Tag Archives: USA Today

Top Five Most Interesting Aviation Stories Of The Week

22 Jul

This week’s big news was the massive American Airlines order split between rival manufacturers and the potential partial shut-down of the Federal Aviation Administration.  But there were other things going on, below.

  1. There were hundreds of stories on the American Air order, but I really liked this one in Aviation Week from my colleague, Darren Shannon. In this story, Shannon explains why the carrier had to split its order between Boeing and Airbus.
  2. Aviation Week has been all over the potential shut-down of FAA because Congress can’t get it together and stop doing short-term reauthorizations over and over again.
  3. Delta Air Lines and US Airways finally got approval from the Dept. of Transportation to do a swap that will give Delta more slots at LaGuardia Airport and US Airways more slots at Washington National Airport, reports USA Today’s Today in the Sky blog.
  4. Back when I worked at Delta Air Lines, it was during a time when the carrier was struggling to make its pension fund more stable.  With questions on what would happen to the fund in the long term, there were cases where pilots divorced their wives so their spouses could get a lump-sum payment, but they would still live together.  The airlines caught on and Continental took nine of its pilots to court over what they called “sham” divorces.  The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the lawsuit, reports the Houston Chronicle.
  5. Anyone who’s ever flown on a plane knows the drill — when the boarding call is made, people start flocking to the boarding gate even though their row isn’t called. Sometimes it’s so bad you feel like a salmon spawning upstream when it’s time for you to board.  Which is why I read Scott McCartney’s Middle Seat Terminal blog post on the boarding process with interest.  In my humble opinion, I think Southwest Airlines has it right.

We have some really crazy stuff in this week’s edition of Strange But True Aviation News, including airline panty checks, the Octomom having a bit of kid trouble in business class and folks with TSA screener issues.  Next week I’ll be in aviation geek heaven, covering the annual EAA AirVenture air show, the world’s largest.  So I have to decide — will I try and post from the show or do a best-of next week?  We’ll see.  Meanwhile, enjoy your weekend!

Will Fly For Food

5 Jul

As an aviation journalist, I have seen the best and worst of airport food.  I also am a big fan of the $100 hamburger, which is just an excuse for general aviation pilots to fly from one destination to another.

Which is why I cheered when I saw this great article — Test crew flies Boeing 747-8 to Pittsburgh for sandwich — from our good friend Ben Mutzabaugh of USA Today’s Today In The Sky blog.  This story has two elements I just love — the Boeing 747-8 and great food.

The crew for the 747-8 flew from Seattle to Pittsburgh for some flight testing and took the opportunity to take delivery of sandwiches from Primanti Brothers.  Having feasted on its signature  sandwich –  grilled meat (give me ham), a vinegar-based cole slaw, tomato slices, and a mound of french fries between two hunks of Italian bread — I know why they made this particular stop, and I’m not hating on them.

Last September, I took a digital storytelling course at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.  We had to do a 2-minute story on the topic of our choice.  We were 5 minutes away from the Albert Whitted Airport, so I decided that’s where my story was.  After I shot my video, I went upstairs for lunch.  It was one of the best — and most reasonably priced — meals of my life.  I had a chicken/sun-dried tomato pasta with fresh bread that I still dream about to this day.

Another great airport restaurant is Enrique’s at the Ponca City, OK, airport.  Their chips and salsa are to die for, and you must try the Chicken Huarache.  When I went to Learn To Fly Day last year at Frederick (MD) Municipal Airport, I had a great — and cheap — lunch at the Airport Diner. The view of the runway was a bonus!

On the commercial side, I give high marks to Chicago Midway’s food concourse. You get a real feel of Chicago with its great mix of local food institutions, like Gold Coast Dogs, Lalo’s Mexican Restaurant, Pegasus on the Fly and Nuts on Clark.

So what am I missing? What commercial and GA airports offer the best meal options?

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!

Top 5 Interesting Stories Of The Week

3 Jun

I was a little out of the loop this week as I celebrated my daughter’s kindergarten graduation and the loss of her first tooth.  So I’m not as up on the news this week, but I do have my weekly picks.

