Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2015: 41,837
2014: 363,407
Total: 963,437

Flying on the Snowball Express with American Airlines

The Snowball Express folks lined up on the tarmac - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The Snowball Express folks lined up on the tarmac in Atlanta with some familiar faces – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The sun had yet to rise over the control tower at New York’s JFK Airport on the cold December morning, but the party at Terminal 8 was already well underway. This was no ordinary day at JFK. For the ninth consecutive year, American Airlines was beginning a long day of charter flights, celebration, and remembrance with the Snowball Express program.

Since 2006, Snowball Express has partnered with American Airlines to provide a weekend of fun for families that have lost a family member in active military duty since September 11, 2001. American Airlines provides the flights from around the country free of charge for all families, and the scope of the operation is absolutely massive.

The New York passengers of Snowball Express pre-flight at the Christmas tree in American's terminal - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The New York passengers of Snowball Express pre-flight at the Christmas tree in American’s terminal – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Throughout the day, flights operate from their origins and converge on Dallas while picking up additional passengers at 62 cities. This year, American utilized ten aircraft to support Snowball Express flights, ranging from regional jets to Boeing 757s and Airbus A321s. In total, over 150 American Airlines pilots and flight attendants donated their time to the charter flights. The Snowball Express operation is larger than that of some entire airlines.

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The Snowball flight out of New York, operated by a Boeing 737-800, made two stops along the way to Dallas – Norfolk, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia. Before departing JFK, the day kicked off with an upbeat party adjacent to the Admirals Club, complete with DJ, photo booth, and emotional support dogs dressed up like Santa. Before long, it was time to depart for Norfolk, but not before a touching send off from the NYPD, FDNY, Port Authority Police Department, TSA, and JFK employees. Once on board, however, the real fun began.

Continue reading Flying on the Snowball Express with American Airlines

VIDEO: How Does a Small Plane Pick Up an Ad Banner?

Odds are pretty good that you have seen a little Cessna 172 high above you at the beach hauling an advertisement banner in tow. But have you ever wondered how exactly the process of attaching that banner to the aircraft works? Does the pilot just take off with the banner dragging down the runway? Is the banner deployed at some point in flight? Actually, the answer is way cooler than you would ever think.

Sammy1Mason recently posted a great video that breaks down the awesome procedure of attaching a banner to an aircraft. The process starts with the aircraft already in flight, and the banner waiting for it on the ground. The banner is attached to a cable which is suspended by two vertical poles parallel to the runway.

To pick up the banner, the pilot must “dive” towards the poles in pretty dramatic fashion. Just before snagging the cable, the pilot must then pitch up to reduce speed as the banner is dragged into the air. Once everything is hooked up, the banner trails the aircraft by about 300 feet. Attaching the banner may not be as difficult as snagging the arresting cable on an aircraft carrier, but it sure looks like it takes some time to master.

While the process to attach the banner to the aircraft is pretty awesome, the process to get it back on the ground is pretty simple. The pilot lines up with his intended target and releases it, hoping the wind doesn’t force it too much off course.

 

Saying Goodbye To The DC-9 on its Final Scheduled Flight With Delta

Delta Flight 2014, the final scheduled DC9 flight, pushed back from the gate at MSP. (Photo: Chris Spradlin)

Delta flight 2014, the final scheduled DC-9 (reg N773NC) flight, pushed back from the gate at MSP – Photo: Chris Spradlin

It was a cold day in Minneapolis, the coldest in decades. Despite the bitter temperatures, spirits were high at Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport (MSP) as Delta Air Lines was preparing to operate their final scheduled McDonnell Douglas DC-9 flight. As the aircraft touched down after the first flight of a two-leg ceremonial routing, the sendoff began and the DC-9 would soon be history.

A small gathering of Delta pilots, flight attendants, and tech ops were on hand to say goodbye to an old friend. A banner commemorating the DC-9 was hung on the wall for all to sign as passengers and employees indulged in the decorative DC-9 cakes. Before boarding, a ground operations employee shared some final thoughts about the DC-9, slipping up and saying “on behalf of Northwest Airlines,” which really sums up the history of the DC-9 at Delta.

Born 48 years ago, the DC-9 has outlived many other fleet types since its introduction with Delta in 1965. The DC-9 was once before retired from the Delta fleet in 1993, but was introduced again in 2008 after the merger with Northwest Airlines. Northwest also inherited their DC-9s via a merger, this time with Republic Airlines in 1986. The airframe which operated the final flight, N773NC, started its life with North Central Airlines in 1978.

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Ultimate Airport Dubai Goes Behind The Scenes at DXB

Emirate Airline's Network Control at DXB. Image: Jason Rabinowitz.

Emirate Airline’s Network Control at DXB. Image: Jason Rabinowitz.

Dubai International Airport (DXB) is a hugely complex, massive, 24-hour machine. Airplanes land, passengers are exchanged, and airplanes takeoff. What goes on behind the scenes to make this seemingly simple task work, however, is anything but simple. Earlier this year, National Geographic UK took their cameras into the depths of Dubai’s airport, giving the public a rare look at operations at the home airport of Emirates.

BONUS: Photo Tour of Emirates Airline Crew Training in Dubai

The show aired several months ago in various regions, but never made it to the Americas. What the channel guide hides from us, YouTube reveals – all ten episodes are now streaming in HD for anyone to watch. The first episode of the show starts off quite nicely, focusing on the difficulty of getting passengers with short connections across the gigantic terminal, routine mechanical difficulties, and a scramble to finish up construction of a new wing of the terminal.

Click here to learn more and to view the Ultimate Airport Dubai Video

Amazing Videos: 49 Plane Formation Flyover

For decades, military aircraft have blasted over the tops of stadiums during the national anthem. With sequestration and sweeping federal budget cuts, however, military flyovers have become a thing of the past for the time being. Last month in Kansas City, a group of private pilots took it upon themselves to preform what very well may be the largest formation flyover ever.

On Sunday, October 13th, 2013, 49 homemade Van’s RV aircraft entered a tight formation and synchronized their flyover to occur at the very end of the national anthem. Not only did these pilots pull of an amazing formation flight, but each plane left a pink smoke trail in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Tom McNerne, one of the flying pilots, posted video from his point of view on YouTube and detailed the difficulties of the extreme flyover. “I was flying, if you look close in the reflection you can see I am holding the chart and the stick in my left hand, throttle in my right hand. My wife was right seat keeping an eye on the other traffic. 2 helicopters and the blimp. The obstacle alert is from my Garmin Area 560. If you look at a sectional chart, there are TONS of towers around the stadium. It calls any obstacle even if you’re still above it. Some we were below, hence the urgency. A few towers are 2100 MSL if I remember.”

Continue reading Amazing Videos: 49 Plane Formation Flyover