Watching the CNN Airport Network at JFK - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Watching the CNN Airport Network at JFK – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

When I was growing up, I would have long layovers at airports. Typically looking outside at the planes would entertain me, but I also always made sure I had one of the TVs, hanging from the ceiling, in view. I could sit and watch the CNN Airport Network for hours and be good.

It was my mainstay of personal entertainment at the airport for many years. Of course there wasn’t too much competition back then. Today, I rarely even notice the TVs anymore. With having multiple personal devices and free WiFi, the competition for my attention has become fierce.

CNN headquarters in Atlanta

CNN headquarters in Atlanta

When I was recently making a trip down to Atlanta, I decided to reach out for a tour of the CNN Airport Network operations and learn a bit more about their station and how it works. I also wanted to see how they are working to stay relevant, with all the other options out there. I went in without many expectations, but I have to say I walked away with quite a few surprises.

The DEA's Bell 407.

The DEA’s Bell 407 lands in the Seattle rain

The traveling American Heroes Air Show visited Seattle’s Museum of Flight on May 21 for the first time since 2012. The helicopters-only show, which was held in Austin earlier in May and is scheduled for Los Angeles in June, does not feature traveling aircraft. Rather, it gathers local rotorcraft from military bases, police, fire, EMS services, federal agencies, and private firms for what amounts to a public one-day fly-in. Agencies are encouraged to set up informational/recruiting tables at the events, which are free and open to the public.

The 2012 Seattle event featured several military craft, including a Chinook transport and an Apache attack helicopter. The military aircraft were withdrawn from this year’s event not long before the show, leaving just a handful of helicopters on display: the DEA’s Bell 407, a Schweitzer two-seater, a Robinson R44 on inflatable floats, an R22, and Airlift Northwest’s Agustawestland A-109-E.

My Alaska 737-400 Combi in Juneau, AK

My Alaska 737-400 Combi in Juneau, AK

For the past six years, I have gotten up early and headed down to Alaska Cargo, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, to welcome the first Copper River Salmon of the season. It has always been one of my favorite yearly events, but I was hoping to do something different this year.

When I was invited to fly up to Cordova, Alaska to catch a ride with the first Copper River fish of the season, I said “yes!” When I was asked if I wanted to fly a “milk-run” to Cordova on the unique Boeing 737-400 Combi, I said “hell yes!” I had never flown on a Combi before and I wanted to get onboard before they retire from Alaska’s fleet.

My adventure would take me from Seattle (SEA) to Juneau (JNU) to Yakutat (YAK) and finally to Cordova (CDV). Bring it!

Entrance to the Airport Lounge at Hamburg Airport.

Entrance to the Airport Lounge at Hamburg Airport

I’ve been through many lounges, and a big “red flag” for me is whether I’m about to step foot into a contracted lounge instead of one run by an airline itself. Being a oneworld alliance guy at a non-hub outstation like Hamburg, it could have been like being stranded in a desert, parched and wanting of nourishment. On top of that, I was flying Air Berlin, which isn’t usually among the first three or four airlines one thinks of in terms of quality oneworld lounging. Was I going to have to kill some time [like a savage – too much snark?] or [perusing duty-free items] in the main terminal area, or would I be pleasantly surprised…