Carmageddon: JetBlue passengers, race participants describe experience
As JetBlue's first "Carmageddon Fly-Over" flight touched down in Long Beach on Saturday afternoon to cheers from passengers, those who took the 12-minute ride said it was a memorable event.
"It was what I thought it would be," said 25-year-old Jeff Merski, who flew in from Phoenix for the sole purpose of taking the $4 Flight 405.
The admitted "airplane geek" said he takes various flights around the country just for the sake of flying. He said he logged about 250,000 miles last year alone.
"Several people have told me I'm like George Clooney in 'Up in the Air, '" he said. "I've always just been fascinated by planes. I find flying relaxing."
Merski was set to take the return flight back to Burbank's Bob Hope Airport later Saturday afternoon.
"I get to repeat the experience now," he said.
Alfred Pierfax, 36, of West Palmdale said the flight gave him the chance to explore the city, calling it "awesome."
"I got to see parts of L.A. I’ve never seen before," he said.
Spirits were high on the flight, which took off at 12:39 p.m. and touched down 12 minutes later. As the plane flew over the empty 405 Freeway, an announcer joked, "I think I saw Paris Hilton walking her dog."
Though the mood was jovial, some passengers said the flight and freeway closure also made them think twice about L.A.'s notorious freeway system.
Vanessa Lewis, 38, of Panorama City said she liked Carmageddon because it made traffic fairly free-flowing, and hoped the city would have more non-driving events.
Joe Anthony and Ezra Horne -- who took the flight as part of a race between the JetBlue flight and the cycling group Wolfpack Hustle -- knew almost immediately after the plane landed that the cyclists had them beat. In a cab ride to the lighthouse at Long Beach's Shoreline Aquatic Park, they said that although they had lost the race, the event highlighted how biking and public transportation were more viable options in Los Angeles than one might think.
"You can get anywhere you need to be in Los Angeles by bike," Anthony said. "It's far easier than you can imagine."
Gary Kavanagh, 27, of Santa Monica, also participated in the race Saturday afternoon. He took public transportation — he walked to the North Hollywood Metro station, then took the Red Line to 7th Street downtown, where he hopped on the Blue Line to Long Beach and walked to the lighthouse from the First Street station. The trip took two hours and two minutes, he said.
"It really became a fun way to illustrate the viability of transportation alternatives in L.A.," he said.
The race garnered significant attention on Twitter, where many Angelenos followed live accounts of the event. Race participants said they were pleased with the spotlight.
"People were inspired," said Don "Roadblock" Ward of Los Angeles, who organized the challenge. "It kind of reflects that the car culture is over."
Anthony and Horne summarized the attention best as they finally approached the lighthouse. As swarms of cyclists and reporters closed in, Anthony paused.
"Hold on," he said. "I have to tweet this."
-- Nicole Santa Cruz aboard JetBlue Flight 405 and in Long Beach