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Trip Report: The U.S.’s Longest Dornier 328 Flight

Here's what it was like to fly across California on a Dornier328Jet.

The engine of Advanced Air’s Dornier328Jet (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Hawthorne, Calif.-based Advanced Air has been slowly but modestly increasing air service in the southwestern part of the country adding flights to Carlsbad and Gallup both in New Mexico, among others. But, a few months ago, mid-EAS contract, the community in Crescent City opted to switch carriers and Advanced Air showed interest.

Crescent City is one of a handful of Essential Air Service (EAS) communities that actually fall into the Alternate Essential Air Service (AEAS) section. These AEAS cities are basically the same as EAS with the only major difference being that the community is directly awarded the grant and then they pay the airline directly for service.

This also means operational changes, like switching airlines, don’t need to be approved by the government first before they happen, and only require the approval and consent of the community. The fact that Crescent City is an AEAS contract, is the main reason that they were able to switch carriers in the middle of the contract term with little notice to the federal government.

Although the airline serves three other EAS communities; Silver City and Carlsbad in New Mexico along with nearby Californian city Merced, Crescent City will be the first EAS community it will serve with a 30-seat Dornier328Jet, affectionately named the ‘DoJet’. A rare and unique aircraft that has fallen out of the limelight from major airlines, and now is only flown on nine commercial routes in the entire country with only two airlines, only seven of which are year-round routes.

Advanced Air began flying to Crescent City on March 17, 2024, and it offers flights daily to Oakland and twice-weekly flights to the airline’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., a small airport located only four miles away from the much larger LAX.

Crescent City also holds another unique opportunity for AvGeeks. Due to the timing of the flights passengers can fly from Oakland all the way to Hawthorne on the DoJet, with a quick stop in Crescent City in the middle. While it is a major detour going north to go south, it’ll take you on two of the nine DoJet routes in the country on the same day, and you’ll have two more feathers in your cap once you are done too; the Crescent City to Hawthorne flight is currently the longest flight on a DoJet in the country.

Leading Up to the Flight

Being from the East Coast I had to fly to the Bay Area the day before, a lot of flights with Advanced Air in the past have operated ‘non-sterile’ meaning they don’t use TSA and they will sometimes depart from an FBO even at larger airports like Phoenix. Due to this reason, I figured they wouldn’t offer online check-in as they haven’t done that in the past. But, 24 hours before departure time, I got an email prompting me to check in for my flight up to Crescent City.

The airline has recently started offering online check-in for its flights, and you can even get a mobile wallet version of the boarding pass. It’s nice to see the airline introducing these boarding passes, especially for people coming into Oakland on other airlines as it allows them to not need to leave security and get checked in at the ticket counter.

My mobile boarding pass for the Advanced Air flight (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

After I checked in, I noticed something on my boarding pass, SEQ#1, I was the very first person to check in for an Advanced Air flight going to Crescent City. Being the very first one to check in didn’t do anything for me in terms of boarding order or actually anything at all, but it’s just a cool thing to have on the boarding pass and to say I have done, as I have been able to accomplish this in other EAS communities on their first days with new airlines.

Day of the Flight

On the day of the flight, I arrived at the airport about three hours beforehand to enjoy the festivities. Advanced Air’s check-in desk in Oakland is located in Terminal 1 between Delta and Hawaiian Airlines, and the counter opened two hours before the departure time. As it was the first day, they had balloons set up to celebrate the occasion.

Advanced Air’s check-in area at Oakland International. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

I also made sure to get my PreCheck number added, as Advanced operates sterile here in Oakland, meaning passengers need to go through security before getting on their flight. Advanced Air is a relatively new member of the PreCheck program and was not part of it the last time I flew.

Security was almost completely empty and took no time to head through, and I went to my gate to make sure it indeed existed. They had balloons set up similar to what was at the ticket counter, and Crescent City appeared on the departure board. This is the same gate that Contour used when it operated out of Oakland, so for Crescent City locals and passengers that frequent this route, not much has changed other than the airline serving it.

