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2015: 290,939
2014: 363,407
Total: 1,212,540

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Behind the Scenes: Virgin America Starts Service to Palm Springs

Celebrate Good Times! Sir Richard Branson helps to cut to ribbon at San Fransisco on December 15th. Photo by Nick Smith, Correspondant.

Celebrate Good Times! Sir Richard Branson and Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnethelps cut the ribbon at San Fransisco on December 15th. Photo by Nick Smith /

On December 15th, Virgin America celebrated their inaugural service to Palm Springs International Airport (PSP). The airline is offering daily non-stop flights from San Fransisco (SFO) and seasonal flights from John F Kennedy International Airport (JKF) with just one stop (in SFO), but no plane change required.

If you know Virgin America, they can’t just start a new route without some fun — this was no exception. Correspondent Nick Smith was able to join in on the fun, starting in SFO, then taking the inaugural flight to PSP and a bit of fun while relaxing at the Riviera Palm Springs (note that the costs for the flight from Seattle to SFO to PSP and the hotel were taken care of by the airline and hotel).

“The Virgin terminal immediately turned into a party,” Nick explains.  “Rat Pack impersonators set the tone of early fifties high class style that awaited down in Palm Springs.  Crowds gravitated as Dean, Sammy and Frank occasionally broke into into a solo while holding martinis (which Virgin made available to everyone waiting to board).”

SFO’s new Terminal 2 had a party atmosphere and after a few short talks and a ceremonial ribbon cutting, it was time to board the plane; one of Virgin America’s stylish Airbus A320s (N623VA).

Sir Richard Branson walks down the aisle.

Sir Richard Branson walks down the aisle. Photo by Nick Smith /

Although the flight was short from SFO to PSP, there was still great adventure to be had. Drinks were on hand and Nick was able to hob-knob with David Cush, President and CEO of Virgin America and Sir Richard Branson.

“Sir Branson began his day in Australia but didn’t show any signs of fatigue,” Nick explained. “He made plenty of time for everyone’s questions and brought everyone’s spirit higher than the aircraft could have by itself.  He clearly holds a lot of excitement for the new route and, like I, had never visited Palm Springs. ”

Special flights like these are always different. Most people are up and out of their seats and interacting with others. It is like a social shin-dig 30,000 feet up and this one was no different.

The Rat Pack on board the aircraft (at least people that look like them).

The Rat Pack on board the aircraft (at least people that look like them). Photo by Nick Smith /

“My favorite part of the flight was walking up and down the aisle talking to those who made this inaugural journey.  Not a single passenger didn’t carry a smile and everyone had a story.”

Once the plane landed, it was welcomed by a water cannon salute and local media. There were lots of poses on the red carpet before Branson was whisked off in a helicopter (he is one busy dude) and other invited guests headed to the Riviera for some great food and drinks.

The feeling of the hotel really mirrors the energy from the surrounding area. “I asked Geoff Young, General Manager, a little about the history and style of this place, which encapsulates the spirit that made Palm Springs so popular in the heyday of early 1960’s Hollywood vacationing style,” Nick reported back. “He, as well as each member of the staff, showed absolute professionalism and commitment to service.  It’s been a while since I actually felt special at a resort; this place did it.” This is about the time where I really start regretting sending Nick and wishing I was able to make the trip on my own — oh well.

What would Palm Springs be without Palm trees? Photo by Nick Smith /

What would Palm Springs be without Palm trees? Photo by Nick Smith /

Palm Springs is the 16th desitnation that Virgin America flies to and it most likely won’t be the last. They have over 50 planes on order and big plans to continue growing. Although they hit a snag withing having to cancel their flight to Toronto and that pesky issue with not always making profit, they are still an airline that many in the business have started to watch closely. Palm Springs seems like a good fit for the airline and the city is excited to have them.

“The Virgin brand is a perfect fit with our destination,” said Scott White, President and CEO of Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVA.  “From our stylish hotels and resorts to our international festivals and 360 days of sunshine, the Virgin America guest will be able to find and experience their personal oasis!  Virgin America’s new nonstop and through flights from SFO and JFK will also lower fares and improve service in our market, allowing more travelers to enjoy all that our unique region has to offer.”

Video: What’s it like being a bag on Delta Air Lines?

Have you ever wondered what happened to your luggage after giving it to a ticket agent? No? Well too bad, you are about to find out. Recently, Delta Air Lines took a bag that was going from Atlanta to New York and added six cameras to it.

