USA - Maddog Mania
Last years USA trip was absolutely a blast. But, one of the reasons for that trip was that our flight between Newark and Chicago would be operated by the classic American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80, or “Super-80”, or “MadDog”. They still wear the beautiful old AA polished livery. Unfortunately, our aircraft was changed and we flew that route in a CRJ700 instead… Later that year the news came out that American would retire their Super-80s next year, in September 2019. That means that if we want to fly one, it had to be done this year. So we started booking…
Friday 2 August - Delta Flagship: A350
Last year we had our first (continental) experiences with Delta Airlines. We loved the service Delta offered, so we were eager to try Delta on their newest flag ship and see their intercontinental product with the Airbus A350. So, our first flight of this trip is from Amsterdam to Detroit. After a good night at the Citizen M-hotel we make our way through the security filter and in no time we enjoy our breakfast at the Starbucks. Always a great tradition at the start of a new adventure. Unfortunately, the weather is quite drizzly but we cannot wait to board.
The plane for today is N510DN, a plane delivered in 2018. The crew welcomes us and we find our seat. Next to our apron a KLM Boeing 747 is being prepared for its flight to LAX. Oh, the memories! Soon our doors are closed and the safety briefing is held during our pushback. The engines start and the drizzle made way for serious rain. During our taxi to runway 24 (Kaagbaan) we even spot an MD-82 from ALK Air, flying for Bulgarian Air. If this is a sign for the rest of this Mad Trip, it is a good one! We turn onto the runway and the engines spool up nicely. It is a spectacular sight as we blast down the wet runway. We rotate and almost immediately disappear in the clouds. As we climb above the clouds the sun is out nicely and we have a sunlit view of the sleek A350 winglet for the first time. Detroit, here we come!
The flight itself is really great, the A350 is a comfortable aircraft and the service by Delta is good. Unfortunately, the planet seems to be covered in clouds as we finally get some view when we are already over Michigan. As we approach Detroit Metro Airport we can clearly distinguish the Ford test track and the Henry Ford Museum. We fly over the airport before we make a right hand turn for our final approach into DTW. After landing we discover that DTW is not that often used as a final destination for intercontinental passengers as all pathways lead to connecting flights and there is just a small exit to landside. Here we call our hotel to request the shuttle service.
We stay in the Howard Johnson hotel in Dearborn, just at the north side of DTW. The shuttle to the hotel takes just a few minutes and we already see that this location is good for spotting. The departing aircraft are all flying straight over the hotel. We check in and head for our room. But, when we enter our room we are instantly disappointed. We are both non-smokers and we do not like the smell of smoke at all, so that is why we always book non-smoking rooms. The Howard Johnson claims to be a non-smoking hotel, but this room is just full of cigarette smoke. We try to ventilate our room for 30 minutes, but it does not help at all. So, we go back to the lobby and ask if there is another room available. Luckily, there is. So we grab our stuff and proceed to our new room. We open the door and are baffled. This room is even worse. We immediately close the door and head back to the lobby and ask (politely, though, as we do not want to be “those” difficult guests) if there might be a better solution. The man is willing to help and offers us an upgrade to the executive suite. That should be smoke free. So, we head to the top floor and open our suite. To be honest, it does not look any more luxurious than your normal hotel room, but at least the smoky smell is not that bad in this suite. The windows are extremely dirty and it is impossible to see through, and the air conditioning unit sounds like a diesel engine. But hey, at least we can breathe. We dump our stuff and go for a good cool dip in the pool, while enjoying the views of the planes passing over. We also see our goal for this trip: the silver Super 80, American Airlines Maddog! We end the day at a typical American restaurant where we even are able to purchase a Dutch delight that isn’t served in The Netherlands anymore: McFlurry Stroopwafel. Great to have this one back again!
