Tag Archives: FlightGlobal

Rolling Aviation Thoughts

18 Apr
  • Have you seen the April issue of Airline Passenger Experience magazine?  Editor Mary Kirby has been hitting it out of the park with great content, with stories on the science of aircraft boarding, the fun of onboard retail therapy and the ongoing debate on paid versus free WiFi.  Full disclosure — I have a ball writing a regular column for the magazine (this month, I review the food offerings in JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK Airport).
  • Former FlightGlobal reporter Jon Ostrower hit the ground running in his new gig as the aerospace beat reporter for the Wall Street Journal a day early, writing about how tornadoes in Wichita affected aircraft and aerospace manufacturers.
  • My flight instructor, Alyssa Miller, has a great job.  She spent this week writing for the AOPA Pilot Blog about a major photo shoot of the timed departure of 20 B-25 World War II bombers.
  • Was everyone else geeking out over the last “flight” of the space orbiter Discovery as it made its way to the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space museum yesterday?  I saw a lot of great photos, but the one shot by Steve Trimble of FlightGlobal (from his office in Old Town Alexandria, Va.) was by far the best I saw.
  • I know we all have to get paid, but one has to question the timing of Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines.  Weeks before the carrier filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection on April 2, its board gave two top executives healthy pay raises even as it was asking for employee paycuts, reports USA Today.  Maybe the raises were justified, but the timing was not good.
  • I had to take a flight out of my hometown BWI Airport on Saturday at the crack of dawn.  I was surprised at how crowded both security checkpoints were in Concourse A.  But I saw a small sign posting about a new security line on the baggage claim level.  I scooted down, and the line was practically empty.  I had a good laugh with four other folks who saw me leave and followed me downstairs.  So check and see if your airport has lower level security lines!

I’ll end this rant with the video clip, below.  Mary “Runway Girl” Kirby left FlightGlobal in December and Jon “Flightblogger” Ostrower left last week.  But I always enjoyed their videos from the major air shows.  So enjoy their last one, from the Paris Air Show in 2011.

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

13 Feb

OK, so I’m here in Baltimore stewing in my own bitterness because all my cool aviation friends are at one of two places — the Singapore Air Show or Heli-Expo 2012.  But the news still continues no matter where we are, so let’s get going with this week’s stories.

  1. Since I can’t be in Singapore, I’ll be following the action from Aviation International News’ (you may see a story or 2 from me) special microsite just for the show.  I’ll probably also look at FlightGlobal’s microsite  (love that design) and my former employer, Aviation Week.
  2. Before and after American Airlines officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, rumors were flying over whether the carrier would merge and if they did, who will it be with? And now, American’s unsecured creditors say they want to see the airline talk with Phoenix-based US Airways about a potential merger, reports Reuters.  of course, these creditors want to have some hope of recovering money after the carrier emerges from bankruptcy.  But American’s management seems to be firm about not merging. It will be interesting to see what happens.
  3. In 1997, I flew down to Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, where the Embraer ERJ-145 was built, to take delivery of an aircraft for Continental Express.  On the way home, we spent a day and a half in Martinique.  At the airport as we waited for our ride to the hotel, we saw passengers boarding a CorseAir Boeing 747 to France. Our customs agent asked us to guess how many seats the plane had. No one guessed more than 400. But it was 24 in business class and 558 in coach — all the way back to France. So I didn’t raise an eyebrow when I read that Philippines budget airline Cebu Pacific will cram 400 seats onto its Airbus A330s, which normally seat 300, reports the APEX Editor’s blog.
  4. Back in 2009, I flew AirTran Airways to and from Orlando to attend the National Business Aviation Association convention.  On my flight home, I decided to expense the $12.95 for Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi. I used it to post the last of my show news stories and catch up on email. But would I have paid for it myself? Probably not, and that’s the dilemma outlined in a story in ComputerWorld, entitled “Wi-Fi in flight has yet to soar.”  The article notes that only 7% of passengers pay for the service because they don’t want to shell out the money and many times, they don’t know a plane is Wi-Fi equipped.
  5. Regular readers know that Southwest Airlines is my carrier of choice, because it gets me from Point A to Point B safely, quickly and at a good price.  That good price includes being able to check two bags for free.  But those who can’t or won’t fly Southwest Air have come up with clever little ideas to avoid paying bag fees on other airlines. Some of the ideas outlined in the New York Times included: vacuum-seal bags in a carry-on; Scottevest clothing that holds everything from clothing to an iPad; and signing up for an airline-branded credit card that allows for one free bag to be checked.

