Peoria Int’l Airport Flight Schedule & Analysis July 2014

So far, Peoria International Airport (PIA) has had a good year. In fact, if trends continue, it will crack 600,000 passengers for the first time in its history. Increasing passenger volume maintains PIA’s longtime dominance in Central Illinois.

So it is that time of year for another analysis of local airline service. Last year’s analysis is probably gone with the old blog, but I’ll provide an update, by airline, for the past year.

Although service to Bloomington-Normal, Moline and Springfield has cannibalized Peoria traffic from its 2007-2008 peak, the carrier retains a strong presence with a dozen weekly departures to four destinations.

The carrier apparently introduced 177-seat Airbus A-320s to Peoria on a turnaround flight from Phoenix-Mesa on February 17. The type is scheduled here for regular use flying to and from St. Petersburg/Clearwater on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Airbus A-319s, equipped with 156 seats, have been used here off and on since early spring 2013. Most Peoria flights continued to be flown with the venerable MD-80, which has 165 seats.

AMERICAN CONNECTION (Chautauqua Airlines)
AMR Corporation announced September 12, 2012 that it was discontinuing the American Connection branding. All regional flying for American Airlines would use the “American Eagle” branding. Earlier this year, Envoy Airlines dba American Eagle began replacing Chautauqua Airlines dba American Connection flights out of Chicago-O’Hare. Chautauqua remains the only carrier flying under this branding, which is scheduled to end on August 29. Service to Peoria, already reduced to a single daily roundtrip, ends August 14.

AMERICAN EAGLE (Envoy Airlines)
Envoy Airlines, formerly American Eagle Airlines Inc., will be the sole American Airlines regional feeder at Peoria on August 14 after the last Chautauqua Airlines dba American Connection jet departs for Chicago-O’Hare. Currently, Envoy links Peoria with American Airlines hubs at Chicago-O’Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth, offering three weekday roundtrips (fewer on weekends) to each.

Replacement of American Connection flights by Envoy also means more capacity. When all four Chicago-O’Hare roundtrips are operated by the latter from August 14, daily seating will have increased from 176 to 200 in each direction.

After American Eagle announced last year that it would add a second daily Dallas/Ft. Worth nonstop out of Bloomington-Normal’s Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA) starting October 1, 2013, schedules showed Peoria would lose one of its three daily roundtrips at the same time. Those cuts never occurred, so loads must be holding up.

Known as Pinnacle Airlines prior to August 1, 2013, this Minneapolis-based carrier links Peoria with not only former Northwest Airlines hubs at Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul but also has a a daily roundtrip to Atlanta. All local flights use 50-seat Canadair Regional Jets.

DELTA CONNECTION (ExpressJet Airlines)
Since their official merger on December 31, 2011, Atlantic Southeast Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines have been regarded as the world’s largest regional. The Skywest Airlines subsidiary is based in College Park, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb. It links Peoria with Delta Air Lines’ Atlanta and Detroit hubs, the latter fairly recently. All flights are operated with 50-seat Canadair Regional Jets.

UNITED EXPRESS (ExpressJet Airlines)
Although it is a major regional partner of Delta Air Lines, ExpressJet also provides feed for United Airlines hubs. The carrier operates the first “turnaround” from Chicago-O’Hare to Peoria and a single daily Denver roundtrip with 50-seat Embraer 145s.

UNITED EXPRESS (SkyWest Airlines)
The third arrival of the day from Chicago-O’Hare is operated by one of this carrier’s 50-seat Canadair Regional Jets.

UNITED EXPRESS (Trans States Airlines)
The other two Peoria – Chicago-O’Hare roundtrips are operated by this carrier’s 50-seat Embraer 145s.

Peoria Int’l Airport is blessed with good airline service to six major airline hubs (Atlanta, Chicago-O’Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul) and four leisure destinations (Las Vegas, Phoenix-Mesa, Punta Gorda and St. Petersburg/Clearwater) on four independent carriers with between 19 and 22 daily departures.

Schedules shown below are effective July 12, 2014. See route map below (click to enlarge).

PIA Schedules July 2014 P. 1PIA Schedules July 2014 P. 2

PIA Routes July 2012

– David P. Jordan

Passenger Trains I’ve Ridden, Part VIII – Nebraska Zephyr

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Normally, I wouldn’t count museum train rides, but this one deserves mention for the fact that it involves a ride on a well-preserved pre-World War Two streamliner!

On September 19, 2009 I had the opportunity to ride the Illinois Railway Museum’s Nebraska Zephyr, made up of the only surviving E5 locomotive, and five lightweight passenger cars. Consist was as follows:

CB&Q 9911A EMD E-5A, Silver Pilot
CB&Q 960, Power Car/Coach Venus
CB&Q 4626, Coach Vesta
CB&Q 4627, Coach Minerva
CB&Q 150, Diner Ceres
CB&Q 225, Observation Juno

The above photo, and those below were taken the day of my 2009 ride. Click for larger view.