Advanced Air’s gate at Oakland International (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

It wasn’t long before the star of the show arrived, a Dornier328Jet that carries the registration N334MS and has flown for many different airlines since originally being delivered to Atlantic Coast Airlines in February of 2002. It’s so fun seeing this smaller jet among the larger aircraft, and just how small it looks even compared to the slightly larger CRJs.

My ride is a Dornier328Jet with the registration of N334MS (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Boarding started not long after the arrival of the aircraft, and they handed out cookies to all of the passengers that either said ‘Advanced Air’ and had their logo, or said ‘I fly OAK.’ Seating on Advanced Air is similar to airlines like Denver Air Connection, it’s first come first serve, and they only board in two sections; pre-boarding, meaning passengers that need extra time or help getting to the plane, and then everyone else.

The good news is, the DoJet is laid out in a 1-2 configuration with 30 total seats, meaning two-thirds of the seats are windows, so unless you board at the very end chances are you’ll get a window if you want one. For the flight up, I chose seat 9C on the right side, as it would give me a great view of the mountains going up to northern California.

The cabin of Advanced’s Dornier328Jet (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Before we even pushed back from the gate, the flight attendant came around and took everyone’s drink order that would be brought out once we got in the air. Most major airlines barely offer water on flights under an hour long if at all, so the selection of drink options on this sub-hour flight is very impressive; water, coffee, tea, soft drinks, juice, and even alcohol for those that are over 21 years old. Prior to pushback the FA also brought around water bottles for folks who wanted them.

We pushed back from the gate and the engines came to life. During pushback, I noticed a Contour Air aircraft that was sitting and waiting to be flown to its next home. As Contour lost the contract in Crescent City, that also marked the end of service on the West Coast as the Crescent City to Oakland route was its only flight west of the Phoenix hub, as Oakland stood as a ‘stand-alone hub’ all by itself for the singular route.

A Contour aircraft waiting in Oakland to be flown to its next home (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Funny enough, Contour’s last flight to Crescent City was an eventful one. From what a passenger on their last flight told me, during their last flight to Crescent City on the night of March 16, 2024, they were circling around Crescent City before landing so the pilots could practice pattern work, night flying or something of that variety, I’m not a pilot so I didn’t understand the specifics of what type of practicing they were doing.

By the time they were done with practicing and tried to land in Crescent City, the weather had rolled in and they were unable to land so they had to divert to nearby Medford, Ore., which is the diversion location for flights going into Crescent City as being located at the base of mountains and by the sea can sometimes cause some heavy fog.

Once they got into Medford, the crew timed out and they had to stay overnight in Medford. The passenger I was talking to was going on this Advanced Air inaugural and couldn’t wait for the Contour flight the next morning, so he ended up renting a car and driving back to Crescent City. By the time Contour Air finally landed their last official flight in Crescent City, Advanced Air’s first flight out was already taking place. This means the carrier’s operations actually overlapped in Crescent City by an hour or two.

Taxiing out to the runway in Oakland (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

During the taxi, the pilot gave a welcome announcement for the first flight to Crescent City and went over the weather and flight details. It didn’t take long to take off from the runway in Oakland, as the DornierJet is well known for its excellent performance and is actually a preferred aircraft for operating at airports at high elevations, short runways, or with tough landing conditions. While we turned north, you could see downtown Oakland out of the right side of the aircraft.

Downtown Oakland out of the right side of the airplane (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

When we boarded the aircraft in Oakland, they also gave every passenger a goodie bag filled with Advanced Air stuff. It included a hat, lanyard, a couple of pens, and some stickers not only with the Advanced Air logo on it but also JetCenterLosAngeles which is the FBO in which the carrier operates.