Saturday 3 August - I’m a Ford
Today we plan to visit the Henry Ford Museum. This museum is dedicated to several technological marvels and the technological development of the past decades. Of course it showcases the birth and development of the car and the conveyor belt, but also planes, trains, agricultural vehicles and domestic appliances. Here is something to find for everyone who had even the littlest of affection with engineering. Adjacent to the museum is an entire historical village which keeps the time of Henry Ford alive, but as we did not have enough budget for the entrance we did not buy a ticket. But we certainly would like to visit that as well, maybe some time in the future.
The museum also offers a tour through The Rouge factory: the massive Ford plant. During the tour we learn about the history of the plant and take a look at the final assembly line of the Ford F-150 truck. Oh, the memories to last year!!!
After a great day we take an Uber back to the hotel and repeat yesterday’s cooling down process: spend some time in the pool while enjoying the views of the (now incoming instead of departing) aircraft.
Sunday 4 August - Thunder Over Michigan 2019 “Corsair Crazy”
This morning we take an early Uber to an airport we are planning to see for a couple of years now: Detroit Willow Run airport (YIP). This airport is known for having several airlines operating historical jets such as the Douglas DC-9, McDonnell Douglas MD-80 and the Boeing 727. However, we are afraid we will not see that many of those today as this weekend the big Thunder Over Michigan airshow is held at YIP.
This year’s theme of Thunder Over Michigan is “Corsair Crazy”, a tribute to the Vought F4U Corsair. The organisation gathered eleven airworthy Corsairs to YIP; the world’s largest Corsair gathering. Quite a spectacular sight! Before the show starts we see a Kalitta Charters Boeing 727 coming in. Another highlight marked for today already. We enjoy the day as various warbirds present themselves to the crowd. Highlights are the F-15E Strike Eagles, the B-25 Mitchells and the Class of ’45 formation of an F4U Corsair and a P-51D Mustang. The static is impressive as well including a Boeing E-6B Mercury, an A-10 Thunderbolt II and several F-16C Fighting Falcons. We also see a USA Jet Airlines DC-9 inside the hangar.
After the cooling down in the Yankee’s Air Museum, we go back to the flight line where the final show element of the day, the mass Corsair startup. Ten Corsairs are being prepared for startup and a synchronize wing-unfold. We are standing front row, and it is really hot. In the air the F-16C and two P-51s of the USAF Heritage Flight are per forming their demo when it is time to start the Corsairs. What a sight! They all start with lots of smoke and the sound is just amazing. When the smoke had gone, it is time to unfold the wings. Almost perfectly synchronized, the old warbirds drop their wings like ballet dancers performing Swan Lake. It is a beautiful sight. The Corsairs taxi out and take the skies. After some flybys we call it a day and take an Uber back to the hotel. If only the Uber driver would be allowed to drive up to the official Uber pickup point, that would be nice…
That evening we cool down in the pool while watching the planes land on DTW.
Monday 5 August - DTW-DFW Maddog Flight # 1
Today we first head back to Willow Run airport for a meeting and a tour with USA Jet Airways. Unfortunately, the DC-9 we saw in the hangar yesterday flew out tonight, so no aircraft were present. This made that we are finished way earlier than expected. As we had already packed our stuff, we decide to spend the day at DTW airport and do some terminal spotting. So we take the free hotel shuttle and pass security into the domestic terminal. This terminal provides great views. We settle down by the window and enjoy the ramp and runway action. As DTW functions as a hub for Delta, it is Delta Air Lines galore. Oh boy, we have not been to Atlanta yet, but this is nice already.
We knew we were even on time to watch the first American MadDog flight to DTW arrive and depart. It is a great sight watching this bling bling boy rolling onto the gate. The polished metal fuselage looks amazing. We meet with the AA station manager at DTW, as he was curious about our fascination with the old MD-80. He is baffled as we tell him that our entire itinerary is based on this aircraft. We talk and he even gets us a batch of S80 safety cards. We watch the Super 80 pushing back and departing again. Over seven hours we enjoy ourselves watching all planes passing by, but it doesn’t feel like seven hours. Then, the second American Airlines MadDog arrives. This plane, N969TW, delivered in 1999, will be our first McDonnell Douglas MD-80 flight ever!
