Around the World

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

Flying 15,000 Miles to Spend One Night in Brazil for a Media Trip – PART 2

Our TAM Airbus A320 at Congonhas-São Paulo Airport

Our TAM Airbus A320 at Congonhas-São Paulo Airport

In Part 1 of my trip I talked about the process of getting to Brazil and went over the first day of the media trip. I had just spent my one and only night in Brazil, and was in the hotel lobby at 4:30am local time to start day two. Bring it!

At this point, I was definitely feeling the lack of sleep. I had used all the coffee packets in my hotel room. The first thing of the day was for us to head to Sao Paulo’s secondary airport, Congonhas-São Paulo Airport (CGH), which was only 15 minutes away from the hotel. Our destination? Leite Lopes Airport (RAO), then about an hour’s drive to TAM’s Museum and Maintenance facility (MRO).

This was exciting for me for a number of reasons. First off, just being able to see the Museum and MRO, of course. But also, this was going to be the first time that I had ever flown on a non-US domestic flight. It seemed weird to me and thinking about it at 5am, I thought that I might had missed a memory, but nope, this was the first time and something to check off the ol’ AvGeek to-do list.

CGH is a small airport. This made it easy to get checked in and to our gate. Originally the flight was to depart from a remote gate, meaning boarding from the tarmac (yay), but at the last minute, it was changed to a real gate (boo). TAM originally had us three journalists (me, Jason Rabinowitz and Cynthia Drescher) seated together. No good. Not that we don’t like each other (we actually get along quite lovely), however we each wanted out own window seats. Luckily the flight was not that booked and we made it happen.

Continue reading Flying 15,000 Miles to Spend One Night in Brazil for a Media Trip – PART 2

Helicopter Flightseeing Over the Las Vegas Strip

The Northern end of the Las Vegas Strip, with the Wynn, Encore & Stratosphere dominating the skyline.

The northern end of the Las Vegas Strip, with the Wynn, Encore, & Stratosphere dominating the skyline

A great way to get a different perspective of a place is to take a flight over it.  Heading to somewhere you haven’t been before, well why wouldn’t you take a flightseeing trip to get that different perspective?  As part of my honeymoon with my wife Heidi after our AvGeek wedding, we wanted to have a few new experiences each on this trip.  One of the things that I like to do is take a helicopter ride over cities.

A Maverick Helicopters Eurocopter EC-130 Ecostar on the flightline at Las Vegas Airport

A Maverick Helicopters Eurocopter EC-130 Ecostar on the flightline at Las Vegas Airport

When we decided to visit Las Vegas, I really wanted Heidi to get that experience of seeing the city by hovering above (since this was her first trip to the city).  This would also be not only her first visit to Vegas, but also her first helicopter flight.  How could she marry an AvGeek and never have flown in a helicopter before? It was time to change that.

Continue reading Helicopter Flightseeing Over the Las Vegas Strip

The TSA Pre✓™ Dilemma, and Why it’s Not For Me

TSA Expert Traveler Podium. Photo: Michael Gray

TSA Expert Traveler Podium – Photo: Michael Gray | Flickr CC

I was recently invited to sit down with a local news outlet to discuss TSA’s Pre ✓™ program from the perspective of a frequent flyer who hadn’t signed up, and questions its utility as the program stands today. To be clear, I do not see the program as a threat to security. Instead, the program’s benefits simply aren’t compelling enough for me to part with $85 and take the time to be interviewed and fingerprinted.

$85 isn’t unreasonable, and there is even an interview site here in my Kansas City suburb. The idea of fingerprinting and background checks don’t bother me either since I’ve been through both as a basis for employment.

Instead, the “gotcha” for me is the fact that while having never signed up for TSA Pre✓™ I have experienced it first-hand many, many times, and I’m just not convinced on its utility to me as a semi-frequent traveler. But why? It comes down to what I like to call the “TSA Pre✓™ dilemma.”

Continue reading The TSA Pre✓™ Dilemma, and Why it’s Not For Me

G20 2014 – The Day the World Came to Brisbane and Brought Their VIP Airliners

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at the G20 in Brisbane aboard a C-32

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at the G20 in Brisbane aboard a C-32

The annual G20 (group of twenty) Summit is the gathering of the world’s 20 most powerful and influential nations to discuss various political and economic issues facing the world. As with any gathering of major international powers, there was a vast array of interesting and unique aircraft on show.

