Archive | June, 2011

Top 10 Travel Safety Tips For Women (And Men)

30 Jun

Photo courtesy of Michael Hanscom via Flickr

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of moderating an online forum — Safety and Security: Threat Mitigation for the Traveling Businesswoman — for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).  This is a topic near and dear to my heart, especially after the theft of my wallet in New York City earlier this month, which I blog about here.

The presenter (who was fantastic) was Katie Colberg, who works as a travel security management consultant at MEDEX Global Solutions.  We also heard from Caroline Bryan, a Gulfstream G550 captain and safety adviser and Terri Fuhrmann, a supervising flight attendant coordinator.  These women, along with participants on the webinar, came up with some great safety travel tips.  Below, I summarize the top 10.  Enjoy!

  1. Put a scanned copy of your passport on a memory stick. I love this one, because paper can get lost.  I always have a thumb drive in my purse and on my key chain.
  2. Ask for specific rooms in hotels. You want one away from the stairwell, between the 2nd and 7th floors and near the elevators (noisier, but safer).
  3. Wear an inexpensive wedding ring. I have a family ring I wear that when turned around, looks just like a wedding ring. You are less likely to be approached if you seem to be married.
  4. Carry a small flashlight and lighter in your purse, and pack a candle.  I do all three — the flashlight is for dark spaces; the lighter is to light the candle (which doubles as a room freshener) and other assorted things.
  5. If you leave the television on in your room and leave, turn it on to a local channel when traveling outside the country.  A potential mischief-maker is less likely to target a person they think is a local.
  6. Pack extra food and water. In the case of the Mumbai hotel attacks, some guests were trapped in their rooms for up to three days without food or water.
  7. Carry a “Go Bag” and keep it with you at all times.  The bag should contain ID/passport, meds, important phone numbers, a pen, paper and batteries. Colberg says that with this bag, if you have to leave your destination quickly, you can.
  8. Your luggage tag should NOT be a business card. Colberg recommends having one that’s covered, and it should only include your first initial, last name and the address of your office, if possible.
  9. If you should be attacked, fight dirty.  Women are advised to yell loudly, make a scene. Kick/attack spots including groin, knee caps, eyes and the nose, where you can do major damage.
  10. If you’re lost in an unfamiliar place, be street smart. Approach families or women with children to ask for directions.

There were many more, but you have other blogs to read.  But I’d love it if you would share some of your favorite travel tips!

Malaysia Airlines to ban babies travelling in first class? Good!!

28 Jun

I was taking a stroll through my Google Reader when I came upon this story in Australian Business Traveller about Malaysia Airlines deciding to ban babies in first class on their Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s.  The first thing I thought was “good for them!”

What? I have to sit in coach, Mommy??

Now before you all start spamming me with hate comments, I am the mother of a 5-year-old daughter.  I’ve been flying with my child since she was 10 days old.  As much as I love and adore her, I’d sit naked in first class myself (NOT a pretty picture, kids) before subjecting my little darling to other passengers who have paid thousands of dollars to fly in that rarefied air.

My last flight in first was on British Airways for a trip to London in November 2008.  A quick check of BA’s website has that seat currently going for $16,788.16. And let’s be real, people –  I would be royally pissed if I paid that much for my seat and had to listen to a screaming baby for any part of it, and so would you.

Back in 1994, I flew SAS to Stockholm for a trip to visit Saab Aircraft.   There we all were, nestled in our seats and for the first 2 hours of the flight, a couple tried in vain to hush their toddler.  After 2 hours, the SAS purser told the couple they would have to move back to economy class because of the noise.  I spoke to one of the flight attendants about the situation, and she told me that they would refund the couple’s difference in fare between first and economy.

I’ll end this by quoting from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”

Captain Spock: It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh…
Kirk: …the needs of the few.
Captain Spock: Or the one.

So let’s end with a poll. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Random Aviation Photo

27 Jun

Back in August 2007, I took  trip out to Las Vegas to do a series of articles about McCarran International Airport.  Weirdly enough, I have a deathly fear of heights, but I have never let it get in the way of seeing something cool.

The something cool on this day was a trip to the top of an operations tower at the airport.  I managed to get this shot of some AirTran and Alaska Airlines aircraft parked at the gate.  Enjoy!

Top Five Most Interesting Aviation Stories Of The Week

24 Jun

It was lucky I was even able to write here this week, with all the excitement from the Paris Air Show.  I have to give a shout out to my colleagues at Aviation Week who covered the show like white on rice.  You can see our complete package of stories, blog posts (including my contributions), videos and photos from the show here.  So let’s get started, shall we?