I forgot to link to my Feb. 1 post in the APEX Editor’s blog on miniature airport hotels at London Heathrow and Hartsfield-Jackson airports. And look out for the latest episode of the Airplane Geeks, where I’ll be a guest host.

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

6 Feb

What a week it was! We saw the demise of another European carrier — Malev Hungarian; we saw American Airlines unveil its expected job cuts as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing; and a manufacturing issue forces Boeing to inspect its flagship 787.  So let’s go onto the news!

  1. When I worked at Delta Air Lines, we worked on initiatives designed to avoid a Chapter 11 filing. One of those was a project I spearheaded — media outreach on our effort to have Congress enact pension reform.  One of the highest cost legacy carriers faced was the pension obligations to retired workers. We wanted to stretch out our payments — kind of like refinancing a mortgage, and avoid ending those plans, which is what happened with United and US Airways in the 1990s. Those pensions were taken over by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Fast forward to last week, where NPR’s Planet Money blog posts about how PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum is urging American Airlines to look for every alternative before it decides to punt the pensions of 130,000 retirees and employees to the federal agency. According to the blog, if American does dump its pensions on PBGC, it will be the largest claim since United got rid of its pensions in 2005.
  2. Another day, another issue with the Boeing 787.  Regular readers know my favorite aircraft of all time is the 747, but the 787 has faced more than its fair share of woes. In the latest issue, “Structural stiffeners were found to be improperly joined to the composite skin in the aft sections of the aircraft, causing parts of the aircraft’s carbon fibre structure to delaminate, confirms the airframer,” reports FlightGlobal.
  3. The week before last we saw the demise of Spain’s Spanair. Last week, flag carrier Malev Hungarian, which was created in 1946, was the latest to have the plug pulled.  Regular aviation watchers knew this was only a matter of time after the European Union ruled that the troubled carrier had to pay back millions in loans given illegally between 2007 and 2010, reports Aviation International News.  And when the government refused to offer any further aid, the decision was made to stop flying, on Feb. 3.
  4. Talk about balls. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Spirit Airlines, in protesting new Department of Transportation rules that requires transparency in fares and gives consumers 24 hours to change their mind on a ticket purchase and get a refund, according to USA Today’s Today In The Sky blog.  The ultra low-cost carrier said in a statement the “regulation requiring airlines to hold fares for 24 hours after booking without penalty comes with unintended consequences and is costing consumers millions.” So what is Spirit’s solution? Charge passengers a $2 DOT unintended consequence fee. All I can say is — really?
  5. I know it’s their job, but I have to give a BIG shout out to the reporters at the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram for their blanket coverage of the American Airlines Chapter 11 filing on its SkyTalk blog.  Last week alone reporter Andrea Ahles held a reader chat about the latest news, while the newspaper covered the announcement of the layoffs of 13,000 employees from the management and labor side and the reaction of North Texas officials and the Allied Pilots Union about the cuts. Oh — and they also covered the start of new service to Dubai by Emirates.

It was also a banner week for this blog. I had a post in CrankyFlier.com with my five picks on airports doing great things with concessions. I also had a post in the Airline Passenger Experience’s Editor’s Blog on the advent of mini airport hotels. I thank eidtors Brett Snyder and Mary Kirby, respectively, for the exposure.

 

Top Five Most Interesting Aviation Stories Of The Week

14 Nov

Actually, the big news of the week is that as of today, I am no longer be unemployed.  Details are coming, but I’m delighted to say that I’ll still be in aviation, which was the most important thing for me.  So let’s  get on with the news!

  1. After Bombardier decided to launch the CSeries jet to compete with the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320 narrowbodies, the industry looked to Brazil’s Embraer to see if it was going to jump into the large narrowbody race.   And now thanks to this FlightGlobal article, we know the answer.  The manufacturer plans to spend $2 billion to build a re-engined “and possibly stretched version of the Embraer 170 and 190 families by 2018,” says the article.
  2. The Middle East has become the hot region for aviation growth, and this Aviation Week article discusses whether there is a market for the 400+ aircraft on order from the region’s carriers.
  3. I’ve been following the ins and outs of Berlin Brandenburg Airport since it was first proposed.   The new facility, which will replace Tegel and the now-closed Tempelhof, is scheduled to open in June 2012.  And it just got some good news from Lufthansa. The German flag carrier has announced plans to invest $629 million in new planes and facilities, along with expanding service in the capital city, reports Bloomberg.
  4. Back in the day when I used to travel like a madwoman, I went on a stretch that had me waking up and forgetting what city I was in (if it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium).   So I enjoyed this article from the BBC on the top business jobs that require heavy travel.
  5. I did a Nov. 1 post on my 5 favorite tech travel tools.  So I loved this Mashable Tech post that came up with 11 more tools you must have.  I’m happy to say I already have eight of them!

