Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 243,450
2013: 330,818

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Classic Southwest Airlines Commercial With 737-200 Fly Over

I do not know what is cooler: the classic flight attendant uniform or the Boeing 737-200 flying overhead. I wonder how many takes this took to get it right and if she had any hearing left. Enjoy this Southwest Airlines commercial from 1972.

UPDATE:
Brian Lunsk, Southwest Airlines Corporate Historian and Nuts About Southwest Blogger, left a comment with a bit more information on the video: “This commercial was filmed at the former Connally Air Force Base in Waco. I’m not sure how many takes were involved, but Southwest wouldn’t let our own Employees stand there. The woman in the Hot Pants is a model. It was produced by the former Bloom Agency of Dallas and one of the production crew involved on the shoot was Donald Bellisario, the creator of Magnum, PI, Quantum Leap, JAG, and currently NCIS.” — Thanks Brian!

Airline Livery of the Week: Cebu Pacific Air

Cebu Pacific Airbus A320

Cebu Pacific Airbus A320

Cebu Pacific Air is based at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the Philippines. It is a low cost carrier that started operations in 1996, originally as “Cebu Air.” The airline flies to 34 domestic and 16 international destinations.

Cebu currently operates a fleet of 10 Airbus A319s, 18 A320s and eight ATR 72-500s. They also have an additional 56 Airbus A320-family aircraft on order, including the A321neo.

Even with the new fleet and many changes in safety, the airline, along with every other Philippines airline, is banned from flying to the European Union. Too bad having a slick livery doesn’t help an airline become unbanned.

The original livery, seen on a DC-9, was a bit more plain, but still had the “bird head.” The newer one keeps the bird, but also incorporates yellow and orange, with the website down the fuselage. The colors go very well together and the shape in the front makes it look like the aircraft is smiling, which reminds me of the good ‘ol PSA livery.

Thanks Allen for the suggestion.

Image: propfreak

RwandAir Gets a New Boeing 737-800 and a Custom Beer

RwandAir gets their own Pike RwandAle from The Pike Brewing Company.

RwandAir gets their own Pike RwandAle from The Pike Brewing Company.

Earlier in the year, RwandAir took delivery of their first brand new aircraft, a Boeing 737-800. It was great being able to tag along with them back to Kigali, Rwanda to help celebrate the continent’s first Boeing Sky Interior. Last week, RwandAir executives made another trip to Seattle, WA to take delivery of their second new aircraft, another Boeing 737-800.

During their first visit, they were very impressed with our local beer selection. Boeing made some special arrangements and during RwandAir’s most recent trip, they were invited to dinner at the Pike Brewing Company. The airline received quite a surprise when the brewery came out with a special-label beer, which not only included the name “RwandAle,” but also an image of a 787 in their livery (which looks amazing by the way).

As previously reported, the 787 Dreamliner is in the airline’s future plans and although it might be a while before they have one in person, they can at least enjoy some beer with a 787 on the front.

“What a special day for our airline — we now have an airplane and an ale in RwandAir livery!” John Mirenge, RwandAir CEO stated. “We came to Seattle to pick up our second airplane, but we are leaving with a newfound friendship and a great partnership we can bring to the people of Rwanda,” he said. “Now all of Rwanda can see the great partnerships we have created in Seattle — such a great place with great people.”

Members of RwandAir, Boeing and Pike Brewing Company celebrate with a toast. Photo from Boeing.

Members of RwandAir, Boeing and Pike Brewing Company celebrate with a toast. Photo from Boeing.

The beer label reads: “RwandAir’s delivery of their first purchased new airplanes, the Boeing 737-800, was just the beginning. The airline now looks to the future and continuing to turn dreams into reality. RwandAir and the 787 Dreamliner — the perfect combination.”

Now, a new life goal has been hatched… drinking a RwandAle on RwandAir’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

This just goes to show that an airline, like RwandAir, and a company, like Boeing, are more than just planes and numbers — they are really about the people… cheers!

