A one-day adventure to MSP via MDW on American Trans Air

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Right after I returned from Florida, I had come to the conclusion that my little Nikon CP880 was no longer sufficient for my aviation photography needs. I am in desperate need of something with a longer focal length, but funds are really tight. Keep in mind that even though DSLR’s are becoming popular at right now, they were still too costly for me, especially since I would have to buy a nice lens to go with it.

Long story short, I ended up purchasing a new Sony F707. The reviews looked really good, and most importantly, it fit within my very tight budget. I am a bit ticked off about the high price of Sony memory sticks though, but whatever – I am just happy to have a camera with some decent range on it.

So there I was: it was Friday afternoon on January 18th, I had a new camera in hand, and the O’Hare weather forecast for Saturday was abysmal. I desperately wanted to try out my new Sony F707, and I was giving serious thought to making the drive to ORD anyway (no matter what the conditions were). But on a whim, I checked the Saturday weather forecasts for some big airports in the region that I knew wouldn’t be very expensive to fly to. ATL wasn’t looking very promising. DTW, PHL, and PIT weren’t any better. MSP was looking pretty good though – as a matter of fact, really good. A quick search of the ATA website presented me reasonable prices for an out and back day trip connecting through MDW, so that was that. I booked the tickets and was looking forward to seeing what the F707 was capable of.

The flights over to MSP the next morning were uneventful, though I did get a nice shot of our flyover of ORD shortly after our departure from MDW:

Window View of MDW

Upon hitting the ground at MSP, I wasted no time in hauling my rear end over to the observation deck to catch some of the action on the ramp. Right away, I was pretty much blown away by the zoom that camera was capable of. I’m talking about a mind-blowing experience here, as I had never had a camera with a decent zoom lens before! I knew that this camera would take my aviation photography to the next level and I was very excited about that.

I spent the rest of the day just wandering around the terminals at MSP getting pictures of whatever I could. The clouds rolled in shortly after I arrived, but I was very thankful to see the sun in the afternoon. Those clear skies and low winter sun angles provided me with loads of opportunities for some great shots. I even managed to get some nicely lit pictures of a Northwest 727 – which ended up being the highlight of the trip.

Northwest Airlines 727-200

Northwest Airlines A319

Northwest Airlines A319

Northwest Airlines DC-9-32

Northwest Airlines DC-9-31

Northwest Airlines DC-9-31

United Airlines 737-300

Overall, it was a really great photography session. The camera performed flawlessly on it’s maiden voyage, though I did quickly come to realize that the colors don’t seem to be as accurate as they were on my trusty ‘ol Nikon CP880. But the higher megapixel count, cleaner images (less noise), and great zoom range give me confidence that I made the right choice of an upgrade.

By the way – on the way back home through MDW, I was able to snag two really great shots of some American Trans Air 757-200’s. Note that yes, these were indeed shot from inside the terminal building – the old terminal is ground level with lots of windows so these kinds of shots are definitely possible. Here are the shots:

American Trans Air 757-200

American Trans Air 757-200 25th Anniversary Colors