Hello all! Below is my account of my adventures with Great Lakes flying from Denver to Los Angeles via Telluride & Prescott. Little did I know that Great Lakes would cease operations just three days after this trip. I'm so glad that I finally went all in and took this trip because the Brasilia holds a special place in my heart & this was likely one of my last chances to ever ride on her!
Leg #1 MSY-DEN UA2141 22MAR
This leg was pretty uneventful. Scored a window towards the back of the plane, which I was more than happy to get. The flight was oversold and I didn't even think I would get on. Pretty average flight, got served a signature Stroopwaffel and watched Darkest Hour using the streaming service. Landed in DEN a little early and had to run over to A and catch my next flight!
Leg #2 DEN-TEX ZX3030 22MAR
As I mentioned before, the Brasilia holds a special place in my heart. I grew up an airline brat and for YEARS the mighty Brasilia was the only type of plane that serviced my hometown. For as long as I can remember the Brasilia has been a part of my life. To date myself slightly, as a small child I grew up flying her with WestAir, then Mesa, and then finally as SkyWest at United Express. When flying through ORD as a child I distinctly remember seeing the Great Lakes Brasilia's at the UAX gates and always longing to ride her, but I never got the chance. Until today that is! How fitting that she still wears a modified version of UA's battleship livery (one of my all time favorite UA paint jobs). Also, funny side note I also remember as a child when SkyWest bought 2 Brasilia's from ZK, registered N292UX and N295UX. I thought it was the coolest thing because they had different interiors and different seats than the standard SkyWest cabin, and I was pleasantly surprised to find these same seats as I boarded N299UX!
Nerdy backstories aside, I was naturally heartbroken when OO retired the last of their EM2's, and I even made a trip to ride their retirement flight from SMX-LAX a little more than three years ago. Stepping back on the Brasilia today felt like coming home, it was such a lovely feeling. After hiking all the way down to the end of A, I found the gate and checked in with the agent. I was told they were possibly looking at a weight restriction to TEX but that they would let me know. After about 15 minutes I was called up to the podium and assigned seat 8C. Shortly after boarding began via a walkway out to the plane
I was in hog heaven because it was reminiscent of the old remote terminals in SFO and LAX that I had used so many times. I happily shuffled up the stairs and found a very clean, fresh interior. I was a little disappointed that the rows of seats were missing a cover and that ugly bare metal was exposed, but otherwise the cabin felt like it was in good repair. I was met at the door with a very charming, funny flight attendant who would make my journey to LAX a very pleasant experience.
(My favorite overhead panel, I love the Brasilia logo on the A side of the plane)
(Sister ship being boarded up for Salina, KS. Side note N96ZK is an older RT model Brasilia that was once operated by WestAir as N452UE, probably a bird that I had flown on as a kid)
Shortly after this the door was closed and that familiar Brasilia hum came to life. This leg was pretty full, with I believe 23 people headed to TEX.
Question, any Brasilia experts know why the props are cycled through feathered and not feathered during taxi? SkyWest always did this and I noticed ZK did it as well. On other turboprops I know it's usually done on the first flight of the day, but for the Brasilia it seems to be every flight.
Either way we quickly taxi'd past the other two Brasilias parked and initially made our way towards Runways 25 and 34, but about 3/4 of the way out to the runway we made an abrupt U-turn and headed back the way we came, past our starting point and made our way to what I believe was Runway 8 for take off. The Brasilia roared to life and we went barreling into the sky!
It was a pretty bumpy leg into TEX, but the flight attendant completed a service. I guess it's a comment on the state of affairs at ZK that their service consisted of either a mini bottle of Sams Club water, or Coffee. No soft drinks or juices of any kind for all three legs. I didn't come for the service thankfully, and the FA made all three flights super enjoyable. For this leg I took in the beautiful mountain scenery and enjoyed getting bouced around.
After a quick 55 minute hop, we were soon on final approach. I loved the use of full flaps, and the approach into TEX was gorgeous.
We had a quick taxi in, it was interesting to note that there is no official "terminal" in TEX, we parked at an FBO. The majority of the passengers got off here in TEX and those passengers continuing to PRC were asked to remain onboard. 3 of us remained and nobody else boarded in TEX so we had the whole plane to ourselves. I moved across to 8C and enjoyed the famous exit row on the Braslia for the hour and 10 minute hop to PRC.