My Quest to Ride on a Beechcraft Starship: The EPIC Flight

The 51st Starship N514RS sits in Aspen, CO (ASE) before our flight.

The 51st Starship N514RS sits in Aspen, CO (ASE) before our flight.

For many reasons the Raytheon Beechcraft Starship is a unique aircraft. It is hard to imagine that the initial design phase for the Starship started in the late 1970’s. To say that the Starship was ahead of its time is an understatement and even today, it is one impressive machine. The aircraft holds the record for quite a few “firsts:”

* First composite corporate aircraft
* First certified all glass cockpit
* First certified canard wing aircraft
* First certified pusher design

The innovations caused a lot of skepticism from the FAA who was in charge of certifying the aircraft as safe to fly. Due to some overzealous precautions, the Starship ended up 2500lbs heavier than originally planned. The hope was the Starship would have a max cruise of 352kts and able to go 2500nm, but instead it had a max cruise of 338kts and with a range of 1575nm.

Since the Starship is a pusher aircraft, it keeps the cabin quiet.

Since the Starship is a pusher aircraft, it keeps the cabin quiet.

So, why wouldn’t a plane so ahead of its time sell well? There is no simple answer. When the Starship first went on sale in 1989, it was a tough economic market and few companies and individuals were looking for a private business aircraft. The Starship was priced about the same as entry level jets and many people were wary of the radical design. After three years of being certified, only 11 Starships were sold. Raytheon, which purchased Beechcraft in 1980, was looking for creative ways to build confidence with potential customers and offered free maintenance for the aircraft.

Even with the upturn in the economy in the early 1990s and with the assurance of the maintenance program, Raytheon sold only produced 50 for sale (which only about half were sold) and 3 were built for the certification program. It would have made sense for the company to continue to invest in the Starship, but instead, they pulled the plug. Not only did they stop producing Starships, but they also tried to buy back all that were sold to have them destroyed. Luckily, not every owner agreed and today there are still five Starships that remain flyable, another five that are on display at different locations, 24 have been destroyed and the rest are used for different purposes.

The Starship has such gorgeous lines. The Aspen background doesn't hurt either.

The Starship has such gorgeous lines. The Aspen background doesn't hurt either.

During a sleepless night in April 2010, I sat watching Starship videos and thought of the idea to start my quest to get a ride in a Beechcraft Starship. I thought it was a pretty lofty goal and wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but I wanted to give it a shot. However, with a lot of luck, I was able to connect with Robert Scherer, owner of NC-51 (reg: N514RS – get it? (51) NC-51 (4) for (RS) Robert Scherer – nice).

Robert and I were able to meet up at Oshkosh 2010 and he graciously gave me a tour of his Starship NC-51. Even though she was stuck in the corner of a hangar, she looked beautiful. Then, in January 2011, Robert invited me to take a flight from Aspen to Orange County, CA, but when I got to Denver, my flight to Aspen was cancelled due to snow — sigh.

Aspen – Pitkin County Airport (ASE) looks great. Check out all that heavy metal. Can you find the Starship (click for larger).

Aspen – Pitkin County Airport (ASE) looks great. Check out all that heavy metal. Can you find the Starship? (click for larger)

Then another opportunity arose on the 16th of October. After having issues with the snow last time, I did not want to take any chances, so I decided to arrive a day early and spend the night in Aspen, even though Robert was heading out early afternoon on Sunday. Since we weren’t heading out until 1pm on Sunday, it gave me a chance to check out the Aspen – Pitkin County Airport (ASE) earlier in the morning.

Just seeing the Starship through the fence when I first arrived was exciting. I had the chance to take photos around the Starship on the tarmac before it was time to board. There are six very nice seats in the back of the aircraft, but the two best are up front, and I had dibs on the right seat.

The Starship dashboard looks good unlit. I was excited to get into the right seat.

The Starship dashboard looks good unlit. I was excited to get into the right seat.

