US Airways CRJ-900, operated by Mesa Airlines. This is one slick looking plane.
Recently I flew from Seattle (SEA) to Tucson (TUS) with a stop in Phoenix (PHX) on US Airways. The first leg was on an Airbus A320 and then a very short layover before heading down to TUS on a CRJ-900 regional jet. Since my flight out of SEA was at 5:15am and I woke up at 2:30am to catch the flight, I slept the whole way down to PHX. That makes for a pretty poor review, so I decided to share the shorter of the two flights: PHX to TUS on US Airways Express (operated by Mesa Air). The flight is very short, only 23 minutes, meaning no beverage service and very little time to even turn on your electronics.
This was my first flight on a CRJ-900. Being based on the west coast, we really didn’t see many regional jets until recently. Even now, we don’t see nearly as many regional jets as folks over on the east coast. Not too long ago, I flew a CRJ-700 for the first time and had mix feelings about the aircraft.
First off, the gate agent was probably the best I have ever experienced. It seems that so many gate agents are hardened by annoying and demanding customers that you don’t see too many who are genuinely friendly. She was welcoming everyone by last name, “Welcome Mr. Brown, how are you today?” – and then actually interacted with each passenger as they boarded.
When getting on the aircraft I could help but notice there were America West emblems on the seats and the bulkhead. (I forgot my camera, so the photos are from my iPhone). Most people probably didn’t notice, but as an airline nerd, this was very odd. US Airways and America West merged in 2005, giving over five years to re-brand the regional fleet. I am big on airlines having consistent branding and although fun to see the old America West logo, it does no good having passengers stare at that logo during their flight. I contacted US Airways via phone and email, but as of posing this story, I have not received a reply. I assume this must have to do with Mesa Air (which operated the flight) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2010.
The next issue were the windows. On the CRJ aircraft, they are widely spaced out meaning that many of them are in odd positions. For most of us in the front, we really didn’t have a window. I had one blocked by the seat in front of me and one behind my shoulders. Sure, most aircraft have a dead spot in a row or two, but most seats on the CRJs have this issue. Just like flying on the CRJ-700, my neck was sore by the time we left the gate from looking out the window. I understand that the windows need to be spaced out for structural integrity and it is up to the airline to figure out seat spacing, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
The flight was only going to be 23 minutes so what did it matter, right? Well, the flight itself did only take about 23 minutes, but it took us over 40 minutes to take off after leaving the gate. It is difficult when you have in your mind that you will only have to sit on the plane for 23 minutes and it ends up being over an hour. Especially when you can’t be on your phone or laptop during that whole time on the ground.
This must be a common occurrence for this flight, since it was scheduled to leave at 9:56am and arrive at 10:55am. When you consider it only takes two hours to drive between the airports, if you need to rent a car in Tucson, it might be better just to rent the car in Phoenix and drive. I can’t believe I am saying that, since I would normally take any opportunity to fly when I can, but sitting in a plane not being able to see out the window for so long on the ground, with people from Arizona who think 75deg is cold (I was sweating the entire time) is just frustrating.
Most times on smaller aircraft I feel more connected to the flying experience, but this time I felt disconnected. It could have been the heat, the large guy sitting next to me or the odd yellow interior lighting of the airplane (lack of sleep might have been a factor as well). All I know is having a real window can make a huge difference and I will be double checking my seat placement before I fly on another CRJ.
In 2000, Trans World Airlines (TWA) was celebrating their 75th anniversary. It is too bad the airline would last only about a year longer before being merged with American Airlines at the end of 2001. I am not fully sure, but it appears this video was shown on the airline before taking off. The introduction from the manager of advertising is a little slow and dry, but work getting through to see the ten old advertisements from TWA. From “TWA’s the way” ad campaign from the 1960′s to the “one mission…yours” from the 1990′s, there’s a little bit of everything.
Talk about uber First Class accommodations — if you wanted to be somebody, you would fly MGM Grand Air. The airline first started in 1987 as a VIP charter using a fleet of DC-8s and Boeing 727s. Then it added a schedule service, flying only from New York to Los Angeles offering only First Class seats. Really, saying “First Class” almost does the airline shame. The Boeing 727s would only have 34 seats, a full bar and chef on board.
In 1995, due to slipping sales, the airline was sold over to Front Page Tours. After changing hands for a bit, they changed their name to Champion Air and served as a charter until they went under in 2008.
Even after almost 24 years after the airline first flew, I think this livery looks classy. I couldn’t imagine what the livery must have looked like during the 1980′s. Although many others have tried a First Class only airline between LA and NYC, very few have ever succeeded or have reached the level of MGM Grand. Check out a first hand experience of flying the airline from someone on the website FlyerTalk.com.
A French Air Force KC-135 (much like what the US military uses today) refuels a Royal Australian Air Force A330
With every competition, there will inevitably be a winner and a loser. Although there is a lot of excitement in the Seattle area that Boeing won the Air Force tanker contract with their 767 (KC-46A) aircraft, there are many in the Mobile, Alabama area who are very disappointed. If they won the contract, EADS planned to build their Airbus A330 based tanker (the KC-45) in Mobile. There is no word yet if EADS will appeal the decision, but they did post a statement on their website about the tanker selection. Here is their statement in full:
EADS North America statement concerning U.S. Air Force Tanker selection
Arlington, Virginia, 24 February 2011
EADS North America officials today expressed disappointment and concern over the announcement by the U.S. Air Force that it had selected a high-risk, concept aircraft over the proven, more capable KC-45 for the nation’s next aerial refueling tanker.
“This is certainly a disappointing turn of events, and we look forward to discussing with the Air Force how it arrived at this conclusion,” said EADS North America Chairman Ralph D. Crosby, Jr. “For seven years our goal has been to provide the greatest capability to our men and women in uniform, and to create American jobs by building the KC-45 here in the U.S. We remain committed to those objectives.”
If selected, EADS North America had committed to build the KC-45 at a new production facility in Mobile, Alabama, with a U.S. supplier base of nearly a thousand American companies.
“With a program of such complexity, our review of today’s decision will take some time,” Crosby said. “There are more than 48,000 Americans who are eager to build the KC-45 here in the U.S., and we owe it to them to conduct a thorough analysis.”
“Though we had hoped for a different outcome, it’s important to remember that this is one business opportunity among many for EADS in the United States,” said Sean O’Keefe, CEO of EADS North America. “We have exceptional technology and highly capable platforms that will be invaluable to U.S. military forces, now and in the future. We have learned much through this process, developed a world-class organization in the U.S. and have earned the respect of the Department of Defense. Our commitment to our U.S. customers is stronger than ever.”
The United States Air Force has announced today that they have granted the tanker contract to Boeing and their 767 aircraft, which will be called the KC-46A. The Air Force is asking Boeing to deliver the first 18 aircraft by 2017.
This has been a heated battle between Boeing and EADS (the parent company of Airbus) for the contract worth $35billion dollars and 179 airplanes. Currently the Air Force has about 400 KC-135s currently used as tankers.Back in 2008, the Air Force initially gave the deal to EADS and their partner at the time Northrop Grumman. Since there were complaints about the bidding process, the whole process had to be started over again.
The Boeing 767 will be built in Everett, WA and modified for tanker duty in Wichita, KA. Washington representative Norm Dicks told Glenn Farely of KING5, “I am so excited that we finally won this after three go-arounds. It’s just the most important victory for Boeing, for the workers of our state.”
Although the decision has been made, it can still be appealed. At this point, I hope it does not get appealed so our troops can start getting new aircraft.