Saturday, November 8, 2008

Where can we go from here: State Capitals

Time for the oft-promised and delayed continuation of the "Where can we go from here" series. This time, I'm going to take a look at who goes to which of the state capital cities. Service to the state capitals is hampered by the fact that many states' capitals are not located in one of their larger cities. In fact, some of them are in cities which are for the most part unknown to non-residents. As examples, I'll cite Frankfurt, Kentucky; Jefferson City, Missouri; and Carson City, Nevada. Shockingly, there is no direct service from LAX to any of these. In fact, this has almost become a study of "Where we can't go from here: State Capitals"; of the fifty state capitals, only thirteen can be reached non-stop from LAX.

Phoenix, Arizona, is one of the better-served state capitals. Southwest, United, and US Air (nee America West) all operate regular flights to and from Phoenix. The United and US Air flights are often flown by their regional partner airlines, Skywest and Mesa, respectively. The US Air service was flown by America West prior to their merger earlier this year. The flight usually runs just under an hour. Because Phoenix is so close nearby (in jet terms) and pretty busy (it's a US Air hub, and Southwest has a strong presence there too), there is often a flow control program for aircraft going there: we have to call and get a "wheels up" time for each of our Phoenix departures to ensure that there's a hole in the line for them. This rarely delays them more than fifteen minutes (and there's an incentive for us to keep the delays at less than fifteen minutes: beyond that they become 'countable' delays).
A pair of Mesa (callsign: Air Shuttle) CRJ's. Above is a CRJ-900 at gate 10 next to a B737-300. Below, a CRJ-200 pulls into gate 6 with an A321 next door.

Sacramento, California, currently home of the "governator", is also about an hour away, but there's never any difficulty with traffic restrictions. Skywest flies the route for United, using CRJ's. Southwest also goes into Sacramento from LA. You'll see Skywest RJ's later on.

Denver, Colorado, gets great service from LAX: We have four airlines that go there on a regular basis. Frontier and United both operate hubs in Denver; I've seen just about every type United operates on this route. At the moment, Denver is the only direct destination for Frontier out of LA. American and Southwest also offer service into Denver. Flight time runs 1:45 to two hours.

Atlanta, Georgia, being the busiest airport in the country, not to mention the home of Delta, gets regular service from LA. Besides Delta, AirTran also flies from here to their hub in Atlanta. Flight times are four hours or a little less. Delta has run nearly everything on this route, but AirTran only uses their B737's; I don't think the B717's have enough range and payload to make it worthwhile. When AirTran first started flying into LAX all they had were the B717's, and they went from here to DFW. The non-stop to Atlanta came later, when they got their B737's. For a short time, until they got the 737's, AirTran contracted with Ryan Air to fly the route for them, using Airbus A320's. I wish I'd gotten a picture of one of those, since they've long since gone elsewhere and been repainted.

Honolulu, Hawaii, is served by the widest range of airlines from LA: Six different airlines fly this route, and each of them a couple of times a day. American, Continental, Delta, Hawaiian, Northwest, and United all currently use B757's and B767's. Not surprisingly, flight times are all about the same, at around five hours and fifteen minutes. I can remember when Hawaiian used DC10's and Amtran used Tristars, but no more.

After Honolulu, it's not nearly as exciting to talk about Boise, Idaho. It's not as exciting to go there either: From LAX, you've a choice of Horizon's Dash 8's or Skywest's CRJ-200's. Horizon flies for Alaska out of LAX, and their flight time for this route is right around two hours. The Skywest CRJ's fly for United, and they're about twenty minutes quicker.

Indianapolis, Indiana, gets passenger service from Northwest and cargo service from Fedex. Either way, the flight takes about three and a half hours. During the summer a couple of other airlines also went from here to Indy; maybe again next summer? We can only hope.

Boston, Massachusetts, my mother's home town, gets several flights a day via American and United. Flight times hover around five hours. Boeings predominate on this route, although I have seen United slip in an Airbus from time to time.
A pair of heavy Boeings: An American B767-200 and a United B767-300.
Although it's not easy to see, the -300 is longer; compare the distance from the nose wheel to the wing root.

St. Paul, Minnesota, gets regular service thanks to sharing the airport with its neighbor Minneapolis. Northwest has their big hub there, and I've seen them use short Airbuses, B747's, and everything in between. Sun Country also goes from here to MSP, using B737's. Flights run around three hours, give or take.

United offers service into Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport using Skywest CRJ-700's. Flight time is about two and a half hours. Come to think of it, I haven't noticed this flight go out within the last week or two, but I'm including it here anyway.

Nashville, Tennessee, is served by both American and Southwest. Both use B737's and have flight times around three and a half hours. Amazingly, I don't seem to have a picture of SWA and AAL B737's together; gotta work on that.

Austin, Texas, gets flights from American, Southwest, and United. American uses MD80's while Skywest operates CRJ-700's for United. Flights run about two and a half hours.

Salt Lake City, Utah, is a Delta hub, but also gets service from Southwest and United. Skywest flies the United flights using CRJ-200's and CRJ-700's. Oddly enough, Skywest also operates Delta Connection flights to SLC out of LAX. This creates the paradox of having two Skywest flights with different parent airlines' paint schemes going to the same place at about the same time. New ground controllers at LAX sometimes get surprised by the Skywest that doesn't park where all the other Skywests do. After a couple of times they figure it out (usually) because the flights operating for Delta, besides being painted in Delta colors, also have a different range of flight numbers (the Delta Skywests are usually in the 4000's, while the United Skywests are usually 5000's and 6000's. Usually). Another clue is that the Delta Skywest is often in a CRJ-900; Skywest doesn't operate -900's for United at LAX.
It figures - after all that blah about the Delta Skywests often being CRJ-900's, all I have is a picture of one that's in a -700. The -900 is longer, and can be identified by the two emergency exits over the wing; the -700 only has one; check the -900 in the first Phoenix photo above.

As I mentioned in the opening, this has become just as much a study of where you can't go from here: I counted eighteen states that receive no direct flights from LA at all. I'm not going to make a list of them here; I've been trying to avoid this whole topic becoming one great big list. A US map showing the affected states would've been nice, but the idea just occurred to me and it's already taken a week to put this together. For that same reason, most of the photos will have to go without captions - just imagine that each one has its own pithy remarks. For added interest, you can read this entry again tomorrow and imagine new pithy remarks!

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