Finally, it was time to power up those beautiful Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A turboprop engines. From a fan’s point of view, one small downside of the Starship is you can’t watch the blades start up and really, you can’t hear them either. I was wondering when Robert was going to start the engines and he told me they were already going. Sure enough; I checked the instruments and they were running. I took off my headphones and the air coming out of the dash board was louder than the engines — pretty awesome.

The Starship has a built-in electronic checklist and Robert went step-by-step checking everything to prepare the Starship for flight. I had seen photos and knew the Starship had a glass cockpit, but I had to keep reminding myself that they were produced in the early 80’s, not more recently. I became so distracted with the instruments, that I didn’t realize we were on the move — heck yes!

Taxi time in the Starship at Aspen.

Taxi time in the Starship at Aspen.

As we taxied out, Robert was testing the all the control services and whoa — the canards started  moving. I didn’t realize this previously, but they sweep about 35 degrees depending on the flap settings. This whole time I had been trying to reign in my giddiness, but it was pretty difficult after finding out the canards moved (do not worry, I got it on video, which I will be sharing in a future story).

When we went full throttle and took off from Aspen, you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. This is what it’s all about — flying. It is hard to describe what it’s like flying in an airplane you have admired for most of your life.

The canards are quite large and make photos of Aspen even better.

The canards are quite large and make photos of Aspen even better.

Flying out of Aspen provided some pretty nice views. Whenever I take photos from an airplane, I try to get a part of the aircraft in the shot to give a true sense of flight. The Starship makes it easy; one can get shots out the front with the canards or look back and get a shot with the wing.

Although the Starship is a smaller aircraft, it flies up with the big boys. The pressurized cabin provides a very comfortable climb to 32,000 feet. We were hoping to avoid turbulence, but it got a little bumpy after we reached altitude. Although most people do not enjoy bumps, this provided me with the opportunity to see how the Starship handles turbulence. In the Starship, it’s like riding a wave, not as much of the jerky bouncing and due to the flexing of the carbon fiber main wing, the high wing loading of the forward wing and the fact that your seated between the two wings.

We start our decent over Powell Lake.

We start our decent over Lake Powell.

Our flight plan included a stop in Page, AZ (PGA) for fuel. Now, the question was, should we go on a normal and boring approach into the airport or fly over Lake Powell up into Page? Yea, let’s go up the lake… what a great call!

Although I was enjoying every second of flying above the lake, I was bummed that there weren’t more boats down below to enjoy it as well. Could you imagine relaxing on your boat on the lake and then all of a sudden having a Beechcraft Starship fly overhead? Even if you were not an aviation fan, that would be quite a cool thing to see.

If photographs are worth a 1000 words, this has got to be worth at least 10,000. Flying over Lake Powell, on our way into Page, AZ.

If photographs are worth a 1000 words, this has got to be worth at least 10,000. Flying over Lake Powell, on our way into Page, AZ.

When we landed at Page to get fuel, two pilots with Great Lakes Airlines came out and watched us taxi. One of the airport workers came running out and broke out his camera. It felt like we were superstars and Robert explained this is quite common. One of the pilots was elated, saying he never thought he would actually see a Starship. Robert was very gracious and welcomed them both to go check out his aircraft while we headed inside for some shade.

After about an hour on the ground, it was time to continue our journey to Orange County, CA. Right after we took off, we made a turn right over Glen Canyon Dam, and damn, does it look small from the Starship.

Cruising at 32,000 feet to Orange, CA (SNA).

Cruising at 32,000 feet to Orange County, CA (SNA). Notice that the yellow "stick" Starship on the right has canards.

Back up to about 32,000 feet, heading towards our destination: SNA.  The rest of our flight was smooth and uneventful — well as uneventful as flying in a Starship can be. Even after the three hour flight (we had head winds over 90kts), I was in awe of this plane.

