Archive | September, 2011

Top Five Aviation Stories Of The Week

30 Sep

It has been a busy week for me.  I started out recovering from two journalism conventions where I had the chance to speak (and raise my aviation geek flag), and it ended with me cranking out stories for my day job.  So here are my picks for the week.

  1. I’m giving props to my Aviation Week colleagues Guy Norris and Mike Mecham, who led our team coverage of Boeing’s first 787 delivery, to Japan’s ANA.
  2. Speaking of 787s, I was at United’s Houston hub on Tuesday (a separate post is coming out about that) and I saw a mock-up of the 787  in the E Concourse.  CEO Jeff Smisek tells the Chicago Tribune that his carrier’s first 787s are coming into the fleet by the second half of next year. He couldn’t resist a dig a Boeing, noting he’s been waiting for the plane since Continental ordered it in 2004.
  3. JetBlue CEO David Barger used an appearance on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley to call the partial shutdown of FAA earlier this summer “criminal.”
  4. I was intrigued by Scott McCartney’s Wall Street Journal story on kids attaining elite status on the world’s airlines.  My daughter, 5, started flying when she was 10 days old. She was one of the youngest children to earn a Rapid Rewards ticket on Southwest Airlines.
  5. I’m a bit behind with this story (Sept. 19), but I wanted to share this Marketwatch story on what the Transportation Security Administration is doing to speed passengers through airport checkpoints.  TSA fought the registered/trusted traveler concept for so long, it fascinates me how now they’re going in that direction.

My beloved Airplane Geeks were smart enough to interview one of my favorite social media peeps, Susan Chana Elliott of Delta Air Lines, in the latest episode.   And we have the usual basket of crazy over at AvWeek’s Things With Wings blog with Strange But True Aviation News.   I’m going to watch episode two of ABC-TV’s “Pan Am” this Sunday, but three strikes and they’re out!

Budget Travel Asks: Where Do Travel Editors Vacation?

29 Sep

I’m a big fan of Budget Travel magazine, and I was intrigued when I saw this recent article where they revealed where their staff goes on vacation.  I get this question from a lot from folks.  Here’s my answer.

After spending hours upon hours on planes for my day job, all I want to do is avoid any sight of an airport. One of the best vacations I ever did was a road trip across America, back in 1992.  My friend was moving from Michigan to Seattle to begin his medical residency and asked if I wanted to tag along. I did, and I suggest that everyone do at least one trip across America in their lifetime (I’ve done three).  I got to see the actual Field of Dreams, check out the Butter Festival at the Iowa State Fair, see the Badlands and visit the Corn Palace, both in South Dakota.

I like to hit the open road and go to the beach.  Some of my favorites are Dewey Beach in Delaware, Duck in the Outer Banks of North Carolina (bonus-you can visit the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kill Devil Hill) and Normandy Beach in New Jersey (I knew about this WAY before the TV show “Jersey Shore”).

I also enjoy trips to Virginia wine country (Barbourville is a personal favorite), playing tourist in Washington, D.C. (with visits to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden a must-see) and, of course, New York City.

So where do you go on your vacation?

Southwest Airlines Pittsburgh Cuts Affect US Airways Employees

27 Sep

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?

Reviews Are In For ABC-TV’s “Pan Am”

26 Sep

Aviation geeks filled with nostalgia for the heydey of jetsetting, the 1960s, were salivating over this new show. ABC went full court press wooing us to build the buzz for the show, starring Christina Ricci. Here are the reviews.

So, #avgeek peeps – what did we think of #PanAm ?
September 26, 2011
TONIGHT! The new ABC TV Show “PanAm” Debuts

This is a rare Sunday post to let you folks know what I’ll be doing later this evening: watching the premiere of ABC-TV’s “Pan Am,” starring Christina Ricci. For those of you not old enough to remember, Pan Am was a U.S.-based flag carrier that flew international routes.
Attention passengers: We are about to begin boarding. Please have your televisions set to ABC at 10|9c and thank you for flying #PanAm
September 26, 2011
My favorite media critic, Eric Deggans of the St. Pete Times, went on NPR to offer his thoughts about the show, right before its debut.
TV shows, TV news, media issues: The Feed |

Best TV shows, worst TV shows, media issues and debates … it’s all here at the Feed, a blog on TV, media and modern life by St. Petersburg Times TV/media critic Eric Deggans. Possibly the most critical guy at the Times, he has served as music, media and TV critic at various times over 10 years.
@PanAmABC You made me not only want the bag now but the whole outfit! I want to be a #PanAm girl! Great premiere.
September 26, 2011
Can’t you just SMELL that new #707 @PanAmABC plane smell? He touched the fuselage-just like me!! #ilovepanam
September 26, 2011
Right on. MT @MarkHsoap: I liked #PanAm. Vaguely uneasy about spy plot (just like mob plot on #PlayboyClub). #MadMen doesn’t need this.
September 26, 2011
Pan Am Premiere Review: Buckle Up, Adventure Calls!

