Saturday, March 22, 2008

Del Rio, TX: Arriving in Houston, TX (IAH)

22MAR08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)
We taxied into gate A8 and then we deplaned. I made it over to A2 so that I get the complimentary shuttle over to Terminal C. I called Metro and the next bus was at 8:14p, so I had a little time for a stop in the Presidents Club before the bus.

Here is what I saw on my way over to Terminal C via Terminal B.

The Saab 340 at the hard stand after our arrival.

Looks like this Northwest Airlines A319 has an issue.

A Continental Boeing 737-300 passes by.

Frontier's ERJ-175 taxiing out.

A Continental Express ERJ-145 being pushed back.
I got to the Presidents Club relaxed a bit and then headed out at 8:05p. Quelle jour!

Del Rio, TX: Del Rio International, Del Rio TX (DRT) to Houston, TX (IAH)

CO9524/22MAR08 Del Rio International, Del Rio TX (DRT) to Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 10:45a 12:34p SF3 N356CJ operated by Colgan Air [delayed service]

Flight Time: 1:13
Seat Map

As soon as we all boarded, the Captain came on the PA and made an apology for the lengthy delay. He said there an oil leak and a mechanic had to look at it before it could fly again. None was available so they had to fly the plane in from Houston. He said that the flying time would be 1:13 and 1:30 with taxi times on both sides. Winds were gusty in Huston and we would cruise at 22,000’.

At 6:08p, the right engine started and then the flight attendant closed the door and started her safety demo briefing. The left engine started at 6:10p as she continued and a minute later, we pulled forward and headed out for runway 13.

It was a fast taxi and as we the only traffic, we took to the runway right away and were airborne in no time. We made a quick left turn as we headed out. It was good to see where I walked earlier.

At about 6:22p, we buzzed 10,000’ and the Captain came on the PA and said the air was smooth so he turned off the seatbelt sign in addition, we had a tail wind so we will make up some time.

The flight attendant gave her welcome speech and advised that beer, wine and margaritas are 5 USD, non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary. Peanuts and pretzels would be served today.

An offer for peanuts and pretzel plus a beverage came at 6:33p. I opted for some peanuts plus some apple juice and a glass of water.

As I was so tired, I fell asleep and the airplane was quite cold as well. The flight attendant woke me up to get ready for landing so I did. We touched down at 7:30p and headed for the gate.

Del Rio, TX: Delayed in Del Rio...

I am in the Library in Del Rio, TX as my flight is delayed for 7:15 due to a mechanical issue. I'll have the full story later.

However, Del Rio is a beautiful city and actually worth the visit. I've been walking around and just enjoying the city.

By the way, the airport is an international airport and I actually saw one of the flights that makes it international. It was a private Learjet with Mexican registration and it had only one passenger on board...

You should consider visiting sometime. There is even a vineyard here.

Del Rio, TX: Houston, TX (IAH) to Del Rio International, Del Rio TX (DRT)

CO9553/22MAR08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Del Rio International, Del Rio TX (DRT) 8:45a 10:30a SF3 N194CJ operated by Colgan Air

Flight Time: 1:24

The lone flight attendant greeted with a good morning and a smile to which I reciprocated. She told me as well as everyone else to sit anywhere behind row 7, so I headed for the last row, row 12. This aircraft has a 1-2 configuration in a single class for a total of 34 leather seats and one lavatory located at the front of the cabin.

As we waited, at 8:40a, the Captain came on the PA and said good morning, welcomed us onboard and said that the weather at Del Rio International is 61F with light winds and scattered clouds. We will be flying at 24,000’ heading westbound and our flying time will be 1:24. Add an extra 16 minutes for taxiing on both ends of the journey for a total time of 1:40.

During that speech, we gained an additional passenger to make a total of eight.

At 8:43, after closing the door, Christy, as she introduced herself, did the demo in English. Small planes are so much more personable. Two minutes later the left engine started and at 8:46a, we pulled forward.

On taxi out, I saw a Colgan Saab in Continental Connection colors and a another Colgan Saab in the Colgan colors and a US Airways Boeing 737-300 taxiing out.

At 8:49a, the Captain said he was ready for departure and a minute later behind a Chautauqua Bombardier CRJ, we were airborne via runway 33L-15R. A Corporate jet had also taken off on 33R-15L and a Continental Boeing 737-500 was waiting to go on 33L after we were gone.

There were a few Fedex A310s on the left as we got airborne.

We made an unusual right turn (we were on the left runway) as we headed out. You could see the Hardy Toll Road heading towards downtown Houston in the hazy distance.

The flight attendant made a speech about the beverage service and that you are earning valuable OnePass miles for this flight. Later, she came by at 9:03a and offered beverages; I asked if she had anything that was hot and she paused, so I told her not an issue, I’ll just have some water. She returned moments later with the water and a packet of Biscoff cookies.
The Captain came on at 9:07a to say that we’ve leveled off at 22,000’ and he was going to turn off the seat belt signs. He welcomed us onboard again and said that in 45 minutes or so we will experience some weather as we approach the Del Rio area and the seatbelt signs will go on again; for now, enjoy the fight.

I fell asleep as I was really tired and awoke as we started our descent. I saw a large airport across the way (I later found out it was Laughlin Air Force Base) and wondered if that was where we were going.

