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A Trip Down Memory Lane ~ Colorado to Alaska and Back in 1979

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  • Crunk415balla
    replied
    Originally posted by Seat 2A View Post
    I do have some other reports with pictures if you're interested...
    Yes please!

    Leave a comment:


  • Airfrancefan
    replied
    very nice report. Nice to read a report from down the memory lane

    Leave a comment:


  • uy707
    replied
    Originally posted by Seat 2A View Post
    I wish I had pictures! I didn't own a camera back then.

    I do have some other reports with pictures if you're interested...
    Adding to this

    In the 1970s, cameras were not cheap, especially REFLEX, so was the case for films ....
    Bodies used to cost an arm, while the leg was easely snatched by the optics, especially telelenses.
    If having a camera then, but neither a Canon TLB nor a Nikkormat, one often had to contend with Kodack Instanmatics and the low quality VeryChromePan films !!!

    Either illustrated or not, I am interested

    Leave a comment:


  • Seat 2A
    replied
    I wish I had pictures! I didn't own a camera back then.

    I do have some other reports with pictures if you're interested...

    Leave a comment:


  • Crunk415balla
    replied
    I agree with Cam, *#$! words!

    But very interesting read, thanks for taking the time to type it up.

    Leave a comment:


  • Cam
    replied
    Do you have any pictures? Me, Chasen, Jordan, and Joe need pictures for us to understand...we are simple people.

    Leave a comment:


  • uy707
    replied
    Welcome at the Forum Seat 2A

    In addition to wake up dormant experiences here, reading your report was a nice ride to take on and spurs me into resuming RetroridR flyings .

    Leave a comment:


  • A Trip Down Memory Lane ~ Colorado to Alaska and Back in 1979

    Just to add a little spice to the current crop of Trip Reports, I thought I’d toss in this collection of memories from a trip I took back in the late 1970s. Five of the airlines I flew upon are no longer in service and many of the aircraft flown have long since been turned into scrap metal. As such, this Trip Report serves no real purpose other than to take a short stroll down Memory Lane when big four engined jetliners still flew domestic routes and meals were still offered inflight.

    ** ***** **

    Back in the spring of 1979, with a three week vacation to look forward to, I flew up to Alaska in a rather round about fashion. I’d found some really good fares point to point between Denver, Memphis and Dallas that allowed me to fly my first flights aboard Southern Airways and Texas International. From Dallas to Anchorage, I found a one way First Class joint fare of $310.00, routing DFW AA SFO AS ANC. Working with the on-line routings for AA and AS’s respective city pairs, I ended up with the following routing: DFW-AA-PHX-AA-TUS-AA-SFO-AS-SEA-AS-KTN-AS-JNU-AS-ANC. I timed my departure out of Dallas so that I’d get a dinner into Phoenix and an overnight in Tucson, catching the next available flight into SFO the following day.


    May 22, 1979
    Southern Airways DEN-MEM DC-9-10 N96S
    Texas International MEM-LIT-DFW DC-9-10 N1053T
    Delta Air Lines DFW-PHX DC-8-61 N1302L
    American Airlines PHX-TUS 707-323B N8406

    What a great day I had scheduled! It began with Coach Class seats aboard a pair of Southern Airways and Texas International DC-9-10s and ended in First Class aboard a Delta DC-8-61 and an American 707-320B. At the time, I’d only flown about four hundred flights aboard twenty-one different airlines. I’d only flown First Class a couple dozen times. A day like this that included two new airlines and any First Class travel meant sleep the night before just wasn’t going to happen. I was too excited.

    Southern Airways operated only one flight a day out of Denver, a 5:00am departure to Wichita that continued on to Memphis. Even if I could have slept, I hate to get up at 3:00am. In any event, I stayed up all night at a friend’s party, left Evergreen at 3:00am and arrived to an empty D Concourse at Stapleton International.

    Southern operated its DC-9-10s in a one-class configuration, booked in “S” denoting Standard Class. A hot breakfast was served on the one hour and twenty minute flight out of Denver. French toast and sausage for everyone! Mmmm! After breakfast, I slept most of the way through to Wichita and on into Memphis. This turned out to be enough sleep to easily get me through the rest of the day. Ah, to be 21 again…

    Texas International’s flight to Dallas operated via Little Rock. Once again, the aircraft, another DC-9-10, was operated in a single class configuration. There was no meal service. I remember both the SO and TI interiors being pretty comfortable, i.e. decent legroom and soft seats. Back then, most aircraft seats were quite a bit more heavily padded than today’s seats so even Economy Class seats were pretty darned comfortable. Later, in response to rising fuel prices, airlines began to take a serious look at the weight of everything from seats to galley fixtures, and by the mid-eighties we began to see the introduction of the new slimline seats. We also began to see a reduction in seat pitch as deregulation brought fares to historic lows.

