Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 201,532
2013: 330,818

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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

Airliners Landing on an Aircraft Carrier? Oh yes!

The ubiquitous C-2 that the  has become welcome sight on carrier decks. Photo: Paul Carter https://www.flickr.com/photos/planephotoman/3842118280/in/photolist-7NhiKj-7Nc2Ui-7NhisW-b797rx-7NhiSm-7NgybW-7S3Vju-7NdjrK-6RvRUC-arMQ9K-6QVgs6/

The ubiquitous C-2 that the has become a welcome sight on carrier decks - Photo: Paul Carter

Since 1966, the United States Navy has employed the venerable Grumman C-2 Greyhound as its main source of supplying their fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with a vital connection to the outside world. Known as the CODs (for Carrier Onboard Delivery), these aircraft transport personnel, spare parts, mail, and other necessities to the carriers from land.

The C-2, based on the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye AWACS platform, can carry up to 26 passengers or 10,000 pounds of cargo to and from an aircraft carrier. The mission of the C-2 has been considered one of the most important in the operations of an aircraft carrier. With the first of 17 C-2s delivered in 1966, and the last in 1968, by the early 80’s, the fleet was beginning to show its age and limitations.

The KC-130 flown by Lt Flatley departs the USS Forrestal on one of its 21 landings. Photo: US NAVY

KC-130 flown by Lt. Flatley departs the USS Forrestal after one of its 21 landings – Photo: US Navy

So, what does the C-2 have to do with airliners? In the early 1980’s, the US Navy put out a request for a new COD aircraft through the MMVX program. Various manufacturers tendered proposals, including Grumman, with an improved version of the C-2.  Lockheed offered a new, turbofan design derived from the S-3 Viking, and a few unusual proposals.

Fokker Aircraft, of the Netherlands, proposed a derivative of their successful F28 regional airliner, called the F28 Mk.5000. McDonnell Douglas proposed a navalized version of the venerable DC-9-10 airliner, and lastly, it appears as if Boeing proposed a carrier modification of the 737-200. While it might seem odd operating an aircraft the size of an airliner off of the small flight deck of an aircraft carrier, the concept was proven as possible nearly 20 years before the start of the MMVX program.

In November 1963, the Navy conducted tests to see if the idea of a “Super COD” was possible. These dramatic tests saw a crew, led by Lt. James Flatley, land a KC-130 on the deck of the USS Forrestal 21 times with no tailhook, and take off with no catapult assistance. These tests, while a success, proved that the C-130 was too large of an aircraft to routinely operate off of a carrier, and the Navy in the end procured the C-2.

For this story, I want to take a closer look at the proposed airliners which were made to handle carrier operations. Continue reading Airliners Landing on an Aircraft Carrier? Oh yes!

Video Documentary of the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet

Have some time to burn? We have the solution for that: a classic (is 1990 considered classic now?) Boeing 747 video. Not much else needs to be said!

Hat-tip to Jon Ostrower on this one…

Etihad Airways Shows Off A380 Residence – A True Class Above First

A private jet beating double bed will be part of Etihad's A380 Residence. Rendering - Etihad Airways

A private jet beating double bed will be part of Etihad’s A380 Residence. Rendering – Etihad Airways

When I awoke yesterday to news that Etihad had launched a single cabin “residence” aboard their A380, I was suspicious. A lot of airlines have said that their A380 suite product was a class above first.

I’ll let Dannii Minouge explain

If that wasn’t enough, the residence comes with a butler trained by the Savoy Butler Academy in London. Of course, it also comes with a private en suite shower facility.

Don’t have a spare $42,000 USD lying around? That’s okay. Because Etihad has managed to blow first class out of the water on their A380s as well.

In a true, 1-1 layout. Etihad brings you the First Class Apartment, because suites are old hat.

Continue reading Etihad Airways Shows Off A380 Residence – A True Class Above First

Amazing Experience: Flying an Alaska Bush Plane Through Glacier Bay National Park

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The Yakutat Coastal Airlines de Havilland Otter – Photo: David Delagarza

Having recently embarked on a fair number of adventures around the world, one of the questions I sometimes get asked is what my favorite airline is.  No one expects the answer: Yakutat Coastal Airlines.

Never heard of them? I’d be surprised if you had.  Their fleet is pretty limited, at two aircraft, and they only have one full-time pilot, Hans Munich. The passenger experience is a bit different as well.  The seats are uncomfortable.  There is no food or drink available on board.  You even have to load your own luggage into the hold.  But you’re not going to find many others operating the charter routes they do, and the in-flight views couldn’t be any better.

Our flight was the culmination of a grand adventure my wife and I took, along with a small group of friends, in the summer of 2012.  The main reason for the trip was a twelve-day whitewater rafting trip on the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers through Glacier Bay National Park (Alaska), Kluane National Park and Preserve (Yukon Territory), and Tatshenshini-Alsek Park (British Columbia.)

Just getting to the starting point of the rafting trip was a logistical adventure in and of itself.  It all started with a Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Seattle, followed by an Alaska Airlines flight to Juneau, Alaska.  Then, we hopped on the Alaska State Ferry for a spectacular four-hour trip up the Lynn canal to the small town of Haines.

In Haines, we stocked up on food, rented rafts and other gear, and hired transport for the final 100-mile drive to to the north.  Our launch point into the wilderness was at the end of a rough road in Yukon Territory, at a place called Dalton Post. We spent 12 days on the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers running rapids, watching Bald Eagles soar overhead, embarking on some magnificent hikes, and trying to avoid grizzly bears.

The last few days of the trip brought us over the international boundary and into Glacier Bay National Park, where we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with glaciers. The highlight of the river trip was floating on Alsek Lake, surrounded by dozens of towering icebergs.  Once we reached the end of the river trip at Dry Bay,  there was no road to greet us – a grass landing strip was our only connection back to civilization. Continue reading Amazing Experience: Flying an Alaska Bush Plane Through Glacier Bay National Park