Flying on a United Express EMB-120 from Los Angeles to San Diego

Flying on a United Express EMB-120 from Los Angeles to San Diego

Buzzing (and bouncing) through the skies on a United Express (Skywest) EMB-120 Brazillia is something special indeed. I’ve got a love / hate relationship with these things:

On one hand, they are quite possibly the most uncomfortable commercial airplanes to fly on. On the other hand, the noises these things make are out of this world awesome! They smell pretty bad too (but in a good way).

Los Angeles (LAX) – San Diego (SAN)
Friday, October 10 2014
Aircraft: EMB-120
Seat: 8C (economy)

united embraer 120 Brasilia illustration
United Express EMB-120 N586SW side view illustration by Norebbo

After arriving on a United 787-8 from NRT, it took about 45 minutes to get though customs, immigration, and security. That left us with about two hours to wait for our connecting flight down to SAN, which is a pretty lengthy layover in Terminal 8 at LAX.

It’s not a very exciting terminal by any means, so here’s really not much to do other than wander around or sit and wait. The thought of just renting a car and driving to SAN crossed my mind, but our bags were already checked so all we could do was just sit there and think about how miserable this flight was going to be. Good times.

LAX terminal 8
United Airlines terminal 8 at LAX
LAX terminal 8 gate 81 united express
Gate 81 in terminal 8 at LAX

Boarding was called at gate 81 right on time, and one of the things that I like about boarding UAX flights here is that there are no jetways – a walk out onto the ramp is necessary to board the aircraft.

The aviation geek in me thinks that’s pretty neat, but my wife thought otherwise. What’s not to like about some sunshine, the smell of jet fuel, and the sound of roaring aircraft off in the distance? Different strokes for different folks I guess…

no jetways united express flights at lax
Climbing the stairs to board UA6333

We had seats 8B and C, which were located in the last 1/3 of the aircraft. Boarding seemed to go pretty quickly, and the only entertaining thing worth mentioning was the “important” guy who boarded at the last minute who was yammering quite loudly on his cell phone – annoying enough that the flight attendant told him to end the call (repeatedly).

UAX EMB-120 Brasillia seat 8C
Seat 8C on this United Express EMB-120
United Express EMB-120 seat pitch
Leg room was tight, of course, but surprisingly not much worse than the 787 we just came from
inside the EMB-120
EMB-120 cabin
old and tired emb-120
This aircraft has certainly seen better days – these seat backs look quite well worn!
Overhead panel
Overhead panel

We had a bit of a wait for our turn to depart runway 25R, but at least the scenery was nice:

Air China 777-300 LAX
Air China 777-300 queuing up for 25R
KLM Asia 747-400
KLM Asia 747-400

The view during departure was even better:

terminal 5 at LAX from the air
Overview of LAX terminal 5
terminal 6 at LAX
Overview of LAX terminal 6
LAX international terminal
Impressive line-up at the new Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX
west end of LAX from the air
A pretty good overview of the west end of LAX – you can see that there is still a fair bit of construction happening on the eastern side or the TBIT
runway 25R departure at LAX
Crossing over the beach and out over the Pacific Ocean moments after departing 25R at LAX

Flight time down to San Diego was a short 26 minutes, and both my wife and I spent nearly all of that sleeping. I eventually woke up as we were descending into SAN, but my wife managed to sleep through all the way until the end – even through the rough landing on runway 27.

Upon waking her up during taxiing to the commuter terminal, she was completely shocked that we were already in San Diego. She thought we were still up at LAX! I wish I could sleep that well on planes – especially on one as noisy as this.

approaching SAN from the east
Approaching SAN over the east county
Balboa Park and the 163
Overflying Balboa Park and the 163 freeway
moments before landing in San Diego
Crossing over the 5 freeway and just seconds away from ending our long journey…
arrival into san diego
Home at last!
skywest emb-120 at san diego
One last look at what ended up being my last ever EMB-120 ride: United Express (Skywest) N586SW.

And that concludes this quick flight down from LAX on the EMB-120. Maybe next time I’ll opt for the United Express CRJ-200 instead, but I think maybe I hate that airplane even more. It’s a tough call…

Comments (2)

  1. Andrew

    September 4, 2018
    • SANspotter

      September 5, 2018

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