  1. I’m not a fan of the trend that has young black men wearing their pants so low that their underwear shows. On June 16, University of New Mexico football player Deshon Marman was arrested at San Francisco International Airport after refusing a US Airways crew request to pull up his pants led to a scuffle, reports ABC7. But six days earlier, the airline had no problem allowing an older caucasian man to take a flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Phoenix wearing nothing but women’s undergarments despite complaints from his fellow passengers, reports SFGate.com. So my question to my friends at US Airways is why are baggy pants unacceptable, but women’s undergarments are OK?
  2.  Aviation Week International Editor Robert Wall’s Things With Wings blog post gives the inside scoop on exactly how Air Asia’s record-breaking order for 200 Airbus A320NEOs.  Let’s just say Airbus COO for customers John Leahy boogied down to make the deal happen.
  3. The Gothamist (and several other news/blog outlets) are unhappy with Spirit Airlines’ decision to charge passengers $5 if they decide to print their boarding pass at the airport.  I hate to do this, but I have to side with Spirit Airlines on this one, even though I’d never fly them. Spirit makes it clear that they charge ultra-low fares and charge fees for just about everything else. If you can’t print your boarding pass out at home, then you need to pay the fee, kids.
  4. As the mother of a 5-year-old who travels regularly, I was happy to see this ABC News story,  “Change Made to Airport Screenings for Young Kids.” My daughter has been flying since she was 10 days old, and is an old pro when it comes to preparing herself at the airport security checkpoint.  She’s never had to endure an enhanced pat-down, and thanks to some common sense from the Transportation Security Administration, she’s much less likely to be chosen for one.  Instead, screeners will do repeated attempts to screen children before resorting to pat-downs.
  5. I’m a bit late, but I loved this profile of Delta Air Lines’ Social Media Lab by Tnooz writer Dennis Schaal.  I got my own tour of the lab back in April (they have a genuine DC-3 propeller as a decoration their space!), and I’m a big fan of my former employer’s social media efforts.

And we have some real gems in this week’s Strange But True Aviation News, including a baggage tale that went horribly wrong, TSA screeners missing some large chef knives in a carry-on bag and  more tales of TSA screener thefts. And check out the Airplane Geeks’ podcast episode 152, where the boys recorded live from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for the seventh annual Become a Pilot Family Day and Fly-In.  My daughter and I actually made the cut and appear briefly on the show.

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today, so enjoy this classic Pan Am video from 1958 on the introduction of Boeing 707 jet service.  Passengers  lighting up cigarettes, four galleys cooking rolling carts of food (which my friend @fieldsix just loves) and happy flight attendants — ah…those were the days!

Top 10 Reasons To Stop In Baltimore This Summer

23 Jun

Back when I moved to Washington, D.C., Baltimore was that city that had another airport and was a stop along I95.  But since being introduced to the city in 1999 and moving here in 2006, I can’t say enough good things about this city.  We have great neighborhoods, wonderful tourist attractions, plenty of shopping and food to die for.  If it’s good enough for John Walters, it’s good enough for me. Below are my top 10 reasons why you should make a stop and spend some time in Baltimore, hon!

  1. The Baltimore Museum of Art/Walters Art Gallery — yes, D.C. has all those great Smithsonian museums, but Baltimore has two world-class museums that are worth a visit, and they’re free.  And here’s a fun fact — did you know BMA has the world’s largest collection of Monets?
  2. Crabs — Maryland Blue Crabs, to be specific.  If that’s too messy, then whole lump crabcakes are a good substitute.  People in Baltimore are very loyal to their crab houses.  When I’m getting them to go, I love Conrad’s Crabs in Parkville.  If I’m sitting down, there’s no place better than Obrycki’s.  They even have an outpost in Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.  And get your crabcakes at Faidley’s in Lexington Market.
  3. Lexington Market — this historic market sells food and other items; and it’s the home of Faidley’s.
  4. Festivals — Baltimore is home to many ethnicities, and because of that, we have some really great festivals.  St. Nicholas has one of the best Greek festivals I’ve ever attended.  And check out Artscape, a huge free arts festival, scheduled for July 15-17.  There’s also the African American Festival, a free family celebration of life, music and culture July 2-3.
  5. Oriole Park at Camden Yard — the days of my beloved Baltimore Orioles as a baseball contender are gone, but the park is a great place to see a game.  Camden Yard was one of the first new/retro ballparks built, back in 1992, and is still seen as the standard for other facilities.
  6. Little Italy — Baltimore has a large and vibrant Italian section that has some of the finest food outside of Rome.  One of my favorites is Sabatino’s - and you must order the Bookmakers Salad, a Baltimore institution.  And wherever you eat, stop by Vaccaro’s for dessert!  The neighborhood offers free outdoor movies every Friday in the summer.
  7. The National Aquarium — this facility is right downtown and has an extensive collection of sea life.  And your visit is not complete without taking in the dolphin show.
  8. The Washington Monument — yes, kids, Baltimore has its own monument.  It’s near the Walters Art Museum.
  9. Fells Point — Baltimore is crazy about its neighborhoods, and Fells Point, on the waterfront, is one of its oldest.  It has great shops, restaurants, food markets and night clubs. Plus there’s a water taxi that takes you to the Inner Harbor.
  10. Fort McHenry — this is the place where Francis Scott Key saw the American flag waving during the Battle of Baltimore and was inspired to write “The Star Spangled Banner.” It’s a great walk and plenty to see, but wear comfy shoes.

