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Trip Report: Turboprop Transcon, The Final Chapter
After spending two nights in Albuquerque, N.M. I made my way back to the airport for my final day of the journey to reach the western United States coast and the Pacific Ocean.
Day Three / The Final Chapter
The third and final day of my trip began in Albuquerque, N.M. at the “Albuquerque International Sunport” and continuing my journey all the way to the Hawthorne Municipal Airport in California which lies just 4 miles east and slightly south of much larger Los Angeles International Airport.
The only airline I’d fly on the third day was Hawthorne, Calif. based Advanced Air and would find myself aboard three flights. From Sunport, we would fly to a small city located in the southwestern corner of the state called Silver City, then continue onto Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, and finally onto the smaller Los Angeles area airport of Hawthorne.
Unlike the previous days and airports on my trip, especially the larger ones, I would find myself beginning my day within the main terminal building.
Their location in the terminal is in the same area of the building as I arrived in just two days prior to Boutique, the ‘C’ Gates, which are located on the ground floor and slightly separated from the rest of the gates at the Sunport.
I made my way to the ‘C’ gates and the Advanced check-in counter, which also happened to be the departure gate, and once again got my bags and I weighed for the flight and was given a boarding pass for only the first flight with a seat assignment.
The seat assignment struck me as odd as I figured that the pilots would seat us based on weight when we boarded, but no matter as all seats had windows.
The departure lounge was unusually large and had around fifty seats, which is odd considering the only aircraft to depart from this part of the building had a maximum of nine seats, but none the less, it was comfortable.
The weather for the day looked pretty good except for some slight rain in the forecast in smaller New Mexican city of Silver City to the southwest. Other than that the skies were looking to be clear and blue for my final day.
Advanced Air Flight 101 ABQ-SVC
After a relatively short wait, we were called to board what would be my first flight of the day, which turned out to be completely full. As I predicted earlier, the pilots ignored the seat assignments and seated us on the aircraft based on our weights.
The aircraft for this morning’s journey was a Beechcraft Super King Air 350, N395AV, and once again a first for me. Just like the previous day the aircraft gave passengers the feel of a private charter rather than that of a typical commercial airline flight.
It was laid out in an eight-passenger configuration, two sections of four seats that face each other. For this flight, I was given a forward-facing seat in the four-seat grouping. Despite the seats facing each other, there was plenty of room for passenger’s feet.
Another interesting aspect about the cabin of the King Air is what I call ‘spar seats’ which is not like anything I have seen before on a commercial flight, it certainly wasn’t a bad thing but it was an interesting aspect that made this aircraft stand out from the rest.
A ‘Wing Spar’ is a main structural component of all fixed-wing aircraft that run from wing tip to wing tip and are usually hidden from passengers under the cabin floor. Inside the King Air, the spar runs through the passenger cabin along the floor.
For the aircraft cabin, the aircraft seats were padded very well, could swivel, and slide out into the aisle in the event you’d like to sit closer to a friend across the aisle. The aircraft also featured large circular windows that allowed for lots of natural light, but could also be tinted using a small knob on the window itself.
We taxied to the runway and departed to the east, which was then followed by a turn towards our destination. We climbed up to our cruise altitude of 16,800feet and gave the passengers a nice view of the mountainous terrain below.
The flight went on normally for the remainder of the short 43-minute flight, as we approached our destination we got a view of the city and the mountains surrounding it and proceeded to land smoothly on the runway in the small city.
Upon landing, we taxied to a temporary terminal constructed out of a trailer as it appeared the normal terminal building was undergoing renovations at the time of my visit.
After walking in the terminal those passengers continuing on were given a boarding pass for their next flight to Phoenix.
Advanced Air Flight 200 SVC-PHX
After waiting around for just under half an hour in the makeshift terminal, I and the other passengers walked out and boarded the same aircraft that brought me here, N395AV.
Luckily it never ended up raining and the clouds gave way to clear blue skies and a stunning backdrop of mountains behind the aircraft.
Once again we were seated based on our weight and, like before, I was given a forward-facing seat at the front of the aircraft. Like every flight, it began with the pilots explaining the safety features of the aircraft.
