AGFSEA15

UPDATE Jan 21st: Tickets will go on sale at 4:00pm PST on Monday January 26, 2015. We are set to release more details on Thursday, January 22nd on the final schedule, what tickets will be offered and how the two dates will be organized. 

UPDATE Jan 22nd: A new page has been created with much more detail about the event. Most has been removed from this page. 

Thank you all so much for patiently waiting on details for Aviation Geek Fest Seattle 2015 (#AGF15), taking place in Seattle, WA on February 21st and 22nd. Believe me, there have been many people working behind the scenes (yay Future of Flight) to make this year’s event amazing and a little different — I am really excited.  We just hit some snags, which delayed our timeline, but the wait will be worthwhile.

What is Aviation Geek Fest? It is a two-day aviation extravaganza that let’s you get access to things that the general public cannot. Check out our schedule last year for AGF14 and then check out the story covering what happened during the event.

I know many of you are anxious about getting your tickets and they will be on sale soon. Of course there are still some unanswered questions, but this is what we can share so far:

British Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner - Photo: Martin Hartland | Flickr CC

British Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner – Photo: Martin Hartland | Flickr CC

People who love to fly don’t fly economy.

For the past several months, my husband has pitched the idea of AirlineReporter readers likely being interested in a trip report written by a “normal person” like me. In this case, “normal” is defined as someone who doesn’t choose flights based on the aircraft model, or speak in cabin class codes (e.g. Y, J, M, F). I am not an AvGeek and I am sort of proud of it (although I still love you all).

My husband and I fly together several times a year and, when we do, I am able to piggyback off of his status and occasionally get a free upgrade to business/first for domestic flights. However, the “opportunity” for me to fly long-haul economy eventually arose when I needed to fly from Seattle to Hyderabad, India for work.

CLICK FOR LARGER: British Airways Boeing 747-400 seen at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on 3/14/13. AirlineReporter.com writer Ben will be writing a story on his flight to London. Photo by Ben Whalen.

British Airways  747 seen at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport flying to London – Photo: Benjamin Whalen | AirlineReporter

To establish some context, I consider myself to be an experienced economy flier. Before meeting my husband and learning of the world of mileage runners and aviation geekdom, I had several flights between the US and Europe to visit distant relatives, as well as a semester studying abroad where I tried to fly to another city every other weekend. In all of these cases, I only ever flew economy, and have fond memories of being nestled under a blanket and binge-watching in-flight entertainment on a few good-length flights. Even though I didn’t pay much attention to the seat dimensions, I enjoyed flying and viewed it as a chance for peace, quiet, and self-reflection.

However, my flight to and from India was going to be much more rigorous than my previous travels. I had two back-to-back ten-hour flights in British Airways’ economy class, traveling from SEA>LHR>HYD. To top it off, I needed to do the reciprocal leg within five days of my arrival.

An AirTran 717 lands in Atlanta.

An AirTran Boeing 717 lands in Atlanta

On December 28, 2014, AirTran flight 1 departed Atlanta for Tampa, retracing the airline’s first flight and bringing an end to its remarkable history. I had the honor of being on that last flight and I am excited to share my story. But before I discuss the end of “the big little a” I’d like to first revisit the airline’s history. Because only through knowledge of the airline’s legacy can we truly understand the significance of AirTran’s retirement and integration into Southwest Airlines. So sit back, relax, and enjoy.

A ValuJet DC-9. Photo Courtesy of Aero Icarus

A ValuJet DC-9 – Photo: Courtesy of Aero Icarus

ValuJet: Fun and friendly… And perhaps a bit dangerous.
AirTran traces its roots back to ValuJet, an Atlanta-based upstart with dreams of chipping away at Delta’s dominance right in its own backyard. Operations commenced with just a single DC-9, and its first flight was from Atlanta to Tampa on October 26, 1993. In just over a year the airline was solidly profitable and its route map had grown to 17 cities. But fast growth and aggressive cost-cutting practices quickly caught up to the Critter (ValuJet’s FAA call sign.) In the first few years of operation, the small airline had a markedly-high percentage of emergency landings, compared to its peers. In addition, an FAA study indicated that ValuJet dominated the accident data for low-cost carriers.

On May 11, 1996, ValuJet flight 592 went down en-route from Miami to Atlanta; all 110 on board were lost. This tragic, high-profile accident would focus attention on the airline, its maintenance practices, and ultimately lead to its grounding. After a month of investigations by the FAA, which reveled “serious deficiencies in its operation” ValuJet would voluntarily halt operations. But this wasn’t the end for the fledgling airline that had lost its way. Instead, it was just the beginning.

The A350 flight deck being shown off by its joyful flight crew. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The A350 flight deck being shown off by its joyful flight crew – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

For press, the delivery ceremony completion usually means it is either time to drive back home, or return to the hotel and pack for the flight.

Not this day.

Airbus and Qatar Airways decided that it would be a great way to enhance the press experience if everyone was given a demonstration flight aboard the Airbus A350.

This was a great idea, so there had to be some kind of drawback! For a demonstration flight that would last an hour with pre-selected passengers, all 200 of us present had to go through security screening. A process that felt like it took longer than the flight itself. What a surprise, no one had any contraband or ill intent!

Rant aside, after what felt like an eternity, I finally made it onto the jet bridge to a crowd that was more akin to being in the last row of economy on a domestic narrowbody. I realized then and there that taking any kind of photographic imagery was going to be a challenge.

Door L1 on Qatar Airways' first A350 XWB, long after the crowd had dispersed for lunch. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Door L1 on Qatar Airways’ first A350 XWB, long after the crowd had dispersed for lunch Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

We boarded via a choice of either L1 or L2, I chose L2 as I wanted to see the lovely dome light and the in-flight bar. The doors themselves do not create any temporary feelings of claustrophobia. In the case of L2, you immediately walk into a spacious and open atrium. The ceiling is higher than one has come to expect on regular passenger aircraft, the walls more vertical.