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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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!
This is always the week I look forward to. The holidays are completely over, and it’s back to work for everyone, including the airline/aviation industry. So Happy New Year one last time, and let’s get to it.
- Normally, this pair of stories would have gone straight to Strange But True Aviation News on a Friday, but I thought it warranted being an interesting story. California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), a strong opponent of gun control, says he “forgot” he had a loaded .45 caliber pistol in his carry-on bag, which was discovered by Transportation Security Administration (TSA), reports NBC Los Angeles. The TV station followed up with a blog post: The Guns of Tim: Five Lessons, including: Donnelly was allowed to board his flight while others were detained and even arrested.
- During my time as Aviation Daily’s airports and security editor, I wrote about — and saw — my fair share of airport scanning machines. So I found this story from Pro Publica comparing millimeter and backscatter machines.
- Speaking of security, this story in Aviation International News talks about how TSA Administrator John Pistole is starting to respond to critics, including House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), over his agency’s policies and way of doing business. “[To] those who say that we’re inefficient or bloated, I’d be glad to sit down and go through the books and say, ‘OK, how would you staff this differently?’” Pistole said in an interview with Bloomberg News last month.
- I’m one of those aviation geeks that could spend my life visiting aviation museums. I didn’t know about the Carolinas Aviation Museum until I heard it was receiving US Airways’ “Miracle on the Hudson” Airbus A320 for its permanent display. Which is why I really enjoyed this blog post over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — complete with pictures — about the museum.
- I’m old enough to remember the mini controversy that ensued when United Airlines paid for the rights to use George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in its branding and advertising campaigns. But now the song has become so closely affiliated to United that my daughter knows it as the UAL theme song! So I was happy to hear from our friends at the Chicago Tribune that the Chicago-based carrier will continue to use the song.
Let’s end this post with one of my personal favorite commercials United Airlines used with “Rhapsody in Blue.” It’s called “Dragon,” and it was created for the Beijing Olympics. Enjoy!
Yes, kids, it was another interesting week in aviation. We lost an FAA administrator but gained the right to hide aircraft tail numbers. So let’s get on with the news.
- I was doing my regular Twitter search when I saw someone had posted this Aviation Week story — Airbus Expects United To Place A380 Order. Written by my former colleague Darren Shannon, I first thought it was a gag. I’ve never been quite sure about the economics of that plane, but there are people much smarter than me out there who have made it work.
- Right after American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the chatter about it merging with US Airways began. Last week, I linked to a post from Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder, who gave his reasons on why he thought this was a good idea. And now, US Airways CFO Derek Kerr agrees with Brett, being quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying that “there is possibly room for more.” (If you get the subscribers only link, just copy the headline, paste it in Google and click on the link that has online.wsj.com in the URL to see the full story.)
- The Air Transport Association of America — the lobbying group for major U.S. carriers — recently changed its name to Airlines4America. When I first heard the name, I wasn’t impressed, thinking it was just too cute for words. And it looks like Scott McCartney, the Wall Street Journal’s Middle Seat Terminal blog agrees with me in this post — Does Cutesy Name Change Limit Credibility of Airline Group?
- Back when I worked at Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group, I still traveled regularly to the East Coast. I had my choice of flying America West to Los Angeles and catching a flight to Baltimore or flying US Airways to Pittsburgh, then Baltimore. Nine times out of 10, I chose the US Airways flight to go shopping in Pittsburgh, back when it still had hub status. But since it was dehubbed back in 2004, the airport has fallen on some tough times. So their solution? Try and attract new turboprop service, reports Pittsburgh Live.
- I love it when airlines try to show the love to their very best customers. Check out my Aviation Week Things With Wings blog post on how United Airlines showed the love to 10 million mile customer Tom Stuker in July. So I just loved this post from Chris McGinnis’ The Ticket travel news blog — Delta picking up pax in Porsches at ATL. So you get off your flight and a man in a suit waits in the jetway holding a card with your name. You’re taken out the side door and driven directly to your car — in a Porsche Cayenne SUV. How cool is that?
I had the pleasure of being a guest Saturday on Flight Time Radio with Milford Shirley and Charlie Willwerth. I met these gentlemen back in June when they were broadcasting live from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center during Be a Pilot Day (my posts on that event are here and here).
And those crazy Taiwanese animators are at it again. Below is a video with their thoughts on the situation with “30 Rock” star Alec Baldwin. And just ignore the fact that the “Alec” cartoon looks absolutely *nothing* like the actor!
So I managed to finish my first week on the new job. LOVED it!! Now, onto the week’s aviation news.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
An article in SmarterTravel on a contest naming America’s best public restroom (Chicago’s Field Museum) prompted me to look at this topic on the airports side.
So, kids, let’s talk toilets — airport toilets. To be real, I’m one of those folks that hates using public restrooms. But sometimes, you just have to go, and I know what I like in a good bathroom.
Sanitary Seat at Chicago O'Hare International Airport Photo by Näystin, via Flickr
Larger stalls. When I’m traveling, I usually have my backpack and a rollerboard, and I don’t want them out of my sight. Or I’m traveling with my daughter, and I REALLY don’t want her out of my sight. So I appreciate the larger stalls that accommodate my stuff, at airports including Terminal A at Boston-Logan International Airport or Terminal D at DFW Airport.