This year’s summit was held in Brisbane, Australia, during the weekend from November 14th – 16th. As I was in Brisbane during this time, I was very fortunate to partake in some good old plane-spotting.

Over 40 aircraft part took in the G20 Summit; this ranged not only from the various head of state VIP aircraft but also the countless support aircraft. These aircraft carried everything from advance teams to motorcade vehicles, right through to food for the various world leaders and dignitaries attending the summit.

Additionally, the US delegation also brought with them a number of helicopters including “Marine One” and V-22 Ospreys to assist in the transfer of POTUS from the military base where he landed into the city.

The dedicated media/spotters area for the event allowed for some great views of the 3 IL-96 aircraft from the Russian delegation

The dedicated media/spotters area for the event allowed for some great views of the three IL-96 aircraft from the Russian delegation

As with any major event of this nature security was very tight. There were over 6,000 additional police on duty for the weekend. Now, most would expect that the airport would be completely off-limits to spotters. But thanks to some outstanding work by the local plane-spotting community, in particular the work of YBBN Spotters Group together with Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC), there was a dedicated area set up on airport property for registered spotters and media.

Unfortunately, due to the prevailing winds and runway configuration, the area was only really suitable for afternoon and evening movements. Even so, there was plenty of other locations off-airport to get some spectacular images.

Below is a selection of images that I have taken during the event showcasing the vast array of different and unique aircraft used for the event by the various visiting nations. Unfortunately, due to the timings of some arrivals, it was not possible for me to capture all of the visiting aircraft, but I feel I was able to capture quite a few special aircraft.

Continue reading G20 2014 – The Day the World Came to Brisbane and Brought Their VIP Airliners

Bloomberg News Examines What it Means To Be an AvGeek

AirlineReporter's own Bernie Leighton stands in front of a helicopter at Boeing Field (BFI) - Photo: Britton Staniar | Bloomberg News

AirlineReporter’s own Bernie Leighton in front of a helicopter at Boeing Field (BFI) – Photo: Britton Staniar | Bloomberg News

When Julie Johnsson, Aerospace Reporter with Bloomberg News, asked if I knew of a good plane spotter in Seattle that she could speak with, Bernie Leighton quickly came to mind!

Bernie is a Managing Correspondent with AirlineReporter and he has provided some amazing photos of aircraft of all types and sizes in the Seattle area and around the world. His specialty: aerial shots.

I am always excited when a journalist with a major media outlet is looking to bring AvGeeks into the mainstream, and after speaking with Johnsson for a short-while, I knew she understood who we were and was excited to read her story. That said, I was a bit curious to why she was motivated to do this story now.

“I’ve been tracking photographers like Bernie on Airliners.net for years, so it was pretty cool to follow him in real life,” Johnsson explained to AirlineReporter. “I was curious to learn more about folks who are documenting Boeing’s jetliner production, what motivates them — and the 787’s role in galvanizing AvGeeks.”

Sounds good to me.

With the AvGeeks of today, Boeing has to get creative to hide a new livery. Here is the first 747-8I all covered before the big reveal - Photo by Boeing

Boeing has to get creative to hide a new livery. Here’s the first 747-8I covered before the big reveal – Photo: Boeing

From Bloomberg News’ story by By Julie Johnsson and Britton Staniar…

Bernie Leighton leans out an open-sided helicopter into a chilly breeze, Nikon camera glued to his face as he focuses on his unsuspecting photographic quarry.

The celebrity in his lens is no Kardashian. It’s Etihad Airways’ first 787 Dreamliner, parked outside Boeing Co. (BA)’s wide-body jet plant north of Seattle and an object of desire among planespotters for a new, secrecy-shrouded paint scheme.

Leighton is angling for Internet fame as he stalks the 787, already one of the most-chronicled industrial products on the planet for its futuristic design and troubled start. Selling the first aerial shot of the shimmering silver-and-gold Etihad plane would also cover the cost of his $500 copter ride.

Continue reading Bloomberg Takes Sometime to Find out What it Means to be an AvGeek & view the video on Bloomberg News.