What a day yesterday turned out to be! We left Atlanta on schedule with 145 passengers and one infant bound for Las Vegas. The take off time was 10:10 P.M. local and the weather was OK. We were assigned one of our older A320 models; she's a good old bird and I have flown her a lot in the past. She has the low thrust engines which came as original equipment. I gently eased back on the stick (yes, the A320 has a stick ) and she lifted into the atmosphere. I have noticed that the young co-pilots always complain about the old birds; my young German was no exception. Well, I guess they are in a hurry. Not me; these grand old ladies have hauled countless passengers through the worst weather and new co-pilot landings and never complained. I let her level off at 28,000 feet and burn off fuel weight before we climbed further. Eventually we leveled at 35,000 feet enroute to Las Vegas. The headwinds were light and the turbulence light. Passing south of Dallas-Ft.Worth we were witness to a fantastic light show generated by a level 6 thunderstorm. It was a big momma! Later, south of Lubbock, we listened to another airline crew talking to air traffic control about the huge thunderstorm over the Lubbock airport ( heavy rainfall and 60 m.p.h. winds with blowing dirt ). They were in a holding pattern south of the airport at 16,000 feet considering their options, i.e., looking at their fuel situation very carefully. It was such a relief to be flying past and only listening, instead of being in their shoes. One and a half hours later we landed at Las Vegas on time. The passengers were very happy leaving the airplane. I was giggling to myself; wait until you go home next week broke.
What! More flying? Oh yes, on to Minneapolis for we pilots. Only enough time for a quick Taco Bell stop; then, to the gate. I met my new flight attendants, all of whom I have flown with on previous occasions. Our bird was a new A319 with the new high thrust engines. Oh boy, these are great airplanes. We loaded up 124 passengers and left at 1:30 A.M. local time for Minneapolis. My German co-pilot was the flying pilot; I, the radio man and paperwork guy.
We roared into the dark night at 1:38 A.M. These new airplanes will climb like homesick angels and a few minutes later we were level at 37,000 feet. The Milky Way was directly overhead, bright and lovely. The Seven Sisters were about twenty degrees above the eastern horizon. An hour later Venus rose in the east; then Taurus; finally Orion the Hunter came into view with the first hints of twilight. We were running with the night winds.
As the sun cracked the horizon we were making a high energy descent into the twin cities area. The visibility was good as the co-pilot gently touched the main gear down at 6:12 A.M. local time. Needless to say, both of us were very tired. Continued later....