Monday, February 11, 2013

What Is Your Favorite Airplane?



TPE Last Day 025Of all the airplanes I have flown on, the Boeing 747-400 is still “The King Of The Sky” in my opinion.

Being on one reminds me of the “Glory Days” of flying. A time when being on one meant you were going to some distant exotic place and going there in style.




I have not been fortunate to fly on the Airbus A380 but I have heard from others that it is nothing special in the air. For sure, its looks cannot compare to the sleek distinctive design of a 747-400.

The A380 engineers should have been beaten with an ugly stick and sent back to school.



TPE Last Day 021Upper Deck 747-400



For the romance of flying, give me a propeller driven airplane any day. Preferably one with an engine that drips oil, smokes and maybe has to be hand cranked to be started. Even better if the pilots and passengers have to wear leather helmets and goggles.



Skywest EMB-120Short of that, a EMB-120, DC-3, Beech-1900, Dash-8 or Q-400 cannot be beat.

The characteristic hum of those engines put me to sleep every time.

For the fun of flying, don't pass up a chance to see the world upside down in an RV-6.





2011-11-25 16.39.51Although off limits to most, an F-18, MIG-22 or any modern day military fighter jet would be the pinnacle of experiencing the miracle of flight.









Monday, June 4, 2012

Touring An Airplane Graveyard


Having spent most of my life in and around aviation, I have been given opportunities to see and do things that others are not so fortunate to experience.

Headed west, I get a chance to visit what I consider an “Airplane Graveyard”. Just outside of Tucson, Arizona, I have a bittersweet afternoon as I am given a tour of the final resting place for many of the machines that have allowed many of us to see the world and enjoy air travel.

Parked in the Arizona desert are all types of airplanes from numerous airlines around the world. Many of them are from what I consider the glory days of aviation and air travel. A time when you got a hot meal in coach and did not have to pay extra fees for bags.

A time when air travel in general was more fun than it is today.



photo (4)

Trans World Airlines – TWA 747



Untitled 0 00 09-25From a TWA 747, a Continental DC9 to a field of old Northwest airplanes waiting to be made into beer cans, it's a kind of sad reality but an interesting tour.







Untitled 0 00 05-02Old Northwest DC9 Airplanes










Untitled 0 00 00-01I even get to see close up the world's only 747 water tanker.


My fondest aviation memory comes alive when we stop to see a fleet of once the world’s oldest airline. As a kid growing up in Nassau, Bahamas, it was always very cool and thrilling to watch a Chalk’s Airline seaplane make an approach and water landing just past our downtown.


064For me, it was fascinating that an airplane could land on water and then make it's way onto Paradise Island, now home of Atlantis.







Soon, I drift back from the warmth and beauty of the islands to the heat and dryness of the Arizona desert. I am reminded that earlier I also had a another nice childhood memory flashback here.


Untitled 0 00 05-23Does anyone have the phone number for the ACME Company?

Beep.. beep!



An Arizona Road Runner




Sunday, January 9, 2011

Southwest Airlines And DOT On Time Statistics



SWA At Gate For years, many have believed that Southwest has "padded" their on time arrival and departure data.

Regardless of what SWA or any other airline might do, the DOT on-time stats is a BIG JOKE!




The DOT tracks airline's on time performance based on the information the airlines provide them. Most airlines use an automatic reporting system. Southwest for years has used a manual system. A manual system allows an airline to tell the DOT what time a particular flight departed or arrived.

To my knowledge this is done without independent verification. So, what time did the 10:30am departure leave? Of course at 10:30am!


Samsung 208 Many years ago, Gordon Bethune Continental’s CEO complained about this practice of Southwest but his complaints were ignored.

Continental staff actually watched Southwest airplanes arrive and depart then compared their actual times to reported times.

Guess what? Southwest was providing false times! No surprise.



In the end, the stats are meaningless and can be easy manipulated. Airlines publish their own schedule flight times. If you want a flight to always be "on time" then you pad the scheduled times. LGA (New York) - MIA (Miami) Dep 10am Arr 2pm. This gives you 4hrs to fly the route which actually only take about 2 and a half hours under normal circumstances.

This practice is evident in the winter when airlines "pad" their schedule because of the possibility of bad weather. On a nice day in the middle of winter out of LGA if you leave the gate on time you will always arrive at your destination "on time" maybe even 20-30 minutes early.



NWA And SWA ABQ Southwest itself is a decent airline that has carved out a nice niche in the travel business. In the end, most people travel on the airline that provides them the cheapest airfare on a given day.

Even if your bags fly free, that may not always be on Southwest.





Friday, January 7, 2011

Da Plane, Da Plane, De-Ice, De-Ice, Delay



Winter Weather Radar Winter months with the constant threat of snow and ice is the time of the year when weather can greatly affect your travel plans.