I don’t know about you, but looks like my bag has a lot of fun every time it flies.

ANA Will Put Special Livery on all Their (Delayed) Boeing 787 Dreamliners

Starting with their 3rd 787, all future Dreamliners will have this special livery.

Starting with their 3rd 787, ANA will paint all future Dreamliners with this special livery. Photo from ANA.

That chances are that most of you who read this blog, won’t have any trouble telling the difference between a Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other aircraft. For those who might not have the keen-airliner-eye, it could be a bit more of a challenge. All Nippon Airways (ANA), the launch customer for the 787, is trying to make spotting them a bit easier with an updated livery just for their Dreamliners.

ANA’s first two 787s were painted in a unique livery to celebrate taking delivery of the 787 first. Starting with their third aircraft, the airline will have the numbers “787” clearly painted on the side of the aircraft, where the rest of the livery will be unchanged. So when will ANA take delivery of their third Dreamliner? No one is certain, but Boeing is hoping before the end of the year (aka in two days).

Boeing has stated that they plan to deliver three more 787 Dreamliners to ANA before the calendar reaches 2012. This is yet another delay in the 787 schedule. Normally I am put off when almost any story that is written about the 787 includes the word “delay” — many times even in the title. However, this is a whole new delay and just because Boeing delivered their first two 787s does not mean there aren’t new aircraft hiccups that keep popping up.

According to the Seattle Times, Boeing was planning to deliver five to seven Dreamliners by the end of the year, which is still less than they origionally planned. Then the FAA found some issues with wiring and now Boeing is struggling to deliver any additional 787s to ANA before 2011 is over .

Originally, ANA had hope to take delivery of their third Dreamliner in November and wanted to use it on flights from Tokyo to Beijing in December. Instead, it sits at Paine Field, waiting to head to Japan. At least ANA is enjoying the two 787s they are currently operating (JA801A and JA802A). Airline spokeswoman Jean Saito told the Seattle Times that, “the first two Dreamliners, operating on domestic routes in Japan, have had a smooth entry into service.”

The rumors I am hearing is that Boeing is seriously planning to deliver at least one additional 787 Dreamliner to ANA in the next few days. That doesn’t leave much time — I only hope that the rumors are true.

Guest Review: Flying Heritage Collection — Paine Field — Everett, WA

Friends of mine, Maresa, recently started a new blog that looks at all the great opportunities around the greater Seattle area called She recently visited the Flying Heritage Collection and did a great review that I wanted to share. She is not an aviation geek, so it is great to see a review from the perspective of those who just have an interest in the area, history and how things work. Here is Maresa’s review in her own words…

My grandfather came into town from Minnesota last week to visit; he’s been a pilot for over 50 years. My husband and I always like taking Grandpa on flying-related outings whenever he’s in town. Last year we explored the Future of Flight together and he’s visited the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in the past. This year we needed something different. Lucky for us we recently heard about Paul Allen’s airplanes at Paine Field in Everett: The Flying Heritage Collection. When we arrived at the Flying Heritage Collection, we were escorted back through history and it has now become one of our favorite museums.

A look at the Paul Allen's historic WWII collection of war-time airplanes

A look at the Paul Allen's historic WWII collection of war-time airplanes

The Flying Heritage Collection 

Next to all of the giant Boeing hangers, Paul Allen’s hangar doesn’t appear very big.  But, once inside the museum hangar, you’ll find they have fit 16 aircraft–mostly from the World War II era– two WWII army tanks, and two missiles.  They also have a replica of SpaceShipOne, the first private-venture rocket ship. State of the art restoration techniques have been used to refurbish these vintage airplanes and other artifacts. Many of the planes have stories. For example, the Messerschmitt BF 109 E-3 (Emil), was found in several pieces buried in sand along the English Channel by a man walking the beach in the late 1980s. With time and the right replacement parts, plus liberal funding, it has been returned to its original form. The planes look as sharp as they did when they were manufactured over 70 years ago.

