Tag Archives: Airplane Geeks

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 Jetwhine.com, 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.

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

20 Feb

It was a busy week, catching all the news from the Singapore Air Show and Heli-Expo.  We also saw President Obama release his FY 2013 budget and FINALLY sign the $63 billion Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill, which keeps the agency funded through 2015. So here’s what else went on.

  1. As American Airlines parent AMR Corp. continues its stay in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, its labor unions, which have a seat at the creditors table, are doing what they can to keep as many jobs as possible, despite the airline’s recent announcement of 13,000 job cuts.  As an alternative to those cuts, two of the carrier’s largest unions — the Transport Workers Union and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants — has said the company should consider offering lump sum buy-outs, reports Aviation Week.  TWU is proposing $75,000, with health insurance and other benefits retained for 9,000 employees facing the chopping blog. APFA is asking for a year’s salary and current health, travel and pension rights for members with more than 15 years’ seniority.
  2. Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog or who follows me on Twitter (@AvQueenBenet) knows that I think allowing cell phones during flight is another circle of hell. Do you hear the chatter that starts as soon as a plane lands? Can you imagine hearing that on a DC-San Francisco flight? One provision under the newly passed FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 is that Congress is requiring the FAA to study the impact of cell phones for voice communications on aircraft where such service is currently permitted by foreign governments, reports Mary Kirby (@APEXMary) in her APEX Editor’s Blog. Here’s hoping that the study will continue to uphold the inflight ban on cell phones.
  3. Back when I was in college in the 1980s, I was always trying to find the cheapest way to fly from D.C. home to San Francisco. My savior was PeoplExpress, also fondly known as People’s Distress. They had $99 fares, you paid to check bags and for food/drinks onboard. You even paid your air fare onboard. It wasn’t a luxury ride, but it got you from point A to point B at a pretty reasonable price.  The airline shut down in February 1987 and it was folded into Continental Airlines. Fast forward 25 years later, and it may be coming back. Some of the folks from the original airline are proposing to bring back the low-cost carrier and headquarter it at Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport in Virginia, reports the Washington Post.  The carrier plans to initially serve destinations in Florida, New England, the Great Lakes, and Mid-Atlantic regions, then expand to other cities, such as Pittsburgh, Providence, West Palm Beach and Newark, where airline consolidation over the past few years has led to a reduction of non-stop air service.
  4. Like most frequent travelers, I’ve been watching with interest as the Transportation Security Administration continues to expand its PreCheck trusted traveler program. I covered the airport security beat for four years, which gave me a front-row seat to the private sector operated registered traveler program.  You can read my post on the APEX Editor’s Blog about how we got from a private RT program to an effort overseen and blessed by TSA.
  5. It’s Black History Month, and I’ve always had a particular fondness for those who were pioneers in the aviation/airline industry.  My brother from another mother — Greg Gross from the I’m Black and I Travel blog — shared the amazing story of Norma Merrick Sklarek, who died this year at the age of 85. Ms. Sklarek’s claim to fame was that she was the first black woman in America to be licensed as an architect. But her place in aviation history was secured as the leader of the team that designed Terminal 1 at LAX, which received the millions of visitors for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.  She also designed the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Not bad for a woman who began her career designing bathrooms for the New York City building department.

I was a busy bee last week, with an APEX Editor’s Blog post about JetBlue’s food choices at its flagship Terminal 5 at JFK Airport, two stories in Aviation International News’ Singapore Air Show publication (on Enterprise Florida and Canada’s Manitoba Department of Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade) and a stint as guest host on episode 185 of the Airplane Geeks podcast. And last — but certainly not least — I got to be a judge, along with Henry Harteveldt and Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder in a 12th anniversary cake contest to celebrate JetBlue’s 12th anniversary, as retold on the carrier’s Blue Tales blog.

Random Aviation Photo

2 Feb

Back on June 20, 2011, my daughter and I were hanging out with the Airplane Geeks out at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport for the annual Become a Pilot Day and aviation display. You can see my posts on the visit here and here.

