runway. The pilot told us he was shutting off the cabin A/C for take off and initial climb to gain some performance. But back to the shrieking woman: it was sad and a little funny too. I can’t imagine what having an irrational fear must be like, nor would I ever want to.

16:10/19:10 Somewhere over somewhere. The flight has been fine so far. I got a few pictures of the Grand Canyon.

In Plane View

I kept my camera in the seat with me, and that plus my laptop bag, noise-canceling headphones, and this journal have made my personal space very limited. Aggravating that fact is that the not-very-bright older couple in front of me are fully reclined, yet sitting straight upright. Come on! I say they’re not very bright because I watched them spend about ten minutes trying to figure out how to turn off their overhead light. I would’ve helped them out, but the amateur anthropologist in me really wanted to see how long it would finally take them. The guy next to me eventually told them how to do it, but because the old folks were holding their headphones on their ears (also not being able to figure out the technical complexities of airline headphones either, apparently) it took him a few tries to get through to them. I should go easy on the oldsters though. At 70+ years old, they’ve probably never flown on an airplane before.

Since climb-out, the flight has been perfectly smooth. We're somewhere over, I don't know, maybe northern Mississippi or Alabama perhaps. Things are much greener and not all square. We hit a cabin altitude of 2795 meters as I can't figure out how to set the altitude units on my watch pressure-altimeter switched from metric to American units. Maybe I should ask the couple in front of me.

I'm sadistically hoping for a bumpy approach and landing in Atlanta, to see what the shrieker will do. It's 16:26/19:26 and we're losing altitude and speed. We're supposed to land a little early, maybe 20 minutes after 8 pm.

I got this journal with the grid rule so that I could sketch maps and what-not if I want to. Here's my map of the Atlanta Hartsfield runways.

Runway numbers are based on the compass heading of the runway, divided by 10, and for parallel runways with the same headings, the suffixes L and R designate left and right. I love the ATL system because as the world's busiest airport, they have simultaneous operations on all four (or maybe 5 now) runways. They all orient in the same direction at the same time - takeoffs and landings, so everyone is headed east, or everyone's going west. The two outermost runways are (generally) landing runways, giving the most space to aircraft on final approach, while the inner two runways are for takeoffs. It's very efficient. On a busy Friday night, driving past the airport on I-85 you can see at least a dozen airplanes simultaneously on final approach, and several others on their downwind and base legs being positioned to enter the stack on final.


Down to 1580 meters. I'm guessing that's Alabama below. "20,000 feet, 70 miles out, landing to the west, making right turns," from the captain, which means we'll be coming in north of the airport, and landing on either runway 26R or 27L (If I got those sets of runways correct, I'm always mixing them up.) There's still plenty of light, due in part to the fact that Atlanta is about as far west in the Eastern time zone as you can be, so sunrise and sunset is always later that places at the same lattitude but farther east. I think the pilot said we're parking at the A gates. I don't remember what is at which concourse anymore.

I miss flying out of Atlanta. It's 25 minutes from our old house, and you can fly direct from Atlanta to just about anywhere. 19:54 EDT, and we just passed the airport out the starboard side of the plane on the downwind leg of our approach. It would've been better on the left side of the plane to view the city. I haven't been to Atlanta proper in almost three years, I think.

20:06 Completed the base leg. We're on final approach. No shrieking yet. Landing at 20:10 on the farthest runway north, runway 26R, I think. Flight time: 3:26.

Went to TGIFridays in B terminal, the same restaurant Jennifer and I were at for their grand opening preview dinner, 10 or 11 years ago. The food was not great, but it was nice to be able to sit with relative quiet and some space.

When we finished dinner, it was time to board. 757, six seats across. We all got plenty of space. Push-back 10 minutes lated due (in my guess) to several retirees who couldn't get to their plane on time.

Take off at 10:50, probably runway 27R. Bill has a pretty sweet GPS that he was showing me. I think I need to add that to my gadget wishlist. They've come a long way in the 10+ years since I got mine.

The jackass in front of me has his seat fully reclined, which is bad enough, but then he moved over to the middle seat to be next tho his honey, yet left his empty seat reclined. I fixed that for him. He has a backwards ball cap on his head, and that act immediately lowers one's IQ by at least 15 points. I'll give him a pass because he's a dumbass.

23:20 Should be landing in 28 minutes or less. Yup, we're definitely descending. Watch says 1630 meters and my ears concur.

23:30 1000 meters

Landed just before midnight. Made the walk through RDU Terminal A, which is looking more and more like the interior of a double-wide to me. Out in the humidity once again to catch the bus to Purple 3. After a fight with the parking payment system, that evidently didn't like my Johnson Controls corporate Visa, I made the drive home, arriving around 1:00 am.

All in all it was a pretty good trip . . . other than losing my GPS. The Infor conference was good, though IMHO the Datastream conference in 2006 was better. I finally got to see Las Vegas, and even though I don't plan on returning on my own dime anytime soon, I know that if/when I do make it back, I'll have a better feel for the place, and for what I'd like to see and do on a second trip.

Viva indeed.


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