Pan Am took us back to the golden age of air travel, when every little girl had “stewardess” on her list of prospective careers and people wore their church clothes for a trip to the airport. Pilots and stewardesses were role models, and if we didn’t know it then, we learned in the premiere that these weren’t just any guys and girls.
It’s a three-man cockpit!! How very retro! Idlewild Tower! I am in MSY having an absolute #avgeek freak out! #PanAm #PanAmABC
September 26, 2011
saw #PanAm last night, i actually really liked it, think i’ll catch it next week. I’m a sucker for the old days.
September 26, 2011
Predicting the 1st Black staurtist in the 4th season. She’ll come in during the civil rights movement. Gabrielle Union? #panam
September 26, 2011
.@poshtash87 You know there were no black people in the 1960s! #PanAm
September 26, 2011
@soultravelers3 I watched #PanAm last nite.Was hoping for it to be a good show.Lots of nostalgia,good music, but bad writing.Think I’ll pass
September 26, 2011
Henry Harteveldt: “Hated it. Very, very disappointed.”
Real-Life Pan Am Stewardesses Review ABC’s ‘Pan Am’ (VIDEO)

‘Pan Am’ is one of the most anticipated new shows of the fall 2011 TV season — several AOL TV staffers gave the series a hearty \”watch it!\” after viewing
#PanAm was actually pretty good!Not representing the 60′s with a 100% accuracy but pretty enjoyable&damn I wish stewardesses were like that!
September 26, 2011
@breakofJayeDawn I like the nostalgia of #PanAm But I don’t see it lasting long. Unless the CIA missions get really interesting & alluring
September 26, 2011
#avgeek peeps-did you see that #PanAm Connie in Cuba? Le sigh…
September 26, 2011
And we’ll end this with a YouTube clip, below, on the introduction of Boeing 707 service on the real Pan Am. Enjoy!

Random Aviation Photo

26 Sep

Back in April 2008, I was speaking at an event hosted by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.  As part of that event, our hosts took me, along with a nice group of airport communicators, on a tour of their facility.  Nothing makes me happier than trolling around in the underbelly of an airport, the parts the traveling public normally doesn’t get to see.

The shot below was taken in Terminal B.  A United Airlines Boeing 737 sits at the gate, waiting to make its turn.  Enjoy!!

TONIGHT! The new ABC TV Show “PanAm” Debuts

25 Sep

All photos courtesy of ABC-TV

This is a rare Sunday post to let you folks know what I’ll be doing later this evening: watching the premiere of ABC-TV’s “Pan Am,”  starring Christina Ricci.  For those of you not old enough to remember, Pan Am was a U.S.-based flag carrier that flew international routes.

The stewardesses wore the iconic blue uniform and the pilots were known as sky gods.  Go watch “Catch Me If You Can” to get a sense of the buzz Pan Am generated.

The carrier died in 1991 after it was unable to adapt to a deregulated airline industry.  But its legend lives on.  The Met Life building on Park Avenue in New York City will always be the Pan Am building to those of us who remember the good old days.  Currently, regional carrier Gulfstream International Airlines occupies Pan Am’s Miami headquarters and touches of the airline can be seen all over the facility.

ABC has thoughtfully posted episodes for viewing, here.  Visit the Official Show Website:  You can follow the show on Twitter at @PanAmABC.  Become a  Facebook fan here.

And I’d be delighted to hear what you think about the show after it airs!!

Top 10 Favorite Airline Commercials

23 Sep

I know I usually do top aviation stories of the week, but I’m on travel, so I’m switching it up a bit.  The announcement that Frontier Airlines is rolling out a new advertising campaign — complete with television commercials — made me remember how much I love a good carrier campaign.

I’ve always been a fan of good airline commercials.  I like ones that make me laugh, that give me a sense of place and that show the wonderment of air travel.  Below are links to 10 of my favorites, in no particular order.  Which ones do you like? What did I miss?

1.  Frontier Airlines “Still the One”: a classic, with the carrier’s  animal tails singing the lyrics to “You’re Still The One.”

2.  AirTran – Babysitters: grandparents get their own surprise when they make a visit to see their twin baby grandchildren.