The Starship is more than just a unique aircraft. For those who love aviation, it is a golden jewel. Since I have started writing about the plane, I have received many emails from folks sharing their stories about their experiences with Starships; from those who have seen them fly overhead to previous owners who explained that they have regretted giving up their Starship. Many folks have even had false sightings, where they think they see a Starship, but really it is a similarly configured Piaggio P.180 Avanti.

A huge thank you to Robert and his family for allowing me to hitch a ride. It was truly an amazing experience that I will not soon forget.

ALL 60 PHOTOS OF MY STARSHIP FLIGHT

My Quest to Ride on a Beechcraft Starship:
IDEA | CONNECT | TOUR | FLIGHT-PLAN | FAIL | FLIGHT | PHOTOS | VIDEO

Tracking Planes as They Fly – An Aviation Enthusiast’s Best Friend – Guest Blog

Drew Vane has written a few posts for AirlineReporter.com and his most recently one takes an inside look at FlightAware.com after speaking with their CEO Daniel Baker. Many aviation fans use this tool to follow planes flying around the United States. Here is his story in his own words:

As some of you fine aviation enthusiasts may be aware (pun fully intended), a handly little website called FlightAware.com has been quietly making headlines as a source for tracking flights real-time (well, almost real time).  The site provides info on airport delays, weather, flight routes, and updated flight status.

If you have any interest in aircraft and air travel, this web site is for you.  According to FlightAware CEO Daniel Baker, “FlightAware was founded with the goal of providing flight tracking to pilots of general aviation aircraft in the United States.  It wasn’t long before that goal grew to include flight departments, dispatchers, airport operators, and private aircraft passengers.  We’re now involved in worldwide airline operations, consumer flight tracking of airline flights, and more.  FlightAware has over 3,000,000 monthly users of the free web site and over 2,500 commercial customers that use FlightAware in an operational or research capacity.”

South Ops in Charlotte:  Just put your cursor on an aircraft and it will give you the flight number, aircraft type, flight level, speed and origin/destination.(Image used with permission).

South Ops in Charlotte: Just put your cursor on an aircraft and it will give you the flight number, aircraft type, flight level, speed and origin/destination.(Image used with permission).

How does a simple web site get all this info?  According to the web site, “FlightAware compiles, aggregates, and processes data from a variety of government sources, airlines, commercial data providers, as well as FlightAware’s proprietary flight tracking network.”  In other words, its all public domain and some skilled web programmers have developed a system to let the common person see accurately where domestic (and now international) flights are headed within a 5-minute window.

Since its inception in 2005, FlightAware has added new features regularly including mobile apps.  What started as a small business with a handful of executives has grown to 25 employees with offices in both Houston and New York City.  FlightAware even has a company store and is giving something back to support Breast Cancer Research.

Although great, FlightAware is far from perfect.  Recently, I tried to track my friends flight from O’Hare to Virginia Beach which was experiencing bad weather.  After two go-arounds his flight diverted to Raleigh.  Flightaware only showed a couple loops around the airport but did not show the flight continuing on.  In addition, it showed his flight on the O’Hare departures list twice with one flight cancelled.  Perhaps this is a programming hiccup since the original flight was not completed.  The flight to Raleigh never did show up on the web site, but I wouldn’t depend on flightaware over a phone call to check on loved ones travelling.

Flightaware currently has over 1.2 million registered members and that number is growing at a rate of 30,000 to 50,000 new users per month.  CEO Daniel Baker shared with me that, “the rate of airline travelers adopting the site means that it’s our biggest growth area and certainly they’ll eclipse pilots in the long term.  That said, we continue to focus on our roots and will be providing great service to the aircraft operators that use FlightAware operationally.”  With so much already to offer, and a price that’s hard to beat, I’m excited to see what this web site and business will share with us airline nerds in the future.

Here are some of my favorite links to follow of popular aircraft:
Airbus A380’s
Donald Trump’s New 757
Michael Jordan’s Gulfstream IV
Roush-Fenway Racing’s 727
Boeing’s 787 Aircraft ZA001
* The new Honda-Jet