The WWII tanks at the museum--yes they can still fire and they have armor that's a good 3 inches thick

The WWII tanks at the museum--yes they can still fire and they have armor that's a good 3 inches thick

Free Fly Days
Our tour was lead by a docent, Jack.  Jack was extremely well-prepared and superbly informed about each exhibit in the museum. One of the first things Jack told us was that all of the planes were in flying condition and the all tanks could still be driven and fire ammunition, making this more of a functional collection than simply a museum. As we walked around in the museum, mechanics were working on several of the planes, ensuring that they would be in good operating condition for the yearly Free Fly Days that happen every summer. The “Free Fly Days” don’t afford the public rides in the plane, but allow you to come and be part of history by witnessing the operation and flight of these historic planes as experienced pilots take off and land the planes just outside the hangar.

Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk: it really was painted with a shark face back during WWII

Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk: it really was painted with a shark face back during WWII

Plane Stories
    Thanks to our docent we learned a great deal about the story behind each plane.  Jack offered not only information about the make and model of the plane, but the history of the individual aircraft that stood before us. Every plane narrative was completely unique. From how the plane was used in the war, to what each country wanted to accomplish with their aircraft, to when and how the plane was found and eventually bought by Paul Allen to be restored.  The following is one that captivated us and we wanted to share with you.
The Night Witches
The “Night Witches” were female Russian pilots who flew PO-2 biplanes during WWII. These bomber pilots were part of a unit that was entirely operated by women. As you know, for women to fly in direct combat was extremely rare at this time in history. The Soviet Union was the first country to allow women in combat after Stalin approved a plan to use this regiment of young women against the invading Germans.  Many of these female pilots were teenagers at the time. The “Night Witches” would fly low over the German soldiers, with the darkness of night on their side, and conduct daring raids on the Germans. They would fly the PO-2 close to the ground, cut off its engine, so as not to attract attention, and release their bomb load as they glided.

While the Night Witches didn’t end up causing too much damage, their incessant bombing missions kept the Germans up all night, and reportedly stressed and demoralized the German troops. The German troops were also put out by the fact that these were women conducting the raids, and thus they gave them the name, “The Night Witches.” These Russian pilots earned high honors in Russia as being “Heros of the Soviet Union” during the war.

The PO-2 flown by "The Night Witches" during WWII in Soviet Russia

The PO-2 flown by "The Night Witches" during WWII in Soviet Russia

Sworn To Secrecy
    Jack told us that even though the Night Witches were seen as heros, they had been sworn to secrecy after the war and were forced to resume their lives as housewives when the war concluded, never to unveil the fact that they were pilots, let alone that they had flown in the war. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s or 1990’s that these female Russian soldiers were able to tell their story. You’ll learn even more about the “Night Witches” at the museum when you visit.
Curtis JN-4D Jenny air-craft manufactured in 1918--Amelia Earhart flew a plane like this one

Curtis JN-4D Jenny air-craft manufactured in 1918--Amelia Earhart flew a plane like this one

Back To The Collection
We highly recommend asking for a tour guide when you arrive.  Your docent will make the history of the airplanes come to life in a way that they may not otherwise. My grandfather, who has studied and known WWII aircraft for many years, said that he learned a great deal from our docent. We are looking forward to returning to the Flying Heritage Collection for their Free Fly Days to hear the planes’ motors roar and watch history soar.

  Aircraft in the Collection 

Newly added pieces include a collection of popular WWII sidearms carried by many pilots in their aircraft to offer some defense in the case of a crash-landing behind enemy lines.  These include the venerable Colt M1911A1, the German 9mm Luger P08 pistol carried by many of the German officers and the 9mm Walther P38 pistol.  Some of these models are still actively used today in militaries around the world.
Polikarpov I-16 Type 24 "Rata"--this was a very sturdy plane that could handle being shot at much longer than many other planes

Polikarpov I-16 Type 24 "Rata"--this was a very sturdy plane that could handle being shot at much longer than many other planes

Things To Know

  • Hours: Open daily 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • This is a great outing to take your kids on, especially if they’re studying WWII history in school
  • Free parking on-site
  • Admission fees: Adults $12, Seniors/Military $10, Youth (6-15 years) $8, Children (5 and under) Free
  • Free Fly Days: There’s usually one in June and in July, and a couple in August and in September—they take out different planes on different days

From I-5 take the exit to Highway 525 toward the Mukilteo Ferry
Highway 525 will become the Mukilteo Speedway
Turn right onto Beverly Park Road
Follow the “Flying Heritage Collection” Signs to the parking lot
End at: Paine Field 3407 109th Street SW Everett, WA 98204

You can follow Maresa on her adventures at, via Facebook or Twitter.