3.  United Airlines – “The Dragon”: I know this one got a lot of flack when it was unveiled, but I was mesmerized by the juxtaposition of the man, the dragons and his son (yes, I did a semester of film school ;) )

4. Eastern Airlines – Disney:  This is a charmer from back in the day when Eastern was the official airline of Walt Disney World.  The quality is a bit fuzzy, but it’s still a great commercial!

4. Southwest Airlines – Bags Fly Free On Stomachs: this commercial was funny then, but funnier now that Southwest has bought AirTran.

5.  Delta Air Lines – Keep Climbing: Lift: again, this was another one that got a bad rap, but I loved it for several reasons.  One, I love how it looked in black and white. Two, I loved that they used actual employees. And three, it showcased by beloved Boeing 747.

6.  Western Airlines – The only way to fly: this 10-second gem features the iconic airline bird.

7. PSA – Our Smiles Aren’t Just Painted On: I’m from California, and I was a great fan of this originally intra-state carrier. They were known for having smiles painted on the front of the plane. If you’re lucky, you may see the PSA heritage plane in the US Airways fleet.

8.  Piedmont Airlines – McLean Stevenson, Fishing Hole: the former M*A*S*H star was tapped in the 1980s to do commercials for the carrier.

9. British Airways – The Good Life: as much grief as the airline got over the opening of Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport, this commercial of the terminal as an aquarium won rave reviews.

10.  Pan Am – Introduction to Jet Service: as an homage to the launch of the television show “Pan Am” on ABC this Sunday, I thought I’d include this classic 3:55-minute commercial.

Can You Hear? Voices From The DC-3

22 Sep

Delta Air Lines' Ship 41 Photo by Benet J. Wilson

My love affair with the Douglas DC-3 began the day after I started by communications job at Delta Air Lines back in September 2004.  Regular readers know I’m a big aviation geek, and I was thrilled to discover that our offices were a stone’s throw away from the Delta Heritage Museum (a place you MUST visit if you have some spare time in Atlanta).

The Delta Heritage Museum features Ship 41, a lovingly restored DC-3 (right down to the period Life magazines in the seat back pocket).  The airplane actually flew until 2004 (unfortunately, right before I arrived).

Jump to July 2011, when I went to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.  One of the highlights of the show for me was to meet Julie Filucci, the author of a new book, Voices From The DC-3.  Julie and I “met” on Facebook, but had never met in person (ah, the joys of social media).

She appeared on Episode 162 of the Airplane Geeks podcast, where she talked about her book and the exhaustive research she did for it.   You can find Julie at her blog, the book’s Facebook Fan Page and on Twitter at @JulieInTheSky.

I plan on buying the book for my collection.  Be sure and read this great review from our friends over at the Jetwhine blog — and if you’ve read the book, let me know what you think!

Product Review: Currency Banknotes iPhone App

20 Sep

Back in the day when I covered regional aviation, I attended the annual European Regions Airline Association. I used to refer to this trip as Benet’s big European jaunt, because I tried to go as many places as possible during the week of the conference.

In 1999, I took what turned out to the mother of all European jaunts. Our company had offices in London, so I used that as my base. The conference was actually in Paris that year, and I had a lot of ground to cover. I went to Brussels (where I had lived as a child) to visit with the now-defunct Virgin Express, one of the early low-cost carriers that were started in Europe. I then went back to London and flew an Avro RJ delivery flight to Athens for the new fleet of Aegean Airlines.

Now this was before the Euro was brought on to be the region’s currency. It was also before you could use ATM cards outside the country, so I spent a good chunk of the trip converting among five different currencies (including my good old American dollars). I get queasy just thinking about submitting that massive expense report.

Which is why having the Currency Banknotes iPhone app would have been really helpful back then. The folks there were kind enough to allow me a free copy of the 99-cent app to try it out.

This app is too cool for school because besides handling the currency conversions for more than 150 of the world’s major currencies, it also offers photos of said currency. Did you know that the Zimbabwe Dollar includes a one billion (yes, with a b) note? Did you know it does conversions for the Cuban Peso and the Cuban Convertible Peso?

This app has replaced my old Onanda Currency Converter in my iPhone Travel folder.  So what do you think? Do you think pictures make the difference with this app?

Random Aviation Photo

19 Sep

Back in June 2007, a bunch of us journalist types were invited out to Washington Dulles International Airport’s Signature Flight Support FBO by Northwest Airlines.  They wanted to give us a peek at the Bombardier CRJ-900, which was going to be flown under the Northwest Airlink banner by Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines.

There’s nothing more fun than kicking the tires on a brand-new airplane.  We sat in the cockpit, we tried out the seats, we checked out the lav and got a nice look at the landing gear and wings.  Enjoy!


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