The good news was that I had my camera and there were literally hundreds of things to photograph.  The bad news is that my batteries died, so I didn’t get as many pictures as I wanted.  But I was able to get a snap of this Boeing 307 Stratoliner “Clipper Flying Cloud.” It carried 33 passengers and could cruise at 20,000 feet.  Enjoy!

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

23 Jan

It was quite a week in aviation, with topics including cracks in the Airbus A380’s wings, a snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest that shut down airports, American Airlines continues moving ahead in Chapter 11 and Memphis-based regional Pinnacle Airlines facing the same.  So I had to fight to decide what made the top 10 this week.

  1. I’ve been steeped in the business aviation side of the business since late 2008.  After Boeing announced it was shutting down its plant in Wichita, the self-proclaimed Air Capital of the World, the New York Times came out with this profile of the city and its history with the Chicago-based company.
  2. At the beginning of my journalism career, I covered topics including education, economic development and employment and training.  So it was with great interest I read a blog post in Aviation Week’s Things With Wings blog: The Art of Attracting Top A&D Jobs.  The post not only discusses what happened with Boeing in Wichita, but covers how other companies are making the balance between capacity and work.
  3. I flew down to Austin on Southwest Airlines last week, and noticed that the carrier has begun its integration with AirTran Airways.  So I read two stories last week with interest.  One, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, discusses how the Dallas-based carrier will dismantle Atlanta as a hub.  The second story, in the Washington Post, covers how the carrier will keep 22 AirTran cities, but drop another 15.
  4. Even before American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, rumors were rampant that the carrier was a merger target for US Airways.  Bloomberg BusinessWeek has a story about how US Airways is working on a plan that would “fix a weak domestic route system at American Airlines and boost revenue.”
  5. Back in 1996, on my first day of work at the Regional Airline Association, I got to sit in on a call where a major airline executive had words with my new boss over a decision not to take sides in the fight over user fees to fund the Federal Aviation Administration.  And now, 16 years later, the fight continues.  The latest shot was fired when the White House responded to a petition asking that a proposed $100 per flight user fee be scrapped, according to a story in AOPA Online (my current employer).

Episode 181 of the Airplane Geeks podcast features my boss Craig Fuller, who discusses user fees, NextGen and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, Calif.  Finally, below is a video of Southwest Airlines installing its new EVOLVE interior in a Boeing 737. Enjoy!

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

5 Dec

It was just another interesting but busy week in aviation, so let’s get right to it.

  1. I don’t think anyone was surprised with American Airlines’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing.   You can read my quick take on that over at the Business Journalism blog.  But every time there’s an airline bankruptcy filing, there’s the inevitable airline merger speculation.  And in my humble opinion, no one did it better last week than Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder with his post — Why I Want US Airways to Buy American.
  2. Regular readers know that my idea of the first circle of hell is travelers being allowed to chat on their cell phones while on a flight.   But I do like to have my electronic toys — iPhone, iPod, iPad, Kindle and DVD player — available while flying.  And I always wonder why we’re told we have to power down our electronic devices at take-off and landing.  But the New York Times’ Bits blog says it’s not clear why we have to do this.
  3. After covering airport security for four years, I still have a strange fascination with all the speculation on what the future is for the Transportation Security Administration in general and the traveling public specifically.  This CNN story takes a look at what security checkpoints might look like in the future.  But this speculation has been going on for quite a while. Check out my Aviation Week blog posts from 2008 on this topic here and here (the program has since been dismantled).
  4. On the business/general aviation side of the house (which is now paying my mortgage), the industry won a major victory on maintaining the privacy of aircraft owners, reports AIN Online.  After Congress restored the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program, the Dept. of Transportation and FAA decided not to move ahead and respond to a lawsuit filed by organizations including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (my employer), the National Business Aviation Association and the Experimental Aircraft Association. For those critical of aircraft owners wanting their tail numbers blocked, I ask you this — would you want the government or anyone with a laptop to be able to track you by your license plate number? I’m just asking…
  5. I’m one of those people who has a germ phobia.  I keep hand sanitizer, baby wipes and a portable can of Lysol in my purse.  And after reading this Budget Traveler article — 6 Places Germs Breed in a Plane — I want to encase myself in a hazmat suit on my next flight.  Hint — I’ll never look at those tray tables the same again!