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!

The Airline Geek’s Blogger’s Toolkit

12 Jul

Editor’s note: I’m on vacation this week, so I have some of my aviation/airline/travel geek friends doing guest posts here this week.  So next up is my social media/avgeek friend Dan Webb.  Young Dan attends Bryant University and writes the Things In The Sky blog. He is also one of the hosts of my beloved Airplane Geeks podcast. And last — but not least — he’s an editorial intern at FlightGlobal (I know I should say something snarky about my competitor, but I can’t).  Enjoy!

I’ve been blogging about the airline industry for just over three years now. When I started as I was graduating from high school, I had plenty of enthusiasm for the industry but didn’t really know where to find the latest news about the airlines. Since then, I’ve found a few favorite websites that can provide a treasure trove of information – for free!

There are, of course, plenty of wonderful news sources (like Aviation Week or FlightGlobal) that provide the same information. The websites below are best for those who are interested in getting their hands dirty with research.

So, if you’ve an airplane geek like me, you might find some of the websites interesting:

Airline Investor Relations Pages

Investor relations websites are a wonderful source of information, as you’ll often find press release archives, SEC filings, investor presentations, and earnings call replays.

Twitter

Lately Twitter has become my primary news source, mainly because of the wonderful aviation community there. There are plenty of people sharing interesting news stories, and it’s likely I’ll be interested in what my fellow #avgeeks are discussing. Twitter’s also a wonderful place to discuss the news of the day with those who have an obsession with airlines. Most airlines now have their own Twitter accounts for sharing news as well.

Yahoo! Airline News

This basic website is simply a compilation of press releases and news stories about the airline business. If you can this place a couple of times a day you’ll easily get caught up with the latest news.

Airline Route

The airline route blog is a simply fantastic resource. The author is constantly scanning airline schedules to find new, adjusted, or cancelled service. The summaries of airlines’ seasonal changes are especially helpful, as it translates airlines’ high-level strategies to individual routes.

Regulations.gov

While the domestic market was deregulated in 1978, there’s still plenty of red tape in the airline industry, especially on the international side. In many cases airlines might have to apply for the authority to operate service to a foreign destination or to codeshare with a foreign airline. Just search on the site for filings with the Department of Transportation and you’ll find a treasure trove of information.

EDGAR

This website is the Securities and Exchange Commission’s official database for company filings. You’ll often find the same stuff on airline investor relations pages, but I just find EDGAR to be easier and faster to use.

 

GUEST POST: Mary Kirby On Her Best Aviation Experience

24 May

Editor’s note: I’m pleased to introduce AviationQueen.com’s first guest post, from Mary “Runway Girl” Kirby, Senior Editor at FlightGlobal. This actually happened by accident.  I sent out a tweet to my fellow aviation journalists asking them what their coolest aviation experience was.  I was going to compile them and do a post.  But Mary’s story was so great, she gave me permission to do it as a single blog post. 

Mary’s story involves  Seaborne Airlines, a St. Croix-based regional that flies in and over the water.  You can see her original story in FlightGlobal here.  And she’s far too modest to mention it, Mary won a Aerospace Journalist of the Year Award in the regional aircraft division for the story. Enjoy!

My very best experience in aviation occurred a few years ago. I had been assigned a seaplane feature for Flight International and decided to write about Seaborne Airlines. I flew down to St Thomas, USVI, and took a Seaborne Airlines seaplane (a Twin Otter on floats) to the carrier’s base in St Croix.

There, I discovered that Seaborne fights a war on water every day due to the corrosive elements of its warm salt water environment. I also learned that Irish actress Maureen O’Hara and her husband, famed aviator Charles Blair, had established the first scheduled seaplane operation between St Croix and St Thomas.

Charles died in a seaplane accident in the 1970s, and Maureen took over the running of the airline, then known as Antilles Air Boats (she holds the distinction of being the first female president of a U.S. scheduled airline). The good folks at Seaborne gave me Maureen’s memoir, ‘Tis Herself’ to read. I was so inspired that I decided to track down Maureen, who is now in her 90s and living on the west coast of Ireland.

I wanted to interview Maureen to find out what it was like to run a seaplane operation all those years ago (to understand what, if anything, had changed.) I managed to get through to her press agent, who informed me that while Maureen doesn’t give interviews anymore, she had suggested I read Charles Blair’s autobiography, Red Ball in the Sky.