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CB&Q 9911A was built in February 1940 and last used by CB&Q subsidiaries Fort Worth & Denver Railway and Colorado & Southern Railway on their Texas Zephyr between Dallas and Denver. The Texas Zephyr made its final run on September 11, 1967 after losing its mail contract.

The five passenger cars still in existence today were built in 1936 for service between Chicago and Minneapolis on the Twin Cities Zephyr. New equipment that arrived in 1947 bumped the 1936 cars to a new train, the Nebraska Zephyr, between Chicago and Lincoln, Nebraska, on which they continued to run until early 1968. The trainset was donated to the Illinois Railway Museum later that year.

Although I’ve only ridden this train on museum grounds, I’ve seen it several times on display at the Amtrak depot during several Galesburg Railroad Days weekends in the 1990s and early 2000s, and out on the mainline in 2011 and 2012. See videos below.

At Moline (eastbound) and Annawan (westbound) on the Iowa Interstate Railroad for Train Festival on July 24, 2011

On Chicago-Galesburg-Quincy-Galesburg-Chicago excursion, Sept. 22, 2012

– David P. Jordan

Passenger Trains I’ve Ridden, Part VII – Amtrak Ride No. 3

Recently, I searched my picture files and discovered I had no images of the train during my third Amtrak ride on May 9, 2009! I guess I wasn’t able to get in a good position for photos. I had my parents with me, so perhaps I wanted to make sure we didn’t separate. It was their first Amtrak ride.

The occasion was National Train Day, held at Chicago’s Union Station. I did take shots of some of the equipment on display, but not the train I rode in or out. One thing for sure, the train is the best way to get into and out of the downtown area of our nation’s third-largest city.

– David P. Jordan

Passenger Trains I’ve Ridden, Part VI – Norfolk Southern OLS

This trip offered a chance to ride a line that has been freight-only for a long time, probably since predecessor Wabash Railway’s Decatur-Hannibal (MO) local train was dropped in late 1949. A short segment of our journey, however, overlapped the route of Amtrak’s Illini, which ran to Decatur from July 1981 to July 1983.

On June 18, 2008 two friends and I boarded a Norfolk Southern Operational Lifesaver Special just east of WABIC Jct. in Decatur, Illinois for a trip to Chapin (just west of Jacksonville) and return. Other invited guests rode only between Springfield and Chapin.

The train’s consist included NS 5826 (east) and NS 4640 (west) for power and passenger cars NS 28 and NS 29, both named Powhattan Arrow after Norfolk & Western’s famed Norfolk, Va.-Cincinnati, Oh. streamliner that ran from 1946 to 1969. This trip marked my first visit to Jacksonville, Illinois, so arriving by passenger train on a freight-only line was quite a treat!

I seem to recall that Mississippi River flooding had forced Norfolk Southern to close its bridge at Hannibal, so the line was devoid of all but local trains. The first two photos below show the train stopped at Norfolk Southern’s Springfield (Shops) Yard, looking south then north, respectively. The bottom one shows the train after arrival back at Decatur.

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– David P. Jordan

Passenger Trains I’ve Ridden, Part V – Second Amtrak Trip!

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Amtrak’s Lincoln Service train No. 300 arrives Normal, Ill. on August 18, 2007

My friend, his girlfriend (or fiance, now wife) and I repeated the 2005 trip on August 18, 2007. By this time, Amtrak had added two more Chicago-St. Louis roundtrips and created the Lincoln Service corridor.

We boarded the first Chicago-bound train of the day, No. 300. One noticeable difference from the 2005 trip was the elimination of semaphore signals at Brighton Park Junction with an automatic interlocking. This change, which took place only six weeks earlier on July 6, eliminated the mandated stop and 10mph speed restriction through the CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern diamonds (which were also replaced). This work was the first of many CREATE projects designed to improve efficiency of freight and passenger movement through the city of Chicago.

I didn’t take many photos on this trip, but the routine was the same. The only anomaly was that we got confused walking the wrong street to Millenium Station after leaving the CTA subway at Washington Street, thus delaying our trip on METRA Electric to 55th/56th/57th Street. Fortunately, additional Amtrak service gave us more time at the Chicago Museum of Industry and a later departure time back to Normal.

– David P. Jordan

Peoria Int’l Airport Air Cargo Action 2014!

It is that time of year again.

June means early sunrises, so naturally, I attempt to bag both large cargo planes that stop or arrive here in the early morning hours.

I’ve now done this three years in a row. FedEx Express’ decision to move its cargo operation from Peoria to Bloomington-Normal sometime in the near future assigns greater importance to this year’s attempt.