Upon departure from Silver City, N.M. the flight crew held the brakes and let the engine spool up before releasing them and rolling for takeoff. Later I had the chance to talk with one of the flight crew about why this happened.
The reason for this is due to the engine spool up time on the King Air is longer than average for aircraft of this size, rather than using up precious runway space for the engine to spool up, they instead hold the brakes then release them, that way they can utilize the runway in the best way possible.
After departure, we climbed to our cruise which was once again 16,800 feet. This time there were slightly more clouds but it provided a nice landscape as we crossed over the New Mexico-Arizona border.
Due to the flight time of just over an hour, I had a chance to explore the aircraft a bit more, but of course, this exploration was done from the comfort of my seat as the cabin didn’t lend itself to walking around mid-flight.
The amenities of the aircraft were very nice, no there were no seat-back IFE, but in terms of snacks and drinks, the cabin offered an arrangement of salty and savory snacks located in multiple drawers spread out throughout the cabin.
From pretzels and cheez-its to fruit and protein bars the cabin had snacks for everyone’s taste. They also had a self-service coffee machine and bottled water available which was a nice touch.
As we approach Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International we were given views of the suburbs and the city of Phoenix and proceeded to touch down at Sky Harbor.
Due to the bright sun, I did notice something that I have never seen on a commercial flight before now, the front landing gear. The reflection of the nose gear on the engine was able to be seen by passengers sitting in only the two front seats of the cabin.
Following our landing at Sky Harbor taxied to a private aviation hangar, this time being Swift Aviation located on the southern end of the airport.
Before disembarking the aircraft I asked and was granted permission to get a quick view and picture of the cockpit.
Once I did disembark the aircraft, I opted to leave my carry-on luggage on the plane as this aircraft would be the one to take me to California, and so I proceeded into the hangar whilst I awaited my final flight.
Unlike the previous days of my journey where I had only 30 minutes between flights, I actually had some time to sit, relax, and enjoy the amenities of the private hangar as my connection was just over two hours.
Advanced Air Flight 300 PHX-HHR
After roughly an hour waiting in the hangar, I was approached by an Advanced Air representative and asked if I would like to check-in for my flight to Hawthorne, Calif. and was led to the check-in counter which sits just behind the waiting area and behind a glass wall.
After about 40 minutes since I completed the check-in, I and the other passengers asked if we were ready to walk out, and so we proceeded to what would be my last flight of the journey.
For my final flight, I was allowed to choose my own seat as the aircraft was only at half capacity, I opted to use this opportunity and experience a flight facing other-way, so a rear-facing seat was for me
As everyone took their seats, I listened intently to the last safety demonstration of my multi-flight journey cross country, followed by engine start-up and taxi.
Following a quick taxi, we took off into the Arizona skies for my final flight. We climbed through a layer of clouds on the way up to our cruising altitude of roughly 22,000 feet.
The rest of the flight went on normally and I used the time to make small talk with a businessman on the flight about my journey. Like most others I had come into contact with, he was both impressed and shocked that someone would willingly take ten flights across the country.
As we approached the Californian airport of Hawthorne, passengers on the right side of the aircraft were given views of the Hollywood Hills, the skyline of Downtown Los Angeles, as well as traffic arriving into larger LAX just north of us.
Then it happened, I got my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, signifying the completion of this momentous journey I set out on four days prior, that I planned for months and dreamed of for years.
As we landed and taxied to the gate at the smaller Los Angeles area airport, I began to reminisce about my journey and all the wonderful people I had met along my way and how aviation connects them all.
Some were flying to larger cities for medical treatment, others were traveling for work or business, but most were simply going to see loved ones.
One person along my trip stood out the most; she was an elderly woman who had never flown on a plane in her life and was very nervous about flying to the point where she was trying to talk herself out of flying.
But after encouragement from other passengers, she willingly agreed to fly. It was truly amazing to see her face light up as she took to the skies for the first time.
This trip gave me something I never thought I would get, a chance to see how aviation affects those in smaller communities that only receive one or two daily services on these small aircraft.
Aviation truly connects us all and brings people closer together, whether we know it or not.
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