    My American flight to Phoenix was scheduled to operate with a 727-200. Boring. Delta offered a much more exciting DC-8 and so I took my ticket over to Delta to see if they’d honor my segment into PHX. Technically, this was illegal via the joint fare tariffs but the fare type on my ticket read straight “F” and back in those days it was a lot easier to change flights/tickets than it is today. The Delta agent looked at my ticket, saw the “F” in the fare box, checked the availability for the flight and handed me a boarding pass for a window seat just forward of the big JT3D Turbofans.

    Delta’s DC-8-61s sported a large First Class cabin – about 24 seats. Unlike the smaller DC-8-51, it didn’t have a lounge up front. I boarded and settled back into the wide and deep fuschia colored seat while a stewardess offered preflight libations.

    One of the nicest things about flying the DC-8s was the size of their windows – they were huge! The early DC-8s also had curtains instead of pull down shades. I thought that was a nice touch.

    One thing I definitely remember was that dinner was nothing to get excited about, much less remember! Delta was never really known to splurge on inflight amenities – they never offered coach lounges on their widebodies (Delta flew all three – the DC-10, L-1011 and 747) – and they had a reputation for providing only an average inflight product. On flights over three hours, Delta used to offer enhanced catering on what they called their “Medallion” service but unfortunately the Dallas to Phoenix flight – at only two hours and twenty minutes – didn’t qualify for that service. As such, the meal service was pretty basic, even in First Class. I don’t remember if there was a choice or not but the entire meal, including dessert, was presented on one tray.

    The highlight of the flight was the great photo I got as we flew over the Grand Canyon. Normally, the route of flight would have us too far south to see much of the big ditch but the captain informed us that we’d taken a northerly routing to avoid a band of thunderstorms and so would get a fine view. It was a beautiful evening, approaching 6:00pm Phoenix time, so the colors and shadows in the canyon were quite pretty. Even from 30 some odd thousand feet. My photo caught the two big turbofans, each featuring the Delta insignia on their cowlings, against a backdrop of the canyon. A classic inflight photo!

    My flight down to Tucson was aboard an American 707-320B. I’ve always thought that the longer 707-320 was one of the prettiest aircraft ever built and AA’s silver color scheme did nothing to detract from the aircraft’s inherent good looks. Tonight’s flight had originated from New York-JFK and when I boarded, I was happy to see that the aircraft had been refurbished with the new widebodied interior. American’s old 707 First Class seats were amongst the most comfortable non-sleeper seats ever to grace an airplane. Plush would describe them quite well. I found a copy of a menu in the seat back pocket in front of me and if I had it here I’d happily transcribe it but suffice to say it looked quite good and featured that old AA standby – Chateaubriand – carved from the cart. Short of ice cream sundaes, when’s the last time any of you experienced a salad and entrée course served from the cart on a domestic flight? For me, I’m thinking late eighties…

    It was a 30 minute flight down to Tucson, one that I wished were much longer. The 707 was a wonderful airplane to fly. I loved the sound of those engines starting up and takeoffs were also quite impressive. So far as I know, only Iran Air and some outfit in Egypt operate them in a passenger configuration these days.


    May 23, 1979
    American Airlines TUS-SFO 707-323C N7599
    Alaska Airlines SFO-SEA 727-290 N291AS
    Alaska Airlines SEA-KTN 727-021 N320AS

    My flight from Tucson up to San Francisco originated in El Paso and was scheduled for a lunchtime departure out of Tucson. TUS was still a pretty small airport back in 1979. There weren’t many – if any – jetways, so boarding involved walking out onto the tarmac and climbing up the mobile stairway. If it’s not raining, I far prefer to board an aircraft in this manner. Jetways are so sterile by comparison! You really get a sense of your aircraft as this huge, amazing flying machine when you can walk right up to it and climb aboard! For me at least it certainly heightens the anticipation of flight when you walk past those big engine nacelles and look up those stairs towards the flight attendant waiting there to welcome you into the sanctuary of the airplane. By May, the temperatures in Tucson were starting to get down right insufferable. Thank God the aircraft was air conditioned because I remember how hot and dry it felt outside.