It wasn’t more than ten minutes after takeoff that the FA brought around our drink orders, and shortly after that, she brought around an impressive basket of snacks and candy bars. A lot of brand-name snacks too, and not the small little bags that the big three U.S. carriers have, mostly full-sized bags.

The snack basket on Advanced Air (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

She brought around the basket and drinks a few times on this short flight up the California coast. I spent most of the time relaxing and staring out of the window at the wonderful scenery below. There were 22 passengers on board this 30-seat jet, which is a pretty good load factor considering it was the airline’s first flight to the community.

Heading up the coast towards Crescent City (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Despite it only being a small jet, these Dornier328Jets feel much roomier than their larger regional counterparts like the CRJ-200 and even the CRJ-900. Plus the windows on these DoJets are much larger than the windows on other similar-sized regional jets too, which leads to excellent viewing opportunities especially with it being a high-wing aircraft.

The larger windows on the Dornier328Jet (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

With airlines like Alaska/Horizon retiring aircraft like the Q400, these DornierJets are some of the few high-wing commercial aircraft operating passenger flights in the United States outside of the state of Alaska. They really do provide a basically unobstructed view of the scenery below.

As the flight went on, the views started to change from flatter terrain to more hills, then eventually mountains. Those on the right side got an opportunity to see Mt. Shasta, and according to another passenger we got very lucky as the weather isn’t usually clear enough to see the peak from this distance away.

Flying past Redwood National and State Parks (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

With about 10-15 minutes of the flight left and halfway through our descent, we passed over the coast, as well as the famous Redwood National and State Parks. Of course, the trees look much smaller from that far up, but it was still neat being able to see the park from the air, especially since the Crescent City airport likes to brand itself as a gateway to the Redwoods.

From our position it was possible to see three very distinct landscapes; the beach, the forests, and the snow-capped mountains behind it. although they do exist in California, it was still a unique sight to see all three of these landscapes and to get them in the same picture without having to aggressively zoom in.

As we were on final approach, we were able to also see the community of Crescent City with the landscape behind it, another wonderful shot.

Arriving into Crescent City with the community in the background (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

We arrived in Crescent City at 2 p.m. after slightly over 50 minutes of flying time since we left Oakland. We then taxied to the terminal where we were met with a water cannon salute by the airport’s firetruck. Another accomplishment for me on this flight: Crescent City was the 53rd Essential Air Service community I have visited.

Pulling up to the terminal in Crescent City (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Every EAS Airport terminal has its own unique design, whether it be a rock facade or a weather wood look. In Crescent City, the terminal building roof looks like the wing of an aircraft, with the runway side of the building being rounded and the road side of it slightly looking like the trailing edge of a wing. For passengers continuing onto Hawthorne, they were required to disembark in Crescent City.

Inside the terminal (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

The terminal has a very open concept with windows on one side making it feel more open than it actually was. It had the basic stuff every terminal should have, including rental cars, a check-in counter, baggage claim, and so on. One thing I did notice was about the TSA area, it was closed, the Hawthorne flights are going out non-sterile meaning passengers don’t need to go through security before going out to the plane, and as such the gate is closed for these flights. The flights to Oakland out of Crescent City however are sterile and do use this gate area.

I did need to check in with an agent even though I did have a mobile boarding pass, all passengers were given a cardstock boarding pass with the airline logo on it and a tail number that read N192TS, which is the tail number this aircraft used to carry before N334MS, back when Advanced Air still flew flights for Taos Air in New Mexico. They called for boarding and since there is no TSA, they did check IDs when we boarded the aircraft.

Boarding the aircraft bound for Hawthorne (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

This flight was almost completely full with 27 of the 30 seats filled, which is pretty good considering this is a completely new route for this community and it’s the first day of its operation. For this flight, I took a seat in 8A, a window on the single side of the 1-2 configured cabin. Once again, the FA took our drink orders before leaving the gate.

Just before pulling onto the runway, I was able to see Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge just off the shore.