- Purse shelf above the toilet. We’ve all heard the stories about people reaching over and taking purses when you’re at your most vulnerable, so you want that shelf that is way out of reach, like those at New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport.
- A sani-seat. I’m one of those people who carry their own paper toilet seat covers and a purse-sized can of Lysol just in case they’re not available. But I love the toilet seats at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, because they have the automatic plastic sleeve that covers the seat — the ultimate in cleanliness and sanitation.
- The Dyson Airblade hand dryer. Paper towels are messy and wasteful. The old-school hot air hand dryers take too long and leave your hands dry. I tested this hand dryer on the exhibit floor of an airports conference and was sold. It dries quickly and leaves your hands soft, so I’m glad to see airports like Los Angeles International installing them in restrooms.
I can’t end this post without mentioning the bathroom attendants at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. I had come off a US Airways red-eye and was desperate for a bathroom. I go in and I’m startled by a bathroom attendant in NASCAR clothing. But she turned out to be a lifesaver, since she had some mouthwash, among other necessities, on her tray. And yes, I did leave a tip.
So what do you like to see in your airport restroom?
Back in June 2008, I was attending the marketing and communications conference for Airports Council International-North America, in Pittsburgh. I had some time to kill, so I wandered around the gates.
I thought I was hallucinating when I saw these Frontier Airlines Embraer 170s parked at some of the outer gates that were closed when US Airways dehubbed. I never did find out why they were in PIT. Enjoy!
Photo by Benet J. Wilson
Back in the day I spent a lot of time traveling in and out of US Airways’ Charlotte hub. I just love those rocking chairs that offer great views from the big picture windows in the center concourse across from the food court. But I digress.
I took this shot of
Airbus A320 a Boeing 737-400 (ok, I’m going to the eye doctor) after I got off, staggering, from a red-eye flight from San Francisco. You can still see a bit of the morning light off the fuselage. Enjoy!
I spent almost three years working in communications positions at two airlines. One of the big benefits that comes with that is free, space-available air travel on your own airline and greatly reduced travel on airlines worldwide. But the catch is you only get on the flight if there’s a seat available. On the airlines I worked for, you got on the flight based on your hiring date.
US Airways gate at Pittsburgh International Airport Photo by Benet J. Wilson
So it was with interest that I read this article in Pittsburgh Live on how Southwest Airlines’ flight cuts at the local airport will hurt US Airways employees. Pittsburgh International Airport used to be a major hub for US Airways, with thousands of employees based in the area. But starting in 2004, after the airport refused to lower its fees, the airline dehubbed Pittsburgh, and the jobs went to the carrier’s Philadelphia hub.
But according to Pittsburgh Live, between 500-700 US Airways employees still commute between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and they fly on Southwest when they can’t get on their own airline.
This was a topic of discussion on one of my aviation geek chat groups. Half the people felt bad for the employees and the other half were not so sympathetic. The ones who felt bad say that these employees didn’t want to uproot their families, but wanted to keep their jobs, so they chose to commute. The ones who were not sympathetic said you go where the job is, and the airline has no obligation to ensure that you can commute to where your job is.
So what do you say? Do you feel bad for the US Airways employees? Or should they just have to play the hand that was dealt them?
It was a rainy, dreary week, but the news marched on. And so will I, with my picks for my top stories.
- Surprise! The Boeing 737 MAX was not a surprise to Airbus, writes my Aviation Week colleague Guy Norris. “Airbus says Boeing’s decision to develop a re-engined 737 rather than an all-new aircraft was a predictable lower-risk move, but believes the European manufacturer’s head start with the A320NEO puts it in pole position for market dominance,” he writes.
- 10 years after the 9/11 attacks and nearly 10 years after Richard Reid attempted to blow up an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami using a shoe bomb, we are still required to take off our shoes at airport security checkpoints. But there may be a light at the end of the tunnel, with Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano telling NPR that airline passengers in the future will no longer be instructed to remove their shoes at airport security checkpoints. I’ve traveled the world, and only the USA still requires shoe removal.
- The Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney looks at 10 years of airport security, noting that “the costs of increased transportation security run to tens of billions of dollars a year world-wide, and authorities still are groping to close obvious vulnerabilities a decade after the 2001 terrorist attacks.”
- In airline WiFi news, Delta Air Lines used its blog to announce that it was putting Gogo inflight WiFi on all 250 of its Delta Connection regional jets. And in related news. Gogo released this cool infographic on mobile WiFi usage in the air.
- And finally, US Airways CEO Doug Parker chats with TheStreet.com’s Ted Reed on how his airline has changed since 9/11. Parker had just become CEO 10 days earlier. And the Dallas Morning News’ Airline Biz Blog published my 9/11 story, here.
Do you live in Chicago or will be there by September 25? I encourage you to go to the DuSable Museum of African American History to check out the exhibit Black Wings: American Wings of Flight. The exhibit uses a narrative arch that uses the Tuskegee Airmen as a jumping off point to tell the untold story of African American aviation in the last 65 years.
I hope you all have a great weekend!!