However, understanding a bit of airline winter operations may help you have a better travel experience.




When there is snow or ice at your departure or arrival airport, airlines, airports and air traffic control normally put “winter ops” into effect. For airlines this means having an effective de-icing program, for airports it’s snow plowing airport surfaces and for air traffic control it means “metering”, take-off and landing timed slots (delays).



SAM 002 For an airplane to safely fly, accumulated snow and ice on the airplane's critical surfaces like the wings and tail section must be removed.

These elements disrupt the smooth flow of air across the wings and tail which seriously degrade these surfaces ability to produce lift.

Producing lift is essential for the airplane to fly.







SAM0106 001 Southwest Airlines Being Deiced At Cleveland Hopkins Airport




Deicing is usually a two step process and passengers are informed by the flight crew when this is required. The fact that it is snowing does not mean that the airplane needs to be deiced. Deicing is only necessary if the snow is sticking (accumulating) on the critical surfaces of the airplane. The airplane must just be free and clear of snow and ice prior to take-off.



SAM 001 Snow or ice on the aircraft is first removed with a warm glycol type solution (de-iced) before a preventive solution (anti-ice) is applied if it is warranted by weather conditions.

A 10-20 minute process that depends on the current airplane and weather conditions.

Nonetheless, there are time and weather limits to safety protection given by de-icing.



Should the weather conditions change or if there are lengthy delays for take-off, your flight may have to be deiced a second time.


Fortunately, airlines build extra time into their winter schedules to allow for such events. This should lead to minimum delays for your flight. However, due to the new passenger bill of rights, airlines may cancel flights if delays will exceed the new rules time limits.



SAM 003Continental Airlines 737 That Needs Deicing




SAM 004 One minor effect of ground de-icing is that the fluid is sometimes sucked into the aircraft air condition system.

This can be noticed in the form of a sweet odor during initial taxi out or departure.

However, this odor will dissipate en route to your destination.




Once in the air, the airplane's on board anti-ice system (normally hot air from the engines) keeps critical areas free of snow and ice.

Deicing and winter ops are just part of the process that allows airlines to safely take you to your destination when Mother Nature wants to wreak havoc on your travel plans.



Saturday, November 27, 2010

American To Buenos Aires, Nothing Special In The Air



My trip to Antarctica begins with a flight on American Airlines from Miami, Florida to Buenos Aires, Argentina. This evening’s flight is on a Boeing made 777 which is an awesome airplane. It is an approximately 9 hour flight to Buenos Aires where there is a 2 hour time change from Miami.

Tonight's flight is not full and I end up in a middle section aisle seat just behind the airplane wing area. This airplane has a 2,5,2 seating in coach. There is only one other passenger in my 5 seat row and he makes a quick claim to three of the seats.

He generously leaves me with a solo pillow and blanket. I find it a bit comical as he sets up a bed even before we leave the gate.



SAM 035 It is a bit surprising that there is not much leg room on such a huge airplane like the 777 which is used primarily for international flights.

Fortunate for me, I am sitting behind two young kids that are not yet familiar with the seat recline button.

Besides they are to busy playing games on their seat back video display.



I don't think I can spend almost 9 hours with my knees touching the back of the seat in front of me. I am going to have to find a way to make a “mini-me” bed with the remaining free seat next to me. Luckily, I have taken a shower in the last few days and I am wearing a new pair of socks. My “mini-me” bed ends up with my feet just inches away from the head of my seat row neighbor.


SAM 033I wake up and we are about two hours from touching down in Buenos Aires.

Having by passed dinner, I am looking forward to breakfast. A croissant, jelly, yogurt, a miniature Minute Made orange juice and luke warm tea makes me wish I had stayed awake for dinner.




Ironically, my breakfast disappointment is soothed as I pop in my Sony ear buds and enjoy a nice selection of on board jazz music provided by “American Airlines After Dark”.

Our arrival in to Buenos Aires (EZE) is slightly delayed as there is an unusually high amount of arrivals into the airport. Apparently, the downtown domestic airport (AEP) is closed for construction and all flight operations are temporarily at EZE. This temporary situation means that we have to deplane using air stairs.



SAM 040American Airlines 777 First Class Seating



Passing through Business and First Class as I leave the airplane, I realize where the “Something Special In The Air” was on this flight. Here there are seats with enough leg room for the tallest NBA player that can also be turned into beds.

Unfortunately, I think that “Something Special” requires an NBA player type bankroll, I am just not there yet.



SAM 042 Air Stair Deplaning, Buenos Aires









SAM 041 American Airlines 777




SAM 044 Overall, American did a good job getting us to Buenos Aires, a mostly smooth and on time flight.

