Archive | March, 2012

Top 10 Things I Enjoyed At My First Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In

30 Mar

Kids: normally I would have posted The ORIGINAL Strange But True Aviation News today, but I have been run ragged working my first Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In, fondly known as spring break for pilots. So instead, I decided to offer up my list — complete with photos — of my highlights from the show. I’ll be at the AOPA tent today until around 3. Please come by and say hell. Enjoy!

The famous AOPA "Plane Crazy" t-shirt

  1. Meeting some of my Twitter followers. B-Rad from Showalter Flying Service brought me my own set of chocks! Now I only need my pilot certificate — and a plane!
  2. Enjoying an ice cream with AOPA President (and my boss) Craig Fuller.
  3. Watching the aerobatic air shows every afternoon.
  4. Using the AOPA Facbook and Twitter (@AOPA) accounts to update members and friends on our activities at the show.
  5. Taking AOPA staffers over for interviews on Sun ‘n Fun radio, hosted by the wonderful Dave Shalbetter.
  6. Trying out pilot headphones at the Pilot Mall next door to the AOPA tent. Although I really want the Bose headphones, they’re a bit too rich for my blood at this point.
  7. Getting people to buy our very popular Sun ‘n Fun “Plane Crazy” t-shirts.  The gentleman in the photo came specifically to buy them after he saw my tweets touting the t-shirts and letting folks know they can only get them at the show.
  8. Watching the AOPA eMedia folks offering demos of our new FlyQ app, which just rocks. It will replace the current AOPA Airports app.
  9. Giving rides to weary attendees in the AOPA golf cart and meeting some great people.
  10. Catching up with my aviation journalist friends.

Showalter Flying Service chocks

Demo of the FlyQ app

AOPA's 'Keep 'em Flying" stickers

AOPA's Ian Twombly, Dave Shalbetter and Girls With Wings' Lynda Meeks on the air at Sun 'n Fun Radio

Random Aviation Photo

29 Mar

Back in May 2009, AirTran Airways made a big announcement — it had installed Gogo inflight Wi-Fi on its entire fleet.  As part of the announcemen, a group of us reporter types were invited on a flight to nowhere to give it a whirl. One of those reporters was NBC’s Tom Costello, who did a live broadcast on the flight for the “Today” show.  Below is my picture of him doing his report. Enjoy!

GUEST POST: The Boeing 787 Dreamliner Is A Revolutionary Airplane – Even If You Do Not See It

28 Mar

By David Parker Brown,

Up close is ANA’s second 787 Dreamliner (JA802A) and in the distance is their first (JA801A) sitting at Narita, Tokyo. Photo by David Parker Brown /

It has been a few months since All Nippon Airways (ANA) put the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner into service and there have been mixed reviews on the aircraft’s experience.

The 787 has been heralded by many (including myself) as being a revolutionary aircraft, but it seems that only some see it as a smaller evolutionary change.

When airlines started to switch from prop aircraft to jets in the late 1950’s, it was quite obvious that the change was a revolution for airlines. Passengers could see, feel, and hear the difference: they were quieter, smoother running, and flew the route faster. How the 787 is different is not as obvious as it was from props to jets, but it doesn’t mean they are any less important.

I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to fly on the 787 Dreamer and I can see where people might not realize how different the aircraft is from current airliners. You walk on the plane and notice some fancy lighting and larger windows, but essentially it’s still just an airplane with windows and seats. And that is where the 787 fools you: the revolution comes from things that most people are not able to see.

All the windows on the 787 Dreamliner can be dimmed by the flight attendants with one button. Photo by David Parker Brown /

In the game of airlines, weight equals money. The more an aircraft weighs, the more it costs to fly it around the world. Most previously built airliners are produced by bolting a bunch of aluminum panels onto a heavy frame, but the 787 is constructed using mostly composite materials, which are much lighter. The savings in weight results in—you guessed it—saving money. And saving money allows them to improve their operation.

Another aspect that will probably go unnoticed is the pressurization of the cabin. Current airlines fly with a pressurization equivalent to breathing at 8,000 feet, while the Dreamliner is 6,000. The improved pressure level has been shown to reduce jetlag, making the flying experience that much better – especially on those long flights. The Dreamliner’s ventilation system also allows there to be more humidity in the cabin than other aircraft there by reducing the dryness that most passengers experience during flight.

In my opinion one of the biggest changes is the 787s ability to fly new, long distance routes that do not make economic sense using current airframes like the Airbus A330 and Boeing 767. Japan Airlines (JAL) has already announced a new route between Boston and Tokyo, ANA has announced using the Dreamliner on new flights between Seattle and San Jose to Tokyo and Continental (before the United merger) announced a flight between Houston and Auckland. These are all new routes that were not economically viable before the 787. As a result airlines will continue to offer more direct flights because of this aircraft. Passengers will not have to experience as many layovers, which can last multiple hours for international flights. The Dreamliner allows airlines to offer more point-to-point flights like never before.

