Piedmont Airlines ✈ American Eagle ✈ Dash 8-100, Dash 8-300, E145
Background: In over 30 years of traveling to Long Island, I never really thought of flying there, even though it is so inconvenient to drive or take the train. This year, though, I was going to be right in the vicinity of ISP Long Island MacArthur Airport. I found out that American Eagle, operated by Piedmont Airlines, serves the ISP-PHL route. The operating equipment was due to be the Dash 8-100. I'd never flown on any Dash 8 before, so it cought my interest. In searching for advice on the best seats, I read that the Dash 8-100 was soon to be retired from service in American Eagle colors. Convenience and a new aircraft type, in fact my first turboprop, and the price was right, too. Sign me up!
It turns out that the Dash 8-300, also operated by Piedmont for American Eagle, and another new type for me, is also due for retirement. I researched its routes and found one for later in the year which worked perfectly for my return trip from Georgia: Instead of flying ATL-PHL, I decided to fly AGS-CLT-PHL with the Augusta-Charlotte segment on the Dash 8-300. The Charlotte-Philadelphia segment was scheduled to be the A330-200. Another good price for my first flight on the Dash 8-300 before it's withdrawn, and the connection on a domestic widebody. Sign me up!
Finally, my return PHL-ISP for Christmas with family was again to be operated by Piedmont for American Eagle, but by this time, the Dash 8-100 currently serving the route would already be enjoying its retirement. Instead the operating equipment was to be the E145. Piedmont is switching to an all-jet fleet of E145's. I've flown on an E145 before, but not with Piedmont. Skipping the holiday traffic and unexpectedly flying all of the types in Piedmont's fleet? Sign me up!
Flying all three types in the fleet would mean Piedmont is not only the operator with whom I've flown all the types in the fleet, but also the highest number of types in the fleet. Please enjoy the reports, and I look forward to your comments.
AA 4850 operated by Piedmont for American Eagle
Departure: 18:09 (actual 18:09)
Arrival: 19:18 (actual 19:15)
Actual Block Time: 1h6
Actual Flight Time: 0h53
My first Piedmont experience began by being dropped off at ISP Long Island MacArthur Airport, a new airport for me.
The only passenger in the check-in area, I enjoyed an in-person check-in and was given a cardstock boarding pass. The agent explained how to reach the gate. Security did not offer Precheck, no surprise there, but there was no line, either. After the quick security, I was airside by 16:50. Boarding was set for 17:39, and departure for 18:09. As I headed to the gate, I saw the Long Ireland Pumpkin Ale advertised on draft at Maggie O'Shea's Irish pub in the terminal. I decided to stop for a quick beer. This was not a busy airport at all; it's so nice to fly out of airports like this. With 50 minutes till boarding, with the terminal not crowded, in no rush, I might as well stop for a local seasonal beer. With more than 30 years coming to Long Island, and my first time flying, so far it sure seems like you can't beat this. I was happy to be flying today, especially given that my aircraft is the new-to-me Dash 8-100, first time on this aircraft, and it's soon to be retired, too. I was looking forward to an easy 1h flight to Philly on this new prop plane. After my beer, I headed to Gate A1L.
ISP Long Island MacArthur Airport:
N975HA, a Dash 8-100 in US Airways Express colors, had the distinction of being my first turboprop. N975HA was built by De Havilland Canada in 1989. It was a very small plane, very fun to fly in major airline colors. I was happy to see my small plane, the smallest I've flown in major airline service, with a capacity of only 37 passengers. I was excited to begin my flight experience today.
On-stand in ISP:
There was not much seating at the gate, seeing as how the gate was pretty much right off of the corridor. I decided to just form the line for boarding, to be among the first onboard. I got on line in the Group 5-9 queue. I had Group 5 as a credit card holder benefit. Groups 1-4 were all considered Priority. This is the new AA boarding group order. With only 10 minutes until boarding, the plane already appeared prepared. The gate agent began passing out gate-check tags for passengers with larger carry-on bags. At 17:51 boarding began with Concierge Key, then Group 1, military in uniform, Groups 2, 3, 4, and then me with Group 5. At this gate you simply walk outside and up the stairs into the plane.