Why I Need A Cone Of Silence On My Flights

21 Jun

I don’t mean to brag, but I must tell the truth — I am a very friendly, outgoing person. I love meeting new people and chatting with them about their lives and where they’re from.  For example, last weekend in New York City, I was taking the elevator to the lobby. When I entered, I said hello to the gentleman inside. We started chatting and he told me that he was from the Bay Area (my home town) and worked for the Ralph’s grocery chain.  My late grandfather would only go to Ralph’s to buy his meat, and the discussion went from there.

My daughter in her own cone of silence

But all that goes away when I get on a plane (without the kid).  My life is hectic, with work, family and my myriad organizations I work with, I don’t get much time for silent time.  I put on my Sharper Image noise-cancelling headphones as soon as they announce boarding will begin.

I’ll say hello to my seatmates, but after that, I go into the cone of silence.  I’m usually listening to one of my travel playlists or some of my favorite podcasts (the Airplane Geeks, the Politics Hour, Fresh Air or Planet Money, to name a few).  So please — don’t be offended if you’re sitting next to me and I don’t speak. And thanks to Up Up And A Gay’s Bobby Laurie for providing the inspiration for this post.

My Day With The Enola Gay

21 Jun

My daughter sitting in front of the Enola Gay

Regular readers know that on top of my day job at Aviation Week, I’m one of the biggest aviation geeks on the planet.  And being in the aviation business has afforded me some really great experiences.

Yesterday’s post was about my visit to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center to watch my Airplane Geeks record their podcast live for Be a Pilot Day.  I was delighted to see that they were broadcasting right across from the Enola Gay.

Which leads to today’s post.  Back in the fall of 2003, I worked in the communications department of Rolls-Royce North America.  Rolls-Royce was one of the major donors to the museum, and our offices were not too far away. The museum hadn’t opened yet, but they were busy loading in artifacts in time for the grand opening in December.

A call came in inviting folks to come over to, and I quote, “see something cool.” I jumped at the chance.  It was a bit jumbled when I arrived, but you definitely got a sense that the place was going to be special.   A docent comes up and asks my name, then tells me to follow him.

The Enola Gay

And there she was — the Enola Gay. She had just arrived from the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility, located in Suitland, Maryland, right outside of Washington, D.C.  Two of the men on the team that had restored the plane were there, and it was a pleasure to talk to them about the work that had to be done.

I got to see the Enola Gay up close and personal, and I was shocked to see graffiti etched on the fuselage.  One of the restorers told me it had been out in the elements before a final decision had been made on what to do with it.  They also told me that they had recently found rare color footage that showed the bomb bay had been painted yellow.  And what a thrill it was for me to stick my head in that bomb bay and take a peek inside the aircraft.

So if you’re in the D.C. area, I highly recommend a visit out to this facility to see the Enola Gay and the rest of the museum’s amazing collection of commercial, military and defense aircraft. Click here to find the best way to get to the museum.  Enjoy!

Random Aviation Photos – The Airplane Geeks Edition!

20 Jun

If you weren’t able to make it out to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles Airport for the annual Become a Pilot Day and aviation display this past Saturday, you missed it.

My favorites — the Airplane Geeks — recorde their podcast live.  My daughter, the self-dubbed Princess of Planes, had a grand time with Uncles Max, Rob, David and Dan.  And it was SO great to meet some of my online Twitter aviation geeks, including @Defender13, @JimWay and @PlaneSafeOrg. It was also a thrill to meet Airplane Geeks favorite Micah and his mother Harriet (wearing her Airplane Geeks t-shirt). So below are some photos I took from the event.  Enjoy!