    Lunch was nothing special – I don’t recall if there was a choice but I had Chicken Kiev, and again the entire meal was served on a single tray. Still, I remember being just a tad disappointed with the basic service but then much of my impressions of what First Class service should be like had come from all the brochures and menus that I used to mail away for while in school. Indeed, throughout the sixties and seventies airlines used to put out beautiful brochures detailing their inflight product or their aircraft. Almost everyone had a brochure out about the new 747s or the new wide-bodied interiors and they were always chock full of great photos showing the First Class cabin, the service and all the lounges. Meals were always served from the cart to appreciative and smiling First Class passengers. Ah well, TUS-SFO checks out at only 750 miles and overall I remember it as a good flight if only because it was a nice day, in First Class, on a 707, with a meal served.

    In San Francisco, I watched as a CAAC 747 SP pushed back and taxied away for its flight to Beijing. At that time, the 747SP was the leader in long distance flights. Pan Am and TWA flew them regularly into SFO. Pan Am provided my first flight on one later that summer between SFO and LAX on a standby fare of only $13.00 one way.

    From San Francisco up to Seattle I had booked myself aboard one of Alaska’s new 727-200s. Alaska Airlines had only recently taken delivery of their 727-200s and the new planes were supposed to have a bright new interior compared to that in Alaska’s aging fleet of 727-100s. I was anxious to check it out. Alaska was also fairly new to the West Coast market and was promoting their new Gold Coast Service by passing out 1-gram gold ingots to First Class passengers.

    The interior on Alaska’s new 727-200s was indeed bright. The big wide First Class seats were upholstered in a tiny yellow and orange checkerboard pattern, while in the back I think the seats were either red or brown. Of course, the airplane sported the latest widebodied interior and it’s worth noting that those 1979-era seats were far more comfortable and offered much better legroom than the awful blue leather chairs we get today.

    By the late 1970s Alaska had accrued a well-deserved reputation for quality inflight service. Although it’s only 680 miles between San Francisco and Seattle, with a flight time of about 1:50, we were offered a full dinner, served course by course. There wasn’t a choice of entrees but I remember the main course being a decent sized slice of prime rib. It was a fine meal service, one that separated Alaska from its primary competitors on the West Coast, United and Western Airlines.

    In Seattle, I connected to one of Alaska’s ex-Pan Am 727-100s for the flight up to Ketchikan. This too was a dinner flight and interestingly, despite originating from a different airport, the meal was exactly the same as that served on my flight up from SFO. I think we had cheesecake for dessert.

    I was using Ketchikan as a connecting point, not a stopover, so the four-hour rule was waived as I was connecting onto the first available flight up to Juneau the next morning. In the meantime, I caught the ferry from the Ketchikan airport over to the mainland, got a bus into town and spent the night at the local hostel, situated in the Methodist Church downtown. We were given mats and slept on the floor in a big room. I don’t think I paid more than about $6.00 for this privilege.


    May 28, 1979
    Alaska Airlines KTN-JNU 727-021 N318AS
    Alaska Airlines JNU-ANC 727-021 N314AS

    I awoke to rain in Ketchikan, hardly a surprise as Ketchikan enjoys the dubious honor of being the wettest city in America. My flight up to Juneau was aboard AS 65, the milk run that originates in Seattle and terminates in Juneau, stopping along the way in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg and Sitka. Back in 1977 I took this flight all the way on to Anchorage with additional stops in Yakutat and Cordova. It took about 8 hours to get all the way from Seattle to Anchorage. Interestingly, Alaska hasn’t changed its flight numbers through the Southeast and even today, flights 65 and 64 leave at about the same times and still make all the stops between Seattle and Juneau.

    Alaska never did refurbish their old 727-100s with the new widebodied interiors so they still featured the original boxy overhead consoles with air vents, lights, etc. over each row of seats. Although a breakfast had been served coming up from Seattle, between KTN, WRG, PSG, SIT and JNU it was beverages only. Some of the flights, like WRG-PSG, were so short that beverages were served on the ground as flight time was only about 10 minutes. Although this particular day was rainy, I’ve had the pleasure of riding this flight on a sunny day and it is really quite an air tour through some of Alaska’s most scenic country. The Southeast is home to the nation’s largest National Forest, the Tongass, and there are many mountains and spruce covered islands along the route. Rain or shine, Flight 65 is a great way to go if you’ve got the time.

    I had a long layover in Juneau, which I whiled away playing backgammon with another passenger who was also connecting up to Anchorage. The flight up to Anchorage offered a snack though it was nothing special – just a couple of small half sandwiches. We parked at the B Concourse amongst all the 747s from Japan Airlines and other assorted European carriers that used to transit ANC on their Europe – Asia services. Back in 1979, most aircraft didn’t have the range to fly nonstop NRT or HKG to say, LHR and even if they did, the Russians and Chinese weren’t too keen on anyone over flying their airspace. So, Anchorage International was quite the busy hub back then. It still is today, though for cargo rather than passengers.