We board the plane and take our seats. We have the best AvGeek seats in the MD-80, just in front of the old JT8D turbofan engine. The safety briefing is done and it appears that the cabin crew is just as excited about this flight as we are. The briefing is full of small jokes and the cabin attendant clearly enjoys her job. Meanwhile, the engines start and start making their typical JT8D sound. We taxi out to runway 22L and with a rolling take off we reach for the skies!
The flight itself is amazing. We have a golden sunset over the States as we are heading south towards Texas. The light gets more beautiful by the minute. Just before landing, the sun set completely and we land in the complete darkness. Clearly visible are the enormous Amazon distribution complexes as we approach the runway. We touch down and we are finally in Dallas Fort Worth, Texas! Just before deboarding we take some time to talk with the cockpit crew and enjoy this beautiful aircraft. We get off the plane and wander through the gates looking for other MadDogs to photograph. She looks just as pretty under the night sky. With some nice photos taken, we collect our luggage and take an Uber to downtown Dallas. Although it is around 11PM, temperatures outside are still around 35 degrees Celsius. God bless the Texan sun!
Tuesday 6 August - Downtown Dallas: Yee Haw!
We stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown. The big room provides a beautiful panorama of the city towards Union Station and the Trinity River, with all its typical bridges. Today we are going to explore Downtown Dallas by foot. Dallas has a couple of touristy landmarks to explore, but as the Texan sun is quite hot compared to our rainy Dutch sun, we take it easy today. We visit a cowboy store, the location of the assassination of John F. Kennedy (X marks the spot), the Pioneers Plaza (just in time before a bus full of Asian tourists confiscated the place) and we take a good view on the Reunion Tower from Union Station (which had air conditioning). We end the day with a well-deserved dip in our rooftop pool at floor 9 of the hotel. Life is good.
Wednesday 7 August - DFW Area by Car
Today starts with an Uber ride towards DFW airport, to be precise to the car rental. Here we pick up our car for today to explore some fields in the area. After receiving our humble vehicle, we drive to our first stop: Naval Air Station Fort Worth. We stop near a Wall Mart for breakfast and take a view of the airbase. This also is one of the plants for Lockheed Martin. Unfortunately, it is pretty quiet today at the base. We only spot one F-35A and a C-40 Clipper. After about an hour of waiting we decide to go to our next stop: Fort Worth Alliance airport (AFW). This airport is known for being used by the military as stopover. When we arrive, we are treated by a couple of military jets and props. Two F/A-18 Hornets (old Legacy Hornets, those are subject to retirement at this moment), two Northrop T-38 Talons, two Raytheon-Beechcraft T-6 Texan IIs and a pair of Raytheon T-1 Jayhawks. The Hornets are being prepared for departure, so we decide to wait for that. After they took off, we hit the road again for our lunch break at the giant fuel station Buc Ee’s
This giant fuel station is also a big food court as well as a shop. We order two Texas-sized hot-dogs and two rolls filled with juicy brisket. Wayyy to much food, but it tastes sooo good! With our stomachs filled to the max, we continue our dive and head back eastbound to DFW airport. DFW has only one good spotting location around its huge perimeter, and that is Founders Plaza. Temperatures rise to over 40 degrees Celsius, and with no internet connection, we simply wait and see all the goodness coming into DFW. We spot several MadDogs as well as the Retro 737 we saw in 2018 at Chicago O’Hare! After a good time at Founders Plaza we continue our trip towards Addisson Field, a small airport in the area with lots of general aviation and the home of Ameristar. This company operates several classic jets such as the Boeing 737-200 and the Douglas DC-9. We take the time to photograph the 737-200 that was parked outside before heading back to DFW and return our rental car. Then, we head to our next hotel: Grand Hyatt DFW, one of the most expensive hotels we have ever stayed in.
That night we enjoy the views from our room and the rooftop terrace. This hotel is just amazing and offers the best views of Dallas Fort Worth Airport possible. The next day we spend the entire day enjoying our room and the rooftop views, so not much to be said haha! Let the photos speak for themselves.