Unlike the prior two years, I satisfactorily bagged both FedEx and UPS aircraft on the first attempt. In fact, I got both planes in the same shot! Third times the charm proves true. The FedEx 757-200C arrived at 5:15 and the UPS A300-600F departed at 5:18.

Actually, I did make an attempt last Thursday morning, but fog was so thick, I couldn’t tell of the FedEx jet had even arrived. So I gave up without actually getting any video or photos.

FedEx’s decision to move is sad, so I can only hope that PIA officials can find a way to fill the gap, such as attracting intercontinental charter cargo flights.

– David P. Jordan

Passenger Trains I’ve Ridden, Part IV – My First Ride On Amtrak

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Amtrak’s northbound State House arrives Normal, Illinois on April 11, 2005

The first of my four Amtrak rides occured less than a decade ago.

A friend, his father and I took a trip to the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry on April 11, 2005. I believe the catalyst for our trip was my friend’s birthday, which was two days later. This being a Monday, we thankfully avoided congested Chicago freeways and streets by taking the train as close as we could get, then walking the rest of the way.

You read that right. We took Amtrak from Normal to Chicago’s Union Station, walked to the Chicago Transit Authority’s Clinton Street Subway Station from which we rode to Washington Street then walked a block north to Randolph Street then east to Millenium Station. From there, we rode METRA Electric to the 55th/56th/57th Street Station, the closest stop to the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry.

We returned home using the reverse route. It was a fun trip, but I ended up with a headache as I wasn’t used to riding the rails and walking through the streets of downtown Chicago for such long periods of time. But the trip was worth it, as I experienced three different passenger carriers – Amtrak, CTA subway and METRA – for the first time in a single day!

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At Union Station, shortly after detraining

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I shot this at 55th/56th/57th Street while waiting for our METRA Electric train to stop and take us back to Millennium Station

– David P. Jordan

BNSF “Peoria Local” On Friday The 13th! (Expanded)

As long as I can remember, Friday the 13th has been a good day for me. Instead of bad “luck”,” I have good “luck,” i. e., such as an encounter with a freight train that I’ve either not seen for awhile, or something I wanted to see but did not expect to actually happen.

Several times this year, I’ve caught BNSF’s Peoria Local, but only the eastbound leg. That’s because the westbound trip usually takes place at night, or the following day when I’m working.

But on Friday, June 13, I was in the right place at the right time. BNSF “Peoria Local” (officially L-CHI1071) departed the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad’s East Peoria Yard about 6:30 in the evening with plans to meet an eastbound (coal or grain, I’m not sure) at Edwards.

I missed the train’s departure but went ahead of it to the W. Farmington Road crossing and waited. A short time later, BNSF B40-8s 559 and 509 passed with its 44-car train.

The train was interesting for the fact that it had 29 empty nitrogen tank cars. Nitrogen fertilizer solution moves on seasonal basis, and most of it arrives Peoria on BNSF’s eastbound local for interchange to the Toledo Peoria & Western. CHS’s Crescent City Fertilizer Terminal, Gavilon’s Kentland facility and connection Winamac Southern Railway are regular recipients.

Traffic on Friday’s westbound included a steepwater and feed load from Aventine Renewable Energy and three Caterpillar tractors (two D9T’s and a D7E). Bringing up the rear were four soy product loads from Incobrasa Industries’ Gilman plant (also from TP&W).

UPDATE 6-15-14: I was in Galesburg Sunday evening, waiting in vain for BNSF’s new “Transcold Express” train from California. Trip was worth it though, in part because on the tail end of what I believe to be train H-GALTUL (High Priority Manifest, GALesburg IL to TULsa OK) were 31 cars that had come off Friday evening’s Peoria Local! See below.

– David P. Jordan

Passenger Trains I’ve Ridden, Part III – Riding The Union Pacific (on METRA Equipment)


Rochelle, Illinois, population just under 10,000, entered the big leagues when the Union Pacific Railroad opened its $181 million, 1,250-acre Global III Intermodal Terminal on August 27, 2003. This event coincided with Rochelle’s sesquicentennial celebrations three days later.

Like BNSF’s Chillicothe Subdivision, UP’s Geneva Subdivision is a busy mainline. In fact, it may be busier. A regular parade of mainly intermodal, mixed freight and coal trains can number 70 movements per day.

Union Pacific used a nine-car METRA trainset for two roundtrips from Rochelle west to Sterling for the sesquicentennial celebration. I wouldn’t have had a chance to ride it had I not served as a car host on both trips. I also only managed to snap one photo, one of the last I took with my old 35MM camera (I’d purchased my first digital camera a month earlier).

Regular, intercity passenger trains haven’t used the the UP line through Rochelle since the remnant of the Chicago & North Western’s Kate Shelley 400 made its final roundtrip between Chicago and Clinton, Iowa on April 30, 1971. So this was my one chance to ride the line, and I’m glad I did.

– David P. Jordan