Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 269,302
2013: 330,818

Gone Gliding – Part One

Gliders flying in formation near Lake Tahoe.  Photo: Soaring NV

Gliders flying in formation near Lake Tahoe – Photo: Soaring NV

If you’ve ever flown into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) when the winds are howling out of the west, you know that the approach and landing can be…sporty.  In fact, it sometimes gets so turbulent that the mainline jets head for Sacramento International Airport (SMF), leaving RNO to Alaska Airlines’ Bombardier Q400 turboprops, which can use RNO’s short crosswind runway.  I’ll happily fly into RNO from SEA on the AS Q400s on those bouncy days.

The bumps can mean that conditions are great for soaring.  Yes – I’m a glider pilot, and the region around Reno is world-famous for those who love to fly without an engine.  It’s an amazing sensation, soaring in our ocean of air.  Some flights are like a dream – I just have to think about moving the control stick, and off I go, hunting for lift, as if the glider’s wings are attached to my shoulders.

When you think of gliding, you might have an image of a pilot running towards the edge of a cliff, ready to leap into the air while hanging from a fabric-covered wing.  Yes, there are those out there who enjoy hang-gliding, in aircraft that are at the light and slow end of the soaring spectrum. Other than a lack of an engine, they don’t have much in common with a modern high-performance glider.

Continue reading Gone Gliding – Part One

The New Baggage Carts Are Here, The New Baggage Carts Are Here!!

YVR's New 2014 Baggage Carts, now rolling to an airport near you!  Image: YVR

YVR’s new 2014 baggage carts, now rolling in an airport near you…if you live in Vancouver! Image: YVR

Our friend in Vancouver, Chris, is usually running around YVR airport’s terminals, ramp, and grounds.  With his smartphone in hand, he tweets, blogs, posts, and helps to keep YVR’s social media presence timely and responsive. He’s often the “voice” behind the airport’s Twitter account, @yvrairport.

A couple of weeks ago, Chris did stay still for a while, long enough to put together a nifty video announcing the arrival of YVR’s 3,000 new baggage carts.  At most airports, I don’t think that new carts would warrant even a press release, much less a video. But at YVR, it’s a big deal in a very tongue-in-cheek kind of way. And remember, when you travel through Vancouver’s multi-award-winning airport, you can use the carts for free.

Continue reading The New Baggage Carts Are Here, The New Baggage Carts Are Here!!

Ramp Operations – What’s Going on Out There?

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 in the midst of a turnaround at YVR.

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 in the midst of a turnaround at YVR. You can see the yellow air conditioning hoses under the bridge.

Your flight has landed, and the plane is pulling up to the gate. You’re ready to spring into action as soon as you hear the “we’re stopped” chime.  But instead of jumping up and waiting in the aisle, why don’t you relax in your window seat, and look outside?  You do have a window seat, don’t you? There’s quite the dance of people and equipment happening, all to service the plane and get it ready for its next flight.

The turnaround actually begins long before the plane lands. Equipment is pre-positioned at the gate, supplies and catering are prepared, and ramp and terminal staff get ready for the arrival.  As the flight turns onto the taxiway after landing, the crew gets their gate assignment from ground control, or in the case of a major airport, ramp control. The plane’s Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) will have been started to provide an electrical and pneumatic supply after the engines are shut down. The APU is a small jet engine, generally located in the tail cone.  One of the first airliners with an APU was the tri-jet Boeing 727, and its APU was located in the wing root.

Continue reading Ramp Operations – What’s Going on Out There?

Air Canada rouge Expands to Western Canada

Air Canada rouge's inaugural YVR-LAS Airbus A319 flight at the gate on a rainy Vancouver morning.

Air Canada rouge’s inaugural YVR-LAS Airbus A319 flight at the gate on a rainy Vancouver morning

You may have read the recent commentary and analysis by AirlineReporter’s Bernie Leighton, “You Get What You Pay For Rant: Why Economy Class Is What It Is.”  I certainly did. It seemed fitting, then, that just a couple of days later, I was invited to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) for Air Canada rouge‘s first Western Canada flight.

Air Canada rouge is an “airline within an airline”, and is part of the Air Canada Leisure Group along with inclusive-tour operator, Air Canada Vacations.  The airline is positioned as Air Canada’s “Leisure” carrier, intended to get passengers to their vacation destinations.  Air Canada rouge launched last July 1st with flights from Toronto (YYZ) and Montreal (YUL) to Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the U.S. In addition to specific vacation travel, Air Canada is hoping to make its unprofitable routes financially viable by a transfer to Air Canada rouge, which has lower operating costs. Bernie talked all about that, and CASMs and RASMs, in his rant.

By the end of 2014, Air Canada will have transferred 47 routes to rouge. Another seven routes new to the AC network will be operated exclusively by rouge. The just-announced Western Canada routes include YVR to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, and seasonal service to Anchorage.  From Calgary, flights will go to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The Air Canada rouge fleet is made up of Airbus A319s and Boeing 767-300ERs, transferred from Air Canada’s mainline fleet. As of the end of April, there were 15 A319s and four 767s flying for the leisure carrier. Ultimately, rouge may have up to 30 A319s and 20 767s, with the 767s coming into the fleet as Air Canada receives its new 787 Dreamliners. Continue reading Air Canada rouge Expands to Western Canada

Trains, Subways, and a Monorail – A Day Exploring Tokyo by Transit

Daunting, isn't it? 40 million passengers a day use the Tokyo transit system. Image: Tokyo Metro

Daunting, isn’t it? 40 million passengers a day use the Tokyo transit system. Image: Tokyo Metro

This is a bit of a different post for us, about something other than just airplanes, airports & airlines. Enjoy!  

It was early Thursday morning on my last day in Tokyo. It had been a whirlwind trip. Sunday and Monday had been taken up on the inaugural All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight from Vancouver (YVR) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND). I spent Tuesday at ANA’s New Employee Ceremony, and then explored HND’s observation decks. On Wednesday morning I was treated to a somewhat manic half-day bus tour of Tokyo. After that, I explored a bit, and went back to my hotel at HND’s Terminal 2 to get some work done, and to recover!

My start and end point - HND's International Terminal.

My start and end point – HND’s International Terminal

But now, I had the whole day to explore the city before returning to Haneda Airport’s International Terminal for my 9:55 pm flight. I had a long list of suggestions of things to see from friends and colleagues. Everyone had said that the best way to explore Tokyo is by transit, and I had my maps ready to go.

The statistics are phenomenal; 40 million passengers use Tokyo’s transit system, every day.  Most commuters travel on Tokyo’s extensive urban railway system, and eight million use the Tokyo Metro (subway) daily. There are over 130 lines and 1,000 stations on the fully-integrated rail system. No surprise, then, that the world’s busiest train station is in Tokyo, at Shinjuku Station, with over three million passengers per day.  The entire system is clean, efficient, inexpensive, and operates exactly on time, all the time.

However, there are a few things that an explorer needs to master before venturing out. Continue reading Trains, Subways, and a Monorail – A Day Exploring Tokyo by Transit