LEG #3 TEX-PRC ZK3030 22MAR
(Legroom for days!!)
Startup in TEXhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0Wrhag-JKA
We taxi'd out and sat for about 10 minutes on the taxiway before taking the active runway. We departed opposite from the way we arrived, I assume because the airport is at the edge of a large valley and its easier to take off into the valley than towards the mountains. The trusty Brasilia roared to life again and we shot out of TEX like a rocket with only 3 passengers aboard.
(My seat for the previous flight)
Another "service" was performed and for this leg I let the gentle hums of the plane lull me into a deep sleep for most of the flight.
I awoke to a vastly different landscape as we were well into AZ and skirting the edges of the Grand Canyon. I immensely enjoyed the beautiful views we were treated to on our way into PRC.
We pulled into the terminal next to a company 1900 parked at remote and another 1900 that was starting up as we pulled in. We were asked to deplane here so I was able to explore the quaint PRC terminal.
Leg #4 PRC-LAX ZK3030 22MAR
My heart sank when I was told that the leg might be weight restricted again but I was given a seat about 10 minutes later and made my way thru TSA. Shortly after that boarding began.
PRC Start Uphttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6q4Xv56IH0
We waited by the runway again, this time for traffic metering into LAX and then swiftly departed.
PRC Take Offhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-iPrOMYSYE
This leg was spent mostly in the clouds, not very many bumps but A LOT of icing for most of the way. Occasionally the ice would slump off the props and hit the fuselage with a loud BANG! It really freaked some of the other passengers out, but this is a normal occurrence on turboprops.
I spent the leg chatting with the FA. I don't remember her name, but she was so lovely and made my flights so pleasant. I learned a lot about the state of affairs at ZK. I was shocked to learn that there were only 4 pilots in the whole company who could fly the EM2 and then a handful for the 1900's. She told me that she had been with the company for 16 years and that she was #1 of 6 FAs. This trip for them was a 4 day trip that involved 3 overnights in PRC and a lot of shuttling between PRC and LAX, then heading back to DEN via TEX on the last day. Kind of crazy but I also think it would be fun.
Eventually we made our way into the LA Basin, passing over the Inland Empire and just to the south ONT. We went back in the clouds and began making a series of turns that made my heart sink again, and my fears were confirmed when the captain made a PA stating that we were holding due to LAX weather. I had about 2.5 hours before my flight home, but I was worried about diverting. Thankfully after about 30 minutes of uncertainty the pitch of the props changed and we made our way into LAX. Sorry no vid of the landing, but we arrived on 24L and taxi'd to the cargo ramp next to the UA hangar. I bid the old girl farewell and thanked her for yet another safe and enjoyable ride to my destination before deplaning and being shuffled onto a shuttle bus to the terminal.
The holding had cut significantly into my layover, but I still found a little time to head over to the Maple Leaf Lounge for a few cocktails before the flight home.
Leg #5 LAX-MSY WN5469 22MAR
WN must have been having a bad day because T1 was a madhouse and almost every single flight was delayed. My flight showed on time, but there was no plane at the gate at 6pm for a 6:30 departure. The friendly gate agent cleared me and advised the plane was on the ground and would be pulling in shortly. I was assigned C62 boarding so I didn't have high hopes for a very good seat, but somehow was able to score 4A once onboard! WN is a quick turning machine, but it still took some time to turn the 737-800. We pushed back about 20 minutes late and after a very short taxi to 25L we were on our way to the Big Easy. I slept for 90% of this leg as I was exhausted. Watched a little bit of livetv that WN offers and had another cocktail as well.
(Descending over Baton Rouge after a LOOONG day)
I had a blast on this trip and I wouldn't have hesitated to do it again were ZK still operating. I'm truly sad for all of their employees because everyone I came across was professional and courteous. I truly hope that they are able to find re-employment soon, and I know it's a pipe dream but I hope somehow that Great Lakes can resurrect itself. Thanks for reading! Feel free to share any comments or feedback!
Listen Betty, don't start up with your white zone shit again.