  1. My airport soul sister Harriet Baskas wrote a piece for MSNBC that struck close to home.  As a mother who traveled with my daughter starting when she was 10 days old, having the ability to gate check her stroller was a big comfort.  That comfort went away for parents flying with strollers on American Airline starting June 1.  The carrier will allow collapsible umbrella-type strollers under 20 lbs., but the larger ones — like the one I used — will have to be checked in at the ticket counter.  The small consolation is that American won’t charge you to do it.  Here’s hoping this is one trend that doesn’t catch on.
  2. A funny thing happened to the new Qantas flight between Dallas/Fort Worth to Brisbane — it had to make an unscheduled fuel stop in Noumea to refuel, reports my Aviation Week colleague Adrian Schofield.
  3. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Andrea Ahles reports that AirTran will continue flying into DFW Airport through Nov. 21 to stay in compliance with the Wright Amendment limits.
  4. USA Today’s Technology Live blog posts about the ambitious efforts by Virgin America to extend its multimedia reach.  The airline says it will have multimedia elements such as social gaming, real-time geolocation services, highly curated news content and specialized social-networking privileges for Virgin travelers on its fleet by mid-2012.
  5. The Los Angeles Times profiles Alaska Airlines and its efforts to continue as a stand-alone carrier.

I wanted to give a shout out to my reader Matti in Finland, who recently got three hours in a DC-9 simulator as a birthday gift from his wife (lucky man!).  You can read his account here.   And of course, no Friday is complete without Strange But True Aviation News.  Enjoy!!

Top Five Interesting Aviation Stories

27 May

Ah, we all lived to tell the tales of another week in the wild and wonderful world of aviation.  I had so many choices for this week’s top five it was hard to decide. So here goes!

  1. All of us true aviation geeks have been following the Boeing 787 Dreamliner since it was an idea in the head of company engineers.  The aircraft has had its problems coming to market, which is why we were all glad to see this story at AviationWeek.com by my colleague Leithen Francis: “ANA 787 Validation Flights Starting Soon.”
  2. Ah, summer. Time to hit the road and try and cash in some of those frequent flyer miles you’ve been hoarding all year.  But not so fast.  You may want to read this Wall Street Journal Middle Seat blog post ranking the airlines on frequent flyer seat availability.  SPOILER ALERT! No surprise, Southwest Airlines ranked number one for seats available (love you, Rapid Rewards!), while US Airways and Delta were at the bottom of the list.
  3. USAToday.com contributor David Grossman is filling in for our good friend Today In The Sky columnist Ben Mutzabaugh.  On Wednesday, he did an interesting post on cities chasing air service throw out subsidies to get it.  After writing about and working for a regional airline, the awful truth is when the money runs out, most times., so does the service, kids. Sad, but true.
  4. My airport soul sister Harriet Baskas (of the great Stuck At The Airport blog) has a fascinating article over at MSNBC.com on how Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport handled 10,000 stranded passengers after severe hail storms delayed hundreds of flights.  And I could have been among those stranded had I been on the delivery flight of American Airlines’ first Boeing 737-800,  as reported by our Twitter friend @AirlineReporter (aka David Paul Brown).  But if I was going to be stranded in any airport, I’d want it to be DFW, and I tell you why here.
  5. I’m not a big professional basketball fan (but love me some college hoops), but I have watched a few games in the playoffs.  I know that American Airlines has two arenas (in Dallas and Miami) bearing its name, and this article on CNBC.com explains just how much that’s worth to the Dallas-based carrier, especially if the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat face each other in the finals.

I must put in a quick plug for my day job.  Aviation Week has partnered with Airbus to create the cool Ultimate Guide to the Paris Air Show iPhone app. My colleague Rupa Haria blogs about it here.

On the media side, you can catch me in two interviews:  with Paula Williams of Your Marketing Co-pilot and with Dan Webb of the Airplane Geeks (I’m on first) for the Bits & Pieces podcast episode.

Speaking of the Geeks, I’ll be hanging out with them at the Become a Pilot Family Day and Fly-In June 18, 2011, 10 a.m. – 3p.m., at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center next to Washington Dulles International Airport.  Max, Rob, Dan, and David will join Milford and Charlie from FlightTime Radio to broadcast live from the museum.  If you’re in the area, please come out to see us.  You never know what kind of swag we might have to give away!