    June 11, 1979
    Wien Air Alaska ANC-FAI-YXY 737-200 N2711R

    After a wonderful couple of weeks camping in what was then called Mt. McKinley National Park, it was time to head back to Colorado. Most people traveling between Anchorage and Denver would take a flight down to Seattle and connect to one of the many onward UA or CO flights available into Denver. Back in 1979, almost all flights out of Alaska down to the “Lower 48” went through Seattle. Alaskans jokingly used to refer to Seattle as the “Southernmost city in Alaska” since you couldn’t help but go through there first before heading anywhere else Outside. By comparison, these days Anchorage is served in the summer by nonstops from ATL, DTW, MSP, STL, ORD, DFW, IAH, DEN, PHX, SLC, LAX, LAS, SFO and PDX.

    I found a joint fare between Anchorage and Vancouver that used Wien Air Alaska into Whitehorse, connecting to CP Air down to Vancouver. Total price: $113.00. From there I got another ticket using Pacific Western to Seattle and United into Denver via Portland, San Francisco and Salt Lake City.

    Wien Air Alaska had its beginnings as Northern Air Transport in 1924 and served primarily Alaskan Interior towns. Places like Fort Yukon and Galena. It didn’t expand down to the Lower 48 until the early 1980s. Operations were out of the older part of the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports – there were no jetways.

    Wien didn’t offer a Business Class until it purchased 727s and initiated services to the Lower 48, so the 737 operating today’s flight was all one class. We stopped briefly in Fairbanks before continuing on to Whitehorse. I can’t say for sure, but I think that 500-mile route out to Whitehorse may well have been the longest run in Wien’s system and as such, it warranted a rare snack service – a sandwich. Upon arrival into Whitehorse, we exited from the rear down the self-contained stairway. Parked nearby was a 707-320 bearing the livery of the Royal Canadian Air Force. I was surprised you could get a 707 into YXY. They require a lot more runway to take off than a 737.

    I spent the night at the Whitehorse Youth Hostel, located in a big High School gym just a short walk across a field from the airport.


    June 12, 1979
    CP Air YXY-YXJ 737-217 CF-CPE
    CP Air YXJ-YVR 737-217 C-GCPM

    The next day, I climbed down a gully behind the hostel and hiked into Whitehorse where I spent the morning checking out the town and the White Pass and Yukon Route train. The train still operated out of Whitehorse back then and was certainly one of the more scenic rail trips in the world! These days, it only operates out of Skagway up White Pass to Lake Bennett.

    Although CP Air operated a nonstop down to Vancouver, of course I’d opted for the “Local”, down to Fort St. John, followed by a connecting flight into Vancouver. There were a few of us awaiting the inbound flight and I remember that when the CP agent said it was just a couple of minutes away from landing, we all went outside and watched it land. You couldn’t miss the bright orange, red and silver airplane as it circled around and lined up for its approach.

    Although CP Air offered First Class service on its 727s, 747s, DC-8s and DC-10s, most of its 737 fleet was operated in a one class configuration. This flight made stops in Watson Lake and Fort Nelson on its way into Fort St. John. To this day, I'm pretty sure it represents the only jet service those latter three communities ever received. Most of these flights were no more than two or three hundred miles long so we flew much above 15000 feet. This meant those of us in the window seats got to take in some great scenery along the way. Our departure was in the late afternoon and amazingly, a full dinner was served between Watson Lake and Ft. Nelson! The flight time was only 45 minutes but I remember a few things about that meal: First, we were offered a choice of entrees. While I don’t remember both choices, I remember my choice – barbecued chicken. And get this: It was served on nice porcelain type dishes. I was shocked and really, in terms of portions and presentation, this meal would have been more than appropriate on a much longer flight. Scenery notwithstanding, it was the highlight of that particular leg. Those flight attendants were like red streaks as they rushed through the cabin distributing meals, offering beverages, and then clearing trays. It was an impressive performance that would probably be prohibited by the work rules in today’s CBAs.

    The connecting flight from Fort St. John down to Vancouver made a brief stop in Prince George. The northern summer sun was low in the sky as we climbed out of Prince George at about 9:00pm and I distinctly remember the view of the Fraser River flowing south down the valley as being quite pretty. By the time we landed in Vancouver it was dark. I found a secluded corner of the airport and set up camp for the night.