The book is out of print, but I was able to find a used copy at a Columbus, Ohio bookseller. When the book arrived in the mail, and I opened it up, 30-year old press clippings poured out. Much to my thrill, the clippings were of a local newspaper’s interview with Maureen O’Hara in the aftermath of her husband’s death.

In the interview, O’Hara talked about what it was like to run a seaplane operation in the Caribbean (very tough…so not much has changed). I wove the interview into my feature, and to this day, I count that experience as the very best of my career.  Seaborne continues to fight the war on water to this day, but with such a storied history, they all agree it’s well worth it.

It’s Link Love Friday!

18 Feb

Thank GOD it’s Friday, kids!  So it’s time for this week’s plugs from the wild and wonderful world of aviation.

We MUST start with this week’s Strange But True Aviation News over at AvWeek’s Things With Wings blog.  We’ve got three entries from the Transportation Security Administration (two of them theft-related), a man using an Easter prop to smuggle cocaine and some “interesting” flight attendant’s for the Thai-based PC Air.  And remember — I CAN’T make this stuff up!!

My AvWeek colleague Guy Norris did an excellent job with his coverage of the Boeing 747-8i rollout on our Things With Wings blog.  I am STILL bitter I wasn’t able to attend the festivities, since the 747 is my favorite aircraft of all time (check out my logo if you don’t believe me).

And AvWeek’s Rupa Haria has an item on Things With Wings that would have fit nicely in “Strange” (and Rupa agrees).  South African carrier Kulula has launched a Facebook campaign to have fans tell them how many cows the airline should pledge to give Prince William and Kate Middleton as a wedding gift.

The Up Up & A Gay blog has a post taking a different view of sports reporter Mitch Albom’s admonition in Parade magazine on making the skies friendlier.

FlightGlobal’s Flight blog reports on how Virgin Atlantic has been voted as the airline with the most attractive cabin crew, according to a survey of 1,000 people by the Business Travel and Meetings Show.  I can see that, but I would have voted for Singapore Airlines or Emirates, myself.

The Senate yesterday rejected an attempt by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to eliminate the Essential Air Service program, reports BusinessWeek.  You can read my thoughts on EAS here.  And Aviation Daily Editor Jennifer Michels weighs in on the issue here.  I don’t want to see the program go away, but it is LONG overdue for a major overhaul, Extreme Makeover style, kids!

I’m Giving Out The Link Love

11 Feb

OK, I have to plug a few things from my day job.  Hey! Throw me a frickin’ bone – I have a baby to feed! :)

First, it’s Friday, so you know I’ve done “Strange But True Aviation News.” Kids, this week’s blog post on Things With Wings is a big bucket of crazy, with pilots having trouble getting into the cockpit, a passenger and crew members with cocaine issues and airports with animal issues.

Regular readers know I’m a big old airport geek, so check out my Things With Wings blog post on what the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wants to do with the iconic, Eero Saarinen-designed TWA Terminal at JFK Airport.

Interested in buying a Ukrainian MiG-29? Our good friend Flightblogger tells you how, here.  And speaking of FlightGlobal, check out the winners of their 2010 Webbies awards.  Our pal CrankyFlier.com, aka Brett Snyder, wins Blogger of the Year.

Remember the post I did Feb. 9 — Why A Revamp Of Small Community Air Service Is LONG Overdue? Well, it looks like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) may support Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his amendment to kill the Essential Air Service program, reports Radio Iowa.  And my colleague Jim Ott offers his thoughts on EAS here.

My colleague, International Editor Robert Wall, blogs about whether IATA will still be able to hold its Annual General Meeting in Cairo, scheduled for June, with all the unrest in Egypt.

And speaking of Egypt, let’s review the top five songs in heavy rotation on embattled now former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak:  1. Cee Lo Green – F You; 2. Jennifer Hudson – And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going – The Dance Mix; 3. Eric Carmen – All By Myself; 4. Paul McCartney – We Can Work It Out; 5. Electric Light Orchestra – Don’t Bring Me Down.

And here are the top five songs being played by the Egyptian protesters: 1.  Ludacris, Move Bi**h; 2. Kenny Loggins, Don’t Fight It; 3. Craig David, Rise & Fall; 4. McFadden & Whitehead, Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now; 5. Cee Lo Green – F You.

And let’s end the week with this classic United Airlines TV commercial on YouTube from 1971 introducing the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 to the fleet.  Check out those comfy coach seats and the lounge. Enjoy!!

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