I also had a few media appearances last week.  I was a guest on the Airplane Geeks podcast, talking about my new job at AOPA (if you join, tell them Aunt Benet sent you!).  And I was also interviewed by the fine folks at National Geographic on the seven most extreme airports (although I’m sorry St. Maartin wasn’t included on the list).

We’ll end the week with two last items.  First, my former Aviation Week colleague Madhu Unnikrishnan had an item about how the Air Transport Association’s name change — to Airlines 4 America — yielded some “interesting” results on a Google search.   And last, the folks over at Taiwan’s NMA.tv have me on their mailing list, and sent this YouTube video on American Air’s Ch. 11 filing.  Enjoy!

Top Five Most Interesting Aviation Stories Of The Week

21 Nov

So I managed to finish my first week on the new job. LOVED it!!  Now, onto the week’s aviation news.

  1. Ted Reed of The Street.com wrote two interesting airline pieces last week.  In the first piece, he writes about how the lack of a deal between American Airlines and its pilots could cause the Dallas-based carrier to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the last of the legacy carriers who have avoided this fate.  In his second piece, Reed notes that Phoenix-based US Airways has two goals for 2012: cut its presence at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and upgrade its aging fleet.
  2. Plans for a supersonic business jet have been floating around for decades.  The latest player to enter the market, U.K.-based HyperMach used last week’s Dubai Air Show to tell Aviation International News that its 20-seat SonicStar will be able to fly at speeds up to Mach 4.0, allowing to fly from New York to Dubai in only 2 hours 20 minutes.
  3. Regular readers know I am  a fan — and student — of all things dealing with first and business class travel, as witnessed by the Facebook group I created: I Love Sitting In 1st/Biz Class (my Dec. 15 blog post about the group is here).  So I’m passing along Jaunted’s review of Delta Air Lines’ Economy Comfort product.  My view? I’d pay extra for the room.
  4. My 6-year-old daughter has become addicted to video Skype.  She loves chatting with her grandparents and her aunt.  So I’m betting she’d love being able to check in for her flight via Skype, which you can now do at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  5. Trust me, I am NOT a regular reader of Perez Hilton.  But I could not resist when I saw his hysterical rant about Spirit Airlines pop up on my Google Alerts.  He rambles on about all the fees charged by Spirit.  You won’t see me flying on that airline — ever — but I admire their business model.  They charge ultra low fares, but charge fees up the ying yang.  Don’t like the fees? Don’t fly the airline.

I’m a bit behind on my Airplane Geeks episodes, but I thoroughly enjoyed Episode 171, which featured former Air Force pilot Mark Jones. He had some great stories about training at Edwards AFB. At one time, my dad was deputy base commander there, and my sister worked on the flight line, so I was reliving all that when Mark was chatting.

And finally, I am a sucker for aviation/airline commercials.  When they come on, I stop and watch in rapt fascination.  Recently I saw one featuring the folks who build GE Aviation engines, where they got the chance to fly to Boeing Field Seattle to see their product hung on the 787 Dreamliner and actually fly on the 747, my favorite plane.  And yes, I got a tear in my eye as they watched the fruits of their labor in total awe.  Enjoy!

Top Five Interesting Aviation Stories – Oct. 24-28

31 Oct

Now up – some interesting stories from last week’s aviation news, for your reading pleasure. And this is my 200th post! W00T!! Enjoy!

