A beautiful day and location for a run - Photo: John Huston

A beautiful day and location for a run – Photo: John Huston

It is said that if you’re running around on the fifth runway at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) you’re having a very bad day. Either your plane has just crashed or you’re about to be arrested and sent to jail for a very long time. Or… maybe there’s something else going on that has the makings of a very good day.

I had the opportunity to run The Mayor’s 5K on the 5th Runway at ATL on August 27. The race is an annual fundraiser for the United Way of Greater Atlanta, hosted by Mayor Kasim Reed and sponsored by Delta Air Lines among others. It’s the one day a year where mere mortals, like me, can be out there laying down shoe rubber in the same place where the big jets lay down tire rubber—without getting arrested.

On your mark... - Photo: John Huston

On your mark… – Photo: John Huston

This is the third year for the race. I hadn’t heard about it until recently, but once I did, there was no way I could resist the chance to participate.
There was one sort of catch, however. The race had to be over and the runway completely cleared by 8:00 a.m. You know, so the planes could land and stuff. Which means things began very, very early.

An ANA 787-8 made a graceful landing as it arrived from Tokyo's Narita International Airport (NRT) during the 2016 FOD walk.

An ANA 787-8 made a graceful landing as it arrived from Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT) during the 2016 FOD walk

FOD (foreign object debris) is the scourge of airport operations. FOD includes the mundane as well as the unusual: baggage-claim tickets, random bits of plastic, airplane parts, dead animals, rocks, and clumps of loose dead vegetation. Keeping runways and taxiways clear of FOD is a seemingly never-ending battle; airports’ operations areas are festooned with signs both warning of the dangers of FOD and reminding airport personnel to constantly be watching for, and picking up, such trash.

Items as seemingly innocuous as a scrap of plastic hold the potential to damage an aircraft.

Items as seemingly innocuous as a scrap of plastic hold the potential to damage an aircraft

According to a 2013 FAA fact sheet, “FOD can be ingested in an aircraft engine, which can result in damage to the aircraft or cause an accident. It can damage or become lodged in aircraft operating mechanisms or cut aircraft tires. Boeing estimates that FOD causes an estimated $4 billion in damage to engines and aircraft taken out of service each year.”

Wikipedia’s entry on FOD claims the total is significantly higher, citing a now-offline 2008 report claiming $13 billion in direct and indirect costs to the aviation industry as a whole. In either instance, FOD damage is very expensive, and it makes sense that every airport have a FOD management plan.

Austrian Airlines A321-100 "Pinzgau" - Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Austrian Airlines A321-100 “Pinzgau” – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Following a five-day trip to Austria, my son and I flew back from Vienna International Airport (VIE) to London Heathrow (LHR) in economy on Austrian Airlines — flight OS455. We had sampled a serious amount of wiener schnitzel over the last few days and that was important; we had to bench test Austrian’s own wiener schnitzel on the way home.

The airline’s slogan is “We fly for your smile,” and we were hoping to find lots of smiles.

We Fly For Your Smile - Austrian Business Lounge reception at Gate F - Photo: Bo Long | AirlineReporter

We Fly For Your Smile – Austrian Business Lounge reception at Gate F – Photo: Bo Long | AirlineReporter

We arrived at VIE and made directly for Austrian’s short-haul business lounge at Gate F in Terminal 3 — courtesy of the airline. The friendly receptionist found us on her list and gave my son an Austrian branded set of aircraft Mega Trumpf (top trumps) cards – we didn’t even need to fly for his first smile.

Air Force One about to land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Air Force One landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Being a photojournalist can mean a lot of stressful work, but it definitely has its perks — and one of the best experiences for an AvGeek photojournalist is being approved for White House press credentials and covering a presidential visit. I’ve been lucky enough to do that three times, and it never, ever, gets old.

This story is not about politics; it’s about the plane, the process of transporting a head of state, and what it’s like to cover the amazing ritual that is an Air Force One arrival/departure sequence.

Presidential travels are never a simple affair; watching the ballet of security and military ritual, one can’t help but to be impressed by the sheer magnitude of managing the task.