A Pan Am Clipper Boat

The mighty Boeing 707

Huff Daland crop duster, beginning of Delta Air Lines

Engine of Boeing 707, tail of Air France Concorde

The Airplane Geeks prepare for the show-from right to left, Dan Webb, Max Flight and David Vanderhoof

 

Top Five Most Interesting Aviation Stories Of The Week

17 Jun

It’s the week before the Paris Air Show, and every aviation journalist worth their salt — including me — has been in full frenzy mode, whether we’re going or not (I’m not).  But I have to take care of you, my loyal readers, so let’s go!

I would be remiss if i didn’t lead you to the link — here – for Aviation Week’s full coverage of the show, including news, blog posts, photos and Twitter.  And if you want to keep up with the show via your iPhone, there’s an (AvWeek) app for that, here.  Commercials over!

  1. One of my journalist friends sent me a tweet with a link to this Middle Seat Terminal blog post on Airbus’ vision of what planes will look like in 2050.  While I love all this stuff, I also know the likelihood of us seeing it on an actual plane is slim and none. But I love engineers who dream!
  2. In a topic near and dear to my heart, my airport soul sister Harriet Baskas uses her At The Airport column for USA Today to ask a good question: Should you pay for Wi-Fi? She writes about how airports are considering offered tiered service–free for a limited time, then paid. On the one hand, I know airports are trying to boost their non-airline revenue as carriers continue to cut costs, and Wi-Fi helps with that. But on the other hand, travelers are spoiled by airports including Phoenix, San Francisco and Boston that offer free Wi-Fi, compared to those who don’t, like my hometown Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
  3. I just love listening to the Airplane Geeks podcast, and Episode 150 (congrats guys!) was one of the best ever, with aviation legends John & Martha King as the guests. Did you know they can fly blimps? Cool, huh?
  4. Speaking of fees, the general media were abuzz after the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported that U.S. airlines collected almost $5.7 billion from baggage fees and reservation change fees in 2010, reports ABC News.  Having worked for two airlines, I know why they charge these fees — because you, dear traveler, refuse to pay the higher fares they want to charge you.  But I enjoyed this article in the Atlantic on the top 12 most annoying fees.
  5. I’m a business traveler. I’m also a mother who started flying my daughter around the country when she was only 10 days old.  Which is why I enjoyed this article from BBC that asked the question: who’s more annoying: business travelers or babies?  I vote for business travelers, because babies do eventually tire.  I was lucky, because my daughter always slept, uh, like a baby on flights.  And as she got older, she was so used to flying, I still get compliments about her behavior, even now at 5 years old.

It would not be Friday without this week’s episode of “Strange But True Aviation News,” complete with a different sexting scandal, an unusual airline fee and what happens when you have a potty mouth on the plane.

And finally, for those of you living in the Washington, D.C., area, I hope you can come out to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles Airport for the annual Become a Pilot Day and aviation display on Saturday, June 18.  My favorites — the Airplane Geeks — will be reocrding their podcast, and I’ll be out there with my daughter (the self-dubbed Princess of Planes) to support them.  One of the geeks, Rob Mark of Jetwhine, has more details here.  Please come by and say hello if you’re out there!

Hotel Review – Westin New York at Times Square

16 Jun

I was in New York City this past weekend for a journalist geek unconference, and our official hotel was the Westin New York at Times Square.

After a series of unfortunate events (read about that here), I was upgraded to a  deluxe King corner room on the 33rd floor (the Westin has 45 floors) with KILLER views of the city.

The bathroom had a large picture window with a sculptured metal sink and plenty of shelf space for your amenities.  The tub/shower was roomy and had those curved shower curtains I love so much.  And the double-headed shower was just divine.

The room featured a roomy closet complete with iron/ironing board and a coffee station and mini bar fridge.  One pet peeve – you couldn’t use the fridge for your own stuff.

And there it was — a fabulous, king-sized Westin Heavenly  Bed.  And thank you, Westin, for remembering that I prefer foam pillows to feather ones (I’m allergic).  I really liked the sheet/duvet combo, and it smelled great.

There as a comfy chair and ottoman.  There was also a great desk with a very comfortable ergonomic work chair.  There was also a nice lamp and a 33-inch HD television. Another pet peeve is the lack of plugs for all my gadgets near the desk.  Fortunately, I always carry my trusted Belkin Mini Travel Surge Protector.   I would have been annoyed over the paid wifi, but I had my Virgin Mobile broadband card so it was all good.

The plus was that the Westin had the great clock/radio that accommodates an iPod (which I used to charge mine).  The minus is that while my iPhone worked in the clock it didn’t charge it.

All in all, I enjoyed my stay in the hotel, punctuated by how well the staff treated me after my wallet was stolen.  And speaking of stealing, we got a great rate of $199 a night, before taxes.

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