I was hoping for “Something Special In The Air” but I guess that’s not going to happen on American unless one can afford to fly Business or First Class.




Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Exposing Some Of “The 35 Secrets Your Pilot Won't Tell You” About Landing



landing It has often been said in aviation circles that a landing is nothing more than a controlled crash and to a certain extent that is true.

Although passengers might disagree, most pilots consider a good landing one that does not require any paperwork to be filled out.




Picture 029 Now a great landing that is a horse of a different color. It is one where passengers are hardly aware that the airplane is on the ground.








Picture 044Landing at Princess Juliana International Airport, St Maarten



A smooth (great landing) can happen at any airport with the right conditions and piloting skills despite the following secret your pilot won't tell you. 

“At some airports with really short runways, you’re not going to have a smooth landing no matter how good we are: John Wayne Airport; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Chicago Midway; and Reagan National.”

Although these airports can present pilots with some unique challenges I have experienced some smooth and not so smooth landings at most of them.


VSI There are several factors that go into a smooth landing but the basic concept is that the aircraft must have a near zero rate of descent when it contacts the runway.

This is the goal of every pilot if he or she wants to make a smooth landing. With a shorter runway there is not much room (landing area) for finesse therefore the flight path to the touchdown area  must be adjusted accordingly.





Picture 1571 Weather conditions like wind, rain or snow can affect a pilot's ability to make this happen as the airplane transitions from a descent to a landing.

Experience and skills allow some pilots to compensate for these conditions better than others. However, I am sure even the likes of Chuck Yeager has had a few notable landings every now and then.






Emirates Air Landing Emirates Air Landing


How can you tell the smoothness of a landing if you are not a passenger?

Just watch for the amount of smoke produced when the main wheels touch down. If your eyes start burning then you can bet a few passengers on board are going to need to see a chiropractor.



catch2 However, you can rest assured it was not the airplane or certainly not the pilot's fault, it was the asp-fault!






Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Revealing “The Secrets Your Pilots Won't Tell You” About Airline Fueling.


Despite recent articles in popular magazines like Reader’s Digest, there are no “35 Secrets Your Pilot Won't Tell You” that should change the way you fly or prevent you from having a pleasant airline experience. Sensationalizing the issues for the sake of selling more magazines is a general disservice to the flying public.


Baby Me Since the 1980's I have been involved in aviation and my experience tells me that understanding the so called “secrets” and being a more realistic and informed passenger is what can still make flying fun.








pitts My First Airplane




Capt Kang A captain at a major airline is quoted as saying, “I'm constantly under pressure to carry less fuel than I'm comfortable with”.

In my opinion this is pure Jerry Springer 101, stupid sensationalism. Watch out seat belts are going to start flying!





The amount of fuel an airline is required to carry is determined by longstanding Federal (FAA) laws and regulations. At minimum, for a domestic flight a commercial aircraft must have enough fuel to fly to it's original destination plus to an alternate airport (if required because of known or forecast poor weather at the original destination) and then for an additional 45 minutes of flying. For international flights airlines are required to carry more fuel compared to a domestic flight.



Ac Fueling In addition to the minimum legal fuel requirement airlines carry more fuel based on weather and historical known delays (air traffic control, airport construction, etc). This is known as contingency fuel.

The final amount of fuel that is carried is agreed upon by the flight dispatcher and the flight captain.

However, this is not a simple process. Every airplane has weight limitations for fuel, passengers and cargo. On a given flight if you fill up the airplane with fuel then you can limit passengers and cargo.





Delta 747-400 can carry 382,000 pounds of fuel!


Airlines work to optimize this combination sometimes using complex computations and historical data. Carrying more fuel than necessary is an additional expense. A heavy airplane burns more fuel whether the extra weight comes from passengers, fuel or cargo. Unfortunately, only passengers and cargo pay to be on the airplane. With thousands of flight operating daily this combined cost can be significant maybe tens of thousands of dollars per day. Yes, it does affect the bottom line but airlines are in business to make money and the bottom line matters like in any other business.



peter_graves--300x300 The important issue here is I would not want to be on an airplane operated by a captain that felt “uncomfortable” before we even left the gate or one that picked a bad day to quit sniffing glue.

As a passenger, I trust the airline and it's employees to put my safety first.

The captain of my flight is the last line of defense for this to happen and he or she should not be “uncomfortable” in doing so.




The real secret here is not the amount of fuel put on the airplane but a captain that operates in a situation that he is uncomfortable with. FAA rules, company policy, common sense and safety demands that no crew member should voluntarily operate a flight in an uncomfortable situation.



Continental 777 Theses rules, policies and contractual responsibilities protect employees from being pressured into doing something that can eventual be unsafe.

The captain has final authority to operate the flight and should not do so if he or she is pressured or uncomfortable. Passengers deserve better.