This episode of virtual sightseeing takes place on the busy DFW – Chicago O’Hare route. It’s a flight I’ve taken more times than I can count on my many Dallas – India runs in my former life, but believe it or not, this was the first time I had flown this route since the fall of 2011. This virtual tour was stitched together from two separate flights, the inaugural run of the AA Boeing 787 Dreamliner on May 7th in Main Cabin, and my second flight on the Dreamliner, this time in Business Class, on May 16th. Unfortunately, weather conditions were less than cooperative, blocking out the view a good portion of the way both times, but I still did manage to get some good views – and as an added bonus, many with the cool, curved wing of the 787 in the background.
Dallas to Chicago
A low overcast over the DFW area – and for that matter, almost everything southwest of St. Louis on May 7th and all the way to Chicago on May 16th – made for little to see out the window, so most of what you will see is restricted to the immediate Dallas and Chicago areas. Ceilings were down around 1k feet both days leaving Dallas, but on the 7th, first watching the cool, curved wing of the 787 flex up and down as we climbed through the low overcast, then catching a glimpse of strong t-storms to the northeast of the Metroplex, made for a nice start to the morning.
It was tough paying attention to the scenery during the inaugural with the celebratory vibe on-board, but we eventually left the overcast behind over Missouri, and crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois somewhere between St. Louis and Hannibal.
Then, we crossed the Illinois River south of Peoria.
From there, it doesn’t talk long to reach the sprawling western suburbs of Chicago. Here, the exurbs bask in the morning light in the shadow of the Dreamliner’s wing, likely somewhere between Joliet and Aurora.
By far the best sightseeing of either day came shortly thereafter. With a west wind blowing through Chicago both days, flights arriving from the west and southwest enjoyed a fly-by of the enormous O’Hare airfield first, before passing out over Lake Michigan, pulling a U-turn, then landing from the east. Thanks to the perfectly clear morning on the 7th, we were afforded spectacular views of the entire airfield.
That was followed by a view of the North Shore as we pulled out over Lake Michigan. Here, even on the rainy 16th, we were flying low enough to see the ground below, so you can see the contrast between a sunny and rainy North Shore.
And now, the best of all – on the sunny morning, the Chicago skyline under the shadow of that awesome curved wing as we headed west towards the O’Hare runway. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a shot of downtown on my second flight, as I was seated on the wrong side of the plane.
Here, a hazy shot of downtown looking south down the Kennedy Expressway (Interstate 90) – full of rush hour traffic, of course.
And finally, a low fly-by right over the Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) just east of the airport, looking southbound in the sun, and northbound in the rain.
Our taxi to the gate during the Dreamliner inaugural was quiet, though on my Business Class flight a week and a half later, the rain led to a traffic jam in the ramp area, with five planes waiting to make the right turn to Terminal 3.
Chicago to Dallas
The same west winds that made the landing into ORD so exciting for aviation/photography geeks made the flights back to Dallas rather anti-climactic. Taking off to the west means going straight over the western exurbs, then quickly making it to the flat farmland of Central Illinois. Lift-off brought us over the largely industrial area immediately west and southwest of the airport, then down to the Interstate 80/355 junction near Joliet.
On my later set of flights, we passed very close to a thunderstorm over Missouri, somewhere in the vicinity of Columbia. It almost looked like the storm was popping up right underneath the plane’s wing.
On my return flight from the Dreamliner inaugural, we entered Oklahoma a little farther north than usual, and with sunny weather in this area, were treated to a great view of Tulsa, with the Arkansas River winding through the city. Livin’ on Tulsa Time at 35,000 feet, you might say.
Both days, considerable cloudiness over southern Oklahoma and northern Texas largely obscured the view, but as we made our final approach to DFW from the north, I was able to chronicle the rather dramatic increase in the region’s lake levels. On the 7th, we passed near Grapevine Lake, which was finally almost full again for the first time since 2012. But on the 16th, just nine days later, we passed upstream Lewisville Lake just to the north – and now, the lake was in a full-on flood.