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.