The following is a condensed version of Nick's full report, which can be found here. Text in italics was added by Aaron Robinson for when Nick was not present.
Hello everyone! For those of you who were unable to attend the Farewell Tour and Dinner in New York City last weekend, we have pictures and details for you!
I suppose I should give a little bit of background. After months of planning, research, and hundreds of emails back and forth trying to get people to attend the event, those of us who could finally arrived. Kyle Bjorklund, Whit Roberts, Aaron Robinson, David Velez, Steve Wismark, and I were in attendance. A few others backed out last minute and were missed!
On Friday, Kyle, Whit, Aaron, and Steve met in Newark at our hotel. They did a brief visit to the Airliners International Convention nearby, and then went out for dinner together. Newark is the home to the Portuguese community of the region, so there was plenty of good food and sangria.
The next morning we all met at the hotel and made our way over to the Convention, which if you've never been is absolutely worth going to if you're into airlines and collectibles. I love going and can never leave without picking up a few choice souvenirs (read about Aaron's and my trip to Dallas here).
The convention consists of a large ballroom or hall with hundreds of tables where exhibitors can display merchandise, models and collectibles. If you can even remotely imagine it, trust me, they have it. Everything from paper cups from some Finnish airline to large scale models of the British Airways 747. It's definitely a sight to see. We spent several hours exploring and buying some new toys before having lunch and heading into New York. (For the record I bought an American Airlines captain's hat. They didn't have Northwest, sadly; several safety cards I was missing, and a KLM 747 1/200 model for only $5! What a score!)
The (how do we put this nicely?) adventure on New York's lovely public transportation system from Newark to LaGuardia is definitely worth doing at least once if just for the experience. After an hour and a half, we made it out to LaGuardia, where Aaron had generously arranged a tour of the ramp and Delta facilities. How cool is that? It blew away my expectations by a million. We were briefly security checked before making our way through a secret door and into the baggage claim hall's inner sanctions. A tour of the operations offices where all the under-wing action takes place and a quick trip across the ramp brought us to the bag room.
I can tell you it's a miracle you ever see your bag again, or moreover, it's a testament to the fantastic employees that work for Delta. (I really can't stress that enough, I was amazed to see the spirit of family and good times among the employees, they really were just having a great time doing what they love. Inspiring.) A maze of conveyer belts, carts and guys chucking bags sort of dazes you. And then you see the computerized map showing the system status. Impressive if I do say so myself.
Back onto the ramp for an up-close and personal tour of a beautiful Delta MD-88 headed to Atlanta, a CRJ-900 going to…somewhere, and an A319 that had just arrived. Working the ramp is a lot harder than you expect it to be, it's complicated and systematic, with many things happening at the same time. Next we toured the Delta Ramp Tower, where Delta employees monitor and control aircraft on their ramp, dealing with things like delays to gate coordination and flight operations. Again, a great team of people up top and a fantastic view from the roof of the terminal.
Downstairs and into the Delta van for a drive across the airport to visit the Marine Air Terminal, LaGuardia's oldest and possibly most famous feature. This terminal was built in the late 1930s to support Pan American's flying boat operation. Today it is rather quiet, with only Delta Shuttle flying into and out of the terminal. Sad because it was once a beautiful and very important piece of aviation history, now almost empty and forgotten.
I can't explain every detail, but it was an amazing tour. I've always wanted to be on the other side of the jetway or other side of the glass and this was a fantastic opportunity to do that and meet some of the wonderful Delta family. Thank you to Aaron and the Delta employees for making that happen! Later in the day, we headed back into the city to meet up with David Velez at my favorite Italian place for dinner.
Excellent food as always, and a great place for conversation among some very interesting people. After dinner we piled into David's car and drove back to the hotel, where Aaron gave a behind-the-scenes tour of SimAirline.net's daily operations, something even I had never seen and was fascinated by. The work that went into this site is just ridiculous. A big thanks to Aaron and Ali for putting some much effort into making SimAirline.net what it was. Thank you!
The following day, Kyle, Whit, Aaron, and Steve went back into the city and visited the USS Intrepid Museum, which in addition to the aircraft carrier, features numerous military aircraft and spacecraft, a missile submarine, and a British Airways Concorde. Following lunch, the group split up, with some leaving for home and others exploring the city on their own.
A fantastic trip, amazing tour and I hope we can do it again someday. Next year's convention is in Portland so who knows? SimAirline.net Reunion 2011?
More pictures can be found here, credits to myself and Whit Roberts.