American Aviation Historical Society is a world-wide organization dedicated to what its name suggests: American aviation history. The Society publishes a quarterly of in-depth articles, photographs and correspondence. Its FlightLine newsletter focuses on recent events of interest to today’s aviation enthusiasts and tomorrow’s historians, member advertisements of wants and disposals, a President’s Message and much more. I am privileged to serve on the Society’s Editorial Committee. I carry a red pen and know how to use it. In early January correspondence with the Society’s president, I wistfully mentioned that if I had a way, I would attend the organization’s Annual Meeting — coming up at the end of the month and the start of the next — in a heartbeat.
A heartbeat later, I was informed that people who cared, who were grateful for my help over the years, were arranging for my airline transportation and lodging to the meeting. I might even see. You could have knocked me over with a feather!
I packed a carry-on bag with a few changes of clothes, the AeroKnow Museum (AKM) file about Porterfield aircraft, pictures and information about AKM and two cameras. Original plans were for me to board an early Thursday afternoon flight on United Express (flown by SkyWest) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD), catch a Spirit Airlines flight that would deliver me to a few hours’ stopover at Las Vegas International Airport and then into Los Angeles International (LAX) about 9:30 Pacific Standard Time (PST) My United Express flight for early afternoon January 30 was cancelled. In my e to my host I explained I still wanted to come out to LA if I could spend at least most of Friday visiting the city. I was game for a long layover anywhere along the route west if I could arrive by noon Friday. I REALLY wanted to visit AAHS Headquarters. The rest would be gravy, icing on the cake.AAHS President Jerri Bergen, who had invited me out, hustled a new arrangement in which I would leave Springfield late Thursday afternoon and spend the entire night at ORD before boarding a Spirit flight direct to LAX about 7:00 Central Standard Time (CST) that would deliver me late Friday morning PST to LAX. I was delighted!
I carried a small book of lined blank pages in which I would note the details of the visit as they happened. The rest of this post is based on those notes, begun after leaving my office about 5:05 and walked to the terminal of Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, about 300 feet away.
The weather was chilly, in the 20s, with moderate wind but not bad. This would be the first time I had flown commercially since 1979. The key to happiness, as I followed the lead of the passenger in front of me — taking off his shoes and belt, emptying pockets into the plastic bin and setting baggage and bin onto the conveyor wheels — was showing a straight face: neither happy nor sad or even confused because anything obvious would be suspicious. I felt George Orwell,, author of the prophetic novel 1984 would have understood how I was feeling. Even so I could not suppress a smile, happy to be.a man in motion. I sat down in the secure waiting area at 5:17 after TSA screening. They had to send my bag through twice; don’t know why. Many people were in the waiting area. An American Eagle Embraer ERJ arrived. I wanted to take pictures, but I didn’t want to be conspicuous, make travelers wonder and be uncomfortable. At 5:32, the Dallas, Texas-bound flight began boarding. When all had passed through the check in and disappeared I stood, walked over to the window and took some pictures.
He departed ramp at 5:52
and was into the air from Runway 22 at about 5:58.
Another plane I couldn’t see arrived at 6:00. Arriving passengers came into the secure area and exited into the terminal where family and friends awaited. It was United Express that I would board soon.
The door was closed about 6:35 and we took off on Runway 31 minutes later. Rode with a gent in the aisle seat, a fellow doing oil company work in Macomb, Illinois. He had driven to Springfield to board this flight and connect at O’Hare to home and family in Madison, Wisconsin. The crew on this flight, announced on PA system aboard, was 1st Officer Dean Warning and Captain Don Anderson. Until we descended the flight was over solid cloud. As we approached landing . . . . .
We arrived at O’Hare 29 minutes later, cruising at 15,000 feet. Taxied about 20 minutes to the United Express terminal.
It was a long, exhausting walk with my hard-shell briefcase and carry-on bag that must have weighed 50 POUNDS. At least it had been approved for carry on when I checked in. I’m sure it came close to the weight limit. The hike was at least half an hour from United Express in Terminal 2 to Spirit in Terminal 3, Concourse L. The Spirit waiting area was packed; It took five minutes to find a place where I could sit down without sitting right next to anybody. I was sweating as though I had finished a marathon. There had been no need to rush. My connection was not leaving for at least 11 more hours! But I wanted to BE where I needed to be for that connection. I wasn’t thirsty or hungry since finishing lunch at my museum office about six hours earlier — a Subway chicken teriyaki salad with honey mustard dressing (DELICIOUS!) from the terminal but very unhappy from the labor of the looooooong walk. It would be even worse coming home in three days.
