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FLL-MDW-FLL June 10/June 20 '06 - milestones galore

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  • FLL-MDW-FLL June 10/June 20 '06 - milestones galore

    My 4th and last trip of a record-tying and record-setting year for me (as far as aviation goes) began June 10th at FLL. This was going to be my 7th flight on Southwest, but the first since 3/9/96 (OAK-LAX, 733). It would also be my first 737NG flight. Flight was 1938.The aircraft was N719SW, a Boeing 737-7H4 w/ winglets, certified on 9/18/98, and painted in WN's "Canyon Blue" c/s. It was powered with GE CFM56 engines. The interior was nice, with semi-leather seats. The WN logo was on the front walls, WN's logo always amuses me, as WN is a pretty unconventional airline, yet their logo has the classic wings with the Southwest "Luv" inside
    We pushed back only 3 minutes past the scheduled 7:30 AM departure time from gate B2 at FLL. We took a weird route to the runway, and I got lost and thought we were taking off to the west instead of the usual east (this was only my 4th departure from FLL, so I haven't really learned where all the taxiways are). It was overcast with a light drizzle (thanks to some extreme outer bands from Tropical Storm Alberto, most of which I got to miss) Eventually we got to the runway (we were taking off to the east after all, which I finally figured out when I saw the coastline) and lifted off at 7:42 AM.
    The flight was uneventful, and we touched down at Midway at 9:17 CDT, and were parked at gate B23 4 minutes later. Since MDW is plopped right in the middle of a major city, it is layed out a little differently than most airports. The rental cars are located in a garage adjacent to the terminal building, meaning there is no need for shuttle buses and you don't even have to go out in the weather (which was nice, since it was raining in Chicago with temps in the mid-50s (!)) Got to the Hertz counter in the terminal which was crowded as hell, so much so that they sent us to the #1 club counter in the garage. Once there, there was some confusion, but eventually it was straightened out, and we left the airport about 3 hours after we landed! After visiting some friends in Chicago, we made the 2-hour drive to our actual destination, Urbana (which is ~120 miles south of Chicago and the home of the University of Illinois). We did not fly into Champaign-Urbana Willard Airport (CMI) because they have no mainline service and only a few paltry RJ flights (American Eagle to ORD and STL, Northwest Airlink to DTW, and Comair/Delta Connection to CVG, though they just started sevice to ATL) This after CMI underwent a major renovation in the early 90s which added jetways.
    We had a good time in C/U and before you knew it, it was the 20th and time to drive back to Chicago for the return flight. We arrived at MDW around 11 AM for a 3:30 PM flight (about the same thing that happened during the CLT trip). When you have to drive a distance to the airport, better to be way early than the alternative
    After grabbing a bite, we arrived at gate A15 as the previous flight (I forget where it was going) was boarding. A15 is near the end of the A concourse, so I had a good view of planes (mostly WN) going back in forth. I got some good pics, including a NW A320 (which came and went while we were there), A TED A320 and a Frontier A319 (first time I've ever seen a Frontier jet in person, even though they serve FLL, I've never seen the there)
    There was some bad weather in the Chicago area (though MDW itself was unaffected), so a gate agent announced that our flight (#997) would be delayed coming in from OAK. Indeed it was, arriving about 10 minutes after our scheduled departure time. Everyone boarded quickly and we pushed back at 4:06, 36 minutes late. The taxi was even more complicated that the one at FLL, plus there was a bunch of traffic ahead of us, so we didn't leave the ground until 4:22. Aircraft was N765SW, a -7H4 certified on 4/25/00. Strangely, it was in the old WN paint scheme even though it was newer than ship 719. Only thing I can think of is, that ship 765 hasn't had it's "D" check (and subsequent repainting).
    We were in the air exactly 2 1/2 hours, landing at 7:52 PM EDT and arriving at the gate 3 minutes later.

    I must give props to a F/A named Timothy on flight 997. He may have been the lead F/A, as he made most of the announcements and worked the front for most of the flight. My mom was traveling with me, and since she uses a walker, she always gets assistance in boarding, wheelchair in the terminal, etc. Timothy was very attentive during the flight, to my mom, other who needed assistance and an unaccompanied minor who was on the flight. We represented what Southwest is all about. So if Herb or any other bigwigs from WN is reading this: Timothy (didn't get his last name), flight 997, routing OAK-MDW-FLL, N765SW, 6/20/06.

    As I mentioned earlier, this was a record tying and setting year for me. Flight 1938 (outbound) was my 100th, taking place in a period spanning just under 38 years. The 8 flights in one year tied a record set in 1994 and equalled in 1996. However, the first flight of 1994 didn't take place until 6/8, with the last once on 12/12, while in 1996, the last flight was on 11/11, so 8 flights in the first half of the year is another record.
    I flew 4 different airlines (US,AA,B6,WN) this year, tying a record set in 1976 (National, DL, Piedmont, TW) and tied in 1987 (UA,TW,PA,Britt Air). I flew 5 different types of aircraft (A-321, 734, 2x752, 2xA-320, 2x737-700), tying a record set in 1987 (2xDC-10,2xDC-9,732,722,Fokker F-27). And for the first time, I flew 2 4 different parts of the country (North Carolina, Puerto Rico, New York and Illinois). Quite a year!