  1. Did you guys see Jon Ostrower’s coverage of last week’s ANA launch of Boeing 787 service? If you didn’t, check it out here, on his Flightblogger page.  He covered this event so closely I was surprised he didn’t actually pilot that Tokyo-Hong Kong flight!
  2. I’m breaking a little rule with this story, which came from Germany’s Der Spiegel on Oct. 20, entitled “Lufthansa ‘Can No Longer Be Top Dog Everywhere’.” In a long-ranging interview, Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz, whose airline has been on a buying spree in the past 10 years, says that factors are forcing the carrier to focus more on European operations.
  3. My friend Geoff Fischer has done a fantastic guest post over at Brett Snyder’s Cranky Flier blog entitled “Best. Flight. Ever. First Class on the Cathay Pacific 777-300.”  After reading it (and seeing the pictures), I’m ready to book my flight — NOW!
  4. Jay Evensen, a writer for the editorial board Deseret News, writes about how the Transportation Security Administration’s efforts to scan for guns is lacking in a nation that carries them regularly — even occasionally getting them past airport security checkpoints.
  5. The AirportIMC blog posts about the social media and branding efforts of Akron-Canton Airport to see if the promise — “a better way to go” — matched the actual experience.  Read the post, but writer Sean Broderick says YES!

I’m catching up again with my Airplane Geeks episodes, but I really enjoyed Max Flight’s Episode 169.5, a series of short snippets from the recent 2011 AOPA Aviation Summit.  Take the hour to listen — the time really flies by!

Top Five Interesting Stories – Oct. 17-21

24 Oct

Welcome to what used to be the Friday news roundup.  Even though I was busy finishing my last week on the job, I still managed to find some interesting aviation stories for your reading pleasure.

  1. My first story is one from my former employer, Aviation Week, entitled “Airbus CEO Bemoans Slow Pace of Change.” In the article, London Bureau Chief Robert Wall quotes Airbus CEO Tom Enders: “Somewhere in the last 40 years we learned to save fuel and forgot how to take risks and manage them properly. We forgot how to turn our ideas into reality before they were out of date.”
  2. Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) says that the Transportation Security Administration is one of the agencies he’d eliminate if he won the election, reports The Hill’s Transportation blog.  He also accused the agency of humiliating women, molesting children and abusing disabled people in a radio address this summer, the publication adds.
  3.  I never got to fly on Concorde, but I did get to sit inside one operated by Air France.  I know the ongoing fascination that people have with supersonic flight, so I read this story in Budget Traveler Chicago to Tokyo in Two Hours? — with great interest and some trepidation.  I’ve read stories for years on commercial and business aviation efforts to build Concorde’s successor, and the quest continues, as KLM  announces it is investing in a new technology for supersonic flight, Space Tourism Curacao.
  4. I was chatting with Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder last week as he was driving to speak on a panel about the air travel experience at the annual Airports Council International-North America conference.  We got into a conversation on what airports are doing to keep passengers in their facilities longer, and Brett then did a blog post on what travelers REALLY want from airports.
  5. Capitol Hill was feeling Hollywood when actor, pilot and general aviation advocate Harrison Ford spoke before the Senate General Aviation Caucus on how aviation has enriched his life, reports Politico.

I finally caught up with all my Airplane Geeks podcast episodes, and highly recommend listening to episode 169, with Martin Rottler.  And don’t forget — Random Aviation Photo is now on Thursdays.  Enjoy!

Five Interesting Aviation Stories

14 Oct

Kids, I must confess — I was so busy with this week’s National Business Aviation Association annual conference that I barely had time to keep up with the rest of the industry.  But I did manage to find five interesting stories I’d love to share with you.