I got onboard to find a very small plane with only 9 rows of seats. The configuration was 2-2 seating, except for the last row which had 5 seats all the way across. I noticed row 1, the forward exit row, had above average legroom. I found my seat, 7A, and my seat mate arrived shortly. I found decent legroom; my knees weren't hitting the seatback in front, and there was plenty of room overhead for my bag. In fact, it was pretty comfortable. The seat anchor was adjacent to wall, which limited footroom, but it was not really a problem for this small plane. As I settled in, I noticed the windows had no window shades! And then I noticed the seats offered no recline! Recline is not really needed for such a short flight, and I thought the seat was comfortable enough as is.
The flight deck announced that we were not expecting any delays into Philadelphia; the flight would be at 12,000 ft. The flight attendant welcomed us aboard, only one flight attendant on this plane, and in less than fifteen minutes, boarding was already complete. Our load today was 32/37. The flight attendant visited the exit row, three rows ahead of me, to go over the exit row regulations. Devices were to be placed in airplane mode, and the flight attendant performed the safety briefing.
The views from 7A:
Pushback was on-time at 18:09. Our flying time was to be 50 minutes. The engines started. "Good evening from the flight deck, we are number one for takeoff!" Our takeoff was from 33L at 18:14; it got pretty loud, there was not too much pushback into the seat, but a short takeoff roll into the Long Island sky. Climbout was pretty noisy and featured a lot of vibration, too. Not unexpected in the slightest. It was not too deafening, but a good degree of noise, like sitting in the back of an MD80. Our climb was not too rapid, pretty gradual in fact, almost seemed like we weren't even climbing.
Climbing over Long Island:
10,000 ft was reached in good time, followed by an announcement from the flight attendant about inflight service, featuring beverage service with complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. "Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight." We proceeded out over the Atlantic Ocean. Having flown both LGA-PHL and JFK-PHL, two similar routes which did not offer any service, I had not been expecting any service on ISP-PHL, either. That's a pleasant surprise.
Passengers were treated to pretty consistent vibration, much more than a jet, but really not bad in my opinion. The noise was not so bad, either. I'm not of the opinion that a flight needs to be so quiet, anyway. So far the Dash 8-100 was making for quite an enjoyable flight. The captain announced that we'd reached cruising altitude of 12,000 ft; our route to Philadelphia was smooth, so the seatbelt sign was switched off. We had 40 minutes left in flight.
Service began front-to-back. Snacks on offer were either pretzels or Biscoff cookies. I asked for a water, which was served from a tray. Despite being standard American inflight service, I was impressed due to it not being expected.
As I enjoyed my snack I realized I was a bit surprised that it'd taken me so long to fly on a prop plane in major airline colors. And now they're being withdrawn from service! That's too bad, because I really feel it's fitting to have such a plane on such a route as ISP-PHL. Anyway, they can't even fill up this small prop plane, there's clearly no need for a larger regional jet!
Flying over the Atlantic:
As the flight continued, I was particularly enjoying the loud prop noise. It was definitely my loudest flight besides the back of an MD80. I thought it was unique and fun.
We made landfall over Beach Haven on LBI, and cabin lights were switched back on. The captain announced that we now had 15 minutes to go in flight. The temperature was 72 degrees, and we were to park at F21. The seatbelt sign was switched back on. The flight attendant announcement said to put away larger devices, and reminded that smaller devices need to be in airplane mode. "Familiarize yourself again with the location of the exits."
The Garden State Parkway over the Mullica River:
We were getting lower as we descended over NJ in the westbound direction. I watched the gear go down as we approached the Delaware River. It seemed like we would be landing perpendicularly across the river. Nice, I had been wondering if we'd use that runway. It would be my first time using the regional runway, 35. Landing was at 19:07. Engine 1 was shut down, for taxi only on engine 2. We arrived on stand F21 at 19:15 for my first time going into PHL Terminal F. As I deboarded I found most passengers waiting plane side for their gate checked bags.
On-stand in PHL:
I took the 19:39 Septa train to Center City. It was my first time using the new automated fare machines to purchase a ticket. Septa, which used to have no automated machines whatsoever, is slowly introducing them, and the first installations are at the airport stations, but only for rides originating at the airport. I'm happy they are finally offering fare machines at the airport for the pre-purchase price of $6.75. The onboard price is $9.00!
I had enjoyed this flight very much. It was by far the most convenient way to access Long Island. I was sad that the smallest Dash 8, the Dash 8-100, was retiring so soon, but happy to have had the opportunity to fly on it before it's too late. I was very much looking forward to my Dash 8-300 experience coming up in 2 months' time.