About to take off from Crescent City (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

We took off from the same runway we landed on just slightly under an hour ago, and banked left toward the south. While we went south passengers on the left side could see the Redwood parks, as well as the snow-capped peaks. Depending on what direction the plane takes off towards and how clear the weather is, there is also an opportunity to see the airport and Crescent City below.

Passing over Crescent City bound for Hawthorne (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

For those that didn’t see Mt. Shasta on the way up to Crescent City, there was a second opportunity to see it on the flight south although it was a little bit farther away this time. About 10-15 minutes after takeoff, our drink orders were brought out to us followed by the amazing snack basket.

As mentioned previously, the Dornier328Jet feels much roomier than the slightly larger CRJ-200, even with a nearly full load of passengers which is helped by the taller cabin on the DoJet as well as the larger windows leading to a brighter more open-looking cabin.

The cabin of the Dornier328Jet (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

We also flew over the Bay Area and directly over the Oakland Airport which we left from earlier as we truly went north to go south. Since we were nearly directly over the airport it was impossible to see it from inside the aircraft, but from the left side, I was able to see the Carquinez Bridge as well as the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. Given there is no entertainment or WiFi, which I never expected to begin with as it is a small plane, I spent the rest of the flight looking out at the wonderful views below that are possible because of the high-winged aircraft.

We passed a few more bodies of water on our way south including the San Luis Reservoir and some mountains too, and when we got closer to the LA Area we even caught a glimpse of the San Andreas Fault.

The San Andreas Fault (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Not long after passing over the Fault Line, we began our descent into the LA Area, and the cabin service ended and was cleaned up. The last 10 to 15 minutes of the flight were the coolest for those who like city landscapes as we passed by Downtown Los Angeles and even saw the Hollywood sign on the hillside.

Flying over downtown Los Angeles (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

As far as approaches go, the ones of Hawthorne and nearby LAX are almost identical given their very close proximity to each other, with the obvious difference being when you fly into Hawthorne you probably won’t be in a line of 10+ other planes coming in.

Hawthorne’s location is also very unique, it’s smack in the middle of a community, and as such the approach to the airport brings you pretty close to some buildings and it even feels like you are about to land in the Lowes parking lot at the end of runway 25. The runway isn’t that long to begin with at only 4,884 feet total.

But, the Dornier328Jet is the perfect commercial jet aircraft for this airport given its short runway performance and has no problem landing and taking off with runway to spare.

After touching down, we taxied to JetCenterLosAngeles, the FBO that Advanced Air operates all of its flights out of from its headquarters in Hawthorne. This flight from Hawthorne to Crescent City will run twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays, and given its timing it may be possible to connect onto Advanced’s other routes out of Hawthorne like Merced, Mammoth Lakes, and even Phoenix.

It was a wonderful flight with Advanced, although I have never had a bad flight on the DoJet. Those wishing to connect or fly on this DoJet will be able to do so for years to come as the EAS contract has just begun.

The timing of the flights also changed after the inaugural, with the first departure occurring out of Crescent City for Oakland in the morning and the return to Crescent City from Oakland occurring in the late afternoon to early evening. Advanced Air does offer a free shuttle from its Hawthorne base to nearby LAX.

A video trip report of this flight can be found below:

Editor’s Note: Advanced Air provided AirlineGeeks with a seat on this flight, but this trip report is an objective portrayal of the events and is in no way swayed by that aspect.

Joey Gerardi
Latest posts by Joey Gerardi (see all)

Author

  • Joey Gerardi

    Joe has always been interested in planes, for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Central New York during the early 2000s when US Airways Express turboprops ruled the skies. Being from a non-aviation family made it harder for him to be around planes and would only spend about three hours a month at the airport. He was so excited when he could drive by himself and the first thing he did with the license was get ice cream and go plane spotting for the entire day. When he has the time (and money) he likes to take spotting trips to any location worth a visit. He’s currently enrolled at Western Michigan University earning a degree in Aviation Management and Operations.

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