At first glance, one might not realize how different the 787 Dreamliner is from current aircraft, but it will change how airlines fly their passengers and how passengers interact with the flying experience. I have no question that the Dreamliner truly is a revolution in the skies and I cannot wait for more to start flying passengers around the globe.

GUEST POST: What Happened To All Those Great Airline TV Commercials?

26 Mar

By Henry Harteveldt, Chief Research Officer and Co-founder, Atmosphere Research Group

Editor’s note: kids, as my month of fun continues, I am delighted to have the great Henry Harteveldt gracing me with his post on my blog. In his post, he muses about the current state of affairs for airlines and their television advertising. Enjoy!

Let me start by thanking Her Majesty Queen Benet for allowing me to do this guest post. It’s an honor! OK, enough genuflecting. On to the post.

For most people, December 25, Christmas, is a very special day. Not for me — well, not at least this year. For me, my “Christmas” took place on March 25, when the new season of “Mad Men” began on cable network AMC.

The period drama, set in a New York City “Madison Avenue” advertising agency in the 1960s, offers viewers outstanding writing, richly developed characters, and a well-crafted plot — all wrapped up in a fantastic “jet set” package. “Mad Men” is also kind to airline and aviation fans, incorporating American Airlines, Mohawk, Pan Am, and  TWA into various episodes.

The show’s attention to detail is excellent: A scene set in a TWA 707 featured authentic seat covers, cabin sidewalls, and flight attendant uniforms. “Mad Men” is everything that ABC’s short-lived series “Pan Am” sadly was not.

I’ve always loved advertising — well, good advertising — and, no surprise, airline commercials have always been among my favorites. Those commercials heavily influenced my decision to focus my career in marketing.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, airlines aired many memorable TV commercials. Braniff International’s 1965 “end of the plain plane” ad campaign helped redefine not only the look, feel, and style of the airline industry, but advertising itself (I’m surprised that thus far there’s been no reference to Braniff’s advertising in “Mad Men”).

In the 1970s, American, under the leadership of then marketing head Robert Crandall, launched its memorable “Doing What We Do Best” campaign.

No discussion of airline advertising is complete without a reference to United Airlines and its iconic slogan, “Fly The Friendly Skies.” United’s advertising was so powerful that
the slogan became, and remains, a part of our cultural lexicon. This spot looks like it could have been produced by “Mad Men’s” Don Draper himself — except Draper would probably not want to take his wife along.

Great airline advertising wasn’t limited to US carriers. “BOAC Takes Good Care Of You” and “Iberia, Where Only The Plane Gets More Attention Than You” are two memorable
ad campaigns from carriers based outside the US.

Fast forward to today’s digital world. Airlines generally funnel their limited marketing funds into digital media, especially search engines. This is understandable: digital marketing is less expensive to produce, can be created and adjusted quickly, and is highly measurable. Airline marketing teams can track the effectiveness of different messages, prices, creative executions, ad size, page placement, key words, and more.

A few airlines, including American, British Airways, Delta and Southwest, still advertise on TV in the U.S. You’ll generally see their commercials on cable networks and sometimes in their key local markets. Three spots that I think are particularly good are (in alpha order of the carriers):

American Airlines’ commercial touting the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi:

British Airways “To Fly, To Serve” campaign, launched in late 2011 with this tribute to
the airline’s heritage.

Delta Air Lines, whose “Keep Climbing” advertising campaign matches arresting black-and-white video with beautifully written copy, narrated by actor Donald Sutherland.

As an analyst — and as a “marketing guy” — I believe that it’s smart for airlines to advertise on TV. Our research at Atmosphere Research Group shows that just 30 percent of travelers are brand loyal to a travel company. The airline business is similar to the soda business. A stagnant market means that to grow their market share, airlines must basically steal passengers from its competitors.

TV is a tool that airlines can use to help travelers understand their differences and reduce the number of people who think “all airlines are alike.” Fifteen percent of U.S. airline passengers in our research cited commercials as a tool they used when planning a trip. And, of course, thanks to social networks like YouTube, airline commercials can be viewed by a large number of potential customers. JetBlue recognizes this. The JFK-based airline has uploaded 33 videos, including its commercials, to the airline’s official YouTube channel.

TV is also a good way to reach employees outside of work, and help them feel proud about the carrier for which they work. The BA and Delta commercials seem to have
employees in mind as one of the target audiences. Smart.

What do you think? Are there any airline commercials, present or past that you really like? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Note from Aunt Benet: back on Sept. 23, 2011, I did a blog post with my list of “Top 10 Favorite Airline Commercials.” Enjoy!

The ORIGINAL Strange But True Aviation News

23 Mar

How did we go from a 13-hour to 2-day flight, kids? It was bad enough that passengers on a 13-hour United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Shanghai had to divert in Anchorage, Alaska. But what happened next was no picnic either. Three hours into the flight, several lavatories were inoperable; then it took another few hours to hand out food and hotel vouchers, reports Huffington Post. Then the replacement plane also had mechanical issues, but the flight finally took off two days later.  All’s well that ends well!

