PenAir KS 0267
Departure: 15:55 (actual 15:52)
Arrival: 17:05 (actual 16:59)
Actual Block Time: 1h7
Actual Flight Time: 0h51
My day began in New Jersey on a United B737-900ER, flying EWR-BOS. I arrived Boston Gate B20 fifteen minutes early, giving me just over 4h until my PenAir flight at 15:55.
My United B737-900ER, N69830:
I had booked my entire itinerary, EWR-BOS-PBG, on Expedia, and was ticketed on United 016 ticket stock, but United couldn't check me in for PenAir. After spending time at Cisco Brewers and the United Club, I headed landside to the PenAir check-in, fortunately in the same terminal. There was obviously no one checking in for PenAir. I walked up to counter, asked for a window seat, and was given 8F on a nice cardstock boarding pass. I immediately noticed that TSA Precheck was not on offer, contrary to my surprise with Southern Airways Express. Nevertheless I found no line for non-Precheck security, making it not much of a bother. I was quickly airside again, this time to Gate B9 on the lower level. I was at the gate by 14:55. Boarding was set for 15:25 and departure for 15:55. There was plenty of seating, and not very many passengers. So far, another nice, relaxed experience.
My aircraft was already waiting outside. N364PX, built 1991 and formerly flying for Northwest Express Airlines and Mesaba, had the distinction of being my first-ever Saab 340. At the next gate, PenAir was preparing to fly to Presque Isle, Maine, with N365PX.
As I waited in the terminal, I was looking forward to another Essential Air Service experience, and to trying the Saab 340 aircraft for the first time. Come to think of it, I've quite enjoyed flying prop planes this year - the C208 and C208B with Southern Airways Express, the SF340 with PenAir, and both the Dash 8-100 and Dash 8-300 with Piedmont/American Eagle. Prior to this year, I had only ever flown the two C208B flights with Mokulele in Hawaii, and that was back in 2013. Now five prop flights in 2017 alone. 2017 was definitely the year for prop planes.
At 201 miles, this wasn't going to be a long flight, but it was to be my longest so far on a prop plane. Other milestones included my second Essential Air Service carrier, my first time on PenAir, a new aircraft type, and obviously my first time to Plattsburgh International Airport.
"PenAir, in partnership with Alaska Airlines, will now begin boarding." At 15:35, all passengers were called to board. Nobody had lined up in advance, very nice.
I was the second onboard. I headed to my seat, 8F, a window seat right behind the wing.
The Saab 340 offered 1-2 seating, with seats A-DF. 10 rows of 3 seats across equals 30 seats. Today's load was 20/30. All the single 'A' seats were filled, but here on the two-seat side, I had no seat mate. There was no overhead at all above the 'A' seats, and only a very small one above the 'DF' seats - but with no door on the compartment. There were no window shades. The Alaska Airlines Beyond
magazine, and also Do North
magazine, were in the seatback pocket. I found very, very generous legroom; I have to say it was more than typical domestic first class. The seat was also of above average width for economy. The seat anchor was adjacent to the wall - make that mounted onto the wall - but I had plenty of space with this much legroom. And no seat mate - this is really a spacious and comfortable seat! I had no expectation, but these seats exceeded my expectations! I did notice, though, that only the rows behind the exit row had this much legroom. The forward rows, and even the exit row itself, had considerably less - more akin to economy than the first class space that I was fortunate enough to get.
Safety card: Final assembly of this airplane was completed in Sweden
The flight attendant announcement welcomed us aboard and advised the storage of carry on luggage. Our flight time was to be 55 minutes to 1h, and we were just waiting on final paperwork. The exit row briefing was given two rows ahead for the gentleman in 6A.
The view from 8F:
The flight attendant began the briefing for the safety features of our Saab 340 aircraft. There was only one flight attendant on this flight. Engine 2 was started on-stand, and then the entry stairs were put away into the front bulkhead and the door was shut. Pushback was at 15:52. Engine 1 was started before we began to taxi.
Our takeoff was after a Southwest B737. At 16:05 we began to takeoff from a stop. It was very quiet before the props spooled up, and then it was nice and loud, with overheads rattling as we rolled down the runway. It was a quick takeoff roll and we were airborne. Our takeoff and climbout was right over downtown Boston, offering great views and a very loud climbout. My loudest prop plane so far during climb. In fact I don't care how loud people claim the MD80, MD90 and B717 are in the back seated adjacent to the engines. The Saab 340 on the window in row 8 has them all beat! It was pretty deafening, and the first time I'd ever thought that ear plugs wouldn't be a terrible idea. For me personally, though, I decided to enjoy the experience as part of the charm of the Saab 340. No complaints so far.
Climbing over Boston:
At 10,000 ft the seat belt sign was left on, and there was an announcement about inflight service. Complimentary Diet Coke, Sprite, orange juice, water and coffee, along with cookies and pretzels, were on offer. It was nice to get inflight service on this sub-1h flight. Service began front to back from a small trolley. The captain shortly announced that we had arrived to our cruising altitude of 12,000 ft. He provided some details about the route which were very hard to hear due to the engine noise. The seat belt sign was switched off. At this point we were only in flight for 20 minutes, but we were going to start descent in 10 minutes.
The seat belt sign was quickly on again as my snack was served: water with pretzels.
Our cruise was decently bumpy, not bad like my Southern Airways flights, but above average. Mainly though it was just so loud! Very unique, I must say. And a consistent vibration in the seat. But of the two, noise and vibration, noise was a clear winner.
Turning around to land at PBG:
Most of the descent was pretty gusty and bumpy. I guess since the Saab 340 is much bigger than the Cessna Caravan, it was not unpleasant, but still noticeable because overall it's still a small aircraft. We flew past the airport into a tight turnaround to land to the south. Landing was at 16:56. It finally got quieter as we made our taxi into Plattsburgh International Airport. We arrived on-stand at 16:59. The engines were shut down - it was finally quiet onboard, but my ears were still ringing and couldn't comprehend the quiet! I know it sounds like I'm exaggerating or complaining, but I'm not - my ears really were ringing and it really was that loud.
We were delayed onboard as the gate checked bags were brought out for collection planeside, then we doboarded down the steps and into a ramp which lead into the jet bridge into the terminal.
This flight ranks at the top of my most comfortable economy flights ever. And it also ranks, by far, as my loudest flight ever. It was a fun, comfortable experience well worth the trip. It's so easy and convenient to fly with only a handful of other passengers into a small airport. I would certainly recommend PenAir for a fun, unique flight, and I'd be happy to fly with them again. With ear plugs next time.
Interestingly, my flights on this itinerary, EWR-BOS and BOS-PBG, were both exactly 201 miles each. For my flights today, on the United B737-900ER and the PenAir Saab 340, I clocked my gate-to-gate time at 1h for United and 1h7 for PenAir, and time-in-flight at 42 minutes for United and 51 minutes for PenAir. Neither had any holding patterns or delays. Clearly the jet is going to be faster, but for such a short flight, not by much.