Friday 9 August - Maddog Flight #2, Museum, Maddog Flight #3
This morning we board our second MadDog of this journey: N9621A towards Columbus, Ohio (CMH). This daytime flight is a real pleasure. The departure from Dallas is powerful and the views from the plane are stunning! A cool thing is that we can actually see the reflection of the shiny fuselage on the wings. The approach into CMH is smooth with lots of engine play on final. Really nice to hear those JT8D engines do their thing! After landing, we take our time to visit the flight deck and talk to the flight crew. This will be our final silver MD80 flight, ever. We even will not see one in active service again, so we take one last look before speeding to the car rental to collect our car for today.
With the car collected we drive towards the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. This (free) museum is a real gem and we think every aviation enthusiast should visit at least once in his live. The collection is really great and widely varied. We do not have all day unfortunately, as we have to return to Columbus to catch our next flight that same afternoon!
We say goodbye to Dayton and rush back to CMH. We are just in time for our next flight with Delta Air Lines, a McDonnell Douglas MD-88 towards Atlanta, Georgia. Our plane is N972DL, delivered in 1991. We board the plane and not long after we push back and take to the skies. The light in the engine inlet is simply lovely during take-off and the flight itself is amazing. The views of Atlanta are amazing as we approach one of the words busiest airports. We are amazed by the sheer amount of MadDogs all over the place. This is soo cool! We taxi to the gate and just before disembarking we visit the flight deck.
That night we stay in the Renaissance Concourse Hotel with an amazing view over the airport and the maintenance area. We take a good night sleep as the next day will start early with spotting from our balcony and a visit to the Delta Museum!
Saturday 10 August - Delta to the Max!
Today we do not have many things to do besides spotting and getting some rest. Oh, and we are visiting the Delta Flight Museum today, which is a short 10-minute walk from the hotel. This museum tells the amazing history of Delta Air Lines with several spectacular exhibits. We spend a couple of hours here before heading back to the hotel for a dip in the pool and some more spotting. We even are treated by an MD-83 of American, we thought we would not see them anymore, so that is a cool surprise. As the day ends we prepare to pack our stuff again for our flight tomorrow morning: the MD-90 to Baltimore!
Sunday 11 August - ATL-BWI Maddog flight #4!
It is still dark as we leave the hotel room for the shuttle to take us through the entire hotel district to the airport. We drop our luggage and make our way through the humongous maze that is Atlanta. The queue for the security check can be compared to the Haunted Maze, where the lines and routes change constantly. After almost 40 minutes of waiting in several lines, we make it through. It also means that we have only 30 minutes to spare before our flight leaves, so we have to rush to the gate.
On our way to the gate we grab a crêpe and a smoothie and with breakfast covered we enjoy the view of our next ride: Delta Air Lines McDonnell Douglas MD-90 N906DA from 1995 which will take us to Baltimore (BWI). We board the plane and enjoy the views of the IAI V2500 engine and all the maddogs passing by on the taxiway. We push back, and taxi to the runway. The weather is good and we enjoy the sound of the engine as it spools up. The vortices in the engines are literally out of this world! We have never seen it so clearly and so vibrant.
The flight itself is a smooth ride. The skies are clear and the views are good. The whistling engines sing their songs as we approach BWI. The approach is really beautiful over all the lakes. Once landed, we can spot some nice airframes as well, such as an old USAF DC-9 and a private Boeing 737-200. Prior to disembarking the plane, we visit the flight deck, and see that the plane is in not that good shape with several panels missing. All in all, it all shows its age but we are happy to have flown this unique aircraft type. Once in the terminal we take some photos of a departing MD-88 and make our way towards the train station to take a train to Washington DC.