Don’t you need passengers on your flight? Two hundred passengers on an Air India flight from Jeddah to Delhi found themselves left behind after the carrier’s management decided to move the boarding time up to ensure that the crew’s duty shift did not expire, reports the Hindustan Times. To make matters worse, for those who did make the flight, their bags didn’t because during the rush, ground crews didn’t have time to load them.

Uh, there’s a hole in the engine. Twenty-seven passengers aboard a Boeing 737 operated by Russia’s Transaero decided to deplane before departing from Moscow after seeing what they thought was a hole in the engine, reports the Daily Mail. The airline admitted the engine was missing an inspection panel, but the flight took off as scheduled.

Dude! Show some respect.  It was tragic when an LSG Sky Chefs employee was killed in an accident at DFW Airport. But it was even worse when an Associated Press story quoted an airport official thusly: “But it did cause an interruption in catering services to some flights,” reports the NYC Aviation blog.

Home alone? OK, this story is a bit of a stretch, but I’m including it. Shanpreta Howard and Antowain Johnson are facing child endangerment charges after they flew to Las Vegas for two days, leaving their two children, 12 and 9, home alone, reports the Chicago Tribune.

We’ll end the week with this great New York Times story on Ron Akana, a flight attendant who has been on the job with United for 63 years.  What I wouldn’t give to sit and chat with this guy for a few hours about the evolution of commercial aviation.  Enjoy!!

Random Aviation Photo

22 Mar

I went down to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport last April to do a series of stories about the facility, along with my former employer, Delta Air Lines.  I usually don’t sit in a window seat because I’m a bit claustrophobic, but the flight was pretty open. So I scooted over to the window seat and got this shot of a very long wing, with some of the Delta fleet in the background. Enjoy!

GUEST POST: Blogging for Benet: A Few Ideas From FL290

20 Mar

Editor’s note: kids, as my month of fun continues, my old friend Rob Mark is up next with a great guest post telling me why I need to continue my flight lessons.  Enjoy!

Rob Mark

With so much talk about ladies in aviation, with the recent Women In Aviation convention and my pal Scott Spangler just penned something at Jetwhine about how women might well represent the future in aviation — it seems a fitting time to accept this offer to guest blog. The fact that I’m siting in row 21 in the back of an American MD-80 at FL 290 as I type just makes the whole idea even more fun.

Since Benet has a couple of flying lessons under her belt, I thought it might be valuable to offer up a few opinions about why she should finish her training and earn that private pilot’s license I keep hearing her talk about every time we meet.

And for you cynics out there, my suggestion has nothing to do with the fact that she’s now part of that hard-working AOPA media staff that manages to squeeze so much out of my measly $45 membership every year.

So in this time of women in aviation, I know full well that learning to fly might just offer Benet a few extra points with management and also give her a bit clearer perspective on some of the day-to-day issues that pilots face in the U.S. She could even take her daughter — the Princess of Planes — up for a little aerial adventure from time to time for sure.

Of course I also know from listening to heaven knows how many AOPA folks that almost three-quarters of the people who start flight training never finish. I took a step back and decided nope, that’s not the real reason I suggest she finish up her flight training. Benet Wilson needs to complete her flight training for a more esoteric reason not that those others drivers won’t be useful or fun.

Flying isn’t just about learning how to smoothly move the airplane’s controls or navigate from point A to point B, or successfully manage ATC on the radio. Those are aeronautical tactics.

Flying is about much more. Learning to command an airplane will make my friend think differently … much differently. Benet, you’ll become sure of yourself … OK, in your case perhaps more sure of yourself. Learning to fly teaches pilots stress management skills as they come to terms with the awesome responsibility you hold in your hands as you roll down the runway. It teaches excellent resource management skills as you balance weather with fuel with useful load all wrapped up in a new appreciation for where a budget fits into every pilot’s life.

Best of all, these tactical flying skills always spill over into a pilot’s life on the ground. You’ll become a better strategist, a better communicator. I’ve even heard learning to fly improves your love life … OK, I might have made up that last one.

So Benet, you need to complete your flight training not for the industry … although we’re always happy to welcome another pilot aboard. You need to finish your flight training because the difference the license in your purse will make to the way you view the world is something you just gotta experience.

“Flying alone! Nothing gives such a sense of mastery over time, over mechanism, mastery, indeed over space, time, and life itself, as this.” — Cecil Day Lewis

Love, Rob

Rob Mark publishes, the blog of aviation buzz and bold opinion. He also
co-host the weekly Airplane Geeks radio show. A commercial pilot for “a really long
time,” he’s also CEO of CommAvia, where he and his folks deliver up leading edge media
to the aviation industry.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 141 other followers