Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2015: 25,266
2014: 363,407
Total: 946,866

Delivering the Mail 100 Years On – Following Maurice Guillaux’s Historic Route

A Jabiru J-230D - Photo: Owen Zupp

A Jabiru J-230D – Photo: Owen Zupp

Things weren’t looking good.

The next morning I was scheduled to depart Essendon and reenact the historic air mail flight undertaken by Maurice Guillaux in 1914. As I sat in my air-conditioned hotel room I logged onto the digital service, only to find that the weather forecast seemed endless with ‘clouds on the ground’ at critical locations and line after line of low clouds and heavy rain. I flicked the pages on my iPad between the weather radars for Mount Gambier and Melbourne, endeavouring to get a clearer picture of the waves of water blowing in from the southwest.

Was there a possible route out of Melbourne to the west with lower hills and a higher cloud base? I entered in alternate flight plans on the iPad app and compared how much extra time such a plan would cost, and then converted that into fuel; there were viable options available. Still, the best news came from the MSL synoptic charts on the Bureau of Meteorology website. Maybe, just maybe, there will be a window of opportunity between the two deep cold fronts that threatened to ruin the centenary air mail flight.

And then I paused…

I had a world of information at my fingertips, mobile phones and mass media. 100 years ago, Guillaux had none of this and yet he set out from Melbourne bound for Sydney in his Bleriot monoplane; exposed to the elements and a simple railway line as his navigation system. On board were 1785 commemorative postcards and Australia’s first air freight – orange juice and tea. His weather forecast was his line of sight through the spinning propeller. I had it easy.

Guillaux and his Bleriot XI monoplane after the Melbourne-Sydney flight in 1914 - Photo:  State Library of New South Wales | WikiCommons

Guillaux and his Bleriot XI monoplane after the Melbourne-Sydney flight in 1914 – Photo: State Library of New South Wales | WikiCommons

It became even easier when the rain on the roof abated and breaks of blue sky appeared over Melbourne. By the time the many media commitments had been met and departure time loomed, things looked positively hopeful. Furthermore, each stage of the flight would have aircraft flying in company with my Jabiru J230D ‘air mail’ aircraft. Veteran pilot, Aminta Hennessy, in her Cessna 182 was the support aircraft and offered an IFR alternative should the weather close in. For this stage she would be joined by a CT-4 and a Cessna 172 and all three would depart for me, offering some ‘eyes in the sky’. As it transpired, as I climbed overhead Essendon, I could see for 100 miles and any reservations that I’d held melted away. The centenary air mail flight was underway.

Very Different Times.

Continue reading Delivering the Mail 100 Years On – Following Maurice Guillaux’s Historic Route

Delta Air Lines Completes Second Phase of JFK Terminal 4 Expansion

A Delta pilot makes his way to one of the new gates as Delta Air Lines, unveiled the next phase of a Terminal 4 expansion at JFK - Photo: Michelle McLoughlin | Newscast Creative

Delta Air Lines unveils the next phase of a Terminal 4 expansion at JFK – Photo: Michelle McLoughlin | Newscast Creative

As part of their $1.2 billion effort at improving their space at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s (JFK) Terminal 4B, Delta, along with the JFK International Air Terminal LLC (JFKIAT) has completed the second phase of expansion of the terminal and held a media event to show off and officially open the new space (a soft opening occurred last week).

BONUS: Delta Previews JFK T4 With T4X In Lower Manhattan

In attendance, and speaking on behalf of their organizations, were Gail Grimmett, Delta’s senior vice president for New York; Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ); Gert-Jan de Graff, president and CEO of JFKIAT (the operator of Terminal 4); Kyle Kimball, president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation; Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company; and Melinda Katz, the Queens borough president.

Press entrance for the special Terminal 4 event - Photo:

Press entrance for the special Terminal 4 event – Photo: Doug Wint

The expansion adds 75,000 additional square feet and 11 new gates to Terminal 4B, and will allow 80% of Delta Connection operations to move from Terminal 2. These new gates are enclosed and climate-controlled, and can handle mainline narrow-body jets, if needed. The new addition provides access to a renovated Sky Club, iPad stations, and world-renown eateries.

The carrier has also added a third stop to its Jitney shuttle service, which carries connecting passengers between its two terminals to the new terminus on the B side. This is to help alleviate the walking for connecting travellers (65% of Delta’s JFK passengers) between opposite ends of Terminal 4B.