The train ride is quick and comfortable, and before we know it we are at the giant Union Station in Washington DC. We grab some lunch and take the metro to our hotel to drop our stuff. Afterwards we take our time to discover the National Mall, the White House and a couple of museums as well. Of course, a visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has to be done, however due to construction works only a small part is open for the public. Such a shame, but still some amazing highlights were on display such as the original Wright Flyer, the Ryan NYP “Spirit of St. Louis” and Bell X-1 “Glamorous Glennis”. We also visit the Museum of National Natural History to see dinosaur bones and other great stuff.
Monday 12 August - DC to Dulles
The next morning, we take another walk over the National Mall, the WWII Monument and the Lincoln Memorial before grabbing our stuff and take an Uber to Washington Dulles airport, where our next hotel is. Here we also visit the “part 2” of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum: The Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center. This is such a beautiful place with so many aviation icons and legends! The B29 Enola Gay, Concorde, Boeing Dash 80 (Boeing 707 prototype), the first FedEx Falcon 10, a Pan Am Boeing Stratocruiser, Space Shuttle Discovery, but also the first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. So many highlights, and all for free to see. We will definitely come back here! After the museum closes we head back to our hotel and go for a swim.
Tuesday 13 August - IAD-ATL (Maddog Flight #5) -AMS
Today is our final day in the United States for 2019. Today we will fly with our final maddog, the MadPup, the Boeing 717 (MD-95) back to Atlanta, and after a 50-minute layover we fly with KLM in a Boeing 777-300er back to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. We check the weather forecast and discover that there will be thunderstorms in the area when our flight departs. There are two earlier options to go back to ATL, on a Boeing 717 and one option on a MD-88. We try asking if we can be booked on the MD-88 flight, but the Delta agent assures us that whatever the weather will do, we will make our connection in ATL. We check in our luggage and proceed through security. Then, we are in a pretty quiet Dulles airport, with again several hours to kill. Luckily, the views on the apron are amazing and IAD has some pretty cool planes for us to spot. Frontier with its Duck special, but also Air France with an A380, British Airways with their beautiful BOAC retro 747, and we are even treated with a Volga Dnepr Antonov An-124!
We see the MD-88 depart and wait for our 717 to arrive. The sun is already setting again as our madpup arrives at the gate. We board the plane and take our seats. Pushback is five minutes late because of some passengers not showing up. The engines are starting up and we make our way to the runway. We see lots of planes waiting to depart and we only join the queue. The pilot informs us that there are indeed thunderstorms in the area and that a rerouting is imminent. The sun is completely gone and after a while the pilot gives another announcement that to save fuel, they will shut off the engines while waiting for a rerouting by air traffic control. We start to panic a bit as our 50-minute layover is only 20 minutes now.. Not long after that, the engines start up again and we proceed to the runway for takeoff. We burst through the thunderstorms which are clearly visible and via a detour we make our way to Atlanta. During the flight, the cabin attendant takes care of all passengers that need to make their connections at ATL, and she did a terrific job. This was airline service as it is supposed to be. The approach into Atlanta is quick but beautiful with all the lights of one of the world’s biggest airports. The pilots race the 717 to our gate and in less than 5 minutes the entire plane was disembarked. We have only 15 minutes till our flight home departs, so we hurry to the train to take us from the C to the F concourse. Here we rush to our gate where we already were expected, even as stand-by passengers! We check in and take our seats in the stuffed 777. Our ride home is PH-BVD, the only long range aircraft in the KLM fleet wearing full SkyTeam livery.
Not long after we took our seats we push back and taxi to the runway, while taking a final glance at the endless fleet of Delta Maddogs that still can be found here. We turn onto the runway to discover that the plane behind us is a Lufthansa MD-11F. The GE-90s spool up and we take the skies for our flight back home. Obviously, the crew was a bit grumpy as we were not even allowed to look out of our window to see the lighted cities below. They told us in a pretty annoyed manner that all blinds have to be shut immediately. Such a bummer. The flight was not the best we have had. The Boeing 777 was not that comfortable and with the crew being not that welcoming, it is a long flight back home. When we are back at Dutch soil, we quickly disembark our plane to quickly get our luggage and take our ride home. This was our second USA trip, but sooooo completely different than last year, but soooo worth it!