Essential Air Service (EAS) routes are vital to providing airline routes to small communities around the country. While some states…
Trip Report: Turboprop Transcon Part 2
After a peaceful night of rest in Memphis and briefly exploring the sights, it was time to head back to the airport for my continuation west.
The second day of my trip had me beginning in Memphis, Tenn. and flying west to Albuquerque, N.M. and this day would have me making my furthest movement west for the trip. Although I had a restful and calm first day, the second would prove to be slightly less so.
As known to many you shouldn’t plan tight connections when flying, but that unfortunately was unavoidable in this case. Although I didn’t originally plan it this way, airline schedules changed enough so that I now had a 20-minute connection in Dallas when I had to switch airlines.
As the morning progressed I hoped the weather would cooperate enough so I would make the flight. Around an hour and a half before my flight, I received a call from a Southern Air Express representative in Memphis and was made aware that my flight was running ahead of schedule.
I made my way to the Memphis Airport Signature Flight Support, which is where all Southern Air Express flights depart from, unlike the previous day this location had a traditional check-in counter where my bags and I were weighed.
Southern Air Express flight 67: MEM-HRO
The beginning of this day I would once again see myself aboard Southern Airways Express’ Cessna 208B Grand Caravans with the registration of N932SP, which had previously belonged to Seaport Airlines and still slightly resembles the former with a dark blue curve along the bottom of the aircraft with the upper half carrying the Southern logos and colors.
I was told by the pilots that this aircraft was actually a modified type of the Cessna 208B of the aircraft called the ‘EX’ version. The ‘EX’ version is slightly longer than the normal Cessna 208B and offers more Horsepower than the regular version.
My first flight from Memphis, Tenn. to Harrison departed about 35-minutes early which was a large sigh of relief as I had a tight connection later in the day. As we departed from the FedEx ‘super hub’ the passengers were immediately able to see a stunning view of downtown and the Mississippi River directly adjacent to it.
As we flew towards Harrison, we cruised at an altitude of 9,650 feet giving me a nice view of the rolling hills of Arkansas. We approached Harrison, Ark. From the south and landed in the small city roughly 40-minutes ahead of schedule.
Upon landing at the airport we then taxied to the terminal. Being that this is the only airline to serve the city we were able to park at the main building.
Southern Air Express flight 408: HRO-DFW
After about a 45 minute wait in the terminal, we get ready for boarding a short 15 minutes before the departure time. As I waited for the flight I talked with one of the pilots whose last day it was at Southern’s Memphis base, as he would move onto one of its other hubs the following day.
As we were about to board, two passengers frantically ran in the terminal hoping they didn’t miss the flight. Although the 45-minute check-in cutoff time was long gone, the agent reluctantly checked them in meaning the plane would have to get refueled before departing.
This new development set us about 20 minutes behind schedule, which unfortunately made my upcoming Dallas connection absolutely zero.
After a short taxi to the runway on the same aircraft that brought me here, N932SP, we took off for the roughly 1 hour and 55-minute flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth.
I took in the sights as much as I could during this flight. As this would be my last flight on Southern Air Express and the unpressurized Cessna 208B, this meant it would also be the last flight I would be able to enjoy views below the clouds as the remaining aircraft of my trip would be pressurized therefore flying higher.
As the flight came to an end, we glided into Dallas/Ft. Worth and taxied to the building which houses the Southern Air Express and Boutique Air flights, which is simply called ‘Corporate Aviation.’
As we pulled up to the corporate hangar I gained a major sigh of relief seeing a Boutique Air PC-12 sitting parked beside us which I assumed was my next flight.
Boutique Air flight 553: DFW-CNM
Due to the delay in Harrison, my connection time no longer existed, upon arrival, I gathered my stuff, said a quick goodbye and thanks to the Southern Air Express crew and approached the Boutique Air counter and to much a relief my flight hadn’t left yet.
I was then given the first boarding pass of my journey, as I never received one flying Southern. They told me to have a seat and I would be called when my flight was ready. Roughly an hour later I and the other passengers were informed that our inbound aircraft was delayed, and would be updated with more information as it came available.
I personally didn’t mind the delays as it gave me a chance to view the operations out of the large windows, and I was just thankful it didn’t completely leave without me. Roughly 45 minutes later our flight was announced and we proceeded to board an aircraft that would be a first for me; the Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12.
The cabin was laid out in an eight-passenger configuration, two of which faced the rear of the aircraft. For the four passengers that faced someone one of which I was in, it left them little room for their feet if one of you were on the taller side. Luckily I have a short stature so I gave the person facing me most of the room.
The interior was very well put together and very clean. the cushions were more comfortable and resembled more of a private aircraft than your typical commercial airline flight. The interior noise level was also quieter than I would’ve thought for a propeller plane. The aircraft also featured cup holders and AC power outlets scattered throughout the cabin.
The Pilatus PC-12 is a single-engine turboprop pressurized aircraft. This means that the small aircraft can cruise above most of the propeller-driven aircraft family, but still slightly lower the larger jets. For this flight, our cruising altitude was 22,900 feet. Although this was too high to see the sights below, it didn’t matter as much for this flight as the landscape of western Texas didn’t offer much to see.
This flight was the longest of my journey by distance at roughly 422 miles, and due to the strong headwinds lasted 2 hours and 28 minutes which was the second-longest of my trip by time (DSI-MEM was the longest at 2 hours and 29 minutes).
As we approached Carlsbad, N.M. the sun began to set and due to us heading directly west, passengers on both sides of the aircraft were able to view parts of the sunset. Also on approach as it got darker, you could see fire coming from the tops of oil and natural gas drills spread across the landscape, which some people call ‘flares.’
Boutique Air flight 653: CNM-ABQ
After landing in Carlsbad, N.M. or as said on the terminal building ‘Cavern City’ we taxied to the small terminal building. As with Harrison, Ark. this carrier is the only airline serving the city so they are able to use the main and only terminal building in the city.
The inside of the terminal in the city was very clean, and had way more seats than they needed to considering the only flights here are on nine-seat aircraft.
Just like in Dallas, I went to the ticket counter and received my boarding pass for the final flight of the night which was now almost three hours behind schedule due to the initial delays and the strong headwinds enroute.
This flight had only three people on board including myself and was told by the pilots we were allowed to sit anywhere except the last row. We took off and climbed to our cruising altitude of 22,000 feet and the flight proceeded normally for the rest of the roughly 1 hour and 15-minute flight.
Being that it was now completely dark out and we weren’t flying over any cities, there wasn’t much to see outside the aircraft windows until final approach into Albuquerque, N.M. and even then the sights were pretty sparse.
Upon arrival into a dark and cloudy Albuquerque, we taxied to the main terminal and the ‘C’ gates which signaled the end of another long and eventful day of flying propeller planes cross country.
This day also had me finishing out my flights on Southern Air Express and Boutique Air with the Cessna 208B and Pilatus PC-12 respectively.
After today, this leaves me with just one day left of my trip, one airline and aircraft type remaining and three flights remaining for my transcon turboprop journey.
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