And last — but not least — Strange But True Aviation News is back after a week hiatus.  We’ve got someone trying to master his domain inflight, we see what happens when TSA holds a terrorist drill and forgets to tell a key party and more guns at airport security. Enjoy your long weekend!

Top Five Aviation Stories of Interest

23 May

Last week was a zoo, with me working on Geneva time for the European Business Convention and Exhibition, the big business aviation show for that continent.  You can read Aviation Week’s extensive coverage of EBACE here.

But there were also some other interesting aviation stories last week, and I still wanted to highlight them, below.

  1. My Aviation Week colleague Jim Ott writes about a speech that TSA Administrator John Pistole made before the 83rd annual conference and exposition of the American Association of Airport Executives, where he says the next decade of security screening will focus on operational assessments “to stay ahead of tomorrow’s threats.”
  2. Regular readers know that I’ve been a big fan of TSA’s efforts in social media.  That impression continues after Blogger Bob submits to questions from the readers of Chris Elliott’s website.
  3. USA Today’s Today In The Sky columnist Ben Mutzabaugh writes about a topic that makes my heart a little sad: the phase-out of United Airlines’ iconic tulip logo.  But in a bit of good news, United used its Twitter account to say it was keeping Channel 9. You can read my original appeal to UA on that topic here.
  4. Back in the day, I wrote about the regional aviation industry, which is why this admittedly geeky piece from good friend Bill Swelbar caught my eye.  I’ve been on many sides of the small community air service debate, writing about it for Commuter/Regional Airline News and Aviation Daily, protecting it during a stint at the Regional Airline Association and chasing after service working at Mesa Air Group. I don’t think this type of service should go away, but it is LONG overdue for a major overhaul.   I outline my thoughts on that here.
  5. I enjoyed this piece on Up Up and A Gay on sleeping in airplanes.  I am one of those people who can sleep anywhere — even in airplanes. When you’re tired, you’re tired!

I just didn’t have time to do Strange But True Aviation News this week, but I’ll leave you with this link from our friend Paula Williams of the Your Marketing Co-pilot podcast.  She was kind enough to interview me about my thoughts on personal branding and networking.  Enjoy!

Business Travelers – And Aviation Queen – Pick Their Favorite Airports

10 May

Back in March, Gary Stoller of USA Today did an article entitled Business travelers pick their favorite airports.  I know I’m a bit behind on my articles, but I saved this one because it was all about airports.  I have spent my fair share in many airports, and I know what I like — and what I don’t.  So I’m going to weigh in on five of my personal favorites.

  1. Kansas City International Airport All photos by Benet J. Wilson

    Kansas City International Airport: this one is my hands-down favorite of all time.  Why? It’s the ultimate in easy in, easy out.  Each gate has its own TSA screener checkpoint AND its own baggage claim.  So there’s never any long lines for screening and for those who check baggage, there’s never a long wait.

  2. Jacksonville International Airport: this is one of the most customer-friendly — and focused — airports I’ve ever been in.  Everyone (and I MEAN everyone) from the janitorial staff to the concession employees to TSA screeners are warm and friendly.  And the airport is nice to look at and it’s very easy to get around.
  3. Terminal A, Boston-Logan International Airport

    Terminal A, Boston-Logan International Airport: (full disclosure-I worked at Delta and did the PR on the grand opening of this terminal.) This was one of the first terminals built after 9/11.  You can see this at the TSA security checkpoint, which was built as part of the terminal’s design, not just cobbled together after 9/11.  The terminal was the first to gain LEED certification.  It’s light and airy, has a nice mix of concessions, and again, has easy in, easy out access.

  4. Orlando International Airport: I know, I know–this is a leisure airport.  But the last few times I’ve been there, it has been for business, and Orlando is serious about getting you in and out — quickly.  For example, the airport was the first in the nation to have a registered traveler line under the old Clear program.  They monitor their security lines to keep them moving, and they have a great selection of concessions just in case you forgot to buy that last-minute souvenir.
  5. Pier A, BWI Airport

    Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport: yes, I’m throwing a bone to my home airport.  The ease to get in and out of Pier A (controlled by Southwest Airlines) can’t be beat.  It’s the first terminal you  see when arriving at the airport, and has two checkpoints that are pretty speedy.