    June 13, 1979
    Pacific Western YVR-SEA 737-275 CF-PWD
    United Airlines SEA-PDX DC-8-62 N8970U
    United Airlines PDX-OAK 727-022 N7087U

    Western Airlines operated a Horizon Club lounge in the Vancouver airport so after checking in for my PWA flight and clearing customs, I headed over there for coffee and donuts. The best thing I remember about Western’s Horizon Clubs was the great mixed nuts they used to provide. A big bowl of them, and none of that cheap 60% peanut mix either. It was all premium nuts!

    In 1979, Pacific Western Airlines operated a fleet of 737s, primarily around Alberta and British Columbia. They also served Seattle, which served my interests nicely as they offered a joint fare with United down to the Bay Area. Pacific Western represented the 26th airline I’d flown, not bad for a 21-year-old.

    Again, the aircraft was operated in a one-class configuration. Most regional airlines, despite operating jets, did not offer a First or Business Class service. There simply wasn’t enough demand for it given the brevity of the routes and flight times.

    Vancouver to Seattle is a great route for a window seat on either side of the airplane. To the east you’ll see Mt. Baker and the Cascades and to the west Vancouver Island, the San Juan Islands and the Puget Sound. Too bad it’s such a short flight!

    In Seattle I headed over to the North satellite and my onward flight down to Portland. I’d picked this United flight because it was operated with a rare DC-8-62. This aircraft had the longest range of any narrow bodied passenger aircraft ever built. It was slightly longer than a standard DC-8 though not nearly as long as the stretched DC-8-61/63s. The only US passenger airlines to operate it in scheduled service were United and Braniff initially, followed later by Hawaiian and Arrow Air. In 1969, United introduced it on nonstop New York to Honolulu service, at that time the longest U.S. domestic air route at 4,979 miles. I think it still is though CO now operates the route with a 767-400.

    In any event, two things stood out about today’s flight: The aircraft still bore the old “Four Star DC-8 Friendship” colors and it, too, was operated in a one class configuration. This was rare for United but I believe they used those –62s for occasional charter work and so kept a few in the all coach configuration.

    My flight on to Oakland was aboard what was then only a 12 year old 727-100. Although the 540-mile flight between PDX and OAK took only an hour and twenty minutes, back in 1979, we expected a meal on a flight of that length if it operated at a mealtime. The Economy Class dinner was a small dish of spare ribs and veggies with a tiny salad and a bite sized square of cake.

    Although the aforementioned CP Air flight between Watson Lake and Ft. Nelson represented the shortest route I’d ever been served a full meal on, here in America that honor would go to Western Airlines when I was served a full hot dinner on a Salt Lake City to Denver flight back in 1974.


    June 15, 1979
    United Airlines SFO-PDX DC-8-33 N8039U
    United Airlines SLC-DEN 727-022 N7288U

    This was to be my first flight out of United’s newly renovated Terminal One at SFO. By 1970s standards, this new terminal was incredibly modern and spacious and a great improvement over the old facility with its dark, narrow corridors and claustrophobic gate areas.

    My flight between San Francisco and Salt Lake City was aboard an old DC-8-33; the non-turbofan powered variant of the standard DC-8. I say “old” but the reality was that this aircraft was less than twenty years old at the time. It’s just that there were so many comparatively newer 727-200s, DC-10s, L-1011s and MD80s making their way into the nation’s fleets that the original 707s and DC-8s seemed pretty dated by comparison. As it is today in 2008, many of the early 737-300s that United currently flies are just over twenty years old.

    I’ve always enjoyed flying aboard the older four engined jetliners such as the 707 and DC-8. The sound as each of those big Pratt & Whitney engines spool up is nothing short of exhilarating. Throughout the operation of its standard DC-8s, United maintained a nice First Class lounge forward of the First Class cabin that would seat about six. Directly across from the entry door was a nice big table that hosted many a card game during longer flights. As an added bonus, United served its First Class passengers Macadamia nuts with their cocktails, even on domestic flights. After landing, on the DC-8s at least, United used to always play the Hawaiian Wedding Song as we’d taxi into the gate. Today’s flight was no different. I spent most of it in the First Class lounge and enjoyed a nice sandwich plate for a snack.

    The 380-mile flight between Salt Lake and Denver was aboard a 727-200. This is a great flight to request a window seat on because the scenery on either side of the aircraft is quite pretty. I remember getting nice views of the colorful canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers along with overflying Rocky Mountain National Park. After a nice landing in Denver, I was met by friends and headed back to my home in Evergreen, Colorado. After three weeks, 9300 miles and twenty-six flights aboard nine different airlines, it was good to be home. Of all the aircraft I flew, only six are still flying. The rest are in storage or have been scrapped.

    Anyway, it’s been fun to reminisce and I hope you all enjoyed this trip report, even though it happened 29 years ago. Those sure were great times to fly!
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