  1. Back on July 9, I got to take a day trip up to United Airlines’ Chicago O’Hare hub for a party being held for Tom Stuker, who accumulated 10 million (yes, million) Mileage Plus miles (my AvWeek blog post on that is here).  One of the gifts given to Stuker was a Boeing 787 model. During his remarks at the festivities, United CEO Jeff Smisek said the 787 would be in the fleet by 2012.  He also quipped about how he had been waiting four years for the delayed plane.  And now, my Aviation Week colleague Darren Shannon writes about how another 787 production delay has caused United to cut its 787 delivery schedule from six to five of the type.
  2. Are you one of those people who use websites to manage all of your frequent flyer miles (I’m not one of them)?  if you’re using sites including AwardWallet, MileWise and GoMiles, you may be facing some trouble, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have sent “cease and desist” letters to these companies over their activities.
  3. SmarterTravel’s Ed Perkins gives us the skinny behind the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck trusted traveler program, which is quite similar to the old registered traveler programs (which were privately run).  But he also asks some very good questions about the program, including cost, locations and enrollment.
  4. My friend Sandra Gonzales, a multimedia journalist in New Orleans, shot this piece on how Louis Armstrong International Airport has become one of 8 American approved airports to fly to Cuba.
  5. As you know, the nostalgic aviation geeks had been waiting with bated breath for the new ABC-TV series “Pan Am.”  You can see my review of it in this Sept. 26 post.  Which is why I enjoyed this post from travel expert Peter Greenberg’s thoughts on the real Pan Am.

DC-3 prop in Susan Elliott's Delta social media office Photo by Benet J. Wilson

I’m still catching up on my Airplane Geek podcast episodes.  I just listened to Episode 166, featuring Delta Air Lines social media guru Susan Elliott.  It was a great episode., and you have to love a woman who has a genuine DC-3 prop and a white leather sofa in her work space!!  And I got to guest host Episode 168, with Lori Ranson, he America’s Air Transport Editor at Flightglobal. And don’t forget to read this week’s edition of Strange But True Aviation News!

I have one more week to go at Aviation Week.  And I thank you all for your kind tweets and emails.  But as a result, there will be some changes on my blog.  Mondays will now be my top stories of the previous week.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays will remain the same.  Thursdays are for Random Aviation Photos and Friday will be Strange But True Aviation News.    I hope you’ll continue to support me here!

My Top Five AvGeek Stories Of The Week

7 Oct

First, in case you didn’t hear the news on Twitter, I was laid off from Aviation Week on Tuesday after a great five-year run.  But it’s ALL good in the hood, kids.  I’m grateful for my time there, and am very appreciative with how well I was treated during my tenure.  Really — I got paid to write about my hobby, my passion, for five years.  How many people do you  know who can say the same?

So it’s on to the next aviation geek adventure!  Meanwhile, if you hear of any full-time or part-time jobs, or if you’re looking for a great freelance writer/editor or an aviation consultant, I’m your girl.  Drop me a line in the comments or at benet@aviationqueen.com.  Now, on to the news!

  1. As airlines continue to mull how they are going to handle inflight WiFi, I read with interest this story from my Aviation Week colleague Andy Compart on Delta Air Lines’ new options for passengers.  Under the effort, the airline is offering free access to some partner websites, including shopping and news.
  2. You need to look like you’re doing something, so it was interesting to read about the Chicago aviation summit, where Mayor Rahm Emmanuel met behind closed doors with executives from United, Boeing, AAR Corp., American Airlines and Southwest Airlines.  A spokeswoman for Smisek declined to comment on the discussion beyond characterizing it as “productive,” reported the Chicago Sun-Times.
  3. To me, there’s nothing better than doing an aviation geek behind-the-scenes tour of the world’s great airports.  The LA Times has this great story on what goes on in the underbelly of Los Angeles International Airport (one of the airports I’ve been lucky enough to tour).
  4. I’m a foodie and a keen observer of what airlines are serving on their planes, so it was nice to read this story from Pegasus News on the new food offerings on American Airlines.  The DFW-based carrier has partnered with celebrity chefs Richard Sandoval and Marcus Samuelsson to handle the duties for international and domestic flights, respectively.
  5. Finally, you all know what an airport geek I am.  Which is why I loved this story from the Miami Herald about an airport design website.  The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority – which operates Tampa International Airport – has opened a website asking customers to help redesign the facility’s main terminal.

Meanwhile, the latest issue of “Strange But True Aviation News” includes stories on TSA thievery, refunding a dead man’s tickets and smuggling birds in your pants.  And I’ll be guest hosting next week’s podcast episode of the Airplane Geeks, which is always fun.  So enjoy your weekend, kids! I know I will!!



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