So, do you agree? What other airports are easy in, easy out?

My Top 5 Interesting Aviation Stories Of The Week

22 Apr

Let’s just hop to this week’s stories, shall we?  And I lied — I actually have six to share with you kids this week.

  1. We’ve all heard about the sleeping air traffic controllers, but did you hear about the one who was suspended — because he was watching a movie? My Aviation Week colleague Darren Shannon writes about it here.
  2. The Consumer Traveler website offers us “Ned’s top 10 airplane luggage myths.”  Number one made me laugh out loud.
  3. Speaking of luggage, Cranky Flier has a cool post on how Delta Air Lines can now track your bags in real time.  It looks like the screen you use to track your FedEx packages.
  4. Gary Stoller of USA Today asks the question that many of us have known for a long time: “Are frequent-flier programs losing their luster?”
  5. The Up Up and a Gay blog tapped into one of my secret fears — airline lavatories.  I would rather hold it until it’s leaking from my ears (sorry for the graphic description) before I use an airline lav — and that includes international flights.  It was always a general thing with me and public restrooms, but a visit to American Airlines’ maintenance facility where, among other things, they clean lavs, was just too much for me. Ewwww!!!
  6. And here’s your bonus!  The Runway Girl blog has an interesting post about new technology from GuestLogix and Pokeware where “if you see something you like in a piece of video content, you can poke it to learn more about the product, and if you still like it you can buy it.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t point you to this week’s Airplane Geeks podcast, which featured a great interview with Igor Sikorsky III.  I knew that his grandfather was a helicopter pioneer, but had no idea of his impact on commercial aviation.  Did you know he designed the Flying Boats used by Pan Am back in the day?  And I make it into the listener mail segment toward the end of the show, talking about my views on car seats for children on airplanes (I’m 100% for it).

Of course, it would NOT be Friday without the amusement park I like to call Strange But True Aviation News.  And remember–I can’t make this stuff up!!

And here’s your video this week — it’s a time-lapse video of Turkey’s Istanbul Atatürk Airport.  Enjoy!

My Top 5 Aviation Stories Of The Week

8 Apr

The Southwest Airlines roof incident, the crash of a Gulfstream G650 business jet, Boeing’s 737 versus the Airbus 320NEO and the opening of a green terminal at San Francisco International Airport, among other things, made this another not-dull week in the wonderful world of aviation.  Here’s my top five for the week.

  1. Aviation Week’s business aviation team had full coverage in the wake of the tragic crash of a G650 that killed four.  The Business Aviation channel has all our stories.
  2. You must check out the Wall Street Journal’s team coverage April 8 on the aftereffects of Southwest Airlines’ fuselage rip. I’m a big fan of Peter Sanders’ work, but he also brings in Andy Pasztor and Timothy Martin for a comprehensive picture of the event.
  3. And speaking of the Southwest Airlines fuselage rip, kudos to the Dallas Morning News’ Terry Maxon for his timeline on the Boeing 737.
  4. Bloomberg’s Mary Schlangenstein wrote how US Airways CEO Doug Parker sees “one big deal left” when it comes to airline mergers.  President Scott Kirby a merger with JetBlue or Alaska Airlines is less likely.
  5. USA Today’s Today In The Sky blog did a nice job of covering the unveiling of United Airlines’ retro 75th anniversary livery.  I am just a fool for these things!

On another note, I did a post on April 6 urging you all to participate in Passport Day in the USA on April 9.  Well, with the government shutdown on the way at press time (1:00 p.m. EDT), the event has been canceled.  While the Post Office will be open, the State Department will not be processing passport applications, reports Voice of America.

And last — but certainly not least — we always end the week with Strange But True Aviation News.  We had a much larger-than-usual batch of crazy this week, with  unusual drug-smuggling containers, an aircraft landing on a beach, a ban on bulldogs and a bad smell coming to an airport.

And I still have airline commercials on the brain, so here’s one from the archives. This one’s for you, Henry Harteveldt! Enjoy!

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