Continue reading Delta Air Lines Completes Second Phase of JFK Terminal 4 Expansion

Flying Andy Granatelli’s Indy 500 Race Cars on a TWA Boeing 707

A TWA Boeing 707 freighter on Runway 25-Right at LAX.  Notice that engines 1 and 2 are in reverse and that the spoiler fully deployed - Photo:  Jon Proctor

A TWA Boeing 707 freighter on Runway 25R at LAX – Photo: Jon Proctor

Here’s a little background about a wonderful encounter I had with racing legend Andy Granatelli in the late 1970’s.  At that time, I flew for Trans World Airlines on their Boeing 707 and 727 aircraft.

In April and May of 1978, my regular assignment (trips for the month) was to fly a 707 freighter from Los Angeles to Indianapolis. Typically, we would launch very late in the evening around midnight, and arrive in Indy at around 6:00 am local time. A day-and-a-half later, we’d fly a return flight to Los Angeles at 6 pm. That gave us a 36-hour layover in Indy.  On our first trip of the month, I got to the airport quite early, as I had been on vacation the previous month and had lots of accumulated paperwork to attend to. At about nine in the evening, I bummed a ride with a TWA mechanic from the hangar to the TWA cargo facility on the other side of the airport – probably the most harrowing part of my three-day trip.

As we arrived at the air freight terminal, I noticed two large box vans – both painted with the legendary STP logo. The TWA mechanic and I walked over to the vans and looked inside… one was filled with tires, crated engines, tool boxes, and other motor racing equipment.  The second van had two Indy 500 race cars inside!

Continue reading Flying Andy Granatelli’s Indy 500 Race Cars on a TWA Boeing 707

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 Photo Tour

The Qatar Airways A350, simply beautiful Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The Qatar Airways A350, simply beautiful – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Ever since first seeing the Airbus A350 at the Singapore Airshow last year, I have had a soft spot for this aircraft. I was over the moon with excitement when the news came that I had been invited by Qatar Airways to cover the inauguration ceremony in Doha prior to its inaugural flight to Frankfurt on the 15th of January.

The aircraft had been officially handed over to Qatar Airways on the 22nd of December, 2014, in a special delivery ceremony hosted by Airbus.

A nice welcome at the press conference Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

A nice welcome at the press conference – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The inauguration ceremony in Doha was accompanied by much fanfare, including a fun-filled three-day activity program for over 130 members of media from all over the world. Although there was no demonstration flight, like the event in Toulouse, it was still a very exciting and fun event to be part of.

The below photo report covers not only the official press conference and aircraft tour, but also the rather extravagant evening inauguration ceremony. This ceremony was one of the most impressive spectacles I had ever witnessed, and it was magnificently organized, right down to the choreographed light show on the aircraft. For the best viewing experience, be sure to click on each photo for the full resolution image to be displayed.

Continue reading Qatar Airways Airbus A350 Photo Tour

Rant: Making Cents at the Cost of Dollars

Economy class in EVA's new 777 is still nine abreast - Photo: EVA Airline

Economy class in EVA’s new 777 is still nine abreast – Photo: EVA Airline

You’ve really got to hand it to our friends over at Runway Girl Network. Earlier in the week, I read an article by Gavin Werbeloff that made me shout gleefully (something a lot more impolite than “YES! This man is correct! Give him cookies and accolades!”) I actually shouted it out loud and confused my wife.

Regardless, it sparked my creativity. I’m leading up to a point here- so do bear with me.

It seems to me that the industry gets obsessed with fads. I’m so old that the fad I was beginning to notice was going 10Y on 777s. The thing is, I never saw it as a move purely designed to increase unit revenue while decreasing unit cost. I always saw it as a way of psychological warfare directed at frequent flyers. As a professor drilled into my skull, it’s an airline’s duty to extract as much money from each customer as possible.

Frequent flyers often fly on someone else’s money – part of me honestly believes that making economy into an insufferable torture space was designed to increase premium revenues by inciting revolts within corporate middle-management to force the purchase of premium economy or higher fares. It never happened, but the results are the same. Economy cabins are denser and more miserable than ever.

Continue reading Rant: Making Cents at the Cost of Dollars