There were two women across the aisle from me where I semi-collapsed in the Spirit waiting area. One in her late 20s sat with an older woman, I took to be her mother. They were of Middle Eastern heritage and both seemed to be, clearly, not living in the USA. I spoke to the younger, asked if she spoke English and she said she did. I asked if they were mother/daughter. Yes. The daughter went after food and coffee twice as we sat. The second trip she was gone very long – 20 minutes about – and her mom stood up and searched for her, obviously concerned. I learned the younger lives in London, District 3 The city has circular zones that expand out from the heart of the city. She owns a coffee house where they bake their own bread and pastry. Her mother was visiting from Dubai. They were flying together to Phoenix, Arizona on the next flight, due to depart soon. I got the impression they connected at O’Hare to fly there together.for a vacation or visit with other family. The hour from 8:15 to 9:15 dragged like an eternity. Most of the passengers packing the seats around me were boarding the Phoenix flight. Many people, many others were in motion going everywhere. Things picked up about 9:20 when people began boarding for the Phoenix flight. When it was complete about 9:35, the area was emptied except for a few Spirit people and me. I arose and walked around at 9:50 and took a few pictures in a different part of the waiting area and talked with the gate agent.
I learned the Phoenix destination (flown by an Airbus A320) is one of their most popular flights along with New York city and Fort Meyers, Florida. An Airbus A319 will fly me to Los Angeles (LAX). I asked if I could have my boarding pass for the Friday morning flight and was told that everyone was leaving, but the gate check-ins would re-open about 4 am, and there would be plenty of time to get a pass then. No rush, no worries. The two women were very convivial and professional. I sat down in the better lit part of the waiting area near the check in counter.
Arose after awhile and walked around, leaving my baggage. No one was going to steal anything. By 10:15, after walking around the entire outer part of the Spirit waiting area, and seeing a small group of people – a Spirit gate agent, I think and his visiting family and occasional janitors and security people strolling unhurriedly down the main hall between waiting areas, I returned to my baggage. At 10:37, Jerri called from LA to see how I was doing. I said I was a little tired and a little hungry but okay. All the food shops and other businesses apparently had closed about 10, and that was okay. I wasn’t REAL hungry anyway. It was very quiet. At 11:15 I asked a security man if there was anyplace I could lie down and catch a few winks before 7:30 flight. He walked with me back up the L concourse to an array of folding cots set up just off the main walk area. Each has small pillows, and I was told there were blankets. For some reason it didn’t occur to me to get one though I saw many on unoccupied cots. I guess I thought I wouldn’t need a blanket. I was wrong. It was hard to get to sleep with the nearby activity, no privacy and worries about someone stealing my bag. No one was going to steal my bag. There must have been 15 security people in sight walking around or standing and talking with each other. About 40 minutes after lying down I was asleep and awakened about 3 am, wandered down to the men’s room and back to my cot. Noticed workers were removing pillows and blankets from empty cots, folding the cots and depositing them on wheeled carts. Minutes later a man in blue came around telling us it was time to arise to the new day. I walked back to the Spirit area; arrived there about 4:00. I was the only person there until 4:15 when the first of many passengers began arriving for a 5:57 flight to New York city. Once they started coming, they came fast and many. The tarmac appeared very wet but I saw no rain drops. Maybe it was just thawing snow. The area had obviously been hit with snow, maybe Thursday. It was incredibly dark with lots of vehicles in motion, ground crew near the A319 on A320 that had been there all night beginning to prep the bird to fly. At 4:37, a push bar is attached to the nose strut from a push tractor. The LaGuardia flight was booked full. A fellow approached the counter and asked if there were any seats left. “No.” What a crazy way to travel!
5:19 – Passengers began lining up to board and 5:25, they began.
5:37 — The last passenger boarded at Gate L-7.
5:40 — The A320 was pushed back.
5:58 — I visited the check-in counter and got my boarding pass from the woman at the check in counter I was in the system, thank God!
coming \ in PART TWO of
VISIT to AAHS:
A Long Morning’s Journey into Day