The first Boeing 727 lifting off from Paine Field – Photo: Chuck Lyford and Jim Larsen
As many of you know, on March 2, 2016, the first Boeing 727 made its final flight successfully down to the Museum of Flight at Boeing field. It was much more than just a final flight or really even the plane. The 727 has become an icon of not just aviation history, but personal history as well. Seeing the aircraft, even for non-AvGeeks, is a time warp to the past.
Water cannon salute at Paine Field – Photo: Chuck Lyford and Jim Larsen
I have enjoyed covering the first 727 for quite a few years. Although getting access to see the inside of the aircraft has been amazing, my favorite part have been the personal stories that have been shared. I have been grateful that so many of you have taken the time to share your memories of the aircraft (the first and other 727s) in emails and comments on AirlineReporter. From those of you remembering it as your first flight as a kid to others who spent years behind the yolk. It seems that nothing can bring a group of AvGeeks together better than the iconic tri-holer.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to fly Qatar Airways on their (current) longest flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Qatar’s home hub in Doha – about 16 hours. Given all the talk about them being named a “Five Star Airline” by Skytrax, and our previous coverage of flying Qatar, I was really excited for this flight. It would be my first experience on Qatar, and it would be in business class. Unfortunately, I was let down by my experience, at least on the flight to Doha (my flight home to the states was much better at least).
I arrived at LAX via a quick domestic hop from Denver on United. Getting from one side of the airport (T7) to the other (T2) was a mess. I walked outside, on foot, as I had a long layover and it was a decent day out. While the south side of LAX is now fully connected post-security, the north side is still old-school separated.
The LAX Terminal 2 (T2). My wait started out a floor below this.
Surprisingly, Qatar flies out of the newly-renovated T2, which seems to be the terminal of bastard airlines at LAX. Hawaiian, Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic, and other low-frequency carriers are based there, as opposed to the excellent Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). Although the actual terminal is updated, getting there did not seem equipped for prime time. Even with a business class ticket, I was held at the lower level of the terminal. Once enough room cleared on the next level at the packed security checkpoint, I was allowed to take the escalator up to join the queue.
Security was an absolute mess. The older facility just wasn’t designed for modern-day TSA security. The floor was sloped towards the gates as my bag was constantly rolling off — it was pretty comical.
My TAM Airlines Airbus A350 in Sao Paulo
Recently, I had the opportunity to fly on my first Airbus A350 and I was excited. It was on TAM Airlines from Miami (MIA) to Sao Paulo (GRU), which is an eight-hour flight — enough time for me to put it to the test. It was also special, because this was the first international commercial flight for the TAM A350 (when it flew to MIA).
Over two and a half days, I would fly about 14,000 miles and stay in Brazil for one night to take this flight. When I did something very similar (minus the sweet A350) back in November 2014, I thought I would never do something like it again. But when invited, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation. The ability to fly on my first A350 — on TAM? Yes please!
My flights that I took over a 2.5 day period – Image: GCMap.com
Going into it, my big question was, “is the A350 better than the Boeing 787 and/or the 777?” In the end, the answer to that question was not so easy.
Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird – Photo: American Air Museum | IWM Duxford
Recently, I was delighted to get an invite to the Imperial War Museum’s (IWM) inaugural re-opening of its American Air Museum (AAM) at Duxford in Cambridgeshire. The AAM opened to the public on Saturday 19 March 2016, after being closed for 12 months for major redevelopment work. I had the opportunity to get a sneak preview and to talk to some honorary guests, whose legacies form part of the new exhibition. A midweek event meant my trusty photographing sidekick of a son could not join me due to school. Given half a chance, he would probably have skipped to come with me.
Packed flight plan – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter
The AAM is housed in a concrete semi-conical building with a glass front that faces the airfield and, as you can see from the AAM’s floor plan above, it’s packed full of aircraft that showcase some of the very best in US historical aviation.