As it turns out, we were headed to a smaller airport down the way.

The terrain below is really arid and bare with sparse houses that were quite large.

We made a hard left turn

and landed at that much smaller airport at 10:08a.

Del Rio, TX: Arriving in Del Rio International, Del Rio TX (DRT)

22MAR08 Del Rio International, Del Rio TX (DRT)

We taxied up to the gate and then disembarked after the flight attendant welcomed us and advised to wait for the gate claim bags to arrive.

I saw this plane as we pulled up, do you know what it is? [a friend responded that it is a Beech 18]

Here is another one I saw as well [the same friend said this is a Beech Kin Air]:

I deplaned last via the airplane stairs and told the flight attendant that I’d be back so don’t leave without me. She said “have a nice day,” so I know she does not believe me at all.

This airport is really small and due to its proximity to the Mexican border it does have border patrol facilities; I assume the International is due to its proximity to the border. There must be charter flights that come into here as Continental Connection is the only scheduled service game in town.

I entered the very narrow terminal and smiled as it is so small and quaint and well maintained. The check-in counter is off to the left with one self-service kiosk and only one position. TSA is off to the left of that. On the right is the Admin. office and a refreshment center with a soda machine. In front of me was the main entrance to the terminal. I went straight outside and took a picture of the single building terminal, breathed some non-tarmac Del Rio air and then came back inside, got a boarding pass, chatted with the agent a bit and then left to walk around a bit.

Oh, there are three flights on the board to Houston, but today there are only two. Only one more to arrive for today so TSA is closed and headed home after this flight leaves.

I walked around for a bit and took some pictures.

I also picked up some brochures and then cleared the tiny security area. The area is about the size of four of our cubes at work put together.

While we waited a Learjet with Mexican registration (XA-UJQ) showed up; aha, there is the “International” in "Del Rio International,” I thought. Some Customs Officers came out and did their inspections and one person came off the jet followed by the flight crew.

Some of the passengers noticed the First Officer walking around the plane which had a hatch open. He had his cell phone to his ears. It does not look good I thought. Our 10:45a departure time came and left.

At 10:50a one of the gate agents came in and advised that we have a mechanical as the airplane is leaking oil. She said that they have to possibly call a mechanic. It was funny as I was looking at a spring on the left landing gear before takeoff. Once we landed, I did not see that spring again and wondered what had happened to it, just silly thought as I am sure it is there, but it is ironic that we have a mechanical delay after all that.

There was an off duty flight attendant who said that the mechanic lives in a nearby town about 35 minutes away. The agent then said that she does not know about flight connections or anything like that as she does not yet have an estimated time of departure. She would keep us posted though as soon as she knows more.

At 11:03a, people started to get restless and wanted to leave the area. The TSA agent went to find out if it was O.K. for people to leave.

The TSA lady had an update, nothing to say as yet, they are trying to get in touch with the maintenance guy. She did offer to go and purchase drinks at the machine which can be consumed here, but cannot be taken on the plane. A few people had her buy stuff. She came back and advised that they were out of water, but she can get water from the office to which the lady said O.K.

Someone asked if they can go out and smoke, the TSA lady said she is not sure, but will find out. She came back and said that they can smoke, so two of them left with their stuff.

At 11:17a, the TSA lady came back and said that we should leave the secure area, but not the airport. It makes it easier since the area is small and people are getting antsy. This tells me that the delay may be a little longer than anticipated.

At 11:43a, a passenger volunteered to go and get food, but no one was hungry as yet. People were hanging out outside, watching TV smoking outside and just mulling around as we waited.

At 11:57a, two passengers returned with McDonald’s (I did not see them leave at all, oh well).

At 12:02p, they made an announcement that they are going to offer another flight at 6:30p, so come by the counter and be rebooked. No one moved though. Eventually they did move over to the counter. I also went outside and told four people who I saw sitting in two chairs. They are flying out another plane later with a mechanic, that plane will then take us all back to Houston while the mechanic work on fixing the issue with N194CJ.

So I could go see the town or stay at the airport for six hours? I could walk into town or I could rent a car, what to do?

Well, I decided to walk into the town which was fine and I had a blast. Here are some more pictures of the Del Rio airport.

The Del Rio fire station is at the airport.

The VOR [my friend also said that this is not the VOR, but it's a localizer antenna, for RW13, that provides lateral guidance to get to the end of the runway. It's on the opposite end as the approach- meaning if you're landing RW13 (towards town), the antenna is on the other end (the RW31 approach end- the southeast end) of the runway, which you walked by on the way into town. The nearest VOR is DLH (Laughlin) at the USAF base.

I got back to the airport at about 5:00p (I walked back, it took about 45 minutes); I was the first one back. At about 5:24p, the TSA folks started to arrive. The flight status was showing a 6:00p departure time on the Continental Web site, but the guy had said it would be 6:30p earlier. I was talking with one of the ramp guys and he stated that the airplane had left Houston about 45 minutes ago. I watched some TV after chatting with him for a bit as he had to go to work.

The first set of passengers showed up at 5:34p.

At 5:45p, the plane landed and we all filed through security. There were less passengers now; about 11 in all. We started boarding at 6:00p.

The new plane.

Airside view of the terminal.